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The Stadium is Full

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:3-6)

Many years ago I read a book titled, How to Sell Anything to Anybody by Joe Girard. No, I am not going to try to sell something to you. That isn’t my point at all. Nor is it my point to try to train you to be a salesman. I think it is close to impossible to teach others how to do something that I cannot do myself. I do not work in sales. I have tried it. I am not good at it. I also do not believe in the saying, “Those that can do, those that can’t teach.”

In the book, Girard uses a concept he calls, “Girard’s Rule of 200.” It says, on average each of us knows about 200 people. Girard, utilizing the rule says, if he upsets a client and the client complains to his/her 200 friends about the treatment received, Girard has 200 people upset with him for the one infraction. If those 200 tell their 200 friends, he then has about 40,000 people mad. In other words, he now, at least in theory, has enough people angry with him to fill Minute Maid Park in Houston, where the Astros play baseball. If you then carry it one more step, and those people tell their 200, all of New York City, 8,000,000 people are all angry with him. Yeah, that would probably crush any salesperson’s credibility. Just for fun, if we carried it out through one more round of 200, all of China, the U.S., and Indonesia are now miffed, but I think our hero would have found other work by now.

As I think about what knowing 200 people means I decided to do a little experiment. I numbered from 1-200. Bear in mind, I have over 1000 friends on Facebook. It took me over 45 minutes to recall 200 names. Now that I have to 200, I have many more names floating through my head.

Philippi was a city of about 2000 people in Paul’s day. I wouldn’t call it a small town today. It is not a booming metropolis either. I would say it would be a quaint midsized town.

Paul says to the Philippians, “I remember all of you in my prayers.” I often can’t remember one person for who I was to pray. Paul goes on to tell the Philippians to pray with joy.

Having a joyful heart is not always easy. But, when we remember all those names in prayer, and they pray for their 200, and so on, it won’t take long to realize God’s blessings, on many of our worst days. Then, with every new 200, it doesn’t take long to fill Minute Maid Park with people praying with joyful hearts. Then if we add another and another, might one day we have the world praying?

With the power of God, anything is possible.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With a Joyful Heart,
Keith

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Choices, Choices

14 “So now, revere the LORD. Serve him honestly and faithfully. Put aside the gods that your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt and serve the LORD. 15 But if it seems wrong in your opinion to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Choose the gods whom your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But my family and I will serve the LORD.”
16 Then the people answered, “God forbid that we ever leave the LORD to serve other gods! 17 The LORD is our God. He is the one who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. He has done these mighty signs in our sight. He has protected us the whole way we’ve gone and in all the nations through which we’ve passed. 18 The LORD has driven out all the nations before us, including the Amorites who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God”
(Joshua 24:14-18, Common English Bible).

Do you ever, multi-task? I do. Do you multi-task in ways that are less than productive? Yep, that’s me too. It started today just after lunch. I picked up my laptop and pulled two music books out the drawer. Then I sat down and started to work. Before I knew it, my brain was hard at work on several projects. I was thinking about the song I was working on and what I was going to write on the blog today. It didn’t stop there. I was also thinking about what work remained on another project. While I was attempting (unsuccessfully) to fight off an afternoon nap that it seems like more and more, as I get older, my body, demands. When I was a kid, I never wanted to take naps. All it seems I have to do these days is be at home. What I need to do is choose which project I am going to work on now, and put all the others aside until I have the first one finished.

When I was in seminary, I used what I called at the time, “The Firefighter Method” to get things done. Whatever the next fire might be, a test, a paper, a sermon, whatever needed completion next, that became my choice of project.

It can be challenging to make choices sometimes. Things seem equally important. For the student who has two papers or two tests on the same day. What about the parent who has to have breakfast ready, but also has to have lunches ready when the buses come to carry the children to school. Then there is the business executive who has only partial control of the personal calendar and finds two people have scheduled meetings to attend with overlapping times.

