Sunday, Feb 24, woke up with a sore throat. Drank some water and it got better.
Monday, Feb 25, woke up with a sore throat. Drank some water and it got better, but was still there. Headed out for my annual physical. On the drive, my ear started hurting. Got worse by the minute. By the time I saw the Doctor at 1:30pm, it was excruciating. Received an injection of an anti-inflammatory drug, anti-nausea drug and pain killer. Sent home with antibiotics. And then my life took a turn……
Tuesday I was in the Jasper Memorial ER receiving fluids–and then sent home to continue my antibiotics.
Thursday, I was in my Ear, Nose & Throat Doctor’s office with a ruptured ear drum. By the time he was done he gave us 3 options: 1)go home, 2) go to any ER, 3)take a wheelchair tide from his office directly to the hospital for admission. We chose option 3 and I don’t remember much after that until Saturday. The ear infection had triggered a bout of Diabetic Keketoacidosis.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a potentially life-threatening complication of diabetes. Signs and symptoms may include vomiting, abdominal pain, deep gasping breathing, increased urination, weakness, confusion, and occasionally loss of consciousness. It can occur due to a simple infection. It’s like the body ran a marathon without actually doing it.
For several days, my world was confused, painful, and scary. My memories are of a variety of calm voices with a symphony of accents saying: “Good morning Mr. Long.” I don’t know how many times it was actually morning.
And the sight of many colors of brown hands as they carefully attended my situation, drew blood (so much blood), and tended to my IVs. As my brain finally began to come on line, it occurred to me, these people had no relationship with me other than I was in need. They were kind, compassionate, gentle, gracious and so much more–to a total stranger.
And the poor nursing students! I met 3 students on their very first day at the hospital. Their first task was to deal with an older, white, fat, sick guy that needed to be taken back and forth to the bathroom. What a beginning to your training.
And yet, they were kind, gracious, and did what needed doing without complaint or comment.
I think about us in the Christian Church, and in community groups. How many times have we been asked, or needed for some task and we had something to say about it, or some critical comment about it, or just wouldn’t do it? How many times could we have just been kind, gracious, and willing and in the process been a blessing.
I am thankful for those who cared for me when I was in crisis. I am thankful for those that have called, emailed, texted, or visited. I am grateful for those that have offered to help and those that followed through when I actually needed something.
I have learned new names from foreign places and met people who have chosen America as a place to live and work.
Who knew, what an ear infection would put me in such danger and in such a vulnerable place. I have some time yet in recovery. But I have family and friends who are here for me.
Friends, life is fragile – make sure you have your life in order. You never know when stuff will happen.
THE TWO SHALL BE ONE Gen 2:15, 18, 21-24
15The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 18Then the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner. 21So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said, This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken. 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.
In the more traditional rendering of this text the word cling is translated, cleave. While touring the village of Westville in south Georgia, I had occasion to observe the blacksmith working at the forge as he crafted many beautiful pieces of iron into useful tools and decorations. As he worked, we had occasion to talk about the many tasks a blacksmith used to perform in the life of the rural village.
One of the signs that a blacksmith was proficient at his craft was his ability to cleave iron. Cleaving iron is the ability to take two pieces of raw iron and to heat them and forge them together in such a way as to be completely seamless when the smith is finished. This is not to say that one cannot see the seam. But rather that the seam does not exist. The two pieces have become one single piece of iron.
This is the image scripture gives us of the first joining of man and woman by marriage. In order for a marriage to work, the husband and wife must truly cleave, become one, with one another. It is common to hear that a marriage is a fifty-fifty arrangement. In reality, it must be 100 to 100 percent. If you only give half of your time, attention, or efforts to your job, you will not have that job very long. The same is true of marriage. If you only give a half effort, you will have only half a marriage. You must commit yourself to give all of yourself to the other in order to make a marriage successful.
It is only when the iron of the smith’s forge yielding itself to receive the iron of the second piece that it can be truly bonded, cleaved, together.
