Show Your Hands Friday, Sep 16 2016 

14355562_1387264054635953_5237183740254737919_n  A worn out, dying saint of the church said to her pastor at her bedside, “In a little while, I shall see my Lord. I wonder how he will recognize me.” To which the pastor replied, “Just show him your hands.”

Maybe it will be as important to “show our hands” as to “give our names” when we stand before God.

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Being Good vs Doing Good Thursday, Feb 4 2016 

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During the Great Depression, a certain Methodist “steward” had to sell his favorite milk cow.

“Ol’ Bessie is a fine milk cow,” the Methodist steward said.

“How much you want for her?” asked a prospective buyer.

“Twenty dollars”, came the answer.

“How much milk does she give?”

“Four gallons a day,” answered the owner.

“How do I know she’ll give that much?”

“Oh,” said the owner, “I’m a good man. Why I’m a steward in the Methodist church.”

“I’ll take the cow home,” said the buyer, “and later this week, when I’m back this way, I’ll bring the money. I’m a good man, too. I’m a deacon in my church.”

At the dinner table that evening the Methodist lay person explained the deal to his wife. “Oh, by the way,” he said, “what is a deacon?”

“A deacon,” she answered, “is about the same thing as a steward.”

Wide-eyed panic spread over the steward’s face. “Oh no,” he moaned. “I’ve just lost Ol’ Bessie!”

~~~~~~~~~

Moral: Being good and doing good are not the same thing. Being Good must result in doing good.

Wine or Vinegar? Thursday, Jan 14 2016 

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When I was growing up, I can remember seeing road-side peddlers selling their goods on the old country roads near where my grandparents lived. I recall my father telling a story about one of those peddlers who would sell or trade his “merchandise” for just about anything. If his clients had no money and nothing to trade, he would offer to take junk of their hands; he would then resell that junk to make a little cash.

At one house not far from where he would sell his junk, there lived a woman who was known to be less than pleasant and who had a stern religion and sour disposition. One day, seeing the woman in her yard, raking leaves, the peddler stopped and offered to “put a little joy into her life” with some of his merchandise. All at bargain prices, of course.

“Not interested!” she snapped.

Refusing to give up quickly, the peddler then said, “Well, do you have any junk I could take off your hands, like old wine bottles?” Outraged by his implication that she was the type of woman who drank, she glared at the old peddler and said, “Do I look like the kid of woman who would drink wine?” Quickly, the peddler replied, “I suppose not. But you are bound to have several empty vinegar bottles around!”

~~~~~~~~

Moral: Disposition often betrays true character.

 

Words Matter Tuesday, Oct 20 2015 

words_matterSeveral years ago, I shared the following story with our friend Leonard Sweet.  I was reminded of it this morning while looking through my Facebook news feed and thought I’d share it here…

Words matter.  My family has had a long friendship with Bishop Monk Bryan and his family.  Many years ago, while attending a gathering at which Bishop Bryan was speaking, he told us the story of when he was growing up in a tiny community called Goat Hill.  Over the years, he overheard people of the community talking about the future of their fair city.  No one was moving in, all the young folks were moving out, those who left to attend college never returned, no new businesses saw any reason to move into Goat Hill, and some businesses were closing up or moving away to larger, more promising towns.  The outlook was grim.

One day, the elders of the community met to discuss the fate of their hometown.  One member of the community stood and made a rather radical sounding suggestion: why not change the name of the town to something more appealing than Goat Hill?  Why not change the name to something with a little flare and character?  Something that would catch the attention of anyone who might be looking for a new home or place to start their business.  After much discussion and debate, those who were there asked the old man if he had any specific ideas.  “How about Angora Heights”? he asked.

Everyone’s attitude and outlook changed almost immediately.  And, after a few short years, the town turned around both economically and demographically.

~~~~

Our words matter…choose them carefully.

Advancing by Adversity Wednesday, Sep 30 2015 

overcoming-adversitySomething to Ponder:

E. Stanley Jones was a friend of the family and a personal hero of mine.  During a preaching mission at the church my father was serving many years ago, E. Stanley told the story of the experience he had as he watched an eagle face a storm high in the Himalayan Mountains. The storm brewed at the edge of the valley toward which the eagle was flying. The question rose in Jones’ mind whether the eagle would fly around the fury of the storm, or fly carelessly into it and be dashed against the rocks. His question was answered before his very eyes. The eagle set its wings in such a way the air currents send him ascending high above the storm. The eagle had used the force of air currents, which threatened its life to rise to greater heights.

If eagles have the ability to use a negative force to rise above threat, imagine what you and I have the ability to do with a similar force. Jesus is the supreme example of what can be done in unpromising situations. He faced a “kangaroo court” and came away the only one with a pure heart and noble motives. He took the raging brutality of a rugged cross and lifted it as a symbol of forgiveness for all. It was history’s most noble act.

From the example Jesus set, it looks like the difference between the desire for good and its becoming real is our own decision – the decision to allow every adversity to do something for you rather than to you.

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.

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