A digital commonplace for a Regular Guy called Charlie Pharis

Category: Unwinds (page 1 of 8)

Sunday Night Unwind, 08.30.15 (late, late edition)…

Awake late tonight for whatever reason. It may be the thousand things going through my mind and heart. It may be the bout of depression I can’t seem to shake. It may even be the Jittery Joe’s pourover I had earlier! Either way, since I’m up, I might as well share a little Unwind.

Here’s what’s rattling around in my head tonight…

  • We did The Golden Rule part of the Sermon on the Mount series today. Pretty brief. (We beat the Catholics and the Sovereign Grace folks out of church!)
  • The Golden Rule has its counterparts in almost every major religious tradition.
  • While on the surface, they look the same as Jesus’s teaching, there is a powerful difference in the way Jesus expresses this principle and the way the other traditions do.
  • Jesus’s command is positive, proactive, comprehensive, and sensitive. The others, by and large, are expressed negatively, they entail avoiding behavior, they pick and choose the situations in which the principle is applied, and there is virtually no risk for the person who chooses or neglects the principle.
  • I started the “big” Sermon on the Mount series the Sunday after Easter. It looks like we’ll wrap it up on September 20. That’ll be 24 weeks.
  • I love these long series because they help me stay focused on the material at hand. They also give me an idea of where my preparation needs to be.
  • I don’t like the long series so much because they tend to drag a little toward the end. I feel sometimes as though I’m belaboring the point. I also don’t like them because they end. And I have to figure out what’s coming next.
  • Oh…I said this before but it’s worth repeating: Isn’t it amazing how we think our 24-week explanation is more important and powerful than the original words, expressed in a few minutes by Jesus? Go figure.
  • I may be adding yet another side gig. Completed the application and a pre-hiring assessment. The assessment was pretty much a major stressor. (No, no, not this guy!)
  • Re-reading Henri J.M. Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus. This little book is full of big ol’ “ouches.”
  • I’m wondering about the ways I and our church are involved (or not involved, as the case may be!) in the real life of our community. We have to work on that. And pronto!
  • To all a good night!

Sunday Night Unwind, 04.07.2013…


Hi dee ho, loyal readers! All two of you! Where have you been? Oh, wait…

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for all weekend: the possibility of a Sunday Night Unwind! Here goes…

  • We started a brand-new series at The Crest today. The series is called Girls Rule! and we’re looking at some of the women in the Bible who made a real difference!
  • Today’s episode was all about Rahab. You know…the squeaky-clean, well-connected, nice little socialite from Jericho? The fact of the matter is, Rahab had a past. Yet, as I repeated this morning, her past was no match for the grace of God!
  • I’m amazed by how many well-meaning people have a problem with people with a past. Unfortunately, pasts are like…navels: everybody has one! (I cleaned that one up for you!)
  • I’ve heard all kinds of theories about Rahab this week.
  • My favorite? She wasn’t really a prostitute. She was a flax dealer. And a successful one. That’s why the men in the area lied and made up the story about prostitution. They were jealous of her success! Really?!?!?
  • The men of the day probably lied about Rahab, all right. But the flax dealer story was obviously the cover-up!
  • “Where was I? Oh…uh…I was just checking out the latest in flax stalks. Yeah, that’s the ticket!”
  • You really do damage to the text – and your credibility – if you insist on sanitizing Rahab’s story and her profession. She was a hooker!
  • But she became a hero through God’s grace which led her to faith. Pretty amazing story, actually!
  • Since this post is already dragging a bit, suffice it to say this notorious shady woman was instrumental in saving God’s people, achieving God’s purpose, and making way for Jesus! Pretty good for a woman of ill repute, huh?
  • BTW, the graphic for the series is supposed to channel a shopping bag, thank you very much! Sorry…
  • BTW #2: You get some interesting results when you search for Rahab graphics. Just sayin’…
  • I’m mulling over a series of church leadership posts based on 1 Peter 5:1-11.
  • This is the first week since January I don’t have papers to grade and class prep.
  • I plan on catching up on some reading, doing a little writing, checking some items off the honey-do list, and fulfilling my voluntary patriotic contribution.
  • I’ve been thinking about credibility and communication lately.

