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

Monday, March 31, 2014

Lent Day 28 - Tuesday

“For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” 
(1 Thessalonians 5:2,6)

  As we enter into the last weeks of Lent and with the observance of Holy Week coming up soon, I find myself thinking about what Jesus was doing. We know the activities of that last week before His death, but all we know from the scriptures is that Jesus continued teaching, healing and telling others of God’s Love for them. Knowing what faced Him in a couple weeks did not deter Him from the work He was sent here to do and we’ll see that this mission continued up until His final breath on the cross.

  I feel fairly certain that a crucifixion does not lie in my future, but death certainly does. The manner of such, I do not know. It waits for all of us. Could be today. Could be tomorrow. Could be years from now. All we do know is that we are not promised another hour or a day, but that we will die in God’s time.

  If you are a Christian, have Jesus in your heart, then you’ve got no worries about the whole ‘after death’ thing. You know that you’ll be in a heaven surrounded by not only God, Jesus and all the angelic beings, but all those who have gone before us. Forever. Eternity. Praising God. Singing. If you are not a Christian, then you can also be assured of an eternity of torment and agony. Separation from God. Separation from Love. Darkness. Emptiness.

  If Jesus felt the urgency in His last weeks of earthly life to continue reaching out to as many people as He could go to, why do we not have the same urgency to reach our communities and world about their fate? Why do we not have the same urgency to share what we know with those we come in contact with that don’t know God and His love? Jesus faced death, we only face the possibility of rejection and, perhaps, ridicule. So, we stay quiet and just give some money so that others will go and tell. However, I don’t think the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 gave a select group to commission to go while others stayed home to give money. Jesus told us all “Go, YOU, into all the world…”  into the world, your communities, your homes and neighborhoods, and tell others.

  I am beginning to feel this urgency. Are you? Can we do any less than to tell?  I haven’t said this before, but it certainly is my hope….if anyone who reads these thoughts and ramblings have any questions or concerns, please contact me by return email or Facebook message.  I’m praying for all of you today.

  And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

Lent Day 26 - Saturday

Tybee lessons

  I just got back from a weekend on Tybee Island at the Tybee Church. As always, it was a great weekend filled with good food, good friends, good weather, good church service….are you getting the point that all things were good? As I drove home from Savannah this afternoon, I had several thoughts about my weekend and how with each trip, my life is impacted and I learn new things.

  Part of the day on Saturday, I went with some friends up to Hilton Head Island for a monstrously large island-wide yard sale held at the Hilton Head High School parking lots. It was probably one of the largest masses of humanity I have ever seen at one time, at one place and all looking for thing they think they must have. Being on Hilton Head, I went with the expectation that there would be some mighty good stuff to be bought, but, to my surprise, the HHI people have the same kind of junk that I do here in McDonough. Oh, there were a lot of golf clubs, golf balls, golf hats and other golf accessories for extraordinarily good prices, but as a general rule, there was just a lot of old tacky lamps, lots of shoes, toys, dead car batteries, VHS movies, computer keyboards with half the keys missing and, of course, hundreds of mismatched dishes and coffee mugs.

  That got me to thinking that in God’s eyes, we are all equal. It doesn’t matter to him where I live, how big my home is, how much money I have in the bank or what kind of car I drive. Plus, all of us have junk and garbage in our lives. We’ve all made mistakes and will continue to make them. Yet, no matter from where we come and no matter how worn out and scratched up we are, whether all our parts are shiny and new or scuffed, dirty and broken….God still loves us. Whether you are a believer or not. He still loves us. In God’s eyes, no one’s junk is better or worse than anyone else’s, because God doesn’t see junk. He only sees valuable children whom He wants to love and for them to love back.

  The next thing I learned was at church this morning. I continue to be amazed at how loving and genuine is the community of faith that meets at Benny’s Tavern each Sunday morning. The Tybee Church. This morning, I was walking to the door from my car, hearing the band rehearsing “Jesus Lover of My Soul” coming through the outdoor speakers and I saw a family coming down the sidewalk toward the beach. Mom said to Dad, “is there a church in that bar?” Dad replied, “A church? Surely, it’s not in a bar. Well, there is a sign hanging out there that says it is.” So, I walked with them and shared with them about the church and invited them to come back at 10 a.m. They seemed rather astonished that I told them it was okay to wear their swimsuits and t-shirts and, of course, flip-flops. And….they did come back and stand outside for the service.

  I also met a young man today who asked me to pray for him and his girlfriend. They both have had rough times in their lives, she is currently incarcerated, but will be released soon and they are hoping to marry and begin a life together. And he wants it to be centered on God. He came to the Tybee Church recently and found a home. A place where he is comfortable and accepted and loved like he has never found in a church before. It’s just a simple, regular bar on an island of coastal Georgia, yet God does a mighty work in that place.

  Good music from Samuel and the band, a great scripture lesson taught by Julie, Communion and plenty of love and fellowship. It was a good day to have been in the house of the Lord.

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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lent Day 24 - Friday

Tybee Island Church….a home for my heart

“There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God.
 A place where all is joy and peace, near to the heart of God.”
 (Hymn ~ Cleland McAfee)

  By the time most of you are reading this on Friday, I will be on the way to Tybee Island. If you have paid any attention to my life over the past couple of years, you know that I go down there every so often to speak and play at the Tybee Church. It is my niche. It is my people. It is my ministry. I am proud to be a Staff Minister of the church and to paraphrase the Apostle Paul….I am blessed by just thinking about the people of the church and of the island.

  It has been 3½ months since I was there and it is time to go back and be a part of the wonderful little Island of Misfit Toys (but I had to promise my family that I would not get another piercing or tattoo on this trip). As my friend and resident Tybee Island ministerial curmudgeon and erstwhile prophet, Micheal Elliott, says, “Tybee Island is for those who are running to something or running from something.” That is so true. I run there because I feel a kinship and fellowship with the community of wildly artsy, creative and slightly demented (in a good way) people. I also run there because they are a forgiving people. For some reason, the church people like to hear what I have to say and keep me encouraged by their prayers and by their words. No matter how much how much I stutter and stammer and prattle on and on, they still give me a hug and ask me when I’m coming back. After being on the island for a short time and being among the friends and residents of the island, I begin to relax and become “Jimmy” once again. The “Jimmy” I haven’t been in a long time. They expect no pretenses, no fronts, nothing other than being just who I am. And they will let you be YOU….and like you because of it. The more quirks, the better.

