Month: November 2016

The Mountain Lodge

Dr. Jon Roebuck, Executive Directorcyaqe94xeaq3dwp


Yesterday a devastating wildfire ravaged the town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  People lost their homes, cars, and businesses.  Having once served as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Gatlinburg, those people, unknown to most of you, are very real to me and my family.  We lived there.  We spent 5 special years there.  Our kids went to school there.  It was our home and now bits and pieces are forever gone.  We are extremely grateful that as far as we know, all of the people we love in that place are safe.  We are terribly saddened however that some of the places we loved are now gone.  We have spoken to a number of our friends throughout the day.  Some have lost everything but the clothes on their backs.  But they haven’t lost their resiliency and the small town of hard working and industrious folk will rise again.  I am certain of it.  But today they grieve and weep and we join with them in the sadness of loss.


Perhaps my favorite place to eat on the planet was a local spot in Gatlinburg named, The Mountain Lodge.  Last night the fire reached the restaurant and in moments it was gone.  Ron and Jennifer Smith have run the place for decades.  They are the best of people.  Strong in their faith and strong in their commitment as members of the community, their first thoughts were not of the loss of their family business, but of their employees who are suddenly without work.  Ron and Jennifer are friends of ours and were great supporters of the church when I pastored there.  Ron and his brother Don prepared the Wednesday night meals… best food in town.  Jennifer was a surrogate mom to every kid in the youth group.  She and my wife, Linda, laughed and cried their way through youth camps and mission trips as counselors.  Ron and Jennifer are safe and we are grateful.  Yet we are heartbroken.

The Mountain Lodge was more than a great place to eat… it was THE place to eat.  Most of the population of the town ate there every week, if not every day.  It was the heart of the community.  Yes, the food was great, but the sense of belonging was even greater.  In that place you were known, accepted, and wanted.  Even after all of these years have passed, whenever we stepped into The Lodge, people called us by name, hugged our necks, and Jennifer always stopped what she was doing to come sit at the table and play catch-up.  Occasionally, I would step back in the kitchen to speak to Ron.  That’s where he always was.  He has to be the hardest working man I have ever known.  We stopped one day to do a little math… we figured that he had served over 3 million plates of food out of that kitchen through the years.  3 million.  Ron and Jennifer served food, made friends, and connected the community together through good times and bad all in that small restaurant.  If you never had their cream of chicken soup, or the cinnamon rolls, or the hamburger always served upside down, you have missed something special.

It’s been a tough few days in Gatlinburg.  It’s going to be a long, hard road out.  I would humbly ask for you to remember that community.  Support them in ways that you can.  And pray faithfully for every family and the losses they have sustained.

Missing Thanksgiving

img_0400Dr. Jon R. Roebuck, Executive Director

What’s wrong with Martha?  I mean, there she is, welcoming Jesus into her home but when the moment comes to sip a little “Living Water” she’s too busy in the kitchen to even notice.  You remember the story well.  According to Luke 10:38-42, Jesus has come to the home of Mary and Martha.  Mary sits at His feet, listening to every word that flows from His mouth.  Martha is in the kitchen, distracted with all her preparations.  She must have been from the South… she cares deeply about hospitality, decorum, and good food.  She and Paula Dean would have been best friends.  She spends the day fussing over the meal while her sister spends the day in the company of Jesus.  Jesus even tells Martha when she comes to complain about Mary’s behavior that Mary has spent the day more wisely.

I’ve read that story a thousand times but have refused to see myself reflected in its image.  Until now.  I’m fearful that I am playing the part of Martha this thanksgiving, because that’s how I usually spend the holiday.  Thanksgiving at our house is a big deal.  Because our home is more centrally located than my wife’s siblings’ houses, we host the family in our home for a few days each year.  It used to be easier when the kids were little and you could sleep all seven on a blanket on the floor.  But now the kids are grown and some are married and some even have kids of their own.  We have to plan through work schedules, nap times, and airline fights just to attempt a thanksgiving meal for all 19 of us.  Ages will range from 2 weeks old to 90 years.  I even built a set of corn hole games for the weekend painted with Alabama and Auburn logos, after all it is Iron Bowl week.  It gets a little crazy… especially when you are hosting the event.  Many of you have experienced some of the same dynamics.

I have discovered through the years, that if I am not careful, I will spend more time fussing over the meal than I will in spending the day in the company of my family.  I worry about having enough ice, a well-cooked turkey, a clean house, and a raked yard.  I want everything to run smoothly and be ready for company.  (The last two years we have even added the stress of having the house decorated for Christmas before the Thanksgiving crowd arrives.)  I have to rethink the question of purpose.  Why do we do what we do at Thanksgiving?  Is it really all about the food we consume, the house we clean, and the paper goods we buy… or is it about the company that we keep?

This year I’m going to attempt to worry less about the details and focus more on my family.  I have no doubt we will have plenty to eat.  I’m not worried about having enough beds for everyone to sleep.  I’m not even going to stress if the dishes pile up in the sink.  Maybe I will have the time to even reflect on the things for which I am most grateful.  Surely that’s a better way to spend the season.  It’s time to get out of the kitchen Martha… the best things are happening in the next room.

