You deserve it

A strange thing for United Methodist pastors is the fact that most don’t own a home because they live in a home provided by the church. Somewhere along the line the ones who aren’t sure where they’re going to go when they are done in the ministry begin to think about that. Diane and I in our mid to late 50s, me being in the late part in her approaching the mid part, have been thinking about that. One thing she knows for sure is that she doesn’t want to stay where it snows. Her dream has been somewhere near the beach.

A pastors salary won’t even get most pastors a place on the Beachfront Bargain show! We have some friends who bought a place in a huge camping resort in Myrtle Beach. It is a place that accommodates campers that come and go, and it also has mobile homes that are permanent. You pay an HOA and it entitles you to the amenities including waterslides and mini golf and pays your lot rent. Some of the homes have an ocean view. Today we will sign the papers and become the owners of a three bedroom home – with an ocean view on one side and a lake view on the other. It is the only way we could afford to be near the ocean. We will rent it out until we retire to help pay for it, using it when we have vacation time — which for Diane is any time it’s not being rented!

One of our friends wrote on Diane‘s Facebook post that we deserved it. I appreciate the sentiment. However, as soon as I read that I literally had tears in my eyes. I was thinking about what I deserve. I have spent the majority of my life neglecting the God who created me. I have spit in His face, cursed His Holy Name, and done so many more things that would have given Him every right to abandon me. I know what I deserve. And it is not a beach house. I deserve condemnation. I deserve wrath for what I have done. And it’s not that I have been that bad of a person compared to anyone else, it is the way I have treated Him. I do not deserve His grace. I do not deserve His kindness and mercy. I thank God that he does not give me what I deserve. He gives me abundantly more than I can ask or think. He is my rock and my refuge and my fortress. He has given me a wonderful wife, two sons who are both intellectual geniuses (may be a little too smart.) And now God has given us a beach house. I don’t know what the future holds and I don’t know if this fall if it will get swept away, but no matter what happens He has giving me so much more than I deserve.

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Do not buy in to all the negativity. 

Yesterday looked and felt like a day leading into winter.  It was cloudy, cool, colorless, and damp.  If I had been randomly dropped into a time and space and I had to quickly guess the time of year, I would have guessed November 12 – – which reminds me of Miss Congeniality when they ask one contestant what she considered the perfect date.  Of course they meant candy, flowers, a movie, etc.  She said the perfect date was April 25, because it’s not too hot and not too cold.

Today I am reminded that things are not always what they appear.  Today looks and feels like May.  It is beautiful: sunny, warm, and colorful.  The sky is blue and the leaves are that vibrant spring green color.  There is no way I would mistake today for a day leading up to winter.  A closer look yesterday would have held some clues that it could not possibly be November in West Virginia.  There were leaves and buds on the trees instead of dead leaves all over the ground, but they were less conspicuous.  Dandelions littered the ground.  Robins were everywhere.  Yet it was way too easy to focus on the dreariness of the day overlooking the other signs.

Today I want to remind you not to be overwhelmed with the way things appear because things are not always what they appear.  Do not buy in to all the negativity.  As for the news, remember that the media is not always impartial.  They are just like me and you, they have their opinions.  Most of them focus on quotes and photo angles that promote their agenda.  And I am not condemning them because they think they are being helpful, trying to persuade us to see things as they see them.  As for social media, not all of us are the experts on every topic we act like we are (we also did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night).  We are not unlike the media sharing things that promote the way we feel.

In the midst of all this uncertainty, I’ve got Good News.  Chris Rice puts it this way in his song, Good News:

‘Cause I’ve got good news
It’s water for the thirsty
Comfort for the weary
Good news
I’ve got good news
There’s hope and peace and freedom
Jesus came to bring ’em to you
And ain’t it about time
Ain’t it about time
Ain’t it about time for some good news.

The Good News is God is indeed at work in this time and place.  He is not panicked.  He has the solution before we have the problem.  He had the solution to sin before there was sin!  Turn to Him.  Focus on Him and His promise to be with His children always, to never leave us and never forsake us.  That is Good News!  Ain’t is about time for some Good News?  Listen to Chris Rice sing about it –

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Posted in depression, Hard times, Obstacles, Opportunity, peace | Leave a comment

Holy Holy HOLY are You Lord!