  And, perhaps, I am running from the traditions and trappings of modern contemporary religion. For a church that meets in a bar, where I can preach in my ratty cargo shorts and flip-flops, the worship of God is taken more seriously than many places where budgets, programs, staffing and décor is the top priority. Their ministry is simple. We worship on Sundays and minister during the week. Food to the hungry, clothes and housing for the needy, nurture for the nursing homes and the elderly, comfort and encouragement to the down and out. There is no official church membership roll and no paid staff positions, and yet, the people give what they can. The money comes in and goes back out to the island community needs. All in the love of God and the love of others. It is the type of church that I envision back in the early days that met wherever was available and spread the love of God throughout the area. Pure and simple Love.

  Tybee Island and the Tybee Church is the perfect place for me to escape to during my journey through Lent. A place that I can relax and focus more on what God wants me to be doing and where God wants me to be. A home for my heart. We all need a place to go where we can draw near to the heart of God. A place where we can be ourselves, be accepted as we are and find God. Where is your home for your heart?

  And for today my friends, this is the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lent Day 23 - Thursday

”Go into the whole world; teaching, training, baptizing others in My Name….”
(Matthew 28:19)

  When I was just a wee little boy, nursery age, my mom went home one Sunday and left me at church. My dad was not active in church at that time and sometimes he just kept me at home while my mom went and other weeks I’d go to church with her. That particular week, Mom thought I was home, so she just headed there. Once she got home, she and my Dad exchanged greetings, she changed clothes and began to fix lunch. Somewhere in the process, I believe, she asked if I was taking a nap and how I was. My dad just replied, “I don’t know. He went to church with you.” Needless to say, lunch was left half prepared while the big old 1950’s Chevy with fins went flying down the road and found me and the nursery worker toddling around the church grounds picking up flowers and rocks and sticks. The wonderful nursery worker, Mrs. Ivey, told Mom that she knew someone would be back eventually and she wasn’t worried.

   I think that day must have imprinted something on my mind that makes me feel compelled to be involved with all things church related. From music programs to mission activities to students to recreation to discipleship classes to choir tours, retreats and mission trips to just hanging out around the buildings….I’ve always loved to just be around God’s people and being in His house.

 God’s people are where we find the most joy in good times and the most support in times of difficulty. This is where we feel the strength of prayers being offered up for us and for a place we can share in the strong bond that only God can knit. I cannot imagine how people who do not have God in their lives can survive in this world without the support of God’s people. How can they know the richness of life that can be theirs without the presence of the Spirit of God in their hearts. The comfort. The peace. The joy.

  But, how active are we in sharing with those outside the fellowship? You may be reading this and not have a relationship with God, or did at one time and turned away for some reason. I know the arguments…”the church is full of hypocrites.” “I don’t like all the no’s that Christianity has.” “I went to church a few times and nobody spoke to me.” And on and on…and they are valid reasons. But, I’ll address those in another day. But, for now, just know that God does love you and does have a plan for your life. Regardless. He loves you regardless of whether you love Him or not. He loves you regardless of what you say about Him. He loves you.

  So, for today, church…do what you have to do in your heart so that you enjoy God’s people and being in God’s house. That way you’ll be ready to share with those around you about their own need for God.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lent Day 22 - Wednesday

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28)

  I make no claim to be a biblical scholar. When in seminary, I suffered through various Old and New Testament classes, Exegesis, Apologetics, Preaching, Counseling, Paul’s life and so on and so on. Possibly one of the more popular, most-quoted verses is above and many people use it daily as they claim this promise. When I choose a new Bible translation, this is one of the verses I always look at to see how it is worded. It always bothers me when a translation/version does not have the word “together.” It doesn’t change the meaning of the scriptural thought, it’s just a personal thing….I just like to have that word together in there. God takes all the little things, stirs them up together and they come out for our good….in His plan for us.

  I had quite a number of things planned to do yesterday, but one little blinking light (and dinging bell) on my dashboard changed all that. The “Service Engine Soon” light came on last night and, paranoid as I am, had to go get that checked out today. For all I knew, I already had a lingering electrical fire just waiting to burst forth under the front seat. That visit to the car place lasted longer than I had wanted; a wreck on Hwy 20/81 heading into McDonough had the road closed, so me and half the population of Henry County were wiggling through little back roads to get around; when I finally got home there were some other things that had come up that I needed to deal with, so the day finally came to an end with nothing done that I had planned. But, when I looked back over the day, I realized that I had gotten to spend some quality time with my thoughts, with God and…well, with just me. That type of day happens far too rarely. So, it was a good day. I am rested.

  All things worked together. My tendency has always been to schedule my days away and if any disruption comes to my plans, I get snarky and out of sorts. I forget that God has His plans for me, has His timing and may need to catch my attention. If I pray for more time with just me and God, I get it. If I pray for more time to give for others, some meeting or plan changes so that I do have the time. I just need to look at it as God working it all out for me together with everything else going on in my life. He knows my life, my mind, my attitudes and, most importantly, my heart.

  Think about the disruptions you have each day that may throw you out of sync. Maybe God is trying to get your attention for some reason. Maybe He is working out your schedules so that He can be a part. Maybe you need to look at the bigger picture and see how it is working together.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lent Day 21 - Tuesday

“Therefore, since we have such a  great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside everything that weighs us down, and the sin that holds us captive, and let us run with endurance the race that is before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

  In my home office, one wall is completely covered with pictures of my family and ancestors going back for (at least) five generations. I have a picture of my (4x) great-grandfather whose father came to New Jersey from France in the late 1700s. This is the line where my middle name of DeHart came from. I also have pictures and documents of my Jakob Price (Pryce) and Hans Herr side that lived from Lancaster County, PA where my Mennonite and Brethren side derived. That line goes back to the 1500’s in Germany. As far as the Cochran and Anderson side, their pictures are on my wall and several binders of documentation about all branches of my family sit on the table beneath these pictures.

  I am proud of my ancestry and of the heritage from which I come. There are quite a few rascals and scoundrels in my tree, but also, many men and women of faith, courage and determination. I look so forward to getting to heaven where I can finally meet these people who made their marks on much of this country in their lives and continue to today through the current generations.

