How to get an Acura MDX to Santa Fe…..Have Faith.

July 2015…a tough month for the Sweeneys, ending with Steve as a passenger on a careflight ride from Raton, NM to Santa Fe.  He had been hiking on the Philmont Scout Camp, with the scout troop, and contracted pneumonia along the way.

We had a lot of logistics to consider, but the one I would like to focus on today is the story of the car.  Steve drove half of the troop in his Acura MDX to the camp and now we were challenged with two things:  getting the scouts home, and getting the car home.


Boy Scouts have a hard rule that a scout must be 18 or over to drive other scouts.  None of those in the troop were over 17.  Even so, we hoped we could obtain a waiver so the 17 year olds could drive the car back to Dallas.  No such luck.

Still, the scouts needed to get home, since they arrived in Steve’s car. Amazingly enough, another troop from Dallas was leaving the same day as our troop. And amazingly, there were three spots available for extra passengers.

At Philmont, the staff calls this ‘A Philmont thing’. I call it a God thing, and the rest of the story helps you understand why.

Thankfully, we have many friends on Facebook.  Since Cathy had been posting, some friends had offered help. We connected with a friend from our Longhorn Band days who lives and conducts band programs in Cimmaron, NM (Pam).

Pam had resources who were willing to drive two cars to Santa Fe for shopping.  But the best resource was a woman who worked the front desk at Philmont, who was out of town for a few days.

Cathy was prepared to drive up to Philmont to get the car.  At the last minute, Pam reached front desk friend (Dede) on her first morning back to Philmont.

As Pam relayed the problem to Dede, Dede covered the phone mouthpiece, and asked the group congregated in the lobby if anyone was headed to Santa Fe that morning.

One man stepped forward.  “I am,” said Elder Anderson, a chaplain with the camp, representing the LDS faith group ( Philmont staffs 2 LDS, 2 Jewish, 2 Catholic, and 2 Protestant.chaplains at the camp).

“I am headed to St. Vincent’s to visit a camper named Steve Sweeney.”

You can guess the rest.  Elder Anderson and his wife, Mary, delivered the car around noon.

Do not try to convince me that God is not real.  I saw God today in the faces of two people who sacrificed time and energy to help their neighbor.  Thank you, Philmont.  Your chaplains give their best so we can feel the love of God around us.  Today, we remember that God is good, because we have lived it.

You’ve Heard of Comic Con….Is there a God Con?

If you have access to the internet, or if you are active on social media, you could hardly miss last week’s reporting from San Diego, the city which hosts the largest annual ‘fandom’ convention in the world – Comic Con International.  The city was bombarded with visitors dressed as Marvel Heroes, DC Comic Heroes, Star Wars characters, Star Trek characters, Pirates of the Carribean, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Frozen, and Dr. Horrible, just to name a few.


For those who are not familiar with Comic Con, allow me to explain.  The first three day convention of Comic Con took place in August, 1970, in San Diego, with about 300 participants attending.  Attendees were treated to panel discussions between well-known comic dealers or actors, exhibit halls, a dealer’s room, and film screenings.  The convention has exploded in recent years to include over 130,000 attendees, 7 venues in the gaslight district of San Diego, producing four days of activity:  film previews and related panels, book signings, celebrity hosted events, ‘teasers’ for popular television shows for upcoming season, general programming and educational lectures, and gala balls in specific storyline themes.

The success of Comic Con has prompted numerous, and smaller, Comic Con productions; and there are spin-off concepts that have specific themes.  For example:

leaky con

Leaky Con (wordplay on Leaky Cauldron), a three day programming event dedicated to all things Harry Potter.  My daughter, Shannon, has attended this for three years.  Really…’s a thing.


VidCon, which hosts more than 300 of the most innovative and influential YouTube creators, who perform, discuss, and connect with the more than 20,000 attendees at the three-day conference.  Shannon leaves for this year’s in LA next week (she’s actually networking for her internship).  Really….it’s a thing.

anime logo

And even Anime Fest, a satellite convention of the Anime mothership art genre recently held in Dallas.  I have no idea about all things Anime, but really….it’s a thing.

The surge of Fandom conventions – books, films, television, art – the popularity of these make me ask one question:

Is there a Fandom for God?

