"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi
Hi friends,Just got word today that my Dad has been diagnosed with Myeloma - a cancer of the bone marrow. He will begin chemotherapy next week. My Dad is 82 and in great health, so the doctors are optimistic that they can put this into a remission after the chemotherapy. Please pray for my Dad and Mom as they face these next few weeks. It's gonna be a rough one, but I know that God will be with them.JimmyOkay...it's now almost midnight - probably 7 or 8 hours after the above post. I'm not able to sleep. This is the times when being single and living alone really sucks (pardon me, but sometimes it just comes out). I don't even have Murphy around to distract, yet comfort me. I'm worried and scared about (now) both my parents having cancer. My mom has a slow growing form of leukemia (CLL) and even though her tests are still turning out okay, it's still there. And now my dad has cancer again. I'm the oldest of the brood and my role has always been the stoic, hold it all in and keep things together for everyone else in the family. You'll rarely hear me talk about all this, never see me lose control of any emotions and on the surface I handle things very well. But, on the inside I am really really hurting. Even though many of you readers know me, I feel I can be this transparent a little easier in this forum. Don't ask me about this post, because I probably will not want to discuss it....that's just the way I am. Someday, sometime, someplace, I will have my time to let things out, but it's not the time now. I'll probably be a bit more withdrawn and quiet for a season while I get my thoughts and emotions in order and under control, but I will be okay. My God is in control of all situations. He will take care of my family and of me. He will give me the strength when I need it most and the wisdom to know what I must do. He will give me the ability to take care of my parents, brother and sister and then help me to take care of myself when it is time. God, I hate this. I mean, I really hate this.
The Curse of the Cowlick
I've never been one to care about hair. At the risk of being called out by N.O.W. or punched by some woman at the mall, it doesn't matter to me how much trouble a woman has with her hairstyle, as long as it looks good when she's in public. I have never read or done much research into the problems and methods of women and their hair, but one thing that I do know is that the same concern of hair appearance and style have now struck the world of men. I have buddies who use more products on and in their hair than they have athletic shoes. What the heck?At first glance, you would quickly realize that my hair is certainly not my priority in life's great scheme. It stays generally short and where I can just run a brush or my fingers through it in the morning and go - the lower maintenance, the better. Rarely does a product other than shampoo become involved in my morning ablutions and if it is a genuine bad hair day, then, well... that's why they make ballcaps, right?As a young boy, I was plagued by a cowlick. You know, that little tuft of hair that sticks straight up or grows sideways to every other hair and there is no product short of duct tape that will keep it in place. It was the bane of my existence and every adult woman that passed me would always ooh and ahh talk about that "cute little cowlick". I hated it with a passion and was so thankful in my later teenage years when it finally went away. Or, so I thought....I have noticed over the past couple weeks that something strange was happening in my hair and assuming that it was just a result of my last haircut (given by myself late one night), I just glopped a little gel on it and went on. Well, the past couple of days, even the gel just laughed when it saw that spot where it was about to go. So, today I headed to the local style shop to have a professional cut this abnormality and restore my normal appearance. What to my horrified ears did she say? "Oh, I see you have a cute little cowlick up here!". NO! NO! NO! It was back. From the lurking pre-adolescent traumas of inferiority and rejection, the cowlick was back. "But, I'm in my fifties," I protested to the stylist. She laughed (laughed, mind you), "Well, sir, many times those cowlicks reappear from time to time in a person's life and it sure looks like yours is back - and with a real attitude." When I got home and began looking in the mirror, I fully expected to see the return of acne and those awful black and silver glasses that we band nerds seemed to embrace.During the years, I have known many friends from earlier years that have left the church and are not actively serving God in any visible form. They claim to still be a believer, and I cannot judge that, but their words and lifestyles do not reflect that belief. As a child, they loved and believed in God; but as they began to grow and see the world, their faith and actions came under other controls. It wasn't cool to be a Believer and they began to dampen and try to contain their beliefs."Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)In this proverb, the Teacher tells us that the way we are raised as a youngster, even though we may depart from it (go into a sense of dormancy, try to quench it), when we become older we will return to the ways and beliefs of our youth. In other words, at some point, the things we wanted most to ignore once again becomes a part of our lives. God is always there and waiting for us to return to the prominent place in our lives.As today progressed, I have tried to accept and bond with my returning cowlick. It was a part of my youth and now it has returned. Has someone you love and care for left the ways of God through the years? Claim the promise in Proverbs. Over the recent ten or fifteen years, I have seen long-time friends returning to church so that their children can learn the ways of God. They are once again worshipping and taking an active role in the life of the local fellowship. Why don't you be the cowlick in someone's life and help them return to their childhood. And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.
