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

Thursday, February 25, 2010

All things being human.....

Well, it's been a week since I began observing Lent by the giving up of unnecessary computer time...Facebook, games, etc., and giving that time to more Godly pursuits....study, service, etc. The week has been tough at times (especially late evenings) because that is my normal FB and gaming time. All things being human, I must confess that I slipped yesterday. I had to do some research for a library guest about the local Lion's Club which involved my logging into Facebook for the information. The computers in the libraries here are blocked from the social networking sites and the patron came to the Reference desk and asked for my help. I did so without hesitation because it was a part of my job and job-related issues were exempt from my observance. However....I failed to close the screen after I finished and my weakness of humanity took over and I was like a fiend as I browsed through everything on my profiles and walls. Folks, I couldn't stop and my clicking was almost insatiable.

After a few minutes, I realized my self-control was gone, my heart began to hurt, and I logged off my account. For the rest of the day, I was really hard on myself as I knew I had failed myself and my intent to give these things up for just 40-days....sheesh...just 40 days...and I barely lasted a week. However, as I pondered late last night, read more in the T.D. Jakes book, and thought over many scriptures, I realized that this whole thing was bigger than just the Lenten observance deal. My biggest problem during my 50+ years has been the difficulty to forgive myself. It came to mind that "for such a time as this," it was time that I learn to do so. Until I can learn to forgive my failings, how can I experience the joy of God's forgiveness toward me? How can I feel the true experience of grace, when I continue to beat myself up over the smallest things?

So, maybe this was a good lesson for early in my journey this season. I did forgive myself, asked God to keep my mind focused on Him and His work around me, and set out to begin again this morning. I share all this at the risk of being misunderstood....Facebook and computer stuff is not wrong or inherently evil. It is just something I have isolated in my life that has interfered with my time that could be given for growing in my walk with God. One of my goals during Lent is to learn the moderation and self-discipline I need.

Coming up.....a good friend has asked me to become involved in a program in downtown Atlanta for feeding and caring for the homeless. Where once I avoided this group like a plague, I now look forward to becoming involved in this ministry. Little steps for little feet, so to speak.

So, the second week begins with a renewed spirit and hope for the next few weeks of learning and growing. Stay tuned, I'm sure more adventures will follow. And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

First Five Days of Lent

Wow! When I made the decision to give up Facebook and other non-essential computer activities (games, mindless surfing, etc.) for the Lenten season, I never imagined what a difference the first few days would make. It's now been only five days and I've had an almost hourly struggle that is showing me what a true addict I am, plus how much more these technology gods perhaps mean to me that the one true Jehovah God.
I have spent more time reading good, sound Christian authors speaking about walking with God and how to grow in your own spirituality. I've begun to write more and my mind has begun to clear itself and leave room for me to hear God's direction in my writings. In church today, I realized all of a sudden that I was profoundly in tune to worship - music, preaching, fellowship....worshipping. It was an awesome realization. For those of you who "work" for the church (me as a musician), you realize that many times Sunday services become just another day of work. We can get buried in the details and leave out the reason we are there in the first place. Based on these first five days of my Lent project, I can safely say that I am REALLY looking forward to where this leads me and where I'll be come Easter Monday morning.

Part of this adventure will lead me to post more often here.....the place where I first discovered my joy and passion for writing. The place where I first met Vicki, Shannon, and so many other Christian bloggers who continue to impact my life with their stories and encouragement. It's good to be coming back home to the familiar.

In reading some writing by Rev. T.D. Jakes tonight, he spoke of letting go of those things that are gnawing at your heart; the things that will destroy you if you don't drop them. That will be part of the next few days for me...searching myself for these weasels and getting rid of them. Stay tuned, folks. It's going to be a fun ride.

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

Friday, February 19, 2010

Of Vacation, Magnolias, and Lent

I just got back from a time of vacation. For those of you who regularly stalk me and my life stories, you know them as the Monday Night Supper Club people…or more familiarly, the Catwoman, the Techno-Geek, the Nurturer, and the Hiker (obviously, names have been changed). This week we had planned to go to Black Rock Mountain in north Georgia, however with the recent weather, the roads up to the park had become iced over, so we chose to travel south to the Magnolia Springs State Park near Millen. As it turned out, this was a double good thing since my alma mater, Georgia Southern University, was just a few miles down the road. The best thing during these weeks is the fact that no one has to do anything at all. The Hiker enjoys, well, hiking the trails; Cat Woman sits by the fire and crochets things; Nurturer takes care of us by making sure our glasses are kept full and the candy bowls on the coffee table are supplied; and the Geek compares the ringtones on everyone’s cell phones while listening an iPod and previewing videos from three camcorders. Me? I just sit around, watch them, and come up with stories to tell. We all enjoy each other’s company and the time to relax around good friends with whom we can be ourselves…no pretenses…warts and all.

The park is a gorgeous place and I enjoyed spending the time with friends, but also spending time with God during trail walking. I saw Him in the still lake across the street from our cottage; in the trails shaded by moss-laden trees; and in the stars so clearly visible in the evening time with no city lights to fade their brilliance. I heard God talking in the morning birds; the laughter of friends; and the crackle of the fireplace late at night as the day began to wind down. When the time came to head home, it was nice to get back to family, yet it was a hard thing to give up the relaxing and stress-free life enjoyed those few days.

One afternoon I drove over to Georgia Southern and revisited the campus where I became “Jimmy.” It was exciting to see the new buildings and growing campus where I lived for four of the best years of my life. It was comforting and nostalgic to see the familiar sites that I could identify readily with moments of making life decisions about careers, friendships, and maturing as a man and as a Christian. I saw the tree where I was sitting and felt God’s calling to enter a ministry-related field. The dorm front porch where I gathered with close friends on so many evenings and planned pranks and fun as well as the serious discussion that bonded us together forever. The cafeteria where the scary hippie-girl stood on the table, threw a roll at me, and screeched, “What are you looking at?!” The memories and friendships gained during that period shaped me, for better or worse, into whom I am now and I’m glad that they are a part of my heritage.

We, the Christian church, have entered a forty-day season known as Lent. It is a time when we are to withdraw from many worldly things and focus more on our spiritual lives as the Easter celebration approaches. For myself, I have chosen to give up unnecessary computer time and frivolous reading for the Lenten season. This means no Facebook, computer games, and unnecessary surfing....I'll keep with the essentials of email, writing, bill pay, etc., but that's it. My belief and practice during this season is to not just give up something, but to then replace it with more effective ways to serve God. More time in Bible Study, more time in reading good, sound Christian authors who can lead me in continuing growth as a Christian, more writing, giving more of myself to local organizations and people who need a helping hand in life. Not by giving money, but by giving of myself. This year's project is already showing me how out of whack my priorities have become, how addicted I am to stupid time-wasting things.... and what a blessing it is to feel my mind and heart being cleared of the unnecessary clutter.

A time of retreat, a time of reflection, a time of growth. It was good that I spent the beginning of this season with good Christian friends in a place separated from the world. It gave me strength to return home and try to leave some things behind (to give up) so that I can draw closer to my God. I hope you can find the time and place in your lives to retreat and grow during these coming weeks.

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