Finally, let me leave you with this simple but powerful quote from the late, great Peter Drucker: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Thanks, and to all a good night!

Sunday Night Unwind, 11.04.12…

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Image via: flickr.com/photos/moonlightbulb/2999692351/

The crepe myrtles are fiery red at the old Just Charlie hacienda! They may be my favorite fall trees. They’re not the biggest or the most unusual, but they are to me, the very picture of fall!

Here’s what’s going through my head and heart right about now…

  • I do love fall, but I’m not crazy about the time change. It’s great that first morning, when you get an extra hour of sleep. But it’s kind of killer that first night, when you realize it’s really an hour past your normal bedtime! And there won’t be the extra hour tomorrow morning!
  • We continued our Grow! series today, and talked about personal ministry as one of the things God uses to develop disciples and grow their faith. I used the story from Matthew 14 about Jesus feeding the 5000.
  • Quick recap? OK, here you go…Jesus extends compassion to everyone, and He expects His disciples to join Him in that mission. His disciples (then and now!) find all kinds of excuses why they (we!) can’t do the task Jesus assigns. Jesus equips us for that ministry when we bring the excuses and our resources to Him. He expands our faith and helps us see amazing things happen as a result. How’s that ?
  • Oh, and I had a real! live! Venn diagram for a practical challenge at the end of the talk! The upshot of the Venn diagram challenge?
  • One circle is marked Ability, and it comprises my talents, skills, training, etc. Another circle is marked Passion, and it is indicative of what jacks me up, floats my boat, or whatever other cliche you want to use! the third circle is marked Need, and it represents the opportunities for ministry that are all around me.
  • The intersection of those three circles represents where i could likely start being involved in personal ministry.
  • “I can’t do everything at once, but I can start somewhere.”
  • I told one of my favorite Rick Warren stories, about the auto mechanic who thought Saddleback should do something to help people with car repairs: “Aren’t you a mechanic?”
  • I’m doing a lot of reading lately. It’s harder to remember some of the stuff I read on my Kindle. I guess I really am a paper kind of guy!
  • The election is Tuesday. I did the early voting thing the other day. For only the second time in my life (nine Presidential elections) I voted against a candidate instead of for another one.  We’ll see what happens…
  • Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons will try to stay unbeaten against the Dallas Cowboys tonight. I won’t be watching. (See point above about the effect of the first night of the return of Standard Time!)
  • All my Windham Hill A Winter’s Solstice albums are queued up and on shuffle.

To all a good night!

Sunday Night Unwind, 10.21.12…

I’ve had this song on my mind since the message at The Crest this morning. It’s an oldie-but-goodie, I know. I should have used the video. Oh, well. Anyway, here’s what all two of your loyal readers have been waiting for with bated breath…it’s the almost county famous Sunday Night Unwind!

  • This week has been a little less stressful than last week. No shocking news, no disrupting any big plans, etc.
  • On the other hand, the lovely and gracious Mrs. Just Charlie is just about as frustrated as I have ever seen her. I still think it’s way past ridiculous that 11-year-old special education students – who function on the level of 3-year-olds – are supposed to master 5th grade math, including geometry! The lovely and gracious Mrs. Just Charlie is good, but even she can’t work that kind of magic! Pray for her if you think about it. Thanks!
  • The first words I heard at church this morning were about the AJC article on Andy Stanley. The big thing this person noticed in the story? “A $1.1 million dollar house!” Go figure…
  • Speaking of Andy Stanley, did I tell you that his books punch me in the gut within the first few pages? Deep and Wide is no exception!
  • In fact, I’m steali…I mean…borrowi…I mean…basing our current message series on some of his material!
  • I talked today about the difference between Jesus’s teaching and that of the scribes, the difference between information and transformation. ($1 to Rick Warren for that, as well!) And since focusing on the teaching part is just kind of “preacher-y,” I also talked about the learning part. And you haven’t really “learned” until you put it into practice.
  • Thus, the earworm above!
  • I gave away another copy of Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write. That makes about five copies I’v passed along or ordered for other people  It’s old, but it’s one of those little books that will provide a few “hmmmm” and “aha” moments. Big thanks to Garr Reynolds for pointing it out in Presentation Zen.
  • Best baseball call of the week? “THEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE Yankees lose!” (OK, so that call didn’t really happen, but the Yankees did get swept by the Tigers!)
  • I got called out by my friend that got the Ueland book. After an interesting conversation, I think she just basically called me out and threw down a challenge for me to stop talking about writing, and get busy doing it! I guess it’s true: Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. And there we are, ladies and gentlemen…
  • That’s enough to help you get to sleep without pills or sheep. See you later!

