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

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.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Me and my boats

  I’m in a local Chinese restaurant having lunch with a friend and engaging in our normal conversations of enlightenment, spirituality and matters of the cosmos. As we are chatting about the baggage that people haul around with them….you know the stuff that weigh us down as we work, play and attempt to sleep; consuming our thoughts, minds and keeping us from living to our fullest potential. We are still dwelling on things in our past and trying to relive those moments and, somehow, “fix” them so we can be happier. Needless to say, my normal conversations center around things more like puppies and kittens and birds and shiny objects, so I find myself stretching my brain power to keep up with our discussion.

  The Mongolian Beef is good and filling, the day is warm and sunny, and before long I find myself staring out the window and drifting off into my thoughts (which as you and I both know can be a scary place). As I’m drifting, my vision blurs and the colors of all the vehicles in the parking lot begin moving around and, to my amazement, become Junk ships floating in Bohai Bay off the coast of China. The Junks are of all different sizes and the colors of their flags and canopies are amazingly brilliant. I also notice in the midst of this flotilla, that many of the Junks are attached by rope and are pulling a whole string of smaller boats behind.

  I once read a book that was entitled, “That’s Outside My Boat: Letting Go of What You Can’t Control.” I heard the authors on a television talk show discussing how we try to take on more and more things in our lives until our lives (our boats) become so full that we begin to sink. We let so many things into our daily world that our ability to achieve anything is seriously hindered. Through the stories of many athletes and business leaders, the book gives us tips on how to determine “that is not in my boat.” And, you don’t let it into your boat. Period.

  However, in my case, I take things out of my boat, but then put them in another boat that I tie to and still drag around with me. Does anyone else do that? What are in these small boats we pull, you might ask? Past relationships, failed jobs, lack of finances, worries about illnesses that may never happen, concern over the status of the world (which we really cannot control), am I a “good” enough Christian, and on it goes. We don’t sleep well, perform our jobs well, interact with our families and friends well, and we realize we don’t get much out of our relationship with God. He’s not as close as He once seemed. We don’t see God working in our lives as clearly as we once did. And we wonder why.

  Well, my friends, it’s all because of all those boats we(me) are hauling around. We are told very clearly in the Scriptures to

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) and

 “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). 

  I am the world’s worst about turning things over to God…but, then picking them back up for worrying after about, oh, ten minutes. We can truly take God at His promise that He will give us peace of mind and heart…because… He. Cares. For Us.

  As my mind drifted back to my lunch and as we headed back to the office, I know that I have to be more faithful to what I write. And, I will. That’s what is in my boat.

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

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Resurrection Day

“The Lord is risen, He is risen, indeed!” (Luke 24:34)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all the things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

  Sunday has dawned. The rock is rolled away. The tomb is empty. Jesus is gone. The power of God has won the final battle. He defeated the power of death and the grave. From this day on, the world will never again be the same. A new meaning of the word faith is entering the vocabulary of the disciples and followers of Jesus….they, and those to follow for generations to come, will now believe through faith and not through sight. In a short period of time, Jesus will return to His heavenly home to be with His Father and those of us here in 2014, must now trust and believe not in having Jesus physically with us, but in our hearts through the Holy Spirit and through the evidence we have of His continued existence.

  Christ is risen! I told my family today that one of my favorite Easter memories is of the community Sunrise services we had at my home church (Bouldercrest Baptist) and the Cedar Grove Methodist Minister, Reverend Martha Forrest, would begin with the bold and confident statement – “The Lord is risen, He is risen, indeed!” Her voice would ring through the sanctuary and cause me to believe once again that the Lord is now risen and alive in our lives.

  Christ is risen! His last instructions will come to us in the verse above which we call The Great Commission. It is our responsibility, our obligation, our job to make sure that our neighborhoods, communities, country and world knows of Jesus. Folks, it isn’t a suggestion to us, it is a commandment. We are to go, to train up disciples (followers) of Jesus and teach them of the ways of God and how they should live.

  Christ is risen! Christians all over the world are celebrating today over this fact. But, what happens tomorrow? Do we go back to our normal lives, eating leftover easter eggs and jellybeans, ham, potato salad and put the ‘nice’ clothes back into the closet? Do we continue to remember the story of Jesus and the wonders, tragedies and miracles of the past season? Or do we just put it aside for another year (or at least until Christmas when many head back to church again)
  As for me, I have changed so much during my journey through the Lenten season. As I’ve said before, I never anticipated the results in my life when I began this way back on Ash Wednesday. The process of writing each day has opened my eyes to many changes that needed to happen in my life and I thank God for that and for giving me the strength to do so. I’ve also received many positive comments from you, my friends, which continue to bless me more than you’ll know. You see, I don’t see myself as a particularly good writer; I just put down what’s in my mind and heart. It’s my therapy. But, if folks are touched by something I say or write, then to God goes all the Glory. He is the one who does it through me.

  So, my friends, I am kinda sad for the ending of this period of journaling, but I also know it is not an end of my journey and I hope that it isn’t the end of yours. I am looking forward to the coming days and weeks with expectation and excitement to see what God continues to do in my life and in yours. Please let me know, I’d love to share in your walk! Continue to study God’s word, follow His instructions, and above all….LOVE!

