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

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Thinking Back, Looking Forward

My parents recently bought some new furniture for their screen porch and I inherited a pair of old metal chairs in the process. These chairs are as old as I can remember and are the good substantial type of chairs that you can no longer buy. I remember many evenings and weekends spent on the back patio or the front porch sitting in these chairs just watching cars go buy, watching planes fly over and waving to all the neighbors when they passed. I dreamed of 'what I was going to do when I grew up' in them, studied for school, visited with family and friends, watched my sister flirt with the guy working on the street sewers and, well, you can tell the chairs saw a lot of our family life.

Today has been a great day in the Atlanta weather scene.....the type of day we long for when the hot and muggy summer finally arrives in full force. I was sitting out on my front walk this evening and as I slightly rocked back and forth, my mind drifted back to so many things from days gone by that I miss and will never experience again. It was not a maudlin time of sentimentality, but an enjoyable walk down memory lane. So, without further ado, here's my top list of things I miss the most:

1. Starting with the obvious, I miss the full, thick head of hair I had in earlier years.

2. I miss playing outside until after dark with the neighborhood kids and hearing all the screen doors slam open as our Moms would call us home in unison.

3. Playing the outdoor games like "Swing Statue", "Red Light", "Red Rover", Wiffle Ball and the skateboard of my generation which was a 2x4 with your old metal roller skates (you know, the kind with the skate key) nailed to the bottom of the board. You couldn't turn or manuever, you just went where gravity took you.

4. The thrill of going to Sunday School in the children's department because you knew there would be a cool flannelgraph lesson and Kool-Aid and butter cookies to stick on your fingers.

5. I miss eating dinner with my family every night around our old rectangular pine table my Dad built. No television was allowed during meals (and still isn't) and now I realize now that the 'forced' communication between us was more important than staring at a (then) small black & white screen.

6. I miss our Saturday night rituals of Spaghetti for supper, watching "Lost in Space" afterward, baths for all, then studying our Bibles and putting some change in our offering envelopes for church the next morning.

7. I miss the innocence of childhood - when I believed that Live Atlanta Wrestling was real and when there was an actual Birthday Bunny to bring presents (what can I say...my family is a bit on the freelance side).

8. Catching lightning bugs in a jar, chasing small frogs down the street, swinging on a rope swing across the creek, sitting in our treehouse with my girlfriend and reading Hardy Boy (me) and Nancy Drew (her) books, riding go-carts all over the neighborhood, and taking swimming lessons in a pretty nasty green-tinted pool.

9. I miss the education of all levels of school; elementary, secondary, university and seminary. My mind thrives on stimulation and I never want it to grow stale.

10.I remember the thrill of learning to play the piano, the awesome revelation that this gift came from God and the worship that it still brings me each Sunday as I play for my church.

11. I miss the days when all we had to worry about was whether to buy Goobers or Raisinets at the moviehouse down the street, not whether the language was going to be foul or the violence too gruesome. Kids today grow up far too quickly.

12. PONG, my first Apple IIE computer and my favorite fountain pen that would release my mind and heart onto paper.

13. Cruising up I-16 and I-75 on the way home from college, windows down on my '65 Chevy Impala and the 8-track blasting the best tunes possible.

14. How excited I was to get my first job out of college making a whopping $100/week. I could actually go buy my own ice cream at Dairy Queen.

15. I miss all my friends from the church youth group in high school and my gang from college. Many of them I still keep in touch with, many have passed from this life and many I always wonder where they ended up.

16. Being stupid enough to think a group of juniors in high school could actually hijack a school bus for a joyride and not get into trouble.

Folks, as memory after memory flashed back while I sat rocking slowly in the front yard, I realized that no matter how cruddy things may get each day, that the SAME God who was with me during my younger years is the SAME God who is with me today. At the time many of the above was happening, they didn't seem to be so great, but now looking back they were way cool. In another few decades as I look back on these years, I know I'll be led and comforted by the SAME God as today. The SAME God who led Abraham, Isaac, Joseph and Moses....who spoke to Paul on his way to Damascus....who revealed himself as a man in the person of Jesus....who died for me (ME!), defeated the bonds of death and is now preparing a future that my human mind cannot conceive.

Think back , look forward and remember that God is the one constant through it all. Regardless of whether your life has been good, bad or tragic; if you know God personally then your hope is bright and your future is eternal.

