Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Going back to school

Watching the students go back to school causes me to remember those days in my own life. Some of the memories are good and … some are not so good. The beginning of the school year, be it elementary, Junior or Senior High school or college, was always filled with excitement, anticipation, great goals, tremendous desires and always a resolve that this year was going to be different. But, then the classes began, the teacher’s expectations where laid upon us, the assignments were passed out, the social interactions within the classroom became complicated, and the year simply moved into the “same-old-same-old” stuff.

There are a few outstanding memories. The best year ever was the sixth grade. Dr. Malanggo was the teacher (I’m sure that I am not spelling his name correctly – after all that was over 56 years ago). He motivated us like no other teacher that I had ever had before. Come Christmas break we had completed all of the necessary work for sixth grade, if you can believe it. Thinking back I’m not really sure how we did it and I’m sure that he ever informed us of his goal, but the rest of the year was fantastic because we, the students, determined what we were going to discover during the remaining months of the school year. It was marvelous and what sheer joy of experiences and discovery.

Another memory includes my homeroom teacher in Senior High School, Uncle Jimmy Hudson. Once you met this unusual, loving, caring gentleman your life was going to change … guaranteed. If anyone ever was meant to be a teacher and to be involved in helping to shape the minds, spirit and future of young people it was Uncle Jimmy. I never had him for any classes, but homeroom was a class in itself. He took the time to teach us about life and how to live it through the stories he would tell, jokes shared, and quotes for the day upon the board. It was just 15 minutes at the beginning of each day, but had a profound impact upon us all.

Then there was the American History professor in the second year of college. He taught American History II from two perspectives – from the textbook (required reading) and journals that he and his father, grandfather and great grandfather kept while they were in service to the president and other members of congress. He would be lecturing away and then stop, pause and state, “Well, that is what the history books tell us, but here is what was written in the journals.” It was a personal and often conflicting interpretation of American History … rich in texture and insightful in observations … hard to forget those kinds of experiences.

The rest of my college learning experience is kind of jammed together because shortly after my second year of college Margaret and I were married … and then Tim came … and then Tracy … and trying to adjust to married life with a family while “trying” my hand at serving a church 50 miles due west of Atlanta was a juggling act at best. There was times that I felt like the circus guy who tries to keep all the plates spinning on those little thin sticks … mine just kept falling off and breaking. It was the best of times … it was the worst of times … hard to concentrate with so much demanding for your attention.

I do remember on seminary professor, Dr. Ted Runyon. It was during one of his oral final exams – he would sit at his desk and simply enter into a dialogue with you about the course subject and what you learned. He had his set questions, but they kind of found their way into the conversation. At some point I remember him shutting his book, leaning across the desk, looking me directly in the eyes and state, “You know, Martin, if you ever got serious about your education you would be dangerous!”

Looking back it wasn’t really that hard. God never gives you more than you can handle. Oh, it might stretch you. It might seem rather demanding. It might require more from you than you think that you can give. And, yet, we all survive, making the necessary adjustments and come out the other end the victor.

And so, as the students and teachers go back to the classroom, they go with my prayers and good wishes for rich memories of not necessarily what they are going to learn from the textbook, but what they are going to experience from each other. Because when all is said and done, it will be those interpersonal relationships between teacher and student, and between student and student that will remain with them for the rest of their days.

Here is to good memories. I have some and I hope that you do too!

Quote for today: Smartness runs in my family. When I went to school I was so smart my teacher was in my class for five years. Gracie Allen

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mother Teresa, one of my sheros

One of my “sheroes” of life and faith would have turned 100 years old last week (August 26) … Mother Teresa. I admired her for a long time, but when I received a Christmas gift one year of excerpts from her spiritual journal she was moved into the sheroe category ... at least in my mind.

The stories that surrounded her caring ministry to the “least of these” are moving in their own right. The one that still lingers in my soul is the story of a visiting American journalist who was granted permission to “shadow” Mother Teresa one day as she worked in the leprosy ward at one of the charity hospitals in Calcutta. He writes about the ward being filled with hundreds of beds of people in various stages of this horrible disease. The stench of decaying flesh and bodily fluids was over powering. It was all he could do to keep his food down, but Mother Teresa moved from bed to bed, bathing the soars, changing bandages, changing the sheets, mopping up the mess from around the beds and then moving on to the next patient. When she got to the end of the ward she would then go back to the first patient and start all over again. Finally, the journalist said, “I couldn’t do what you are doing.” To which she replied, “Neither could I, but the Jesus in me can.”

Her faithful witness and sacrificial love expressed to the sick and dying is but one example of her spirit, but the real sheroe status came from reading her journal entries. Entry after entry spoke about her struggle with her faith … her doubts … the deafening silence from God to her prayers … her frustrations concerning a lack of biblical understanding … her anxiety concerning her effectiveness. In reading one entry after entry the struggling spirit of this saintly woman began to emerge. Here was someone that could understand my struggle!

Here I was thinking all the time that Mother Teresa had all the answers, had a special relationship with God, had her spiritual act together – so to speak - but what I found, in her journal, was an individual who, in spit of her doubts, questions and frustrations, was able to move forward on her spiritual journey and ministry. I found somebody that I could relate to in that she wasn’t afraid of admitting her human failings in that spiritual journey, but knew – and here is the hope for all of us in our quest – that answers would eventually come not because we stop and wait, but when we face our questions and doubts and continue to move forward anyway. Truly, she was one of my sheroes!

When I am faced with life’s little problems, when my spirit grows weary, when my mind cannot seem to wrap itself around the ever present questions, doubts and frustrations, when I come away from reading scripture with more questions than answers … I follow Mother Teresa’s example of admitting where I am spiritually, mentally and emotionally and move on. Some would choose to compromise their faith so that it can “fit” into their “reasonable” thinking and life’s experiences and by doing so, they could be missing out on some significant spiritual growth and insight. After all just look at Mother Teresa who never sought to bring scripture and faith down to her level, but always sought to elevate herself to the Almighty’s level.

Quote for today: God doesn't require us to succeed; he only requires that you try. Mother Teresa

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Answered Prayer

A man, on bended knee, pleaded his desperate financial situation before God asking to win the lottery. His cries were deep, emotions ran wild and the tears were real, but come the next day nothing ... he did not win. So now more desperate, he went back to God asking to win the lottery. His financial angst this time was deeper and his plea was more emotional, but come the next day still nothing ... he did not win. And, so, the third time he took his horrible situation before God and in mid-prayer God spoke, “Son, work with me here, at least buy a ticket!”

And so it goes for most of us … through prayer and meditation we lay before the Almighty our life and its needs – emotional, mental and physical … and then sit back and wait for THE answer, only to be disappointed that no answer is forth coming. We fail to understand that after we pray we must get to work. At least 50%, if not 90%, of any solution to our emotional, mental and physical state is found in the sweat equity that comes from us.

We teach this to our children, don’t we? They come to us with their requests and in helping them we enlist them in finding the solution (or at least we should enlist them instead of doing it for them). Anything that requires something from us is more appreciated than something that is simply handed to us. If it comes too easily it can be discarded without much thought, but if we have to work at it, struggle for it, make plans to achieve it and wait for its coming then when it arrives we can celebrate and feel satisfied … a deep, long lasting satisfaction … it is the “at least buy a ticket” syndrome or as I wrote last Sunday about Miss Hattie getting to church through all kinds of weather, “Getting there is half the joy.”

If we expect God to do everything for us then we just might find ourselves still wandering in the desert years later without ever experiencing the joy of coming into the Promised Land.

Quote for today:
Unanswered yet? Nay, do not say ungranted;
Perhaps your part is not yet wholly done;
The work began when first your prayer was uttered,
And God will finish what He has begun.
Though years have passed since then, do not despair;
His glory you shall see, sometime, somewhere.

Ophelia Adams.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Getting lost on the way to our life

Have you ever gotten lost on the way to your life? We all have … some more so than others. I’m not really sure when it begins, but we get sidetracked from being our authentic self by getting buried by artificial identities. We just get lost. It is so easy. First comes the question, “Are you Ted’s sister or Mary’s brother?” which is followed rather quickly by, “Are you Lowell’s son or John’s daughter?” We start getting lost on our way to our life so much so that we get confused as to just who we are. Labels, if that is what they are called, come quickly and have a tendency to stick … if we like it or not.

We’ve seen this played out in the national media. Tiger Woods lost his moral bearings and his core structure by believing that he was indestructible. Lindsay Lohan gained her fame and fortune, but lost the authentic individual. Both got caught up into believing what others where saying about them. They lost sight of what was really important and on their way to their life got lost.

Some people never recover from this emotional and mental, as well as spiritual misstep. They simply keeping going through the same process, but expect different results. Examples can be found wherever you wish to look – multiple divorces followed by multiple re-marriages, constantly changing jobs or the more “normal” sign of “lostness” by stating what your job is before people ask or who your parents are or who your children are long before anybody really cares.

