The Virtues of a Child

Guest Post by Mrs. Cindy Martin-Foster

I have known Cindy Martin-Foster all my life. She is my cousin, a year older than I. She is an authority on children. She should be as she and her husband, Rev. Paul Martin have 8 children and ____ “grand little ones” as she calls them. They are residents of Jenks Oklahoma where Paul is the pastor of Jenks Baptist Temple.

Children have some special virtues that diminish with age.

I have never read the children’s classic novel Peter Panbut I have seen the movie, Hook. Itis loosely based on the story, and picks up later in Peter Pan’s life as a successful attorney with his wife and two children. 

In this movie rendition, Peter does not remember his childhood in Neverland and memories are not all he left behind.   As I remember the story goes something like this: Peter was an orphan.  He lived in Neverland with more orphans called ‘The Lost Boys’  who wished to never grow up.  Peter Pan was determined not to grow up either, but somehow, he did.  His grown up life became very complicated and this was attributed to the fact that he did ‘grow up’. 

Grown-ups change and not always in good ways. Growing up is inevitable, of course, but growing disenchanted and detached is not.  Peter’s particular way of ‘growing up‘ brought on a serious case of misplaced priorities which, in turn, almost cost him his family. 

That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.

WALT DISNEY, attributed, The Quotable Walt Disney

But he grew up anyway.  He grew up and became a successful businessman which meant for one thing, he got really busy.  In fact, he got so busy that he had no time for anything else of importance.  Not even the most important of all.. his family. 

The ‘adult‘ Peter Pan became too busy, too focused, too mature, too serious, too responsible, too committed, too-everything else characteristic of successful adulthood-praiseworthy attributes without the excess. 

But somehow in pursuit of success, he lost sight of who he was…of the good qualities he possessed as a child…that even though grown, should never have been lost. 

So, what are some of these timeless, precious virtues children possess, but often lose in adulthood?

The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives. 

Albert Einstein

The Bible notes some exceptional children gifted with wisdom beyond their years. Children chosen by God to teach or lead  powerful adult dignitaries with honesty and innocence in ways only a child could.

There was the child, Samuel, who God chose as His special little messenger to the high priest, Eli, to reveal to him that his days were numbered due to abhorrent acts of his sons.  

Solomon became king of Israel as a child and realizing his deficit of experience, asked God for wisdom when God would have granted him anything he wished. How many adults would do that?  

Or, consider the little servant girl to Naaman.  Naaman was  captain of the host of the king of Syria, who was smitten with leprosy.  She directed him to Elisha the Prophet who told him what to do to be healed.

There was Isaac and Joseph, both very young. By demonstrating faith beyond that of their elders they were greatly used of God. Isaac as a patriarch of God’s Covenant to his chosen people and Joseph, to save his family as well as an entire nation from starvation.  

Daniel, Shadrack, Mishack and Abednigo–Hebrew children and captives of Babylon who politely suggested a better diet when instructed by the king to eat his rich meat.  When it was discovered that their diet was healthier, they established their intelligence, wisdom, and devotion to their God, therefore becoming advisors to the king himself. 

There is much that children can teach us.

Children are illuminated text-books, breviaries of doctrine, living bodies of divinity, open always and inviting their elders to peruse the characters inscribed on the lovely leaves.  AMOS BRONSON ALCOTT, Table Talk

A child is humble, meek, trusting, eager to please, highly motivated, easily led.  He is open-minded and hungry to learn, guiltless and grudge-free.  Adults, being experienced, are prone to skepticism and over-caution but children, lacking that experience are freer to believe and trust.  All the qualities adults consider strengths are often, in actuality, more their weaknesses, at least it seems so in God’s economy.

If God elevates the attributes of a child, then why do grown-ups so often regard children  with what looks more like…contempt?

It seems to me that in churches and families where excessive attention is given to governing children’s behavior, there is little to no attention given to honoring their innocent honesty and nurturing their spirits.  Children are required to be ‘seen and not heard’ and rarely, if ever, credited with wisdom.   

I have been instructed by preachers and other church ‘authorities‘ that when and adult accuses a child of wrong-doing but the child denies it, I should ALWAYS accept the word of the adult over the child.  Well, I guess that might have worked in a time (if there ever was one) when you could actually be confident that adults were more honest than kids.

But not anymore.