Oh yeah....I survived the DiscipleNow weekend with only a couple scrapes and bruises. The 12th grade guys I led were the best group yet and I think I was blessed more by them than they were by me. Well, except for the "Night of the Full Moon" (if you know what I mean). And then there was that whole Karaoke birthday party thing (more on that later). Thanks Seth, Cam, John, Jamey and Cade for letting this old man into your world for those few days and being the fine Christian young men that you are.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Disciple NOW!

We're entering an exciting weekend at our church. This is DiscipleNow, a time when small groups of middle and high school students withdraw into various homes from 7pm on Friday until 9am on Sunday. They spend time in fellowship with each other, intense Bible study and spiritual thinking and learning more about being a teenaged disciple on their school campuses. For the fifth year, I am privileged to be one of the teacher/leaders of a group. This year I have the 12th grade guys and they have more love for God and excitement about living His Way than almost any group of teenagers OR adults I have ever encountered.

Oh, they'll be plenty of typical teenage stuff....you know....no sleeping, various and sundry embarassing pranks and I'm sure some of them will involve their adult leader, however, I have no doubts that appropriateness will never come into question.

My group has five guys - Seth, Cameron, Jamey, Cade and John. The Adairs are hosting us in their home where we'll sequester in an upstairs bonus room with sleeping bags, pillows, smelly teenage feet, Bibles, prayer journals and worship. I love these fellas like they were my own kids and look forward to the next couple of days even though it will probably involve very little sleep and being totally embarrassed at playing basketball, soccer and whatever else they do in the break times.

I ask for your prayers for not only my group, but for all the groups from our church. We've got 130+ teenagers, plus leaders, home host and co-hosts. This annual DiscipleNow weekend is always a pivotal time for our students and God will continue to honor our efforts to train up this next generation.

If I survive, I'll be giving some updates and highlights next week!

Be God's-

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Thugs Meet the Geezers

Just when you start to think that the world is going to hell-in-a-hand-basket, one of the local restaurants around the McDonough Square was the site to show several of us that we still have a toehold on all things good and true.

Several weeks ago, two friends of mine were eating at one of the local eateries on the square with several member of their family, all senior adults. They had not been together for a long time, so there was much catching up and laughing involved during their luncheon and some younger and tougher looking construction-type workers who were also eating noticed this frivolity.

Now, in many places around the country, this could have easily led to a confrontation between the generations about ‘whose rights are being violated to eat a quiet lunch’. At some point during the meal, the tough guys commented to the senior adults about the fun they seem to be having and a congenial conversation followed. This in itself was a good thing, but the best was yet to come.

The young tough guys finished their meal, paid their bill and said good-bye to the older folks and wished them a good day. To the surprise of the senior adult group, the waitress came over and told them that the younger guys had paid their food bill in full and said the guys remarked that when ‘they were that age that they hoped to be able to have so much fun.”

Who saw that coming? We see all the growth in Henry County and all the diversity that is bringing to our communities. Unless we can learn to understand and accept these differences in religion, ethnicity, lifestyle, economics, etc, then we will become like so many of our counties to the north. Again, who wants that to happen?

The young tough-looking guys at lunch could have easily been misconstrued as thugs, gang members, or redneck trash. But, they were not. They were nice young men who work hard for a living with families and friends just like you and me. The senior adults in the same restaurant could have been seen as a bunch of loud old geezers who ought to stay at home and not be on the roads. Not so, because they are a group of family who enjoyed getting together and catching up on a sunny day in McDonough. When the groups met, a simple word called respect came into existence.

Aretha (and the Beatles) introduced us to the term several decades ago, but God gave it to us several centuries ago. The basic word here is “RESPECT (a/k/a) LOVE”. Love others, treat them as you want to be treated, don’t judge others because you may be judged yourself. These are all words that God gave us by which to live. So your neighbors look or live differently than you, respect them and try to find some common ground on which to meet them. Someone has a crying child in a restaurant or store? Don’t give them evil death looks, but put yourself in that parent’s shoes for a second and smile. Let them know you do have some compassion in your heart for their struggle.

Do you promise to try harder this week? Promise? I hope you will because I can promise that you’ll make a world of difference in someone’s life. Just like the group who had their meal paid for few weeks ago; they are still talking about those nice young men and how thankful they were. It made their day.

And for today my friends, this is the gospel according to Jimmy.