Paying It Forward

Dr. Jon Roebuck, Executive Director

I’m one of those people who believe that our life stories are always being written by God into a much greater narrative.  In other words, some moments that we hardly think twice about, are a part of God’s plan for something greater that He is doing.  I often tell people that God is weaving the tread of our life story into a much larger tapestry designed to change hearts and lives.  And sometimes, we are privileged to catch a glimpse of God at work.  There is great joy in knowing that our lives are being used by God and connected in some exciting ways.  I had one of those serendipitous moments last week…

In the midst of the election turmoil that filled the nation with angst and uncertainty, my family was busy celebrating one of the great days that we will long remember.  Our son and daughter-in-law welcomed their 2nd daughter into the world.  Her name is Lydia and she is healthy and strong and we are blessed beyond measure.  She is our third granddaughter.  But here’s where the story of “paying it forward” got woven into the story.  While in the hospital, my daughter-in-law picked up the phone to order her meal from food services.  The kind lady on the other end of the conversation took her order and asked for her name and room number.  When she said her last name was Roebuck, the lady hesitated for a moment and asked, “Are you related to Pastor Roebuck?”  (As most of you know, I pastored Woodmont Baptist Church here in Nashville for the past 17 years.) She said, “Yes. He’images-1s my father-in-law.”  The lady on the phone then replied, “He built my house about 2 years ago and participated in the dedication service.”  Her home is located in an area of town where Habitat for Humanity has built a number of sturdy, affordable homes.  I had been a part of the Habitat team that built her home.  My daughter-in-law then replied, “I was also a part of that team.  I too helped to build your home.”  It was a nice moment when the connection between builder and owner was made.  (I’m pretty sure my daughter-in-law got really good service that morning!)

Who knew?  Who knew that something we had done a couple years previous would be remembered on the day our granddaughter was born? Who knew that the one serving the meal would be the same one who 2 years earlier had been served herself by my daughter-in-law’s Habitat involvement?  Simply stated… God knew.  No… it was not some great life-changing, destiny altering moment, but it was interesting the see the connecting points.  What some would suggest was just a wild coincidence, is seen by others as the intentional working of God.  It happens all the time in the presence of those who have the eyes of faith with which to see. God can be seen in the everyday experiences of life, carefully arranging people, place, and moment.

I had an old ethics professor in Seminary who used to say, “You have to be willing to plant a few trees in whose shade you will never rest.”  I think he’s right.  We are called to do good deeds and compassionate acts, not for the glory we will receive or the pats on the back we might feel… we are called to do Kingdom things because they are the right things to do.  We don’t serve the world for the sake of self-adulation.  We serve the world because our faith compels us to do so.  And when those moments do occur… when we see how our hands become the hands of God, we should pause to reflect for a moment, grateful that we have been honored to be used of God.

When the dust clears after election day…

Dr. Jon Roebuck, Executive Director

unknown-2Once again we have the important and rare privilege that our democracy affords us of going to the polls this week and casting our vote.  Thank God that we can.  And thank God that its nearly over.  For almost two years America has been caught up in the rhetoric of partisan politics.  We have heard the speeches, watched the debates, listened to the platforms, and formed our opinions.  It has been a long, angry, divisive battle.  The question becomes where to go from here…

What will happen when the dust clears later this week?  What happens when the votes are counted and a winner is proclaimed?  Will we stand and celebrate the electoral process and marvel that as Americans we have once again celebrated the peaceful transference of power?  Will we shake hands with our political enemies and seek to craft a more perfect union?  Maybe… maybe not.

Allow me to suggest some steps to take on the morning of November 9th as the dust starts to clear.

  1. Put your Christian convictions into practice. In other words, act Christ-like.  Think before you speak.  Extend compassion in your attitudes.  Offer grace.  Jesus offered the radical idea of loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us… that includes those on the other side of the political aisle.  Refuse to the temptation to write off a friendship because of politics.  Christ is not honored by broken relationships.  Christians are to be known by their love, not by lingering, divisive attitudes towards those who disagree with them.
  2. Pray for the new president. Paul writes to Timothy, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior…” (I Timothy 2:1-3) How you pray is critical.  Your prayers should be for the health and well-being of the President, for wisdom, and for safety. As a believer, you should offer that prayer consistently.
  3. If you have been caustically active on social media, you need to ask God to forgive you and apologize to your fellow citizens. Without question social media has given voice to millions with little governance or consequence.  Rumors, falsehoods, and opinions quickly became accepted truth.  Deceit remains sinful, even if carried out on the internet where people will often say something electronically to someone else that they would never say in person.
  4. Begin to create a better nation by becoming a better citizen. Volunteer at a non-profit.  Give to charities that do important work.  Get to know your neighbors.  Develop relationships with people who are very different from you… racially, ethnically, religiously, philosophically.
  5. Be a gracious winner or a good loser. The nation is divided enough.  The hostility needs to quieten.  No one needs to read one more ugly post from you on Facebook or hear you taunt your conquered foes on Twitter.  Take down your yard signs and move ahead.  There is work that needs to be done by all of us as Americans.  It’s time for us to get back to the concept of the “United” States.

May God help us forge a better nation, a more thoughtful dialogue, and a more civil discourse.  It all begins with each of us.