It is all so confusing because as these layers are placed upon us we not only get buried by them, but we get lost on our way to our life. Mary Frances Chappell comes to mind. She very gently and loving refused to be labeled as, “The preacher’s wife” as in, “I have a name!” Also, she won’t let your children be labeled as the “preacher’s kids” … they to had a name and an identity apart from who their daddy was and what he did.

The sad result in this loss is that we fail at the most fundamental requirement of life … learning to love ourselves. It is sad because if we do not love ourselves then it becomes impossible to love anyone else. Oh, we say we love them, but the testimony to the reality that we really don’t love them as their authentic selves is that we place certain spoken or unspoken requirements upon them … as in “you should do …” or “why did you do …” or “you must … you gotta’ … you ought … you have to … why haven’t you … etc.” Just one layer of expectations and demands after another – layer upon layer – until at some point they get lost on their way to their life.

Oh, we’ve learned these little personality tricks from experts … they are called our parents. And, in turn, we pass it down to our children … “visiting the iniquity unto the third and fourth generations” (to quote from the Ten Commandments). We use these parental tricks in order to “control” the lives of the little people who have been entrusted into our care. Our intentions are good, but the process is misplaced. It is actually a miracle that we grow-up as well as we do, but the sad reality is that we have missed out on the authentic life that God intended us to have … we simply get lost on the way to our life.

A child comes into this world trusting everyone in authority, but then through a little action here and a little “un-action” there the child soon, too soon, learns that it isn’t always good to trust … or to love … or to believe … or to hope … or to care … layer upon layer and the life is lost … but maybe not forever.

If we lose ourselves in love then possibly we make the discovery of the life that God has held out for us. From our experiences in life we become afraid to really love – it only leads to hurt or pain or heartache. If we do reach out in love it is normally to continue to feed our layered life and not to free us so we can embrace the life that we have lost on our journey.

Look deep within yourself … discover the core of your being … embrace it … love it … learn from it … be honest with yourself … and then free it to soar upon eagle’s wings … laugh, love, live … and you just might discover the life that you lost on your journey to live.

Quote for today: The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it. Richard L. Evans

Friday, August 27, 2010

Some thoughts on contemporary worship

In response to my August 20th posting, “To change or not to change,” a friend in St. Petersburg wrote via e-mail to remind me of the 7-last words of the church: “We have never done it that way!” Then he went on to share that when he and his wife moved into their home in Gulfport they began searching for a new church home. In their search they found a wide range of “contemporary” worship services, everything from the pastor not wearing a robe to using a piano instead of an organ to a rock concert, etc.

William’s findings support my observations as I have taken the opportunity in retirement to visit several different churches. What I’ve discovered, painfully, is that there are a lot of churches that are attempting to do “contemporary” worship, but are doing it badly. I think I remember an individual from Willow Creek church addressing a seminar on the subject of “contemporary” worship. He said something to the fact that whatever you offer under the heading of “contemporary” worship just make sure that it is done well. “People today are looking for quality” was something that he said repeatedly. Yet, quality is not what is being offered, at least by the churches that I have visited.

I also remember a conversation I had with my niece Amy after her husband and family moved into a new community in Michigan. They visited one particular church that was highly recommended. The sermon was excellent and the music was great, but the congregation simply stood around and wasn’t engaged … “they weren’t participates, but just observers … I’m not there to be entertained … I want to be involved!” She was right on in her observation and desire.

If my research is correct contemporary is not simply singing a few praise type songs to guitars, drums and a keyboard with everybody standing and clapping, and the pastor not wearing a robe or a suit and tie. There is more to it than that. It would be better to label the service “non-traditional” then contemporary, but even that belies the truth. Most worship services that are being called contemporary are simply watered down traditional styled services. It really takes more effort to bring it off … remember quality.

The other thing that I remember the staff member from Willow Creek sharing was this: “If what you are offering on Sunday morning is a duplicate of what you offered 3 to 6 months ago then I can guarantee you that what you are doing is not contemporary.” The contemporary worship scene is constantly changing because people’s ideas and interests are changing … and technology is moving at a faster pace than we can assimilate into our understanding and use.

So what does contemporary worship look like:
1) It is fast paced … no “down time” between various items in worship – think in 30 second to 1 minute segments
2) There are smooth transitions from one thing to the next – “seamless” is the word that I’ve heard
3) There are a wide variety of stimuli – drama, video clips, etc. – everything backing up the particular theme for the service
4) Any announcements, if any, are short and presented in a manner that is more than simply a reading of a list of activities
5) The sermon is 10 to 12 minutes and addresses the main issues of Christianity … think Christianity 101
6) It is preferred that an offering not be taken up during the service, but placed in boxes or plates as people gather for worship or as they leave – just remember “down time” and the 5 to 8 minutes taken up to “receive” the offering is down time. If the desire is to take up the offering during worship then use the time wisely by showing video clips or present the drama for the morning … do something rather than just sit there listening to the piano or choir sing
7) Now choirs are another issue … contemporary worship normally would use ensembles
8) Worship should engage the people … getting them moving, participating, energized, and interacting with one another
9) And as mentioned earlier … the three words for success are: quality, quality, quality!

In re-reading my list and trying to understanding the modern scene of today’s church … maybe what was once being sold as “contemporary” worship is what some are now calling “seeker” services … and what we use to call “praise” worship is what pastors are calling “contemporary” now … I don’t know, it all simply gets confusing sometimes.

The other interesting bit of information comes from my youngest daughter who is in her thirties and I believe that she is a good thermostat for the general young adults of today. She prefers the traditional music and worship than what is called “contemporary”. I think she shared once, “Those churches are just trying to be something that they are not.” Ouch!

Anyway … these are the thoughts of this old preacher who really cares about the future of the church. I just hope that we have a future to embrace when it arrives and not just empty buildings that use to have a purpose ... museum pieces standing as a testimony of what once was.

Quote for today: After attending church one Sunday morning, a little boy knelt at his bedside that night and prayed, "Dear God, we had a good time at church today--but I wish you had been there!" Source Unknown

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A modern parable about dealing with difficulties

Stories have a power all there own. I collect stories because they can convey a Kingdom truth in a style that is memorable and long lasting. A preacher can preach an excellent sermon with many fine points, but it will be the stories that the listeners will remember … it is the stories which will linger within their memory bank and might just help them recall the main theme and purpose of the sermon.

We all face difficult situations in our lives. Some face cancer, divorce, relocating to a new community, a loss of a job, depression, the death of a friend, an unkind and thoughtless word, being a butt of a joke, bullying or a thousand and one other problems that can face us on a daily basis. How to handle those difficult situations is the real challenge. Then a story comes along which brings together both the difficulties we face and a way to remember how to face those difficulties and we have a winner. Such was this story about a person, a huge rock and the instructions from God to push …

A man was sleeping one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light, and God appeared. The Lord told the man he had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to Push against the rock with all his might...

So, this the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sunup to sundown, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might! Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain. Since the man was showing discouragement, the adversary (Satan) decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into the weary mind: (He will do it every time)! You have been pushing against that rock for a long time and it hasn't moved.' Thus, he gave the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man.

Satan said, 'Why kill yourself over this? Just put in your time, giving just the minimum effort; and that will be good enough.' That's what the weary man planned to do, but decided to make it a matter of Prayer and to take his troubled thoughts to the Lord. 'Lord,' he said, 'I have labored long and hard in Your Service, putting all my strength to do that which You have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?'

The Lord responded compassionately, 'My friend, when I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all of your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back shiny and brown; your hands are callused from constant pressure, your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. True, you haven't moved the rock. But your calling was to be Obedient and to push and to exercise your Faith and trust in My Wisdom. That you have done. Now I, my friend, will move the rock.'

At times, when we hear a word from God, we tend to use our own intellect to decipher what He Wants, when actually what God wants is just simple obedience and faith in Him. By all means, exercise the Faith that moves mountains, but know that it is still God Who moves the Mountains.

When everything seems to go wrong..........................Just P.U.S.H.
When the job gets you down.…...................................Just P.U.S.H.
When people don't do as you think they should..…....Just P.U.S.H.
When your money is 'gone' and the bills are due...….Just P.U.S.H.
When people just don't understand you ..................…Just P.U.S.H.

P = Pray
U = Until
S = Something
H = Happens

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.' Friends are like quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.

Just Hold ON!!! P.U.S.H!

Quote for today: When we pray, remember: 1. The love of God that wants the best for us. 2. The wisdom of God that knows what is best for us. 3. The power of God that can accomplish it. William Barclay

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Health from a child's perspective

It isn’t a secret … I think children are some of the most fantastic individuals God has ever blessed the human race with. This feeling was true when I had mine and now that I have two grandchildren, the feeling is even stronger. They are really special little people. Take time to listen to them because they just might have something to say as in “out-of-the-mouths-of-babies” concept. I’ve never subscribed to the thinking that children should be seen and not heard … because they just might have something important to share. Such was my reaction when I read a short article by a 10-year old. Jacob Schultz might have been young in years, but deeply wise in wisdom. Here is what he had to say:

I would like to talk about hydrogenated fats. They are bad fats. They are found in most sugary and baked foods, including white crackers, Pringles, Doritos, Cheetos, cookies, doughnuts, chocolate candy, cupcakes, cake, and stuff like that. Hydrogenated fats were once “OK” fats. Now they are injected with hydrogen so they can last longer.