In fact, that would be outright dangerous given what we now know of statistics on child abuse and molestation being that 5 children die in America every day due to some form of abuse- http://www.childhelp.org/pages/statistics and 

http://religiouschildmaltreatment.com/.

and 2 out of 10 girls, 1 out of 10 boys are molested by the time they are 18- http://www.childmolestationprevention.org/pages/prevention_plan.html#focus_on_cause 

Jesus modeled the exact opposite attitude towards children.  When his disciples wanted to dismiss them, he said, “Forbid them not”.  

When the adults treated them as insignificant, Jesus countered, “Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”

When the disciples, adults, argued among themselves over who would be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus took a little child and said,

“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

When adults abused children, Jesus said, “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”

If Jesus had such high regard for little children, shouldn’t we? 

Perhaps it is time to correct our focus. 

Perhaps we should take time to remember what it was like to be a child.

Perhaps we should listen to them more and lecture them less.

Perhaps we should consider what we do to provoke their behavior problems before punishing to ‘fix’ them.

Perhaps we should spend more time looking for causes instead of reacting to the effects.

Perhaps we should budget more time nurturing our adult/child relationships than we do trying to convert them to the trivial aspects of our beliefs.  

Perhaps instead of trying to quiet the noise they make, we should relish the sounds of their laughter.

Perhaps instead of grumbling about the messes they make, we should celebrate the energy they have to make them. 

Perhaps we should all, like Peter Pan, revisit that place in our childhoods and rediscover the “happy thoughts” we still need as adults.

Perhaps….

Instead of concentrating all our teachings and efforts towards the proper “training” of children, we should practice being the kind of people we desire them to be.

Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children. 

Khalil Gibran

So, adults, 

Embrace your inner child!  

It’s biblical.  

It’s wise!

Photos courtesy of my grand littles, Cameron and Iris. 

Opening photo of Iris shot by Erin B. Foster Photography.

Not a Happy Ending

Jonah 4:9-11

A Guest Post by Rev. Lisa Beth White

I have known Rev. Lisa Beth While for many years now. I have not known her longer than Paul Woodworth from last Friday or W.C. Hall from last Monday, but I can’t think of anyone else ahead of her on that list. Lisa Beth has the distinction of, I knew her before she was really even considering ministry. We were students together at Sam Houston State University. We met at the Wesley Foundation there and both played an active role there. Before I graduated her oldest daughter was born. While I was in seminary, the spring semester of her first year and my last, I took Celia to school so Lisa Beth could stand in line for registration. Preaching classes were hard to get. It is hard for me to believe that both of those “little girls” are now young women, working to make their way in the world. Lisa Beth has a Bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State, a Master’s of Divinity from Southern Methodist, and a Master of Theological Studies from Boston University. She has served First UMC in Liberty, Bering Memorial UMC in Houston, Moody Memorial First UMC in Galveston, She served a small congregation, First United Methodist Church in Melrose Massachusetts and currently serves at  Swannanoa UMC and Tabernacle UMC, in Black Mountain, North Carolina. She is also fluent in American Sign Language and works diligently with missions for the United Methodist Women and the United Methodist Church.

But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’ Then the Lord said, ‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’ (Jonah 4:8-11, New Revised Standard Version)

When my children were toddlers, our United Methodist Women’s circle gave us a fabric activity book.  Each page had a Bible story and activity.  There was Joseph in a colorful coat to button and unbutton.  There was a star, moon, and sun to Velcro off and on the page.  And there was a big blue corduroy fish whose mouth zipped and unzipped, and a smiling Jonah made out of a clothespin with a brown cloth cloak.  We also had a small children’s Bible that had illustrations drawn in crayon by children, with Jonah going head first into a big dark fish’s smiling mouth.  The story ends with “at last Jonah listened to God and went to Nineveh.  It’s always best to listen to God.” 

Children’s bible stories about Jonah always seem to end on that happy note.  Jonah goes to Nineveh as God commands, preaches redemption, and everyone is happy.  But the Biblical story reveals a far more complicated situation.  Jonah does go to Nineveh, he preaches an eight word sermon, the people lament, repent, and God relents, decides not to destroy the city and all the people in it.  Jonah sees that God was merciful and is angry.  In fact, he complains that God’s mercy is the reason he ran from God’s call to preach.  “It’s better to die from my anger!” he says. 

God does not tell Jonah that he should not be angry.  Throughout the book, God never tells Jonah how to handle his anger.  God asks Jonah questions that allow Jonah to think about his anger in the light of the nature of God.  Jonah’s anger was burning inside him.  We aren’t told how he felt about the people of Nineveh.  We don’t know if he thought they deserved judgment rather than mercy.  The text only tells us that God’s mercy to the people of Nineveh was enough to make Jonah burn with anger. 

