What Am I Grateful For Today… My Staff

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.

God has given his grace to each one of us measured out by the gift that is given by Christ. That’s why scripture says, When he climbed up to the heights, he captured prisoners, and he gave gifts to people.[a]

What does the phrase “he climbed up” mean if it doesn’t mean that he had first gone down into the lower regions, the earth? 10 The one who went down is the same one who climbed up above all the heavens so that he might fill everything.

11 He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. 12 His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ 13 until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. (Ephesians 4:5-13a, Common English Bible).

I love my staff. Though I often refer to them as my staff, they aren’t really my staff, they are the church staff. And, contrary to the cartoon above, I know they really wouldn’t follow me anywhere. But, I love them anyway. They really are good people who love Jesus Christ and love the work they do for First United Methodist Church in Sweeny. They also make me look better than I really am.

As I tell you about these people I am only going to use their first names. If you know then you will know their last names. If you don’t know them, their last names won’t matter to you anyway.

Marty is my right hand. She is truly a Godsend. Marty is our “church secretary,” but she is really more than that. The title predates me. If we changed the name “Administrative Assistant,” that wouldn’t really cover it either. I guess if I were going to give her a title it would be “Office Manager.” She keeps the office running. She keeps up our records and reports. She transcribes the meeting minutes. She produces bulletins and reminder emails every week and newsletters every month. She keeps up with supplies and places orders when they are needed. She answers the phone and greets people during the week when they come into our building. Preachers often say that the church secretary is the person who does all the real work. Well, of the two of us who are there pretty much every day, Marty does the real work. I am grateful for Marty.

Kaci is our treasurer. As such, she is exactly what that sounds like. She keeps track of our money, she pays the bills, she keeps track of the various budget line items, she generates the reports needed by the church finance committee and governing council. The most important thing you should know about Kaci is, she does the payroll. In other words, she writes my paycheck. Needless to say, I love Kaci! Seriously, payroll is a big deal and that she knows how its done is a great relief to me. When I was recently searching for a new chair for the finance committee, the first question I was asked by a perspective chair was, “Kaci isn’t going anywhere is she?” Kaci is gifted in the world of church finance and I am very grateful for her.

John directs our choir. While I pick the hymns we sing each Sunday, John sees to the music the choir sings. He picks and leads the choir in the anthem each week. If for whatever reason the choir doesn’t sing the anthem in a Sunday service, he finds someone to fill that role too. He selects the Christmas and Easter cantatas. He also leads the choir in their rehearsal time. John also keeps me on my toes on Sunday morning. He has been known to heckle me during my sermon. I have to be ready! I am grateful for John.

Greg is our pianist (he plays electronic keyboard and melodica as well). I have been blessed with talented musicians throughout much of my career. I am grateful for all of them. Greg takes a backseat to no one. I have yet to put a piece of music in front of Greg he couldn’t play. A few months ago I wrote both the lyrics and music for a song. I handed Greg a piece of paper with the melody and guitar chords. It is all I had. He turned it into a great song complete with harmony while sight-reading my song. I was impressed. I recently walked into the sanctuary late on a Saturday afternoon to get something ready for Sunday morning. I found Greg there too. He plays for any of our extra services including services we are now doing at the local assisted living and nursing homes. I am grateful for Greg.

Felicia is the staff member I know the least. In the year and a half I have been the pastor here I have only met Felicia two or three times. That is because Felicia usually works when I am not working. Felicia is our custodian. It is not uncommon for Felicia to be in the building at three in the morning. And, while I may sometimes be awake at 3:00 A.M. I am not at the church at that time. Felicia’s job is one that, when she does it right (and she does), people generally don’t notice. When it isn’t done right (and I have had a few over the years that didn’t do it right) everyone notices. Because Felicia does the job right, I don’t hear about it. Because the building always looks good, I am grateful for Felicia.

Paul and Emma are our two newest staff members. They both hold the same title of Pastor Emeritus. Both are retired Untied Methodist pastors. Who give (and I mean that literally) of their time for the benefit of our church.