The Israelites faced choices just as we do. Our lesson today points to that. It would also seem that they made the wrong choice just about every time they faced a choice. Again and again, the Israelites faced the same decision. Do we follow Yahweh, or do we follow the God behind curtain number “2?” The most significant difference would be, they already knew about both the choices. The god behind curtain number “2” was a god made with human hands. Yahweh demonstrated over and over both the love and the power that God gave to the Israelite people. That they would even consider this was an insult to God. In the end, the Israelites choose Yahweh. They would, however, waffle again. It was a vicious cycle. Yahweh would make a covenant with Israel. As soon as they settled, the terms and were well into the agreement made with God, they would choose wrong and live the life they wanted until God had enough and delivered a new punishment. The Israelites would repent, and the whole cycle would begin again.

God gives us that same choice too. Our biggest problem is, the false gods of our world are much more subtle than the false gods of the Israelites day. Our gods include the god of instant gratification, the god of the micro mentality, the god of rugged individualism, and that names only a few, and don’t get me started on the gods of sports.

Each of us must decide who we will serve. Which God will you choose? I can speak for no one except me, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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Thanksgiving in July?

You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me.  Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted.

Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 12:1-5, New Revised Standard Version).

No, I have not lost my mind. The Church has done Christmas in July for decades. When I served in Grapeland, we had a week of Bible school one year when our theme was Christmas in July (I had never seen so many Chrismons in one building before). So why not, Thanksgiving in early July.

I know some of my students from last school year would jump at the chance. Several told me, “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love all the food!” As I said, they would jump at the chance. One of the young ladies in the class, Miss Carter, described her grandmother’s cornbread dressing to me in vivid detail. I wasn’t impressed by her recall or her ability to paint a mental picture. I am one of the five people in the world that thinks cornbread dressing is a waste of perfectly good cornbread. Regardless of what I think, Miss Carter would love to have at least one more day of Thanksgiving.

Truth to tell, while I don’t care about cornbread dressing, I do care about the other foods around a Thanksgiving table, particularly pecan pie. It is evident when you look at me that I have rarely encountered a meal where I didn’t find something good to eat. I have no trouble finding something else and leaving the dressing for those I love, who, for some reason like ruined cornbread. Besides, who wouldn’t want more football?

While I would love to have more than one Thanksgiving, my reasoning has nothing to do with food or football. I believe there is always something for which we should thank God.

Michael Schaffer, a few years ago, wrote in The New Republic that Thanksgiving is our all-American holiday. Regardless of our beliefs, whether we are Christain or atheist, whether we are Jewish, Muslim, Roman Catholic, or United Methodist (or any other believing or unbelieving group) there is ALWAYS something for which we should give thanks.

“There is always something for which we should give thanks?” Does that mean we should give thanks when we are sick? I don’t think that means giving thanks for being sick, but what about being thankful for God creating doctors and putting the needed knowledge into their head? What about giving thanks for the researchers who work diligently to find cures for the things that ails us?

“So does that mean we should be thankful for the person who steals from us?” Of course not, but we can be thankful for that neighbor who got a good look at the burglar and described this person to the police. Oh, and there is that other neighbor who got the license plate number and the police now have an excellent place to start in their search to restore your property and bring justice for the crimes.

“Should I be thankful, my uncle passed away last year?” No, but you should be thankful that your uncle is no longer in pain. Even more, you should be grateful for the gift of salvation. Because of that gift, your uncle just may have heard those words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

There is always a reason for Thanksgiving. God is with us. God is around us. God is active in our lives and in the lives of those we love. And where God is, there is always a reason for Thanksgiving.

Without question, there may be times in our lives when we feel that God isn’t there. But our God is all-powerful (omnipotent) and always present (omnipresent). We may, at times, have to spend much of our time looking for God’s presence. That does not mean God is far away. And, I am convinced, even when we fail to see God’s presence, if we look back on those hard times, we will not only see God’s presence, we will see God was at work in ways we would never have dreamed. God is always present, and where God is, there is still a reason for Thanksgiving.