I spoke with someone on the phone this morning who suffered a death in their family.  In addition, because of travel they are self-quarantining for two weeks.  They will need groceries, and I told them to give me a call and I’d arrange that.  Life is difficult right now. It is difficult for parents who have been forced to begin homeschooling.  It is difficult for those in nursing homes.  It is difficult for those who have loved ones in nursing homes.  It is difficult for health care workers, pastors, teachers, restaurant owners and employees, grocery store workers, dollar store employees, and the list goes on and on.

When life is difficult, our natural tendency is self pity.  Our inclination is to focus on our problems.  I am no different.  Yet, I know the solution even if it usually takes me a little while to initiate the answer to my problems – even if it takes me a while to get there.  The answer to my problems is praise.  I know this.  Paul and Silas knew this.  Acts 16:25 says, “But at midnight while Paul and Silas were in prison, they were praying and singing hymns to God.”  At funerals I usually remind people, “God is so worthy of our praise, whether we are on the mountaintops or in the valleys.”

In Isaiah 6:3 one seraphim cries out to another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”

I have been listening on repeat to Matt Maher’s Awake My Soul for the last hour.  Maher sings, “A thousand songs are not enough to say how great You are…”

If I can bring myself to focus on God, and praise Him, it does something in me.  If I can bless the Name of the Lord from the darkness, it opens the curtain for His light to enter.  I have never thought of it that way before, but that is it.  If my soul can sing out, or if all I can do is cry out, it pulls back the curtain to allow His light to shine through.

There is a word for sun rays at sunrise or sunset that I learned some time ago – it is crepuscular… crepuscular rays.  Wikipedia says, “Crepuscular rays or “God rays” are sunbeams that originate when the sun is below the horizon, during twilight hours. Crepuscular rays are noticeable when the contrast between light and dark is most obvious. Crepuscular comes from the Latin word “crepusculum”, meaning twilight.  This is a picture I took on the Gulf of Mexico.  It was amazing and the phone camera did nothing to enhance this picture. This is exactly what it looked like.  I see this picture even today and it gives me cold chills that the God of creation loves me and sent Jesus so that I can call God my Father.  And in my darkest times, He wants me to turn to Him… to lower my defenses, pull back the curtain and let Him in.  To “arise and praise the One worthy of the songs of a thousand tongues.”  Amen. Amen. Amen.

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Posted in depression, Hard times, Obstacles, Opportunity, peace, prayer | 1 Comment

God is always doing something…good

One of my favorite thoughts lately has been the idea that “God is always doing something”.  I have told two of my friends that very thing this morning via text. I thought I would just do a short blog post reminding you that God is always doing something.  Then, as I typed in the title it occurred to me that my comfort is more the fact that God is always doing something.  The devil is always doing something, too.  And that is NOT comforting.  The difference is that God is always doing something GOOD.

Got a bad diagnosis?  God is doing something good.
Lose your job? God is doing something good.
Worried about the Coronavirus? God is doing something good.

God is always doing something good.

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A day of reckoning is not the only reason to turn to Jesus

Over the last week or so I have seen my unread emails accumulate.  As of this moment I have 1,150 unread emails.  I do not know how you do with emails.  I often get a couple hundred behind and then delete them.  You may be sitting there with 10,000 and think, “1,000 unread?  That’s rookie level.” I do not look forward to going through them and deleting them. Oh dear, three more just came in.  I can put it off for so long, but eventually a day of reckoning has to come.  I could just go over the pages and “Mark all as read”.  One way or another, I need to take care of them.

We always put things off.  People often put off making a decision about Jesus. Many people understand a day of reckoning will come, but they always think they have plenty of time.  And the truth is most people do have plenty of time.  But time flies.  When I set out to write today’s blog post, I initially titled it “A day of reckoning” and I was going to lead you to the conclusion that we need to make a decision to follow Jesus so we are prepared for the day of reckoning.  That is true.  But what a turn God took me on when He placed this question on my heart: “What about today?”  How does Jesus make a difference in our lives today?  “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry every thing to God in prayer.”  he offers us the peace that surpasses understanding.  Do I sometimes still crack?  Yes.  But then I remember.