  When I spend time in that room writing, watching television, reading or snoozing, it is impossible to avoid their eyes. After many years of research, I know their stories and their lives; they are as real to me as if they were in the next room. Over the past several years, it has been a privilege to travel to New Jersey, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and see the progression of their moves and so many of their houses and towns are still standing. Even the Herr house in Pennsylvania which was built in the 1600’s by Christiann Herr is still there and I’ve been able to visit inside it and walk the grounds. These are the people to whom I feel much accountability. I feel them watching as I study and write. They see me when I get frustrated at writer’s block and I can sense them spurring me on to use a gift God has given me.

  Ancestors aside, other living people are watching us every day. They know we are Christians and are forming an opinion about Christianity solely from us. When we lose our temper at the office. When we make fun of someone at school. As we drive like a maniac on the highways (especially if you have one of those fish symbols on your car….and, that’s why I don’t). As I learned in Sunday School as a small boy, “I am the best Christian that someone knows.” That phrase alone can keep you humble!

  Not only are your co-workers, neighbors, school mates, even strangers watching you, but that cloud of witnesses spoken of also includes all the great people of faith who have gone on before. Abraham. Moses. Jacob. Joseph. David. Paul. Peter. JESUS. Are they pleased with how I go through my daily life? With you as you go through your daily life? That’s for me to continue working on these next days.  As the wonderful hymn goes, “do others see Jesus in you?”

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lent Day 20 - Monday

“I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Psalms 122:1)

Today was Sunday. A Holy Day. A day of rest. A day to fellowship with God and fellow believers. A day to separate from the world. I joined with millions of other believers around the world and went to church. And it was good.

Many years ago, I read a book titled, “Mister God, this is Anna.” The main thing that I remember from this book is Anna’s take on the day of rest. Paraphrasing a bit, Anna made the point that “God didn’t rest on the seventh day. He’s God and doesn’t need to rest. By His calling it a day of rest, God created rest for us. We need to have that day away from the hectic life, to rest and visit God.” Isn’t that an interesting take on the seventh day? Still a day of creation for us…a day of rest? Of course, my personal heroine and mentor, Edith Ann, made the point of “God created the world in six days and on the seventh day He rested…..while we HAVE to get up and go to church!”

Yet, what do so many of us do, whether we are on church staff or not? We try to cram as much as possible into that one day, in the name of God’s work, that we wear ourselves out and come to almost dread Sundays because of the busyness. Been there, done that, and burnt myself out from church. Many churches start at 8 a.m. or earlier with worship services, bible studies, lunches, meetings, visitations, discipleship classes, another meeting, choirs, programs, programs, programs. And we wonder why people get burnt out and drop away after a season.

In my own personal walk, I have had to make a conscious choice about what I will and will not be involved with. Even though, I enjoy church stuff and love to be involved, I’ve just learned that I can’t do it all…..as much as I wish I could. As a general rule these days, keep my afternoons and evenings free for family, friends, reading, basically quietness. Avoiding the office or other working. Even though I may be writing on newspaper/magazine columns, it is in my home office, watching the birds in the woods out the windows and enjoying the music from my iPod. Resting. As the day was created to do.

  Let me encourage you to at least try and simplify your day of rest. Realize that you and your family might need to be hanging out together rather than running all over the county trying to do things that could really wait until the next week. Use Sunday as a day of rest, and, go back to the verse from earlier in this Lenten season, “Be still and know that I am God.”(Psalms 46:10).

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lent Day 18 - Saturday

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control….” (Galatians 5:22-23)

 How do non-believers view us? Upon what do they base their opinions of Christians? Do they see the fruit of love, joy, peace, etc.? I find it rather important that when Paul wrote this letter, he mentioned this list as fruit produced…not fruits produced….in that all these as a whole are characteristics of the fruit/attributes we as Christian should show. We can’t pick and choose from the list. And God doesn’t pick and choose which ones we get….we get all….or none.

During this season of self-examination, I am looking at this list and seeing how I stand. I think I’m pretty good on the kindness and goodness, for example, but on the patience and self-control…not so much. What am I withholding from God so that I can’t enjoy the full benefits of what He has promised to me? I’m faithful to my friends and family…but am I always faithful to God? I would tend to think so, but I know that I tend to worry about things and try to offer my suggestions to God about how to deal with certain people and situations, so I’m not being so faithful in those times.
Turning things over to God and letting go of my own manipulations is probably one of my bigger faults. Oh sure, I’ll pray for God’s Will to be done in various situations, but do I really let it go and leave it with Him? Again….not so much at times. As my Plain ancestors have written in journals and Bibles,
 “We must learn to let God’s Will be our primary motive. We say we trust God, so, then our word binds us to trust Him to handle our problems. Don’t turn to our own devices and those of other men. God’s way is always best.”

How simple. How assuring. How I wish I could always do that. I’m working on it and I hope you will, also. Pray for your trusting in our sovereign God who can, and will, handle all things…..but, in His Time!

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according Jimmy. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lent Day 14 - Friday

“The Son of Man (Jesus) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as payment for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

  “What’s in it for me?” “I’d be glad to help, but are you buying me lunch?” “Yeah, I can loan you a few bucks, but you’ll owe me big time!” “Leave me alone – I have rights!” How many times have you said, or thought, these or similar words? Somehow, society has acquired the mindset that we are all owed something from everyone else. We’re willing to do and help, but want to be repaid in some way. Again….”what’s in it for me?” The truly sad thing is that this attitude has even affected Christians, the ones who are supposed to be all about turning the other cheek and denying oneself.

  Part of my Lenten journey, and hopefully yours, is getting out of our “selves” and focusing more on others. How and who can I help that needs unconditional help, which means that I don’t expect anything in return? In other words, volunteers. I can be very quick to write a check to a non-profit and/or charity so they can provide help….but how often do I actually plan to get my hands involved in the work? Am I willing to put my mouth where my checkbook is?

  I could begin to list local organizations where our physical presence is needed, almost as much as financial donations are welcomed. The problem is that some would be left out, so for that, I apologize in advance. The ones I mention below are groups that I am, or have been, a part of in times past and still feel strongly about their support. Even though many are in my own Henry County, most other counties have similar organizations, too. So, take a Saturday afternoon, a weekday evening, a couple hours here and there to volunteer. Your heart will be blessed as much as those to whom you minister.