Paul is one of my dearest friends. I have known Paul as long as I have been in the ministry. He is a retired local pastor who served churches around East Texas for some 20 years or so before coming to Sweeny. Paul leads our ministry to both the nursing home and assisted living in town. Before Paul joined our staff those ministries did not exist. He also played important roles in our Vacation Bible School for Grown-ups and our children’s vacation Bible School. Paul helps with hospital visitation and assists me with worship. I am grateful for Paul

Emma is a retired deacon in the United Methodist Church. Prior to her retirement Emma served congregations in Oklahoma. Her ministry specialized in Christian Education. Emma has played an important leadership role in our Vacation Bible School for grown-ups. She is also leading our Christmas ministry this year, a shoe box campaign for children in Haiti. I am grateful for Emma.

In today’s reading Paul is telling the Ephesians about the gifts God gave to some to lead the church. With the exception of Paul and Emma’s roles, Paul doesn’t mention the jobs the others have. I can’t help but think if Paul were here today, they would be right there. Life in the Church has changed since Paul’s day. The needs of the church has changed over the years. What each of these bring to our congregation are vital to the ministries we have in this community and in the world.

Every one of these Christian leaders plays their primary role but I don’t have enough room here to tell you everything they do. They each work hard to make First United Methodist Church what it is today. Today and every day, for each of them, I am grateful.

That is what I am grateful for today. What about you? What are you grateful for today? Write it in your journal and then share it with a friend. Help them to think about what they are grateful for today.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

What Am I Grateful For Today… Thanksgiving Traditions

12 Brothers and sisters, we ask you to respect those who are working with you, leading you, and instructing you. 13 Think of them highly with love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are disorderly. Comfort the discouraged. Help the weak. Be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure no one repays a wrong with a wrong, but always pursue the good for each other and everyone else. 16 Rejoice always. 17 Pray continually. 18 Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Don’t suppress the Spirit. 20 Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, 21 but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil. 23 Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. 24 The one who is calling you is faithful and will do this (1 Thessalonians 5:12-24, Common English Bible).

I love Thanksgiving. And, I don’t just love it for the food. I don’t just love it for the football. I don’t just love the parades. Don’t get me wrong, I will enjoy the food and I feel pretty certain I will at least watch the Houston HEB Parade. They are all important traditions in my family with the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Some years ago, when we had a Thanksgiving that was just Cindy, Wayne, Christopher and me, we started a new family tradition, well, it is a semi-tradition. When it has just been us we don’t have turkey and the trimmings. We have beef ribs and all those trimmings. We reasoned back in those days that there was a pretty good chance that the first Thanksgiving was a cookout. If it was a cookout, it is only another step to a barbecue and what is a barbecue without ribs. That was our logic anyway. And, as the comedian used to say, “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

In truth, we have probably had more of the stereotypical, traditional Thanksgiving dinners over the years than the dinner we have celebrated as “our traditional Thanksgiving dinner.”  Last Sunday I ate the “traditional Thanksgiving dinner,” when I attended the “Sweeny Community Thanksgiving Feast.” Tomorrow, it’s rib time!!!

I do have one suggestion for a Thanksgiving tradition that is bigger than food, football, parades and such. How about this for a Thanksgiving tradition? BE THANKFUL!!! We need to stop and think about how blessed we are.

Several years ago I read somewhere, I don’t remember who said it or where I read it, so this is a paraphrase. Thanksgiving should be among the most important holidays in American society. Here is the reasoning. No matter who we are, regardless of whether we are rich or poor, no matter our faith (Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.), or no faith at all, we always have something for which we should be thankful to someone.

Just think about it this way, as an American, we have our “founding fathers” and the men and women of our military we can thank for our freedom. We can be thankful to Aunt Connie for bringing those great yeast rolls to Thanksgiving dinner.

For we who believe, our traditions should always include being thankful to God for all we are and all we have. “Give thanks in every situation.”

That is what I am grateful for today? What are you grateful for today? Write it in your journal and tell someone else, perhaps at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Friends, have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy your dinner, whatever your Thanksgiving tradition might be. Just know, while you eat your turkey, I will be eating ribs.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Are You Coming to Dinner?

 

After this Jesus went across the Galilee Sea (that is, the Tiberias Sea). A large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miraculous signs he had done among the sick. Jesus went up a mountain and sat there with his disciples. It was nearly time for Passover, the Jewish festival.

Jesus looked up and saw the large crowd coming toward him. He asked Philip, “Where will we buy food to feed these people?” Jesus said this to test him, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “More than a half year’s salary worth of food wouldn’t be enough for each person to have even a little bit.”

