Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Geriatric and the Juvenile Road Trip

     Hello my brothers and sisters.  Just today I returned home from a 5 day excursion with my 7 year old granddaughter, Eve.  (She saw me write this and wants me to point out she is almost 8).  We went first to Stone Mountain, Georgia, which was a first for both of us.  We had a wonderful time there as I watched her wear me out with all the activities in which she took part.  What equally amazed me was the sheer number of people who were also being worn out by watching their children and grand children, who wanted to talk and were hungry for words of encouragement as well as a better understanding of God's role in their lives.  I was wearing a t-shirt that identified me in no way whatsoever but people still came to me and struck up conversations that led to questions about their spirituality and their own relationships with God.  I was almost dumbstruck with the power of God as He led one after the other to me for council and understanding.  There was one especially poignant moment when Eve came running up to me smiling and laughing.  She had just finished an obstacle course type thing where she was hooked to a harness and had to climb along ropes, ladders and boards.  There were several people sitting around me when she ran up all excited about what she had just done.  An elderly woman asked her if she was scared when she was on the ropes.  Eve struck them all dumb when she answered simply, "Of course not.  God was with me and so was my granddaddy."  When she ran off to the next activity, I noticed everyone was simply staring at me incredulously, some with their mouths wide open.  The only thing I could think to say was, God is with us always and she knows that."  With some quick prayer several of them rededicated their lives to God at that moment.
     After Stone Mountain, we set out for northern South Carolina and visited the top of Sassafras Mountain, the highest mountain in the state. (I did not know that until we got there.)  Then we rode for a little into North Carolina until for some reason I felt compelled to head east.  Along the way we ran across one of the mountain streams I had told Eve about pointing out how cold that water was.  She wadded in that water until her feet turned blue and I almost hurt myself laughing.  Afterwards, we headed east.  My sister lives on the opposite side of South Carolina and for some reason I felt compelled to go see her.  Eve jumped at the idea even though she has not seen my sister but once when she was about 3.  A few blocks from my sister's house I called her.  My brother-in-law answered the phone and told me they had just gotten home and were getting the groceries out of the car.  I told him I would just call them back after giving them a chance to get settled.  Needless to say they were quite surprised when we pulled up in their yard.  My brother-in-law has been in quite bad health as of late with a myriad of problems.  Eve seemed to take his mind off all of it as he walked her around their yard telling her about the different plants and trees they have.  They live in the country and are flanked by two huge cornfields about which Eve had 100 questions and William just ate it up.  They chatted like old friends and I think it did him a world of good and my sister agreed.
     After being at my sister's house, Eve and I both agreed it might be time to head home.  By the time we reached home, we had put just over 1000 miles on the van but the story does not end there.  Julie, my daughter and Eve's mother, works third shift so she usually sleeps in the afternoon.  I called her on the way so she could take a nap early and be up to see us when we got home.  I must say it felt good to get home and get that hug.  She sat up with us for a couple of hours and then had no choice but to go to bed.  Eve and I spent 2 hours cleaning out the van and putting everything back in place after our trip .  We had a few things to run to the store for and on the way home she asked if we could eat at Cracker Barrel.  Here is where the story gets interesting again (just to show God wasn't snoozing).  There was one of our local police officers a few tables away having dinner with his wife and son.  When I saw him I did something I often do.  I went to him, apologized for disturbing him, asked to shake his hand and thanked him for his selfless service.  It was when I returned to my seat I did something I don't normally do and at the time I really wasn't sure why I felt so compelled.  I called my server over, asked her to go to the policeman's server and get his bill and bring it to me but to please have her tell the officer his families meal was simply on the house.  When he and his family had finished, he came to my table and told me he knew that was me and thanked me.  He told me he was mostly just a part time police officer because he was also a pastor.  He thanked me profusely but at the same time he implored me to give him the bill.  I politely refused and thanked him again for his service pointing out it was now meant for both of his jobs. 
     When he left, and elderly couple rose and came to our table.  She pointed to the cross around my neck and with a somewhat matter of fact tone of voice, she pointed to the cross and said, " You mean that thing don't you?"  My answer was simply, "Every second of every day".  She told me she had been ill for some time and at one point it became quite serious and she became very afraid.  It was then she remembered to pray and pray she did.  From that day forward she began to improve and today was the first time in quite a while she had been able to leave the house.  I asked her how she had prayed and what made her so sure of God's hand in her mending.  She told me her prayers were not for health but rather for acceptance of God's will and the strength to cope with His decision.  As for why she was so sure, she said her greatest single instance of improvement came immediately after her very first prayer.  Pains in different parts of her body that had been plaguing her simply went away.  Her shortness of breath was greatly improved and while she was still very weak, she could feel her strength returning.  Bear in mind she had been down and out for over a month and a half.  That first prayer was 2 days ago.  She asked me to pray for her continued improvement and to pray she would have the strength to face the hardship she knew she might face by dedicating her life to God.
     When they were gone, Eve and I finished our supper and she wanted to go look at the toys in the Cracker Barrel Store.  I went to pay the bill as she headed for the toy section.  On my way to her a gentleman approached me and told me with somewhat of a snicker that he had witnessed my supper.  He said it was witnessing such events that kept his faith strong and he asked me if I would mind if he told people about all he had witnessed.  Of course I told him I had no objection.  With that he reached out and hugged me, thanked me, and hurried away.
     I must say it has been quite a few days and it has also been a reminder I need to be out and about much more than I have been lately.  I must confess my health has not been at it's pinnacle as of late and I let it hold me down a bit.  When I came to that realization, guess what!  You got it!  Prayer!!!  And I can't believe how much better I feel right now.  With all this said, let me leave you with something I read on a coffee cup at Cracker Barrel.
                                          May love surround you. 
                                          May happiness be before you. 
                                          May trouble be behind you and
                                          may God be within you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Threat to Christianity