  Assistance for women and children (Haven House, A Friends House), Food Banks (Helping in His Name), Pregnancy Resource/Crisis Centers, animal shelters (local humane societies, Noah’s Ark) are only a few organizations in our community who need people on a regular volunteer basis.  I learned while in the BSU at Georgia Southern how important it is that we give of ourselves to our community in Christ’s name and in His Love. A group of us recently got together in Macon for a BSU reunion. It had been forty years since we had been around each other, but we all brought food to donate to a local food bank for the hungry. And we brought a lot. God gives us blessings so that we can bless others.  

  Maybe this still isn’t what you can do, so look at your local church for opportunities. I have never known of a church that doesn’t need volunteers for community efforts (again, feeding the hungry, apartment ministries, assisted living or nursing home programs, packing shoeboxes for children overseas), to work with children and teenagers in sports programs, sending postcards or making telephone calls to those who are shut-in and cannot regularly attend church, spending time in the prayer room and sending a prayer card or a note of encouragement to someone in a difficult time or illness, greeting those who attend your church with a smile and an open door…it just takes a wee bit of effort to find somewhere to give of yourself.

  Part of this season (for me) is to give time for others. Focusing on others. More about you. Less about me. More about God. Less about Jimmy. Jesus did not come to be served as the Son of God. He came to be a servant.  To serve others. To wash their feet. To teach us…you and me… how to be a servant. To not expect to get anything in return. Pray and look for ways you can do the same. This is the beauty of the Lenten season….to start new habits of giving.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lent Day 16 - Thursday

”Let us search and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:40)

  The main purpose of my yearly observance of the Lenten season is the verse for today. In all honesty, and despite my best attempts, my spiritual life becomes a bit muddled and smudgy over a year’s time. Will you be honest enough to admit that, too? It would sure help me to know that some of you that I look at and see a life of holiness and spirituality all the time also falter along the way. At least occasionally. Once in awhile? I am not meaning that neither you nor I turn away from God and begin living a depraved life, but that sometimes we just aren’t quite in sync with God the way we want to be. Or should be. Or need to be.

   As I’ve mentioned before, when I worked for a local newspaper, there were quite a few times where I would find myself at events, meetings, etc. where I would start to think, “What in the world am I doing here with these people?” “I don’t belong here.” “What does God think about all this?” The process of gathering and reporting news can quite easily jade oneself into feeling that all politicians are corrupt and self-serving – not true! That most non-profits are mishandling funds – not true! I’d find myself accepting the behavior, language, habits, conversations, jokes, and so on of the people I was around. This, my friends, was a dangerous thing for me. It was affecting my thoughts, my attitudes, my witness, my spiritual walk, all of me. And, after a season, I began to notice the change less and less.

  During the season of Lent, is where I have always focused on getting myself back in line with my God. Jehovah. I try to honestly examine areas of my life and attempt to purge the unclean elements and purify what remains. During this particular season, I have made some unexpected changes, but God’s timing is always right….even when it seems odd to me. And I’m coming Home – meaning back to a place where God and I can connect easily. A place where I can laugh all the way from my toes and feel pure joy. Joy that comes from God. A place where I can relax, exhale and feel…well, feel good.  Home.

   Now, I challenge you to begin to examine your ways. Are there places, people and attitudes that you need to leave behind so that you can come Home? Are there unhealthy relationships that you should turn from as they can strongly affect your healthy relationship with God? Now, the hard one….are there friendships that we hang onto that are not building us up? Not edifying? We seem to do all the work in calling, visiting, etc. with no return? Perhaps, their beliefs about God are a bit too different for us to be comfortable with? I’m having some problems with this and may be cutting some ties both on Facebook and in person. I have to put Philippians 4:8 in full practice for my life from now on.

I can promise you one thing. It’s not easy to do, but if you go with God’s strength and determination, you can make the changes and begin to refocus your life. To breathe freely again. To feel the joy again. Kick your shoes off and just relax again?

Isn’t it time for you to come Home?

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lent Day 15 - Wednesday

“But, no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison.”
 (James 3:8)

  When I was an eighth grader, I got mad and told our preacher’s daughter to go to hell. Yeah, bad choice. But, she made me mad and I wanted to really, really hurt her, so I thought I would condemn her to eternal torment. And, for that moment, I wanted that. Plus, I was an eighth grade guy and that sounded so cool. However, with the sight of her face scrunching up and the tears starting to flow, my feeling of superiority dwindled. I began to hurt for her and feel really sorry for what I had said. Now, folks, bear in mind….this was, like, 1966 and that phrase was not as widely used as it is now. I have no idea where I even learned it, but it sure came flying out of my mouth easily.

  That day, a Sunday (I actually said that on a Sunday? And to a preacher’s daughter?), I began a lifelong struggle with controlling my tongue and my determination to always have the last word even if it was harmful to someone else.

  As far back as I can remember as a child, it seems I always had a bar of soap in my mouth for talking back to my mom and/or accompanying it with a slobbery raspberry…Bronx cheer….you know.  Again, bad choices. Real bad. My grade reports from elementary school through high school always had unsatisfactory grades in behavior…because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.

  Now I have a laptop computer and access to the whole world via the internet to get last words. I’m sorry to say that I have used that medium to do that once or twice and have immediately felt worse than the condemnation of the preacher’s girl. I could delete the post, but the harm was done. Thanks be to God that as I have grown physically and spiritually, I have also learned to man up and say, “I’m sorry.” And mean it. My prayer has also been that I not do harm by anything I say or write, but that God be glorified and I think (with His help), I am winning that battle. This is biggest problem I deal with as far as my tongue goes.

  Now, enough of me…how about you? How’s your tongue doing? Do you have a smart mouth? Do you hurt people with your words when you lash out in anger? Is your language inappropriate (and inappropriate language can be more than just profanity)? Pleasing to God? Do you gossip about people? Are you friends as long as you are together, then talk about them as soon as they walk off? Or, phrase the gossip as a prayer request? The Psalmist tells us that “the words of our mouth, and the meditation of our heart, should be acceptable unto God.” We should use no words or language that may do any harm to our witness or to our relationship, or to someone else’s relationship, with God.