As I write this post, there are scenes on all the news channels of police violence, peaceful protests, buildings burning, and looters taking advantage of the chaos.  The U.S. hasn’t seen situations like this since the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.  Now, as then, it’s easy to divide people into groups, to label this group good and that group bad.  It’s easy to become angry about things and to let that anger burn inside us.  It’s easy to wish that this group or that group would receive the thing that our anger says is right. 

God asks Jonah “is it right for you to be angry?”  Jonah has the opportunity to consider God’s mercy.  Instead he sits and lets his anger burn.  God does not abandon Jonah.  He stays with Jonah, gently teaching him and asking him to think about his anger.  God also does not abandon Nineveh, waiting for them to hear the good news of God’s mercy, to turn and listen to God.  When they do, God is merciful, not angry.

Perhaps that children’s Bible was right – it is always best to listen to God.  Jonah listens to God’s questions about his anger.  The text doesn’t tell us how Jonah resolved these questions.  They are left for us to ponder about our own anger and how we think about other people and the earth.  How is God asking you today to consider mercy?  How is God asking you today to consider the people who make you angry?  How is God asking you today to consider our call to care for creation? 

Now You Hear It, Now You Don’t

By: Keith Broyles

It is time once again for the Sunday Sermon. Because I am not preaching this week I went searching through some old sermon manuscripts and pulled this one out. Unfortunately, there is only the manuscript. I wrote and preached this sermon back in 2007 when I was pastor at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Santa Fe, Texas. I hope you enjoy the read.

13 That day Jesus went out of the house and sat down beside the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he climbed into a boat and sat down. The whole crowd was standing on the shore.

He said many things to them in parables: “A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them. Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one. Everyone who has ears should pay attention.” (Matthew 13:1-9, Common English Bible)

Most of you know, Cindy, Christopher, and I spent Fourth of July weekend with my parents. My father has some hearing difficulty, but his greatest hearing difficulty is convenient hearing and not paying attention to what is being said around him. That can be said of many of us.

Most of you know, we spent Fourth of July weekend with my parents. My father has some hearing difficulty. Four years of running around the boiler room and the engine room on an old ship. He went from the Navy to working construction. His best argument for not getting his hearing checked was expense. But his greatest hearing difficulty is convenient hearing and not paying attention to what is being said around him. That can be said of many of us.

Sunday afternoon he and I were watching baseball games on television. When the Astro’s game was over we turned on the Ranger’s game. Kenny Rogers was pitching. For those few people who are totally oblivious to the sports world, Kenny Rogers went after two television photographers a week and a half ago, jerking the camera from one’s shoulder and then kicking it several times. I don’t know if the camera was damaged or not. Following this tirade, Major League Baseball suspended him for 20 games and fined him $50,000.

When we turned the Ranger’s game on, who was pitching, but Kenny Rogers. We talked about how Rogers had appealed his suspension and was allowed to play until the appeal was heard. My Dad even said that he hoped Rogers would be picked to the All-Star team so that he wouldn’t be able to play.

As the game went on, one at a time, Cindy, my mother, my brother-in-law, my sister, and then Christopher and his girl friend walked into the room. As each came in and saw Rogers on the mound they said, “I thought he was suspended. How can he be playing?” And, each time patiently at first, not so patiently toward the end I explained that Major League Baseball rules allow a player to appeal his suspension and keep playing until his appeal is heard. So Rogers was allowed to play.

Monday morning my dad hears on television that Rogers had pitched the day before and exclaims, “I thought he was suspended, how could he have pitched.” My question is, how could he have not heard it any of the six times I explained it and even worse, he watched almost he entire game, how could he have not seen Kenny Rogers pitching the day before? He was even the one who had turned the game on.

II I guess my words to my dad were like seeds scattered on a path that the birds came and ate. I don’t think that they could be seeds scattered on the rocky places that sprung up but were scorched by the sun. I don’t think that they were like the seeds scattered among the thorns and were choked out by the other plants. That would mean that he at least heard a little bit and probably chose to ignore it. He certainly wasn’t the seed scattered on good soil because he just didn’t get it at all.

I have learned over the years that such is all too true. And, it isn’t just true with my father. There are many of us with hearing that is convenient at best. I know, and I understand that there are those without hearing and even those with hearing loss. I am one who has some moderate hearing loss. And, I know my dad is too. Still, if we are honest with ourselves and with each other, at least for many of us our greatest hearing problem isn’t a physical problem. For many of us anyway, we hear much of what we want to hear. Many things that are said to us or around us, we tune out or we don’t pay attention to. Such was the case during the Rangers game last Sunday afternoon.

