A New Beginning

I can’t sleep. It is the early morning hours on New Year’s Eve, 2012. My spirit is troubled — not a negative type of trouble, but a restless kind of troubled.

A new year is about to break forth in the world, in my life — and I can’t help but feel like 2012 is incomplete and 2013 is already slipping from my grasp. There is so much I wanted to carry out that remains a dream — and so much I dream to carry out that remains beyond my grasp.

A former District Superintendent of mine, Dr. Mike Cavin, once challenged us as pastors and church leaders to ask a very telling question. It has remained with me to this day. “What are you willing to attempt in the coming year, that without God’s intervention, will fail.” You see, if we only attempt things we can carry out ourselves, without God, we show no faith. We live within the bounds of our own strength. But if we will risk, if we will trust, if we will dream big — and if we do so listening to God’s leading, looking for where God is already working and joining in the effort — we will not only succeed, the Kingdom of God will move closer to completion — and souls will be saved. The hungry will be fed, the naked clothed, the homeless will find a home, the thirsty will have their thirst quenched, those that are sick and in prison will be visited and restored. All kinds of marvelous, redemptive, just, merciful, gracious, kind, loving things will happen — if we only reach…..

ImageAnd that brings me back to my troubled spirit. As I traveled to Nicaragua in March, 2012, a dream came to my mind. One that couples my passion for the work of Stop Hunger Now and my personal passion and pleasure of long distance rides on my Harley-Davidson motorcycle. At that time I dreamed of riding to each Stop Hunger Now site in the lower 48 states. At that time there were 9 locations, mostly along the eastern United States.

Since that time, I have had many conversations with friends, family, church members, community leaders, Stop Hunger Now staff, about what that ride might look like, cost, and carry out. Much of this discussion has excited and encouraged. Some of it has disappointed, and discouraging. After all, I am really no body. I don’t mean that in a self-defeating, depressing way. But I am no celebrity, sports star, famous preacher, or anything like that. I am not someone who will draw a crowd, generate media excitement, or even a ripple in the pond of the world. I am just a person who loves God, wants to make a difference in the world and who has a passion for the work of Stop Hunger Now. There is no reason for the news media to care about what I will or will not do. No reason for people to get excited that I have ridden a motorcycle to town or that I care about feeding the hungry.

And yet….this has been on my mind and in my heart for over a year — it feels incomplete. And time is running out. In the over 1 1/2 years I have had this dream, the number of Stop Hunger Now locations has grown. And not slowly! In one of the conversations I had with staff from Stop Hunger Now, looking at a possibility of making this ride in July, 2013; I discovered that would now mean a trip to 20 locations! Reaching from Orlando, FL up the eastern seaboard to Boston, MA, and west all the way to Santa Ana, CA and the San Francisco Bay area. With the rate of growth, and the rapidly expanding work of Stop Hunger Now, it will soon be almost impossible to make such a ride.

Right now I am honored and flattered that so many persons have followed my blog and have still kept up with my and my ramblings. I am honored that I have been part of meal packaging events that resulted in nearly 100,000 meals. I have been honored to be invited to meet with staff members at the Raleigh, NC office. Thanks for generous friends and church members I am looking forward to taking my 14 year-old daughter with me as I return to Nicaragua in March, 2013. My children are just a passionate as I am about doing all we can for this effort to end world hunger.

I guess I am rambling about this for these reasons:

1) Would you pray for my daughter and I as we prepare to visit with those who benefit from the Stop Hunger now meals and get to know them as people?

2) Would you consider a financial gift to aid us in the cost of the trip?

3) Looking forward, would you consider a financial gift towards our annual packing event at East Coweta Middle School with the 6th grade on the last day of school (we strive to package 20,000 meals which cost $5,000)?

4) Would you pray that God will speak more clearly to me about this “grand ride” to the Stop Hunger Now locations? It is my intention that riding to the locations will garner attention/publicity, raise funds, and increase the awareness of Stop Hunger Now and its efforts to end world hunger.

5) Would you help spread the word by sharing this blog, talking to others about Stop Hunger Now, dreaming with me (and actually the vision of founder, Ray Buchannon) that we can truly stop hunger in our lifetime. It is possible! Every day the world produces enough food for every living person to eat 4.3 pounds. It is not a supply problem. It is a distribution problem. It is a matter of choice that the people of the world make that keeps people hungry.