  The scriptures talk in several places about the danger of an untamed tongue. I’ve seen how much harm can come from one word spoken in an emotion other than Love (as in, God’s Love). I continue to struggle with that tiny little slimy, gooey thing in my mouth and it is harder to control than anything I’ve battled in my life. How about you? Is it a battle, or do you just let the words fly? Spend today honestly thinking about your words, spoken or written. Do they build someone up or tear someone down? Do they build God up or tear Him down. Ultimately, it will build your witness up or tear it down.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lent Day 14 - Tuesday

“I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psalm 84:10)

  I spent a few days in the mountains awhile back and realized that I cannot get out of my comfort bubble easily. After a time with random cell phone service (basically none), random internet access (basically none) and a television with only three stations, it was very hard for me to relax without all my regular comforts. Then, as we headed down the mountain, when my phone beeped the signal that I had service once again, the sigh of relief from my mouth probably affected the tides of the Atlantic coast. Then, when I stopped to buy gas for the trip home, for some reason the auto-stop on the gas pump didn’t work, so the right leg of my jeans, shoe and sock became drenched with gasoline pouring from my overflowing tank. Definitely not a way to get my day off to a good stop.

  After a few miles of driving in a closed car, the gas odor was overwhelming, so at our lunch stop, I went into the men’s room, took my sock and shoe off, dunked them in the sink to soak; then doing a high kick to make the Rockettes proud, I got my right leg into the other sink to begin soaking my jeans with water. Of course, about this time, another patron entered the men’s room, took a look and turned around for a quick exit. After soaking, splashing and a lot of grunting, I managed to drag my leg down, grabbed my soggy Adidas and sock, and slosh back to our table.

  One other thing I discovered about myself that week is that God has really worked with me in recent years to get rid of my (once) quite large ego. Now, it’s still a work in progress, but I am coming along with God’s help. I no longer see the ego-driven Minister and then volunteer worker that I once was. I know now that my way isn’t necessarily the best way. I know that physical materials, money and programs are not necessary to bring folks to Christ. The unsaved are not fooled by the grand trappings of a gorgeous building, they just want to feel welcomed and that they have a place to belong. The people searching for God will form their first opinions by how they are greeted at the door to the church, not the expensive furniture, floral arrangements and highly organized services. They just want someone to speak to them, to feel a part of the service or of a class, and to have someone share Jesus with them. They want to see and feel at home, not like a visitor to a museum or wealthy house where they could never feel comfortable. In my humble opinion, that is the ego of the church.

  Like the verse for today says, for me…now…as I continue to grow and learn in Christ…I would rather open the doors of the church to the community, welcome them in and share Jesus with them one on one, than to have the biggest and most impressive house of worship in the land. Because then I wonder what we are worshipping?  Not who. Perhaps this is why I have experienced more true worship in the Tybee Island Bar Church at Benny’s Tavern than I have in some of the largest churches of Atlanta. Their doors are open to all. Anyone. Just as you are. And just as I am….flip-flops, ratty cargo shorts, t-shirt and a ball cap.

  Maybe we all should try to be the doorkeeper for God, literally or figuratively. Be the welcoming Christian to them, make them feel at home with you, open the door to Jesus and meet them where they are. On their level, not the level you want them to see.

  And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Lent Day 12 - Sunday

“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord all the earth.” (Psalm 96:1)

  With no offense intended to any preachers and speakers….my primary means of personal worship has always been through music. Music has been, is and will always be my primary means of giving back to God and is the medium through which God blesses me. From the time I cannot even remember, my mom says that I would go sit at the piano and tap at little nonsensical melodies and rhythms….never banging, just intentional playing. So, when I hit second grade, I began piano lessons. From the first Tuesday when I entered Mrs. Stephens living room and sat down at her piano, I fell in love with music. Through the next few years, I learned popular songs, classical and jazz, but my heart responded and my fingers fell into the natural rhythms of God’s music. Of course, in those days, hymns reigned supreme and the most daring of contemporary Christian music belonged to the Imperials and Pat Terry.

  When I was 13, I began to fill in at my church, and when I was 15, I went to my first church as their full-time pianist. Except for three years in college, I’ve served as a church musician for about 45 years. One of the most excited times of my life was when I was the pianist for a contemporary Christian group and we were asked to sing at the National Quartet Convention in Nashville along with the great names of the Gospel world...the Goodmans, LeFevres, Speers, and on and on. I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the contemporary music when it began to permeate our churches, and learned a whole new way to worship in music. I still prefer the traditional, but can certainly see the good in the new styles and blends. After all, it is all about the worship for God, isn’t it?

  Music is what I have playing when I write, read, walk or sleep. Music is playing when I work and the style of music usually is determined by the mood of the day. Sometimes country & western, other times classical, gospel, jazz, show tunes, and celtic. Music has a massive effect on my spirit and attitude.

  What is your worship trigger? Music, sermons, prayer, Bible study? What draws you closer to God in your personal time? In your corporate worship time? I know of folks who are always late to the worship service because they don’t care for music (in general), but just want to hear the preaching. Well and good, but I feel sorry for them missing out on part of the whole worshipping experience. I emphasized the word late because they were late in meeting God….who was already there through the music. You don’t need to sing, just sit or stand and feel it. Hear the words of praise. Feel the rhythms in your soul. Even tap your foot.

  Think today about how you worship. What inspires you the most? Also, consider how all parts of a corporate worship service are designed to draw you closer to God. Don’t get hung up on the traditional or contemporary words…it’s okay to have a preference, but it is all God’s music.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lent Day 10 - Friday

"For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people. He is the man, Christ Jesus.”  (I Timothy 2:5)

  All signs pointed to the kid being guilty. Witnesses, evidence, prior behavior. The kid didn’t think he had done it, but wasn’t sure because he had been under the influence at the time. A confession was finally coerced through intimidation, but there was one man who didn’t accept it. He stood with the kid against everyone else. He stood with the kid through intimidation, jeers, threats and ridicule, but finally proved him innocent. The man was Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs of N.C.I.S. Once again, Gibbs followed stood firm for his charge and prevailed against all the worldly influence against him. Gibbs served as a mediator between the kid and the evil Director Vance.