     Has over 2000 years of growth for Christianity come to an end?  It would seem Christians are being attacked from every direction.  I fear a time very soon when in our country it will be considered politically incorrect to talk about or even mention our faith.  In every corner of our country I hear stories of how this is taking place and I have spent many hours in prayer seeking answers as to why and I believe I know the answer.  The funny thing is I have talked about the problem and the answer in many cases in this blog and never really put my finger on it....until now.
     The greatest threat to Christianity has proven to be Christians themselves.  All Christians are taught from the beginning to be strong in their convictions.  This lesson seems to manifest intolerance and an inability to see others as our brothers and sisters but rather as adversaries who don't share with us the same exact convictions.
     Anyone who is reading this, should have also read by now the entry entitled "God, the Undeniable Logic".  Christians have allowed themselves to be conflicted by the messages in different parts of the Bible.  A few  examples:  The old testament teaches and eye for an eye while the new testament teaches us to turn the other cheek.  The old testament teaches that if a man should sleep with a man as with a woman, he should be put to death while the new testament teaches us to love one another.  The old testament teaches us that God is a vengeful God while the new testament teaches us that God is love.
     I will readily admit there are some beautiful stories and passages in the old testament.  All of it, however, was written about and before the coming of Jesus Christ who came to set things right.  He brought a new message of love to the people and implored us to be like Him so we may come to better know God.  How is  it that so many Christians are so conflicted about the differences in these books and are not even aware of it?  It's almost as if they feel one way reading one passage and then they compartmentalize that feeling and change instantly when reading another.
I have come to the point in my life that when I advise a new Christian, I try to steer them away from the old testament in order to avoid the confusion.  I simply can not understand how someone can hold firm to many of the lessons in the old testament and still hold firm to the two most important commandments as given to us by Jesus.  Those are to love God and love each other.
     Christian churches want to grow but yet many are preaching the very intolerance that eventually pushes people away from the church.  It is time for Christians to get their priorities straight.  If you want to be the kind of Christian that Jesus Christ wanted us to be, then it is time to follow His examples and His teachings.  When Jesus came upon the prostitute about to be stoned to death, He simply said, "Let ye among you who is without sin cast the first stone."  If the Christian church wants to continue to grow, it must teach its followers to stop throwing those stones.  We must teach people the light of love rather than the darkness of intolerance.

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