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there. They sat down, about five thousand of them. 11 Then Jesus took the bread. When he had given thanks, he distributed it to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, each getting as much as they wanted. 12 When they had plenty to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves that had been left over by those who had eaten.

14 When the people saw that he had done a miraculous sign, they said, “This is truly the prophet who is coming into the world.” 15 Jesus understood that they were about to come and force him to be their king, so he took refuge again, alone on a mountain (John 6:1-15, Common English Bible).

 

Denise blew her nose and wiped her eyes on the hem of her apron. It was silly for her to be crying over a turkey even if it was the day before Thanksgiving.

She filled the sink with cool water, and then submerged the still thoroughly frozen bird. The instructions on the package said that soaking the turkey in cool water would help to speed up the defrosting process. Even so, Denise calculated, she wasn’t going to be able to start cooking the large bird until sometime next week. Well, it was really tomorrow about noon, but it may as well be next week for all the difference it was going to make.

Back in Cincinnati, Denise’s mother had always bought their Thanksgiving turkey from Mr. Wellstone’s store. He always saved their family a big twenty-pound, fresh bird, straight from the grocery supplier. So Denise had never even seen someone prepare a frozen turkey, much less roast one all by herself. She could see it was going to be a long day, and night.

While Denise was trying to imagine how she would replicate the huge Thanksgiving dinners of her childhood, given that she was getting such a late start in preparing, her daughter Becky ran up to the sink and examined as closely as she could the plastic-wrapped, still frozen bird. “Mama, I don’t like turkey salad,” Becky said in a cool, matter-of-fact tone of voice.

“That’s fine, Becky,” Denise said in a kind of absent minded way. “I wasn’t planning on making turkey salad anyway. It isn’t among my favorite meals either.”

“Mama, I don’t much like turkey sandwiches or turkey and rice soup either.”

“Well, you ate some last year,” Denise replied. “What do you think I should do with all the leftovers when we finish our meal tomorrow?

“Mama, on the TV a few minutes ago they said somebody stole the truck of turkeys that were for the hungry people. I don’t really like leftover turkey very much. And mama, this is one big turkey. Can we give some of our turkey to the hungry people instead of us eating the leftovers?”

Denise turned to face her daughter, whose six-year-old face was dotted with freckles and showed the earnestness of a naïve child. She stood with her left hand on her hip, just like Denise herself often had stood when she was trying to get her way on some issue. Denise’s voice sounded a little harsher than what she really intended. “Becky, what in the world are you talking about now?

Becky took a deep breath and let it out slowly. The six-year-old began her story again all though slower this time. It was as if it were she that was speaking to a child.  She tapped her sneaker-clad foot impatiently on the floor. “Mama, I told you. I just heard on television that somebody stole the trucks that were supposed to go to the hungry people. And so, I want us to give them some of our turkey. Mama, we really have way too much.”

Denise looked deep into the face of her only child. The sweetness of Becky’s eyes always seemed to take her breath away. She loved this child so much. How could she have taken Becky away from their huge extended family in Cincinnati? How could she so selfishly deny her so many people who loved her?

When the job opening in Houston became available, it had seemed to her like a gift from God. It was a chance for her to spread her wings and prove she could be a good mother and provide for Becky by herself, independent of her own family.

But two months in a new city without family had really tried her strength. And now it was their first holiday alone and now it was threatened because she forgot to buy the turkey until after work tonight.

Denise reached out and handed Becky a pilgrim-shaped sugar cookie and said, “Honey, I’m trying to get our Thanksgiving dinner going. Go on back in the living room and watch TV a little longer.” Becky took the cookie and reluctantly left the kitchen for the living room and more television.

Two hours later, Becky was ready for bed. She knelt beside her bed to say her prayers, Denise heard her include, “And God bless the hungry people. Send them lots of peanut butter and jelly since they won’t have any turkey.”

Denise then finished mixing up the cornbread and spices for the dressing and then started to fold laundry. The late local news began with the same report of the stolen turkeys Becky had seen a few hours before. “Civil rights leader and city councilman Robert Williams has reported that his ‘Feed the Hungry Dinner’ program is without any turkey,”

The report went on to say someone had stolen the refrigerator truck holding the hundreds of turkeys intended for the annual Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless. And though many people, people from all over the city were coming out of the woodwork to donate money for more, it was believed there wouldn’t be enough turkeys available, nor would there be time to prepare them for the special Thanksgiving lunch scheduled for the next day.