   Thank you all for sharing these days with me. Please remember that these are my thoughts and subject to your opinion, as they are mine. Check in on my webpage occasionally, www.beinggods.blogspot.com and see what I’m up to. It’s been my baby since 2004 and there’s a ton of stuff on there for you to read and learn more about my journey with God.

Thank you again for hanging with me and letting me invade your life for this season.

The LORD is risen! He is risen, indeed! Thanks be to GOD!

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

Friday, April 18, 2014

Holy Week Day 7 - The Sabbath

“And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:55-56)

Saturday. The Sabbath. The day of rest. And the whole world is holding its breath from the events of the past week. The one who claimed to be the Son of God, who taught about God and His LOVE for all people, who healed and performed miracles was dead. Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, the son of Mary and Joseph was dead. The one who was the advocate for children, for sinners, and the downtrodden, the one who dared to stand up to the Pharisees was dead. And by a cruel, inhumane, torturous means….crucifixion. Beaten, humiliated, spat upon, and killed. Dead. Buried.

  Depending upon which theological track you might go for, during this time in the tomb Jesus either descended into Hell where he preached to the saints from the Old Testament days….or, he was simply dead. Either way, the point is that Jesus defeated Death. Giving the disciples and followers a chance to think upon what had happened. Was it all a mistake or a dream? A time to ponder all the teachings of Jesus during the three years they were together. A time to wonder what they had gotten themselves into. Just because Jesus was dead did not get them off the hook for being followers and associates. They were afraid of the Pharisees and religious leaders coming after them, so what did they do? They hid. Wouldn’t you? I feel pretty sure I would be behind locked doors and under my sofa. Quivering with fear.

  These days also gave those who put Jesus to death a chance to (possibly) gloat a bit. A chance to catch their breath and look forward to getting “their” religion back to normal and under their control. A chance to try and forget this man and the trouble he had caused them for the past few years. A chance to just start to feel pretty smug before, well, before tomorrow morning comes.

  But, most importantly to me, all the key players observed the Sabbath. Whether in grief or in joy, the Sabbath was observed. Can you imagine the silence of Jerusalem and surrounding areas on that Saturday? The quiet glances during their synagogue services. The whispers on the street. The talk around the dinner table? That feeling you have when something has gone so very wrong, but you don’t know what to do because you can’t really believe it happened? The silence and the heaviness that clouded the Holy City of Jerusalem after the death of Jesus. The Law that commanded observance of the Sabbath was being obeyed because, well, it was the Law. Not realizing that all these Laws were about to be burst wide open and would never ever be the same. But, for today, silence. Remembering.

  It’s so important for all of us to remember that Good Friday and Easter are not just dates on a calendar with a seemingly non-important Saturday in the middle. Don’t go back to business and fun as usual today after remembering the events of Thursday and Friday. Sure, Sunday is coming, but this day is a day to reflect and ponder and examine ourselves. A day of silence and rest. It’s Saturday.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jesus. Thanks be to GOD!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Week Day 6 - The Friday of Darkness

“And Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ And He answered by saying, ‘You have said so.’…..but after this, Jesus answered no more questions so that even Pilate was amazed.“ (Mark 15:2, 5)

  Friday has come. After the Passover meal last night, the plans unfolded for the death of Jesus. He and a few disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer and while there, Judas brought the officials to arrest Jesus. In the early morning hours, as the disciples and other followers tried to see what was happening, Simon Peter found himself denying (even with a curse) that he had no idea who this man was that was being held. Trials began to be held during the day in front of various officials, all of which ended with Pilate turning Jesus over for death by crucifixion. He was abused, tortured and humiliated for hours, finally breathing His last breath in the mid-afternoon of Friday. Today. After Jesus’ death, Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body to be buried in his own family tomb. Joseph was believed to be a member of the elite Sanhedrin and also possibly a secret follower of Jesus. The reason is not important, but here is a leading member of the Jewish legal system burying the body of this criminal of the Jews in his own tomb.

  So many of the events this day are important, but none as important as the fact that Jesus was killed in order that my sins might be forgiven by God and provide an eternal life for me. I like the definition of ‘sin’ as given in the book of James….’knowing what is right to do, and not doing it, that is sin.’ (James 4:17)

  And not only was Jesus killed, but God allowed it to happen because it was part of His plan for me and for you. Again, God allowed His only Son to be killed as part of His plan. Can you imagine more LOVE? That is beyond any of our human capabilities. Plus, Jesus accepted it. He didn’t go kicking and screaming to the cross of death, He went obediently, with acceptance of His Father’s plan and of His role in that plan. Yes, as Jesus, God the Son, He could have called down legions of angels to stop this. He could have caused anything to happen so that He wouldn’t have to die. He could have said, “No!” When Pilate asked Him about the claim to be King of the Jews, Jesus could have shouted out the answer, “YES!” and claimed His rightful Kingdom, but He merely turned the answer back to Pilate by answering “you are the one saying so.”

  As I think about this sacrifice of our Lord today, I try to keep the squizillions of people in the past and in the future out of my thoughts. I am trying to stay focused on the fact that this act of greatest LOVE was done for me. Just me. With all my faults, failures, quirks and problems. He died for ME. And….for YOU. Do we deserve it? No way. We just need to accept it.

Thanks be to GOD!