Well, I guess this will not help me go to sleep. But it does give me a place to share my mind, my heart, my passion. My spirit is still troubled. 2012 will end in a matter of a few hours. 2013 will begin…..and my spirit is still crying out for answers. Why didn’t it get done in 2012? Will it get done in 2013? What is my role? What can I do? What should I do? Oh, God — where is your will and how can I find my place in it??

Until the next time….The Hog Father,

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Anticipation

Well, it’s 11;29pm on Wednesday night. Had a church dinner tonight: Pinto beans, mashed potatoes, black-eye peas, and slaw with corn bread muffins. It was very tasty and good. It was reminiscent of the kind of meals the “poor” had in years past. Low cost, high nutrition, and filling.

I sat at the table with the knowledge that in the morning, I will be speaking at LaGrange College about my involvement with Stop Hunger Now. I have spent 2 weeks trying to capture that story in a slide show and in my thoughts. Technology has not been my friend — but thanks to a friend (and church member) it has been brought under control. My thoughts are not so together.

How do you sum up the last 2 years, 47 days of eating the meals, a trip to feeding centers in Nicaragua, untold conversations with people, blogs, and photos, packaging events (80,000+ meals) and many other wonderful opportunities to share this humanitarian effort? It suggests the song, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria, from The Sound of Music.

I am anxious about tomorrow. Will I capture the imaginations of the students? Will it matter? Will they hear my passion for Stop Hunger Now or will they see an overweight, old, grey-headed preacher they need to endure?

I am anxious about the possibility to return to Nicaragua in March and maybe take my daughter and a member of the church with me. (Contributions are welcome for this trip which will run around $3,500 for the 2 of us.)

And I am already anxious about a possible “grand event” for next summer.

Anxiety is not always bad. It can drive us to do our best, to reach for more than we would normally try for, and to give us energy we need. I hope that is the case in the morning…..

Until the next time….The Hog Father,

Technology

Well, technology can be your friend, OR it can get in the way.

I had to buy a new computer, learn new programs and recreate many projects. So I have not done much blogging.

I have thought about what I will share next week when I get the honor of addressing students at LaGrange College. They are preparing to package 25,000 meals as part of their Day of Service.

As part of what I will share, I wanted to share some images from my time working with Stop Hunger Now and my trip to the feeding centers in Nicaragua. Again, technology and I are not BFFs, but we are good friends. This is something new for me.

If you follow this link, you will find a short video I created about this trip. Your comments and thoughts are always welcome. Please be nice…..

Until the next time….The Hog Father

New — New Beginnings

It has been some time since I have written here. And that is how I have begun the last several entries to this blog.

I am beginning to learn a few things about life. The thing on my mind tonight is that we need to have a new – new beginning to many areas of our life. I began this blog over a year ago to share my journey as I lived on Stop Hunger Now meals for the season of Lent. I continued the blog after that season still talking about Stop Hunger Now and my thoughts about hunger, quarters, and the choices we can make.

I began blogging daily, then every few days, then every week or so, and now it has been something like a month or so. Each time I come back to write, I tell my self I need to begin again to write often. And I begin again.

Then “life” happens and I fall behind — and I begin again. And again. And again.

This is similar to our Christian walk and our wish to follow Christ. We begin with energy, good intentions, and passion. And then “life” happens and we find ourselves getting less and less focused on our Christian walk — and before long, we find ourselves quite some distance from where we wish to be. So, we need to begin again.

And the cycle repeats. Only, if we will keep working at it, we notice a little sooner, and the a little sooner than that, and a little sooner still, that we are falling away from the passionate, committed life we wish.

Dr. Tom Camp shared his experience at meditation while at a monastery with a group of us at a clergy meeting. He would seek to meditate but quickly his mind would wander to something else. He would seek to bring his focus back to the meditation and quickly lose focus again. Talking with one of the monks, he expressed his sense of failure and frustration. The monk pointed out that it is like lifting weights. If you lifted the weights up and they just stayed there, what would be the benefit of that. It is in the weight coming back down and lifting it back up time and time again that we build our strength. And each time we lift the weight back up we do so with more strength and ease. So it is with meditation (and in my opinion with life in general).