Denise stopped matching socks and let her mind run away for a minute and play over the wonderful Thanksgivings of her childhood. When her grandmother had lived with them, she had let Denise help make pecan pies and her famous yeast rolls. Just as important, Thanksgiving was never complete without her Aunt Pearl’s dressing and Cousin Lynn’s sweet potato casserole.

This would be the first Thanksgiving in her life, and that meant the first for Becky as well, without being surrounded by twenty close relatives. Without a doubt she and Becky weren’t exactly homeless, like the people who were now missing turkeys, thank the good Lord, but they were family-less.

A little later, back in the kitchen Denise poked her finger in the big, plastic-coated, submerged bird. Because of the water sitting on it, it seemed to reflect the light back at her. As she looked at the turkey, Denise knew Becky was right. This was far too big of a turkey for just the two of them to eat. They couldn’t finish it in a week. It just wasn’t what the two of them needed. Denise sat down at her computer, pulled up an internet search engine and looked for the number, grabbed her cell phone and dialed.

An hour later, Becky stirred in the backseat of the car as Denise headed for downtown. She sat up rubbing sleep from her eyes and asked the question so many children ask their parents while traveling, “Are we there yet?”

“No, honey, but I think we are really close.” Denise turned on the car’s overhead light and looked again at the directions she had scribbled on the back of an envelope. She had made the third left, but all the warehouses looked alike. It was so dark. And, on top of that, she had never been in this part of town. She felt lost and alone and even a little scared.

Then, up ahead, she saw a building with the doors standing wide open and light was spilling out. As she pulled her car into the parking lot, a woman came out and waved. As they entered the building, Lucille, the woman in charge, shouted out to the dozens of others who had volunteered, “Everybody, say hello to Denise and her daughter Becky.” Voices rang out, “Hello!”

Lucille first introduced Becky to her young daughter Deidra and then gave Denise the job of opening huge cans of green beans and whole kernel corn.

“I think I am smelling turkey roasting.” Denise said. “Where did you find all the turkeys?”

“After the late news last night an older woman called the police. She had noticed an unfamiliar truck sitting just down the street from her house that fit the description of the stolen truck,” Lucille said. “Sure enough, it was the truck and all the turkeys were still there.”

“That was a really lucky break for the homeless,” Denise said. “Now they can have a real Thanksgiving dinner.”

“No, my new friend, said Lucille. “It wasn’t luck. It was the power of prayer. Since the truck was stolen there has been a lot of prayer going on around here and God always answers prayer.”

Many hours later, the time passed so fast, Denise reached under the table and shook Becky and Deidra awake. The two new “bestest” friends came out from under the table, holding hands. Becky and Deidra asked Denise, “Is it time?”

Denise said, “Yes, it just about is. Deidra, find your mother, she’s filling plates in the kitchen. Reverend Williams is going to say a prayer before everyone eats.

Denise looked around the room at the hundreds of people lined up for plates of turkey, dressing, vegetables, and peanut butter sandwiches. Men, women, families, all together, out of the chilly weather, were ready to share a special meal.

When Reverend Williams finished the prayer, Denise squeezed Lucille’s hand and said, “Lucille, let’s get the girls together this weekend for some playtime.”

Lucille smiled and said, “Sure. And, I’ll give you my recipe for sweet potato casserole. I would bet you that you will like it better than your cousin’s. The secret is in the sugar, you know. You need to have two different kinds.”

“Two different kinds?” As Denise looked around the warehouse at the full tables she thought, “No, there are many more kinds of sweetness here than two.”

From that year on, Denise’s traditional Thanksgiving always included some kind of service for those less fortunate in the community. She loved it, and so did Becky, who remained “bestest friends” with Deidra from that day forward. The two girls loved helping those in need and looked forward to Thanksgiving as a time of both giving and eating.

That Thanksgiving dinner always included Lucille’s sweet potato casserole and a platter of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And there was also as much loving company as her heart could hold.