To all a good night! 🙂

Sunday Night Unwind, 10.07.12…

Back in the Christmas mood for the ol’ Sunday Night Unwind soundtrack. John Rutter’s Christmas Album is by far my favorite choral Christmas music. I’m especially partial to “Jesus Child,” and I really wish we had been able to pull that off at The ‘Crest a few years back. Oh, well…

It’s Sunday evening, and we know what that means, boys and girls…it’s time for all two of you loyal readers to tune in for the Unwind! Here’s what’s going on in my head and heart tonight…

  • Tonight may be the first “sock night” of the season. Maybe in the 40s for a low!
  • Interesting day at The ‘Crest.
  • We finished a series on Galatians last week. Today, I had more than one person ask, “What are we going to do now that we’ve finished Galatians” I reminded them that there’s a lot more in the Bible. I’m pretty certain there’s plenty of preaching material left!
  • I did a standalone message today entitled “The New Normal,” and I used that familiar phrase to talk about our church’s future in a dramatically changed culture and context.
  • We surveyed the first nine chapters of Acts, focusing on the first part of Chapter 8.
  • Oh, and one guy made a beeline to me afterwards to ask if I knew “The New Normal” is a TV show about same-sex marriage.
  • Speaking of marriage, I had an interesting wedding over the weekend. Good service and all that. Let’s just say I don’t think I’ve ever seen that little dress material and that much ink in one place. 🙂 And we may want to re-think opening the bar before the wedding next time.
  • I started reading Andy Stanley’s Deep & Wide and Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert’s When Helping Hurts this week. Both books are wrecking me. I just wonder if I’ll have the guts to do anything about it.
  • Come to think of it, everything Andy Stanley writes punches me in the gut within the first few pages.
  • Before this week is over, I will have been negatively affected by my own inability to say “no.” Not much I can do about it now, but it won’t be pleasant when all is said and done.
  • In sports news, I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the state of Georgia was 0-for-South-Carolina yesterday. The Jackets made a game out of it before the inevitable conclusion, but UGAg surprised everyone with how sorry they were.
  • Oh, and in other sports news, they’ve completely redesigned the infield at Turner Field.
  • But, hey! How about those Atlanta Falcons?!?!?

Long, complicated week ahead. I’m out. To all a good night!

Sunday Night Unwind, 09.30.12…

Where in the world has September gone? The great philosopher, Steve Miller, was right! Time DOES keep on “slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future!” Here’s what’s happening in this little insignificant piece of the world on a drizzly September Sunday night…

  • Kind of bummed out – no, REALLY bummed out! – by Georgia Tech’s performance(?) yesterday! I’m not sure CPJ has a lot of time left. I’m guessing CAG will be the first to go. What I AM sure about is that Climpsun is licking its chops for next Saturday. It’ll probably be 84-0 at the half. Oh, well…it’s just a game, right?
  • Speaking of games, did you notice the Atlanta Braves are 3 games out with 3 games left? There may be TWO single playoff games before the real deal starts! Hmmm….
  • And of course, the Atlanta Falcons miraculously went to 4-0 on this young NFL season. If you care about such things, that is. But enough sports..that’s not what all two of you loyal readers come to the Sunday Night Unwind for, is it? 🙂
  • We finished our Galatians series today at The Crest. It’s been a pretty good series.
  • Today, we talked about some of the relationship ramifications of freedom in Christ.
  • Most of the time, there are opportunities for “doing good for others” right around us, and we neglect them while looking “out there” for the opportunities. Paul challenged us to take the opportunities we have, with those closest to us.
  • Oh, and the message included a serendipitous find from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast! Did you catch it?

