• She Thinks You're Jewish

    "Here's a card."

    I was sitting in the library stairwell with my then-girlfriend, looking at the envelope in her hand, wondering if I had missed an anniversary. She must have seen it in my face, because she said, "It's not from me. It's from Jane."

    Jane was her best friend. Why in the world would Jane be giving me a card?

    Only one way to find out. I opened the card.

    I don't remember what the card looked like, or what it said on the outside, but I will never forget the words on the inside:

    Happy Hanukkah!

    I looked at her, puzzled. 

    She said, "She thinks you're Jewish, but that you're in denial."


    Seven years later, I went with my then (and still) girlfriend (and wife) to meet her grandmother for the first time. This would actually be one of the few times I got to spend with her grandmother, as she died less than a year later, just weeks before our wedding.

    Later in the car, I asked Kerri, "So, how do you think it went?"

    "She thinks you're Jewish."


    Or maybe rather, "Oy vey!" (a Yiddish phrase expressing dismay or exasperation)

    You know, I never grew up with a knowledge of having any Jewish heritage. My DNA results show "no connection" to the six European Jewish regions. (Then again, they also show "no connection" to the Native-American regions, even though my mother swears I am 1/16th Cherokee!)

    So, who knows? I mean, anything is possible, especially since I know absolutely nothing about my father's heritage, since he was adopted.

    I mean, it would certainly explain my love and appreciation for the Jewish culture, especially when those Jewish roots help me understand my own Christian faith in a deeper and more meaningful way.

    So, here's my quick public service announcement. For those who may have never received a Happy Hanukkah! card themselves and so, you may just not know, the Jewish Passover begins tonight, at sundown. Tonight, all around the world, families will gather for the main Passover ritual, the seder - a festive meal that involves the re-telling of the Israelite exodus from Egypt through questions, stories, songs, and symbolic foods.

    Our church family has been spoiled over the last few years to have a relationship with Aaron Abramson of Jews for JesusHe has led us in the seder meal three different times and shown us the links between the ancient Jewish festival of redemption and Jesus as our Lamb of God.

    This past Sunday evening was one of those occasions, and Aaron led us in a song that, even though we've sung it at our last couple seder meals, I had forgotten about it... but haven't been able to get out of my mind since! It's the song, Dayenu, a fifteen-stanza melody that is sung during the meal after the retelling of the Exodus story.

    The Hebrew word dayenu loosely means, "It would have been enough." 

    While we didn't sing all fifteen verses, I have printed them at the bottom of this post for those who are interested. Essentially, the song is broken into three different sections, with the first five verses about the Israelite's release from Egypt, the second five about their time in the wilderness, and the third five about their spiritual life, giving thanks for the Sabbath, Mt. Sinai, the Torah, the land of Israel, and the Temple.

    In each verse, there is thanksgiving to God for His kindness and mercy, ending with dayenu - "It would have been enough."

    I like what Erica Brown writes about the song:

    "It's rare to hear people say, when commenting on a blessing in their lives, 'It's enough.' When it comes to goodness, we are greedy. We want an abundance of happiness, and sometimes think of it as our due. But immediately after we tell of the Exodus from Egypt in the Hagaddah, we break into... song where we sing jubilantly and in unison, Dayenu - It is enough."

    But in reality, it wasn't enough. I mean, that's why God sent His Son Jesus as the perfect Lamb of God, the once-and-for-all sacrifice that took away, forever, the sins of the world. 

    "The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship... 11 Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. 12 But our High Priest offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time... 14 For that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy." (Hebrews 10:1, 11-12, 14 NLT)

    Jesus is enough! 

    But sadly, millions of people tonight and beyond will miss this eternity-changing truth.

    So first, pray for the millions around the tables tonight, but don't you miss the truth. Don't miss the gratitude either! 

    Erica Brown continues... 

    "We don't realize how lucky we are until we speak our blessings in detail. Dayenu is not merely a reflection on Passover, but a template for true thanks."

    As I was walking/running downtown this morning, I had this post on my mind when I hobbled past the store "Blessings by the Bushel." 

    You know, I am certainly blessed, and I definitely, in my own life, have received blessings by the bushel. But my thought on this Good Friday morning was, "If I had a bushel basket and it only had one thing in it, if that one thing was Jesus, would that be enough?"

    On this day when we remember His sacrifice, for us, may we offer up the prayer that let's God know just how thankful we are... and that Jesus is enough!

    "If the only prayer you say in your life is 'Thank you,' that will suffice. (Meister Echkart, 13th century German theologian and philospher)

    I hope you will join me today in praying that simple prayer.

    "Thank you."


    • If He had taken us out of Egypt and not made judgments on them; [it would have been] enough for us.
    • If He had made judgments on them and had not made [them] on their gods; [it would have been] enough for us.
    • If He had made [them] on their gods and had not killed their firstborn; [it would have been] enough for us.
    • If He had killed their firstborn and had not given us their money; [it would have been] enough for us.
    • If He had given us their money and had not split the Sea for us; [it would have been] enough for us.
    • If He had split the Sea for us and had not taken us through it on dry land; [it would have been] enough for us.
    • If He had taken us through it on dry land and had not pushed down our enemies in [the Sea]; [it would have been] enough for us.
    • If He had pushed down our enemies in [the Sea] and had not supplied our needs in the wilderness for forty years; [it would have been] enough for us.
    • If He had supplied our needs in the wilderness for forty years and had not fed us the manna; [it would have been] enough for us.
    • If He had fed us the manna and had not given us the Shabbat; [it would have been] enough for us.
    • If He had given us the Shabbat and had not brought us close to Mount Sinai; [it would have been] enough for us.
    • If He had brought us close to Mount Sinai and had not given us the Torah; [it would have been] enough for us.
    • If He had given us the Torah and had not brought us into the land of Israel; [it would have been] enough for us.
    • If He had brought us into the land of Israel and had not built us the ‘Chosen House’ [the Temple; it would have been] enough for us.

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      Family ... and a Bonus

      I celebrated a birthday last weekend. Some people love celebrating their birthdays; they love to have others celebrate their birthdays with them. I, however, am not like that. I don’t hate or dread my birthday or even getting older, I just prefer things low-key. I like to stay home and do as little as possible. The quieter, the better for celebrating my birthday. When my boys were school age, I would make a point of eating lunch with them on my birthday. It was – and is – the best gift for me – spending time with my family.

