The Wonders of Heaven Friday, Sep 18 2015 

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A Pondering:

John Newton, the converted slave trader who gave us the hymn “Amazing Grace” once spoke of the three great wonders he would experience in heaven.

The first wonder, he said, would be to see many people there he did not expect to see.

The second wonder would be to miss a great many other people he did expect to see.

And the third wonder – the wonder of all wonders – would be to find himself there.

~~~~~

We will all be surprised by the wonders of heaven.

No Questions Asked Thursday, Sep 17 2015 

Hermey___RudolphA Story

Near Stanton, TN, where some of my relative lives, there once was (and probably still is!) an old, run-down, falling apart tavern that sits on the banks of the Hatchee River.  For many years, that old bar has stood on that corner between Brownsville and Memphis.  It has been wrecked several times.  It has burned to the ground on more than one occasion.  It has changed names and owners, colors and even shape more times than I can remember.  But for all its rebuilding, repainting, and renaming, it has not once improved in appearance.  It still sits in an awful location on the river bottom.  Still, no matter what time of evening you drive by it, there are always cars, trucks, motorcycles, and even bicycles parked around it, crowded into every possible nook and cranny of the parking area.

I recall years ago, when I was a teen, hearing my dad try to explain to a friend of his, who lived in the area, exactly where our family lived.  Suddenly, his friend interrupted him and said, “Oh, I know where you’re talking about.  It’s by that old bar on the corner!”

“That’s it!” my dad said.  Then, with a hint of bewilderment in his voice, he said to his friend “I wonder why that place is always so busy.”

“Well,” his friend replied, “I suppose it’s because at that place everyone is accepted without question.”

~~~~~

There is a striking similarity in the attraction of a bar and that of the Church at its best.  The end result is the same.  In both places, fellowship is offered without question about one’s past or present.  Everyone is accepted.  All are included.

A Lantern in the Darkness Wednesday, Sep 16 2015 

lanternA Story:

In the town where my father grew up – Gleason, TN. – one of my great-uncles was a guard at the railroad crossing.  His job was to stop traffic by waving a lighted red lantern as the train approached the downtown crossing.  Cliff, my great-uncle, was an interesting man.  Though I never met him, I heard stories about him all of my young life.

Some of the younger kids in the family and neighborhood would often stop by Cliff’s little “track shack” to watch him carve black walnuts into tiny baskets or hickory nuts into faces of a raccoon and other animals.  The kids use to love hearing him spin  a tall tale about the railroad as he carved and whittled.

One of his favorite stories – which was passed down to other generations – was about “old Zeb,” who was also a crossing guard in town.  One night, old Zeb fell asleep on the job.  A freight train approached.  But old Zeb didn’t wake up until the train was practically at the crossing.  By then it was almost too late.  The train slammed into an old pickup truck.  Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Cliff then told that old Zeb was questioned by the railroad authorities and local sheriff.  “Were you on the job?” they asked.

“Yep,” was Zeb’s answer.

“Did you go out and signal traffic to stop?”

“Yep,” he answered again.

“Well,” the sheriff asked, “did you wave your lantern as you were supposed to?”

“Yep!” came old Zeb’s answer for the third time.

Old Zeb was not charged with any crime, not even negligence.  The railroad paid for the damages done and for a new pickup truck for the victim.

A couple of weeks later, old Zeb was overheard to say, “No one ever asked me if my lantern was lit!”

~~~~~

The message the Church is to share is that we stand wherever human life is found and wave our witness like a lantern for all to see.

Scattering Beauty Thursday, Sep 10 2015 

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A Story to Ponder:

The great Danish sculptor Thorvaldsen spent quite some time in Italy during his most productive and creative years.  Among other things while there, he chiseled priceless works of art from marble.  When, after many months, it was time for his return home, he packed up his belonging and several pieces of art he had created.  When he arrived home, his servants set about the task of helping him unload his belongs and get them to his home.

As the servants unloaded several sculptures the artist brought home with him, they scattered the straw Thorvaldsen had used to pack his treasures for safe transport.  The straw was simply thrown in the streets and along the roadsides of Copenhagen.

The following spring, flowers from the gardens of Rome bloomed in the streets and roadsides of Copenhagen from the seeds borne and planted completely unknown.  Thorvaldsen, quite unaware, had scattered beauty in his path.

~~~~~

So should it be with followers of Jesus: scattering seeds of encouragement and acts of love and beauty as we go.

Doing Good and Remaining Anonymous Wednesday, Sep 9 2015 

anonymousA Story to ponder:

Legend has it that a certain saint of centuries past was given the opportunity of having his most passionate heart’s desire granted to him.  He asked for some time to ponder the weight of such a wish coming true.  He went off to by by himself as he thought.

He thought about asking for wealth with which to meet the many needs of the poor.  But then he realized how wealth has a way of working less for the poor and more for the owner.

He then thought to ask for power.  But then he realized power often backlashes and destroys the one who wields it.

He then thought to ask for fame, but feared the emptiness that often accompanies it.

Finally, after hours of thinking, he said, “I wish more than anything else to do a lot of good for others, and know nothing about it.”

~~~~~~~

To do a lot of good for others and know nothing about it is the mindset that moves the Kingdom of God forward, bit by bit.  It is also the trait of true care for and service to others.

The Face of Christ Tuesday, Sep 8 2015 

Seeing Jesus in othersA Story to Ponder:

One of the many stories we hear about St. Francis of Assisi happened as he became a friend of a leper.

Francis was born of a high-class family, and was known to be high-spirited.  His family was wealthy as well as well educated and Francis was to receive his families wealth upon his father’s passing.  However, in spite of his wealth and high culture, Francis was unhappy and unfulfilled.

One day, while he was out riding in the countryside thinking about his life – as he did often – he came upon a man who was older than he.  An obvious outcast, forgotten, and hated man because he was a leper.  He had been cast out of his community and family, left to face his life alone.  Francis was so moved by the man’s state and condition, he dismounted his horse and was bold enough to step over to the man and wrap his arms around the leper, not saying a word.  With tears in his eyes, Francis looked down to see that the face of the leper had been changed to the face of Christ.

