Thursday, July 19, 2018

"The Verbs of the Shepherd"

You know that I am a “word” person. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the verbs of my shepherd in Psalm 23 are precious to me. God MAKES me to lie down, LEADS me to quietness, RESTORES my soul, GUIDES me in paths of righteousness, COMFORTS me in dark places, PREPARES a table before me even in the presence of my enemies, ANOINTS my head with oil. Yes, I am LED by the shepherd and FOLLOWED by goodness and mercy. These verbs are not only the promises and testimonies and heart-songs of David and not only mine that I claim, but be assured that they are yours as well.

The LORD is David’s shepherd. The LORD is my shepherd. The LORD is your shepherd. We are part of a wonderful flock. How sweet it is to hear the voice of our shepherd. How powerful it is to testify to his care for us and presence with us. Just as David’s words are to us, so might our words be for others.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

"7-17-18 ... Along My Way"

He was walking along my way today…walking too far in the street. He stopped and I swerved. He bent down to adjust his well-worn, fur-lined snow boots. 96F temps and he was wearing snow boots. I reminded myself that the man laughs and cries and hopes and fears just as I do. So I prayed for all who wear their possessions each day. O God, keep him safe.

He was walking along my way today… walking with a cane and struggling in his steps. The elderly man was wearing a pale green polyester leisure suit (when have I seen such a suit as that?). He stepped off the curb and almost fell back as a car drove by him. He shook his cane and shouted at the car. I reminded myself that the man laughs and cries and hopes and fears just as I do. So I prayed for all who walk alone when they shouldn’t be. O God, keep him safe.

He was walking along my way today… head down, staggering, holding tight to a half-empty liquor bottle. His opened shirt caught a breeze and flew into his face. It wasn’t easy for him to stagger and hold onto a bottle and struggle to keep his shirt out of his face. I reminded myself that the man laughs and cries and hopes and fears just as I do. So I prayed for all who stagger through life, in whatever way, for whatever reason. O God, keep him safe.

Yes, all three have laughed and cried and hoped and feared just as I have …. and all three are loved by God, just as I am. Thank you, O God, for such reminders (and oh, please keep them safe).

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Thoughts As We Welcome Our New Pastor .. Dr. Mary John Dye'

(Ephesians 4:11-16)

When I was a very young child (soooo long ago) there was always a “buzz” in the sanctuary of Broad Street UMC/Statesville, NC whenever our missionary to Hong Kong, the Rev. Lonnie Turnipseed, would come back to the States and worship with us. I would hear those around me whisper, “Lonnie Turnipseed is here!” Oh, I was too young to completely understand the work of a missionary, but I knew that it was God’s work. So, when he worshiped with us, I would search the sanctuary, hoping to catch a glimpse of “the missionary” ... the one who had created such a "buzz"!

About 8 years ago, after the worship service was over and most of the people had left, I heard the words "Lonnie Turnipseed is here!" I felt very much like a child in the sanctuary again. I looked around, hoping to see this person of my childhood. I saw him! He spoke to me for a few minutes and tolerated me telling of my childhood memories of his visits to our church.

It was then when I REALLY looked at this man and saw that there was no aura surrounding him or halo above him. I heard no angelic voices singing in the background. He was an ordinary man called to do God's work. I was looking into the face of Lonnie Turnipseed, but also seeing you and me and our pastors... ordinary people called to do God's work.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to hear a "buzz" in the sanctuary when it begins to fill for worship each Sunday? "Look, look around at all who are here. HE is called to do God's work! SHE is called to do God's work! Just look!"

Today will be such a day. Today I might feel like that child in the sanctuary again. There will most certainly be that “buzz” flowing through the sanctuary as we welcome our new Sr. Pastor, Dr. Mary John Dye, to Broad Street UMC in Statesville, NC. We celebrate all that God has called her to be as pastor and preacher and pointer-of-the-Way. We pray that the buzz that is flowing throughout our church tomorrow and into the community in days to come is not because of Dr. Dye’s presence alone but because of this wonderful partnership of pastors and staff and parishioners, living into who God has called us each to be.

Now THAT is buzz-worthy for sure!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

"A World of Difference"

She sat directly across from me at the table. We were cousins at a family reunion. I didn't know her well. I really only knew of her. She is older than I am - a different generation. What I did know about her was that she had a gentle, humble personality, that she loved her God and Jesus Christ, and was a tireless worker in her church. I looked at her and thought, "blessed are the meek".

You just don't place two rather quiet people together at a table and expect great conversation! Our visit began with a little small-talk. And then she looked past me for a brief moment as if remembering something long ago. She was doing just that. Her next sentence came from seemingly nowhere to me, but for her it came from deep within. "I don't know why my mother and father never took me to church. I have never understood that." She looked at me with the eyes of a child, not those of her actual years. She went on to say "If it had not been for Uncle Fred, I would never have gone to church". She now had my undivided attention for her "Uncle Fred" was my grandfather ... my Granddaddy Murdock.

