Tuesday, May 31, 2011

S + J = C

I woke up this morning to the sight of humidity literally dripping from the windows.  The 13 year brood of cicadas in Tennessee are making outdoor activities less than pleasant.  Yes, it's summer in the south.  I am thrilled to be back after the long cold sojourn to South Dakota.  However, even I will admit that the summer weather in South Dakota is often better than the heat and humidity of middle Tennessee. 

When I first heard the topic this week I thought S+J=C.  That stands for Summer plus JESUS equals CAMP.  I have a ton of camp stories that involve Jesus and a few that don't.  This topic has given me inspiration to write about some of these stories so head over to Sounds of Hope in the next few days and read some of them.  I'll tell you how I met Jesus on the island, met Jesus at Ashford Hills, met Jesus at Camp Challenge, the list goes on and on -  After all, Jesus ALWAYS shows up at church camp.  My favorite story of meeting Jesus at camp came as an adult at Harmony Hill Camp in Fulton Missouri.

Harmony Hill is a "holiness" camp.  My mother had married into a small denomination of people called the Church of God, HOLINESS.  Good folk, really good folk whose interpretation of holiness at the time included a long list of externals such as long hair for the women, no make-up, no jewelry, no mixed bathing (that means swimming with members of the opposite sex for you heathen :-), dresses only for the women complete with elbows covered, no TV, no movies, no alcohol, just clean livin' and Jesus.  

I sent my children to their kids camp a few times.  After kids camp, then came youth camp which meant camp meeting, under the "tabernacle."  These meetings were always attended by all ages.  I guess if you were young at heart, you could come to youth camp.  The tabernacle (pictured above) is a permanent take on a tent with no sides. Eventually cool breezes would pass through the building during the nightly gathering.  Mixed with the cool breezes was the stirring of the Holy Spirit.  While these good "holiness" folk weren't holy rollers and didn't approve of tongue talking, they did praise and pray loudly.  Under the shadow of the nuclear power plant down the road, the air was filled with the organ playing gospel music.

I took my seat with my step-sisters near the front.  I had gone to great lengths to appear holy.  I had scrubbed my face, covered my elbows, and took off all jewelry but a watch.  Watches were allowed because they were functional and not for adornment. My skirt and sleeves were long enough.  However, my hair wasn't.  I attempted to put it up in order to have it look longer.  There were a few heathen friends and backsliders who came to camp. I didn't want to appear as one of them.

The rousing music filled the hillside.  It was a beautiful night in early August in Missouri.  Humidity was giving way to the cool of the evening.  I'd come early enough to have a good meal in the mess hall complete with beautiful red tomatoes from someones garden.  The holiness women had cooked a good meal for all of us.  Smiles and friendly greetings abounded.  My step-sisters were well known.  I was welcomed as well.

As is usually the case at camp meetings, the Holy Spirit began to move.  As the sweat was dried by the paper fans with pictures of Jesus supplied by a local funeral home, you began to sense your mortality and the coming judgment.  I don't remember any preaching that night.  Usually a white male with a short haircut, his suit jacket over his starched white long sleeve white shirt and tie, sweating profusely he would preach the Word.  This was followed by a call for salvation, re-commitment, or sanctification.  The tabernacle was charged with the Holy Ghost that night.  The organ was pleading with sinners to come to the altar.  The preacher was weeping.  There was a lost soul there that might slip into eternity without Jesus.  

I knew Jesus.  I had for years.  I might not have been holiness, but I did know Jesus.  I respectfully put my head down and prayed for this lost soul.  The tension and fervor of the praying climbed with every chord of the organ.  Heaven and hell were fighting over a soul.  These good folk were doing battle in prayer and would not leave until that one came to the altar for deliverance.

There was a tap on my covered elbow.  A woman stood in front of me.  Big tears streamed down her face.  She said to me "won't you come to the altar with me and find Jesus?"  I smiled and assured her that I knew Jesus.  She persisted, the organ persisted, by this time she had gotten the attention of the righteous.  All eyes were on her and I.  All prayers were directed toward me, the sinner, the outsider, the one whose hair was just not long enough.  I considered my options.  There weren't many.

After another attempt to persuade this dear woman that I did know Jesus and was "saved," I went to the altar with her.  I figured why not?  None of the other options seemed good at the time.  As I knelt at the altar, the people shouted, the organ stopped pleading, I was their sinner that night.  Since I was at the altar, I thought I might as well pray.  I did tell God that while I knew I knew Jesus, if there was a reason for me to be here, He could do anything He wanted with me - no sense in wasting a good opportunity to recommit your life to the Lord.  Women gathered around, weeping and rejoicing over my lost soul being redeemed.

I am sure the people were glad that the service could conclude and they could go to their cabins for the night. The sinner had come home.  There was a new name written down in glory.  They had fought the good fight for my soul and had snatched it from hell.  Fortunately, I wasn't staying at camp so I drove home in my Volkswagen beetle wondering - wondering what that was all about...  I knew the good holiness folk would sleep good that night knowing their battle was not in vain.  I never went back to Harmony Hill. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Holiday Survival Guide

Today is Memorial Day. I hope you enjoyed last weeks blogs by the faithful regarding the true meaning of this day.

This week the Kingdom Bloggers are going to write about summer - and Jesus!

Once the parade is over, the 21 gun salute is fired, and I am undone by taps, I silently thank God for freedom to just be an American. I have spiritual freedom, and I am free to do many more things than folks around the world. It is a day to miss my dad, and the chain of unspoken thoughts seems endless on the ride home. HERE is last years story.