This does not imply that two persons as they enter marriage cease to be individuals. The Bride and the Groom will still be the individuals they are on their wedding day. They will have the same likes, dislikes, temperaments, and such that they have always had. How can these two people become one without losing their individuality? How do they remain individuals without destroying the unity? The answer is found in unconditional love. They must seek to find a way to yield their self in such a manner as to accommodate the needs, desires, and temperament of their mate in order to form a new relationship. This is done as each hammers out difficulties and necessities of life on the anvil of experience. You do not lose your self in the other, you find your self. You become one, and yet remain distinct. That is the mystery of the marriage covenant. A good marriage is one that is worked at and worked on by both partners daily. It can be accomplished only as one shows respect and love to the other day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute.
Romans 12:10 tells us to: Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. This is the foundation on which a successful marriage can be built. It is in giving of one’s self to some one else that a true sense of self worth is found. The old adage: It is better to give than to receive — holds true in the sense that it is in giving to someone that we receive the greatest sense of accomplishment. We can enjoy watching the bride and the Groom open their gifts as much — if not more than if the gifts were ours. If marriage is to work, the partners must place their mate ahead of themselves not grudgingly, but willingly.
Marriage is difficult at best. It is not a warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach. It is not even great kissing and the other sensual stuff. Marriage is total commitment to the defense and preservation of a special relationship at all costs. It is the complete giving of one’s self unconditionally to another without reservation. It is being willing to yield self to the betterment of the other willingly. It is being willing to cleave to one another so that with God’s help, there will be a new creation, a stronger entity, called marriage that can and will survive all that life can throw at it.
As our church and family prepares for our Christmas observance this year, I am reflecting on events of past years. This year, I anticipate my first grandchild in February, 2018. My daughter & son-in-law will get to experience first hand what Mary & Joseph experienced that first Christmas time.
While Mary delivered Jesus which is the event we celebrate, they will experience something of the mystery and awe of impending birth. Something I got to experience as I expected the birth of my first born, my son some 32 years ago. That memory lingers event to this day.
Part of my life at that time was an invitation to write an Advent devotion for use by our church family. I ran across that book while going through Christmas items this year. I would like to share that memory.
“We are expecting a baby this holiday season and our expectations and hopes run high as we look forward to that new life. To us it will be miraculous to hold in our arms a special life given to us by God. It will be an addition of great joy that we await with great anticipation.
Preparing for the celebration of Christ’s birth into this world so many years ago stirs within us a great sense of anticipation. The birth of the babe born into the world to be “God with us” was a miraculous event in many ways. The promises in the Old Testament that were fulfilled by His coming, the visitation of the Angel to Mary and to Joseph, the supernatural conception of the babe to a virgin, the recognition of His holy birth by scholars, kings, shepherds, and Simeon and Anna to recall only a few.
With all the wonder that these facts hold for us, a greater wonder still is that God would send his only Son, born a sweet babe in a manger, to die upon a cross.
To us as we decorate our Christmas tree: the old rugged cross. We will celebrate the miracle of God’s grace in our hears made effectual through God’s precious gift of Christ; suffering for our sin and for the sin of the whole world. Zachariah said this of the coming Christ in Luke 1:78-79; ‘Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet in to the way of peace.’ The great anticipation of this advent season is the celebration of the coming of hope through Christ’s redemption into a dark and hopeless world.”
May you experience the anticipation the excitement, the joy of the babe born in a manger in Bethlehem – born that he might die on a cross at Calvary – for your redemption. And might I suggest that you take time in the midst of your celebrations, decorating, family gatherings and merry making to join with a community of faith to say Happy Birthday to the one born on Christmas Day?
I have been writing an article for the Monticello News for a few weeks. As a rule, I only write for the purpose of preaching. This is a very specific style and as the editor has told me: “Too many words…” for the paper. So this time, I am going to try and find a new style and “voice” and see if I can say something in fewer words.
I am writing this on the Monday night before Thanksgiving, 2017. Since my family is made up of “mine and ours” children – and my first grandchild isn’t here yet – we generally choose to gather on a date other than Thanksgiving Day. This allows members of the family to gather with other parts of the family. But today has been different…..