Yes, I want Thanksgiving in July, but that is just the start, and it has nothing to do with food or football. And, I don’t wish to have Thanksgiving on its traditional day in late November. I don’t even want to see us increase the opportunities for thanksgiving from just November, to November and July. That is because with all God does in our lives and that God is always present and working in our lives, today and every day we have reason to give thanks. When we recognize what God does for us, every day is a good day; all days are good days to be Thanksgiving Day. Don’t wait until November. Thank God today.

Have a blessed day in the Lord,

Keith

Copyright 2019, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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Why Do We Expect Easy?

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to son ship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 12:18-28, New International Version).

The Supreme Court makes a decision that the court house can no longer display the Ten Commandments. Christians across the country cry out at the loss of their rights. They do little beyond crying out about the loss

The Supreme Court makes a decision that bans prayer at high school football games. The Church rallies in support of prayer. School boards across the country search for ways to keep constituents happy and abide by the Supreme Court at the same time.

A group of people want the national motto, “In God We Trust, “removed from our money and get up in arms when it seems to happen. It wasn’t removed but simply moved from the face of the coin to the outside edge.

Still another group would take the words, “Under God” and remove them from the Pledge of Allegiance. They are quick to point out that the words were never a part of the Pledge until 1954. While that might be true, the majority of Americans have never known a time when “Under God,” was not part of the Pledge. That would mean, as far as they were concerned, it had always been there because during their lives there had never been a time when it was not a part of the Pledge of Allegiance.

I have not even begun to address things that seem to have little to do with the government. Football players sitting on the bench or on a knee during the National Anthem or flag burning are sure to grab the anger of most Americans.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. There are those who would remove the words “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance and from our money. A friend who is a Baptist preacher has said, “Some people want to take “Freedom of Religion” and are attempting readers to turn it into “Freedom from religion.” I learned recently that there is a foundation and removal of God from everything in the public sector is their mission. They call themselves “The Freedom From Religion Foundation.” This same Baptist preacher friend told me that the president of the foundation is a former Baptist preacher, turned atheist.

Here is a question for you. What did we expect?

The rise of nationalism in the 1950’s came as a result of the spread of communism in eastern Europe. Because communism was, and still is, atheistic, the rise of Christianity was part of that defense. However, as often happens, that rise in matters of faith, gave way to a decline of the same. It is a decline we still feel today.

Opinion polls show most Americans still claim themselves as Christians. But in truth, most are secular Christians at best. They make claims to faith but live their lives without giving much more than a passing nod to faith and the Church.

In his book, To Spread the Power: Church Growth in the Wesleyan Spirit, George G. Hunter III says that we have become people who live as we want during the course of the week, then go to Church on Sunday to get our booster shot. The problem, according to Hunter is, such thinking has left us immune to a full dose.

Secularism is the trend today. The Church has less and less influence in people’s lives. The Church has given way to either individualism or other institutions (sports activities, shopping, etc.) as the prime influence. This can be seen, at least in part, in church’s changing their worship time because the football game kicks off at noon.

Then we have places where the government seems to enter the realm of faith. In the Supreme Court decision Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, the majority of the court voted to strike down laws and rules allowing prayer on school property at school activities. In his opposing opinion, the Late Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote a scathing response to the majority. He wrote that the majority opinion, “bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life”. 

Once again, what did we expect? When we read Scripture, there are many stories told of the persecution of faithful people in both the Old and New Testaments. Noah was ridiculed for building an ark. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the furnace because of faith. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for the same reason. Stephen was stoned for his faith in Jesus. Jesus himself was persecuted and killed as a matter of faith.

That names only a few instances in Scripture. Then we can look at Church history and see the persecution of many.

The point is, we should expect these persecutions. The prophecies of Scripture tell us they will happen. Paul reminds the early Church and us that the Spirit helps us in our weakness. When the world seems to crash-in around us, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. When yet another law protecting matters of faith is struck down, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. When a Bible or the Ten Commandments are forcibly removed, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. Further, if the overwhelming majority of Christians in the U.S. believe you have been persecuted for faith, we have no idea what persecution really is. Even today, Christians in other parts of the world are beaten and killed for nothing more than being a person of faith.