 

As we all know it is Thanksgiving week. We all have our own Thanksgiving traditions. I think this will be the first Thanksgiving Cindy and I have not spent with at least some part of our family. Will we miss them? Sure. But, there is always room for new Thanksgiving traditions. This year we will celebrate with Paul, Margie and Ryan.

It seems to me that the story of Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 was a great miracle. But, for us today, I think it should be a story about thankful and generous hearts.

You see, Jesus took the boy’s lunch, five loaves of bread and two fish and gave everyone their fill and had twelve baskets of crumbs left over. That friends is a miracle.

Today, we mere mortals don’t have the ability to perform such a miracle, or do we? Most of us, I believe have witnessed times again and again in our lives when there is great need. And, it would seem that each time people step forward and share what God has given them, entrusted to them. The need is met and there is, it seems, always something left over.

Even when we have had our fill, even when our plates seem empty and there is nothing left, there really is still something left over. God is what is left. God who provides for us in all situations is still with us. And, where God is, there is also love. Where love is, there is always a reason to be thankful. And, we should remember to be thankful more often than just the fourth Thursday of November.

We are called to be thankful people at all times and in all circumstances for what God has given us. We need to remember that even when our plates seem empty, our cup still runs over. It runs over with the love of God.

In just a minute or two we will sing our closing hymn, “Open My Eyes, That I May See.” As we sing this morning, I would invite you to come to the alter and leave there a prayer both of thanksgiving as well as asking that God open your eyes, open my eyes to see the world as only God can see it.

 

 

What Am I Grateful for Today… Quiet Time

22 Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. 23 When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone…” (Matthew 14:22-23, Common English Bible).

Until relatively recently I have not been a big fan of quiet time. Sure, there have always been times when I would want a little peace but for the most part, not so much.

I have always been a loud, sometimes obnoxious extrovert, who wants to be around people and communicating with people. I like to have people around me. I enjoy communicating with people. That communication can be at least a little bit loud. That can particularly be the case if that communication is going on in a place where there are other loud, sometimes obnoxious people communicating.

I have always believed in prayer. For much of my life I have prayed. That being said, I knew of the omnipresent nature of God. I understood the omnipotent element of God. And, if God is all powerful and all present, wouldn’t that mean that, wherever I am, God is going to hear me pray? I would think so.

In more recent years, particularly since going through Spiritual Directors training in the Charis program a few years ago, I have come to understand that quiet time isn’t necessary for God to hear me. That is far from the case. I need quiet time so I can hear God.

At one point in my career I thought I could write my sermons in my office with a constant parade of people walking through. I thought I could have an interruption and then return to my work and never miss a beat.

I was wrong. Did I ever write a sermon when there was loud and chaos around me? I feel pretty certain I did. But, I know now that it was more the exception than the rule. Most of the time I would probably write a paragraph or two at most and then stop and stare off into space, totally distracted from my writing. Why was I distracted? I couldn’t hear God over the noise and chaos around me. And, a sermon without God isn’t really a sermon at all.

I know for many of you, your quiet time is early in the morning. I even know a few of you who get up before the crack of dawn for your study and prayer time. You feel the presence of God during those hours. You can get a lot more done and more important, you can hear God in those early hours of the day.

I am not wired that way. I am a night owl. As I write this it is 2:10 A.M. This is my time of day (though I am rapidly reaching the end of my day). The house is quiet. I think I am the only creature awake in the hours. My friends Paul and Margie that live with me are asleep as are all the dogs. It is just quiet. There are no interruptions. It is just me and God.

Before starting to write this post, I got my sermon for this coming Sunday. It is only Monday night/Tuesday morning and the manuscript of my sermon is complete. With this short Thanksgiving week, that is a good thing.

When I finish this post I will have some prayer time and then go to bed. I realize now that all this is so much easier when I am quiet, when I am still and let my self know God and know who is God.

That is what I am grateful for today. What about you? What are you grateful for today? Write it in your journal and go share it with a friend.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With joy and thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

What Am I Grateful for Today… Worship

Jeremiah received the Lord’s word: Stand near the gate of the Lord’s temple and proclaim there this message: Listen to the Lord’s word, all you of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord of heavenly forces, the God of Israel, says: Improve your conduct and your actions, and I will dwell with you[a] in this place.Don’t trust in lies: “This is the Lord’s temple! The Lord’s temple! The Lord’s temple!” (Jeremiah 7:1-4, Common English Bible)

Everyone seems to love to say something to the effect of, “I really don’t like Mondays.” Hey, I get it. I understand what you mean. I am not a big fan of Monday either. It is just such a let down from Sunday. Sunday is my favorite day of the week.