It begins typically enough. We have been shopping for the turkey, the items needed for the dressing, casseroles and other meal items. The house was cleaned and everything made ready. We got up to begin preparing the feast (you know how long it takes to cook a turkey and such). And then the phone rings….
Growing up, family has always been the highest priority – right behind being a follower of God. If a member of the family was in need, you dropped everything and responded. We might try and kill each other, but Lord help anyone who every came against one of us. The whole clan would rise up and defend you. Every holiday we would gather, everyone who could, at the family home and have a meal together. New Year’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays – you name it, we would gather to celebrate it as a family. And then the phone rings…..
This was the way it was. Always. Every year. And then the phone rings…..And my mother, the keeper of family traditions and celebrations – the hostess of the feasts, was diagnosed with cancer….and eventually died. And the celebrations began to cease and grew smaller. And the family had to intentionally choose to keep the traditions going and to gather for celebrations in new places with new traditions. But family was still a priority. And then the phone rings…..
Today, as we prepared for our family feast and celebration, the phone rang. As a pastor, it is not unusual. But today the call was from a friend, and the news was grim. His father who had been very ill, was in the beginning stages of death – at Thanksgiving. So being a parsonage family, I told the wife, kissed her goodbye, and I left to be with my friend and church member in his time of crisis. My wife continued preparing for our family’s arrival – while lifting up prayers for our friend and his father and for me as I went to minister. I went to be present.
As I sat with the family and watched, I witnessed why family is such a priority. It’s the family that gathers when things go bad. It is the family that holds the hand when death comes knocking. It is the family that tells stories of better days. It is the family that speaks words of remembrance that the loved one is not ceasing to live, but is in fact entering into life immortal. It is the family that is there at the end.
I watched this family as they escorted their beloved member into the loving arms of God Almighty. I watched him draw his last earthly breath. And I saw something so very holy and precious and mysterious. And I once again saw why we gather as families to celebrate Thanksgiving and other events. We gather to strengthen our bonds, to renew our commitment to one another, to remind us of where we come from and where we intend to go.
As you reflect on your Thanksgiving celebrations, I hope you find them full of family and friends. Persons who will be there for you in times of celebration and times of crisis. That will lift you up and hold you close. Who will shout for joy with you, and who will shed tears with you. Its never too late to be thankful and grateful for your family. Or the many blessings you have just by being a resident of the United States. And if you are lucky, Jasper County, GA. “Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, because his faithful love endures forever” 1 Chronicles 16:34Common English Bible (CEB).
When General Ulysses Grant was losing his last great battle — a battle against cancer — his old friend General Howard went to see him in the hospital. Howard had earned a reputation for being a Christian soldier. And, as he stood reminiscing with his friend and fighting companion of days gone by, Grant suddenly interrupted him. Howard, he said, Tell me what you know about prayer. Face-to-face with death, Grant felt a desperate need to pray.
So in hours of desperation, every one of us resorts at last to prayer. When the needs of the hour demand more strength than we ourselves can muster, then instinctively we cry out for deliverance to the One in whom we live and move and have our being. In our hour of crisis, God teaches us to pray.
But God offers us a much grander lesson in prayer in those persons whose lives — saturated with prayer — shine forth with radiant confidence in the presence and power of God.
So it was that the disciples, witnessing Jesus’ daily exercise of prayer, asked him to teach them to pray.
Jesus was subjected to the greatest temptations, disappointments, and sufferings it was possible for a person to suffer. And yet, he moved among people with a confidence, a compassion, and a conviction which remained unshaken.
The disciples recognized the great gap which existed between their uncertain selfishness and the confident self-giving of Jesus. They could see that Jesus derived power for living from keeping his life constantly rooted and grounded in his Father’s will though prayer. And so the appealed to him, Lord, teach us to pray.