People of Vision
Back in the spring of 1973, I was strolling along the sidewalks of Old Towne Augusta, Georgia while spending the weekend away from college with friends. Up ahead, we saw the neon flashing of "Ask Madame Lucia - She Knows Your Future." What college kid can avoid such an enticing thing as having your fortune read by some (gifted) woman on a hot Saturday afternoon along the riverfront in an old eastern Georgia town? So, we went in, plunked down a few dollars before Madame Lucia (who looked old enough to be qualified as "Crone Lucia"), and she began the process of looking at our palms and into her somewhat smudged crystal ball to determine the futures of three rather clueless college boys. Needless to say, I never met and married a hot girl named "something starting with an S", my bank account has never gotten into the six figures (even counting the decimal), and all my limbs are still attached. Did I think Madame Crone could really have a vision about me or my buddies? Nah, it was just something fun to do, but as we've kept in touch through the years, we always go back to the vision Lucia had for us and share a good laugh. Is it possible for people to have visions? Certainly, it is. I think of people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers of our country. Men like Lewis & Clark, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Gates and even Donald Trump. Women like Clara Barton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucille Ball and yes, Oprah. These people had visions for a better world and opportunities, then effected the changes to allow the process to begin. They did not allow the naysayers to stop them and they ignored gender and racial lines in order to make a more better society for us all (ed: yes, I know that more better isn't the most acceptable grammar, but it just seems to fit sometimes).In Proverbs 29:18 we are told "Where there is no vision, the people perish." In his wisdom, the Teacher knew that people had to live and dream for a better tomorrow or else we would become stagnant and finally wither down to nothing and die. This is true of people, corporations and churches. We've all seen it happen and often try to place blame everywhere except for where and on whom it may be accurate.I have been blessed over the past seven years to be part of a church with a visionary Pastor and Staff. I daresay that a day, or probably an hour, has not passed that Pastor Rick is not thinking of a new ministry and a more effective way for our church to reach our community for Christ. Never compromising the Scripture and never bowing to the current trends of "entertainment worship", our Pastor leads his staff and congregation with the integrity and transparency of a true man of God. Before you think that all is rosy and wonderful in the land of Salem, there are those who do not agree or do not understand the direction we may head. However, they are (usually) faithful enough to hang around, continue supporting the church and not do a lot of harm. I have learned that a true visionary always anticipates the negative aspects, keeps his or her ear tuned to the people and is willing to discuss and listen to those with concerns. A person with vision is also unafraid of positive confrontation in order to smooth the path for all peoples. As one of my heroes once said, "The needs of the many often outweigh the needs of the few." Rick and his wife, Miriam, have just marked their tenth anniversary at Salem. It has been a period of unimaginable growth, both spritually and numerically. His belief in the importance of worship has grown so that we now offer three types Sunday morning worship services - one is Traditional, one is Contemporary and one is a Blending of the two. Rick's belief in the importance of discipleship, evangelism and missions has led to classes, training and trips in order to accomplish these tenets literally around the world. His wife Miriam has always been supportive of her husband and the church, working willingly to help raise their children while teaching in the public schools, leading Bible Study classes, taking part in various other programs and ministries of the church and being an example of the Godly woman that every man should pray to have. Thank you, Rick and Miriam, for giving of yourselves to our church and I pray for your continued leadership and yielding to God's plans for your life.Now, I think that God has given us all a degree of vision. It may be for our family, our jobs, our hobbies and pastimes, our friendships or for our churches. If we are receptive to His vision for our lives, then we will have success. If we ignore or stifle the vision God has given us, then our spirit dies. I am the first to admit that I have not always been the most receptive to God's vision for my life and I've dealt with the consequences. Whose vision should I follow - Madame Lucia or God? Not one thing that Madame Lucy told came true, plus she charged me $5. Everything God has told me has come true and His gift doesn't cost me a penny. He payed the price through His Son, Jesus. So, again......Lucia or God. It's up to you.And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.