III We live in a society that just doesn’t want to listen or maybe has lost much of ability to listen. Perhaps it is selective hearing on many of our parts. Perhaps it is too much noise going on around us, distracting us from what others may be saying. Maybe we think that we don’t have time to listen.

The lesson we read a few minutes ago closes with Jesus saying, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Yet all too often, we just don’t want to listen or we don’t have the ability to listen to one another. And, it seems to me that such inability would also inhibit our ability or desire to hear when God is speaking to us.

This morning we continue our series, “Principles from Parables” as we look at “The Parable of the Sower.” In this lesson Jesus says that a farmer went out in the field to sow his seeds. Think for just a minute about someone who goes out, and by hand, broadcasts seeds onto a field or even a yard. As you scatter the seeds they can go everywhere. Some go to where you want, but others go to places that you don’t, even places that have no real possibility of growing anything. Jesus said that some went on the path where the birds ate them up. Some went to rocky areas, places where there wasn’t much soil and the plants couldn’t get much in the way of a root system. When the heat came they burned up and died. Some fell in the thorny places and were chocked out by the other plants around them. But, some fell on good soil, and produced a good crop, many times the amount of seed that was planted.

I understand that idea. When we moved to Lovelady, we moved into a brand new house. With a brand new house comes a brand new yard. Before we moved in a member of the church came by to plant grass seed. He broadcast the seed. I am sure that some went onto the sidewalk and the birds came and ate it. There weren’t any rocky places so that wasn’t a problem, but there were flowerbeds and some of the seed went there. Do you know what grass is when it is in a flowerbed? It is a weed, but we will deal with “The Parable of the Weeds” next Sunday. The point is, when you scatter seed, some of it goes where you want, but some of it goes into and maybe even takes root in places that you don’t want.

This parable would be difficult at best to understand if it stopped where I stopped reading this morning’s lesson. Without question, it would be cryptic. At times, it is difficult to get the real point that Jesus is trying to make when he used parables. That would have particularly been the case here except that after verse 17, verses 10 through 17 deal with the disciples asking why Jesus speaks in parables and Jesus’ response to them. But, then, in verses 18 through 23 Jesus explains “The Parable of the Sower.” Read 18-23.

With this explanation we now have a much clearer picture of what Jesus was saying to the disciples and others who were gathered to hear him. All of the seeds that went to the places the sower never intended, are people who use their selective hearing or ignore all together what God may be saying. We may hear about the Kingdom of God, and yet we don’t hear. The seeds may be planted within us but they never really take root deeply in our hearts.

On the other hand, there are also the seeds that are scattered on the good soil of the heart. They are seeds that take firm hold because we are not only attentive when the Word of God is spoken; we use what we hear to help cultivate the faith that is growing inside of us. God is speaking. Are we listening?

V I think that when Jesus says, “He who has ears let him hear” he is saying to us; “You have the ability to hear the voice of God calling you into a relationship. Take the time; stop what you are doing and listen. God may be speaking to you.”

When we live with the idea of now you hear it, now you don’t, our faith becomes the seeds that fall in places where it is difficult to impossible for it to survive. Yet when we open our ears and we listen to the word of God, the seeds of faith are planted in good soil. We hear the word of God when we read the words of Scripture, when we pray, from the things that we see in nature and the world around us. We hear it sometimes by God speaking to us from the words of others that share our world. We can even hear it through the still small voice of our conscience. But, we have to be listening or we might miss it.

Now you hear it, now you don’t is selective hearing and if we heard at all, before long it is gone away. What we really need is “Now I hear it… Yeah I still hear it.” Then the seeds of faith are growing in the richest soil of our lives.

I understand that idea. When we moved to Lovelady, we moved into a brand new house. With a brand new house comes a brand new yard. Before we moved in a member of the church came by to plant grass seed. He broadcast the seed. I am sure that some went onto the sidewalk and the birds came and ate it. There weren’t any rocky places so that wasn’t a problem, but there were flowerbeds and some of the seed went there. Do you know what grass is when it is in a flowerbed? It is a weed, but we will deal with “The Parable of the Weeds” next Sunday. The point is, when you scatter seed, some of it goes where you want, but some of it goes into and maybe even takes root in places that you don’t want.