We who follow Jesus in our time still long for that deep and effectual communion with God which typified his prayer life. And the prayer Jesus gave his disciples at that time still serves as a guide for us. Through that prayer, and his related teachings, Jesus fulfills both their request and ours: He does teach us to pray.
Jesus taught his disciples what to pray for. And he gathered the whole up into three basic petitions: 1) For God’s glorification, 2) For the necessities of life, and 3) For help in living the Christian way.
1) GOD’S GLORIFICATION. As we pray, Jesus was saying, our first thoughts should center on God. The first movement in Christian prayer is always one of adoration. We pray out of love, because God has first loved us.
Because of God’s love, we can address God as Father. And when we pray, Hallowed be thy name, we are affirming that God’s name is sacred to us; and we are asking that all persons might worship God as we do ourselves.
If God should be worshiped by all person, then God’s Kingdom would indeed come, and God’s will would be done across the earth. So should God be truly glorified.
When we pray for God’s glorification, we offer ourselves in praise before him. But we also commit ourselves to make known God’s glory as we press for a world that perfectly reflects His will and way.
2) NECESSITIES OF LIFE. Jesus’ prayer moves from adoration of God and commitment to His purpose to a consideration of those things needful for daily living.
Jesus was no ascetic. He recognized that though, One does not live by bread alone, one’s continued life does require bread.
And so Jesus taught His disciples to pray for that which the day required: Give us this day our daily bread.
Gathered up in this petition is much more than literal bread. For a child, it may include a most wanted toy. For a youth, the social graces which will lead to popularity. For a parent, it might mean the funds with which to insure adequate opportunities for their children. Or for an older person, it might include the desire for companionship in their seclusion.
Jesus never encouraged selfishness. But He did counsel honesty, and open sharing of our aspirations with God. And so in this model prayer, Jesus teaches us to share with God the desires of our hearts.
3) HELP IN CHRISTIAN LIVING. A third thing Jesus taught us to pray for was help in Christian living. Jesus knew that, despite our love for God and commitment to His way, we would often be tempted to neglect his fellowship and wonder into paths which were contrary to His will. Therefore, Jesus taught us to pray God’s help in remaining true to our commitment.
When we pray Forgive us our sins, (debts, trespasses) we are confessing our failure to fulfill God’s will for us; and we are asking God to restore us to a proper relationship with himself.
Lead us not into temptation, does not imply that God would tempt us. In the letter of James, we read specifically, God cannot be tempted with evil and He himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Therefore, this petition is a plea that God will so lead us that we may not be tempted beyond our ability to withstand, so that we may not fall prey to our sinful desires.
And finally, Deliver us from evil, is an appeal that God save us from becoming subjected to the destructive forces either of people or nature.
By recognizing and confessing our own weakness and tendency to sin, we open the way of God’s Spirit to abide with us and to strengthen our resolution to be faithful.
Jesus not only teaches us what to pray for, he also teaches us how to pray.
1) With Sincerity. In order for prayer to be effective in one’s life, Jesus said, it must first of all be offered in sincerity. In his CONFESSIONS, Saint Augustine says that before his conversion, he used to pray to God to make me clean. But he always added a postscript under his breath: But not yet.
Jesus was highly critical of those hypocrites who paraded their piety by praying on street corners just to be seen by their neighbors. God sees the hearts of His people, Jesus would say, and He knows whether they mean what they say.
The Publican who cried, God be merciful to me, a sinner, did not offer a sophisticated prayer. But his words expresses a desire that was genuinely in his heart. And Jesus assured his hearers that God heard and answered the Publican’s prayer.
Many persons are self-conscious and fearful because they have nothing profound to offer through prayer. They do not know what to say or how to say it.
Paul helps us greatly at this point when in Romans he assures us that, The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.(Romans 8:26) In other words, whenever we seriously want to open our lives to God, He knows our desires, and He receives our prayers.
2) With Simplicity. A second guideline Jesus gives us for prayer is simplicity. It was the style of Jesus’ day for men to pray long and complicated prayers. Sometimes our own prayers sound like a news report to God. But in this prayer of our Lord, we have a classic example of simplicity.