I remember I am not designed to carry all these burdens.  I remember I cannot personally meet everyone’s needs or expectations.  I remember that God’s promise in Jesus is not just for my place in eternity, but for my peace in today.  He loves me and is with me and that is enough for today.  And I need reminded often.  So today, I hope you are blessed to be reminded of that, but I have no doubt this post was so I could be reminded myself.

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Drive in church

It was nearly six weeks ago on March 15 that our church last held worship in our sanctuary.  That is a statement that was inconceivable only a few months ago.  But here we are, among the 99% of churches across the United States voluntarily giving up meeting together in the same room.  Sure, the 1% that continue to gather in their sanctuaries will get all the press, but when you see those news stories remember that 99% are not.

We, like many others, held our March 22 “worship” with a live streamed sermon.  We had already been streaming on Facebook for some time.  But I knew that this “distancing” would likely go on for at least a couple of months.  I did not think it would be healthy for our church as a body and people emotionally to have to remain separated for that long.  One thing led to another and this Sunday we will be having our fifth drive-in worship together, our third at the Fort Ashby Fairgrounds.  The beauty of the drive in church is people can attend inconspicuously and they can bring their pets! I am grateful for the Fort Ashby fire department allowing us to meet there.  The fairgrounds gives us the space we need to spread out. There is nothing unsafe about it as we are following the WV governor and CDC guidelines as people stay in their own vehicles maintaining an appropriate distance from others.

This text, among many encouraging communications that I have received, affirms to me that we are doing a good thing.  We have been joined by many people from different churches who long to gather with other believers as best we can in our current situation.  I expect, and will continue to encourage, those who attend other churches to return to their own churches when we are permitted to gather inside our sanctuaries again.  If you are looking for peace in the midst of this time of uncertainty or if you miss gathering as the body of Christ, I invite you to join us at the fairgrounds. We meet at 10:30 on Sunday mornings. It will do you good.

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Temporary patch jobs

About six months ago I was with some other people (remember those days?) when one woman said something about her husband who needed a new wallet, but instead he used duct tape to hold his together.  I pulled mine out and showed it to her telling her she was complaining to the wrong person.  Mine was duct taped.  This morning I had to tear off the old tape and put some new on.  It turned out well, if I do say so myself!  As I was re-taping it, I was thinking that some day I will have to buy a new one.  I know that.  But I am pretty content with this one now that it has been patched up.

The idea of “being patched up” made me think about life and the battles various folks are facing.  Right now we are all keeping our distance from one another as best we can so as not to spread the corona virus. People are struggling with their mental health.  Some people who normally do not suffer from depression are dealing with it right now for various reasons related to the virus.  And this just adds exponentially to those who already face anxiety and depression.

The uncertainties of this life did not suddenly materialize when the virus entered our society. As a pastor and for the last couple of years as a first responder on the ambulance, I deal with these uncertainties on a daily basis.  My wife Diane’s dad is 90 years old with failing health and is receiving 24 hour care at home.  People I know are dealing with cancer, some very recently diagnosed.  A family lost a beautiful 16 year old young lady in an accident less than six weeks ago.  Another family lost a seven week old baby.  Other families i am close to have lost loved ones.  Each one has impacted me.  Each one requires another “patch job” in my life.

The one who sustains me, the one who patches me allowing me to keep going without despair, has made promises to me and I cling to those promises.

  • I can expect trouble in this world. (John 16:33)
  • One day I will go “home” and there will be no more tears and no more pain. (Revelation 21:4)
    Until then:
  • He catches my tears. (Psalm 56:8)
  • His grace is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • He will never leave me. (Hebrews13:5-6; Deuteronomy 31:6)

I pray that you too would claim and cling as He continues to patch and sustain you.  It is my personal testimony that He will.

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