"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Beware the Barberry

Okay, I titled my last post about 'Being God's; Being Worthy", but never got to addressing the thoughts I had. I guess there were too many rabbits running around in my head. So, I still feel like I need to share some of my Holy Week thoughts.

One of my favorite shrubs is the Barberry. I have several planted around my house, but the largest and nicest is at the entrance to my front sidewalk. The deep red leaves and long cascading limbs make an attractive plant, plus it is a low maintenance shrub (which appeals to me). During the winter, the foliage drops and reveals long stems covered with long thorns, so it is definitely a shrub to be respected.

Last week, I was doing a lot of work in the front shrub beds; trimming bushes, dividing hosta plants, raking out and replacing pine straw, weeding out those winter-hardy weeds, moving some rose bushes and never thinking about where the dreaded Barberry was located. All of a sudden, I felt quite a number of thorns penetrate the jeans and t-shirt I was wearing and impale me on this "favorite" shrub. After I extricated myself, I took the hedge trimmers to the Barberry with a vengeance previously unknown to myself. Afterwards, I realized that in my folly, I had only created more trimmings to pick up with thorns that penetrate even the thickest of gloves.

As I tried to get these evil thorny trimmings into the yard bag and suffering more and more thorn pricks, it suddenly dawned on me how much these stalks with thorns looked like the pictures of the Crown of Thorns that was forced upon the head of Jesus. I took a couple pieces and fashioned a circle of sorts and placed it on my head. Even when barely touching my hair, the thorns were already digging into my scalp, some of them drawing pinpricks of blood. And we know that the crown used on Jesus had thorns more like nails than like a yard shrub.

Yet, my Savior endured this Crown of Torment to be forced down upon His head by those with no compassion or thought for His pain. I realized that this crown was only one small part of the pain, humiliation and torture that He went through........for me and for you! Even after many years of belief and service to my Lord, I still cannot fully comprehend the reason. I still cannot comprehend the true meaning of the word, WORTHY. The dictionary only gives the earthly humanistic meaning and I can define it in terms of "I am worthy of getting this new job because I am the best candidate" or "You are worthy to receive this recognition because of the service you give to the community." Yet, this doesn't begin to explain to me how Jesus was worthy to die for me. This would come from a heavenly dictionary that none of us yet have access.

I sin every day. Even though this might shock some of you, it is true. I am a daily sinner. I do not deserve the friends I have, the possessions I have accumulated, the family of which I am a part, the gifts and talents which God has given me, or anything other thing which is mine. I'm grateful each day for the blessings which with God has given me, but I feel the sense of unworthiness. I do not deserve to be the recipient of all God has given; I do deserve the punishment for the sins I commit each day.

However, the Love and Grace of God took this punishment away from me and put it on His Son. Jesus didn't deserve it, yet He took it and bore it for me. The scriptures say the He was Worthy. Worthy to accept my sins on His head and body. That is grace, my friends. I've heard Grace defined as God's Righteousness At Christ's Expense. To me, that is just a bit too cutesy for what grace really is and the true definition is still far beyond my comprehension.

"But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." (Romans 5:8 NLT)

It's odd (in a funny way) how God reveals Himself in nature and teaches us lessons about Himself, if we are only paying attention. I guess that having the lower half of your body invaded by Barberry thorns is the only way God could get my attention that day. Even though the concept of the Worthiness of Christ is still not fully understandable to me, I accept this gift from God and will do my best to share His message with those around me.

What does it take for God to get your attention?

Be God's,

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Being God's; Being Worthy

"You are Worthy, O Lord our God, to receive Glory and Honor and Power. For You created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created......
He is Worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and blessing." (The Revelation 4:11; 5:12 TNLB)

As I have written before, there is much of the Jewish faith which I admire and respect. After all, this was the religion which laid the foundation for so many other religions, including Christianity. I admire the fact that teachers and students of the Jewish religion spend literally hours in fervent study and discussion over all aspects of the Torah, the Talmud and other writings. They are hungry for learning and discussing all they can about their faith. We as Christians (in my humble opinion), have fallen short of that fervency in many cases. Oh, we have our Bible Study classes, small study groups, discipleship classes, home groups, etc., but we all tend to watch the clock for when that hour or so of study and discussion will be over so we can get away.