As I pull in the driveway, there it stands, glimmering on the farmers porch: the grill! It is also unofficially summer in southern New England! (I know, and the Bruins are still playing hockey and it's 91 degrees outside!) 

That's right, it is a sign of manly freedoms earned, a return to the prehistoric phenomena known as fire! The thoughts of sizzling meats, and the smell of BBQ sauce captivate me. In my world, if it can be eaten, it can be grilled - well not Lucky Charms.

Here are some quick tips to make it a great holiday. I hope you'll share one of yours in the comments section and feel free to add a recipe!

Gas: That's right, fill up the extra tank early, because you know they are closed - it's a holiday!

Be Daring: We really do grill everything. Other than the obvious steaks, chicken, brats, hot dogs, shrimp, salmon, tuna and gak, tofu burgers, we also grill fruit and vegetables are not often on the list. Corn, peppers, squash, apples and even pineapple. And don't forget kabobs of every type!

Spices: If it's on the grill, it's needs to be spicy. Lots of great spice combinations, but the common denominator seems to be cayenne pepper. HERE area few you might like!

Marinades: We have favorites for different meats and fish. Teriyaki and garlic for steak, Italian or zesty Italian for London Broil, Honey Mustard for chicken breast, Honey Teriyaki for salmon and traditional Brown Sugar or Buffalo BBQ for chicken wings and drum sticks.

Cool Sides: We like sides made with vegetables in varying sorts of salads and slaws. I'll let Martha Stewart handle this! Of course you might just want pasta salad, so HERE is that list.

Cool Drinks: From water to beer and everything in between, ice cold drinks on a hot day are essential!

Dessert: It just seems fitting to have frozen desserts or fruit to refresh the pallet for the next Swiss burger! HERE you go!

I hope that you have memorable Memorial Day.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thank you just doesn't seem to be enough...

Some people don't consider Memorial Day a religious holiday...but I certainly do.

From the very mouth of Jesus, we are told that:
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 (NIV)

There have been many sacrifices on my behalf. While none are greater than the one made by my Savior, many have still been great...the ultimate...sacrifices. Each year, I approach Memorial Day with a heavy heart for the few that I've known personally, and the many I will never know, who gave their life to defend a freedom I enjoy today. That freedom allows me to gather my family together several times a week in our chosen house of worship. There's no fear of persecution. No anxiety. Just free, unencumbered worship.

I sometimes wonder how diligent we would be as Christians in our worship if the environment where we dwelled was far less open. Churches so easily available. That's a different post, however, and thankfully I've never lived in such a place. Neither has my father, nor even his father. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to a number of unselfish men and women for that fact. Let us never forget.

While I often catch flak for publicly admitting my fondness for the PBS NewsHour, the show is unique to other news sources in one certain aspect that I greatly admire. As names and photos become available, the NewHour will run a silent Honor Roll at the end of a broadcast to acknowledge the most recent service men and women to answer the ultimate call of duty. Without fail, the noise from just another daily routine stops in our house as all eyes fall on the television, and we watch as a family at the names and pictures flashing by on the screen...usually in complete silence...sometimes with a faint gasp at how young life can be snatched away or thoughts of the families left behind. Even our pre-schooler has come to recognize a reverence about the 'people who have died in war.' It breaks my heart to think she is exposed to such a heinous concept at such a young age. We tell her they have 'gone to live with Jesus' even though there's no way of knowing their particular spiritual state at the moment the ability to freely choose our Savior was longer an option.

It's hard to swallow that such a tremendous sacrifice wouldn't be enough for eternal life in Heaven... but that's just not how it works.  In fact, the path to salvation is so much easier.

Below is a clip from a recent NewsHour Honor Roll. Less than a dozen souls from a list of thousands, no hundreds of thousands, that we all should take a moment to reflect upon before eating our hamburgers, hot dogs or steaks this coming Monday at family cookouts nationwide.

Memorial Day marks so very much more than just the start of another summer...

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memorial Day Gratitude

We learn things from our parents, even when they're not directly trying to teach us.

I can remember that my mother always got a lump in her throat when she looked at an American flag.

She and my father were both in what was then the Army Air Core (there wasn't an Air Force yet) during WWII. That's how they met. All of my uncles served in the military, and my son Devon graduated from USMA West Point last year and is scheduled to deploy this coming February, if not sooner. Through these people I hear accounts of war time experiences. (Although my father never shared a single war story. It is through my mother that I learned that he was a POW for a short time and had malaria.)

One of Devon's favorite quotes is from John Stuart Mills and I always think on it around Memorial Day:

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

As I think on those who have died in service to our country I don't have anything creative or clever to say. Just that I'm grateful for their exertions, grateful for what they gave.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stones of Help

I have been known to cry when a military band marches by in a parade.  I’ve never known why I do this and usually try to hide it.  Somehow my emotions are always stirred at the sight of soldiers marching.  I’ve lived long enough to see patriotism be unfashionable and see it return.  I guess I’ve always been patriotic.  Even during the turbulent years of the Viet Nam war, I remember wearing a pin that said love it or leave it.  I was young and probably didn’t understand all the nuances of politics; I was just patriotic.