Matthew’s version of the prayer shows how the church expanded, polished, and smoothed out the prayer to make it more flowing in public worship. So, in Matthew, the simplicity is not so apparent. But as we have it in Luke, its original form is much more simple; so we can see how simply Jesus addressed His Father.
In the entire prayer, there is not an unnecessary word or a pompous phrase. It is a model of brevity, and yet, also of completeness. He said what was on his heart, and then He closed his prayer.
This is not to say that Jesus would limit us to the form or content He himself used here. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He was laboring heavily to master the revulsion He felt over his coming death. No form prayer could have sufficed for that hour. But still His prayer was simple: Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.
So in our prayer life, it is not the form that matters. What does matter is that we commune with God. And God hears us, not because we speak so much or so well. God hears us because we care enough to speak.
3) With Certainty. And finally, Jesus teaches us to pray with certainty. He said that even an unkind neighbor would lend you groceries if you pestered him long enough. And no decent parent would reward his child’s request for food by giving him something harmful.
If then, we who are so easily put out with one another still honor each other;’s requests, how much more will our heavenly Father who loves us all take pleasure in giving us the needs and desires of our lives.
Jesus always counseled that we pray expectantly. In Mark’s gospel, for instance, He says, Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.(Mark 11:24) But this kind of bold assertion raises problems for us. What are we to say about unanswered prayer?
In his book, MAKING PRAYER REAL, Dr. Lynn Radcliffe says of this: “All prayer is answered. The answer is the experience of God himself, sometimes manifested through the release of new energies within us, sometimes revealed through the action of God’s other children who come to our aid, sometimes released in the change of the situation itself through God’s creative action upon it, sometimes unveiled in the ultimate answer he is unfolding, and sometimes discovered in a new consciousness of His powerful Presence by our side.”
Yes, all prayer is answered — not always in just the time and form we anticipated — but always in keeping with our best good in life. Therefore we should pray with the power which comes from certainty — certainty that our Father God does hear, and does answer, our prayers.
I came across a poem which I believe summarizes quite well what I’ve been trying to say: Our human thoughts and works, are not so mighty, that thy can cut a path to God unbless’d. And so from HIM the gift of prayer is sent us, to hallow both our labor and our quest. Over life, and death, and starlit spaces, the highroad runs, that at His word was laid, and reaches Him across the desert places; By prayer is our pilgrimage made.(Author unknown)
“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.” ― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish
This blog began with encouragement from my children and friends as a way to document my journey with living on Stop Hunger Now meals and my experiences with working to end world hunger. That desire has lead me down many paths, some interesting, some profound and some you might call mundane.
However since that initial journey has ended to some extent, this blog seems to be changing into a kind of public journal for my thoughts, feelings and experiences in a much more personal level. I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing. It is just….well, it just is.
Tonight I have been sitting on the front porch of our new home, in our new community, among our new neighbors. I have been watching Netflix, Hulu, and viewing YouTube videos. For the past 2 weeks, I have struggled with deep-seated sadness and a feeling deep within me of pain that has threatened to manifest itself in tears, screams of frustration and other unpleasant expressions. Some of it is I miss my mother who died in 2006. And I miss my grandparents who died in 1992 and 1993. And I am hurting for my Aunt & Uncle as she battles cancer and faces a shortened life span. But it is more than that. It is a deep, painful, frustrating, ache born of a brokenness I cannot name or explain. But I am going to try and find words for it – or at least a part of it.
Those that know me know that sports are not my thing. I enjoy playing games; I enjoy attending games with others who can help me understand what I am seeing. I enjoy the excitement of the environment of a game and I REALLY enjoy the concession stands. (I need to avoid those!)
I see all the energy invested by fans. The proper clothing, the hats, jerseys, the car tags and decals, the tailgating, the expense of the tickets, the investment of energy, spirit, thought and finance. And I don’t begrudge them their fun. As for me, I love my Harley-Davidson motorcycle and I love to ride. It cost me to buy the bike, proper riding gear, fuel and other things when I ride. I often ride 5-16 hours in one day. I have invested up to 10 days riding over 4,000 miles. I understand the need to do something for pleasure and relaxation. I really do. But even doing what I love, it makes me stop and think.
