Category Archives: Random Thoughts

I Am an American. 

I am an American… I was lucky to be born here. I am an American… I was fortunate to graduate high school in 1976…the year we celebrated 200 years of being a free nation. I am an American… I was proud to wear the uniform of a United States Navy Commissioned Officer. I am an American… I believe every human being has sacred worth. I am an American… I don’t care about your sex, color, ethnic background, religion, or sexual preference; if you love America and believe in what it stands for then you are my family and I respect you. I am an American… I will not judge you by your nation, by your government, or by your religious beliefs. I am an American… I don’t agree with everything my government does. I am an American… I proudly salute my flag and what it stands for. I am an American… if you don’t respect my country that’s fine just don’t expect me to respect you.  Most of all, I am an American… I am willing to die to keep America free.

Advertisements
Image

For Others

image

God is good ALL the time.

“God is good…all the time.

All the time…God is good.”

Yesterday many of my friends and colleagues became aware that something was not quite right in my life or ministry.  They were not told of the circumstances that resulted in my situation but were asked to vote  on my status.  I will not describe those here either because this is not about the circumstances; this is about the promise that God has given all of His children “

Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) 

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

This world is not God’s perfect creation and has not been since humanity first sinned against God but we all have to live in it.  Most, but probably all, of us have contributed to that plethora of sin that abounds in the world today that we see regularly on the news or hear debated in our churches and government.  We are also aware of the sins that go on day after day in private lives that people commit willingly or unknowingly.  It is all sin that distances us away from our loving God  for there is no degrees of sin in God’s eyes; sin is sin.

When we study the life of Jesus we find over and over again where he would reach out to the sinner, the outcast, the broken, the sick and would forgive, restore, mend and heal.  We as his brothers and sisters can not be expected to do less.  In fact, Jesus told us that we would do even more.

John 14:12 (NLT)

“For sure, I tell you, whoever puts his trust in Me can do the things I am doing.  He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.”

Yesterday many of my friends and colleagues became aware that something was not quite right in my life or ministry.  Some who saw me turned away and kept walking but many were Jesus for me.  Many reached out to this broken outcast and showed compassion, gave love and encouragement and one even prayed with me…imagine that, a pastor openly, in public praying a deep prayer of compassion, healing and restoration with/for a broken outcast.

Over the last few months God has placed individuals in my life that have reached out, have demonstrated the love and compassion of Jesus and have provided what I needed most: hope.  He has done this continually, over and over again, to show me first of all that He is with me in this storm but has also shown me that He has a plan.  

My life is taking a new direction that I never expected, right now it is on a path that could take me full circle in my spiritual journey.  I don’t know where I’m going or where I will land but I do know that He is with me and I’m more and more certain that God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

Good vs. Evil

An old Cherokee told his grandson, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all.  One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”  The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?” The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.” -author unknown

Giving Thanks (even for Facebook and Twitter)

It is Thanksgiving here in the United States.  It began with some of the first settlers of this country after they had found survival in the “new world” to be difficult.  They were thankful to God for their survival and for the friendships that had been cultivated with the natives of the land that had helped them learn to survive.  These new residents and natives gathered to feast on the fall harvest that had been achieved and to give God thanks for what had been accomplished and what would come in the future.

It has been a long journey from that first “thanksgiving”.  Today’s celebration is a mere shadow of what once was.  I have many wonderful memories of family gathering to feast on the usual fair of turkey, potatoes (mashed and sweet), stuffing, celery, crescent rolls and cranberry sauce.  I guess I kind of miss those days when the younger set would romp around the yard in play while the mothers would cook fiendishly (I don’t miss the kid’s table though).  As I grew older the traditions changed as well; the young children no longer played in the yard, in fact the extended family didn’t gather as often.  I began to help in the kitchen and watching football became important (it was always Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys back then).

Enough of the nostalgia.  I’ve arrived at a new place in my Thanksgiving celebration.  I understand that giving thanks isn’t something that is reserved for just one day on the calendar, that it isn’t about the meal, the family gathered or football.  Thanksgiving is something that is becoming a daily focus in my life.