I love Sunday because I love worship! Sunday is my favorite day of the week because I love worship!

What is that you said? I can worship any day of the week? All I have to do is be in the presence of God? I turns out I was wrong.

What we all too often believe is worship isn’t really worship at all. It is devotion. Devotion is what we do when we are alone. Worship is done in community.

For years I have heard people say, “I can worship God on my _______________ as I can in the church.” You can fill in the blank (bass boat, tractor, rocking chair, etc.). My response used to be, “Yeah you can, but you probably won’t.” Again, I have come to understand I was wrong.”

In my experience, when we decide we are going to try (emphasis on try), to worship on our own, it is because there is something we don’t like about the church. I don’t like the worship time. I don’t like the style of music. I don’t like the preacher. I don’t like all the liturgy. I don’t want to sing. I don’t like that person who sits on the third row. I think you probably get the idea.

Do you notice a trend there? Perhaps you need to re-read the paragraph.

All those things start with the letter/word “I.” It is all about me and what I want. Would you believe worship, by definition, isn’t about me at all. Worship is about what we bring to God! We bring our gifts (spiritual, talents, tithes). We bring minds. We bring our souls. We bring our hearts. In other words, we bring all we are.

We bring all we are and unite with other believers. We come together to worship God but it is even more than that. We come together for worship but we also come together to serve. We come together for fellowship. We come together to lift one another up, to support each other, to love each other. Remember John’s words in his first letter, “You can’t say you love God you can’t see if you don’t love your neighbor you can see” (my paraphrase).

Many have been hurt by churches. I am truly sorry that has happened to you. I wish it could have been different for you. Christians can be, and many are difficult. That just means we are all alike. We are all messed up and need the grace of God in our lives. At least to me, the place we best experience that grace is within the Body of Believers. In other words, the Church. So, each of us need to pick ourselves up and search for a place where we can worship, a place where we can fellowship and find support for the difficult times that come in life for all of us.

I ran across a story sometime ago. I’m not sure who wrote  it but I want to share it with you today. It is titled, “The Lonely Ember.”

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going.

After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.

Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself comfortable but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs.

After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet fascination.

As the one lone ember’s flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and “dead as a door nail.”

Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.

Just before the pastor was ready to leave, he picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said, “Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday.”

So, today I am thankful for Sunday. Well, what I am really grateful for is worship, whatever day celebrate being in the presence of God as we gather with like minded believers.

That is what I am grateful for today. What about you? What are you grateful for today? Take a moment to write it down in your journal. Then share it with someone. Let them know that something for which you are grateful today.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

What Am I Grateful For Today… Hobbies

24 There’s nothing better for human beings than to eat, drink, and experience pleasure in their hard work. I also saw that this is from God’s hand— 25 Who can eat and find enjoyment otherwise?— 26 because God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please God (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26b, Common English Bible).

I have several hobbies I really enjoy. I love music. I enjoy both listening to music and playing music. As I write, I am listening to Ronnie Milsap sing “Smokey Mountain Rain.”

As I have said in previous posts (It has been a while), I really enjoy playing my guitars. Yes, I have more than one. In fact I have nine. I know, I can only play one at a time. Two I keep in Lufkin so when I am there I can play. One is in my office at the church. The other six I have here. Further, they all have a different sound, some have electronics to plug into a sound system while others don’t. One is an acoustic electric bass and two are electrics, one is a classical electric (well sort of). My favorites are the classical guitars. I like the sound that comes from the nylon strings and those strings are easier on my fingers.

I also enjoy writing music. I have only written the music for two songs but have written lyrics for several that are sung to hymns and secular tunes. All my lyrics but one song have been Christian lyrics. The one was a gift to Cindy for our 40th anniversary.

Several years ago I took drawing lessons. I have found that my favorite medium is pastels. I love to draw with chalk on velour paper. I have even used my pastels in worship as an element to my sermon, which I am doing in worship today.