Then they become bad fats. That’s how Ding Dongs, Krisby Kreme doughnuts and McDonald’s French fries can sit on the shelf and then in a few years you can say, “Look it’s the Krispy Kreme doughnuts we got three years ago! They look as good as new.” Hydrogenated fats clog up your arteries.

When you eat a Twinkie, you are pretty much dumping garbage into your arteries. Your arteries are pretty much like little rivers that carry blood throughout your body. Eating Twinkies is kind of like dumping trash into a river. When the rivers get clogged up with trash, they can’t deliver water to the factory that bottles water for us and we have a problem.

Same thing with you body. That beloved Twinkie is actually clogging up your arteries so your blood can’t flow to your brain and heart and over a course of 40 or 60 years you could die.

My grandpa had this sort of problem. He died at 55 years old, just before I was born. His arteries were clogged and his heart got sick. They spotted it too late.

Don’t let that happen to you! After all, how long your body lasts is a lot more important than how long your food lasts. I wished I had my grandpa.

Such a wise and insightful young man this Jacob Schultz is! It is that last line, “I wished I had my grandpa” that gets to me. I never really understood it from his perspective before, but it dawned on me this time … our (my) eating habits can be rather selfish in nature. The “stuff” I consume satisfies my taste buds, but robs my body and in robbing my body I am robbing my children and grandchildren of a longer relationship with a significant individual (or at least I hope that I am significant) or in other words in your case, a significant individual such as a mom or dad or grandma or grandpa or aunt or uncle. Oh, how selfish we really are … especially when it comes to a Five Guys hamburger or Wendy’s French fries or a banana split or a Pizza Hut Super Supreme Pizza or Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast or any number of other unhealthy choices that are very popular … There is no plea deal here … we are either guilty or not guilty and boy, am I guilty. How about you? Are you like me in that we are robbing our children or grandchildren (present or future) of a deeper relationship with us by eating ourselves to an earlier grave than is necessary?

The Bible states that our bodies are the “Temple of God” and that we should treat them accordingly. Plus, each of us is important to someone else … we really shouldn’t rob them of our presence but ruining God’s Temple with what we eat or put into your lungs. It is never too late to make a life saving change!

The health experts are correct – we should eat correctly and exercise regularly not for others, but for ourselves. In that understanding, another observation or thought … as I have walked the halls of nursing homes I have often wondered how many of the patients would be in the nursing home if they had eaten correctly or exercised regularly … if nothing more than just an extra fruit a day or an hour less of TV watching or a gentle walk around the block? If we don’t do it for anyone else we should change our lifestyle for ourselves … unless our goal is to become a resident of a nursing home much, much sooner than our bodies would require!

Two quotes for today: The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like and do what you'd rather not. Mark Twain … Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died. Erma Bombeck

Monday, August 23, 2010

A different way of looking at Global Warming

The radio program included a number of participants with the Veterans Conservation Corps. The individual who got my attention was a female (sorry, I didn’t catch her name), who was sharing as to why she was participating in the Veterans Conservation Corps. In her comments she shared the drastic change that came over her during her multiple deployments to Iraq.

When she entered the military she wasn’t sold on the “Global Warming” issue. Actually she thought that it wasn’t much to worry about … “just a natural cycle of world climate changes that comes and goes” I believe is how she said it. That all changed in her deployments to Iraq.

Her job, while in Iraq, was to drive a water tanker everyday to various locations throughout the country to re-supply the citizens of that country with safe water for human consumption. It was during these daily trips that she came face-to-face with Global Warming. “You could see it happening right before your very face … the change was more than just noticeable, it actually took my breath away.”

It was what she said near the end that really got my attention … that terrorists are using the Global Warming reality to their benefit … as a tool to further their cause of hatred towards the industrialized Western nations who are polluting the air, water and earth with their greed for more of everything … and all the terrorists had to do was point to the devastation of their homeland … which was drying up right before their eyes.

We are so concerned about the terrorist bringing to our shores their extreme thinking and deadly actions … i.e. the recent protests over the Mosque near Ground Zero in New York City … but those who are fanning the flame of hatred will not mention what we are doing globally that is creating another reason for the extremist’s beliefs.

We either are going to be global citizens, taking care of the environment, or we will suffer the consequences of our actions. Global Warming is having a direct effect, at least by the observations of this military veteran of the Iraq war, on how the Arab people view our nation. Maybe it is time for us to seriously reconsider our position on Global Warming and what we can and should do about it!

Quote for today: We can drift along as though there were still a cold war, wasting hundreds of billions of dollars on weapons that will never be used, ignoring the problems of people in this country and around the world, being one of the worst environmental violators on earth, standing against any sort of viable programs to protect the world's forests or to cut down on acid rain or the global warming or ozone depletion. We can ignore human rights violations in other countries, or we can take these things on as true leaders ought to and accept the inspiring challenge of America for the future. Jimmy Carter

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday morning and worship

As I sit at my computer I hear a summer Florida thunderstorm rolling in. Morning thunderstorms are not the norm. Mostly they come in the afternoon, but here it is Sunday morning and the storm is rolling in. It does remind me of three stories ... one mine and two from the ministry of a mentor, The Rev. Dr. Wallace Chappell.

The first was when I was the pastor at Big Pine UMC on Big Pine Key, FL. One late Saturday evening/early Sunday morning we experienced one of the worst electrical storms that I have ever witnessed. The atmosphere was so electrically charged that lightening was running parallel to the ground, just a few feet off the ground. It was fascinating to watch, but extremely frightening. The next morning we had the largest summer attendance the church had ever experienced. It is amazing what a little atmospheric light show can create in the hearts and minds of individuals. Some in attendance that day hadn’t been in church in years.

The first Dr. Chappell story was early in his ministry. He had been assigned to a church that sat at the top of a steep hill. Winter came and brought with it a huge ice storm making all the roads and sidewalks extremely treacherous. Wallace’s parsonage sat next to the church so come Sunday morning he got up, following his normal Sunday morning ritual, got dressed and went over to the church to fire up the furnaces in preparation for worship. His wife, Mary Frances, asked, “Wallace, why are you doing that? Surely no one is going to be coming out in this weather!” As he shared several years later, they had a rather large attendance that Sunday. Few people stayed home. Evidently everybody saw it as a challenge to see if they could get up the hill to the church … they actually had to climb up the hill on foot since no cars could make it up the ice covered street.

The other story continues to inspire me. It comes from his days as the senior pastor of Woodbine United Methodist Church in Nashville. Miss Hattie just lived a couple blocks from the church and had the Sunday morning ritual of walking to church regardless of the weather. Now what made this so remarkable was that Miss Hattie had crippling arthritis and could literally only move at a snails pace … little baby half-steps … taking her more than an hour and a half to walk those couple of blocks, but there she was, in her pew, every Sunday. One particular Sunday it was pouring down rain as Wallace, Mary Frances and their children drove to church. They were thinking of Miss Hattie and so they swung by to see if she was walking in the rain. There she was making her way to the church. They stopped the car to offer her a ride, but Miss Hattie said, “No thank you, getting there is half the joy!”

May this Sunday be a joy filled day for you!

Quote for today: I often visit newcomers in town and find them to be church shopping. They want to know what they can get out of church. Churches are one more consumer commodity. Worship services are not a place for us to serve God and neighbor but a place where people expect to purchase the best: Inspiring worship, good music, moving sermons, quality child care. As if we buy God and not vice versa. Arthur Boers

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A lighter side of life

Have you ever felt really dumb? … I mean really, really dumb? Especially, when you got caught doing something stupid? Have you ever “beaten” yourself up because of that dumb thing that you did and got caught doing? Well, I don’t know about you, but I take great solace when I read about other dumb people doing stupid things. I even go and look at myself in a mirror and say, “You’re not as dumb as you might think you are.” Good old Forrest Gump has it right: “Stupid is what stupid does.” Especially when you consider the following:

AT&T fired President John Walter after nine months, saying he lacked intellectual leadership. He received a $26 million severance package. Perhaps it's not Walter who's lacking intelligence.

Police in Oakland, CA, spent two hours attempting to subdue a gunman who had barricaded himself inside his home. After firing ten tear gas canisters, officers discovered that the man was standing beside them in the police line, shouting, ' Please come out and give yourself up.'

An Illinois man, pretending to have a gun, kidnapped a motorist and forced him to drive to two different automated teller machines, wherein the kidnapper proceeded to withdraw money from his own bank accounts.