  If my life were on the television screen, it would certainly be an entertaining show (except for me). Lying to parents, smoking, “borrowing” a school bus…during the school day… with some buddies in the 11th grade for a joy ride to McDonalds… during the school day, questioned by police at 2 AM about why four of us guys were rolling a soft drink machine through the streets of Decatur, picking up a hitchhiker (the last time) who held a knife on me as I drove him into the wilds of Bulloch County while my roommate in the backseat tried to spray him in the eyes with Fix-A-Flat, running over Seth McKay’s bare foot with a Ford Explorer (not a good thing)….and on and on and on. I want even go into the adventures with Gabe Walker, Joe Bechtel and the rest of the gang. And the stories continue to today with the tattoos, earrings and more.

  My point is, looking back at my life, I’ve made, and continue to make, lots of mistakes. And I’ve had to reap the consequences of them. Some painfully physical, some painfully financial, some painfully humiliating. I have been remarkably lucky to not have ended up in court on several occasions, but if I had, hopefully I would have found a good lawyer to mediate for me.

  I could have probably made more appropriate choices in my life and not gotten in so much trouble. However, I have no choice about whether I sin or not. That is a guaranteed action in all of our lives. “For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). If I had to stand before God and be held accountable for my, oh so many, sins….I would have no hope. No excuse. No chance of getting out of it. Nada. However, because of God’s Love for us (back to Day 2), he sent Jesus Christ to be our mediator. That is, to stand between my pitiful self and almighty God and plead my case….not for innocence, but for forgiveness and a cleansing of the slate. That’s the Grace you hear about so much. Do I deserve it? Heck, no! Do you? Heck, no! But, God does it out of love.

  On this day, think about the fact that Jesus is constantly standing up for us before God. “You know that Jimmy, Father? Well, he is quite a sinner, but he believes in us, in me, and in the fact that I died for Him. So, we’ll erase these last things from his record and it’ll be like he never did them.” WooHoo, how wonderful it is to have that mediator! Be sure to thank Jesus today for standing up for us and for the forgiveness we receive.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lent Day 9 - Thursday

"God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble.”  (Psalm 46:1)
  Today’s thoughts began early today and were almost complete when my sails were knocked for a loop. Because of the public forum, I cannot go into any details; however, I had made a stand for Christ and my beliefs awhile back and refused to stand down. This caused some ripples which led to Bigger ripples which finally led to a series of rather Large Waves. I had to stand by what I believe God was telling me and that led to some actions which were not well received by other individuals. So….anyway, around lunchtime today, I received an email which was rather harsh and ultimately stated that “you obviously are not who you say you are and must not believe what you write in your own religion writings.”

  Folks, that one statement devastated me. I am human. I make mistakes. Big ones, at times. Sometimes my mouth gets me in trouble, but I have dealt with that issue a number of years ago. I honestly try to live by James 1:19, to be “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” I take my writing very seriously and try to only do what God wants me to do. But, this unwarranted slam kinda sent me into a spin. In my head I know it isn’t true, but my heart was seriously hurt.

  I also know that when we are doing God’s work, that Satan takes every opportunity to try and defeat us. Using our own emotions. Using other people. Using life circumstances. Using anything possible that he knows will stop us. And even though I know all the verses about the armor of God, somehow when the arrow and spears come at you and pierce your heart, it’s hard to remember that. Or, maybe I’m not as mature a Christian as I think. I have learned that there are those who would agree that I’m not.

  So, for today, I am attempting to pray for these people and that God will open their heart to His love and to His understanding and peace. As for me, I’ve spent enough time in licking my wounds and am picking myself up in God’s strength to keep going.

  My words for today are for you to always be on guard when following God. And be aware that Satan is going to do his best to destroy your efforts, using the sneakiest of means that are hard to recognize. However, when the hurt comes, God is your refuge and strength. Your help. Your hiding place. Your reason to keep going. I’m praying for you as the storm buffet you while following God. I pray that you will always feel His presence.

  Okay, enough of this. I’ve got a day of more important things to do for God rather than letting Satan keep me down.

And for today my friends, this has been the rather emotional gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the name of the LORD!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lent Day 8 - Wednesday

"Do not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but encouraging each other….” (Hebrews 10:25)

  Habits are hard to form and easy to break. For example, I’ve always been a fingernail biter….ever since just a wee lad. Tried the stuff you buy at the drugstore, pepper sauce, scrapings of bar soap and even…ear wax. I know. I know. There have been brief periods when I managed to stop, but before too long had passed, I was back to chomping away. One finger at a time. I just cannot form the habit of not biting them, but it’s so easy to break the habit once it begins to form. To form a new habit, whether it be stopping nail biting, limiting the foods I eat, exercising more, whatever it may be takes awhile and I have to be diligent and serious. Even when I do want to go out for a run (or even a walk), I have to force myself to get up and go. But, once the habit becomes deeply ingrained in me, then it isn’t so bad. Like learning to drink skim milk. Sorta.

  Church is that way. We go, enjoy a bible study group, a worship service, being around friends and think it will always be that way. But, one Sunday you are just really tired and decide to stay home. You go back the next. Then you spent a busy week at work, spent all day Saturday doing yard work and really just need a day to rest up before the job on Monday. So, you head to the lake. Or the golf course. Or the mountains. Or the recliner. Or the Church of the Inner Springs. The next week, it kinda works the same way. Before long, you are out of the habit of Bible study, but may still show up for worship. But, you might not know everybody like you did in your class, so you aren’t quite so comfortable. Before long, you just don’t go at all. Anywhere. After a week or two, folks aren’t calling saying you were missed. Oh, you may see them at Kroger and you think you’ll try and get back the next week, but you don’t.

  The most important part of the journey I’m on right now is to stay in touch with God’s people. Through corporate worship, through individual worship and Bible study. Because of church services and music schedules, I am unable to be involved in a Bible Study class and I miss it dreadfully. That used to be my favorite part of church and not being able to go is a big hindrance to my personal walk with God. However, the important thing is to just be around the family of God. In a time of study. In a time of worship. In the midst of a fellowship. They are your family. My family. Our family.

  Church is my accountability place. Church is my growing place. Church is my learning place. Church is my place of strength. How could I ever attempt to draw closer to God and discover His way for my life if I avoid His house and His people? Sure, God can speak to me directly, but more often it is through pastors, Bible study teachers, through music and through friends.

