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

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

True confessions

  Maybe I’ve been going about this writing business all wrong. When I first started to blog many years ago, I felt like it was important for me to be totally transparent about my walk with God so that readers would realize that they are not alone. That we all make mistakes and make screwy decisions at times, but that doesn’t change God’s love for us. He is always there just waiting for us to ask Him for direction and guidance. Just waiting to comfort us when we come running back after a colossal failure on our part.

  Maybe I’ve been going about it wrong. Maybe by opening up myself to the world with my thoughts, emotions and opinions, I have in turn opened myself to divulging things that make others question my dedication to God and to His work. Maybe by being totally honest about how I react and feel at a given time, others have wondered if my faith was pure and how any church in “their” right mind could have possibly licensed and ordained me to the ministry.  And if you have been reading my blog for enough years, you may recall the horrors when people in my Baptist church discovered that I actually had several tattoos and then when they saw me make the Sign of the Cross during communion. Maybe if I weren’t so honest with my readers about my journey with God, I wouldn’t have been criticized by some brothers and sisters in Christ and asked to remove some things I have written. But, that wouldn’t be me.

  This I do know…. I am not your standard, typical Christian when it comes to my living my life. Some folks would say that I’m a quirky Christian.  But, never mistake the fact that I am a Christian. God is the most important thing to me and I honestly wish to follow Him with all of my heart and being. But, I see Christian living as a very practical thing. I choose to follow God. I choose to do His work here on earth. I choose to act as I feel God leads me, not necessarily according to some particular doctrine or church creed and, certainly not according to how people thing I should. It’s just between me and God, as long as I don’t cause harm to Him and to others along the way. And, yes, I do often make the Sign of the Cross during Communion and at other times because it is part of my way to worship.

  So, let me make this as clear as I can. Let’s consider this my Statement of Beliefs…. (i.e., the gospel according to Jimmy).

     I am a Christian. I love the Lord our God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I believe in Jesus and in His love for me and want to tell the world through the gifts given me so generously. God is not my daddy, my papa and certainly never would I address Him as dude. He is my Father. God is to be treated with the reverence and awe deserving the Creator. I believe, as a general rule, churches are far too involved in entertainment and not enough involved in true worship and ministry. I don’t care if you do hymns or praise songs as long as they are scripturally sound and not just words and repetition for the sake of a nice tune. You can spin from the chandeliers and spit quarters from your mouth as long as God is honored (well, maybe that's a bit much, Jimmy). I believe in the literality of the verse “being all things to all men so that we may save some.” Churches need to think outside the box to reach people. I have only been in two churches in my life that have truly, truly done this. One is the Woodland Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta where I was first introduced to a weekday ministry program for the community and I fell in love with it. The second church is where I currently attend, the Heritage Hills Baptist Church in Conyers. An amazing church with amazing people who constantly think outside the box of “church.” These two churches are reaching out to their respective communities in ways I could never imagine…..and winning people to Christ. After being hurt very badly in a prior place of service, I have begun to feel healing and that I can trust people once again. Part of my life of practical Christian living is to just be nice to people, treat them with love and respect, stay away from ‘churchy’ words that alienate and confuse, meet their needs where possible, don’t badger them into religious discussions until the Spirit tells me they are ready and just believe in them.

  Did any of my ramblings make sense to anyone besides me? Just some things I needed to put down in writing for my own peace and understanding, and if you can get anything at all from it, then, well, all praise be to God.

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

Wednesday, July 04, 2012


  The subject of bullying is very prevalent in our media these days, as well it should be. The violence of bullying has continually escalated in the lives of school children, so that schools, bus drivers, parents and neighbors are finally beginning to take a stand against these predators. However, bullying is not always limited to school age children. There are forms of bullying that take place every day in our homes, community politics and in our businesses.

  When I was in 5th grade, I was the victim of a bully. I went to Burgess Elementary in East Atlanta and in those days there was no school bus service in the City of Atlanta, so we either walked to school or our parents drove us. All of us in our part of the neighborhood walked together, weather permitting, and always had a good time on the trips back and forth to home. Being a member of the school band, I had to stay later some days and walked home on my own. For some reason, and with my luck, the local bully lived on the street behind me and stayed after school a lot for detention, so at times he was leaving school at the same time as I did and we were walking the same streets.

  I was a skinny, nerdy kid with a band instrument. Walking home alone. That, plus the fact that Nick was constantly in detention, and with a bad attitude, was all it took for him to decide I was an easy target. The bullying began with taunts and words, but after a couple weeks it led to an encounter between Nick and a couple of his goon friends…and me. Punches began to fall, book bags began to be thrown, blood began to flow and we finally ended it at the creek that separated my path home from his. Later that afternoon, Nick showed up at the back door and said he was supposed to apologize to me. As I recall, we glared for a couple minutes, and then apologized to each other and it was over for the time being. I don’t know if another encounter would have occurred since a few weeks after that, Nick fell down an elevator shaft at his dad’s company and didn’t survive. Tough way to go, but in my small 5th grade mind, I figured it some type of divine retribution.

  In the section of the Bible known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us that we will be blessed when people “revile us, and persecute us and say all many of evil things against us, falsely, for His sake. Rejoice and be very glad, for great will be your reward in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:11). This passage directly speaks to the bullying we as Christians may encounter during our daily lives.

  Have you ever been made fun of because of your beliefs? Have you ever encountered any type of discrimination because your belief in God and Christ was known? Have you ever just gone along with the crowd because you didn’t want them to know you were a Christian and shouldn’t see that movie/concert/hear that joke? I’ve been there and taken the easy road out far too many times.

  I am promised that if I allow myself to be reviled….persecuted….talked about….bullied for the sake of Christ that my reward in heaven will be great. And that I will be blessed here on earth. It takes strength to stand up for our God and our belief in Him, and we will encounter types of bullying when we do so, but God also promises that He will take care of us. And He is a whole lot bigger than any bully.

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