The answer, as you might guess, is simple.  God’s Fandom comes together weekly, and for me, I celebrate at Christ United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas.    Our general sessions take place in the narthex, where we find out the happenings for the day and week, and lead into the sanctuary or Trinity Hall for worship.  Our breakout sessions are the small groups, Sunday morning classes, and bible studies throughout the week.  We have specialty programs for children, music ministries and missions.  God’s Fandom organizes and celebrates at church on Sunday, and takes the celebration to the world afterwards.

church with people

Here’s the real kicker, though.  In whatever location you might worship, with whatever method you might employ, at whatever hour you might choose, God will show up.  In Matthew 18:20, Jesus tells us, “For wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am with them.”  Even better, there’s no celebrity fee and no costume required.  The only thing needed is to invite the love of Christ into your heart.

Yes, indeed.  Christ has a Fandom, and it’s called the living church.

Because really…..Christ’s Fandom…’s a God thing.   And we’re all invited.

The “Not Until” List

Summertime at Sweeney’s on the Creek is a little different now that it’s July.    While Steve and I go about our normal daily routines (even with longer daylight hours to ease some of the pain), the kids are winding down a bit from travels and camps.

Shannon, 21, is in between conferences right now, and as usual, spends much of her days reading and blogging on her book blog site.  This is actually a productive use of her time, given that she will be starting a publishing internship in NYC in the fall.  Travel and conferences start up again in a few weeks for her.  Jack, 14, has finished his sports camps and will be leaving for church mission trip in Colorado and scout trips to New Mexico in a few weeks.  Then he starts marching band with the Might Mustang Band at JJ Pearce HS in Richardson, all day, every weekday, in August.

book-expo-america                        BSA                   denum

As much as I’d like to let them just “be,” there are things that need done, and, as in many households, Steve and I expect help around the house so that we can all relax and take part in our favorite activities in the evenings.

To help manage the flow of their days, I implemented the “Not Until” list.  Each day, before I leave for work, I list five items for Jack to complete – three before lunch and two after.  He cannot turn on electronics (video games, cell phone, television, etc.) – not until the list is complete in the morning, and then again in the afternoon.  Shannon gets a list, too, but less than five items most days.

I actually started this challenge for myself a few weeks ago.  See, I tend to get distracted if I sit down at the computer and immediately click on a social media site.  To try to break that habit, I wrote out a list of things I wanted to do every morning before I even think about clicking on email, Facebook, twitter or Instagram:

  1. Bible Study (currently studying the Book of James) and prayer
  2. Journal about prior day, hopes for the current day, and observations from the study
  3. Calendaring in my traditional Franklin Planner – yep, as social media savvy as I am, I still prefer to carry my planner with me, paper and all. Old habits die hard!  I update any incomplete items from the prior day and make sure any new to-do are added to my lists.
  4. Household chores as needed – laundry or kitchen cleaning, empty dishwasher.

to do list

So far, so good.  I feel more organized and that I am getting started on the right foot every day.

I asked myself, “If I can feel this way every day, what about starting the week?  What is on my “Not Until” list for the week?”

I’ll bet my list is the same as yours, and it only has one thing on it:  Start the week with worship and community.  Not one or the other – BOTH.  See, we can worship without community, but then how are we sharing the joy and confidence we receive from our faith, if we aren’t in community with others?  And we can share in community over a breakfast, but it is in the worship service that we can turn our hearts and minds completely to God, to give God thanks and praise, and to hear God’s call to us for the rest of the week.

Where do we worship?  At church.  Where do we find that community?  In our classes, small groups, choirs, etc. – at church.

I believe we need to participate both in worship and in community.  Not until we have started our week with those two things can we begin our week, reminded in a very special way of God’s promise, grace, and importance in our lives.

What about you?  Do you feel different when you ‘skip’ worship or class on Sunday mornings?  What is it you miss, when you can’t be at church?  My prayer for you is that your “Not Until” list begins on Sunday morning with a trip to church, for worship and Sunday morning classes.  My prayer for you is that you know your attendance matters – to you, and equally important, to the rest of us.

See you Sunday.  Even on a holiday!