    Life is so unnerving
    For a servant who’s not serving
    He’s not whole without a soul to wait upon
    Ah, those good old days when we were useful…
    Suddenly those good old days are gone
    Ten years we’ve been rusting
    Needing so much more than dusting
    Needing exercise, a chance to use our skills!

  • Some time tomorrow, I will have hung around this planet for 52 years. In case you were wondering, that’s about 624 months. 2,704 weeks. 18,928 days. 454,272 hours. 27,256,320 minutes. 1,635,379,200 seconds. For some reason, 624 months just doesn’t seem that long.
  • Anticipating the beginning of another trip around the sun always makes me contemplate Psalm 90.
  • According to the “life expectancy figures” in that Psalm, I can reasonably assume that I’ll get to hang around for another 216 months. 936 weeks. 6,552 days. YIKES! It’s about time I got busy!
  • But for now, I’m going to sleep! Good night!

Sunday Night Unwind, Easter, 04.08.12…

Another Easter comes and goes. As I’ve done every Easter evening as long as I can remember, I’m unwinding with Mahler’s great Symphony #2, “Resurrection.” It was the first Mahler recording I ever owned, and it has been one of my favorites! On Easter evening, exactly five years ago, I posted this…

the “Resurrection” that Mahler’s Symphony No.2 refers to is not THE Resurrection that we celebrate today. But the Mahler Second is bold, powerful, inspiring.

And that is almost like – but not nearly as bold, powerful, and inspiring as – THE Resurrectionthat we celebrate today!

The last movement – for me, at least – is like Beethoven’s Ninth or even the great Puccini aria Nessun dorma. Even if you say you don’t like classical music or opera, it still has a way of moving you.

Anyway, you get the idea…

So, how’s your Easter been? Anything exciting happen? Anything inspiring? Here’s what’s on my mind as Easter 2012 loses its identity into another Monday…

  • As Easter winds down, I’m reminded of this post from 2005, in which Brad Abare asked, “Why can’t every Sunday be like Easter?” See…next Sunday will be here in seven days. There will be people who need the power of the Resurrection in their lives. And Jesus will still be alive!  Every Sunday ought to be Easter, don’t you think?
  • Our services were a little down today, as they have been since we’ve become tenants in property we used to own. We have to fix that. And quick!
  • More people than usual. Just not a lot more energy.
  • Hey, I thoroughly enjoy reading all my pastor buds’ accounts of huge crowds, multiple conversions, wonderful activities, etc. but I’m just trying to paint an honest picture of what our Easter was like.
  • Oh, we had good preaching! As my hero, E.V. Hill once said: “When I’m at myself, there’s not anyone else I’d rather hear!”
  • I asked the question: “What do you do with a story that has been around for years, and that almost everyone in the world has heard?”Answer: “Re-release it in 3-D!”
  • And with apologies to another of my heroes, Rick Warren, I talked about Easter in 3-D.
  • Hold on…the great second section of the fifth movement of Mahler’s Second just started! Air conducting at its finest! 🙂
  • OK..where were we?
  • So, I just had a vision in my mind of my friends conducting, singing, and playing French horn in the final movement of Mahler’s Second!
  • Anyway, I’m rambling, so it’s time to quit trying to write, get that other cup of coffee, and focus on Mahler!