When I heard the topic for the day, I thought hmm, that’s a hard one for me.  Even though I’ve always been patriotic, I don’t remember Memorial Day (or Decoration Day when I was a small child) as a significant holiday.  It was a day off of school.  It was the first Sunday I’d sit alone in Sunday School as all my friends had fled with their parents to their beach houses in Long Island.  We had no car.  We had no beach house.  We rode the Subway to Coney Island for our beach experiences.

My great grandfather (or maybe it is my great, great grandfather) fought in the Civil War.  At least we think so, that side of my family history is murky including stories of horse thieves during the same war.  My father was in the “great one” – World War ONE – yes, I did say father and did say WWI.  He was a young Merchant Marine sailing on a Norwegian vessel when a German sub took them down.  During WWII he was too old to serve.  However, he was block warden and made sure everyone observed the black outs.  I have uncles and cousin who are Veterans.  My oldest granddaughter served for a short time until a broken bone sent her home.  I see the faces of children I taught in Sunday School who are serving.  I read the laments of spouses of these same children as their husband’s go to war now sanitized with terms like deployment.

I honor all of them today.  While in my heart I think I want to be a pacifist, I am conflicted.  Regardless of politics or religion, I still tear up at the sight of a Veteran’s cemetery.  The graves so erect speak of the soldiers who died for my freedom.  I wonder why freedom always comes with that price.  My spiritual freedom was also paid with death.

Memorial Day also makes me think of Eben-Ezer.  Playing on 53rd Street I could see the sign every day that said Eben-Ezer.  It was the name of the Norwegian language church across the street.  My father went there often for special meetings.  Eben-Ezer literally means stone of help.  It can also be translated “thus far the Lord has helped us” or in KJV, ” Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”  Often we read in the Old Testament of stones of remembrance.  Eben-Ezer was such a stone.  It was a stone placed to help people remember God’s help.    

Memorial Day is a day we decorate the stones of help, those erect graves standing in Veteran’s resting places all across the country and world.  American blood was spilled and is still being spilled with the goal of bringing freedom.  Let us pray that our leaders will make wise decision because the “Eben-Ezer’s” that line our cemeteries are a very high price to pay for freedom.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Saving Private Ryan

Next Monday is Memorial Day. Most of us have never seen war up close, I know I haven't. War isn't pretty, it isn't fun and what it costs in blood and treasure is really hard to calculate.

America has had quite a few foes over the years, and joined in the fight against some of history's most evil leaders.

Memorial Day is in honor of those that gave their lives in the line of duty. Veteran's Day is to honor those that have served. I celebrate both. I don't personally know anyone that gave their life to war, but I am grateful for those that have - really grateful. I like freedom, I like choosing to work, to have a job, to decide where I want to be educated, what town I live in and how I express my faith.

I have a number of soldiers in my linage, all who were better at it than I; they all saw front line battles and lived to talk about it.

My grandfather on my mother's side, born in Ireland in 1888, came to the USA and served in WW I. He also chased Pancho Villa are around the Mexican border in 1916. He received a Purple Heart - I actually can't remember how the story goes - but his injury affected his hearing.

My father also served his country in both the European and South Pacific theaters during WW II as well as the Korean War conflict. He received 2 Purple Hearts for injuries sustained fighting for my freedom and yours.

How I wish I had a better understanding of their sacrifice while they were alive.

My nephew was wounded in Iraq, he too has a Purple Heart.

No one likes war, regardless of the rhetoric. It is, however; a fact, that war has made America free. From the Revolutionary War to the battlefields of New York City, Afghanistan and Iraq, brave men and woman have laid down their lives for you; for your freedom of religion, your freedom of speech and your pursuit of happiness.

Today the VFW was taking donations and giving away poppies at the local grocery store. I always like to stop by the booth and listen to a tale or two, to see a tear shed because someone cares enough to listen. And these are the ones that survived. Memorial Day, this is to honor those that didn't. The ones who's lives weren't really completed. They forsook families, jobs and retirement to serve you and me. Others left parents, wives and children without sons, husbands and daughters. The price was high.

Next time you watch the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan, or the firefights in Platoon, remember freedom, it's not free.

2 Chronicles 20:15 (b) This is what the LORD says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's.

Happy Memorial Day, and God Bless you and America.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The words of wise men are like goads...(Ecclesiastes 12:11a)

I was very blessed to have Rye Fleenor as a pastor growing up in a small country church.

Affectionately known to most everyone as Preacher Fleenor, I did a post on him shortly after his passing in late 2009. That's him in the picture holding his now teen-aged great-grandson Andrew, who coincidentally preached this past Sunday at that same small country church. I hear he did a wonderful job too. What an impact and legacy my beloved preacher left behind after his promotion to Glory.

During an annual Bible School one summer in my own pre-teen years, I was introduced to our new pastor, Rye Fleenor. At that time, Bible School was a week-long event and brought kids to the church from all over the local area. Now I'll admit...I was never a shy kid, and my mom would probably goes as far as to say never met a stranger. Meeting Preacher Fleenor was no different for me. While the political posturing to gain any type of influence with the new pastor was ongoing among the adults that week, I took right up with him and Mrs. Fleenor for my own reason...they were both very, very nice people who listened to my stories and opinions.

For a kid, being listened to and taken seriously is pretty important stuff. By week's end, I found my place sitting right between the Fleenors at the closing picnic of Bible School. She cut my corn off the cob for me, and he made sure I got my fair share plus of the homemade ice cream. I had certainly made two new friends and become a big fan of them both.  