We invest so much in so many things – and yet we fail to do that for things that really matter — things that can change not only our own lives, but also the lives of those around us — and not for the span of a game or a ride, but for eternity.
Today I had the honor of celebrating the life of a lady who lived 67 years. I never met her. She was only 67 years of age. She was a sister, wife, mother, and grandmother. She was as far as I can tell a very nice, loving woman. Her name is Charlene Gilmore. Her family grieves her death like every family I have ever been honored to journey with when death comes. And my heart hurts for them. And my heart hurts for many others.
In Jasper County Georgia, according to a web search, there are 13, 432 persons that call it home. And according the number frequently quoted (80%), 10,746 of those persons do not attend a house of worship or community of faith on any given Sunday. As a pastor and as a follower of Christ, that number bothers me. And not because I want the number of persons that attend the congregation I serve to be larger. (I do, but that is not exactly the point.) If there are 100 communities of faith in Jasper County, each could have 108 persons join in their church. Given that most churches are under 100 in attendance, that means each church could double those attending.
Beyond just counting the numbers, it means those of us who call ourselves Christians, followers of Christ, are not doing what we profess to do. Jesus never asked anyone to join anything. He reached out and built a relationship with everyone he met. His caring about them was contagious. It drew people to him. It changed their lives. And in changing THEIR lives, it changed the world.
I wonder what would happen if everyone were to invest just part of the time, energy, effort and finances that we use for our pleasure/recreation into building relationships with the people we meet each day. What if we actually cared about them? If when we say, “How are you?” we meant it? What if we actually got to know the cashier at Ingles? Got to know their names and about their day and about their lives? What about actually engaging in conversation with those in the waiting room at the doctor or across from us at the restaurant? Would they find that meaningful? Would they desire to know why we cared? Would they come find out about this Jesus we claim to follow and model our lives after for themselves?
I am preaching a series of messages about the Law of Influence. We are about half way through the series. The sermons are drawn from a book written by King Duncan. I have shared these messages in other churches – it is good material. The law states: “One life touches another life and potentially both lives are changed. One life touches another life and potentially the world is changed.” This is the way Jesus touched those around him. And the world was changed. And the world continues to be changed – by those that follow his example.
It breaks my heart; it creates great sadness in my spirit to see what could be. We worry about who will win a championship, a game, a tournament, a contest — and we don’t consider that our friends, neighbors, clients are going to spend eternity in hell if they don’t life the life of righteousness. There are differences of opinion about what does and does not constitute a life of righteousness – but living outside the Biblical guidelines and example of Jesus matters – for eternity.
We worry about taking leisure time, vacations, cruises, bike rides – but not about sharing how our lives have been made better, the miracles of healing we have experienced or witnessed, the broken relationships that have been mended, the truly awesomeness of life if lived in relationship with Christ. We would rather talk about the game, the last great meal we had, the new toy we purchased, and the last trip we took than talk about what God has done for us.
Maybe that is the genesis of the pain I feel deep down. That I don’t feel like I have done what I could, what I should – that I have not cared enough to talk with those in my sphere of influence about their relationship or lack of relationship with God.
I was honored to have that kind of conversation with the Gilbert family over the last 2 days. I hope I was a good representative of God and that they saw HIS love expressed through me. Our conversation revealed that their family was very much like my own — that we were not too different. And I hope they will seek out a community of faith as they work through their grief and find that what I shared about God giving them comfort, strength and healing through others who follow Christ to be true.
I don’t know what it will take, but those of us who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior better start acting like it – or we will have a lot of explaining to do when we stand before the throne of Judgment. And contrary to what the world believes, and what some of the popular church leaders are teaching – there will be a time of accounting. It is plainly spelled out in scripture.