Does this mean we should remain quiet and let the world run over the Church? Of course it does not. And, we should speak out about the wrongs of the world. What it does mean is, we should know it is coming. It should not be surprise to us when it does happen. The Bible tells us it will happen. When it does, and it has happened and will happen again, our voices should speak but they should speak in love, not in anger.

What is first, last, and always, there are two things, well really just one, that are of central importance. Love God, love each other. Those are the two things. We are called in all things to love, that is the one. If we can respond in ways that demonstrate love, we might not win the battle, but with the Spirit’s help, we will win the war.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With a Thankful Heart

Keith

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Copyright 2019, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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And if I Can’t Forget?

I am the Lord, your Holy One,   the Creator of Israel, your King. Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise (Isaiah 43:15-21, New Revised Standard Version).

There are some things we can’t manage to forget, even when we want to do so. I spent a good bit of my day yesterday trying to figure out how to use WordPress (for those that don’t know, WordPress is a Google-owned company that hosts this blog) again. Several things that happened during the day that kept me frustrated. When the blog post was supposed to have posted early yesterday morning, it didn’t. Truthfully, it was supposed to have posted early in the morning day before yesterday. It didn’t post then either.

I finally got it to post manually this morning only to find that before I set it aside a year ago, it always posted the most recent blog on the top of the stack and if you want to type in “revbroyles.me” it would put you with the most recent post first. Today if that is all the address you type in, it will still take you the blog, but the post you will see is from July 31st of last year!

Then I discovered that, for whatever the reason, the post was not going automatically to Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn. At least for Google+, there is a good reason. Google shut Google+ down six months ago. The problem with Facebook is, well, its Facebook.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. It reminded me of my pet peeve with computer companies. They like to fix things that aren’t broken and leaving broken things that began that way. In my almost year away from regularly being on all things internet, I had pretty well forgotten the problem.

In today’s lesson, God says, we shouldn’t remember the things of days past and instead focus on what God is doing in the present, seeing that “new thing” Isaiah tells us God is doing. I think most people would probably agree with me. There are just some people who insist on making it difficult for us to forget “the former things.”

I don’t think God is telling Isaiah to forget everything and worry about the future. It seems clear to me that God wasn’t telling Isaiah to focus on the future at all. What God was saying was, live in the present.

This past Sunday, Cindy and I worshiped at Bethlehem United Methodist Church near Hudson, Texas, not far at all from our home in Lufkin. It is the church where Cindy has her church membership and where we will attend once I “hang up my stole, as it were.” Because we are usually in worship wherever I happen to be serving as a pastor, it is rare for us to go to Bethlehem. The current pastor at Bethlehem is Rev. Cindy Doran. In her sermon, she talked about this particular idea (as well as a few other things) that stuck with me. She pointed out that most of us spend time worrying about the past or we are bogged down in what we might see coming. She also said how interesting it was that when we spend all this time focused on the what is over our shoulder, we are worried about what can’t be changed. Even more thought-provoking, if we spend our time focused on the future, much of the time what we expected and planned for never came to be.

And we fail to live in the present moment. We are unable to tear ourselves free from the past. Many of us live opposite of such ideas too. We are so busy planning we miss the presence of God.

Instead, we need to focus on the new thing. I don’t think it so much means for us to forget the past. We learn from the past. Nor should we neglect to look forward and planning. When we fail to plan, we will likely fail to act. Instead, taking what we have learned, and with the plans we make, I would submit that we live and work in the current moment, striving to make God’s Kingdom, at that moment, as God’s Kingdom is in heaven, making disciples for the transformation of the world.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With a Thankful Heart,
Keith

Copyright 2019, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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God of Jews Only???