However I have a friend, a High School student at my church (I'll call him Mook), who likes to debate every single jot and tittle of theology. Mook probably thinks I am some heretic because I will often engage him in discussions in order to make sure he knows why he believes what he says; or if Mook is just spouting books, commentaries, other people or websites. I cannot easily accept people who give opinions without having spent the time or effort to back up that opinion with beliefs other than books or programs on the "Discovery Channel". Recently Mook and I engaged in a conversation about the Creation.....whether God created the world in seven actual twenty-four hour periods or whether that the account in Genesis was just showing us that the Creation was in seven progressive steps.

My point to Mook was that I believe God created the world as the Scriptures say, but I have no problem if it was done in seven seconds, seven minutes, seven hours, or seven years. I don't know what the period called a day was before anything was created. In fact, there wasn't a day period....God created the day period when the sun and moon were formed. My comment in reply to Mook was that the important thing is the belief that God created the world as He said; not necessarily that is was done in twenty four hour periods. Not that it could not have happened that way, but that just doesn't matter to me in the grand scheme.

As a believer in Jehovah God, the important thing to me is the lifestyle we live. Do we show His Love? Do we live the greatest commandment according to the Jewish religion AND according to Jesus' teachings? That we should believe that "The Lord our God is one God and we shall love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our strength." (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). And then as Jesus added, " and the second commandment is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'." (Mark 12:29). This is what matters to me. There is only one God who loves me and wants my love in return and to do my best to love others as God created Love. After that, then to live a life according to His plan and guidelines for me and to lead others to a knowledge of God and His plan for their salvation.

This is a very special weekend to those of us in the Christian faith; the time of year we recognize and celebrate the basic tenet of our faith - that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the Messiah, who was killed by man, lay dead for three days, then came back to life in order to prove for all time that God is more powerful than even death itself. That God is more powerful that Satan himself because it was the evilness and sinful nature of mankind which killed Him. This event, this miracle of resurrection, is what gives me Hope for tomorrow and for my eternity which will be spent in God's presence. On this point, I am sure that Mook and I agree.

Hallelujah! Christ is risen indeed!

Be God's,

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Lessons Learned from My Dog

Do you ever wonder what good you are possibly doing for the Kingdom of God? After all, your day is full of work, school, car pools, soccer, baseball, church, homework, taking care of children or aging parents, trying to have some type of social life, etc. So, then you fall into bed at the end of the day and (hopefully) at least say a prayer and read a scripture at some point, but, you are dead tired and wonder what difference you have made in someone's life for God today? And how you can possibly do any better. And it can lead to a frustrating situation.

My dog Murphy taught me the other day that even a little bit done can make a difference. My grass is brown. Brown all over. Dead looking brown. A field of dead hay would look as good as my front yard. Crayola doesn't even make a crayon color with this same ugly shade of brown. Get the point? When I was walking Murphy one afternoon I noticed that there were all these little holes about an inch or so in diameter all over the front yard. While I wondered what in the world (or what alien being) inhabited my yard, I happened to notice Murphy walking across the yard to do what, well, to do what dogs do when they are outside. At least what they do after they sniff every available leaf, cigarette butt, wet paper and dead bug.

Anyway, I noticed that his feet were making these little holes as he walked across the barren dead yard. If you know me much at all, you know how even a shiny object can fascinate me for hours, so I started to look down into these holes to see what was in there. You know what I saw? I saw more dead grass. But, deeper down in there I saw little blades of green new life. The grass was growing!! It was just covered up with old stuff and Murphy was uncovering it! Over the next day or two, I noticed that where all these little Murphy footprints were, that the new grass was growing quicker and higher than anywhere else in the yard. Of course, it looks rather strange now to have all these little pockets of green in the midst of the brown, but they are there. They just had a little help from my terrier.