I am first and foremost thankful for my God and the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ for me.  To have prayed for me the night before he was crucified still boggles my mind; but what amazes me most is that Christ died for me so that I could have eternal life with our Father in heaven.  I am thankful for the life that God has given me; yes, even the hard times because I now know that those were the times I grew the most and God was closer than ever as he carried me through.  I am thankful for all of my family; my grandmother Hattie who showed me how to be a Christian and took time to introduce me to her God and the love of the Holy Bible; my mother Wilma who showed me how to not give up even when things seemed hopeless and helped me to be independent; to my uncles Charles, Ray and Gene who taught me how important family is even though it got lost later in life; my dad Raymond (Ray, “High Sheriff”) who showed me that not all people are bad but sometimes just misguided; my brother Royce who drove me insane with sibling rivalry but defended me from the cruelty of others; my daughter Hattiebelle who dreams big dreams and doesn’t let physical situations come between her and those dreams and inspires others through her dancing as well as her tenacity and kindness.  I am thankful for friends old and new that have been there for me in the dark times and celebrated in the good times.  I am thankful for computers, internet, Facebook and Twitter for the opportunity to meet friends across the miles and around the world; to learn from them and enjoy them; John (Sacredise) in South Africa, Bosco (Liturgy) in New Zealand, Shai in Las Vegas, Stefan in Northern Virginia, Ralph in Hawaii, Scott (ServingStrong) in Ohio and so many others in so many places.

I am thankful for my past for all that I have learned and achieved and I am thankful for my future for whatever it brings because I know it is in God’s hands.

God has been very good to me and I have every reason to be thankful and if you stop and think about it so do you.

Have a happy thanksgiving and may you give thanks each day of the year.

The Happiness Advantage

Thanks to Scott Couchenour of Serving Strong I was led to this video and I like what is being discussed especially in light of my most recent blog on Moses striking the rock in disobedience to God which I believe came out of his frustration with the people he had been appointed to lead.

The Senility Prayer

Grant me the senility to forget the people
I never liked anyway,
The good fortune to run into the ones I do, and
The eyesight to tell the difference.

A Challenge to End Starvation

It all began as a request from our district to support the Horn of Africa Advance

and then I received an “Obscene” Video:

encouraging me to sign a petition to be presented to global leaders here: Act Now.

I took these items and placed a challenge to the churches I serve.  Over a several week period any time they went out to eat they were to share an entree and save what they would have paid for the second entree and at home find ways to cut back on their grocery bills.  We will see how they did this coming week when they bring their offerings which we will be forwarding to UMCOR.

Now here is where you the reader comes in:  Last night after a meeting an individual came up and talked to me about the challenge.  He stated that he had a challenge for all UMC churches:  Every church give $100.  He is pretty certain that if every church were to give just $100 that would make a huge dent in the problem of the people who are starving in Africa and other places as well.

So, I send out the challenge to not only the UMC churches but to churches everywhere to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-46:

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.   “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’  “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?   Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.  For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink.  I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’  “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’  “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

I pray you take the challenge.  I would love to know if you do but God will know and that is what  matters most.

Remember?

Many lives were lost that day.  Tears are still shed by some as memories flood our thoughts.  None of us who were alive will ever be the same; some of us for the better, some for the worse.  Dreams died that day and for many fear was born.  This life is temporary but when lived with faith there is hope that one day we will no longer know fear, no longer shed tears and we will live in peace with one another.

Where were you at 08:46 on September 11th, 2001?  What do you remember on that day?  Will you commemorate this 10th anniversary?

You can find the timeline of the events listed here.  Timeline

I first heard the song “In the Stairwell” broadcast on K-Love radio and knew that it would be with me as long as the memories of 9/11/01 were.  This video is, for me, one of the best.

May the peace that comes from God fill you and lead you safely home.

Carl’s Garden

Carl was a quiet man. He didn’t talk much.  He would always greet you with a big smile and a firm handshake.  Even after living in our neighborhood for over 50 years, no one could really say they knew him very well.  Before his retirement, he took the bus to work each morning.  The lone sight of him walking down the street often worried us.  He had a slight limp from a bullet wound received in WWII.  Watching him, we worried that although he had survived WWII, he may not make it through our changing uptown neighborhood with its ever-increasing random violence, gangs, and drug activity.