      This year was pretty good. My youngest son came home from college and my older son came over and we had a nice family dinner. Afterward, we watched a movie. A really good movie. Actually, a great movie.

      Now, I don’t “recommend” movies because inevitably, there is something in them that should not be recommended. But with that disclaimer behind us, I will proceed.

      On Friday night when the whole family was together, we watched, “The Greatest Showman.” (1)  I had seen it in the theater with my younger son, but my wife and older son had not yet seen it. It is a great movie (didn’t I say that already?). I don’t usually care for musicals (2), but this one really grabbed me. 

      It is a biopic about P.T. Barnum and while I am certain they took some liberties telling the story of his life, they did deal with some good and some bad.

      Hugh Jackman (a.k.a Wolverine) plays Barnum. (Oh, spoiler alert). Barnum is a showman, but he is also a humanitarian (or they portray him as such). He takes misfits from the shadows and gives them a voice, a purpose, and above all, a family. There is a very brief scene when Barnum (and his two young daughters) track down a “bearded lady” who has a gorgeous singing voice. She is trying to hide, trying not to be noticed but when Barnum throws back the curtain and sees her, he says, “You are unique … even … beautiful!” It is a moving scene for me because it shows that neither Barnum or his children are frightened or at all put out by her striking appearance. (She later sings This is Me, one of the big anthems of the movies, that has a great message! I am listening to it as I write.)

      Although Barnum was a huckster and would do anything for a buck (it would seem – and the movie does allude to this as well), he is also portrayed as not being prejudice; as loving people for who they are. This is one of many inspiring themes of this movie.

      The next evening, we watched Bohemian Rhapsody, another biopic, but this one about the 1970-1980’s rock band Queen’s front man, Freddie Mercury. For those of you unfamiliar, Freddie had an exquisite voice and stage presence, and also extraordinary creative musical vision and business acumen as the movie brings to light. Sadly, Freddie Mercury also lived the slogan of “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll” to its fullest and to his detriment. He contracted AIDS and died in 1991. 

      Thankfully, this movie was rated PG-13 and kept to that standard. While not shying away from Freddie’s predilections, it did not glorify them or throw them up in the face of the viewers. In fact, if anything, the movie showed Freddie’s choices for what they were … destructive, unsatisfying, and just plain sad. Don’t get me wrong, BoRap (as we insiders call it) is a celebration of Queen’s meteoric rise to stardom and Freddie was an integral part of making that happen. If you grew up during that time and were a fan of Queen (as I was), it is a good movie to watch, great music. But in doing so, don’t miss that underlying message of tragedy. I doubt the producers, execs, etc. had in mind a “spiritual” message (but maybe, I don’t really know); at the end, Freddie does reconcile with his own father, finds a “relationship” that isn’t based upon using people (albeit, not a right relationship), and is restored to the rest of the band and his life-long friends that he had ostracized. 

      As Queen is getting their start, they meet with a record label executive who asks what makes Queen any different from every other rock band. They reply, “We are family. But we are also misfits. We belong to all the misfits out there on the back row and they belong to us.”

      Two very different movies about very different times, but both reminding us of the need to “belong,” the value and importance of family, even if the family bond has nothing to with blood but everything to do with shared experience.

      These themes resonate with us – all of us, no matter who we are – because God created us to be “together.” He created us to be in a family. The Church is called the “family of God.” (Eph. 3:15). Jesus gathers around Himself twelve “mis-fits” of His own and shares the Passover meal with them (Luke 22:15), something reserved for families to do (ex. 12:3-4). Family is important. 

      But please allow me to take a sharp left turn, or something. Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12). I don’t mean to assign Christian virtue onto P.T. Barnum where it is not deserved or use Freddie Mercury as a foil, but please indulge my illustration. Barnum, at least as was depicted, treated others as he wanted to be treated. “My father was treated like dirt, I was treated like dirt,” but he did not treat others that way, even his critics and persecutors, and certainly not the “misfits” he brought out of the shadows. On the other hand, we see some of the people in Bohemian Rhapsody use and abuse others. Freddie says, “You know when you know you've gone rotten? Really rotten? Fruit flies. Dirty little fruit flies. Coming to feast on what's left.” It is an ugly depiction of what happens when we don’t obey Jesus.

      It is an odd pairing; there is brokenness and there is hope. Even in these secular movies with no Christian virtues in mind (as far as I know), these truths are shown. We are all broken (sinful, the Bible would say), in need of both redemption (salvation) and belonging (family, the Church). And there is hope for us all: His name is Jesus.


      (1) In case you are curious, I got The Greatest Showman last year, but for my birthday this year, I got the Soundtrack – I have NEVER wanted a movie soundtrack before, but this one I fell in love with! I also got the BoRap Movie (I got the soundtrack to it for Christmas).

      (2) For those of you at Reidsville, Shannon has never seen The Greatest Showman and I happen to know he LOVES musicals, especially musicals that Hugh Jackman stars and sings in. So I suggest you each buy him a copy.

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        Our Father's Smile

        "I'm sitting beside you!"

        At the time, I was standing in line to buy blueberry chocolate truffles from the Vosges Haut-Chocolat candy store in the O'Hare airport in Chicago. I looked up to see an unfamiliar woman who, as she gestured to my chocolates, repeated, "I'm sitting beside you."

        I thought to myself, "Lady, this is one of the busiest airports in the world. Almost 225,000 people fly in and out of here every single day. (Okay, I didn't actually think those numbers, but I have since done the research on Google.) Odds are that we're probably not even going to be on the same plane, much less sitting together."

        Those were my initial thoughts. What I said, instead, was, "Well, even if you do, we can't eat these chocolates. My wife and son would kill me if I got home with any of 'em missing!"

        She laughed, and that was it... or so I thought.

        I didn't think about it again until I boarded my plane bound for Greensboro, found my seat, got situated, and then looked up to see saw her walking down the aisle toward me... only to stop at my row and take the seat right next to me.

        "Told you so."

        Now normally, I am all about trying to have as little conversation as possible with the people sitting near me on a plane, but I was so struck by the circumstances that I had to ask, "Do you live in Greensboro?"

        "No, I live in Chicago."

        "What brings you to Greensboro?"

        "My brother and I are presenting at the U.S. Figure Skating Championship there tomorrow night."

        "Really? Do you skate?" (Trust me, you have to get up pretty early in the morning to slip something by me. I am the master of the obvious!)

        "I used to. Ronnie and I skated pairs. In 1965, we finished first in the U.S. and second in the world."

        Okay, this conversation was headed in a direction that I had not been expecting.

        I said, "You know, I'm sorry, but I really don't know too much about pairs skating."

        (Now, I specifically said "pairs" because I just didn't figure that, at this point, she had any business knowing about my crush on Kristi Yamaguchi.)

        I continued, "I can only think of one skater from around that time. Wasn't Peggy Fleming skating then?"

        "Yes, she was. She and I were roommates."

        "Did you and your brother skate in the Olympics?"

        "We did... in 1964."

        "Did you medal?"

        She paused and said, "Um, that's complicated."

        And then she began to tell me her story.

        Her name is Vivian Joseph and she and her brother, Ronald were the second-ranked American pairs team at the 1964 Olympic Games in Innsbruck. They exceeded all expectations by finishing fourth.

        However, at the time, there were numerous rumors that the West German silver medalists had signed a contract with the professional ice show, Holiday on Ice, thus violating their amateur status. After a three-year investigation, the I.O.C. stripped the West Germans of their silver medals, elevating the Canadians from third to second and the Josephs from fourth to the bronze medal position.

        And that's where the story gets really strange.

        As we sat on the plane, Ms. Joseph told me a part of her story that I ended up reading more about in the New York Times after I returned home.

        She said the she was at a party and was introduced to someone as an "Olympic medalist." A week or so later, he called and disputed that claim, saying, "You may have a medal, but that's not what the record books say." 

        After much digging, her brother and she discovered that twenty years after they had originally been awarded their medals, the I.O.C. had re-awarded the silver medals to the West Germans, returning the Josephs to fourth place.

        Now, while she had told me the entire story to this point in a very matter-of-fact way, when she began to talk about her parents, her voice started to break. She talked about their sacrifice, and how excited and proud they had been when their children won their Olympic medals... but then how hurt they were when they learned that the standings had been changed.

        When she concluded her story by telling me how she and her brother had officially been re-awarded their bronze medals just a couple months earlier, she said, "I just wish that my parents had still been alive to see it. I wish they could have known how things worked out."

        We never get too old to want that validation from our parents, do we? We never get to a place in our lives - or at least I haven't yet - when we don't want to bring that smile to their face.

        After challenging us to "set aside" the things in our life that keep us from running the race like Jesus, the writer of Hebrews then tells us how that is even possible: 

        "We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross..." (Hebrews 12:2 NLT)

        What exactly was the "joy awaiting him?" Well, that's above my pay-grade, but I've got to believe that it included the Father's smile.

        We all want our Father's smile, which may be one reason why Jesus says what He says in Matthew chapter 6 three different times:

        "... And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:4 ESV)

        "... And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:6 ESV)

        "... And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:18 ESV)

        One of the keys to interpreting God's Word (Biblical Hermeneutics, for those of you who want the "big" word) is to look for words or phrases that are repeated in the text. If it's repeated, then it's important.

        Obviously, this is important. Jesus wants us to know that God sees and knows.

        It doesn't matter who else sees or knows.

        It doesn't matter if everybody sees and knows.

        It doesn't matter if nobody sees and knows.

        God sees and know. And He will reward us.

        Now, what exactly that reward is... again, way above my pay-grade. However, I think, at the very least, part of our reward is our Father's smile.

        He sees and knows it all. He is the One Who is always sitting beside us (with or without the chocolates)...

        And hopefully smiling!

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          Do Not Be Anxious (Matthew 6:25-31)

          My wife’s brother is a dentist. He is a good … no, a GREAT dentist (those are well-deserved awards!). I should know. I have genetically bad teeth. That or I’m suffering the consequences of poor oral hygiene as a child. Reasons aside, I’ve had more holes filled in my mouth than Pole Branch Road! (You probably don’t get the reference, so here’s a video of my brother complaining about SC roads, specifically, Pole Branch

          Trust me, there are a LOT of potholes on Pole Branch and a LOT of fillings in my teeth.)

          Back to the story at hand … I’ve seen my fair share of dentists in my life and prior to Kenny (that’s Dr. Ken Holton, to you), I never knew there were “good” dentists. They were all the same (and I would not use the word “good” to describe them). But even as a “new” dentist just a few years out of UNC-Chapel Hill, Kenny was very good at what he did. (One of the few good things ever to come out of UNC.)

          One of the perks of being family is the “special” treatment we would get. Kenny gave us generously discounted rates, but to accomplish that, he would often treat us after hours. When needed, my wife, Meribeth, would be his dental assistant. She is an RN and although not trained as a dental assistant, she was capable of holding the suctioning thingy and handing stuff to him as needed (I hope I did not lose you by using technical dental jargon like “suctioning thingy.”)

          We lived two and a half hours away from Meribeth’s family so most of the time our dental work coincided with family visits and holidays (another reason for him to treat us after hours). On one particular trip, I was scheduled to have a filling replaced. Not fun. I had been dreading the visit. In fact, in retrospect, we may have made a special trip just for him to see me … which would have given me all that travel time to build up some anxiety; a LOT of anxiety … however, I consoled my tumultuous innards with the knowledge that Meribeth would be there next to me.

          We arrived. We entered through the back-door; the door reserved for employees, for “authorized personnel only,” and apparently for family. It was a good and comforting feeling, as was the feeling of having the run of the place – no one there except us and the Doc; no one to tell me I did not belong or that I couldn’t look in that room. It was good to be family; privileged even. I had a back-stage, all-access pass to the dentist’s office!

          However, when I sat in the dental chair, any “comfort” I had felt quickly dissipated. Kenny was in and out prepping things (the sound of metal instruments on the tray made my heart pound faster and my blood pressure go up several points). My mind began playing tapes of the sound of “The Drill,” that high-pitched whirring with a “z” in the mix. My olfactories recalled the smells associated with “The Drill.” (What? It is impossible to recall smells? Well, maybe I’m just special!) Even before Dr. Holton entered the room, my knuckles were already white from gripping the arm-rests. He and Meribeth were chatting (family stuff probably, I don’t know), but I could hear them in the distance … he was gathering instruments … and needles.

          I knew I needed to calm down. I began trying to console myself. But Kenny came in with the syringe … why are those needles four inches long!? As he was drawing up the numbing juice (technical name), I remembered that the last time I had been in his chair, Kenny had given me a Q-tip with some orange flavored numbing gel, to make the needle portion of the visit go a little easier … but he had no orange-flavored Q-tip in his hand, just the syringe. 

          I mustered the strength to speak without betraying my high anxiety, “Aren’t you going to give me that orange-flavored Q-tip first?” “Nah,” Kenny said, “it didn’t really make a difference.” The lump in my throat grew like the Grinch’s heart.

          My heart starting palpitating. 

          “But wait!” I thought to myself, “Meribeth will be in here helping … that will bring me peace and comfort! She will be right my side, holding my hand … right there where and when I need her!” and (and I am NOT exaggerating), at that very moment, Meribeth popped in the room, “Well, I’m going shopping. I’ll be back in about an hour.” And before I could muster even the meekest of protesting whimpers, “Poof!” she had vanished out that back, employee’s only and fleeing-family-members door that I had so confidently entered a few minutes before.

          I was gripping the chair so hard, I feared breaking it. Kenny moved toward me with that needle in slow-motion; you know like the monsters in those old, monster B-movies.  

          I was trying hard not to let my absolute terror show. And just as he was about to begin, it hit me; I don’t need to be worried or afraid. 

          1.      Kenny was my brother-in-law. And a good one at that. He loved his sister and he at least tolerated her husband. He would not intentionally hurt me and more than that, he would more than likely treat me as best as he could given our familial relationship.

          (yes, he is still moving toward me with the needle while I am thinking all these things; I am a fast thinker!)

          2.      Kenny was a GREAT dentist (just look at all those awards he has on his wall!). In all of my previous visits with him, I had left amazed at how little it hurt, at how gentle and skilled he was. 

          Why should I be afraid? I was in the loving, capable, skillful hands of the best dentist I had ever had the pleasure of drooling on! And with that I relaxed, got the Novocain shots and my tooth filled.

          If only I had started there I could have saved myself all that anxiety … and you from having to read this protracted story just so I could make this point: Why do we worry? Do we not know that …

          1.      … our Heavenly Father LOVES us with an overwhelming, un-explainable, inexhaustible love? And He has given us permission to go through The Door (John 10:9), the special door that says, “Family Members Only.” He has given us a generously discounted rate (Matthew 10:8, niv, 1 Peter 4:8). We are members of His family (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:19)

          2.      … our Heavenly Father is a GREAT God? And by “great” I mean … well, every-possible-amazing-word-that-you-can-think-of kind of great, and then some. He is good, just, fair, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, all-wise … He is VERY GOOD at what He does … and we are in His hands.

          So why worry? Why be anxious?

          We don’t need an orange-flavored, numbing Q-tip to help us. We don’t even need the comfort of a loved-one at our side to bring us peace (though, that IS a wonderful thing). We only need to know and believe that God loves us more than enough to take care of us.

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            The Big "C"

            119 words.

            That's all that was showing in my sermon file when I opened it last Wednesday afternoon.

            119 words.

            Just 119 words.

            Immediately, all kinds of thoughts screamed through my head:

            "Wait just a minute! How can this be? I mean, I just finished this sermon earlier today. I've been working on it for almost three weeks... and I was finally finished! And that was this Sunday's sermon too! I mean, I know that there were almost 4,000 words! What happened? Why are there now only 119?"

            Panic set in. I had thirty minutes before a counseling appointment, and two hours before I was supposed to teach my Wednesday night lesson. I immediately called my Bible software's technical support line, explained the problem, only to be told after just a few minutes, "Unless you deleted the file, there is really no way for us to retrieve the lost data in a file. The easiest fix is to reenter the data."

            Easiest? I was obviously speaking to someone who had never written a sermon in their life!

            When my counseling appointment showed, I was literally numb, possessed with a single thought: "How can I get those words back?"

            I wish I could tell you that was the only time that I had ever had that thought, but unfortunately, it's not. There have been more times than I would like to admit where I've had the exact same thought - "How can I get those words back?" - but none of the previous times had anything to do with a sermon.

            You know, when it comes right down to it, most of the words that we want to "get back" are those that we have "let loose" in one of three forums:

            1) Gossip

            2) Angry remarks

            3) Careless criticism

            I would be lying if I said that I'd never been guilty of the first two (and I just preached Sunday about honesty, just saying), but my main issue, I know all too well, is the big "C." Way too many times, my words are simply careless.

            I'm not sure who originally said this, but I saw it online today and it made me laugh (which I needed):

            "If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[ pasdlgkhasdfasdf."

            But, not so funny:

            "Careless words stab like a sword..." (Proverbs 12:18 NCV)


            "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak" (Matthew 12:36 ESV)

            You see, my original thoughts for this post (that I was supposed to write last week but didn't because of the "missing words") were in the abstract. But this morning, God decided that He wanted for it to be personal.

            So, just a few hours ago, somebody commented to me about something that I said a few weeks ago that, quite frankly, I don't even remember saying.

            Now, I trust that I did say it, because unfortunately, it sounds like something I would say... not out of spite, not to inflict hurt or pain, but to just try and be funny... to try and get a cheap laugh, even at the expense of someone else, who may or may not know anything about what's being said (which, in this case, they didn't).

            I'm really not so sure what that says about me as a person; I just know that I don't like it. Not one bit.

            In the short time today that I've had to think about this, I now believe that my words may very well have been the catalyst for incredible harm.

            Which brings me back to... "How can I get those words back?"

            I can't. I mean, it's just not possible. That ship has sailed.

            All I can do now is own them... and do my best to try and make amends for them... and hope to never forget this feeling so that I am more careful with my words in the future.

            I fear that I may be sharing too much information about my "fallenness," but I am reminded every day just how much work (and sometimes how much hard work) there is for me to be more like Jesus.

            I have so far to go.

            But I desperately want to get there.

            In an earlier post, I shared some of my 2019 goals, including to "walk/run/walk 365 miles." My wife and I have been able to keep that pace, thus far, in spite of the cold, wet weather that we've had so much of this winter.

            However, a few weeks ago, while running downtown in front of the Police Station, I tripped on the uneven pavement and went sprawling. Wearing gloves (again, it's been cold!), I landed on my left hand but immediately rolled on my shoulder and got up, injury free (or so I thought), other than my pride.

            I was reminded of my falls (both the physical and the verbal) when I read Patrick Allan's words last week:

            "If you trip with your feet, you can get back up again and carry on business as usual... If you trip with your tongue, you unleash more than just words. You share thoughts, desires, or perspectives that may hurt others. Once you've said something hurtful, you can't undo it. There's no getting back up; there's only asking for forgiveness and hoping they'll pull you back up."

            So, that's what I will do. I will extend my right hand (not the left - my finger hurts too badly!) and pray that those who my careless words have hurt will be willing to help me back up again.

            And, I'm going to do my very best to make sure that the next time I say, "How can I get those words back?" I'm talking about nothing more earth-shattering than a misplaced note from my desk.

            (By the way, God is good. Through some technology gymnastics, I was able to recover more than 60% of my sermon last week. More importantly, when I extended my hand earlier today, I was graciously pulled to my feet and given forgiveness.)

            God is good. That is anything but a "by the way." And it's so much more than even a main point. It is our entire message!

            And it can be said in a lot less than 119 words!

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            1. Agree, God is sooooooo gooooood!
          2.  — Edited

            Why Does God Say "Yes" to Some Prayers and "No" to Others?

            This past Sunday, we looked at "The Lord's Prayer" in Matthew 6. It got me thinking about prayer in general.

            Why does God answer “Yes” to some prayers and answer “No” to others?

            What a tough question. And at the risk of ending this blog just a few sentences in, my ultimate answer is, “I don’t know.”

            But it is worth pondering.

            All of us have had prayers that were answered with a clear, wonderful, “YES!” and we marvel at God’s goodness, are humbled by His attention. Our “spiritual confidence” (if there is such a thing) is boosted and we are emboldened to pray more, to perhaps even solicit other people’s needs so we can pray for them because we think we’ve finally figured “it” out. “It” being, “How to pray effective prayers that get results.”

            Also true for all of us are those prayers we have prayed that God has said “No” to. Sometimes we say “unanswered prayer,” but I think, “Answered in a way we did not desire” is a better description. For me, and others who have talked to me, these prayers are 1) heartfelt, 2) offered in faith, 3) are important (at least in our economy), 4) are unselfish most of the time, 5) make perfect sense in our logic, that a good God would answer the way we’ve figured it all out.

            What is the difference?

            Sad, sad story alert. 

            Several years ago, I had a friend, Rick, who was diagnosed with leukemia. Rick and his wife had lost a son to a terrible disease many years before; they had a daughter who had recently been married. I, along with many others, prayed for Rick’s leukemia to go into remission. It did! We praised and thanked God. 

            His daughter got pregnant (another praise) but then Rick’s leukemia returned … with a vengeance. We prayed again that he would be healed, that it would go into remission (God did it once, He can do it again! … but why did God allow it to return in the first place? No time to ponder that – I just need to pray). Rick did not get better, he got worse. 

            As the weeks ticked by, it was clear that Rick was not going to survive this resurgence of leukemia. So our prayers shifted. “God, please keep Rick alive long enough to see his grand-baby.” It was a weekly and daily prayer. 

            At the time, my two sons were young and praying for Rick was part of our nightly routine (his pregnant daughter had been their frequent babysitter, so they knew them well). Even if my prayers were inadequate, certainly God would listen to the pleas of two young, innocent children whose faith might be impacted if their prayers received a “no.” Right?

            As the due date loomed closer, Rick’s condition worsened. Our prayers became more fervent.

            One Sunday, we came home from church to find a message on our answering machine. Rick had passed away that morning; his daughter was in labor. She gave birth just three hours later.

            Three hours. 

            Truth be told, I don’t know if Rick would have been conscious enough to even know he had a granddaughter if he had lived a few ours longer or if she had given birth the night before. But after months of prayer, asking for what amounted to a three-hour extension seemed easy enough.

            But God said, “No.”

            Now, my faith is not/was not shaken. I did not doubt or blame or even get angry at God. I cried; I asked; I wondered … I still wonder and still tell God, “I don’t understand.”

            And I don’t. Here I am, a preacher/minister, teaching and preaching on prayer and I have not the first clue how prayer “works.” That is, I don’t know why God says “Yes” to some prayers (and let’s be honest, some of the things God says “yes” to are pretty minor compared to letting my friend Rick live just three more hours – or at least, in my little, finite, flawed, human brain they seem minor) and says “No” to some pretty, big, important things … like healing people we love from terrible diseases or protecting them from tragic accidents.

            I don’t know why God says “Yes” to some prayers and “No” to others.

            But here is what I know:

            ·       God hears and answers prayer (1 Peter 3:12, 1 John 5:15)

            ·       God will do whatever we ask (inside of His will; if we ask with faith; if we ask through our Mediator, Jesus Christ – Matthew 6:10, John 14:14, James 1:6)

            ·       God told some people in the Bible, “No!” when they prayed; most notably, His own Son in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36ff) but also Paul (Acts 16:6-7, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9), John the Baptist (I can’t imagine John and his disciples NOT praying for his release from prison and not only was he kept in prison, he was beheaded there), 11 of the 12 disciples died tragic, painful, martyr’s deaths – I cannot imagine all of them facing that without praying for God to deliver them, and God said, “no.”

            I also know this:

            ·       God is not cruel, forgetful, inattentive, capricious, petty, able to be manipulated, or anything like that.

            ·       God is good, faithful, always right, always has our best interest at heart … did I mention that He is always right, always good?

            ·       Many, many things of this world do not make sense to me and will not make sense to me until that Day when all will be revealed.

            Natalie Grant has song out that has been playing on contemporary Christian music radio, “More Than Anything.” Although the whole song has thought-provoking lyrics, the chorus begins, “Help me want the Healer more than the healing.”

            I cannot help but wonder if some of our “unanswered prayers” are in someway connected to that sentiment. After all, (speaking at least for myself), if I got a “yes” from God for everything I asked for, how long would it be before my prayers turned totally selfish and self-serving? I know that I would crave the healing more than the Healer. (It pains and shames me to admit it, but it is true.) Would I be tempted to farm out my awesome prayer life to others as a means of granting favors or currying favor? Would I become prideful and boastful that when I pray, God listens?

            I’m not saying that God says “no” just to teach me a lesson and keep me humble. I’m confident His reasons are bigger than my stupidity and pride. But I do not want to dismiss the truth that a God who says “Yes” to every request simply because we want Him to is not a faithful, wise, righteous God.

            Oh, I also know this: God wants me to pray. He does not want me to pray for results. He does not want me to pray to earn “spiritual points.” He does not want me to pray to occupy space on my schedule or to keep the food from causing indigestion. He wants me to pray because He loves me and He wants to talk to me. And that is humbling and loving and more than reason enough.

            9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:9–13 (ESV)

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            1.  — Edited

              I Am Blessed

              As I write this post, I have just finished my lunch from Taco Bell. It was the exact same thing that I have eaten for lunch the last three days, and the same thing I've had almost every weekday over the last 14 months (a chicken soft taco, chunky-style, Fresco-style, with added black beans and a steak soft taco, Fresco-style, both with Mild, Hot, and Diablo sauces... for those who are interested).

              I'm feeling blessed... and not just because I love Taco Bell. No, I have been feeling blessed all week long.

              When I taught on Jesus' Beatitudes a couple weeks ago, I said that the Greek word makarios (μᾰκάριος) in Matthew 5:3-11 that is often translated "blessed" is a word that's unlike any word in our English language. The meaning is hard to pin down, and so its translation is all over the place, including "happy" (Good News Bible) and "very fortunate" (The Living Bible).

              Happy... fortunate... blessed... 

              Yep... guilty as charged.

              The reality is that all of us are blessed. Even in the most difficult times of our life, we are an incredibly blessed people.

              Charles Spurgeon said: "In prosperity, God is heard, and that is a blessing; but in adversity, God is seen, and that is a greater blessing."

              This past Sunday afternoon, my wife and I had the privilege of both "hearing" and "seeing" God's blessings through our church family. Reidsville Christian Church had a reception honoring my 30 years as minister (the first five years were as the youth minister, then the preaching minister for the last twenty-five). 

              It was an incredible afternoon!

              To start with, there were numerous varieties of kringle (for those who failed to click the link in my 11/25/18 post, here's another chance), delivered fresh from Racine Danish Kringles in Wisconsin. Both the cinnamon roll and cream cheese flavors are enough to make anyone feel blessed!

              In addition, I spent over an hour Sunday night reading the more than seventy cards and the gracious comments written in them. As if the words weren't a blessing enough, many of them also contained gifts. (I now have enough Taco Bell gift cards to last me for the next three months!)

              I am blessed.

              But the greatest blessing of the day was the opportunity to reminisce with so many who I have the privilege of doing "church" with... some who have been with me for the entire thirty years, some who have just joined the journey, and many in-between. Through both laughter and tears, we shared together how God has blessed all of us in so many ways.

              Having been here for so long, I've had numerous opportunities to see God at work in the lives of people who I dearly love, both in their good times and bad. I have also had the privilege to come alongside them and celebrate or mourn with them.

              You know, I never wanted to be a preacher; I've said that a number of times through the years. And I certainly never intended to stay at one church for my entire preaching ministry (At the risk of sounding like I might be leaving, I need to insert "thus far" here or it will sound like I am retiring. Please know that I have no desire to do either!)

              Through the years, there have other ministry opportunities, but there was never really a peace about any of them. To be honest, as my wife and I were talking earlier this week, the "extras" that each new ministry offered were always things that we wanted to experience with our church family in Reidsville, rather than leave and experience them ourselves in some other place with another group of people.

              I recently read that the average tenure of a pastor is now 6 years; 85% of seminary graduates entering the ministry leave within five years; 90% of all pastors don't last to retirement. 

              I am confident that those statistics cover much better preachers and leaders than me, who simply did not have the opportunity that I have had to stay in a single church for three decades. The reasons for that could be numerous: Their church polity may not have allowed for it... or the people... or the minister him/herself.

              But I tend to think the reason why so few ministers have stayed at a single church for the entirety is simply because they never had the opportunity to serve with a church family like the Reidsville Christian Church family.

              I have no idea why God allowed me to be a part of RCC. Again, it was certainly not because I am the most skilled or gifted speaker or pastor... or that I have done anything to deserve my congregation's encouragement, patience, love and generosity.

              But He did. He has. And, hopefully, He will continue to do so.

              I am blessed.

              By the way, everyone who has said, "I hope you stay another thirty years," I really appreciate the sentiment... and I do hope that I have many more years with you... but we both know you don't mean really mean it... and that's okay.

              No amount of Taco Bell could keep me going that long!

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              1.  — Edited

                Victim-less crime ...

                Unhappy with much of the current TV and Netflix offerings, I have been searching my Roku device for some long-forgotten, “clean-ish” shows to watch when I want to be entertained. One that I am re-watching now is the 1980’s show, Hill Street Blues, the BEST Police drama ever (don’t even attempt to argue this point!). I loved it for so many reasons, but Sergeant Phil Esterhaus’ tag line at the end of every roll call, “Let’s be careful out there,” made a lasting impression on me. But I digress …

                I also discovered Hill Street Blues has been airing on an obscure channel and so I’ve seen some episodes out of sequence. This one caught my attention. Lt. Howard Hunter (he was sergeant at one time, played my James Sikking) had previously been portrayed as a straight, no-nonsense, by-the-book, clean-living guy. But during a prostitution round-up, he took a fancy to one of the ladies who was arrested. He visited her in the lock-up, and, trying to endear himself to her said, “I’ve always thought what you did should not be prosecuted. It is a victim-less crime …”

                A victim-less crime … hold that thought for a moment.

                While I was pondering what to write for this blog, I wrote down some ideas to research along the lines of what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:17-48. One of my ideas was about a quote from then presidential candidate Jimmy Carter, 1976 (this was the next election following Nixon’s impeachment-resignation-embarrassment-fiasco). While giving an interview to a vulgar magazine (something I think he should have NEVER granted, and one I refuse to name because I don’t want to give it any publicity – just trust me - but I digress again), he said had he had "looked on a lot of women with lust" and had "committed adultery in my heart many times." Clearly, he was referencing Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 5:27-28 but the press and entertainment world had a field day! They mocked and teased … this was obviously a good topic for my blog post. I did some digging and I found a 1996 LA Times, “Ten years later” article from one of the OG interviewers trying to set the record straight about Carter’s comments. None of that is relevant to me or this post, but then the author said this, “Sad, because the lies of Johnson and Nixon resulted in the deaths of millions in Vietnam, while Carter's vicarious adultery hurt no one.” (emphasis mine)

                There it was again … a victim-less crime/sin, that “hurt no one.”

                To be sure, when we merely think something, (robbing a bank, killing someone, etc.) it IS “less-than” actually taking the action and doing it. And I don’t think Jesus was saying, “Well, if you’ve ever been angry with someone, you might as well go ahead and murder them, because it’s just as bad” (Matthew 5:21-26). But Jesus IS saying that having those thoughts in our hearts is not OK.

                “But who is hurt by it?”

                Do you know the number of wrecked marriages and wrecked lives brought about by pornography? (1) I’m talking about men (usually) who “just” look at it? Do you know what it does to their brain? How they view women? How they view their wives? The loss of intimacy it brings? (2) A victim-less crime?

                Not all murder is pre-meditated, but a lot of it is. Before there is a rash action, there has usually been some kind of thought going on for days, weeks, even lifetimes in the case of prejudices, unresolved anger issues ready to boil over … thoughts that had safe harbor in the mind and heart come out in violent, irreversible ways. Hating someone, just thinking about it, what’s the harm in that?

                Jesus said, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart …” (Matthew 15:18). But so often “we” think that as long as we don’t “act” upon our thoughts, everything will be fine. Or, “as long as no one is hurt, it’s not wrong.” That goes back to Lt. Hunter’s opinion about prostitution, but it reaches into recreational drug use, pornography, and so many areas that Jesus would say are not for us.

                Jesus calls us to live by a different standard. He is not merely concerned with our outward actions but also our inner thoughts. May I offer two possible reasons?

                One: Jesus knows that our inner thoughts are the source of our outward actions. Not too long ago, celebrities and other public figures were routinely getting in trouble for using racial slurs or angry, sometimes drunken, outbursts. Often their apology included some form of, “I just slipped; I don’t talk like that; that’s not who I am, blah, blah, blah.” But the truth of the matter is, if you NEVER thought those words you wouldn’t say them. Their “unfortunate” public outburst was just the fruit of their private language, thoughts and feelings. Jesus knows, “out of the heart the mouth speaks.”

                Two (and for me, this is most important): Jesus knows that our inner sinful thoughts are still sin. Our Heavenly Father knows what is in our hearts. He is not by fooled. And when we foolishly accept the premise that as long as we put on some religious-looking appearance, everything is spiritually fine, we run afoul of exactly what Jesus was teaching against in The Sermon on the Mount. There is no such thing as a “harmless sin” or “victim-less crime.” If nothing else, as Christians we should know that Jesus is the victim of every sin: every single, little, hidden or uncovered, discovered or secret, big or small, spontaneous or premeditated sin.

                He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24 (ESV)

                So while we may think that no one is getting hurt by our thoughts (or even perhaps some of our actions), Jesus was and is.

                With apologies to Sergeant Phil Esterhaus, let’s not only be careful “out there” but also “in here” (our hearts).


                1) I intended to provide a link here but there seems to be some controversy over whether or not viewing porn alters chemicals in the brain. There’s an article by Psychology Today in which the author says it does not, but other studies that show it does. However, I have counseled with people whose marriages have been ruined by pornography, specifically because it altered how the husband viewed his “less-than-perfect” looking wife or that their sex life wasn’t as “exciting” as portrayed in the pornography he had been viewing. I’ll let others argue about brain chemicals but there’s more than enough evidence for me to say that viewing pornography ruins relationships. Incidentally, pornography is not just a male problem. More and more women are viewing it as the “50 Shades of Grey” series has capitalized on.

                Here is a link to a lengthy article "The Human Brain on Porn." And a link to a YouTube of Christian author, Dr. William Struthers, discussing, "Wired for Intimacy - (the effect of porn on the brain). Interestingly enough, both (unrelated to one another) use the phrase, "pornography is NOT a victim-less crime/sin/activity."

                2) Focus on the Family, www.family.org, has some great resources. Here is just one brief article highlighting what porn can do to a teen that will affect their future marriage relationship: How Porn Affects Your Child's Future



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                1.  — Edited

                  Take the Challenge!

                  Even if you've never watched what some are calling Netflix' "first cult classic" (a record 45,037,125 accounts tuned to it during its first week last November), I'm still guessing that since you're reading this, you probably have a computer, and so it's possible that you've at least heard about the movie Bird Box and the "Bird Box Challenge." In the challenge, people pay homage to the film by blindfolding and then filming themselves doing everyday, mundane tasks, such as petting their dogs, playing basketball, and putting on lipstick. But some of the activities that are filmed should never ever be done with eyes closed, like giving a tattoo or driving a car.

                  The phenomenon got so out of hand that earlier this year, Netflix released a Twitter statement saying:

                  "Can't believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE. We don't know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes."

                  (It's okay if, at this point, you need to stop and Google "Boy and Girl" and/or "memes.")

                  Now, I understand the challenge; I just don't get it. I mean, if you want to experience life without light, you really don't need a blindfold. You can have the exact same experience in the middle of an Indiana cornfield.

                  It was Mark Twain who supposedly said, "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco."

                  Well, I've never been to San Francisco (but I kinda like The Beatles.)

                  Wait a minute. Wrong song.

                  How 'bout this?

                  "The darkest night I ever spent was in the middle of a cornfield in Indiana." (It doesn't quite have the same ring to it, but it's true.)

                  First off, I'm a city boy. My wife tells me this all the time. While I thought I grew up in the country, apparently having driven on a dirt road at some point in my life and having viewed (not milked) a few nearby cows does not mean that I lived in the country.

                  That said, most of my life has been lived "in the light." Whether it was the security light on the Duke Power pole outside my childhood home or the streetlights outside my current home, I have never really had to fumble around in the dark, no matter what time of night it was.

                  Except for that one night in Indiana in the middle of a cornfield.

                  Okay, it wasn't really in a cornfield; there were just cornfields as far as the eye could see. I had driven my parents up to northern Indiana for my sister's and her husband's graduations from Purdue University and we ended up staying a couple nights in their home.

                  Remember that line from The Fugitive where Tommy Lee Jones asked for a search of "every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse" in the area?

                  Well, with apologies to Deputy Marshall Gerard, that night in Indiana there was no sunlight, moonlight, starlight, streetlight, flashlight, candlelight, or even lightin' bug light.

                  It was dark.

                  And so, when I got up in the middle of the night, it was a completely new experience. I literally could not see my hand in front of my face, much less the furniture in front of my shins!

                  While I've always just sort of taken it for granted, looking back, I can't imagine a world without light. I don't want to even think about a world without light.

                  And yet, we live in a world where, albeit the minority, there are voices at two extremes:

                  1) Those who want a world without the light of Jesus.

                  2) Those who are convinced that the light of Jesus has been extinguished from the world.

                  First, there are those who actually dream about a world without Jesus. I mean, isn't that what John Lennon sang? "Imagine there's no religion..." (Okay, maybe I don't kinda like the Beatles.)

                  How dark would that kind of world be?

                  In his book, How Christianity Changed the World, Alvin Schmidt lists fifteen changes that the light of Jesus brought to our world, including the sanctity of human life, sexual morality, the freedom and dignity of women, hospitals and healthcare, and liberty and justice for all.

                  I mean, a world without just those five would be so much darker than that Indiana cornfield!

                  But then there are also many (Christian?) naysayers who lament the fact that the darkness has overtaken the world. Like Elijah falsely believing that he was the only one left on God's side (only to have God tell him, "Nope, you're one of thousands"), they take their cue from the nightly news and report that, "Evil has won. The light is gone."

                  Jesus says, "Not as long as you're around."

                  "You (the clear emphasis in the Greek) are the light of the world." (Matthew 5:14 ESV)





                  By the way, it's impossible for the darkness to extinguish the light. The light will always shine. It isn't even dependent on if we hide or shine the light ourselves. The light shines on... but it will be so much brighter in our world if we will just allow it to shine through us.

                  So, here's my challenge to each of us light bearers (and it has nothing to do with a blindfold):

                  Don't hide the light; instead, show it. Even when it's uncomfortable, shine the light.

                  And, if you ever find yourself in an Indiana cornfield in the middle of the night, take a flashlight. You're gonna need it.

                  You might even run into Boy and Girl!

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                    "Blessed are the meek ... "

                    My dad used to be a pilot. He flew small, single and twin-engine prop planes. He earned his commercial license and his instrument instructor license. He never flew for an airline, but occasionally did fly passengers. Most of the time, he flew cargo: checks from various cities around the state back to Charlotte. This, of course, was before technology made the physical check-in-hand, obsolete. Back then, getting checks back to the banking hub in a timely manner was a matter of many tens of thousands of dollars.

                    One of his usual stops was in Raleigh (RDU) close to where I lived. Often, he would have a wait, and if he knew that ahead of time, Meribeth and I would drive to the airport and meet him – bring him supper sometimes. It was only for 30-45 minutes, but it was nice to just visit on occasion.

                    One time, dad called to tell me that he was flying a passenger to RDU and would have a couple of hours of wait time, so we go out to dinner. I don’t know who he was flying; I suppose most of the time he didn’t either – he just knew their name and that they were a VIP of some sort. After all, you had to have money to rent a private plane and pilot and it must be pretty important business if you don’t have time to wait on the commercial airline schedule.

                    I arrived at the appointed time – it was in the evening and the FBO terminal (Fixed-Base Operator– i.e., the private plane area of the airport complex) was pretty much empty (this was before Sept. 11 and security at FBO’s was pretty much on the honor system). I strolled in as I had done many times when dad was there for his check-runs, but this time was different.

                    I saw dad coming down the hall, carrying a suit-case with Mr. V. I. Person in front of him. I wasn’t really thinking about things or paying attention, I was just ready to get dad and go get supper! I started to say “Hi!” but dad’s eyes caught mine and he shook me off with a stern look … not angry or anything, but the look said, “Don’t speak. Don’t break protocol.” (OK, we hadn’t established any protocol to break, but I got the message.) 

                    I quickly looked away and walked passed them and took a seat in the waiting area. I could hear Mr. Important telling my dad what to do, when to be back, not to be late … etc. and heard my dad say, “Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!” several times, in a voice that was … well, not the way I was used to hearing my dad speak. It was clear, he was the hired-hand. He was the servant.

                    Did Mr. V. I. P. not realize that MY DAD was the one who had the pilot’s license? That he had logged 10,000+ flying hours? Had flown into and out of thunderstorms … successfully? That he was not only able to fly through those storms but was good enough and smart enough to train others how to do it? Did Mr. Important not realize that MY DAD had just taken him safely to 7,000 feet above the earth and brought him safely back down? You’d think that he would realize who was REALLY important in this scenario!

                    But my dad carried his bags; my dad dutifully answered, acknowledged and acquiesced to Mr. Big-Shot VIP … and I didn’t like it. I have a strong protection tendency, especially toward those I love.

                    I did not mention anything to my dad that night. As I recall, he didn’t mention it either. We went to supper, it was nice, but there was a pall in the air. As you can tell, it stuck with me. But I learned from it also. The memory is still a bad one, but I’ve come to reconcile it. My dad understood “his place.” In that moment, he WAS the hired hand; he WAS the servant. Whether I liked it or not. His “job” was to carry the luggage, be on time, do as he was told, and safely fly his plane and passenger to their agreed-upon destination. While he was on Mr. V.I.P.’s time, Mr. V.I.P. “owned” him. When we he was on his own time, he could spend it with me.

                    Someone much wiser than I once said (and I’ve heard Shannon repeat it several times), “Everyone wants to be known as a servant; nobody wants to be treated like one.” I did not like seeing my dad being treated like a servant although that’s who he was; that’s what he preached, that’s what he taught us to be.

                    Being humble is not pretty. It isn’t glamorous. There are no awards, no (earthly) rewards; no matter how we (preachers or otherwise) spin it, dress it up, spiritualize it, there’s just no up-side for true humility. And yet Jesus bases His whole teaching on it. 

                    ·        “Blessed are the poor …”

                    ·        “Blessed are the sorrowful … “

                    ·        “Blessed are the meek …”

                    ·        “Blessed are the hungry …”

                    ·        “Blessed are you when people (notice these words) revile you, persecute you, speak falsely against you ...” (see Matthew 5:3-12)

                    Basically, “Blessed are you when you act like a servant and when people treat you like a servant.”

                    This is something we’ve got to master (forgive the reverse pun) if we are going to be disciples of Jesus. The disciple of Jesus does not retaliate when hit; does not refuse an evil person; offers up to the thief more than they stole from them; goes the extra mile. (Matthew 5:38-42)

                    These things are not valuable to the world, but they are valuable to the King of Kingdom of Heaven. As His disciples, we are on His time. We ARE servants and not just in name only. He expects, nay DEMANDS that we … give to the needy, care for the sick, tend to the needs of those in prison, love our neighbor as our self, love our enemies, and so many other things that can only be done when we are truly humble and willing to be humiliated.

                    [If this rubs you the wrong way, then good. Our “flesh” is prideful and does not want to be humiliated. Remember, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5)]

                    I don’t know when the next time you will be asked to carry luggage, or acquiesce to another person’s wishes … I just know Jesus has called us to follow in His steps … and His steps led to a cross, a humiliating cross. But on the other side of that cross is glory. But more than that, there is the admiration of a Heavenly Father who will say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

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