Now, where I'm going with this? Murphy was just going about his normal daily routine, doing what dogs do. His feet are little and hardly make a dent, but it was enough to open up a small space to let the light in and start new growth.

We are the same way. If we go about our daily lives, doing what we normally do at work, school, home, wherever we are, AND if we do it as we live Christ's example here on earth...we make that little dent in someone's life, let some of God's light in and allow new life to begin to grow. We don't have to teach Sunday School, sing in the choir, lead a missions group, or any other church "things" to do the Kingdom work. We just have to live, as Christ wants us to live, meet people where they are, and make that little dent in their lives.

The words to one of my favorite old gospel songs is below –
"Little is Much When God is In It". It says you don't have to be in the big fields of harvest, you can serve God wherever you are in the best way you can.

Read the words, pray the words, take them to heart and go out and make a dent in someone's life today.

“Little is much when God is in it,
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There’s a prize and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus’ name.”

Be God's,

Friday, March 18, 2005

My Tribute to Julie Andrews

These are a few of my favorite things.....
1. Working on a college campus on a Friday afternoon.
2. My blue, yellow and green striped sweater which is about ten years past the expiration date.
3. "Welcome home Daddy" kisses from Murphy.
4. A perfect cup of coffee in my blue Pig mug on the porch of a north Georgia mountain cabin overlooking the Great Smoky Mountains..
5. An evening of games and fun with friends.
6. Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
7. Anything patriotic.
8. Doing yardwork on a Spring day and having that tired, but fulfilled feeling that evening.
9. Shooting baskets on an outdoor court with the tunes turned up high.
10. The once a year cigar occasion
11. Early morning walks on the Gulf Beaches of Florida
12. Leaving church on a Sunday when you have really been with God.
13. Driving along the country roads with the radio turned high, windows down, singing with all your might.
14. Shane's BBQ or Chicken Tenders tossed in medium sauce.
15. Mountain biking
16. Good friends to just hang with, especially when it gets a bit rowdy.
17. Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll"
18. Toasted cinammon raisin bagel w/ peanut butter for outdoor breakfast at a sidewalk cafe in the Garden District of New Orleans.
19. DSL and wireless routers
20. Youth Choir tours
21. An early morning jog/walk with just my ipod for company.
22. Breaking into supposedly haunted houses and being scared to tears, but enjoying every moment of it.
23. Clean, cool and soft sheets when you hop into bed.
24. My Explorer
25. Chili's unending chips and salsa.
26. Finishing a musical program knowing that you played the best you ever have.
27. Engaging in some sarcastic reparte' with a friend who is as good as I am.
28. Tent camping and waking up to the smell of coffee and bacon.
29. Those pink coconut Snowball things.
30. Still being accepted by the teenagers even though I could be their much older brother (wink).

When Life Throws A Stinkbomb

For those of you who are NASCAR fans, I live about 10 miles from the Atlanta International Raceway.....to the south. I work about 30 miles from the Atlanta International Raceway to the north. That means on big race weekends, like this one, I have to leave work and sit in traffic for almost two hours to get home since I have to pass the main exit to the Raceway. Or, I can wiggle through the backroads with everybody else avoiding the expressway and still take two hours to get home, but at least that way I can stop at Shane's Rib Shack here in McDonough for the best BBQ and buffalo chicken tenders you'll ever eat. So, then as I inch closer and closer to home, at least I have a good meal to munch on in the car.

So, anyway, after sitting in various degrees of traffic for two hours, balancing a meal on my lap and glancing at the newspaper on the other seat, I was not in the best of humor when I finally got home. I know how Scarlett O'Hara felt when she was coming home to Tara during THE war and saw that it was the only house still standing and knew she was finally home. Home! What a wonderful word. So, I came in and took Murphy out for a nice walk while trying to calm down and look forward to a week of vacation ahead.