This parable would be difficult at best to understand if it stopped where I stopped reading this morning’s lesson. Without question, it would be cryptic. At times, it is difficult to get the real point that Jesus is trying to make when he used parables. That would have particularly been the case here except that after verse 17, verses 10 through 17 deal with the disciples asking why Jesus speaks in parables and Jesus’ response to them. But, then, in verses 18 through 23 Jesus explains “The Parable of the Sower.” Read 18-23.

With this explanation we now have a much clearer picture of what Jesus was saying to the disciples and others who were gathered to hear him. All of the seeds that went to the places the sower never intended, are people who use their selective hearing or ignore all together what God may be saying. We may hear about the Kingdom of God, and yet we don’t hear. The seeds may be planted within us but they never really take root deeply in our hearts.

On the other hand, there are also the seeds that are scattered on the good soil of the heart. They are seeds that take firm hold because we are not only attentive when the Word of God is spoken; we use what we hear to help cultivate the faith that is growing inside of us. God is speaking. Are we listening?

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V I think that when Jesus says, “He who has ears let him hear” he is saying to us; “You have the ability to hear the voice of God calling you into a relationship. Take the time; stop what you are doing and listen. God may be speaking to you.”

When we live with the idea of now you hear it, now you don’t, our faith becomes the seeds that fall in places where it is difficult to impossible for it to survive. Yet when we open our ears and we listen to the word of God, the seeds of faith are planted in good soil. We hear the word of God when we read the words of Scripture, when we pray, from the things that we see in nature and the world around us. We hear it sometimes by God speaking to us from the words of others that share our world. We can even hear it through the still small voice of our conscience. But, we have to be listening or we might miss it.

Now you hear it, now you don’t is selective hearing and if we heard at all, before long it is gone away. What we really need is “Now I hear it… Yeah I still hear it.” Then the seeds of faith are growing in the richest soil of our lives.

Be Blessed

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Learning to Be Content

A Guest Blog Post by Rev. Paul and Mrs. Margie Woodworth

I have said it before and I feel pretty sure I will say it again, Rev. Paul Woodworth is my oldest friend in ministry and you can take that any way you want. While that part is a joke, Paul and his wife Margie were the first people I met after he and I both assumed the pulpit at our respective congregations. Paul went to Bremond and Calvert, just about as far west as you can get and still be in the Texas Annual Conference. I went to Elwood, as far east as you can go and still be in the old Bryan district. Since that time, we have followed each other around the conference. Now Paul and Margie and Cindy and I all live in Lufkin. Margie made her living in the property title business. Before entering ministry Paul was in the grocery business. Since entering the ministry Paul has served, Bremond, Calvert, First UMC Madisonville (Associate Pastor), First UMC Groveton, Prairie View UMC Groveton, First UMC Brownsboro, New Hope UMC Brownsboro, Ben Wheeler UMC, Burke UMC, and First UMC Sweeny (Pastor Emeritus). Today Paul and Margie are enjoying their retirement as much as one can enjoy being quarantined in a senior living center for over three months now. That is Keith saying that, not Paul and Margie. Paul is probably the finest pastor I have known. He cares about people in a way few people I have known care. I am thankful for my friendship. I pray you enjoy their words today.

Keith

 I was very glad in the Lord because now at last you have shown concern for me again. (Of course, you were always concerned but had no way to show it.) 11 I’m not saying this because I need anything, for I have learned how to be content in any circumstance. 12 I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. 13 I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:10-13, Common English Bible) 

We have all been making adjustments during the time of quarantine.  After our Easter Sunday Service on April 10, 2020,  as we finished singing “Victory in Jesus”, we were told that we had to go to our room in our Assisted Living facility and not come out until further notice!  We were all stunned.  However, we did as we were told since there was no one to ask “Why?”

The next day we were advised that it because of the Corona Virus and the fear that we might catch it.  For the next few weeks we (28 of us) we stayed in our rooms, ate in our rooms, read, watched TV, played on our computers if we had one

Then we were given a list of times (20 minutes) intervals to walk in the hall or out in the Courtyard as long as we wore our masks.  During the first few days of “a little freedom”, we noticed that some of us would take advantage of this freedom and others would not.  Some residents appeared to be sad and depressed.  We were two of them.  It occurred to us that if you used to see family and friends, you would naturally be missing them.  Missing their hugs, their visits, the treats they would bring.

Next, they decided to let family and friends come to your window and see you for a short time.  This helped those who had family that came frequently.  Unfortunately, our family is unable to come.  

We are happy for those folks who can see their loved ones and friends, but we have become sad because we have no family to come to visit us.

The Apostle Paul went from one town to the other and he didn’t have a Hilton Inn and Suites to stay in or a wonderful buffet to eat.  

Our son, Ryan chose Philippians 4:13 as his favorite scripture:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  We have adopted this scripture to help us during this difficult time.  We have a roof over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear, and last but certainly not least, our Bibles to read and sermons to listen to on our phones.  Praise God for all of the blessings he gives us!  When we feel low, we sing all of the songs we can find that we know out of the hymnals we have to enjoy.  Call a family member and friends who are alone. 

We are all struggling, but we are all blessed by the love of God! Remember, “I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my (our) hand.”

Praising God while Learning to be Content!

Paul and Margie Woodworth

Escape From Past Island

A Guest Post by Ms. April Yarber

Of all my friends who are being so generous with their time during these few weeks, donating a guest post, April is my newest fan. We are Facebook friends and have never actually met face to face. We met, as much as you can meet on Facebook because we are both Christian authors so we were in the same place. I thought a page she had was a page for promoting books. She generously has allowed me not only to post my book on her page but I now regularly post my blog on her page. She us a very supportive person and I am pleased to call her friend. I think you will like what you read this morning from April.

17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” 18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. 19 Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” 21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. 22 Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:17-26, English Standard Version)

“Escape from Past Island,” I have been thinking about using this title for some time. It seems to fit because of the experience we have in our human condition. At some point in our lives we have had this universal experience. I chose the above picture of Alcatraz Island because it is difficult to think of a past one might desire ti escape from more.

People experience the all-consuming past pulling us in multiple various points throughout our lives. We can almost hear ourselves thinking, “Oh, those thoughts from the past.” We all have tried to or would at least like to, escape from certain situations and memories from our past. 

As we get older; the more regret can creep in. Sometimes negative thoughts and memories from days behind us flood in  if we aren’t grounded and rooted on and in the foundations of the Lord, they may start to sweep us away.

 Memories of things we’ve done, and things we haven’t done, things we should have done, things we could have done, and memories of the dreams and opportunities lost. These are the things we wish we had done. They can all come rush in with powerful intensity. This unseen but  gripping force can become so intense, it can govern our thoughts and days.

Our recall of the past is tricky. The timing, if not just right, can cause us to linger, The result can be an unknowing gift of opportunity to the enemy, who loves reminding us of past failures. We remember times when things were really good but that devolves all too quickly. Suddenly, bam in a flash, all the negative memories rush in. 

We can think about the past, but not to stay there. If we let the negative past of hurt, pain, and regret rule in our minds, it can then enter our hearts and it can consume us. Making us possibly bitter, angry, or regretful and sad. It is the place where Lot’s wife seems to be when she looks back, only to become a pillar of salt. And when the past rules our hearts the present can slip away. And then what do we miss? We miss the absolutely beautiful gift of life that present moments bring. 

Isaiah’s words remind us that God isn’t living in the past. “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing 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.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV).

God didn’t make us with our heads turned backward, always looking at the past. If that were God’s plan, we would have eyes’ in the back of our heads. God doesn’t want us to recall only our troubles and hardships but to learn from them, even if the only lesson to learn is surrender. 

Our Lord Jesus wants us to keep moving forward and this is evident in His words. In Scripture, God  wants us to grow in grace, and flourish in faith. Forgive yourself, turn your head around to the front and, with God’s help, move beyond your past. Remember we are only human. 

Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32, ESV)

Proverbs 4:25 (ESV) reminds us, “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.” 

There is an old saying that still rings true as a reminder to find enjoyment in the moment, saying simply, we should., ” Stop and smell the roses.” That’s good advice. 

Thank God for flowers. When you are faced with powerful negative thoughts, remember within the deep recesses of your mind, Jesus loves you, you are forgiven by our Savior. It is past time to forgive yourself. When those powerful negative thoughts come your way, remember too that, powerful as they may be, our God is more powerful still. That is my prayer for you. 

Shine with love and beauty. You are a child of God. And you, my faithful friend are altogether beautiful. 

God Bless you always… 

And Finally Beloved… (Manuscript)

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

10 I rejoice[c] in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:6-13, New Revised Standard Version).

A little girl and her mother sat in church one Sunday. The preacher was about 10 minutes into the sermon when he said it, “And finally…” and he kept right on preaching. About five minutes later he said again, “And finally…” and the sermon continued. About five minutes later, he said for the third time, “And finally…” then the little girl turned to her mother and asked, “Mama what does that mean?” her mother whispered to her quietly, “Absolutely nothing.”

this morning I am going to use those words several times throughout the sermon. When I do, don’t think that because I say, “And finally,” or “And finally beloved,” the sermon is about to end. You may be pretty disappointed.

I use the words today because those words, “Finally beloved” are the words Paul often used to close his letters. Those words coupled by certain themes at the ends of the letters dealt with matters of Supreme importance for Paul. Many of Paul’s most important priorities are in those last few words at the close of his letters.

This morning, as we close our time together, that we would share some of those thoughts, and also a few thoughts of my own. We will refer to several of Paul’s letters today as we think and reflect a bit on these things that were important to Paul.

“And finally beloved, rejoice in the Lord.” in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” A christian’s life should be characterized by happiness. We are people who know the answer period we are people who have the answer period we know that we live by faith in Jesus Christ. That is the answer to a whole lot an complete life. And, when you have the answer to life’s primary, most important question, there is always reason to rejoice. The christian’s life should be characterized and marked by happiness , by joy. As people of faith we should radiate with optimism when we go through life looking and feeling as if our life is spent down in the pits. What does that say about our faith? What does it say about our answer for this life and the life to come?

Life can be hard. Bad things can happen in our lives. We don’t have to do anything more than watch the Evening News to see just how hard life can be. It’s been pretty hard these last few months with the corona-virus and all the issues surrounding it. Social distancing, the debate over wearing masks, whether or not businesses and other places we gather should be allowed to reopen, vaccines and cures, and on and on. There are economic problems as well as civil rights issues, civil disobedience issues, and general unrest. But, as people of faith we have the assurance that God is greater than our problems and the problems in the world. Life can be hard at times, but God is good all the time and all the time, God is good. We can celebrate and rejoice in God’s goodness. Remember too, the scriptures don’t say we should rejoice in difficulty or rejoice in pain or rejoice in problems or rejoice in tragedy. The scriptures say, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!”

David Suna and John Tu sold 80 percent of their tech company, Kingston Technology Corp. They made mostly computer memory products. For that 80 percent, Suna and Tu decided they would share their good fortune with their employees. The average bonus check was $75,000. Suna and Tu said the joy was not in the money. Joy came from two places. To know that all who contributed to the success was sharing in the rewards, everyone from the custodian to the CEO was awarded.

On its most basic level, being a Christian means being a person of joy. If we are truly filled with this joy, it should be on the brink of bubbling and gurgling out of us each day. A father asked a child why she liked her Sunday school teacher so much. She answered, “Because her eyes twinkle like she’s laughing inside all the time.” Jesus as our joy keeps the corners of our mouths perpetually turning up. Keep smiling!

What is it that gives you joy? What is out there that you can do to make your eyes sparkle. I always think of our Loose Threads group. The joy we share needs to be a joy everywhere for eve

For me it is working on a song. Sometimes that means guitar or piano and practice. Or, it might be writing something new or giving something old a make-over.

Beloved, rejoice in the Lord.

Finally, beloved, be strong in the Lord. Paul is sharing with the Ephesians. He knew they would face opposition from the secular world. As the Christian faith grew stronger, the pressure Christians faced from the Roman Empire grew more and more difficult. Life wasn’t easy for those to whom Paul wrote. There were many challenges in life during the biblical era. Some were physical. Others were spiritual. So, Paul wrote these words, “be strong in the Lord,” to encourage Christians of the day.

Being a Christian has never been easy. In recent years we have seen challenges to our faith. Today the church continues to face greater and greater opposition from secular society. There are challenges again and again to matters of faith. If something even smells of faith it can face immediate and fierce opposition. To stand firm in the faith means to be strong in the Lord.

I recently found a platform for writers and bloggers I had not previously known called Medium and no, it isn’t about connections to the spirit world, palm reading, or any of that kind of thing. It is a vast number of writers, sharing thoughts on a wide variety of topics.

One of the first pieces I read was written by a lady named BeBe Nicholson. She titled her piece “Hostility Toward Christianity is Growing.” In the article Ms. Nicholson addresses some argument’s used by those who have left the church. Being hurt by the church, Christianity being most responsible for most of the wars in history and therefore responsible for huge numbers of deaths, Christians are judgmental, and Christians are intolerant. The Church is far from perfect. I am pretty sure we can all agree on that. After all, the Church isn’t the building, it’s the people and because people in general tend to be judgmental about various things, we can be intolerant. But what some see as intolerance can also be understood as living under the tenants of faith.

Nicholson uses the example of a Supreme Court case as an illustration about the hostility faced by the Church.

Atheists objected to a cross erected over 100 years ago as a memorial to soldiers killed during the first World War. Wanting the memorial removed the group fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court who ruled that there was no Constitutional violation.

