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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Why I Go to Church

   My parents raised me in the church; my mom even left me at the church one Sunday when I was just a wee boy. Just like the prophet Samuel was left at the Temple…but, I didn’t hear God calling to me in the night because she came back pretty quickly and found me wandering the church grounds with the nursery worker. Yet, I continued going every Sunday, every Wednesday, every Thursday and any other time the doors were unlocked. I used to think that my folks had a church key just so they could unlock it and drag me up there. I even got a four-year perfect attendance pin. But, it was a good church, I liked the music and their Wednesday night suppers were excellent. And life was good.

  Through my college years when I could have skipped out very easily, I didn’t. There were a couple churches near the campus that embraced the college students and provided them a second home and a good environment. I switched between the Baptists and the Methodists because if I woke up on time to get dressed and grab a donut or something, I could drive to the Baptist church downtown; but, when I overslept (quite often), the Methodist Church was right across from my dorm and I could dash across the street at the last minute and sit at the back with my other late sleeping friends. Plus, they always had coffee and snacks in the narthex. I enjoyed going to both churches. I had good friends there and learned much to help me grow as a Christian as I entered the post-college life. And, I guess something stuck because I still like to go.

  Why do I believe in attending church? For one thing, it is what we are to do as Christians. Being around other believers gives us strength to face the coming week, gives us encouragement, gives us a place of security and a place to find hope. I have friends who are professing Christians who rarely darken the doors of any church and (in my opinion) they are poorly representing what Christ wants from His Church. Their language, lifestyle and viewpoints are decidedly (again, in my opinion) the opposite of what Christianity is to be. We are encouraged in the Bible to “not neglect the meeting together, as some people do, but to join in encouraging and supporting of each other” (Hebrews 10:25). I cannot imagine not going to church as often as I can for that very reason. It gives me strength for Monday morning.

  For another thing, church is where I learn more about God and what He wants me to do. I learn this through the music, through the message and scriptures, through study and through talking with other people facing the same day-to-day pressures of the world. On the Sundays that I would rather not go, my heart and spirit begins to lift at the first sound of music and continues to rise as I listen to what is said and done. When you neglect this regular meeting of believers, you begin to lose that “still, small voice” of God that gives us our direction.

  And before you say it, yes, churches are full of imperfect Christians. That’s why churches exist…to take a group of imperfect Christians and let them encourage each other, to try and love each other and to give us a Hope for a better tomorrow. I can promise you that there is a church somewhere out there that is perfect for you. Visit around and see what you can find. Just make sure they preach, sing and live the Gospel.

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Me and an almost blind date

  It all began because I was really bored on a Friday night. Really bored and a lot of Friday nights. Ten years ago, back in 2004, I was young(er), felt my biological clock spinning out of control, had no potential matrimonial targets in sight….well, calling the fine ladies of Atlanta a “matrimonial target” probably didn’t help my case…and figured it was time to do something. Something serious and out of my bubble. So, I signed up for a well-known online matchmaking service. Yeah. Me. Shoulda known better.

  Of course, there were instantly hundreds of potential brides within 25 miles of McDonough all wanting to meet and greet me and stroll off along the beach at sunset with a nice bottle of wine, cheese and crackers. It took me awhile to realize that the website was suggesting my matrimonial matches, not them themselves. So, I perused all my options and waited. And waited. And waited for The One to “wink” at me (their term, not mine). And waited.

  “What’s the deal?” I asked myself. “I’m a prime candidate. I’m basically still young, got a cool SUV, have a good job with a major research University in Atlanta, own my own home in the suburbs, have good teeth and a full set of dark hair (ten years ago), athletic (ten years ago) and am quite fun to be around.” And…waited.

  After a couple days, I found a couple winks waiting for me when I got home. One was a definite “no,” but the other was intriguing and rather fetching. Same age, very similar interests, had all her teeth and good hair, a cool SUV, divorced (no problem), a couple grown children (that’s okay with me as long as I didn’t have to pay for college), professional job in Atlanta, Christian and wanted to stroll down the same beaches with a bottle of wine, cheese and crackers. So, I winked back.

  And, so it began. We emailed and messaged back and forth quite regularly for a few weeks because both of us believed in caution in these types of situations then began a discussion about meeting for a cup of coffee and dessert somewhere. I felt really good about this and we firmed up a date, time and place just a week away.

  About the same time, I “Googled” her (oh come on now, you know you all do the same thing) and found her website and her blog. This was in the early days of blogging, so I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but found the whole concept interesting. As it turned out, she was a very good writer about living a daily life with God and had some good points about living single in a very married world. Especially in the church. My creative side began to emerge and I thought, “Hey, I could do this writing and blogging thing. I’ve always got lots to say and I didn’t know there was a way to just get it out there and if no one even reads it, it would be good therapy for me.”

  Over the next couple of days, I set up a Blogspot.com account, struggled with a name for my new blog and finally decided on what I always want to do and always keep working toward….and that is…..Being God’s. So, in December of 2004, “Being God’s” was born. And my life and writing has never been the same. It led to being a newspaper columnist, magazine columnist, book author and there’s a possibility working on becoming syndicated. You, my friends, readers and followers share in this blog because you encourage and support me continually. You keep me humble when I write something totally stupid. And, yes, unknowing to you, you provide much of the fodder of which I write. When you find me staring at you over a meal or my desk or a church pew, yes, I am figuring out how to write about you. Yes, I really do have a catwoman, a blind flute player, a Guardian Angel, a Teleporter Dude and all the other characters in my life. And, now in your life.

  So, back to the hot date? Well, she emailed me the morning we were to meet and said she and her husband had reconciled, but thanked me for being a good friend. Friend. Hmmph. Just as well, I guess. I’m not sure she would be the Bar Church type of gal anyway.