Coming back in the house, I called my parents and found out that my brother had been laid off his job today. My brother has had an extremely rough few years and just in the last seven months began to pull his life back together again and look forward to the future with a degree of hope. And now this....no reason given, just no more job. Naturally, he was discouraged and upset, but he had a rather optimistic attitude about it. As for me, I went through all the Kubler-Ross steps in about ten seconds and came out ready to do battle. Ready to form picket lines, descend upon the ogre's house with pitchforks and torches then to just stand there and scream at him for awhile....all this seemed like a very likely scenario to me. I sought refuge in Chocolate Double Fudge Brownie Ice Cream in my 'angst' bowl from my thirty pounds heavier days.

Why is "life" so seemingly unfair to those who need the biggest breaks? I know that I am feeling protective because he's my younger brother and I want only the best for him, but I also know that violence, arson and mayhem are not the most constructive means. I wish it were easy for me to turn it over to God, and then let Him take care of the situation. I am good at the turning over part, but just not good at the leaving it with Him part. Why is that? God has never broken a promise to me. He has always kept His promises to 'work all things together for good.' (Romans 8:28).

In my heart, I know that God will take care of my brother and provide him with something much bigger and better. Please keep him in your prayers that this will not be a setback in his life, but will instead be a step forward to a closer walk with God and a new and better career opportunity. God is good....all the time.

Be God's,

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

What Does Your Coffee Table Say?

If someone came into your house and looked around your house at the books lying around, what perception would they have of you? Last night, I was sitting on my sofa watching '24' (the best show ever!) and propped my feet up on my coffee table. Everytime I do that, there is always a stack of books and papers that I will push out of the way and last night, I pushed a bit too much and they fell on the floor. Grumbling, I got up to pick them up and stack them again and began to notice that the seven books were: two Bibles (The Message and a NASB version), The Purpose Driven Life, Encountering God (daily devotions by Henry Blackaby), The Five Love Languages for Single Adults (for a discipleship class I'm teaching), The Ragamuffin Gospel, and Twelve Ordinary Men (a study of the disciples).

As I noticed the titles, I thought to myself, "Wow, if someone looks at this stack, they would think I am quite the spiritual guy!". That thought amuses me.....not because I don't have a degree of spirituality about me, because I do ....but, I would also have to admit that I really enjoy reading some of the fluff and mindless novels more than the theological ones. Perhaps that is because I am currently in Seminary and having to read theological books and papers all the time and when I get a break, I want to read something that doesn't require a lot of soul-searching and/or thought. If you looked in my bookbag, you would find a Patricia Cornwell novel and a Dan Balducci bestseller. On the table by my bed is The DaVinci Code, My Descent Into Death and the latest Harry Potter (while anxiously awaiting the next edition in June). Basically, when it comes to books and to music, I have no taste. I will read just about anything and everything and will listen to classical, hard rock, some rap (thanks to Garret), Christian praise & worship, southern gospel and country music.

My overall life is about the same, quite eclectic and no particular rhyme or reason. I am a quite good musician with very little musical training. I have worked in Accounting for 26 years having never taken an accounting class ever and failed both High School and College Algebra because mathematics doesn't make sense to me. I can converse with passable Spanish, German and American Sign Language, but only because during periods of boredom I would buy a book and tape at the bookstore. I'm pretty stinky at golf, but I used to be really bad until Joe had extreme patience and helped me (because I was embarrassing him on the course). My humor is odd and quirky, often irreverent and sometimes not even understood. Somedays I will dress like a twenty-something, other days I can wear a tuxedo and pass for quite a dapper 50 year old man. However, my general mood and attitude is fairly constant and consistent unless you know the right buttons to push and I can snap like a rubber band (just ask Gabe about the button he found last weekend and caused me to open that can of whoop-gabe on him).