Each time our mind wanders, we deliberately move it back to the meditation and in doing so, we grow stronger and it becomes easier to bring our mind under control. The more we do it, the easier it becomes.

I contend this is the same for our Christian walk. We lose our way time and time again. That is just the way it is in life. The more often we bring our life back into focus, the stronger we become, and the easier it is to do so.

And there we have a new-new beginning. We begin again. And again. And again…..

So I begin again this blog. I hope to share my thoughts for whatever they are worth to whom every chooses to read them. It is my hope and prayer that they will be of some usefulness. If not an encouragement and guide, at least as a caution and urging where NOT to go.

Your comments and feedback are greatly appreciated. I will still often talk of hunger and the work of Stop Hunger Now. But I will be expanding my thoughts and reflexions to a more general theme.

May God give you the grace and strength to have a New — New Beginning when and where you need it.

Until the next time….The Hog Father

25 cents

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit with the staff of Stop Hunger Now in the Raleigh, NC office this week. What a wonderful group of persons committed to ending world hunger in our lifetime. And they all seem so excited and happy! (I think it is in the water there…)

They allowed me to share some of my thoughts on why I am involved with the Stop Hunger Now work. And once again, a very clear example of this came to my mind. I have shared it here before, but it bears repeating in a new way.

When I rode the SHN Harley to the offices, I had to make a few stops along the way for food and gas. I paid cash for some of this and received change from my purchases. Part of that change was in coin, and part of those were quarters — 25 cents. I have gotten to where I don’t spend my quarters. They go into a bank in my office to buy SHN meals. The SHN meals cost only 25 cents and it is easy for me to make the connection.

When I arrived, I handed al the quarters I had received to Chessney Barrick, Marketing & Communications Director. She looked at me like I had lost my mind and asked what that was about. I told her they were meals…and the light went on.

While out to dinner with the family last night, the girls and I once again discussed what a quarter will buy. Right by the door at Steak and Shake were the usual vending machines. They had candy, gum and other unnecessary things for sale — all for a quarter. So we decided to see what a quarter will buy — 25 cents.

The only thing there they were willing to eat was some gum. So we put our quarter in the machine and we received 12 pieces of gum. That provided enough for the 2 girls to share but ended up not being much to chew. And in less than 2 hours, the gum was used up and gone — 25 cents.

For that same quarter, we could have provided a complete meal for a child somewhere in the world that needed basic nutrition. Some child that without that meal would go hungry. A child that might the one that died of hunger related causes every 6 seconds.

Now I know that God does not intend us to never enjoy life or have pleasure. But God has made us stewards of the resources we have received. And good stewardship calls us to think before we use what we have.

Just because I can afford something does not mean I need to buy it. Maybe I can buy something at a lower price that does the same thing and use the difference to help those that have less.If I can afford a Mercedes for about $50,000 and a Ford Focus for around $20,000 (I don’t know real prices, but these are close). Both will get me from A to B in comfort and safety. But if I chose the Ford, what could I do with that extra $30,000? That could be 120,000 meals, or some other humanitarian effort for those in need. And I still have a car, that drives me just as fast, with AC, air bags, and such.

It is something to think about. Something to be reminded of every time you see a quarter — just 25 cents.

And for now, that is my 2 cents worth.  25 cents buys a meal, feeds a child, who lives another day. Pretty simple.

Until the next time….The Hog Father,

Sunday Morning

It is Sunday morning. I am in my office trying to get my spirit and head ready to lead worship. And many thoughts are running through my head.

When I first wake up each day, I take a minute to look at my smart phone. There I find email from the night, maybe a text message or two, and the ad’s headlines. Most days it is trivial information that just lets me know where the day will begin.

This morning it brought news of a young man in my congregation at Children’s Health Care of Atlanta, Scottish Rite with a diagnosis of Type I Diabetes. It also brought a news headline in the Opinion section about the growing number of pastors and church members that are overweight. That was a rude awakening for me.

The LAST bowl of SHN food.