As she continued, she told of my grandfather "showing up" at their house early one Sunday morning. He wanted to take her to church. He waited for her to get dressed. She didn't know what to expect. She was just a little girl. Each week he continued to stop by her house to take her to Sunday School. She told of the fun that she had and the friends that she made as a young child. She told of the youth group that became so important to her as a teenager. She told of the impact of those days on her life now as an adult.

I have only the memories of my grandfather through the eyes of the thirteen-year-old that I was when he passed away. What I do know of him was that he was soft-spoken, a little eccentric, a poet and musician, inquisitive, and an inventor. He was a Biblical scholar by his own study and knowledgeable well beyond his limited years of education. None of what I knew before about him was as important as what she was sharing with me.

That day, my cousin not only added to what I knew of my grandfather, but also taught me a great lesson as she bore witness to the importance of involvement in the lives of others. My grandfather, slightly over 5 feet tall, quiet and humble, made a world of difference in one child's life that Sunday morning many years ago. As she shared her story, I heard the words once again, this time in light of my grandfather - "blessed are the meek". There is strength in meekness. There is resoluteness in meekness. There is the heart of Jesus in meekness. And there is doing the will of God in meekness.

I'm humming as I type this morning - as I share with you the lasting effects of this one act of kindness long ago - that one "spark". The song seems to "fit".

It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.
That's how it is with God's love once you've experienced it;
You spread His love to everyone; you want to pass it on.

Know that to make a world of difference in a child's life is to make a difference in this world. It only takes a spark!


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Blurry Look at Life

Yesterday, my thoughts began with "LIFE becomes visible in the hour before people begin to head to work." This grey morning, LIFE seemed somewhat hidden, somewhat invisible, in the drizzle and on the wet streets.

Unlike yesterday, there was no one on a bike this morning (whether they wanted to be or needed to be). There seemed to be fewer cars on my route. There wasn't a soul walking along my way for me to offer a wave and a smile. Houses were dark. No lights filtered through their curtains. Even the cats that live in the empty lot and are fed by that unknown person in the "iffy" section were somewhere else this morning.

This morning, LIFE seemed to be me ... and the crows that were curious about a discarded McDonald's bag on the road ... and stoplights that seemed to take longer than usual to change from red to green.

LIFE was a little blurry this morning.

uch is life at times.

Life Becomes Visible

"LIFE" becomes visible in the hour before people begin to head to work.

 I saw a man, wearing dirty clothes that were way too large for him, struggling to ride a bike. But he peddled... and peddled ... and peddled. It was then when I noticed that he had no tire on the back wheel. Just a metal rim. Sigh.

And then, as I was picking up an iced tea for the day, the young lady at the window greeted me with a smile and "Good Morning" and sent me on my way with a "Have a blessed day." But between the smile, the good-morning, and the have-a-nice-day, I noticed the scars of healed slash marks going up the arm that reached out of the window to hand me the iced tea. Thankfully and beautifully healed.

And finally, as I made my way through the "iffy" route toward my office, I noticed the women were already out, walking the street, hoping ... just hoping for one man to stop.

Such is "LIFE" along the way at 7:00am , Monday June 25, 2018.

Friday, June 15, 2018

"Why the Reminder Now, O God?"

Why, O God,
are you reminding us
of the Holy Innocents

Why, O God …
Why must we remember 
Holy Innocents again …
the beautiful children who were
ripped from their parents’ arms
at Herod’s command?
Why have you brought them
to mind?

Sigh… the thoughts
of these children
seem so misplaced
on this lovely morning.

It is 
less painful,
less sorrowful
for sure
for us to close 
our eyes
to them.

Is it because
there are still
Innocents today, O God?
In our own homes,
in our own streets,
in our own cities,
and at our own borders?
Nameless and named?

Is it because
there are still
Innocents today?
and scared
and exhausted
and feeling hopeless?
Nameless and named?

Is it because
there are still
Innocents today?
Battered and bruised
in the very place
they call home …
confused and terrified
and facing separation
in the very place
they yearn to call home?
Nameless and named?

Why, O God …
Why must we remember
the Holy Innocents?

"Because, my child,
there are Innocents
in this world today,
mothers weeping
refusing to be
There are still
have both 
great power and
great fear
within them.”

“Amidst false claims
and misinterpretations
of my Words and Ways
and Love,
let me remind you ...
You did not learn 
this fear from me
nor did my Son
teach the slaughter
of the spirit 
and of the soul.

You must not forget
and you must not
look away."