When he saw the flyer at our local church asking for volunteers for caring for the gardens behind the minister’s residence, he responded in his characteristically unassuming manner. Without fanfare, he just signed up.
He was well into his 87th year when the very thing we had always feared finally happened. He was just finishing his watering for the day when three gang members approached him.  Ignoring their attempt to intimidate him, he simply asked, “Would you like a drink from the hose?”   The tallest and toughest-looking of the three said, “Yeah, sure,” with a malevolent little smile.   As Carl offered the hose to him, the other two grabbed Carl’s arm, throwing him down.
As the hose snaked crazily over the ground, dousing everything in its way, Carl’s assailants stole his retirement watch and his wallet, and then fled.  Carl tried to get himself up, but he had been thrown down on his bad leg.  He lay there trying to gather himself as the minister came running to help him.  Although the minister had witnessed the attack from his window, he couldn’t get there fast enough to stop it.  “Carl, are you okay? Are you hurt?” the minister kept asking as he helped Carl to his feet.  Carl just passed a hand over his brow and sighed, shaking his head.  “Just some punk kids. I hope they’ll wise-up someday.”
His wet clothes clung to his slight frame as he bent to pick up the hose.
He adjusted the nozzle again and started to water.  Confused and a little concerned, the minister asked, “Carl, what are you doing?”  “I’ve got to finish my watering. It’s been very dry lately,” came the calm reply.   Satisfying himself that Carl really was all right, the minister could only marvel.  Carl was a man from a different time and place.

A few weeks later the three returned.  Just as before their threat was unchallenged.  Carl again offered them a drink from his hose.   This time they didn’t rob him.  They wrenched the hose from his hand and drenched him head to foot in the icy water.  When they had finished their humiliation of him, they sauntered off down the street, throwing catcalls and curses, falling over one another laughing at the hilarity of what they had just done.  Carl just watched them. Then he turned toward the warmth giving sun, picked up his hose, and went on with his watering.

The summer was quickly fading into fall Carl was doing some tilling when he was startled by the sudden approach of someone behind him.  He stumbled and fell into some evergreen branches.  As he struggled to regain his footing, he turned to see the tall leader of his summer tormentors reaching down for him.  He braced himself for the expected attack.  “Don’t worry old man, I’m not gonna hurt you this time.”  The young man spoke softly, still offering the tattooed and scarred hand to Carl.  As he helped Carl get up, the man pulled a crumpled bag from his pocket and handed it to Carl.  “What’s this?”  Carl asked. “It’s your stuff,” the man explained. “It’s your stuff back.  Even the money in your wallet.” “I don’t understand,” Carl said. “Why would you help me now?”  The man shifted his feet, seeming embarrassed and ill at ease. “I learned something from you,” he said. “I ran with that gang and hurt people like you we picked you because you were old and we knew we could do it but every time we came and did something to you, instead of yelling and fighting back, you tried to give us a drink.  You didn’t hate us for hating you. You kept showing love against our hate.”   He stopped for a moment. “I couldn’t sleep after we stole your stuff, so here it is back.”  He paused for another awkward moment, not knowing what more there was to say. “That bag’s my way of saying thanks for straightening me out, I guess.” And with that, he walked off down the street.   Carl looked down at the sack in his hands and gingerly opened it. He took out his retirement watch and put it back on his wrist. Opening his wallet, he checked for his wedding photo.  He gazed for a moment at the young bride that still smiled back at him from all those years ago.

He died one cold day after Christmas that winter. Many people attended his funeral in spite of the weather.  In particular the minister noticed a tall young man that he didn’t know sitting quietly in a distant corner of the church.   The minister spoke of Carl’s garden as a lesson in life.  In a voice made thick with unshed tears, he said, “Do your best and make your garden as beautiful as you can. We will never forget Carl and his garden.”

The following spring another flyer went up.   It read: “Person needed to care for Carl’s garden.”  The flyer went unnoticed by the busy parishioners until one day when a knock was heard at the minister’s office door.  Opening the door, the minister saw a pair of scarred and tattooed hands holding the flyer. “I believe this is my job, if you’ll have me,” the young man said.  The minister recognized him as the same young man who had returned the stolen watch and wallet to Carl.  He knew that Carl’s kindness had turned this man’s life around. As the minister handed him the keys to the garden shed, he said, “Yes, go take care of Carl’s garden and honor him.”  The man went to work and, over the next several years, he tended the flowers and vegetables just as Carl had done.   During that time, he went to college, got married, and became a prominent member of the community.  But he never forgot his promise to Carl’s memory and kept the garden as beautiful as he thought Carl would have kept it.  One day he approached the new minister and told him that he couldn’t care for the garden any longer. He explained with a shy and happy smile, “My wife just had a baby boy last night, and she’s bringing him home on Saturday.”   “Well, congratulations!” said the minister, as he was handed the garden shed keys. “That’s wonderful! What’s the baby’s name?”

“Carl,” he replied.

That’s the whole gospel message simply stated.

Received this via e-mail and rather than sending it out to all my friends I choose to place it hear for more to see.