It’s not that I was unaware of my weight. It is not that I have not, and am trying to do something about it. It is not that I don’t see my church members and the effect it has on their lives. it was a conscience poke because I am leaving today to visit the home office of Stop Hunger Now in Raleigh, NC. And that reminds me of the number of persons around the world that would benefit from or “excess” food and we would benefit from not having it.

We as Americans tend to live lives to excess. We over eat, we drink too much, we have been known to exercise too much, we spend too much — we have a problem as a society of exercising moderation.

As I think about what conversations will take place in the next days, and what I will learn about the issue of hunger in the world, I look in the mirror and am reminded that I can choose to change. I can choose to change my eating habits, I can choose to change my spending habits, my whole life can be changed — if I will choose to change.

It is said that people will only change when the pain of remaining the same is more painful than the change. That really holds more truth that we want to admit.

This morning I will begin a series of sermons drawn from King Duncan’s book, “The Amazing Law of Influence.” In his book, King raises the possibility that: “One life touches another life and potentially both lives are changed; one life touches another life and potentially the entire world is changed.”

The idea at the core of this book is that one never knows what effect you will have on others. For instance: Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus in Alabama. That lead Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Kind, Jr. to lead the Civil Rights Movement in America. That inspired Lech Walesa of Gdansk to lead the forces of Solidarity and bring democracy to Poland. That led Boris Yeltsin to have the courage to stake a stand of democracy in the former Soviet Union which led its demise.

Do you think Rose Parks had any idea her actions would lead to such change in the world? And in turn, what might happen as a result of the gift of one-quarter, purchasing one meal, feeding one child, in some unknown place? That may be the very child that solves some world-changing problem. That child might discover the cure for cancer, or obesity, or become a leader that bring peace to a war-torn part of the world. Who know?

And so that is one reason I am continually on the search for more quarters, to package more meals, to feed more children — because I can change the world — for only 25 cents.

Will you help change the world? Will you give 25 cents for a child to eat today? A child that will make a difference in the life of someone else, who will make a difference in the life of someone else……and on, and on….

Donate today:

Until the next time…..The Hog Father,

We Did It Again!

Every year, the faculty & staff strive to teach East Coweta Middle School students to make a difference by taking action to help others. One of the initiatives again this year involved an organization called Stop Hunger Now. We ended the school year with a fun, hands-on project that involved ECMS 6th Grade  students and taught them about hunger, a major issue in today’s world. On May 25, every 6th Grade student had the opportunity to help package nutritious meals to help students overseas. The nutritious rice-based meals packaged at ECMS  will be delivered to a school somewhere around the world and will be used there in the school lunch program.

The cost of each meal is just 25 cents. Members of the Mount Gilead UMC, Senoia United Methodist Church, Nikki Nails, Matt’s Small Town Pizza, Stan Moore Signs, Table Talk, French Market, Senoia Coffee & Café, LeFlour Florist, Maguire’s Family & Friends, Main Street Fudge, Edward Jones Investments, McKoons Funeral Home, Pleasant Grove UMC, Whitesville UMC Hopewell UMC (all in LaGrange, GA) worked together to raise the funds so that the students were able to package 18,312 meals. Money was not collected from the students. This was a gift to the students and those receiving the meals from our community.

This was our second year working with Stop Hunger Now.  Students learned that we exist to inspire, equip and empower every person to create a permanent positive culture change in his or her school, business and community by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion and learning some of the factors that lead to having one billion people hungry in our world today. Please take some time to look at the Stop Hunger Now website and learn more about this project. Donations for the next packaging event may be made ONLINE.
Until the next time….The Hog Father
 

Its been a while

Its been awhile since I posted. In fact it has been a long while.

My last post was just before I headed to Nicaragua with Stop Hunger Now to visit several feeding centers. That was a wonderful trip.

I am still trying to find words to talk about this experience.

Right now, my most pressing thoughts surround a planned SHN packaging event at East Coweta Middle School. Last year, when all of this began, we raised quite a bit of money for Stop Hunger Now. So much that we were able to package 10,000 meals at 3 churches and 20,000 meals with the 6th grade at ECMS.

It was such a good experience, the school invited us back again this year. We are to package on May 25 with the 6th grade again. The issue is, we are not in such a public fundraising situation this year.