My heart hurts for so many who could find life much more joyful, rewarding, comforting, healing, abundant – if they only could hear about the love of God that manifested itself in Jesus – the Christ – our Savior.
“When it comes time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” — Chief Aupumut, Mohican. 1725
I began this Blog to journal my experiences living on Stop Hunger Now meals and the work of this wonderful organization. That journey was incredible and has enriched my life, the lives of my family, and provided much-needed food for those in need.
However, it has been a long time since I have written anything. I have been kind of experiencing a wilderness time in my spiritual life. I have moved to a new place of ministry, a new community and many new things.
For the past several days, maybe even weeks, I have wrestled with a number of things I have seen in the news and happening in the world. I don’t really want to get into political or social debate. But I do feel a need to just speak my feelings and see where that might lead me.
I have watched persons I respect stand up for a person convicted of a crime be sentenced to death and ultimately executed. And while I understand their place, and to a large extent agree with much they have to say — I have to ask about the person who was killed. I have to ask about the fact that actions have consequences — sometimes very harsh consequences that do not arrive until much time has passed. In the face of words about God’s mercy, redemption, repentance, forgiveness, I have to ask about Samson, Judas, and others.
Samson was loved by God, given wonderful gifts. But he could not resist his urges and women. He sinned and as a result had his eyes gouged out, was put in prison pushing a mill stone. In time, he realized his sin, repented and was forgiven by God and restored. What we often miss in the story is the fact that his eyes were never restored. They were gouged out as a result of his sin. They were never given back. AND, as he in obedience acted on God’s behalf as a forgiven person — his life was forfeited in the process.
I look at Judas and how he tried to force God’s hand and the result was not only the betrayal of Jesus and his crucifixion — but Judas, in his guilt lost his life.
Now I don’t know how to really reconcile these three events. What I know is that actions have consequences and being repentant and forgiven doesn’t always stop the arrival of those consequences. What I know is that being forgiven we have resources to deal with the consequences we would NOT have if we were not forgiven.
Tonight I am bothered by the new shooting in Oregon. Already everyone is trying to make it political. And there is certainly a political piece to it. After we grieve, pray, weep and grieve some more I have to ask — will we ever learn that the tool used to kill has no emotion or investment in the act. The act is the choice of a person or people. And almost every time it is someone with mental health issues. We talk about it for a few sound bites at first. But in the end it always comes down to a debate about gun laws. Time, money, energy and people get used and yet we never get around to doing anything about doing a better job taking care of those with mental health issues. Getting treatment is expensive while getting medical treatment has gotten more accessible. I pay a $30 copay for medical care. When my ex-wife needed mental health care we paid 50% of the cost and had to fight to get coverage of the medication. Not to mention the continued stigma that goes with a diagnosis.
The guy that killed so many childcare in Sandy Hook broke some 41 gun laws. Law number 42 would not have prevented it. But if everyone in his life had paid better attention to his mental struggles, and if the diagnosis, treatment and care had been better it might have been prevented. The gun wasn’t the problem. Days after this act another mentally ill person used a knife to kill almost as many persons. The weapon isn’t the issue. The lack of medical care and support is very much the issue.
Again, I am not looking for a debate or to get into a back and forth argument. These are just my thoughts as I, along with many, wrestle with the events of the last few weeks. May God give us wisdom. May God give us courage. May God be merciful to all involved. And may we try to discuss the real problem and not what is easiest to point to and argue about.
Everyone is invited to join us in the celebration! We have raised $2,983.65 as of Tuesday lunch to fund meals for starving children around the world. This will allow us to package 11,935 meals!! What a great effort!!!
If you didn’t make your gift, or you have a friend, family membed, co-worker or someone else that would like to contribute, it’s not too late! They can drop their gift by the church office or make an online contribution at: http://events.stophungernow.org/ChatsworthFirstUMC
We need you to join us Sunday, April 27 at 4 PM to package these meals. We will gather and receive instructions and then actually prepare the meals. We need 40-50 folks at least to make this a success.