A man walked into a Topeka, Kansas Kwik Stop and asked for all the money in the cash drawer. Apparently, the take was too small, so he tied up the store clerk and worked the counter himself for three hours until police showed up and grabbed him.

Police in Los Angeles had good luck with a robbery suspect who just couldn't control himself during a lineup. When detectives asked each man in the lineup to repeat the words: 'Give me all your money or I'll shoot', the man shouted, 'that's not what I said!'

A man spoke frantically into the phone: 'My wife is pregnant and her contractions are only two minutes apart'. 'Is this her first child?' the doctor asked. 'No!' the man shouted, 'This is her husband!'

In Modesto, CA, Steven Richard King was arrested for trying to hold up a Bank of America branch without a weapon. King used a thumb and a finger to simulate a gun. Unfortunately, he failed to keep his hand in his pocket. (hellooooooo)

Last summer, down on Lake Isabella, located in the high desert, an hour east of Bakersfield, CA, some folks, new to boating, were having a problem. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn't get their brand new 22-foot boat, going. It was very sluggish in almost every maneuver; no matter how much power they applied.

After about an hour of trying to make it go, they putted into a nearby marina, thinking someone there may be able to tell them what was wrong. A thorough topside check revealed everything in perfect working condition The engine ran fine, the out-drive went up and down, and the propeller was the correct size and pitch.
So, one of the marina guys jumped in the water to check underneath the boat. He came up choking on water, he was laughing so hard. NOW REMEMBER..THIS IS TRUE. Under the boat, still strapped securely in place, was the trailer.

Now ... go have a fun filled day ... you are free to be as dumb as you would like! After all, God does ask us to be "fools for Christ" ... now, that isn't stupid!

Quote for the day: The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits. Unknown.

Friday, August 20, 2010

To change or not to change

No one likes change, but none of us still wear leisure suits or the long multi-layered dresses of the 1800s. We drive cars instead of horse drawn buggies. And, in the hot days of summer, we prefer the Air Conditioned homes instead of turning on a few fans and opening all the windows. Some change we embrace willingly, but others we resist.

Thus was my conversation this week with a long time member of the church that I am involved in. She and her friends had given sacrificially in time, talents, gifts and service. She remembers the church when it had a large worshipping congregation and was THE church in the city. She remembers the church in which she raised her children. She remembers a church that was filled twice every Sunday “with little room” left over. She remembers and wishes that it was still that way. And, yet changes comes.

The movement of her beloved traditional service to an earlier time is difficult for her. I really do understand where she is coming from. “I don’t like that jitterbugging music at the non-traditional service … you’ll never catch me clapping in time to the music … it is just too much for me to take.” She is expressing the feelings of other people her age and status in the church. And, yet changes needs to come.

Her beloved organ is now pushed to the corner and sits silent. Here was my opening. I smiled. She asked what I was smiling about because “it isn’t funny not using the organ that I helped raise money to purchase.” “Well,” I said, “it took the church about 150 years to accept the organ as a fitting instrument for use in the church. The earlier Christians didn’t like the organ because it was too loud. They too resisted change in their day.” She fell silent and began to realize that change does come if the church is to survive.

Here is the challenge … how does change come while still ministering to those who would prefer everything to stay the same? My comment to her that traditional worship was being offered at 9 AM on Sunday morning didn’t sit well because, “I cannot get up and moving that fast in order to make it at that hour!” Hmm, seeing the need for change, accepting change is a lot easier when it doesn’t require anything from us personally.

All of this did call to mind a conversation I had with Bishop Dick Wills, when he was the pastor of Christ Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. His church was transitioning to different times for different styles of worship when he was approached by a long standing member who complained that the traditional service was being moved to only at 11 AM instead of one at 8 or 8:30 and repeating it again at 11 AM. Dick informed him that they did offer a traditional service at 11. “I cannot make it at that hour,” the gentleman responded. When Mr. Wills pressed him on this issue the gentleman finally stated, “I have a long standing tee time at 10:45 on Sunday morning!” “Well,” Dick said, “then you probably will need to find someplace else to worship because traditional worship is going to be at 11 AM.” The man turned and left. Dick said that it was the hardest exit he had ever participated in because this gentleman was the largest contributor to the ministry of the church. Change comes when needed and it can be costly, but nevertheless come it must.

Change requires making tough decisions. Change means that everybody will not like you. Change means a lot of different things to a lot of different people – some good, some bad and some just so-so … but change does come, as it must!

Her final word was precious and extremely insightful, “Oh, pastor I don’t mind change as long as it doesn’t involve me!” Therein lies the crux of the matter … it is okay for the other fellow, but please don’t include me … please!

Quote for today: Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it. Issac Newton, First Law of Motion

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dependent or Independent?

While out driving yesterday, I was listening to Moody Radio and one of my favorite preachers, The Rev. Tony Evans. He was preaching on the conflict found in Genesis and the creation story. His statement, which caused me to pull over and write it down, was this: “The lesser who is dependent on God is greater than the greater who lives independent from God.” I kind of liked that!

Tony was right on … the conflict was over who was going to be in charge … God or Satan. Adam and Eve had a major decision to make … to be independent from God or to be dependent on God. Isn’t that the ongoing conflict of human nature? As we welcomed Eli into this world of ours my thoughts did jump ahead (even though I don’t wish for him to grow up too fast … but they always do) just a few years when he, along with his sister Ava, will begin to test the limits of his relationship with his mom and dad … as well as his grandparents, aunts and uncles. By the way, Ava has already started that process … ouch! Just too fast!

This testing of the limits will be the story of their lives as it has been ours. We tested the limits with our parents, then our college professors, then those placed in authority over us in our jobs and, sorry to say, but even with our spouse. Always pushing, desiring, wishing, hoping for a different outcome – but always testing that outward limits of just how far can I go without getting into too much trouble … seeking always to live an independent life from any body and any real responsibility.

Cannot you remember the thought process … cannot wait until I reach 16 then life will begin; cannot wait until I am able to drive; cannot wait until I am out of the home and on my own; cannot wait until I am married; cannot wait until I’m free of the daily grid of sitting in boring classes and writing term papers; cannot wait until the kids are grown and gone; cannot wait until I am retired; cannot wait … cannot wait … testing the limits … desiring to be free … independent from … only to hear, in the background, the slight laughter of God as he shakes his head saying, “Oh, you foolish person. If you only really knew what you are asking after all look where it got Adam and Eve. I had to throw them out of the Garden, making them live on their own, defend for themselves, make their own way in this world. If they had only listened … my plan was a whole lot better and much easier than the independent way they picked. The foolishness of men and women.”

It is our choice and Christ does making it inviting … we, the lesser, being dependent on God and empowered by the Holy Spirit, can really be greater than the greater, i.e. Satan and those who would do it the Devil’s way, trying so desperately and failing to living independent from God … but there really isn’t really any comparison between the two choices … is there? It is so much easier to do it God’s way … all to Jesus I surrender all to him I freely give!

Quote for today: Man, despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication and many accomplishments, owes the fact of his existence to a six- inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains. Source Unknown.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

God speaks ... everywhere

Today’s blog was written by another, Lyn Sawyer and I lifted it from the Retirement Connection e-mail here in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. I felt that what she wrote needed to shared. It is entitled, "He Speaks To Me – Everywhere!!”

Sunday I listened to a young man talk about "God everywhere" and for some reason my mind was transported back in time to specific moments when I know He was there and did speak to me in ways that I didn’t really recognize at the time. I am sure I won’t remember all of them and I am also sure that other times will be summoned by what I am writing at any given moment. The first thought is from "long ago and far away" and is something I imagine many kids have done. Often when we had a little time off from "chores", we would find a shady spot in the back yard, lie down flat on our backs and "read" the clouds. It is amazing what they say. Sometimes, there were angels in puffy white garments, reminding us that we were watched over and cared for. I remember one time I was absolutely sure a big furry dog chased away a mean old monster that looked scary even if he was made out of clouds. Maybe I didn’t actually hear the words – but I knew I was safe and cared for, even in a big, scary world.

Then another time I got "elected" to go find three cows that seemed to have forgotten how to find their way home. Remember I grew up on a farm and I was the oldest and a tomboy to boot so who else would get the job. Besides, if I took long enough, maybe the milking would be done by the time I found them. As I climbed up to the pasture above the woods, the sky clouded up and it began to get a little dark. I decided to sing to keep up my courage – that’s why I still know the words to a lot of the old hymns – but at least I had sense enough to stop and listen after I sang each verse. I remember saying, "Lord, please help me find those stupid animals before it gets any darker." You may not believe this, but maybe they were scared too, or maybe they didn’t like my singing. Anyway, with a soft mooing, as if answering my voice, they came stomping through some underbrush and we were on our way home.