I guess my point is that I might tend to be a hard person to read and get to know....or as we say here in the South, a tish eccentric. But, the one thing I hope is always clear and seen is my walk with my God. He is my driving force, my reason for getting out of bed in the mornings and what keeps me from whirling out of control on some of the crazy days. He is my strength in the really weak times and my protection when the storms of life are crumbling my foundations. He is my laughter, my joy, my humor, and even at the core of my eccentricities. He is my God and I am His. I have seen Him do miraculous things in the lives of my friends and family. I have felt His Love surround and forgive me even when I deserved it the least. When I am angry with Him, He can handle it and gently (usually) leads me back to His side.

If you look around my house, you'll see a guy with a lot of different tastes and styles, but hopefully, you'll notice the coffee table first because that is where I do most of my work and writing. The coffee table is in the center of my living room which is the most important room in my house; the room of comfort, relaxation and where I am just being me. And my God is at the center of my life, where I am comfortable, relaxed and He knows the real me.

What does your coffee table say about you?

Be God's,

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Greatest Love

I enjoy war movies, especially when they are based on true battles in real wars. I love to spend a rainy Saturday watching the old war movies, like "The Longest Day", "Stalag 17", and "Kelly's Heroes". This past weekend I watched the new version of "Pearl Harbor" which was just released a couple of years ago. It is difficult to watch these movies and not feel the emotion well up as I see the strength, the commitment and the courage of these men and women who served our country during these wars past and continue to serve even today around the world.

I was not born during World War II or Korea and was in college during Vietnam, so I have never had the opportunity to serve our country in the military. However, the fact that I was not present during military action does not mean that I cannot appreciate the sacrifices of these fine men and women. I believe in their service even though I was not present to see or experience it. I know that these people serve because of their belief in and love for our country, even to the point of giving up their lives. This attitude and commitment is what overwhelms me and makes me proud to be an American.

Do we get the same sense of pride and commitment to serve our God? When our faith comes under attack in the office or the school or the neighborhood, do we stand firm and accept whatever comes? When we see un-Christian programming on the television or movies, hear it on the radio or read it in the media, do we write the companies involved and voice our concern? Do we have the same dedication and commitment to Christ as our soldiers do for our country?

In that sense, we who are believers do serve as soldiers for our God. Not necessarily in physical battles, but in the spiritual battles here on earth. We are to be representatives of our God and always be willing to lay down our lives for His flag of Truth and Life. Without the sacrifice of Christian men and women through the years, from apostles to missionaries alike, the message of Love, Hope and Joy would not have survived for over two thousand years. I would certainly hope that if the occasion were to arise, that I would be willing to give my all for His cause.

I am proud to be an American. I am proud of those who serve our country in dangerous times and areas so that we can enjoy the benefits of freedom of speech, of religion, and all the other rights we have. These people stay in my prayers daily. I am also proud to be a Christian; a part of the army serving the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the God we serve in 2005. Living safe and protected behind the walls of our homes and churches will not further His cause. Come out, join others and be willing to do whatever God asks, no matter the cost. The rewards are great.

God be with you, Kurt, you are in my prayers.

Be God's,

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Masks Off - Whiplash from Good to Bad in Thirty Seconds

For those of you who think "man, that Jimmy must really be a lucky guy. He seems to have everything going for him, a charmed life, always happy, etc. etc. etc". Well, from my heart to yours...... Blah Blah Blah!

Today is a crappy day and I have no idea why (well, that's a lie, I do know, but I'm far too smart to divulge it here). The day started off fine, but then, all it took was receiving one phone call and then letting a smidgen of self-doubt and cynicism (my Eeyore side) to creep in and WHAM!! The sun went in, the clouds came out and I am now officially in a stinky mood. And, ya know, I think I will make the most of it today. It's been a long time since I've had one like this and I think I deserve a bad mood day, so I will make the most of it. I shall sign off now with great joy and let the rest of you get back to your wonderful lives while I move to Australia with Alexander.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Alien Inside of Me - Part One

"But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind." (James 1:5-6)

Raise your hands if you remember the scene in "Alien" where the baby alien bursts forth from the scientist's abdomen? I remember sitting there thinking and knowing what was about to happen, but could not look away until it was too late. Gee whiz, Beav, I bet that must of hurt a lot!