So common in most Southern churches, there were many dozens of additional picnics, cookouts and covered dish dinners at the church through those years I was growing up. And let me tell you this too...the ladies at that church could cook (and still can)! As I reflect back over those years, I realize now that Preacher Fleenor had a very unusually long stay as pastor of that little country church. The United Methodist Conference doesn't leave a pastor in the same place for much past a few years, and they have almost complete control over the placement of pastors within the denomination. I'll leave that subject matter alone for now despite my rather strong feelings, and since I attend and belong to a church of a different denomination today.   

I guess God had different plans for Preacher Fleenor, and after all, He still ultimately calls the shots in all church matters (Oops...bet I just offended a few people with that statement).

When I think back across the many memories of sharing a slice or two of watermelon with Preacher Fleenor while we discussed any number of topics (but most always included sports), I realize just how much of an influence he has truly been in my life. No... I've not seen or talked to him in well over 20 years, but the memories are so strong and the positive impact has been...eternal.

Thank you Father for your love and for sharing that love with me through people like Rye Fleenor. I ask you bless the path of Andrew with Your ever righteous and holy touch so that he may have an impact for You on others, like his great grandfather, and always for Your glory. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Truth and Relationships

I'm more grateful than I know how to put into words that I grew up in church. Fond childhood church memories overflow my thoughts. I'm grateful that those childhood seeds that were planted took root and have blessed me in many ways as an adult.

Two words stand out when I think about my childhood church experiences: Truth and Relationships.

Sunday school, midweek programs like Sunbeams and GAs (Girls in Action), Vacation Bible schools, camps, choirs, short term mission trips - all of these were fun. The Bible was experienced as a delight, and that same feeling still exists for me today. Through all those years, and all those wonderful teachers, I was able to go through the entire Bible numerous time and develop a kind of mental frame work of how it all fits together (somewhat) that makes reading and understanding the Bible easier. Even though I know it's still all by the work of the Holy Spirit within me that the Bible becomes real and meaningful, all those experiences helped till the soil of my heart. I'm grateful to my parents for their own faithfulness and sacrifice to take me to, or send me out on, all those church related events and experiences.

None of my church memories feel like church was a place or limited to a Sunday service (although I do confess to tons of memories involving freeze tag played on the church lawns. What smart teachers thought to do that with a bunch of wiggly kids prior to trying to sit them down to teach them?!). Church was about relationships. I remember church people frequently being in our home. Back yard BBQs, people who were attending the denominational seminary over to share meals, English lessons through the Bible at our home...the people who we were in church with were in our home and in our lives. I can remember almost every Sunday when I was in elementary school either having my friends from church over after church, or going to their homes to play. I can also remember lots of different families, who didn't even have kids my age or kids at all, taking me with them to fun places like Disneyland or the beach or just to hang out and watch TV at their house and stay the night (as an adult I'm guessing that they did this to bless my parents with some adult time; but at the time it just seemed like that's what life was like). To this day when I think of my church the faces of numerous specific people come to my mind; my heart is filled pleasure as I think of these folks. Even though I may not be "best friends" with all of them, we are in relationship and there's not a doubt in my mind but that they know me (good and bad) and love me and even like me! I think that in this world that we live in that is saying a lot.

What about you, what are some of the seeds that were planted during your childhood church experiences that you see the fruit of in your life today?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Being Pinned

So many things about my childhood and church evoke the warmest of memories.  If I were to give you links to other things I’ve written about from my childhood and church, they would probably fill this page.  If I were to write about everything, it would fill a book.  The task today is to pick one.  Now if you saw my blog on Sounds of Hope yesterday about personality inventories, you can surmise that picking one takes excruciating analysisJ!

Sunday School Parade-I'm on the far
left, the first one in the second row.
I could write about the orchestra and playing the Melodica - I played it long before Casey on this season's American Idol.  I could write again about Christmas pieces, Sunday School programs, Released Time, being a Sunbeam at the Salvation Army, or a Pioneer Girl at the 59th Street Lutheran Church.  I could write about the magnificent sounds of the choir.  I could tell you about trips to the Lower East Side of Manhattan to tell the “poor” children about Jesus.  Little did I know that we were just as poor, we just didn’t live in a tenement. 

I could tell you about Sunday School parades where I pushed my doll carriage, or proudly carried a Bible, or road my tricycle behind women pushing decorated baby carriages.  Or I could tell you about sitting on a small folding chair on the toddler float while men pulled us down 4th Avenue.

Sunday School Parade
Toddler Float (no that's
not me)
I could tell you about Sunday School picnics at Prospect Park in Brooklyn.  For us it meant an early ride on the city bus with our food.  Soon those with cars would arrive with ice cream packed in "hot" ice.  A morning game of paper plate Frisbee was followed by an afternoon of egg on the spoon and the annual drenching of the Sunday School teachers as they tossed water balloons until they broke.

I could write about Camp.  Oh how wonderful to pack for Camp Challenge our own church's camp.  And of course I met Jesus on the Island at Jack Wyrtzen’s Word of Life Camp.  I even found Jesus at Camp Ashford, the Salvation Army camp in Connecticut.  I still remember the scratchy Army blanket they gave us for the bed that had to be made to perfection for morning inspection.  Yes I could write a book about my unusual church childhood. If you want to see some pictures from the golden days of this church you can here.