He doesn’t just talk to us out in the country either. When I started high school I stayed in town with an aunt and went home week-ends. I remember my aunt always ordered her groceries from the store and usually they were delivered, but one day the kid forgot several items. I was sent scurrying to pick them up before the store closed. As I walked along the street, I remember wondering what life held in store. Being in town, getting used to so many kids in the school, not really feeling like I fit in with the "town kids", and wondering about all the strange new things I had to learn, I felt lost and probably ready to quit and go home. Then, for some reason, I looked up, past the tall, cold, concrete buildings. And there it was! Even in this whole new environment, the "man in the moon" grinned down at me, and the stars were still twinkling cheerfully at me. There was the big dipper and yes, the little dipper too. And right over there was Orion, the hunter, and all the other familiar formations. All I had to do was listen and know that even though I had moved, God had not. He was the same everywhere and yes, He truly did "speak to me everywhere." And He still does. As the years went by, I found myself in many new places and always I found that fact to be true. No matter where we are, we just need to listen and He speaks to us in many, and often amazing, ways.

Well, I guess I need to quit for this time but I have several more events on my list. Perhaps I will tell you a few more another time. Remember – stop, listen, and you may be amazed at what He says.

Quote for today: He who has God and many other things has no more than he who has God alone. C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Renewing of our minds

The phrase, “renewing of your mind” … as in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” … kept running through my mind this morning as I walked around the subdivision. It was still dark and only a few homes had lights on. There were two other walkers out and about a d a lone male riding his bike. The morning papers had already been delivered. It was quite … “by the renewing of your mind”.

The idea began to emerge, from someplace deep within my gray matter, that it takes the entire being to “renew the mind” … the entire being as in mind, body and spirit. So, my thinking began to process as to just how could I renew the mind? Well, by reading and exposing my thought processes to new ideas is but one way. Another way would be to try to learn something new as in taking classes at the local college. Here I think of Lee Taylor Stokes who was a long time educator in Hillsboro County (i.e. Tampa, FL) who, the day after retiring, registered to audit some classes at the University of South Florida, a practice he continued for the rest of his life. “Keeps you young,” he often shared. “Just being around all those young people and trying your hand and mind at something different.”

Renewing the body encompasses eating the correct foods – something that I must confess that I haven’t been doing recently – and exercise – something that I have been doing, but not like my previous regiment … just taking too many shortcuts, but expecting the same results.

Spirit renewal can include worship, reading the Bible, devotional reading, prayer, fasting, and a large score of other disciplines. Of the three – mind, body and spirit – it is usually the spirit realm that gets the “leftover” time. It is the easiest to ignore or put off to a “more convenient time” … to relegate to some of our “down time” … or simply expect the “preacher” to take care of that portion of our renewal … after all it is “his or her job” isn’t it? But, then I re-read Romans 12:1 – “Therefore, I urge you, brothers (and sisters), in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Hmmm, but there is a problem with “living sacrifices” … they keep climbing off the altar!

Our (or at least my) body, mind and spirit don’t stay on task very well. There is always something that is getting my attention … or I allow it to get my attention … drawing me away from the task at hand. Maybe that is the problem … I view it as a task, a job, something that “has” to be done, completed, finished … instead of something that delights my soul and causes my spirit to soar on eagle’s wings …

Well, at least for today I’ve made a start at “renewing my mind”. I will concern myself with tomorrow when it arrives.

Quote for today: Dr. J. Elder Cumming contended that "in almost every case the beginning of new blessing is a new revelation of the character of God--more beautiful, more wonderful, more precious." J.O. Sanders

Monday, August 16, 2010

Politics and millionaires

I usually do not write a direct political blog. There have been times that I have addressed the Conservative and Liberal dialogue going on in the public arena, but out-and-out politics I have left up to others. But, over the last several months there has been something just gnawing at my spirit and so I’ve decided I might as well get it off my chest and be done with it. I apology to my many faith readers, who usually check out my daily blog, with the hopes of discovering a spiritual insight or a biblical understanding – this is a departure from my “normal” muses. I will return to that tomorrow … or at least I hope I do since I never know what might touch my spirit.

We are entering a rather interesting and somewhat disturbing, at least from my perspective, time in American politics. Here in Florida we have two races, one for Governor and one for the Senate – with candidates from both parties fitting the bill – where it is the wealthy trying to buy the election through multi-millions of their own money being thrown into the mix.

Oh, we’ve been here before. Remember Ross Perot’s attempt to win the presidency by spending his own money. It didn’t work then and I pray that it won’t work now. After last weeks primaries in a few states I’m not really confident about the outcome. Here in Florida, based on name recognition only, the millionaires surged in the polls, but now that people are actually listening to what they are saying (or not saying) and just how they got their money – by frauding Medicare and betting against the sub-prime housing market – the poll numbers are starting to even out. Only time will tell.

What bothers me is that I think that our founding fathers wanted to move away from a House of Lords when they created the Senate and the House of Representatives – even though it actually did reflected wealth on the one hand and the common people on the other. We run the risk, because of our freedoms, of slipping ever so slowly back into that Catch 22 situation. Nothing, in our laws, prevents the wealthy from “buying” a seat in either house simply by throwing millions of the their own money into the advertising … nothing except the wisdom of those who step into the voting booth and mark their ballot.

It really behooves us to learn all that we can about each of the candidates and share our conclusions with others. The outcome is really up to us … we have no one to blame than ourselves if some lying son-of-a-gun gets elected and does to our state what he did to his company. From my perspective it is all about integrity – once you loose your integrity what do you have left? I cannot speak about any of the other multimillionaires running for political offices from Maine to California, but what I have read and heard of the two running here in Florida they lost their integrity long time ago and as of yet, haven’t regained any of it back.

Lord, help us if either of them get elected!

Quote for today: The penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by men worse than themselves. Plato

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Grandchild and grandparent relationships

After keeping our 22-month old granddaughter for four days, while mommy and daddy were at the hospital bringing her baby brother into this world, I have new and deeper appreciation for grandparents who, either voluntarily or involuntarily, take on the huge responsibility of raising their grandchildren full time. I know that after just four days I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. I enjoyed having her around … and underfoot … but the responsibility can be overwhelming, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it one little bit!

I also must confess that I do not understand how some grandparents can be satisfied in seeing their grandchildren only occasionally. I often ask the reason why they moved to Florida instead of staying near their grandchildren. The responses were always self-centered … “we wanted a warm climate” … “we have to live our lives and they have to live theirs” … “our friends were here in Florida” … and so the responses go and they often include the desire to play golf year round. How nearsighted and foolish these grandparents are. All too often we grandparents can dismiss the influence and role we need and should play in helping to raise a grandchild. There simply is a different relationship that a grandchild has with his or her grandparents than a parent, no matter how loving and supportive the parents are.

Then I ran across this article from Youthletter. While it was written in 1981, which seems like ancient times, it is very relevant. All grandparents should take seriously their role in helping to raise their grandchild. There is something special about that relationship which nothing and no one can take or replace.

Now there's evidence based on interviews with children and grandparents that children need their grandparents and vice-versa. The study shows that the bond between grandparents and grandchildren is second in emotional power and influence only to the relationship between parents and children. Grandparents affect the lives of their grandchildren, for good or ill, simply because they exist. Unfortunately, a lot of grandparents ignore the fact, to the emotional deprivation of the young. Of the children studied, only five percent reported close, regular contact with at least one grandparent. The vast majority see their grandparents only infrequently, not because they live too far away, but because the grandparents have chosen to remain emotionally distant. These children appear to be hurt, angry, and very perceptive about their grandparents. One of them said, "I'm just a charm on grandma's bracelet." Positive roles that grandparents play are caretaker, storyteller, family historian, mentor, wizard, confidant, negotiator between child and parent, and model for the child's own old age. When a child has a strong emotional tie to a grandparent, he enjoys a kind of immunity--he doesn't have to perform for grandparents the way he must for his parents, peers and teacher. The love of grandparents comes with no behavioral strings attached. The emotional conflicts that often occur naturally between children and parents do not exist between grandparents and grandchildren.

Speaking about that special bond between grandparent and grandchild, I also came across this story from an unknown source: An 8-year-old wrote, "A grandmother is a lady who has no children of her own, so she likes other people's boys and girls. Grandmas don't have anything to do except be there. If they take us for walks, they slow down past pretty leaves and caterpillars. They never say 'Hurry up.' Usually they are fat but not too fat to tie shoes. They wear glasses, and sometimes they can take their teeth out. They can answer questions like why dogs hate cats and why God isn't married. They don't talk like visitors do which is hard to understand. When they read to us, they don't skip words or mind if it is the same story again. Everybody should try to have a grandma, especially if you don't have television, because grandmas are the only grownups who always have time.