  As you travel along, searching for God’s way in your life, please do not forsake God’s house and people. I’ve been there, done that and it was a time that I will never repeat. Dark days and many lonely hours without feeling the connection with God. Stay assembled. Associate yourself with Godly people. Encourage others to do the same.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the name of the LORD.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Day 7 of Lent – Tuesday

“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine.” (2 Cor. 13:5)

  It’s been almost a week since I started this journey through the Lenten season and I am detecting some differences in myself. For the good. Even though I have observed the season of Lent for many years, this is the first time I have done so in such a transparent manner. I don’t know how many of you are following along and taking it to heart, but I do pray for all of you. You may have noticed that I am not writing on Facebook as much as I normally do. During these 40 days, I have tried to stay off Facebook more, watch less television, listen to more music and read more scripture. The period of withdrawal from social media is not easy and can be almost lonely at times, but I have found God lurking in the strangest places just waiting for me to appear. Then, it’s kind of a spiritual “gotcha” moment when He jumps out and surprises me.

  As this first week ends, I feel like it is time to evaluate my path, my motives and my faith. As the scripture says, “….to see if it is genuine.” I guess my primary concern is that there are those who might think the daily postings of my journey may be from some sense of pride and accomplishment. That, my friends, I can strongly attest to being not true. My family comes from a strong Mennonite, Brethren, Methodist and (now) Baptist background and I was taught from early childhood about the dangers of pride and ego. That is part of my heritage. Several generations back, one of my great-grandpas, Hans Herr, was a Mennonite minister and in reading some of his sermons that have survived time, I can sense the struggle between the sin of Pride and the Way of the Lord among his congregation and community in Pennsylvania. And that same struggle happens within my heart here in McDonough, GA.

  Even though I have enjoyed my various jobs, working in the secular world can be difficult during this season. Many times the general nature of them leads me into situations where attitudes, lifestyles and language are not where I am comfortable. Except for the years I served as a full-time Minister, I have always worked in the municipal public sector, because I feel that it is God’s calling for me in this season of my life. It takes all the strength that God can pour into me at times to hold firm and remember who I belong to…..while giving obedience to my earthly employers and doing the best job I can. For that reason, I have to periodically evaluate my faith and make sure it is still on target. Pure. Genuine. Strong.

  You may be in similar situations. You can easily get caught up in the glamour of the world (and it can be a glamorous place, if we’re honest), and lose a smidge of our faith along the way. I’m working especially hard to not falter during this season. To stay strong. Be the example of a Man of God (see “Being God’s” page 107 – yep, I’m unashamedly always trying to get a few more book sales out of the deal….). So today, I’m going to be examining my faith from all angles to make sure I’m strong and safe in the arms of God. Will you join me?

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the name of the Lord.   


Sunday, March 09, 2014

Day 6 – First Monday of Lent

” I will give thanks to YOU, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139: 14

  I used a lot of my day on Sunday to take stock. Not a bad thing, all in all. After listening to a sermon on the television about the ‘less than favorable’ persons in the lineage of Jesus (Tamar – a ‘loose woman’ who seduced her father-in law, and Rahab – a Gentile prostitute) I got to thinking about what the preacher had said. If these type of people are a part of Jesus’ family (and I certainly have some bizarre people in my family), then why would I ever doubt God accepting me?  Also, I had the chance again to use a gift of keyboard music that God gave to me for worship enhancing, was truly marvelous. Somedays, the only places I can feel God’s presence is at keyboards; piano and computer.

  For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had some problems with self-esteem. I tend to let people intimidate me. Their position in the church, as community leaders, their appearance and their intelligence. They may be influential people in my life whom I do look to as mentors and encouragers. But still, intimidation. I have a problem to stand up to them when necessary, allow them (at times) to run over me, and after a period of time, I don’t feel it worth the effort, and sometimes….I just don’t care. But, at times, I have allowed them to crush my spirit. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually.

  However, in recent times, I have begun to get over this. One big reason is for the simple fact that - - I. Am. Sixty. I’m discovering the joy and delight of making it to that milestone and the freedom to live my life as I want. (Think Kathy Bates (Tawanda) in “Fried Green Tomatoes” in the grocery parking lot.) If I want to sing showtunes in the middle of Kroger with friends, along with an impromptu dance, then so be it. I don’t care. And yes, that’s been done. Some friends and I have been asked to lead Border’s Bookstore for singing Gilligan’s Island too loudly. But, the other thing is that I can look back at so many years and experiences where God has led me, encouraged me, taught me, chastened me, but, always always been by my side.

  One of my hopes for these next few weeks of examining myself and searching for a closer walk with God is to realize that God made me. Jimmy. James. James Douglas DeHart Cochran. From the Price and Herr lineage of Lancaster County, PA. The descendant of Hans Herr, the Mennonite preacher. I’m an ordained minister, just like several of my ancestors. I’m a scribe for the Lord. A musician for the Heritage Hills Baptist Church in Conyers, GA and a minister of the Tybee Church on Tybee Island. He made me just as he wanted me and no one has the right to make me feel less than a child of God. To make me feel like a Tamar or Rahab in the family tree.

  Do you struggle with this? As the Psalm says, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” God had breathed life and His spirit into me when I was First Conceived. Join with me and claim this scripture and stand as a child of God. Quirky. Odd. Funny. Serious. Sinful. Nerdy. Whatever. Just always let His light shine through you. We are family. Unconditionally accepted.

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

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Day 5 – First Sunday of Lent

“And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry…” Matthew 4:2

  After Jesus’ baptism, we read that he left the Jordan River and went to an area of wilderness to spend time in fasting and prayer. After that period, Satan came to tempt him. Part of the Lent season is traditionally spent in some type of fast, or denying some degree of sustenance in order to be reminded not only of this period in Jesus’ life, but also of his pain and suffering at the end of his life. Traditionally, a Lenten fast is no meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays in between. Other days may consist of one large regular meal, and a couple of very small meals. In addition to this, one may decide to totally give up something precious (like chocolate, coffee, soft drinks, or other items) in order to use the recurring desire for these items as a reminder for prayer or service.
   The Scripture above tells us that after the 40 day and night period, Jesus was hungry. Some translations use the word famished. Ya think, Skippy? I mean, Jesus was human and spending that long a period of denial affected him greatly. For me, the phrase “affect me greatly” is not even in the ballpark. I would be begging for food and drink from the first person I saw, and would have no qualms about selling my family and friends in order to get it. I would be beyond grumpy and snarky with hunger; whining and crying at one moment, lying in a fetal position under the nearest rock the next. Yes, in times of crisis, I tend to curl into a ball behind and under things.
  Folks, after period of time when we are strongly following God, tuning in to Him, seeking Him, Satan will be busting at the seams to get us back in his hands. You may have heard of the mountain top to the valley experience. Satan knows to strike us when we are weakest. At our point of the greatest weakness. If we are trying to limit our time on Facebook, chat rooms, dating sites, etc., Satan may easily begin using those same sites to lure us back to inappropriate places. If we are trying to stay away from movies, TV shows and music, Satan is going to be lurking behind that one movie that we just have to see, and we get sucked back in. God’s power is all-powerful. More than Satan. More than anything. However, Satan is powerful, also. He will wait until our weakest moments and whisper quietly, “yoo-hoo…let’s go over there and do that….it’s okay…we’ll have fun. Plus, everybody else is there, too.” You go, try it, and unless you can react as Jesus did in his temptations, you lose the battle.  