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 54-56; Romans 3

21 But now God’s righteousness has been revealed apart from the Law, which is confirmed by the Law and the Prophets. 22 God’s righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who have faith in him. There’s no distinction. 23 All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, 24 but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus. 25 Through his faithfulness, God displayed Jesus as the place of sacrifice where mercy is found by means of his blood. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness in passing over sins that happened before, 26 during the time of God’s patient tolerance. He also did this to demonstrate that he is righteous in the present time, and to treat the one who has faith in Jesus as righteous.

27 What happens to our bragging? It’s thrown out. With which law? With what we have accomplished under the Law? 28 No, not at all, but through the law of faith. We consider that a person is treated as righteous by faith, apart from what is accomplished under the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Isn’t God the God of Gentiles also? Yes, God is also the God of Gentiles. 30 Since God is one, then the one who makes the circumcised righteous by faith will also make the one who isn’t circumcised righteous through faith. 31 Do we then cancel the Law through this faith? Absolutely not! Instead, we confirm the Law. (Romans 3:21-31, Common English Bible)

Jose Altuve, second baseman of the Houston Astros, has already begun doing something that not that many years ago, I would have thought would be impossible. I truly didn’t think it would be possible for another person to replace Craig Biggio as the best second baseman in Astros history.

Craig Biggio was a great player. Make no mistake about that. Being the first Astro to enter the Hall of Fame as an Astro speaks volumes about his abilities and his career. But, as great a player as Biggio was, he never won a league Most Valuable Player award but Altuve has. Altuve also has won the Hank Aaron award for the best hitter in the league. Both have Gold Glove awards and Silver Slugger Awards though Biggio does have more, but he played longer. Altuve also owns a Babe Ruth Award given for the best post-season performance.

I could go on, but I won’t. Here is my question. Does baseball exist just for Jose Altuve? Of course not, that would totally throw away what players like Biggio have done. Again, there could be a long list of players. In fact, every player who has ever played the game, is currently playing, or ever will play can claim the game exists for them too. But, they are not all. The game exists for coaches, broadcasters, stadium employees, owners, trainers, and the fans. Baseball isn’t just for one player, no matter how good he might be. Baseball is for everyone.

Our lesson today rightly makes the same claim about God, just not in those words. Paul asks an important question of the Romans. Is God just the God of Jews? (v. 29) Paul answers his own question. He says that God is also the God of the Gentiles. I think Paul would agree, God is God for all people.

Here is the proof. Jesus told the disciples to, “…go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19, CEB). At that time, there were not Jews everywhere in the world, but that was Jesus’ instruction, go into ALL the world… If others in the world were only the God of the Jews, who would Jesus tell the disciples to go into all the world to make disciples?

In the end, God is the God of all people. God loves all of God’s people. And, it is God’s desire to have a relationship with all people. And, why not? God wanted a relationship with the likes of us.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

The Answer

Inspiration struck last night. I wrote a new poem. I thought I would share it with you. With a few adjustments it becomes a song.

I was young,
And such a fool,
Wanting naught at home to do,
Dad your will,
Give my part please,
A world to see.

You have friends,
You should know,
When you have funds,
And far from home,
But no funds then no friends,
Now what will you do?

No money,
No food to eat,
Rebellion’s cost is very steep,
Was there really cause to moan,
When you were home?

On the road,
Once again,
I feel my pulse beat through my skin
Will he say,
That I can stay or on your way

The end is near,
I’m filled with fear,
Soon the answer will be clear,
He runs to me and says,
“Child, welcome home.”

__________________

I intentionally left the Scripture reading today for last. Here it is.

3 Then Jesus told them this parable:

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:3, 11-25, New International Version).

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Blessings to you,
Keith

Copyright 2019, J. Keith Broyles, Spirit’s Breath Ministries,
All Rights Reserved

A Year? Really? How About Something New?

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?  Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in 23 who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25 To whom then will you compare me or who is my equal? says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.

2Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:21-31, New Revised Standard Version).