Quote for today: The Carnegie Technological Institute has stated that 90% of all people who fail in their life's vocation fail because they cannot get along with people. Lloyd Perry

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A modern day parable

Church covered dish dinners … you either love them or hate them, but they are here to stay. Growing up in Miami I discovered that if you are near the end of the line you probably wouldn’t get much choice … if there was anything left for you to choose from. So, when I became a pastor I determined that that would NEVER happen under my watch. In my first parish in west Georgia the pastors all got together and planned out the summer schedule for Vacation Bible Schools … we didn’t want any conflicting dates because that was a part of the communities “baby-sitting” service to the workers at the manufacturing plant. The entire community would then gather every Friday evening during the summer for a covered dish dinner sponsored by the VBS hosting church. When it was my church’s turn I asked them to bring 2 dishes … that ought to be enough food I thought. “Are you sure you want us to bring 2 dishes preacher?” they kept asking over and over and over again. I held my ground … 2 dishes. And, so on that evening in came the food … lots of food and I means LOTS because what they failed to share with me was that a covered dish for them meant a salad, vegetable, starch, meat and desert … we could have feed a small army … literally … but nobody went hungry that was for sure.

The best part of any covered dish dinner is always the sharing of some fantastic deserts. I must confess that I probably put on over 12 lbs in deserts allow at every church I served ... only to have to go on a crash diet to attempt to take it off again and again and again. I'm still carrying some of the last deserts around with me. Here is a modern day parable that has been making the rounds about this.

Woman and a Fork
There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things “in order,” she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. ”There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly. “What’s that?” came the Pastor’s reply. ”This is very important,” the young woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say. “That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the young woman asked. “Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the Pastor.

The young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, “Keep your fork.” It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming ... like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!”

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork ... the best is yet to come.”

The Pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand.. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died.. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.

He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come. Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed, cherish the time you have, and the memories you share ... being friends with someone is not an opportunity, but a sweet responsibility.

And just remember...keep your fork!

Quote for today: The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. Remember, the greatest failure is to not try. Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it. Debbi Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields cookie shops.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Where do you find hope?

Where do you find hope?

This past Wednesday, as I held my new grandson, who bears my middle name, I was reminded that once again God was declaring – for all that care to hear – the Divine affirmation that life here on planet Earth will continue … that God holds out hope for the human race … that, like every other birth of a male or female human child, life is precious, should be cherished, and will continue. In my grandson or granddaughter, or your grandson, granddaughter or child, there rests the possibility of a brighter tomorrow. As I’ve illustrated in sermons past, God said, “Let there be light” and he invited Thomas Edison. Within the spirit, soul and mind of every new human being the mystery of discovery and solution finding rests … and I find hope!

I find hope in a theology professor by the name of Dr. Charles Thompson who, while dying of cancer, can lecture, to standing room only, on the Theology of Hope. Theology of Hope is that we find in the resurrection of Christ not a present reality, but the possibility for the future … that when the church and life is overtaken by evil, despair, anxiety, greed, sexual offense, etc., God has the last word … that regardless of judgment of society or political powers, God has the last word … that though we fail each other at every turn, God has the last and final word … that when we try to crucify the Divine’s answer to life and possibility burying him away in a sealed tomb, God has the final and last word. It is here that I find hope.

Christopher Fry, in his powerful play, The Dark Is Light Enough, states that even in the blackest of midnights, when everything else fails, there is enough light to take the next step, to move forward, to pick up the pieces and rekindle the fire of possibility ... the possibility of hope. At midnight, in the darkened landscape, when the cabin door is opened the darkness does not race in to conqueror the light, but the light spills out into the darkness and shows that there is nothing to fear in the shadows of midnight. It is here that I find hope.

I find hope in individuals like Dan Terry in Afghanistan, in the present day or Burrell Law from the 1960s in the Congo – both murdered for no apparent reason other than being Christian under difficult circumstances trying to bring hope in a dark part of the world – and yet others men and women step forward to take their place so that the word of hope continues … lives changed … villages receive clean water, medical attention, young boys and girls educated, sanitation systems built … and I find hope.

It is just too easy for us to get caught up in the silliness that we call life. Our petty grievances and ridiculous commentary on life only gets in the way when we lose sight of hope for the future … hope for all peoples … regardless of how dark the world in which they live.

Where do you find hope? What gives you encouragement? Who is it that lifts your spirit and causes your soul to sing?

Quote for today: Hope of the world, thou Christ of great compassion, Speak to our fearful hearts by conflict rent. Save us, thy people, form consuming passion, Who by our own false hopes and aims are spent … Hope of the world, afoot on dusty highways, Showing to wandering souls the path of light; Walk thou beside us lest the tempting byways Lure us away from thee to endless night. Georgia Harkness

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Holding on to hope in the face of Dan Terry's death

When I heard the news that Dan Terry, one of the 10 missionaries killed in Afghanistan, I was deeply saddened. He stood in the pulpit just this past January as one of the speakers during our Mission Week emphasis. He and his wife shared their story concerning their work among the dear people of Afghanistan. He was a genuine, caring person who was deeply in love with that country, the work that he was doing and the people who lived there. He had been there for a great number of years. His spirit was of a kind, gentle person who literally radiated love. He lived through the worse years when the Taliban ruled the country and survived. He knew that the work he was doing was very dangerous, but he didn’t live in fear. He spoke fluent Dari, an Afghan language, knew many of the Taliban leaders and was highly respected for his work among the people. Truly, the country and people of Afghanistan have lost one of their champions.

Our church knew that his presence in Afghanistan was extremely dangerous. We could not speak of our support of Dan on our website nor tell anyone that he was in Afghanistan. Any references to him being a missionary was highly restricted out of the fear that someone might place it on their website and place Dan’s life in jeopardy. To be known as a Christian, American or a missionary would be very dangerous. Mr. Terry was very aware of this dangerous, but still pressed on in hope.
It would be easy to hear the sad news of Mr. Terry’s passing and began to lose hope.

It would be easy to allow the anger to well up from within because of his senseless killing. It would be easy to just write off this country and their future because of the stupidity of a few members of a radical sect of Islam. It would be easy, but we would be doing Dan Terry’s memory a tremendous disservice if we do.

We should look at this country through the eyes of someone who lived there for over 40 years. Dan’s eyes were the eyes of hope and promise and possibility. He had great hope for the future of his adopted second country … great hope … not because of the war effort for that was and is an endless and senseless hole into which we are only pouring money and men. Eventually we will learn the hard lesson of every other country that has ever tried to do anything militarily in those mountains and among those people. No, Dan Terry’s great hope was to be found in the simple act of caring for the people, loving the people and demonstrating, in a meaningful way, that there are other solutions to their situations other than guns and tanks … or growing poppies … or being dominated by any particular rendition of a religion. The hope … the great hope … was to be found … could be found … within their hearts and spirit. Dan lived his life to that end and died without realizing his dream and hope.

May we each dedicate ourselves to seeing that his hope is fulfilled for a people that he was willing to lay down his life so that they might be able to realize a brighter tomorrow … a tomorrow with hope!

Quote for today: There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them. Clare Boothe Luce.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

God is good all the time

I did not write the following, but I am on the way to visit my new grandson and I simply wanted to share about the wonderful works of a wonderful God!

Have you ever been just sitting there and all of a sudden you feel like doing something nice for someone you care for? THAT'S GOD talking to you through the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever been down and out and nobody seems to be around for you to talk to? THAT'S GOD wanting you to talk to Him.

Have you ever been thinking about somebody that you haven't seen in a long time and then next thing you know you see them or receive a phone call from them? THAT'S GOD There is no such thing as coincidence.

Have you ever received something wonderful that you didn't even ask for, like money in the mail, a debt that had mysteriously been cleared, or a coupon to a department store where you had just seen something you needed, but couldn't afford? THAT'S GOD knowing the desires of your heart.

Have you ever been in a situation and you had no clue how it was going to get better, how the hurting would stop, how the pain would ease, but now you look back on it. . ..THAT'S GOD passing us through tribulation to see a brighter day.

Dear God...
I know you're watching over me
And I'm feeling truly blessed
For no matter what I pray for
You always know what's best!

Quote for today: Prayer doesn’t work. God works. And God works when people pray. Mark Herringshaw and Jennifer Schuchmann

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The plague of prejudical thinking

Believe it or not, but while in undergraduate school I played Mr. Rabbit in a rendition of one of the Winnie the Pooh stories … you can stop laughing! The story was built around the fear of something horrible that was coming to the forest … a “Kanga”. Nobody knew what a “Kanga” was, but we just knew that it was something horrible. We were all afraid. One story built upon the last until it had mushroomed into this large, unbelievable monster. The fear of the unknown, in the grips of some good old gossip, can be very destructive. Fear is usually built upon the shaky foundation of half-truths, twisted facts and outright lies.

As a father of two children who lived through their teenage years and as a pastor who loved to work with and be around teenagers I have always hated and fought the prejudice of people when they started to lump all teenagers together in a single group. They would speak of “those teenagers” or “those boys” and then lace their mean spirited talk with something they had overheard at the beauty parlor or barbershop and moved it quickly into a generalization that included ALL teenagers. It really didn’t matter what the subject was – grades, driving, respect for adults, promiscuity, reading material, music – in their minds all teenagers were guilty as charged regardless of the facts.