This is how it all began and only God knows where I’ll be in coming years. Hopefully, telling His story (and mine) for all you good people. Just check in at www.beinggods.blogspot.com and I’ll be around there.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.  Oh yeah, I need to tell you where that phrase came from someday….but, not now. Stay tuned. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Are you all comfy cozy?

  I’ve written before about times when I’m starting to feel all warm and fuzzy cozy then some type of change (horrors) loom on my horizon. I don’t like change. I don’t relish change. I run from change. Yet, for all my kicking, screaming and denial….change comes. And it usually is a doozie.

  A couple weeks ago, Pastor Greg spoke on “are we comfortable in our faith and our walk with God.” Of course, I sit there nodding in affirmation and praise for this insightful man knowing how comfortable and pleased I am in my spiritual walk. Then…..he lowers the boom on me by finishing up that none of us should be comfortable in our walk. None of us should be so comfortable that we don’t consider new fields and new areas of ministry work. If we are so comfy cozy, then there’s something wrong in our communication with God.

  Whoa! I’m sure that when what he said sunk into my feeble brain, I must have jerked in the seat as if a lightning bolt had zapped me from above. And then, I began to think back over my years in a church and began to see how the hand of God dipped in when He saw I was comfortable, cozy and, even, complacent in my life and ministry.
  The changes had begun when I started visiting and preaching at the little church in a bar on Tybee Island a few years ago. That wonderful, quirky fellowship of believers opened my mind and heart to other methods and ways to minister and the fact that we are all God’s children…red, yellow, black, white, rich, poor, hungry, fat, homeless, mansion, houseboat, good singer, tone deaf…the whole range of creation. And I embraced it!

  Then, many people did not understand how I could walk away from serving as a church pianist after 47 years. But, I had known for a long time that I needed to do it. I wasn’t happy and wasn’t worshipping, so how could I be one of the worship leaders, if I could not worship as I needed to any longer. Now I realize that it was because I had gotten so comfortable. Let’s face it, I am a great pianist. I can sight read like crazy, read chord charts and can do traditional and contemporary with a degree of ease. I play piano, organ, synthesizers, guitar, ukulele and have a love/hate relationship with a flute. Music is my life. Church music is my love and passion, but after this many years, the joy had gone because it had become rote. I had become comfortable and cozy on the bench. So, it was time to back away and learn how to worship again.

  Part of that process has also been to find a church where I could attend, serve and be in a worship setting that touches my heart as well as my creative spirit. There are many churches in the area that fit this description, but I found one that called my name from my first step through the front door. And that church is where I received my lightning bolt of clarity. Maybe I had been too comfortable in a sister denomination for 60 years, or maybe God knew for this next season of my life, my place was to serve in the Methodist church. For whatever reason, for such a time as this, I know this is where I need to be. I know with no doubt that a great adventure is just beginning for me in service.

  So, folks, if you follow my journeys much at all, you know I’ve been at loose ends for quite a number of years. I was comfortable, yet extremely uncomfortable at the same time. I knew it was time for a change, I didn’t want a change, but, once I made the decision with all trust and faith in God being in control, I took the leap and it is a good thing. A very good thing. Proverbs 3:5-6 has stayed in the front of my mind this whole time. I needed “to trust in the Lord with all my heart and NOT depend on my own understanding.” My prayer is that I may never be comfy cozy again….and that neither will you.

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

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Holy is as Holy does

 The journey continues....

I try to avoid using “church words” at all costs. They scare me because I’ve seen too many people run the other way when they hear one. You know them….words like “righteousness,” “sanctification,” “justification” and, the big one, “Holy.” That’s the word that has captured my thoughts for the past few weeks. I know the dictionary definition and the definition I learned in both Sunday School and in Seminary, but, now I’m working on what my definition is.

  Am I holy? Just to write those words gives me a shudder, because I certainly do not consider myself in that way. Dictionary.com defines holy as, “devout, having a spiritually pure quality, dedicated or devoted to the service of God.” My mom defines it as, “living your life so that you reflect in every way the life and teachings of Jesus and the one defining quality is how you love others.” I like that.

  Well, I don’t smoke, drink, chew, cuss or kick small animals, go to church every Sunday and don’t surf inappropriate websites, so does that count for anything? I have Certificates of License and Ordination hanging on my wall…do those make me holy? I believe all the traditional beliefs about God and I am not afraid to share my beliefs with anyone, but I do tend to stir the pot occasionally when I write. Well, maybe more than occasionally, but I have always felt that the stuff I feel and experience can’t be just me, so I write to try and encourage and make you think. Whenever I have taught classes or led retreats or speak to groups, I just want people to know that God doesn’t get all theological and “King James-ish”….He just wants us to Love Him, Love others and to Live Simply for Him.

  Looking back over much of my life, I seem to always be on a journey somewhere when it comes to my walk with God. Just when I think I’ve about gotten there, off we go on a different direction. Lately, I have felt the strong urge to become even more devoted to God. More serious about my faith. More compelled to find a place where I am at peace, a place where I can identify closely with my faith family, a place where I can worship, a place where I can study and learn and become….well, more holy. Maybe it will mean “unfriending” a few Facebook friends whose postings might be a hindrance to my growth in Christ. I do know that I will need to be more aware of where I am and where I go. Because of who I am. Because of Whose I am. I constantly come across people from here in McDonough and Henry County who read my columns and have read my books. I need to always live my life for the God I serve and share about and there should be no doubts about that when you see me out and about.

  I have found a couple new passages in the Bible lately that I have written down and have on my desk, both here at home and in my office. They remind me of my role as a Christian and what I should be doing daily. Just one step toward becoming….holy.

  “Learn to do good and seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphans and protect the widows.” (Isaiah 1:17)

  “And this is what the Lord requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).

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