  During this season of Lent, I am trying to further purify my life. Input = Output. Be more aware of my environments and what enters my mind and body.  My body = God’s temple. I am diabetic and also have liver disease. I know how I should eat, but don’t always do it. I know I should exercise, but don’t always do it. Satan uses my weaknesses of food to wreck God’s temple inside me. I have to do better. I need accountability. Prayer. Accountability. God’s strength in the face of temptation. (as I yearn for that bag of crunchy Cheeto’s mixed with FunYuns in the kitchen…..don’t judge me until you try them). I urge you to work on staying strong in the face of temptation as you travel this journey of God’s Love and as a new heart is being created in you. 

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

Friday, March 07, 2014

Day 4 – Saturday after Ash Wednesday

”He went about doing good ….for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38)

  To preface my question today, I ask that you not get all quibbly about dates, and accuracies of time frames, and seasons, and all that….just hang a bit loose with me for a bit.  

  Jesus knew he was going to die. In about 35 days. Suppose you knew that you were gonna die in 35 days. Basically, a month. Four weeks. Would you even want to know? Stop and think for a minute about what you would do these next days – would you do anything differently than normal? Would you quit your job and sit at home in a bleary-eyed funk? Would you spend quality time with family and friends? Would you travel and spend every cent you have?  How would you handle these next [very] few weeks?  

  We have a pretty clear picture from the Scriptures of what Jesus’ schedule was during that final week, but not so much for that last month. I think it was a lot like the scripture above. Jesus simply continued to go about doing good. No fanfare. No marching bands. He simply did what He was here to do. Love. Heal. Teach. Encourage. Disciple. We’ll get to that last week when it’s time, but for now, think about those last weeks leading up to the cross. 

  Hmmm. What would I do? I’d like to think that I would go out with my chin up, head high, singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. I’d like to think I would spend my time witnessing to those I come in contact with each day with whom I have failed to share my faith. I’d like to think I’d at least stand up more for my faith. Yet, in all honesty, I feel like I would be huddled behind the sofa in a fetal position bemoaning my state in life. Basically, I would be channeling Job’s wife to just “curse God and die.”   

  I became involved in a series of events this week that turned nasty in a heartbeat. Several good people who proudly and publicly profess Christianity became unrecognizable to me as pride, ego, secret agendas and disrespect began to invade the conversations. My stomach is still in knots and my mind and heart are hurting over the scene, yet, there is not a thing I can do about it. It is not my business, and I have no right to speak my mind, but I did lose some respect for them. People who represent the Church. None of us are guaranteed the next 35 days of life…or the next 35 minutes. If I go to meet my God tonight, I would not want my last thoughts and actions to be mean, nasty and ugly. I would not want people to remember me that way. My mind and heart keep going back to that basic word of LOVE. Are my actions and words from LOVE, or are they from my ego and prideful self? Do I harm my witness by things I say or do? Do I put the feelings of others ahead of mine? Ever since I was 12 years old and told the preacher’s daughter to go to hell, I have had to battle my anger, my attitudes and my words. And yes, I did apologize. But, I hope that many years later that she remembers better things about me than that one moment. That time, and others since then, I have not always walked in LOVE.  

This is the type of transparency I am going to have to have with myself and with you if this journey is to mean anything to me. If I am to grow. Today I pray for the strength of Jesus in my life to go about doing good in His name. And, I shall pray for you. 

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

Friday - Day 3 after Ash Wednesday

 “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.”  (Psalm 51:10)  

  Sometimes it seems like everything in my life is dirty. My car is always dirty, my shoes constantly need brushing off (I gave up on polishing years ago), my laundry is never caught up, there’s always some type of cobweb-condominium being built in the corners of my home office, the screens to my computers are inches deep in dust. Get the point? The marvelous thing is that when any of the above actually gets cleaned…I have a whole new perspective. Such as, I keep thinking how I need a new car, until I wash mine…then, WOW! What a nice looking car! I think I’ll keep it! Same with the laundry. I’m always out of socks or my favorite thrift shop logo t-shirts and head out to buy more, but then I’ll do a load of wash. Woo-hoo! There’s that raggedy old Harley 1998 New Mexico race shirt I love so dearly.

   My heart gets dirty much the same way….by not taking care of it, protecting it and keeping it as clean as I should. Remember all the noise and confusion I mentioned yesterday? Well, not keeping a quiet time creates a small smudge on my heart. Then, perhaps I read a book that isn’t the most appropriate. Smudge. Watch a questionable television show or movie. Smudge. Smudge. Laugh at a joke that isn’t what I should hear, but I want to be ‘accepted.’ Smudge. Maybe (on occasion) a word slips out in anger, frustration, or pain (like when my pinkie toe hits the end table in the middle of the night). Smudge. Smudge. Smudge. Before very long, my heart isn’t very clean and God can’t be seen very clearly. And I don’t feel so great. Not so ‘set apart.’ Not so holy. Not so ‘light on a hill.’ Like God don’t really care so much about me. 

   I falter a lot. Sometimes I’m strong, but often I’m not. I’m human. As are you. We all stumble, feel guilty and have to ask God to forgive us. Over and over and over. And He does! The strength to stand up to the temptations of daily living is what I’m seeking during this Lenten journey. By remembering that God is Love. God loves me. Without question. 

  What do you need to do so that your heart stays clean? And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.