I didn’t like being “lumped together” by the “popular set” in high school. Oh, you know the ones – those who played football, the cheerleaders and a few others. I was a part of the band (10th grade) and drama club (11th and 12th grade). The general gossip went something like this, “Oh, you know what kind of ‘people’ join the drama club (wink, wink)!” I didn’t like it then and I really don’t like it now.

Stereotypes have surrounded us at every turn. You’ve heard it and possibly even participated in the gossip: Stereotypes such as: all blacks are lazy, all Mexicans are illegal immigrants, all Haitians are thieves, all Puerto Ricans are gang members, all southerners are bigots, all college educated women hate men, all Democrats are liberal, all Republicans are only for the rich, all Californians are ethically and morally corrupt, all actors are gay, etc. And ever since 9/11 our email in-box has been loaded with the latest crazy thinking: all Muslims are terrorists.

When I attended the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in Louisville, KY, many years ago, there was a panel discussion concerning ecumenical concerns. The panel was made up of representatives from various religions and churches. I remember the insight brought to the discussion by an Imam. He stated that stating that all Muslims are the same would be like stating that all Christians regardless of their denomination or church affiliation are the same. “Are Catholics like Pentecostals? Is the Southern Baptist group like those in the United Church of Christ? Are the Methodists like the Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians? And yet, all of those who are a part of these churches and/or denominations call themselves Christian. Please do not put all Muslims within the same category. Please do not make that mistake because just as there are many shades of Christians so it is within Islam. We are not all the same.”

This issue has resurfaced surrounding the discussion and protest concerning the proposal to build a Mosque in New York City just blocks away from Ground Zero. The mayor got it right when he shared that we need to extend the freedom of our country to all peoples or we run the risk of losing those freedoms for all of us. We are guilty of “lumping together” all Muslims with those few crazies who flew the planes into the World Trade Center towers. Not all Muslims are of the Taliban variety; not all Muslims are members of the Islamic Brotherhood; not all Muslims belong to Al-Quada. Should we, as Christians, be judged by the crazy behavior of some of Christian brothers and sisters, like the members of the one Baptist church, which are picketing the funerals of our fallen servicemen thanking God for their deaths as a testimony of our country’s fallen nature? I would hope and pray not.

The bottom line is that we should treat all humans, regardless of their particular religious affiliation and/or believes, as we would wish to be treated. Where does the Golden Rule take us or are we at the point in our nation of thinking that we need to do unto others before they can do it unto us?

Quote for today: “The divide of race has been America’s constant curse. Each new wave of immigrants gives new targets to old prejudices. Prejudice and contempt, cloaked in the pretense of religious or political conviction, are no different. They have nearly destroyed us in the past. They plague us still. They fuel the fanaticism of terror. They torment the lives of millions in fractured nations around the world. These obsessions cripple both those who are hated and, of course, those who hate, robbing both of what they might become.” Bill Clinton

Monday, August 9, 2010

A little history about some English language phrases

I love to play around with the English language … take a phrase and find humor in it or twist the wording just a little. Our language is filled with some interesting little phrases, ones we use often. Those phrases have some interesting history. Just for the fun of it I thought I would share some that were found at a web site. If you care to read more you can go to: http://www.weblites.com/wddcf.htm. Enjoy today’s blog and go have fun with the language. I would love to hear about your favorite … and little known … phrase in the English language. The history of our language is quite fascinating.

In George Washington's days, there were no cameras. One's image was either sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington showed him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back while others showed both legs and both arms. Prices charged by painters were not based on how many people were to be painted, but by how many limbs were to be painted. Arms and legs are 'limbs,' therefore painting them would cost the buyer more. Hence the expression, 'Okay, but it'll cost you an arm and a leg.' (Artists know hands and arms are more difficult to paint)

As incredible as it sounds, men and women took baths only twice a year (May and October) Women kept their hair covered, while men shaved their heads (because of lice and bugs) and wore wigs. Wealthy men could afford good wigs made from wool. They couldn't wash the wigs, so to clean them they would carve out a loaf of bread, put the wig in the shell, and bake it for 30 minutes. The heat would make the wig big and fluffy, hence the term 'big wig.' Today we often use the term 'here comes the Big Wig' because someone appears to be or is powerful and wealthy.

In the late 1700's, many houses consisted of a large room with only one chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall, and was used for dining. The 'head of the household' always sat in the chair while everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Occasionally a guest, who was usually a man, would be invited to sit in this chair during a meal. To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge. They called the one sitting in the chair the 'chair man.' Today in business, we use the expression or title 'Chairman' or 'Chairman of the Board.'

Personal hygiene left much room for improvement. As a result, many women and men had developed acne scars by adulthood. The women would spread bee's wax over their facial skin to smooth out their complexions. When they were speaking to each other, if a woman began to stare at another woman's face she was told, 'mind your own bee's wax.' Should the woman smile, the wax would crack, hence the term 'crack a smile'. In addition, when they sat too close to the fire, the wax would melt . . . Therefore, the expression 'losing face.'

Ladies wore corsets, which would lace up in the front. A proper and dignified woman, as in 'straight laced', wore a tightly tied lace corset.

Common entertainment included playing cards. However, there was a tax levied when purchasing playing cards but only applicable to the 'Ace of Spades.' To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards instead. Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren't 'playing with a full deck.'

Early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what the people considered important. (What a novel idea). Since there were no telephones, TV's or radios, the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns, pubs, and bars. They were told to 'go sip some ale' and listen to people's conversations and political concerns. Many assistants were dispatched at different times. 'You go sip here' and 'You go sip there.' The two words 'go sip' were eventually combined when referring to the local opinion and, thus we have the term 'gossip.'

At local taverns, pubs, and bars, people drank from pint and quart-sized containers. A bar maid's job was to keep an eye on the customers and keep the drinks coming. She had to pay close attention and remember who was drinking in 'pints' and who was drinking in 'quarts,' hence the term minding your 'P's and 'Q's

Quote for today: Not only does the English Language borrow words from other languages, it sometimes chases them down dark alleys, hits them over the head, and goes through their pockets. — Eddy Peters

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Come Sunday

Duke Ellington gave us these beautiful lyrics to the song, “Come Sunday” –


Lord, dear Lord above, God almighty,
God of love, Please look down and see my people through.

I believe that God put sun and moon up in the sky.
I don't mind the gray skies
'cause they're just clouds passing by.

Heaven is a goodness time. A brighter light on high.

Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

And have a brighter by and by.

Lord, dear Lord above, God almighty,
God of love, Please look down and see my people through.

I believe God is now, was then and always will be.
With God's blessing we can make it through eternity.

Lord, dear Lord above, God almighty,
God of love, Please look down and see my people through.

When all else fails and there doesn’t seem like there is any possibility for Sun to rise again … God will see you through.

When the burden of just making it from one day to the next … when it feels that life isn’t worth living … God will see you through.

When the joy of living is less than the sadness that encompasses your heart … God will see you through.

When the doctors only have bad news and friends and family seems so far away … God will see you through.

Never lose hope … never lose heart … for as the Psalmist shares, “Joy comes in the morning.” There is always another sunrise waiting, another ray of sunshine, another word from God of encouragement … God will see you through.

It might be Monday, but Sunday is coming and when Sunday arrives you will know that God has seen you through!

Quote for today: Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all...As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength. G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tatooing the mind

Art Linkletter had a show, “People Are Funny” and then set out to prove his point. Rodney Dangerfield was famous at making fun of himself because he felt “no one gave him respect.” Just ahead of me was a van whose back two doors and bumper were plastered with sarcastic, aggressive, in-your-face, negative bumper stickers.

As I was contemplating those three realities I was also listening to Dr. Dean Edell, on the radio, who was addressing something that he had read about in a magazine dedicated to psychological issues speaking about the “Placebo Effect.” A doctor could hand you a baby aspirin and tell you that this was the strongest medicine that he could give and it would “ … “ (you fill in the blank such as make you smarter, stronger, faster, healthier, etc.) and it would have that effect on you behavior. On the other hand the same doctor could hand you the same aspirin and tell you that he “really isn’t sure if this little pill can have any real lasting effect on you” and, guess what, it won’t. That is the “Placebo Effect.”

While listening to Dr. Edell explain this effect to his listeners I remembered an old illustration that I’ve used on a number of occasions. The story goes that The Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale would like to walk the streets of the various cities and metropolitan areas in which he was asked to speak. While visiting in China he found himself in a seedier part of the town than he would have normally visited. As he walked, he passed a tattoo parlor where American sailors would get tattoos. He noticed one tattoo in the window display that he couldn’t believe anyone would really get. It said, “Born to Lose”. He walked inside to ask the tattoo artist if people really got that tattoo. In broken English the old tattoo artist, with great ancient wisdom, said, “Before tattooed on body, tattooed on mind.” Actually, because I see things with a theological minds-eye I would re-arrange the wise old man’s statement to: Before tattooed on body, tattooed on mind and tattooed on heart … as in the biblical understanding as the heart being the seat of a persons entire being … the heart dictates the very essence of a person.

