"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi
Refuge from the storm
Our area has been
buffeted by severe storms over the past couple weeks. Heavy rain, lightning, thunder and
even hail has swept through my part of the county, sometimes with almost no
warning. Blue skies overhead one minute, then CRACK! the sky is dark, the
thunder rolls and the deluge begins. As long as I am inside, the storms don't
usually cause me great alarm, however, I was caught on the golf course once
when one of these storms arose and the four of us were quite concerned for a
few moments. How many odds were against us? Standing in the middle of an open
fairway, almost underneath a set of power lines with metal golf clubs in our
hands. When we saw the first lightning bolt strike in a yard adjacent to our
location, all we remember doing was throwing our clubs up in the air and
falling to the ground screaming like a bunch of school girls. Finally, it
occurred to us that perhaps we should look for shelter. Even though I was with
three good friends, I really didn't relish the thought of being flash-fried
with them. My idea of death was much more warm and fuzzy and involves being
surrounded by nice music, family and friends.
What is your reaction when the storms
of life begin to buffet you? Are you like my dog, Murphy, was and try to bury
himself under me and anything else available? Are you like me and fall face
down on the ground screaming like a banshee? Or, as the scriptures suggest, do
we take refuge in God, our Stronghold and our Shelter? We face so much these
days with illnesses, deaths, job loss, divorces, drugs and crime that there is
no place to hide and we cannot ignore these storms. Our human capabilities are
not able to weather everything life throws at us, nor are we able to fully
comfort those who are going through the trials. Only God can do this. Only God
can provide us with shelter and comfort. Only God can speak the words which can
take away the pain and fear. Only God can provide the power of Love to protect
us. Many times we do not feel His presence, and that is normal and expected,
however that does not mean He is not there guiding and guarding us all the way
through. Then, when we finally come through and awake into the day of sunlight
once again, we can look back and see God never left our side.
My closing thoughts? It was a very stupid
thing to be on a golf course during a thunderstorm, and I wish I could say it
would never happen again, except that my friends and I are rather dense. But,
this I can say, God will always be my protector and stronghold in the thunderstorms
of my life. He has done it faithfully for many years and I have the faith to know that He
will continue for years to come (well, unless I insist on playing golf in the
rain with friends who have no common sense).
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with
and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fires of life, you will not be
nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." (Isaiah
today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.
I found God through my glucose levels
I’ve learned much in
the last couple of months living with diabetes. How to eat and how not to eat.
How to live a more structured life and how to minimize stressful situations.
How to be aware of the fragility of life and how one little thing like an
unplanned donut or slice of pie can throw an entire body out of whack. But,
even for such a short period of time it is already amazing me to see how God
has created the human body so that every system within us is affected by
The Psalmist tells
us in Psalm 139 that God created our entire “innermost being.” There is a plan and design to how we work,
both physically and emotionally. Looking back I can see clearly how for so long
I was fatigued so much of the time, had vision problems and was losing feeling
on the bottom of my feet. I also was constantly thirsty. I was guzzling water,
diet beverages and, of course, sweet iced tea. I have never been the most
energetic of people and much preferred the sofa to the lawnmower, but the
fatigue was becoming seriously, well, fatiguing. And the whole feet thing was
quite baffling. It felt like my socks were all wadded up under my feet when I
was walking….but, I would look down and realize I was barefoot. No feeling.
getting serious about my diet and beginning medication, things began to change.
Within the first week or so, I noticed that I no longer needed an afternoon
nap. My energy level was surprisingly up. The tingling and numbness of my feet was
decreasing and feels almost normal again. And my overall attitude is better.
Over the past month
and a half, I’ve done some experimenting with what foods I can and cannot eat.
For example, I would eat a couple slices of thin crust pizza and almost
immediately feel all weird and sluggish. After a bit, other symptoms would
occur. When I checked my blood levels after a couple hours, my readings had
soared higher than I thought possible. It took the rest of the day and night to
get them back to normal and feel well again. Several days later, I tried the
same thing with a small stack of pancakes with sugar-free syrup and once again,
the levels soared, I felt very tired and started drinking everything in sight.
I’m careful of these “experiments” and don’t do them often, but it is helpful
for me to see the drastic results.