But no, today I am going to write about Sunday School jewelry.  Yes, you got that right.  There is such a thing as Sunday School jewelry.  I suppose it’s purpose was not adornment.  After all, many Pentecostal’s did not wear jewelry.  Fortunately, we were not that kind of Pentecostal.  I must have gotten my first pin before I was a year old.  My mother taught the cradle roll class.  As soon as she thought it feasible, she would bring me to the church prayer room where the class met.  With the other mushy brained children, our brains were being conditioned to love Jesus.  The original cross and crown pin was given to me when I became a member of the Sunday School.  I don’t know if my mother pinned it to my baby clothes, but I do know, it was a kept in safe keeping for me.

My collection of SS pins
There are 2 Lutheran, 2
Methodist, 1 Pentecostal.
One Methodist has the star,
the other the cross and crown
After the cross and crown pin was awarded, for the first year of attendance, you got a wreath to go around your cross and crown pin.  Each year a bar was added.  By the time I was old enough to understand, my pin had four or five bars.  I remember wearing it almost every Sunday.  As the wooden folding doors opened and the wooden partitions taken down, a sea of adults emerged.  Big fur collared coats, with stylish hats, carrying big Bibles, the women made their entrance adorned with the testimony of their faithfulness.  Their Pentecostal cross and crown Sunday School pins started at their shoulders and went to their waist.  They had been in Sunday School for 35, 40, 45 years.  Men’s suits spoke the same message. 

My pin never went past eleven years.  The church stopped giving them out in favor of a simple Sunday School pin with no bars.  Later we left that church and eventually Sunday School pins went the way of hats and furred collars. 

I have a small collection of Pentecostal memorabilia.  My Sunday School pin was long gone.  I remember it’s honored place in my teenage jewelry box.  It’s honor was shared with the Sunbeam Commissioners Medal I had received as a child.  I wanted to hold in my hand a Sunday School pin once again.  I found some on Ebay and bought them.  I could have bought a new one, but I wanted an old one.  I wanted one that said someone was learning faithfulness in Sunday School. 

I don’t go to Sunday School anymore.  I haven’t gone for years and years.  Nevertheless I thank God for faithful people who taught me well.  Did you ever wear a Sunday School pin?  If so, what kind?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Jesus Loves Me This I Know

The first rays of morning light lit the steeple of the old stone church as we stood on the hill behind it. A small group of us gathered around Reverend Gallihue that morning. The choir director handed out a few hymnals and we sang some 100-year-old dirge.

This week the Kingdom Bloggers are going to write about a favorite childhood church experience. I was actually offered a pass because the rest of the gang knows what a hellion I was before I met Jesus at age 19.

My favorite memory is of an Easter sunrise service; there was just something intriguing about it. It may have been the cool morning air, the dew on the green grass, the liquid orange clouds over the horizon or the quiet moment in prayer. There I was in my clip-on tie and red sports coat, my face adorned with horn rim glasses; the dorky kind. For a moment, it seemed to be me and God, but there wasn't enough time to get to know him that morning.

I really can’t explain what was going on - those few minutes -  but it made me want to go again for the regular 10 o’clock service. I think that my mother was confused by my request. I confess, I was confused too, however; there was something drawing me that morning as Les talked about the stone that was rolled away from the tomb.

The morning service was the same sermon— boring like all the rest. It just didn't feel the same as the one on the hill at sunrise. I thought about how I could have stayed home eating jellybeans.

As you look back, when do you first remember God drawing you closer?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Some things are best left a mystery...just not this stuff!


Let me start by saying:

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Matthew 7:1,2

Now that we have that out of the way...

  •  What's your favorite candy bar? Four almonds and the joy of chocolate and coconut...sweet! Besides, I always feel like a nut.
  •  What's your favorite song (post a link!)? There are two answers here:
                  Christian music- Beulah Land

                  Other (but not synonymous with devil music)- Limelight by Rush and the greatest
                  drummer EVER!!!

  • What sports or activities have you participated in or do enjoy watching on TV?
         Played football, basketball and ran track in high school. Competitive power lifter in college. Now watch anything that involves competition on TV to include the show Wipeout (never gets old).
  •  What was your first job?
          Outside of agricultural jobs as a pre-teen and teen (before the great Mexican migration), my first real job was at the Golden Arches (McDonalds). Still have my first paycheck stub showing my hourly wage of  $2.35...doh!
  •  What sort of work do you get/last received pay for?
         Work for a Department of Defense contractor dealing with military bases worldwide. I love my job (but still buy a lottery ticket every week).
  •  What's the last great book you read?
          The qualifier 'great' compels me to answer The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  •  When I have free time away from family and work, I like to _________ .
          Bwhahahahahahahahaha! Free time? Bwhahahahahahahaha!
  •  You need to know three things about my family, and they are __________ .
  1.  All females: wife- Candice  girls- Quiana (15), Carlee (3) and Eden (>1).
  2.  All emphatically crazy. We even call the 3-year old the Crazy Tomato!
  3. All make up wild stories and claims about me...little old innocent me?!
     3 1/2  I love them with all that I am and wouldn't change a thing!

  •  The town I live in is ___________?
         Kingsport, Tennessee
  •  What version of the Bible do you read the most?
      Thanks to my loving wife, I have a study version that has four translations side-by-side (KJV, NASB, Amplified and NIV). I usually read the NIV online or when doing research.
  •  Does Hooters have good food? (Optional)
        Read here...and thanks for THAT question David.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

What's wrong with being a book worm?!

This week we're all just sharing a bit about who we are by answering some questions:

What's your favorite candy bar?