Sunday Night Unwind, 03.11.12…

For some reason, my ‘go-to” Sunday Night Unwind soundtrack has been Hillsong lately. I’ve got iTunes cranked up, and all the Hillsong stuff I have is rocking along. Did I mention we need a chick worship leader?  🙂 Anyway, here’s what’s going on in my little insignificant corner of the universe…

  • Last week started out pretty good, but ended up being the gnat bite week from H-E-double-hockey-sticks.
  • From Thursday on, it seemed like one little thing after another happened. There was nothing major, but those little gnat bites get pretty annoying when they start adding up.
  • Broken glasses. Busted doors. Kitty eye infections. Impromptu encounters with Cherokee County’s finest. Nasty floors. Changed locks. You get the idea….
  • Top all that off with last night, when I got a decent amount of sleep, but woke up feeling as though I’d been running all night long. Is it possible to sleep without really resting?
  • Today at The Crest was pretty interesting.
  • We’ve been in a series called Jesus in the Present Tense, dealing with the great “I Am” statements of Jesus in John’s Gospel. Today, we took a break to promote our tribe’s annual Easter Offering for North American missions.
  • Had some video vignettes of folks who are planting churches throughout North America. My most interesting “hmmmm” moment came from this guy, who came from South Africa to the United States because of his burden for dying churches and lost people. In America? Wait…aren’t Americans supposed to be “the missionaries?”
  • We’re tenants now, in the property we used to own, and that – as you can imagine – is pretty awkward. And getting more so as the weeks go by. We need to get busy looking for a new place to call home. And pronto!
  • I used to believe the conventional wisdom that said if you pay for something yourself, you’re more likely to take better care of it than if someone gives it you you. Apparently our new landlords and erstwhile tenants didn’t get the memo. Aren’t Army guys supposed to be clean and neat? Don’t they learn to police the area, etc.? Isn’t there such a thing as KP anymore? And whatever happened to the famous “commitment to Christian excellence in education?” (Insert your own link here. It shouldn’t be too hard to find.) And why are there bricks and concrete blocks in the refrigerator? Just wondering out loud here…
  • For some reason, this line from National Lampoon’s Animal House comes to mind more often these days.
  • Oh, and how about that commitment to excellence in grammar, too?
  • Did I mention that the lovely and gracious Mrs. Just Charlie has Apple fever? I mean a bad case!
  • If you want to help ease that condition, one of these will do the trick. And one of these. Oh, and since it’s small, how about one of these, as well? 🙂
  • How do you go about making a large traditional worship space (think pews, etc.)  more intimate when it only contains  relatively few people? Our space will seat 175-200 and we have less than 50 currently. Just wondering…
  • I started reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr,Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas this evening.
  • I’ve been thinking about “hard things” for the past couple of days. And as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve failed at so much simply because I quit or backed off when the going got tough. It’s hard to do the right thing sometimes. It’s hard not to give up or give in. It’s hard to follow God’s lead when you’re discouraged and just going through the motions. It’s hard not to quit when it seems everything you try fails. It’s hard to keep going when it seems you’re on your own without a lot of support. It’s hard! Now at age 50-something, I’m wondering if it’s too late to strengthen those muscles.
  • Speaking of muscles, my commitment to exercise and health has been one of those areas. I’m getting back to it. As tempting as it is, you can’t live on what you did six years ago.
  • Same with reading and learning.
  • Same with meaningful spiritual habits.
  • All things being equal, however, God is still great and He is still good, and He’s not done with us yet!

Sorry for the pity party. Move along if you’re in the wrong place. If you’re where you’re supposed to be, an extra prayer or two would be appreciated.

A famous Jim Cymbala quote to bring a merciful end to tonight’s Unwind…

I despaired at the thought that my life might slip by without seeing God show himself mightily on our behalf.

Peace. Good night!

Sunday Night Unwind, 01.15.12…

Sunday Night Unwind, 01.15.12...

(Image via iStockphoto.com)

In honor of, and in solidarity with, my friend, Tony McCollum, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and a few other random disco favorites are powering the Sunday Night Unwind tonight!

