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

Saturday, October 29, 2005

How Much Can A Church Do?

Well, it's been quite awhile since I've been able to be with you folks, so I thought I'd catch you up on what has been going on here in Jimmy-world.

After the car wreck in the previous post, I finally recovered from the injuries and all the glass has finally worked out of my arm and scalp. I've purchased a new vehicle that my family approved was not a rollover risk and even though I miss the size of an SUV, I've enjoyed being back in a car again. The new post-retirement job is going well. A picture of my church is above and I'm working as the Administrative Assistant to the Minister of Administration. It's a lot of work, but with a church the size of Salem, there is a lot of variety each day to keep things interesting.

There's one area that I didn't really know was part of the job until I started (isn't it funny how some things get left out of the preliminary discussions?). This is to be the first contact for people seeking benevolence from the church. There isn't a day that goes by that someone doesn't call or come by needing assistance with housing, utilities, automobile repair or gasoline, clothing, food, or any number of other needs. It is a sad commentary on our society that we have to first determine whether these people are legitimately in need or not, but it has to be done. Perhaps in smaller towns, this is not a concern, but in the metropolitan Atlanta area (and especially being close to Interstate 75), churches get quite a number of scammers. Thank goodness that our church doesn't receive too many. The majority of people are genuinely in need of care and help. They have been laid off their jobs, many are still unable to return to homes damaged by the recent hurricanes, others are just overstretched with their obligations, many want only to find food or clothing for their children. It hurts my heart many times to sit with them and hear their stories of need and it being an area in which we as a church cannot help. If so, I refer them to other organizations in the area which can and will help, but I still have the feeling that we as a church have failed in our mission.

The purpose of the Church (in my "non-theologically educated" opinion), is to meet people where they are, to love them as Christ loves us, and then to begin to reach them for Him. How else can a hungry person know about the Bread of Life that can fill them? How else can a person who is about to lose their home know about the Shelter in the time of storms? How can a child who is regularly beaten or abused by their parents understand about a loving Father? I struggle with this each time I talk with someone.

My day is interrupted and my 'job' falls behind each time the phone rings or someone comes in for assistance and if I have to turn them away or refer them, my heart is burdened. But, for the ones that we can help (and there are many), the Joy in my heart is full that for this one person God's people have not let them down. I try to always encourage them to become involved in some church somewhere in their area and always try to pray with them for God's Hope and protection in their struggles. Yep, my frustrated minister wannabe thoughts are coming out. We should never become so legalistic in "doing church" that we become too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.

I hope and pray that someday all churches everywhere; Christian, Jewish and Muslim will be able to do as Paul requested in I Corinthians 9:22 - "I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ."

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy (and I promise that I'll be back to more regular writing!)

Sunday, October 09, 2005


As I think back to my last post and to the days ahead, I come more and more to the realization that all I want is Jesus. He is my hope, my past and my future. Enjoy one of the most meaningful songs to my personal worship. If you can, listen as you read below.

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Oy! What a Month!

Most of you know that about a month ago I was offered a position at my church working for the Minister of Administration. Thus began the process of my retirement with 27.111 years of service at the University.....and the mounds of paperwork and the attempt to train for a new job and leave my former job in good condition for my replacement.

My final day came a week ago following several days of luncheons, farewells and the final huzzah of a retirement reception with hugs, tears, gifts and a very bittersweet drive from a campus where I had spent the majority of my adult life and had, hopefully, made a positive mark. I had a good career there and was looking forward to taking the 'next step'.

It seems that in most of the major events of my life, I am not content with just the mundane and routine way of doing things. Drama and Flair always seems to accompany me. Such as my retirement. It apparently wasn't enough to retire from a good job and have a nice drive home reflecting on the friendships and good times. Oh no, THAT would be far to ordinary for me. I just had to spend my last commute sideswiping a telephone pole and rolling my SUV almost three times and slinging all the contents of my 27 years all over the road and sidewalk. Yeah....that's me, do it with Flair! The police came, the paramedics came, they picked glass out of my arm, scalp and legs, flushed more from my eyes, made me perform all types of balancing acts and realized I was not seriously injured to warrant a mandatory trip to the closest ER.

All frivolity and joking aside.....I cannot comprehend how I walked from this wreck without serious injuries or even death. I was attempting to avoid the car in front of me who stopped suddenly and went to the sidewalk, hit the telephone pole and in attempting to gain control of the car, began the rolling that my mom always worried about. As I saw the windshield shatter and begin caving in I covered my face with my hands and arms, lowered my head to rest on the steering wheel and put myself in God's Hands. When it all ended, I realized I was alive, just bloody and contorted in a position not normally found in nature. Four good samaritans were already at the car and helped me out through the windshield, had called the police and was picking up some of my belongings from the highway to be out of further harm.

All the police and paramedics were amazed that I was alive and basically uninjured. I told them it was God protecting me. A lady walked down the sidewalk and was looking around the car and asked if the driver was alive. I told her it was me and I seemed to be fine. She started to cry and asked if she could give me a hug and say a prayer for God's blessing and protection. So, there on the side of a major highway in Friday traffic, this big ole white guy was hugging, praying and crying with a little skinny black lady. She was the angel I needed at that moment. She was from the projects nearby; I live in the suburbs. Her shoes were full of holes and ragged; mine were Doc Martens that probably cost more than she has to buy groceries for a month. Her clothes were ill-fitted and tattered; mine were Ralph Lauren and Izod. Yet, she was praising God that this man she has never met or will ever see again was safe She didn't see me as a person, just as a child of God. The hug, the tears and the prayer led me to realize that God was still in charge of my life and definitely has more for me to do.

The next day when I went to the tow yard to finish cleaning out the car, the young man who led me through all the wrecked and junk cars was also amazed that I was in decent condition. As I walked around to the driver's side to reach in, he made the comment that "obviously that cross and fish on my rear bumper protected me.....or rather, the One who they represent kept me from being hurt". Again, an angel of sorts, reminded me of God's protection from harm and that more and better things are yet to come.

Since last weekend, I've started the new job which is going great, the soreness and stiffness is lessening each day, the bruises are fading and most of the glass has finally worked itself out of my scalp and arm. My body is healing, but my soul is still feeling very unworthy of God's mercy and protection. I know I don't deserve the blessings I have and especially the blessing of walking away from this wreck, however, on several occasions these past few days, the scripture from Jeremiah 29:11 has been interjected into my life. God has plans for me (and for you).....plans for good and not for harm. Today I have another vehicle to drive and a new beginning in my life. But most importantly, I have been reminded rather Dramatically and with Flair that "God is Good...all the time. And all the time...God is Good!"

And so for today with a most grateful heart, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.