Rocky Road

What's your favorite song (post a link!)?
One of my favorites is Blessed be Your Name

What sports or activities have you participated in, or do enjoy watching on TV?
Although I enjoy plenty of physical activities (hiking, skating, dancing, bicycling, etc.) I've never been into sports. Back in school I was one of those girls in PE class who ducked when the volley ball came my way. But I did attend all of my middle son's Friday night high school football games and cheered loudly for he and his friends!

What was your first job?
Worked at a Carl's Jr

What sort of work do you get/last received pay for?
Running residential facilities for special needs populations (Currently I run small homes in the community where developmentally disabled adults live, prior to this I ran secured psychiatric facilities).

What's the last great book you read?
Currently reading The Joy of Full Surrender by Jean Pierre de Caussade and it will definitely make my top 10 Christian books list. Recently listened to a lightweight, fun, female trilogy of books on CD while driving, doing housework, and cooking entitled the Airhead series that I thought was a lot of fun.

When I have free time away from family and work, I like to _________ .
Hike, take long walks, read, visit art museums

You need to know three things about my family, and they are __________ .
  • July of 2005 God blessed me with my husband John
  • I have 3 sons ages almost 23, almost 17, and 18
  • We have a dog named Jake that we got from the pound about 3yrs ago
The town I live in is ___________?
A small (posted population 3,500) ski resort town nestled in the San Gabriel mountain range in southern California.

What version of the Bible do you read the most?
I enjoy The Message paraphrase and NIV frequently

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cowboy Bob and Kit Kat's

This blog is a little bit harder for me to write than you might imagine.  Some of these questions are ones that either have multiple answers or depends on when you ask me.  Like the music question, I don’t know???  But I guess I should pick one – remember these are my answers today when I’m barely awake and dreamed all night last night that a sniper was trying to kill me… Anything is possible this morning.  Then too, there is the issue of my wanting to ask follow up questions – did you really mean my very first job? Or my first “real professional” job?  Does babysitting count?  And last but not least, do you want the story that goes along with my answer.  I always have a story.

- What's your favorite candy bar?
This one is easy Kit Kat.  (I have a story – when Kit Kat’s first came to the US market from England a NY children’s television personality sent me an autographed picture and told me to watch for the candy bar.  I did, since I always did what I was told, especially by Cowboy Bob.  I’ve loved it ever since).
- What's your favorite song (post a link!)?  Too many of them but this one will work this morning.  Any Man of Mine  I'll bet you thought it was going to be an old hymn.  
- What sports or activities have you participated in, or do enjoy watching on TV?
I don’t do sports.  I’ve always been uncoordinated and now I’m old.  I have been known to cheer and yell for Basketball especially if UCONN women are playing.  Before we had cable I used to watch bowling – anyone remember Earl Anthony.
- What was your first job?
Babysitting.  Followed by one day at a lunch fountain in a drug store. You can read about that here.  I told you, there is always a story, there is always a story.
- What sort of work do you get/last received pay for?
Does getting financial aid to go to school count?  Last job was a Pastor – oh but I didn’t get any money for that… hmmm…. Want to see my resume?  I’m looking for work.
- What's the last great book you read?
If I were spiritual I’d tell you just the Bible, that’s all I read.  But what comes to mind is anything by Walter Brueggemann when I’m feeling nerdy.  Last popular novel I read that I loved was The Glass Castle.  I was told my life was "worse" than her's and I wanted to see if it was true.  See these questions are that easy.
- When I have free time away from family and work, I like to ___ .
The key word in that question is AWAY.  I'm always with someone in my family. Okay, make something up about what I would like to do?  Go to the BEACH
 - You need to know three things about my family, and they are __________ . 
I love them.  They are diverse.  I don't see enough of them.
- The town I live in is ___________?
- What version of the Bible do you read the most? 
Today’s New International Version but if I need to do study stuff I use the New Revised Standard or get out the Biblica Hebraica.

Okay, that's not bad for a sleepy Tuesday morning... How about you?  What candy bar do you like?

Monday, May 9, 2011

You Might Never Have Known...

Your Kingdom Bloggers have been busy in their not so virtual realties with all sorts of things from work to school and just plain life. This week we are going to take it easy on ourselves and answer a couple of simple questions about us. We are all very much relational, while social networks and blogs fill part of that need for each of us.

If you are a regular reader, you have read many "Christian" topics from our favorite books and verses in the Bible, to our conversion stories. We have tracked with holiday themes both religious and American - oh, and we wrote about sex! Today we are going to have a little fun and let you in on a few lesser known details about the Fab 5, better known as Kingdom Bloggers. I am sure you have been thinking, "Who are these people, they can't go to church all the time!"

Most of us have received a list of question via email or Facebook to tell others more about who we are. Here are a few tidbits you won't find in Trivial Pursuit. We hope that you'll comment and with your answers so that we can get to know you a little better. Of course, I am going to go first.

- What's your favorite candy bar? Payday

- What's your favorite song (post a link!)? Party - Chris Tomlin

- What sports or activities have you participated in, or do enjoy watching on TV? Hockey, motocross, downhill skiing. I watch Boston basketball and hockey if I have time. Go Bruins and Celtics! And I like politics.

- What was your first job? Busboy at a local upscale restaurant.

- What sort of work do you get/last received pay for? Software programming

- What's the last great book you read? Like a Mighty Wind - Mel Tari

- When I have free time away from family and work, I like to _________ . Play music, walk along the Charles River or the beach, and blog!

- You need to know three things about my family, and they are __________ . I have 3 girls, Zöe, Erin and Charlotte; ages 23, 20 and 7, I met Mary Anne 10 years ago, and we have three dogs.