Here’s what I’m thinking about tonight…

  • Long, LOOOOOONG message this morning at The Crest.
  • I started a series last week about facing the challenges of growing older. Today’s installment focused on regret.
  • BTW, I developed the series with help from our folks, who identified some of the most critical challenges they face while getting older.
  • BTW #2: Getting older is not a function of a particular age. You and I are older than we were yesterday, and in fact, whether we are 30 or 90, we’ll continue to get older until we die.
  • Anyway, I digress…I used the story of Samson to help us see some lessons about dealing with regret. This article was a springboard for the message.
  • The discomfort of discipline will help us avoid the pain of regret. Our choices now have consequences later.
  • We can’t change the past. But hopefully, we learn valuable lessons from the past.
  • It’s never too late to fulfill God’s purpose for your life. But time is running out. And it may not look exactly the same at 40 or 50 0r 87 as it may have looked at 16 or 21 or 30.
  • Fulfilling that purpose will likely – no, assuredly! – require us to lose our own selfish and prideful agendas, and follow His.
  • In other news, it was a real special day for my friend and former colleague Melanie Christianson. She celebrated her retirement after 43 years of musical service at my last headquarters. Melanie was (hopefully, still is!) a great friend, an excellent musician, an effective leader, and the best assistant I ever had! Thanks, Melanie, for everything! Well done, good and faithful servant! Oh, and how does someone who’s only 39 serve for 43 years?
  • The lovely and gracious Mrs. JustCharlie and The Boy continue their headlong plunge, lemming-like, into Apple fanboy-/fangirl-dom. They’ve plastered those little white Apple logos on their vehicles! And The Boy just went and traded in his two-week-old iPhone4 for the 4S.
  • Apparently, that Siri can be a real snit!
  • What’s next, I wonder..a MacBook Pro? (13″, 8 gigs of RAM, etc., etc.)? OK…twist my arm…
  • It was good to see some old friends at The Crest today.
  • No YMCA, no school tomorrow…hope you have a great night! Later!

Sunday Night Unwind, 01.08.12…

(Image via iStockphoto.com)

Once again, Hillsong on Pandora is providing the soundtrack for the almost-county-famous Sunday Night Unwind! Long, interesting day, in case you’re interested…

  • I’ve been in a Hillsong mood the last couple of days. Somehow, I still think we need a chick worship leader!
  • Speaking of worship, who’s doing music that’s (A) theologically rich, (B) singable, (C) and at least a little bit celebratory? I love some of the contemporary takes on classic hymns, but man! What’s with the emo/Debbie Downer mood? And how can you get older folks to sing along when the music is unsingable? Just a thought…
  • Re: “older” folks…I started a new series this morning focusing on facing the challenges of growing older.
  • I know, I know…it’s supposed to be all about reaching younger people. You do realize, don’t you, that even your 30-year-olds are older than someone? And they’re facing the getting older thing, too.
  • For the record, I started fretting about the getting older thing at 30. Just sayin’…
  • Anyway, I told the story of Caleb, and tried to challenge our folks to be a “different spirit” like Caleb was.
  • What made him different? His undying optimism, his wholehearted devotion to God, his unrelenting quest for the next challenge, and his investment in the next generation. Not bad for an 85-year-old.
  • And can you imagine Joshua and Caleb sitting and playing checkers at the Cracker Barrel? Well, that’s how I told it anyway! 🙂
  • Even though the message was OK, I felt more drained than I have in a long time when it was over.
  • God really challenged me through my own words today.
  • Some NY writer said the Falcons beating the Giants in the NFL playoffs would reward the worst sports fans in America. Just in case you were wondering, it’s not the fans in Atlanta , it’s obviously the teams! For a team that’s supposedly so good, the Falcons sure are pretty bad! Two points? Really?
  • Oh, well, it’s back to my normal “Who cares about pro football?” status now.
  • Oh, and did you realize we were thaaaaaaaaaat close to not having to tolerate another NBA season? Too bad… 🙂
  • Four folks showed up for our new Second Sunday prayer gathering at The Crest. We were in bonus territory, I guess!

Kitties are winding down – hopefully! Opportunity clock will sound promptly at 4:00 a.m. See you later! Good night!