It’s really hard for me to believe, but has been almost a full year, just over eleven months since I last wrote a post for this blog. My last post was on July 31, 2018. I had wanted to resume this blog yesterday. It seemed like a good time to get started, the beginning of the month and all. I think I heard something once about the road to someplace being paved with good intentions. I enjoy writing this blog, but then life happens, and it seems to put an unplanned end to what I was doing.

This time last year, I did not know quite yet that there was a change afoot for me in both location and profession. I don’t remember the date. I could probably figure it out, but why? It isn’t that important. When the call did come, offering me the opportunity to teach government and economics (I found out later I would be teaching psychology and sociology too) I jumped. Some might argue that I jumped too quickly. In less than a month I had left Sweeny and was back in Lufkin, living with Cindy again.

Less than two weeks later, I was sitting in my first faculty meeting at Center High School. Just a few days after that, I made a discovery. I had teachers and others who knew their way around a school tell me how hard teachers worked. I never had reason to doubt that. I had no clue. If you don’t think teachers work hard, walk in their shoes for a week or two. I have never worked so hard in my life. I was overwhelmed. If school work were water, I would have drowned. At times I was frustrated. At times, I came to understand why teachers keep doing what they do.

Not long after I moved back to Lufkin, the district superintendent called me and asked if I would be the “supply” pastor at Groveton UMC and Prairie View UMC (this was not Prairie View, the town west of Houston. This was Prairie View, in a rural community, not far from Groveton, called Nogalus Praire). A “supply” pastor is filling a pulpit temporarily. In the Methodist Church, an interim pastor is a pastor who sees to the needs of the church during periods the pastor cannot be present for an extended time. I knew when I accepted this appointment that I would likely be there only until the end of June. That is the way things usually happen. My last Sunday was June 23rd.

As time went along through the school year, it became evident that I was not going to return to Center High School next school year. I was so overwhelmed with the work; I had not completed my required work for certification. There was always more to work on than hours in a day. And, without certification you cannot teach in the State of Texas. When I left school on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, I had a pretty good idea that was the end of my teaching career.

So, I no longer have Groveton and Prairie View. I no longer have my school job, what am I going to do? Well, yesterday, I officially became the new pastor at Huntington UMC. It is only a part-time position, but I still did not want to move for Lufkin.

As for something more long-term, permanent (well, at least as permanent as United Methodist Appointments get). As for something more full-time? Surprisingly, I am not worried about it. I have told some of you who have been with me for a very long time; I am by my very nature a worrier. I worry about many things. But with this, I am at peace. Isaiah asks, “Have you not seen? Do you not know?”

I continue to look for a new job, and at times, it is discouraging. Still, I feel like God is leading me to some new things. I am in the process of doing the first edit on my first book, Average Joes. Many of you, particularly those who were in Sweeny two years ago, and preached on all these characters. I’ve been saying since completing the series and getting it ready for more official editing.

I also have been accepted in one of the national freelance writing groups. Doing freelance writing, I think it would be exciting and new. I also have one other idea I am working on, but I will tell you all about them when as soon as I know a bit more down the road.

God is at work. I know God is here with me. I know God is here with us. Scripture promises us that. Scripture also tells us that we will be friends long after we are dead. It is a promise from God.

God is here if only we will pay attention. As I have been thinking about what I was going to write on today, I not only thought of myself and all the new in my life. I started thinking of my kids at school. All of them are about to start something new. Perhaps they are beginning a job babysitting when her parents are out of town. Expand her services and hire a few kids at school.

For others, it might be college, or technical, or electronics. Still others, it is time for (what we said in seminary), got a real job so I’ve got to go get started.

I don’t have an explanation for everything and certainly not all this. I do know wherever we are going and whatever we will there too. God is very present. And where God is, here is no reason to be afraid. Where God is, there is always something new. Where God there is always there is always a reason for hope. Where God i there is always love and grace.

Have a blessed day in the Lord,

Blessed, Forgiven, and Thankful,

Keith