In the last year or so, I have rediscovered (sort of) an element of some of my navy work and even before that in the Boy Scouts. Tying knots is something I have pretty well done over much of my life. When I was in the Navy I learned some of the fancy knot tying that can be seen on many Navy ships. I put it aside for some time but about a year and a half ago I picked it up again with paracord. I started out with “survival bracelets.” What I have done the most is prayer ropes. Recently I have learned to tie several new things, Christmas decorations, bolo ties,  and handles for the stainless steel mugs that are so popular today.

Most recently I have started woodcarving. I am not as good at this one as most of my other hobbies but I am learning. Hopefully, as I go on and get more practice, my skills will improve.

Yesterday I was blessed to be able to spend time with three of my hobbies. As I said previously, as I write I am listening to music. I tied a few of those mug handles. And, as I am preparing for that sermon tomorrow I spent a couple of hours with those chalks in my hand.

I believe God wants us to enjoy the hobbies of our lives. They are a great way for us to unwind and relax. With them we take a break to refuel after the things that drain our energy. Some like fishing. I do enjoy going occasionally. Others enjoy hunting. It’s not my thing but I am glad others find joy in it.

The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that God wants us to have things in our lives that bring us joy. You may enjoy some of the things I have mentioned. I also know some folks who enjoy crochet or knitting. The list of possibilities is only limited by our imagination.

For me, the key is to find ways of giving God some glory in our hobbies. After all, God gave us the skills we use in our hobbies. I try to do that. I have already mentioned that almost all of my music writing is music of faith, both for my enjoyment and playing in worship. I use my drawing skills occasionally in my preaching. The thing I have done with paracord is tying prayer ropes, most of which I have given away to Christians in an effort to help them enhance their prayer life. And, with my wood carving, I have carved several crosses. I know, they are pretty basic but hey, you have to start somewhere.

I am grateful today for my hobbies. What are you grateful for today. Write it down in your journal and then share it with somebody. I just shared mine with you! You never know, what you have to say might be what they need most to hear. God may be speaking to them, through you.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

What Am I Grateful for Today…Modern Medicine

Don’t consider yourself wise. Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Then your body will be healthy and your bones strengthened (Proverbs 3:7-8, Common English Bible).

I went and got my annual flu shot today. Getting a shot is not my favorite thing to do in life. I don’t know many people who would say they enjoy getting an injection. Being diabetic, shots are not an unusual part of my life. Still, I am very grateful for these things.

The first time I ever got a flu shot was when I was in the Navy. There was a bad flu bug going around and in the close quarters of the ship, they required all of us to get a flu shot. It was administered by one of those scary looking inoculation guns. And, I didn’t get the flu. I didn’t have a flu shot for several years and, more often than not, I got the flu.

When I entered the ministry I started getting flu shots again. I thought it was a good idea with as much time as a pastor spends in a hospital. I have been fortunate in that I don’t think I have had the flu since, as long as I took my flu shot.

My friend Rick is my primary care physician. He works hard to make sure I stay in at least reasonably good health. I am grateful he is part of my life too.

In a sermon I once heard the late Dr. Bill Hinson, formerly pastor at First United Methodist Church in Houston, he talked about four ways that God heals us. I am not going to go into all of them now, but I want to focus on the first. Dr. Hinson said, “Sometimes God heals us by sending us to the right doctor.

A few years ago I started developing some problems with vertigo. I went to my primary care physician (before I knew Rick). He tried a few things but ended up sending me to an ear, nose and throat specialist. He tried a few things too. He ended up sending me to yet another ENT who really specialized in inner ear disorders. It ended up being a chronic condition but because of medication today, it is manageable.

With some of the things I deal with, I am grateful for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals and the work they do. I have a difficult time imagining what life was like without them.

There is a sickness we all face and it is something my friend Rick cannot overcome, nor can anyone else. And as grateful as I am for modern medicine, it is actually old medicine that is the only cure. The sickness is sin and the old medicine that cures is God’s grace. But, what is more, it really is the best medication for our lives as a whole.

Modern medicine can do a great deal for me. It can make conditions that only a few years ago were debilitating at best, easy to live with, well at least easier than they were back in previous eras.

But, there is only medication that can help me overcome and give me eternal life. That medicine is about as old as the creation. It is God’s grace.

For modern medicine and the most ancient of medicines, I am grateful today. What are you grateful for today? Write it down in your journal and then share it with someone else. You may know what they need to hear.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved