Am I Welcome Here?

August 26, 2014

Last Sunday Pastor Allen’s sermon centered around the question Jesus posed to his apostles: “Who do you say I am?” The answer, from Simon Peter, was “You are the Messiah, the son of the Living God.” Pastor then went on to ask how many of us would be willing to make that claim. Would we unhesitantly stand by that assertion if asked by a friend, neighbor, or family member? What would our answer be if asked by a total stranger?

Naturally, my mind wandered on to other (hopefully related) thoughts. Would I not only say the words… but would I openly demonstrate my belief? If so, how?

I decided that I should do something my good friend, Ed Terry, did whenever he facilitated Bible study sessions. He would always leave an empty chair reserved for Jesus. Ed wanted everyone to know his Lord and Savior was always welcome. In my case, I thought we should always set an extra place at our dining room table – complete with dinner plate, drinking glass, silverware, and napkin.

I then remembered my bride and I had invited about 25 people to join us for dinner on Sunday. We’d be lucky to have enough room for those folks without reserving a space for another invited guest who may or may not show up.

On the drive home I shared my thoughts with my bride. Before I give her response, let me add another thought.

I have always loved “Fiddler on the Roof”. I have been deeply touched by a number of the songs and have felt the joy and agony of raising a number of children who have made me extremely proud most of the time, and a few times left me extremely disappointed. Being bearded and a bit overweight, I also identified with Tevye as a man who strived to do the best for his family.

But the one thing that has always stuck in my mind was the closeness between Tevye and God. Was it the prayer belt that reminded him that God was always present? Or was it simply his firm belief in the Supreme Being?

Whatever the case, I always admired a man who could maintain a constant dialogue with God. As often as I have tried to constantly remind myself of God’s presence in my life, I fall short. I forget He is there until I find myself in a hopeless situation and need to quickly ask for His guidance and help.

So, when I suggested to my bride that we should do something to let God know He (or She) is always welcome to join us for dinner or any other occasion, she reminded me that we already do. We have Nativity sets throughout the house; we have religious paintings, crosses, and Bibles in almost every room; and our bookshelves are full of books dealing with religious topics and spiritualism. Guests do not have to sneak a peek anywhere to recognize that we are Christians.

So, I guess our answer to “Am I welcome here?” is a resounding “YES!” But now that I have put it in writing, there should be no doubt. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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Who Needs Miracles?

April 12, 2009

It is Easter Sunday and I have some questions for all of us:

Did Jesus really have to die on a cross and arise from the dead to get us to accept his message?

Did Jesus really need to change the water into wine to convince us that we should love one another?

Did Jesus really need to walk on water to get us to recognize the love of God?

Did Jesus really need to feed the thousands with a few loaves and fishes to make us realize that the Kingdom of God is in our own hearts?

Did Jesus really have to heal the leper, give sight to the blind, and cast out demons in order for us to believe the things he had to say?

Did we even listen to what He had to say?

I believe Cecil B. DeMille and other Hollywood film makers have led us astray. Unless the Mississippi River is parted to allow a baby to be saved from drowning, we don’t see it as a miracle.

All we have to do is look at that new born baby and think about the complexity behind his or her birth – that’s the miracle!

Walk across a room with a full glass of water and think about how your brain and body react to each step to keep you from spilling the water. Then think about what it would take to create a robot that could achieve that same control.

Personally, I think we spend so much time contemplating the miracles that we lose sight of why Jesus came to earth.

Several years ago I was asked to write the words for a song. I was encouraged to put myself in the shoes of someone else and write words accordingly. The people who requested this knew that I spent a lot of time with the homeless; they expected something from that perspective.

I did a lot of praying on this, and found myself writing the following words:

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I know I have been there to share your pain; I’ve shared in your happiness too.

I’ve walked by your side through sun and rain, nothing have I refused for you.

I have put your needs above my own, fed you and dressed you it’s true.

My life I have lived for you alone, now this, I’m asking of you.

Don’t praise me in words, don’t praise me in song

Don’t praise me at all in these ways.

Just love one another as I have loved you

And honor my Father always… always.

I died on the cross to give you life; I’ve shown you that death has no sting.

I’ve born all your burdens, all your strife; I’ve proven my Father is King.

Now I ask that you do as I do. Sing your praise by doing God’s will.

Your actions will tell me all about you. So this I’m asking you still

Don’t praise me in words, don’t praise me in song

Don’t praise me at all in these ways.

Just love one another as I have loved you

And honor my Father always… always.

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The words were later set to music by a friend from Puerto Rico, Angel “Cucho” Garcia. We performed it once in front of a group involved with Cursillo. They liked the music, but felt the words were too harsh. They insisted we should be praising God and Jesus.

I beg to differ. Anyone who constantly says, “Praise the Lord” and ignores the teachings of Christ is a person who continues to miss the message.

Jesus put it as simply as he could.

Love God, and love one another.

If we all followed those two simple commandments, there truly would be peace on earth.


Thank God for the Fleas

April 9, 2009

With the economy struggling and a newly elected President using his majority in the House and Senate to do things I question, I keep reminding myself to give it time. Just because Obama is doing things differently doesn’t mean he’s wrong. For the sake of us all, I pray that he’s right!

In trying to decide what to post today, I ran across an article I wrote in 1997. I’ll update it a bit, but leave the basic message as it is. The message? Thank God for the fleas.

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This Thanksgiving, I’ll be in London, England. I’ll be away from my loved ones and I doubt very much I’ll be able to find a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. I won’t be able to watch the traditional football games. I won’t even be able to get the day off from work. Yet, when I finally sit down for dinner, even if it’s nothing more than fish and chips, I’ll bow my head and say “Thank you, God, for the fleas.”

I’ll be stealing that prayer from a woman named Corrie Tin Boom who wrote a book entitled “The Hiding Place.” Corrie and her sister, Dutch Jews, survived a Nazi concentration camp. Her book tells of their experiences during World War II.

The sisters, like many Jews, were hidden by friends in a secret room. Eventually, the Nazis found them and sent them to a camp. The barracks in which they lived for the remainder of the war was infested with fleas. Every evening, during their prayers (which were against the Nazi rules and punishable by death), they would thank God for the fleas. Their thinking was that God had a reason for all things; whether or not they understood the purpose of the flea bites, there must have been a reason. Therefore, they thanked God.

Years later, the sisters met one of their former guards. In their conversation with him, he unwittingly disclosed how God had protected them from being discovered during their prayers. “None of the guards wanted to go near that building.” The former Nazi confided. “Those fleas were terrible!”

Thank God for the fleas.

Over the years, I’ve come to see many things as “fleas.” Fleas are the bad things that come with the good. We seldom understand the value of the bad things until years later. Some things we may never understand.

Last year at this time, I was between positions. That’s the fancy way of saying “out of work” or “unemployed.” For most of 1996, I was between positions. This year started off the same way. My friends, family, and I prayed constantly that I would find something. I had exhausted my savings, had borrowed heavily from friends and relatives, and was on the verge of losing everything. Then I got the phone call.

Since May, I’ve been working in Connecticut. I left for London in the beginning of October. I’ll be in London until the beginning of December. Then, it’ll be back to Connecticut. In seven months, I’ve been home less then four weeks.

I’m tired of living in hotels and eating at restaurants. I miss being able to sit down and relax in my own easy chair. I hate having to dial 30 or 40 numbers to talk to friends and family back home. Being on the road constantly is a royal pain in the butt. BUT, I thank God for the fleas.

I get paid by the hour (in September, I put in over 200 hours) and all my travel expenses are reimbursed. I’ve been able to repay most of my debts and, if the project continues, I’ll be able to put a good bit away for the next time I find myself “between positions.”

Last Christmas was painful for me. I have four children and two daughters-in-law. I like to make their Christmas merry by giving them things they really need or want. Last year, I couldn’t afford to give them much of anything. This year, thanks to the fleas, I’ll be able to give them much more.

The “fleas” of being away from home have shown me other things for which I’m very thankful. My best friend, Lu, has demonstrated just how wonderful and important she is to me. She has faithfully taken care of my dogs and our garden, and she has driven hundreds of miles to take me to, and pick me up at, the airport. She has kept my home looking better than it ever does when I’m around for any length of time. She even does the dusting!

I’m also thankful to my two oldest sons and their wives. They keep track of my schedule so we can get together during my infrequent visits home. Kenn uses e-mail to keep me up-to-date on my granddaughter, Rachel, and tells me he has a video of her that I’ll be able to see… eventually. Hopefully, I’ll be able to witness her first steps and her first words even if I’m out of town at the time of the momentous occasions. Thank God for modern technology!

We all go through trying times. Those difficulties are much easier to cope with if we can look beyond and try to find the blessings. If I find myself having a Thanksgiving meal of “bangers and mash” (a British meal of hot dogs and mashed potatoes) I’ll remind myself that I could be in Atlanta having a turkey dinner… compliments of Hosea Williams. Or I could be spending the night at one of the homeless shelters. Those thoughts will make it much easier for me to see the blessing of being able to pay for my own meal – regardless of what it is – and paying for my own lodging.

Those thoughts also put things in a much better perspective. Things could be far worse. My fleas are nothing compared to the problems faced by so many other people. Although some folks might find it more difficult to say, “Thanks for the fleas,” I think we can all benefit by looking for the hidden blessings in life. We have to take the good with the bad. When we can see the goodness in the bad, life is even better.

I’ll close this article by taking my prayer a step farther. Not only do I thank God for the fleas, I also thank God that I’ve been able to see the blessings brought by the fleas.