In the midst of all
this, it dawned on me in a new way how intricate our bodies are. One little
thing like a slice of pizza, a big glass of orange juice or even a chocolate
chip cookie can wreak havoc on so many other areas of our body and cause
harmful effects. People can change diets, quit smoking and exercise more to the
benefit of our bodies…. but, a person did not make our body react to these
things as it does. Only God could do that. But, since He is God (and not a
puppet-master), He gives us the free will to live as we choose. And He does not
interfere as we reap the results of our choices. Several writers of the New
Testament tell us that “our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit” and that
we are to “present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable….” I was wrong to have junked up my body for so
many years and ignored the results. I hope you will examine yourself and see if
you are presentable to God as a good place for Him to live.
And for today my
friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.
A time for health...and a time for illness
One of the more well-known passages of the Bible is found in Ecclesiastes where the writer describes that everything has a season and a purpose under heaven. “A time to plant, a time to reap; a time to be born, a time to die; a time to gain, a time to lose…” and so the list goes. God has a reason, a purpose and a season for all areas of our lives so that when the bad times come, we can know that the good times will follow. And vice versa. In their own time. In God’s own time. In His season.
Such as I am now learning. I was in my doctor’s office this past week when he wheeled around and just bluntly told me, “Jimmy, you are now a full diabetic. No pre-diabetes, no almost there; you have Type 2 diabetes and your life will need to change. Quickly.” While not one of the horrible, tragic diseases like cancer, diabetes is one that definitely requires a change in life if I am to remain in this life to be an older man. I also have many friends that are living with this disease, but when it is my name called before the diagnosis, it hit me hard. It knocked the winds from my sails and gave me a quick sense of my own immortality. For awhile, I was lost and I’m still dealing with it. To be honest, I first thought, “Why me, God? Why me?”
I’ve always been a healthy guy. Majoring in Education with an emphasis in Recreation and Physical Education kept me in great shape through college and for many years after. However, as I began working more and more at a desk, my activity went to a much lower level and my fitness began to slack off. Then, as I’ve aged and things creak, groan, ache and snap more often, those days of weights, sports and such have basically ceased to exist. And as the fitness dropped, my weight increased and I began to ignore the healthy eating I knew to be best for me. And so it continued until today. A week after my diagnosis, I am reading all the information I can get and have an upcoming appointment with a nutritionist and diabetic educator where I’ll plot out my lifestyle and receive my new blood sugar monitor.
Has there been something in your life that threw you for a loop? When your first thought was to wonder why God had done this to you? The loss of a job? Maybe a disease over which you had no control? Or, like me, a disease that is my fault and now I have to deal with it? The death of a spouse, child, family member, friend, a loved pet? So many things come across our path while we trudge through this thing called life and the only way we can handle it is with the help of God. It’s okay to grieve or be sad because the Ecclesiastes writer includes that in our seasons of life. And the Psalmist reminds us that, “weeping may last for a night, but joy will come in the morning.” So, know that your feelings are valid, but also rely on God’s promise that a new season will be coming. In God’s time. Not my time. Not your time. In God’s time.
My God is faithful to me and He will walk with me through the next season of my life as I learn to live with diabetes. Me and God. As it should be. And when you hit those overpowering situations, please be reminded that it is only for a season. And that God will always be faithful for you.
And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy (who really wants a piece of chocolate cake right now).
Getting real with the hard reality
For about six years now, I've been living with Non-Alcoholic Steato-Hepatitis...also known as a fatty liver disease which basically is meaning my liver is enlarged, enzymes extremely high because my liver is not processing the sugars and things as it should. For example, I cannot take Tylenol because it goes through the liver and isn't processed correctly. So, I've learned what I can and cannot eat with this (like whole-grain, nothing refined...basically all the things we should eat anyway) and it has worked greatly. My liver is no longer enlarged and enzyme levels (while not back to perfect) came down to more acceptable. However, at my last two lab workups, the levels are going back up and we aren't sure why. Even though the last liver biopsy I had wasn't a horrible thing, I don't relish the thought of having another one anytime soon...
However, the newest wrinkle in life is that I am no officially living with Diabetes. I know to many folks who have it or know folks who do, it is kind of a 'okay and ho-hum' thing....until you hear the words with your name in front. It threw me for a spin. I mean, I may be a big boy, but not heavily overweight by any charts and the doctors have never been particularly concerned about it. My diet is fairly good...I love fresh veggies, fish and beef (not a big poultry fan), and very rarely eat any kind of bread. However... I could live my life eating pasta three meals a day (whole-grain, of course)....but, pasta is pasta is carbohydrates. And...yes, those gummi bears call my name frequently. So, I guess those are safe from my jaws now. But, I am now officially on two more prescriptions and I am not a fan of legal pharmaceuticals....(just kidding, church people!) Plus, I have STRICT doctor instructions to reduce the stress in my life. Hmmmm, reckon how he knows that Stress is my middle name.