Coupled with all of this was a small article written in the August 9, 2010 issue of TIME magazine titled, “How Routine Can Help Kids Stave Off Anxiety” which talks about a study done by Timothy Monk at the University of Pittsburgh. “Monk found that babies who had more dependable routines at 1 month were less likely to be anxious at age 10. He thinks the reason may have to do with both physicological factors – like the levels of the hormones cortisol and melatonin, which help regulate sleep and eating – and environmentally influnenced ones like sociability, which is encouraged in children who feel secure in their daily rountines and interactions with their parents.” … “Before tattooed on body, tattooed on mind.”

Back to the person driving the van … I often wonder what kind of early childhood a person like that had that would result in such a depressing attitude that he or she would want to insult the world … or at least that part of the world that would drive up behind them? The Placebo Effect would indicate that as our minds think so we are affected and our minds are shaped by the interactions we have in our early years with the significant individuals, i.e. parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings ... tatooing the mind and heart.

Mr. Linkletter was correct, people are funny, but sometimes in a sad way. And while Dangerfield’s, “I don’t get any respect,” was just an act for the comedy stage, nevertheless the world seems to be filled with people that honestly feel that no one respects them … cares about them … loves and appreciates them … and so, in anger, they turn outward in defense or defiance as in “Keep honking I’m reloading.”

In was during the Vietnam protest era when someone asked, “If you shoot all the lights out can you shoot them back on again?” Great question, especially in this divided, hate filled world in which we are living. Actually, our response to the world’s situation depends on what is “tattooed on our minds” and in our hearts.

Quote for today: People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success. Norman Vincent Peale

Friday, August 6, 2010

Thoughts on one's legacy

I’ve been thinking about our personal legacy recently … especially since sitting with a family and heard them share about their father and grandfather. Just what is it that we wish to pass on to our loved ones at the time of our own passing? What memories do we desire for them to carry for the rest of their lives? We worry more about the “stuff” that they will inherit than our relationship with them … don’t we?

I’m thinking about my Last Will and Testimony … is has been professionally written, my two daughters have their own copies … but what is it that I will be truly passing on to them? The Will speaks about the family trust, property, material possessions and yet, the things that really matter are not the kind of things that you mention in a Will. So what will I truly be passing on?

Maybe I should make a list of what matters, how I would wish they would remember me, of what I desire to pass down to my grandchildren … just what will my legacy look like? I use to worry about what others thought of me, how I was perceived by my colleagues in the ministry, how members of my congregation thought of their pastor … but in the long stretch of human history those things do not matter. Oh, it does matter the effect one has on another and in the impact a pastor can have on the spiritual development of someone else and that is a part of my legacy – for good or for bad, but it is the legacy which is passed down to your children and grandchildren which will have the longest impact … the deepest effect … the true legacy … the outline of your spirit upon their soul.

What will be your legacy? How will you be remembered? Celebrated? What will be said about you at your funeral? Sobering thoughts, but too often ignored as we simply move from day to day in our living … our attempt to make sense of our world.

In light of these thoughts I pass on a modern day parable from nature:
After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. Then the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast...because she had been willing to die, so those under the cover of her wings would live.
'He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge.'
(Psalm 91:4)

Quote for today: Single men are jailed more often, earn less, have more illnesses and die at a younger age than married men. Married men with cancer live 20% longer than single men with the same cancer. Women, who often have more close friendships than men, survive longer with the same cancers. Married or not, relationships keep us alive. Dr. Bernie Siegel

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Just doing good?

Yesterday, I sat with a family as they prepared for the funeral service for their father and grandfather. They were sharing their remembrance of a life once lived … how involved the deceased was in church and the VFW. Then the statement was made. Oh, how I wished that the setting were different so I could have pursued the thinking of one of the daughters, but the time wasn’t right nor would it have been appropriate. As I drove home I began to wonder what it would take to get people to think correctly about the purpose of the church … what could I do … say … so that people would come to a better understanding of just what was the purpose and reason for the church. Oh, how we, the clergy, have failed in allowing people to think this way.

Here was the statement: “The VFW and the church are the same. They both have the same purpose … to do good in the world.” It was sincere. I’m sure that the daughter, who was raised in the church, hadn’t fully thought through what she was saying … or maybe she really thought that it was correct … that the VFW and the church were the same?!? Ouch!

Yes, both institutions do desire to do “good” in this old world of ours, but there is a drastic difference as to the motivating factor to “doing those good” things. One is doing it out of a humanistic point of view. The other is doing it out of a relationship with Jesus Christ with a desire that the world would come into a relationship with Jesus Christ … a saving relationship.

Here is my guess as to why the daughter made the statement. Her father and mother were good people. They took their daughters to church, but my guess is that they never introduced them to Jesus Christ. The church to which they were taken was a good church and had been served by a number of caring pastors (most of whom I knew). The church had numerous activities for the children and youth. It was an active and alive congregation … BUT they simply didn’t remember to “keep the main thing the main thing.” And, I must confess that as a pastor myself I am as guilty as the next one for I’ve been there … done that … looked at the activities instead of helping people to build a personal relationships with Jesus Christ.

It is vital that we remember to be committed to doing the “good” in this world … to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, care for the sick, visit those in prison, look after the widow and orphaned … to “do it unto the least of these”. BUT, we also need to remember that as we “do” these outreach, caring ministries not to loose sight of the motivating factor namely Jesus Christ … unless we just want to be like the VFW with very expensive buildings.

Quote for today: [According to a recent poll] 88% of Catholics and a majority of Presbyterian and Methodist evangelizers [those who actively try to share their "faith"] believe that "if people are generally good, or do enough good things for others during their lives, they will earn a place in heaven." National & International Religion Report, August 23, 1993.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Intercessory Prayer - part 2

Prayer is a powerful and meaningful spiritual discipline. It is a constant connection with God. When you consider the dynamics of prayer, apart from “Grace” over a meal and/or an occasional “Thank you, Lord”, all other prayers are Intercessory Prayers at their core … either for yourself or for someone else.

We should remove the concept that God is some kind of Celestial Bellhop from our thinking … you just ring him up and BINGO, room service. I’ve encountered too many people over the years that have approached prayer in that fashion and got mad at God because he didn’t answer their prayers, as they desired. Some have even discounted Intercessory Prayer because they found it frustrating because answers were not forth coming … “why waste your time!” has been their general response. Or, they were praying for a healing and the person died resulting in the conclusion that they must have been mistaken about this whole “prayer” thing.

And, then there was the pastor, during our son’s illness and death, who preached a sermon that sickness and ill health is directly linked to sin and our negative attitudes. Ouch … that sure was a negative … and definitely not scriptural.

Let’s begin with what we mean when we go to God in prayer for a healing for a particular person. Normally we mean “physical” healing instead of leaving it up to God as to what is best for the person or persons involved. Healing comes in various forms – physical, emotional, mental, relational, and even death itself. Why limit God to only one kind of healing? We should be open to whatever God offers for the situation. In our case, Tim lived longer than the doctors anticipated him living because of the type of leukemia that he had and the doors flew open when we began the process to adopt Erin … both of them were healings from God.

I’ve witnessed terminally ill patients “rally” when they discovered that people were praying for them. Could it be that we who were praying for the sick person shared some of our strength and energy with theirs giving them the ability to “rally”? As I have often said that when we offer up an intercessory prayer we should direct it in two directions, to God and then to the person being mentioned in the prayer so that they will receive our energy and be open to whatever God has in store for them. On several occasions I’ve had congregations in deep committed prayers for a person only to find that the sick person really didn’t want to get better or believed that God really couldn’t do anything in their case. Our spirits were fighting their spirit over the issue of their future.

Then there are those who ask for “traveling mercies” for a dear loved one. While it sounds nice, what does that really mean? Can you conclude that if a family has an accident they had no one praying for “traveling mercies” for them … or God simply decided that they were not worthy of “traveling mercies” for that particular day? It is a difficult question and one over, which we really should struggle.

Just what are we praying for and how does that lineup with scriptural teachings? Scripture does teach us to “prayer for each other” and to “pray without ceasing”. Both of them I can do, but it is the scripture that shares, “if you ask anything in my name” that gives me the most trouble. I’m still trying to sort that out. I’ve read about what it means to ask “in my name” as in harmony with his purpose and in conjunction with God’s purpose for the Kingdom here on Earth ... that thinking all sounds good, but I’m still struggling with the fuller meaning … actually I find it one of the tough sayings of Jesus. I’m just a work in process and my theology is still influx, but as I’ve been told, “Pray on McDuff … pray on!” And so I shall!

Quote for today: Pray as if everything depends on God, then work as if everything depends on you. Martin Luther