The Book Cover (at least if approved)
Well, here's a copy of what I hope to be the cover of my book when it finally emerges from my laptop and gets to Lawton House. What do you think??? My thanks to a good friend, Linda Patrick for her hard work for a very picky author in coming up with this design. Things are looking up a bit in Jimmy-world, so I thank you all for your prayers and support. Hopefully, in the next few months, I'll have more definite information about the potential publishing and release dates. So, for now...this is the COVER according to Jimmy.
And the Hand of God continues to Form Me....
"Thou art the potter, I am the clay."You know, it seems that by the time you reach a certain age and point in life that God would certainly have either gotten you to the place He wants you to be, or would have just finally given up. Just my luck, I am becoming more and more aware that He hasn't given up on me as of yet. These past weeks have been a tough period of the breaking of my will while God tries to teach me something that I obviously have not caught onto yet. Just a brief recap of what I'm figuring out then I'll ask for your prayers and support while I continue to seek God's way. It's a painful time for me, but that's the beauty of finally yielding to God.....when the Potter finally gets the clay to the place He wants, the calm and peace is a beautiful place. My problem is that I continue to try to second guess God and do what I think I want to do. The new (post-retirement) job is wearing me out....physically and spiritually. Since the first of October, I am working 7 days a week and averaging 60 hours each week. I keep thinking that it will get better, but nope...I think this is about the way it is gonna be. My daily time with God is being replaced by spreadsheets, payroll and a couple hours of quick sleep before the next day begins. My writing is suffering because I am so tired that my creative juices are replaced by the need for sleep (which is becoming non-existent). The book is way behind schedule and I'm not sure I've got the energy, desire or time to finish it.There were three things that I've always wanted to do when I retired:1. To finish up my seminary degree (I just got notice that the school placed me on inactive status since I am not up to date for their schedule of degree completion). There is just not time nor funds for me to continue the education. 2. To return to an area of vocational ministry. All the doors for that have been shut as I approach them. Not just shut, but sometimes slammed in my face.3. To be able to write and share what God has taught and is teaching me through the daily adventures I seem to have. That I have done through this blog and was hoping to accomplish through my book.....and as I said earlier, the book is looking further and further away. This is the part that hurts the worst. So, all the above things that I wanted for myself are now pretty much squat. I have parents who are aging that I would like to spend more time with, but I don't have the time. I'd like to have an evening to just chill out in front of the fire with a good book, but there's no time. I would like to get another dog, but.....he'd definitely be a lonely pup. (ok...whine time is now over).God knows what He is doing. I don't. I have found myself trying to put deadlines on what to do....such ask, how long to give myself before I look for another job with less hours and much less stress. Again, I need the patience and wisdom to just rely on God and search for His will for my life. I need to get back into His Word on a regular basis. Above all, I need His calm assurance that things are gonna work out. Thanks to so many of you faithful friends and readers, I have somewhere to turn when I need to get things off my heart and into my (and your) prayers. Thanks for your constant encouragement to me.Jimmy