The blog is back.
First of all, let me say "thanks" for all of you who overwhelmed my inbox with reminders of the end of my blog sabbath. I can't believe there are people from coast to coast who apparently marked the date of my return from blog exile. Your emails served as a tremendous encouragement boost!
My personal blog sabbath lasted two days longer than I intended, thanks to the worst stomach virus I have ever experienced. I was down for the count for 72 hours last week and am now a full 10 lbs. lighter. After dismounting the scale on Thursday night, I told Mandy I had lost 10 lbs. since weighing in at Urgent Care on Tuesday night.
"Is there anyway I can get what you've had?"
Trust me, honey, you don't want it, even if there is the side-benefit of some missing girth.
In the time I've been away, the big event for us, pictured above, was the 10th annual Spiritual Growth Workshop at Woodward Park. Our combined attendance for all sessions was 7,464 this year, up from 7,020 last year. Every keynote was splendid and spoke to a particular aspect from John's gospel about how Jesus is our "All in All." The workshop is incredibly demanding but so eternally rewarding.
I've already turned my attention to the 11th Annual Workshop, to be held September 24-28, 2008. A couple of new keynote speakers are already on board and I'm leaning toward a theme based on the book of Genesis.
So here's a question for you. If you were crafting a four-day workshop on the theme of Genesis, how would you organize it? Would you organize it thematically (sin, faith, obedience, trust, etc.) or would you organize it by faith heroes (Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph)? Or perhaps you would organize it some other way? If you have any insightful wisdom, I'm all ears. You can email me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, we'll say "so long for now" to a real friend to many Woodward Park'ers. Gene Dupree passed away last Friday evening and we'll celebrate his life on Friday morning.
I shared with the church family yesterday morning how my phone call to his wife, Katherine, went when I learned of Gene's passing. I called Katherine early Saturday morning to convey my condolences -- a call that is always tough. How do you appropriately begin such a conversation?
I began this way: "Katherine, I am so sorry to hear of Gene's passing." At that, Katherine cut me off in mid-sentence with these words: "Jim, if you had been here last night at 2:00 am when Gene passed, you wouldn't be sorry at all!" She went on to share with me the reality of a family praying and singing and remembering as they said "so long for now" to a husband, a father and a grandfather who exemplified deep, abiding faith.
What a blessing to know we can look death, the greatest bullet in Satan's arsenal, square in the face and refuse to flinch. Katherine and her family saw Gene's passing for what it really is: not the defeat Satan intended it but the victory it truly is for those who've placed their eternal destiny in the redeeming work of Jesus at Calvary.