Do you ever feel that way? Like something is growing and gnawing at you from the inside and you just either want it to come on out because you don't think you can keep going like this? I have had this experience several times (not the alien bursting forth) where I had this feeling growing and gnawing and growing and gnawing until I wasn't sure what was to happen next. Being someone who was diagnosed years ago with generalized anxiety disorder, the feeling is somewhat similar, but (if you can believe it), much more intense in some ways. You can't sleep, you can't focus at work or at home, you can't pay attention to a television show or to conversations because of this all pervasive feeling you have.

Do you ever stop to ask God what might be going on? Or do you stay so busy that you push Him to the back of the line. Perhaps He is trying to tell you something, maybe He is convicting you of some attitude or behavior, He could be trying to lead you in a way that you are (even unconsciously) resisting. In my case, sometimes He is just trying to tell me to slow it down and take it easier on myself. Many times we tend to think if God is trying to talk with us that it must be to 'call us' to some far away country, but often He just wants to remind us of His love and concern for us. He might actually have something good for us to do, but we just keep ignoring Him.

I have had a gnawing in my spirit for awhile now about this whole blogging and writing deal. However, two writers named Fay Jacobs and Marc Acito; people whom I have never met but have read their columns and articles for several years inspired me to begin. We have corresponded on occasion and by their spirit, they have encouraged me to just write; to not try and make a big deal out of it and plan it till you are stressed out, but just get a pad and pen and write. Then go back and make sense of what you have written. Just look at what is going on around you and see what lessons there are to be learned.

My spirit is calmer these days except for the excitement about the future. The greatest novel ever to be written is still basically inside me, with some bits and pieces down on paper. I am actually a newspaper columnist now (which still amuses me) and will be able to use that outlet to share God with many more people in this county. I just pray that any pride or ego of mine will never get in the way of the message that needs to get out there.

But, what is gnawing at you? What is keeping you awake at night? What are your worries and concerns? It may be health, or family, or jobs, or indecision about a career change. It might be worry concerning finances, feeling alone, or being pulled in too many directions by too many people. I am certainly no expert on these things except for having lived through many of the above and learning that Through It All, there is always someone to whom you can turn. Claim the following verses:

I Peter 5:7 "Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for You."
Isaiah 41:10 "Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God."

I am a single adult man living in a very married 2005. I have a close family, more friends than I deserve, a great church fellowship and a terrier with an attitude the size of most island nations, yet I am a single Christian guy with all the issues and emotions involved. However, I do not see this as a problem, but I see it as an opportunity to stay closely tuned to God and what He wants for me to do for His Kingdom.

I encourage all of you when the gnawing begins, to find that quiet space with God and ask Him for His guidance. He will not let you down. Ever.

Be God's,

Masks Down - Question #1 revisited

Okay, okay. Everybody has been fussing because I took the first question off the blog, so I'm gonna put it back on! I was just worried that you may think I was having problems with my church, which is not the case at all.....but, it was a point that at times I do feel that people in the secular workplace are more honest and real to deal with than the Christians we have in our churches. I always know where my co-workers are coming from in our association with each other, however, the same is not always true with our church family. They get caught up in the whole "God Loves You" mindset while they are painting a target on your back. It's like a little girl I taught in church kindergarten years ago who stood there singing "Jesus Loves Me" which she was pinching the tar out of the kid standing next to her.

At least we can expect that behaviour from our work environment at times. Are masks more acceptable in the secular world than in the Christian world? We know how to play the politics and games there. However, we get caught off guard when it comes from a Christian brother or sister. So, continue discussing amongst yourselves, just don't try to figure out to whom I may be referring.....if I am referring to someone.....and I might be.....but, then again, I might not.

Be God's,