I've spent a couple days reading everything I could find from reputable internet sources, doing a lot of soul-searching and talking to some trusted friends who are in the medical field. I know this is a serious thing if I don't get my act together, but I can do it. And I will do it. Well, since today is my brother's birthday, I must force down birthday cake and ice cream, but I will do it.
Since I tend to have few filters about revealing all things about my life, you will probably enjoy traveling this journey along with me as I travel a new path of eating, exercise and lifestyle. I had my cottonball with a few drops of lavender oil next to the bed last night with my instrumental Celtic music playing....said the Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm from memory and then relaxed off with my new meditation skills from Deepak Chopra. I slept better than ever. Plus, a dose of tough love from Micheal Elliott scared me if I don't get busy.
Don't hit me with your rosary, please!
Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one who has these frustrating "out of sync with God" times which turn into glorious times which then go to the average times which go back to a really good time and then back to frustrating. And the cycle starts again. Or, I'm I just the only one stupid enough to admit when I get out of sync with God occasionally?
For example, and I really hate to tell this because I am liable to get whacked on the head by some little Catholic lady and her rosary.....but, I have had a very lousy Lent. For those who know me personally, you know that I would have probably said crappy instead of lousy, but using that 'c' word in the same sentence as Lent is a bit more that even I can do. Anyway, it's been a bad season.
I have always observed Lent in some form or fashion. Rarely has it been by giving up my beloved food and beverages, but by giving of more time to church endeavors, to personal growth, to volunteer efforts in my community and in recent years to write daily thoughts of my own personal journey. This year, I had no inclination or desire to do anything. So, I didn't. I did tell some folks that I was giving up lemmings and Finlandian wines, but that was a struggle to even say without a giggle.
During this season, I had two job opportunities. And I suffered with decisions. One I turned down; the other turned me down. But, for the weeks of talking and waiting, my levels of stress and anxiety flew (literally) out of control. I tried to turn the decisions over to God, but I kept picking them up. Every 'ding' alert for new email, everytime time the phone rang, sent me into a whirlwind of the jeebies. And then, decisions were made, and I crashed. I withdrew. I caved. As the true Southerner would do...I took to my bed for a season.
Why did I care? My college life at Georgia Southern and my great friends at the Baptist Student Union (many who are still part of my life) was fantastic. I had a great career at Georgia State University and retired from there on top of the world. I guess the face that I triple-rolled my Explorer on the way home that final day should have given me a clue.
I then took a job which beat me down, destroyed my self-image and wore my relationship with God to the bare minimum of acceptance. I was lied to, manipulated, censored on my writing and it finally threw me into therapy where I still have to go on occasion. Funny how the church can and will eat it's own. Never again will I be a Professional Christian (thanks for the term, Micheal Elliott).
So, I eventually ended up with my part-time Library job. That one, plus my retirement pension, plus my church music job (not as a Professional Christian....but, as a Gifted Christian), have given me a good life. Not the best financially, but I do have all I need, and then some more. I have peace. I am able to interact with people I like and who make me a better person. And that, my friends, is what it is all about. The one place to which I had always felt a calling...church ministry....was the one place who did not give comfort and acceptance. This is why I feel so fulfilled at the Tybee Bar Church. They are the true church, accepting of the misfits and the quirkys. Flip-flops welcome and expected. And they love me to come do my thing. Speak, music, laugh, worship.
So, now the last week of Lent is here. I have thrown my focus back on the events of Holy Week and am re-reading and posting my thoughts of this special time and place. And I'm good. My faith is sound, my love for God is pure and true, my friends support and encourage me daily.....I only hope to do the same for them. "God loved us and sent His Son." "Love God, love others." You know the words, so, let's live them.
And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.
From frantic to peaceful
I am a frantic
person. At any given time, I seem to have more than a dozen things going on at
the same time while trying to remember my progress on each, rarely stopping to
catch a breath, and eventually something snaps.
Between keeping three jobs
straight, keeping up a writing schedule for the Times newspaper as well as for my own
enjoyment, having time for family and friends, it seems that my own time for
solitude and (especially) for keeping close to God always suffers. And, as my
family will tell you….when I get stressed….I get snarly. And I’ve been snarly
and stressed for a long time now. My walk with God is suffering because of so
many other things going on in my life and I know this has to be fixed. Our
relationship with God is the most important thing in life, yet it is the usually
the first thing to go when we get stressed and too busy.
In the midst of my own personal whirlwind, I
found out my sister was going through something similar and a friend of hers
gave her advice which was passed along to me. It’s probably the best advice I’ve
had in a long, long time. And, it is working. And, it’s so simple.
My sister’s friend
told her during a “spinning out of control” moment that she needed to slow down
and begin to say “The Lord’s Prayer” out loud several times a day… and really
think about what she was saying. Don’t recite it as a habit, but say it
deliberately and with purpose and think seriously about each phrase. In
beginning this project for me, I wasn’t putting my whole self into it, but just
one of those things to get through. However, over a few days, I began to notice
a slight change in my frantic ways. All the stuff I needed to do did not lessen,
but the snarliness and my attitude seemed to be a bit better. Then, on my own,
I decided to add “The Apostle’s Creed” to my daily walk as a reminder of my
faith and what I believe. The creed is a very concise way for me to reaffirm who
I am in God’s world. Plus, I have always found some comfort in it.
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the
Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was
conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius
Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; The third day He arose again from the
dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father
Almighty from where He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe
in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the
forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.”
Your walk with God
should bring a joy and peace to your life that is unlike anything else. I had
not had this joy and peace for a long time because, well, life and noise got in
the way. But, after spending a few minutes, several times a day, to connect
through these two simple scriptural statements of faith, I am beginning to
glimpse a sense of peace again. My world is still crazy and my brain still spins
way too much, yet I am learning to “Be still and know that I am God” once again
May I encourage you
to be aware of keeping the ways of God close so that the stresses and
frustrations of life will not distract you.
And for today my
friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.
Of goats and geese
I like goats. I don’t
know why, but they have always fascinated me. Maybe my interest began as a
child when I could only drink goat’s milk and I would ride with my mom to Mrs.
Berry’s goat farm up off Flat Shoals Road in Decatur. Maybe the fact that they
can chew up a tin can appeals to me. I have a picture of my mother petting a
goat at Noah’s Ark Animal Rehabilitation Center saved in “my favorites” computer file. I would actually like
to own a goat one day. Whatever the reason may be for my fascination, goats are
just cool animals.
If you are heading
north on Highway 155 from McDonough, just barely past Miller’s Store, you can
see the most recent attraction for me and my family. In a fenced-in area on the
right there is a pretty black and white goat and he has a couple friends who
follow him everywhere he goes. No, the friends aren’t his fellow goats, but two
geese. White duck-like creatures with long necks and yellow bills which can honk
and bite the stew out of your leg.
The remarkable thing
about this goat and his geese friends is that they are virtually inseparable. I
pass this pen several times a week and unless the weather is awful or the night
is dark, you will always see the goat and the geese. Often, they are standing
at the fence at Hwy. 155 watching traffic and other times they are down in the
back, but they are always together.
communities be like that? Shouldn’t our churches be more like that? I mean, how
much more diverse can it get than when a goat and geese hang out together all
the time? Our communities and churches continue to become more diverse in
cultural, ethnic and economic groups. When all these groups come together for a
common effort, it is a great thing of which to be a part. To learn and
experience how other cultures live and how they worship God. To engage in
honest dialogue about how your church might be able to meet the spiritual needs
of your neighbors. To reach out to those in our cities and county who need some
of God’s love spread to them, yet we aren’t quite comfortable with their life
choices and situations.
I spent last weekend
back with my Tybee Church friends and once again returned home full of the love
and acceptance of the fellowship. The diversity in that bar church amazes me.
They truly believe and act out the ministry of taking care of each other….and
the best part is that they don’t care if their names are known or that they
receive recognition. This spirit of giving is what keeps calling me back to
Jesus hung out with
Samaritans. He said to forgive the adulterous woman. He ate supper with all
manner of people that weren’t considered appropriate to Jewish society. He didn’t
care what others said; Jesus’ purpose was to share God’s Love to everyone.
Everyone with whom he came in contact. Regardless. Should we do any less if we
are following the examples Jesus set for us?
When the goat turns
to the left, the geese turn to the left. When the goat heads across the field,
the geese closely follow. Three animals, different species, different colors,
different languages. When God tells us to “go and tell,” we should go and tell.
If He tells us that our neighbor from a lower economic class needs help, we
should help. When we feel God’s leading to be kind to someone of another skin
color and language, we should do so. Regardless. Just remember the goat and the
And for today my
friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.