~~~~~~~~

Every face we see is to us the very face of Christ….just as Jesus loves us, he loves them.

Lean Hard Thursday, Sep 3 2015 

lean hardA Story:

Fidelia Fisk was a 19th century missionary to what is today Iraq and Iran.  She enjoyed teaching, especially young girls, who quickly learned that “Ms. Fisk” as they called her, loved them as if they were her own children.

Each day, Ms. Fisk would wait for her girls to arrive at her modest home.  When they all had arrived, she would sit on the floor with her legs and feet crossed in front of her, as was the custom of teachers in that part of the world at the time.  The girls would eagerly gather around her in like fashion, rushing to be the closest to their beloved teacher and ready to absorb whatever Ms. Fisk had for them to learn that day.

But Fidelia struggled most of her adult life with severe back pain.  It was difficult for her to sit even for a few minutes, but it was especially difficult for her to sit on the cold, dirt floors as she taught.  But, each day, she suffered in silence because she loved “her girls” and enjoyed seeing their smiles as they each scrambled to be as near to her as possible.

One afternoon, as Ms. Fisk sat on the floor, her pain was obvious.  Her face betrayed her pain as she grimaced and shifted her weight, hoping to find some relief. She was suffering greatly.

From the back of the group of girls, one of the older students saw her teacher was hurting.  Quietly, she stood up and softly walked around the group of classmates and very gently sat down behind Ms. Fisk, with her back against the teacher’s.  When Ms. Fisk realized what was happening, she was hesitant to put her weight against the student for fear she would become uncomfortable.

Sensing her reluctance, the student turned her head to Ms. Fisk’s ear and whispered, “If you love me, lean hard.”

~~~~~~~~~

If you love God, lean hard.

To whom will you say “lean hard” when they face a struggle?

Scandals Are Nothing New Wednesday, Aug 19 2015 

jesusA Story

These days, it is difficult to pick up any newspaper or listen to the daily news without hearing about another scandal.  Or several!

But the fact is, scandal is nothing new.  We often hear someone say, “What is this world coming to?” when they learn of the latest disgrace, forgetting that such things have been around forever.

King David had his not-so-unfamiliar scandal…let me refresh your memory.

While surveying his kingdom from the palace balcony, David spotted a beautiful woman not far away…and she was bathing.  It became more than David could handle.  He invited this young lady to come to the palace.  She accepted.  And one thing led to another.

Some time later, this young lady – Bathsheba was her name – returned word to the King that she was very much with child – his child.  But that wasn’t the worst of it…the worst of it was that she was married!

What would David to with her husband, Uriah?  How could David cover up this mess that he had made without damaging his reputation?

Well, he tried several things: first, he called Uriah home from battle and tried to convince him to take some much-needed time off and spend it with his wife.  It failed.

Next, David invited Uriah to some drinks, got him drunk and sent him home to spend the night with Bathsheba.  But that failed, too.

Finally, in desperation, David arranged for Uriah to be killed in battled.  This time, his efforts were a success.

Soon after, the child was born.  But the baby was sick and passed away a few days later.

Time passes.  David and Bathsheba have another son.  Nathan, the King’s prophet, named the child.

Perhaps it happened like this:

Nathan appears at David’s chamber door and says, “I have named the child.”

David, recalling his former scandal and the death of his first son, asks “And what did you name him?  Did you name him ‘Ichabod’…the glory of the Lord has departed’?”

“No,” replies the old prophet.  “I called him ‘Jedidiah’ – the beloved of the Lord.'”

~~~~~~~~

Moral of the story: We are all “Jedidiah” – beloved of the Lord.

Everyone Is Welcome Wednesday, Aug 12 2015 

welcome-matA Story:

Near Stanton, TN, where some of my extended family live, there once was an old run-down, falling-apart bar.  I don’t know if it is still standing and in operation today, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is!

For many years, that old bar has stood on that corner of the highway between Brownsville and Memphis.  It has been wrecked several times.  It has burned to the ground on more than one occasion.  It has changed names and owners and colors and shape more times that I can remember.  But for all its rebuilding, repainting, and renaming, it has not once improved in appearance.  It sits in an awful location on the river bottom…and many folks may not even know it’s there and open unless they frequent that bar!  Still, there are always cars parked around it, crowded into every possible spot.

If you were to ask anyone who lived near that old run-down bar, or anyone who continues to go there, they will tell you it is always packed because customers are readily accepted without question.

It may sound a bit sacrilegious, but there is a striking similarity in the attraction of a bar and the fellowship of the Church, when the Church is at its best.  The end result is the same.  In both places, the fellowship is extended without question about one’s past.  Or questions about one’s present.

Everyone is accepted.

Everyone is included.

Everyone is welcome.

The Face of A Brother or Sister Monday, Aug 3 2015 

9529714490_f585da9980_bA Story…

A rabbi was once said to have asked his students “When can we know that the night has ended and the day has begun?”

“Is it the moment,” one student asked, “when you can tell the difference between a sheep and the dog?”

“No,” said the rabbi.

“Is it,” another asked, “when you can see the difference between a fig tree and an olive tree?”

“Not that either,” said the teacher.

“Then when is it?” the students asked.

The rabbi answered, “It is the moment when you can look at a face never seen before and recognize the stranger as a brother or sister. Until that moment, no matter how bright the day, it is still night.”

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