It was our hope that businesses in the area would help us fund this event. I am grateful to Table Talk, Matt’s Small Town Pizza, French Market, Senoia Coffee & Cafe, Stan Moore Signs, Le Fleur Florist Shop, Senoia Drug Store, Senoia UMC for their support.

I am getting concerned that we may not reach our goal. This will not only be a disappointment to the ECMS 6th Grade, but to the children to whom these meals shipped. We have scaled back our goal from 20,000 to 10,000 meals which lowers our financial need.

BUT, I need your help. Many of you who follow my blog have given generously for our initial effort, my trip, and many other ways. If everyone that follows this blog would navigate to www.stophungernow.org/ecms and make a donation of at least $20 it will propel us towards our goal. As with any charity, larger gifts are wonderful, any gift is appreciated.

Won’t you help us help students feed students?

Until the next time….The Hog Father,

Back on the Road

Well, it is back on the road once again. It is hard to believe, but tomorrow I will fly to Nicaragua for a few days with Stop Hunger Now to visit various locations where the Stop Hunger Now meals are actually being served.

When we arrive in Managua, our ORPHANetwork team members will meet us there with a bus and we will go to a local restaurant for lunch, from there we will tour the city and head to our “home base”, the team center at Casa Bernebe, to settle in, have dinner and get together for “porch time”.

Now the only airplane rides I have taken have been NY to ATL, ATL to NY and NY back to ATL. This flight I have been told will last about 4-5 hours and will be over water most of the way. The only place I have visited outside of the US has been 2 trips to Mexico and a hop over and back into Canada.

I am looking forward to this trip. It will complete a journey for me. I have raised money for SHN. I have packaged meals for SHN. Now I will see where the meals go and maybe even help prepare and serve the meals. And along the way I ate and lived on the meals for 47 days.

A while back the family and I ate dinner at a local buffet. It is a place where you can get vegetables and such. On our way out, we noticed the vending machines where you can buy gum, tattoos, and toys. Ever observant, my daughter pointed out how “expensive'” these items were — and we had conversation about that cost. And then, we discussed how that kind of money could do so much more through SHN. One machine cost 50 cents and one was 75 cents. For the cost of a gum ball, or a toy, you could feed 2-3 children. Wow!

And so it goes. The only real reason people go hungry in the world today is due to a lack of priorities and a willingness to distribute the food. While out of town, we were having to eat out for our meals. We discovered we could save from $1.50-$2.00 by not ordering drinks, but drinking water. That could been 6-8 meals. And we didn’t really miss those drinks.

I am looking forward to seeing what God has in store for me. And I am looking forward to packing more meals with the East Coweta Middle School in May. Your contribution would help us ensure those 6th graders get to package many meals for other students.

You can send your check payable to Stop Hunger Now, c/o Senoia UMC, PO Box 98, Senoia, GA 30276.

Until the next time….The Hog Father,

Humbled

I have been humbled yet again.

Back when I first entered the ministry, one of the events I attended featured an author/speaker who shared her testimony. She was interesting, inspiring and encouraging. I purchased 2 of her books and have used her material on various occasions. Her name: Cathy Lee Phillips.

Recently Cathy moved back to Newnan and I had the opportunity to renew our acquaintance. She still writing and speaking. I highly recommend her for your group.

She called me up and we met for lunch a while back. She asked to interview me about my Harley. I was flattered. Little did I know she wasn’t going to just use me as an footnote in one of her storied, she wrote an article on my that recently came out in the March/April issue of Newnan-Coweta Magazine. And it humbled me.

I have been trying to get out the message of Stop Hunger Now for sometime. This BLOG is part of that effort. The labels on my Harley are part of that effort as well. And to a certain extent I and others have been successful. But to have my story told, and more importantly, the story of SHN told is wonderful and exciting.

If you live in the area, please pick up a copy and share it with your friends. Not to promote ME, but to promote the efforts of Stop Hunger Now. 

As as always, donations are what make the efforts of Stop Hunger Now become realities. Twent-five cents can buy a meal, that can feed a child, that make make the difference in that child seeing another day. And we all can afford that.

Until the next time….The Hog Father,

 

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