- The town I live in is ___________? Just 15 miles west of downtown Boston, 40% Hispanic, and gets about 80-100 inches of snow each year.

- What version of the Bible do you read the most? The Message or New King James.

How about you, care to share a few answers?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Prayer is a great privilege from God...do you take full advantage?

Yesterday was National Prayer Day...did you remember?

When you tell someone you'll be praying for them or someone ask you to pray for them, do you actually take the time to remember the person in prayer?

That's a tough one. Being a prayer warrior is a true calling, and doing it right requires a degree of discipline and humility not many of us come by easily. Humility? Yes, I believe presenting the needs of others to God ahead of your own needs requires a great deal of humility. We live in a self-absorbed world that tries to drive us to a narcissistic point of view...But what's in it for me?

Paul tells us in his letter to Timothy that praying for others is the key to a clear conscience, so in fact, praying on the behalf of someone else provides a direct benefit to the person praying. Now, I'm not saying you should focus on the benefit you receive from praying for others...that's not the point. But if you're inclined to need additional motivation to pray for others...there you have it.

1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. I Timothy 1-4 (NIV)

A familiar verse to most Christians that we hear a lot following Presidential Elections...but did you ever notice the word 'then' in verse 1 (the word 'therefore' appears in the KJV)? The presence of that word reminds me that Paul didn't lay his letter to Timothy out in the chapter/verse format we're used to reading, and there must be something significant in the previous verse he is bringing to a conclusion. Let's take a look:

18Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. 20Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. I Timothy 2:18-20 (NIV)

So when you read the context of Paul's point through all seven verses, you see the importance (I urge...) of praying for others in the sight of God, but also as a matter of doing a little personal inventory. Let me tie that up a little better...

My experience tells me that it's very difficult to pray for someone else when you have something bad weighing on your conscience. No matter how hard I try to focus on the person or need I'm praying for, I keep going back to...But what about this (sin) in your life? Do you thing God's listening to you with that albatross hanging around your neck? What good are you doing for this person you're trying to help if you can't deal with (sin)?

Ouch. Paul charges Timothy to hold onto faith and good conscience so not to shipwreck his own faith. A good conscience is a conscience that does not condemn you for the things you do or don't do. So, what Paul is saying is that in order for your ship of faith to stay afloat...you need to see to it that you don't do the things your conscience condemns or leave undone the things which your conscience demands.

Tony C...what the heck does this have to do with praying for others? Wrap it up for me.

Okay, I'll boldly paraphrase Paul ...since you must keep a good conscience in order not to make a shipwreck of your faith, I urge you first of all to pray for all men. At the top of Paul's list of things that we must do in order to keep a clear conscience is to pray for other people. In order to see why failing to pray for people leads to a bad conscience and so jeopardize our faith, we have to ask... What is it that will nudge a Christian's conscience in his relationship to other people?

The answer to that question is clear from the direction of the entire Bible... all God's instruction is summed up in this... Love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself. Therefore, anything we do to people that is unloving will prick our conscience and threaten our faith. With that as a foundation, we can start to see why prayer for other people is at the top of Paul's list of things we must do in order to keep a clear conscience.

Now that we've worked on having a clear conscience, there's a lot of prayer request that need lifting up. I hope you will keep me in your prayers...it's the least I can do to help you stay guilt-free.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I Want A Clerical Collar

I am probably a little too candid for my own good.  It’s just how I am.  The other day I wrote a blog on Sounds of Hope.  It was hardly hope filled.  Yet, I think sometimes hope is best expressed in reality.  The Psalms are like that.  Many deep laments are expressed in their poetic words.  Yet, they often end with praise to God, a prayer for deliverance, and an offering of hope. 

A long time ago a person prayed over me and gave me these words:  “Deep calls to deep” (Psalm 42:7).  The Message translates this phrase, “chaos calls to chaos.”  I suggest you read the whole Psalm as well as the Psalm 43; the two Psalm were intended to be one.  You can find it in The Message here. 

When someone gives me a phrase or a verse like that, I usually take it seriously.  I’ve read this verse and the verses around it dozens and dozens of times.  I’ve never quite understood what it meant.  Oh I understand intellectually, but I have never understood how it applied to me.  I’ve shed plenty of tears.  I’ve had my name destroyed.  I’ve had all manner of chaos in my life.  I’ve certainly had life’s waves and breakers crash over me.  Was God just saying your life is going to be rough and hard?  Was He just reminding me of the truth of my life?

David suggested we write about practical ministry.  I started to write about pastoral ministry.  I think of pastoral ministry as very practical.  It’s the man or woman who will visit the hospital, will sit all night with the dying, will make sure you have food on the table, and that your spiritual appetite is fed as well.  It’s a difficult calling.  It’s often a thankless calling.

Every time I fill out one of those spiritual gifts inventories, I’m told I’m “pastoral.”  I have friends who try to encourage me and tell me I’m pastoral.  Depending on the person, sometimes I just smile.  Other times I give them my true feelings and tell them how discouraged I am.

Lately I’ve been thinking about pastors.  I’ve been wondering where they are?  There is not a week that goes by that someone doesn’t seek me out for counsel or prayer.  They seem to come from all sorts of places.  I’ve wondered at times, don’t they have a pastor?  I love it when people come to me.  After all, that is my gifting.  But I do wonder. 