I could also use 5-10 strong workers to meet me at 3 PM to unload the truck and set up the materials. If you can lift 50 pounds, I can use your help!!
This whole process should take us about 2 hours to complete — plus set up/tear down.
Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity. You need to register if you plan to participate. The easiest way is on line at: http://events.stophungernow.org/ChatsworthFirstUMC
Use this same link to register or make a donation. Pass this along to everyone and especially those you know who do not do email. We want EVERYONE to have a chance to participate.
“Hunger is not a problem. It is an obscenity. How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”- Anne Frank, Holocaust Victim
I must confess. I have had a bad attitude lately. Returning from a mission trip to the Philippines, Rev. Maria Bowers shared one experience with me. The local church in Manila gathered the children in the area once a month for a meal, to weigh the children, and to access their over-all health. In conversation with our District Superintendent, the local Bishop heard about how Stop Hunger Now might provide a relationship that would allow the children to have a meal daily instead of monthly. This could radically change their lives. The Bishop had not heard of Stop Hunger Now. And he was very interested.
Maria and our DS mentioned my work with Stop Hunger Now and that I might be part of connecting the two groups. Imagine my surprise and excitement that I might play a role in this wonderful ministry connection.
I made contact with Stop Hunger Now staff to learn who was the connection person for international efforts that should be involved in this conversation and then reached out for information. I scheduled a meeting with the DS and made the ride to the District Office to see what could be done.
And then my world crashed. As Herzen, our DS, and I talked, I learned I was “late to the party” as it were. He had already had several conversations with Stop Hunger Now staff, the Bishop in Manila and others and 2 in country packing events had already been set up, funding had been provided from our Bishop and Annual Conference and everything was already in place for this relationship to get up and running.
While this is all very exciting and a great thing to happen – I left that meeting crushed. I had hoped to be part of this process. I was hoping to participate in making things happen. I envisioned being a connecting part of this ministry.
And that is where my frustration began. I. Instead of just being grateful then children would eat, that the Bishop and Stop Hunger Now had made a connection and an ongoing relationship had been created; I was focused on how I had been left out of the process. And I let it create negative emotions in my spirit and in my attitude.
You know, sometimes we see a place of ministry, we dream of a new ministry effort, a new venture to share God with someone, some group, in some way – and then we find out someone has already to that, someone has “beat us to the punch,” someone else made the effort first and now we are left just standing there wondering what to do.
The thing we need to focus on is not how WE got “left out” but rather we need to rejoice that God used someone else to make it happen. That God’s love and resources are already being made available to those in need, that needs are being met quickly and effectively. We should shout, “Glory, Hallelujah!!” rather than words of disappointment and frustration.
I am ashamed and embarrassed at my own reaction in this situation. I responded with frustration and ego – not joy and thanksgiving. And I should know better. And, that leads me to remember what we seek to learn in the season of Lent.
We take time during Lent to focus on our lives and where we have not been all God desires for us. And not just to acknowledge our shortcomings, but also to look at them, repent of them, seek God’s forgiveness, and then take intentional steps to change our lives to do better in the future. We are to turn our lives around and deliberately move in a new direction. A direction God will provide so that we can grow into a better person and walk more closely with God in the future.
My attitude has improved. I have repented of my self-centered attitude and I am truly glad so many things have already taken place to feed those who are hungry. Maybe I have taken a step towards improving the world by changing my attitude and focus.
I want to encourage you to keep putting aside your coins, your cash, and your gifts as we fill our red rice boxes during the remainder of the Lenten Season. Every penny helps. Every quarter feeds a hungry child. Make plans to be present in worship Easter Sunday so that you can place your gift on the altar as a Thanksgiving Gift in response to God’s great gift of his Son through the Resurrection. And plan to join us the next Sunday evening as we package the meals we fund to that those who are hungry may be fed. And the obscenity of a world that lets persons go hungry when there is enough food for all to eat will be brought closer to an end.
May God bless you as you move through the last days of Lent this season.
Until the next time….
The Hog Father