Yesterday I was pastoral.  The day started with a call from the clerk at the hotel we would stay at in Columbia Missouri.  Often she would check us in.  Occasionally we’d chat.  I learned a bit of her story.  I gave her my card.  She called me.  Said she had been touched by me and wanted to see how I was.  I thought huh?  Then I got a call from the hospital, a friend needed transportation from the hospital after surgery.  I delighted in serving her and taking her home.  I spent time yesterday praying for these two women along with the friends who I love who are in deep need.

I may not have a title or a paycheck.  I want one.  I know that doesn’t sound very spiritual but it’s honest.  I don’t know how to be anything else but honest.  Nevertheless, I think I’m realizing that ministry doesn’t need a title or a paycheck.  As I look at a fellow seminary student sporting her new clerical collar, I am envious.  But today I’m laying that down and determining to Pastor the flock God gives me.

You may ask, what does that have to do with Deep Calls To Deep?  It has a lot to do with it.  As I share my chaos, my questions, my life, my reality, my vulnerability, my pain, the deepness of it calls out to those hurting.  They hear the familiar sound of their own pain.  Their heart says she’ll understand.  Then together we can learn to jump in the waves of life rather than being swallowed.  I may not have a collar, but I have a flock.   If you need a Pastor, I'm here.    

Monday, May 2, 2011

You're a Minister, Not A Spectator! - Tips for Partnering With God

So, you want to serve Jesus? I certainly hope so, I know I do!

I spent a major part of my Christianity in an "everyone gets to play" church atmosphere. Sure there were limits, but we were all trained to pray for others, teach basic doctrine, evangelize, and flow with the Holy Spirit. (HERE is more on that.)

This week, we didn't really have a topic, so you'll just have to stop by Kingdom Bloggers each day to see what you get! 

There are probably a few things that you should know before you get into ministry. The first is that it takes faith and might not go quite the way you envisioned. We have an adversary who is seeking to devour us, you can be sure of that. We also struggle with our flesh, along with the damage that has come to us from our sin, and the sin of others against us; we are not all that healthy.

Even Paul suffered as he partnered with God to take the kingdom back, as he was buffeted by the devil.

In Luke 22:31,32, Jesus warned Peter that Satan would sift him like wheat. But, Jesus had prayed for Peter; and Peter would eventually be restored to minister to the brethren. Though Satan would try, he didn't destroy Peter's destiny.

Possibly you just want a peaceful existence and you do what you can at your local church to serve others. I know I did. However; when you and I got saved we joined an army: the Army of God. Regardless of whether you chose to engage or not, there is a battle, and here are your marching orders.

Matthew 11:12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. KJV

Beyond what the devil is doing, and will continue to do until the end of time, there are some things that we can do to enter into a partnership with God that is effective and fruitful for the Kingdom.

After 30+ years as a believer, here are some things that I have learned about serving God. I hope you'll find them helpful. I have spent a considerable amount of time in church as a spectator showing up for services, meetings, home-groups and Bible studies - but Jesus asked us to serve Him, isn't it time to get out there?

-1 Random meetings (divine appointments) with Christians on the street have produced more ministry invitations than I ever had from attending a local church. 1 meeting turned in to 2 trips to Brazil where I ministered 2 or 3 times a day for weeks. The other was a guy I just decided help bring his belongings up to a third floor apartment; that "chance" encounter gave me 12 months of preaching and ministry engagements. You are the church, and wherever 2 or 3 come together...

-2 If you are going to choose a church to be a part of, find out what their vision is. They may have a heart for evangelism, a heart for pastoring and healing, or a heart for revelation. If your personal ministry vision is something that is unlike theirs, KEEP looking, keep asking God. If you are ready and willing to be used, then you'll need to be some where that can happen.

-3 Assess your ministry and spiritual gifts and see how they might fit into your local church. You and God need to work out your calling. It's worth the meeting to say to leadership, this is on my heart, and this is who I am, can you use me? I'd really like to serve Jesus here. You just might be the person they are looking for to lead a ministry.

-4 Ministry can easily flow out of relationship - and should! Have gatherings at your home and allow anyone to come. I tried home-groups, marriage groups and movie nights. God is about small beginnings-- don't despise them.

-5 Character and humility is essential, but not required. When God does use us, it is easy to get all big on ourselves. It happens, but don't disqualify yourself. Look at the credentials of Moses, Paul and Gideon.

-6 If you need a mentor or an equipper, press those that can help you. I had some wonderful experiences carrying the briefcase of a highly regarded minister. Another time, I drove a big name minister around my region for 4 days. I took him to dinner, carried his stuff, dropped him at meetings and at the hotel. I learned so much from that time.

-7 Prayer and fasting are different for each of us, just make it personal with God.

We often share personal stories here on KB, and here is a short one. While I was in the hospital a few weeks ago, there was a male nurse that came into check my vitals. I felt the Lord wanted me to pray for him. Trust me, I wasn't looking too good. It had been a few days since I had a shower, I had a myriad of cables connected to the heart monitor along with 3 IVs - not a very spiritual sight.

"Are you a Christian?" I asked.

He looked surprised, "Yes, I am."

"Could I pray for you?"

More surprise - "sure."

And so I prayed, asking Jesus to bless him in his work, and his family and children. I asked God to pour out his love on them, and touch his finances.

"How did you know I had a family?" he asked, a bit choked up.

"I didn't, God did." I replied.

He looked like he wanted to give me a hug, but it was certainly not possible. So he touched my hand and said, "God bless you."