A group of atheists launched a billboard campaign in parts of the country last Christmas with the slogan, “Just skip church; it’s all fake news.” Why do unbelievers care if Christians go to church?

Most ironic of the information surrounding the article was the ferocity of the comments made about the article. Those who accuse Christians of judging were judging themselves.

In responding to my comments, she wrote, “Well said Rev. Broyles! Thanks for weighing in with your thoughtful and thought-provoking statements in what turned out to be an unexpectedly controversial post. Even I, who wrote the essay, wasn’t aware of the level of hostility that is actually out there until I read the responses to my article.

Friends we must maintain our focus and our spiritual strength. Beloved be strong in the Lord.

Finally, beloved, pray for us. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul gives them this instruction. It is important period probably the greatest thing one Christian can do for another is to pray. Intercession is one of the finest acts the Christian performs. Our prayer life should be of central importance to our whole life. When we are in prayer we are truly a servant a servant of God and a servant to neighbor we are called to be people of prayer.

A few years ago, I had an epiphany. I came to the realization that I was not the man of prayer many people believed me to be. People would ask me to pray. I would tell them I would do so and then, many times, I never did. I wasn’t really lying to people or at least that wasn’t my intention. I always intended to pray for the people needing prayer and then life happened. I got busy with fifteen other things and that request I had committed to? Yeah, it was gone.

So, I started doing two things and I want to challenge you to make them part of your prayer routine too. First, when someone asks me to pray, I try very hard to stop what I am doing right then and pray with that person. If it is a request online, email or the church’s prayer page, I try to type a prayer in right then, when I see it. Again, at times I put it off and forget all together. When that happens, I am reminded of the importance of praying right then. And, if someone calls me on the phone asking for prayer, we take the time to stop and pray. I want to ask you to not just remember but since I started doing that, I have seen the difference it makes for the person asking for prayer. Before, they hoped I and others were praying for them, with this practice, they know we are praying.

Beloved, pray for us. Pray for each other period pray for the world around us. We are called to pray.

Finally beloved, “…What things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, think on these things.” If we are to live the kind of lives God calls us to live, all of the things on that list or must. Our hearts must be on the things of God. We must have high ideals and deep convictions in our personal lives. We must decide on clean speech, pure motives, and the highest integrity that is beyond question.

Joseph Parker, a former pastor in London, wrote that on one occasion the great concert pianist Ignace Paderewski came to London to give a concert. Parker, quite an accomplished pianist himself, went to hear the concert. The pastor was so moved by what he heard he did a very strange thing when he came home he stood by his piano, called to his wife, and said, “bring me an axe! Today I heard great music for the first time ever. By comparison what I can do amounts to nothing at all. I feel like chopping my piano to pieces.”

Parker could never be Paderewski simply by following his example period to do so, he would need Paderewski’s hands and mind and heart and yes, even his soul.

It is much the same in the Christian life. We can never live up to the life of Jesus. And, his example could lead us to great desperation. Or, we can use his example. His life, that is in each of us to inspire us on to greater things, to a greater life, to the high ideals and motives and integrity that should be part of every Christian’s faith walk. In Jesus we find our strength, power, and motivation.

Beloved what things are true honest just pure of good report think on these things.

Finally, beloved, farewell. Be perfect. These were Paul’s words that closed his 2nd letter to the Corinthians. As people of faith we know being perfect does not mean being sinless. What I think it does mean is to live as a complete child of God. It means to be everything God calls us to be. It means to live whole, well rounded Christian lives. It means we are called to live in perfect love.

A goat wanted more than anything in the world to be a lion. He didn’t want to be like a lion, he wanted to be a lion. He told himself if he could learn to walk like a lion, talk like a lion, and go where Lions go, he’d be a lion. So, he crouched down and practiced stalking through the jungle. He tried to switch his stubby little tail majestically as Lions do. Then he worked on how to turn his pitiful little bleat into the deep awesome roar of the King of beasts. He worked and he worked, and he worked. Finally, he convinced himself, he really looked and sounded like a lion. “Now,” he said, “all I have left to do to be a lion is to go where Lions go.” So, he marched into lion territory one day about lunchtime. You can imagine what happened. It was a total disaster.

To be perfect we can’t just think we are Christians. We have to act like it. We have to look like it. We have to be it. Try as much as he wanted the goat couldn’t look like a lion by the same token, we can’t look like Christians if we’re not actually Christian. We may be able to fool some people sometimes, but we will never fool the King. We cannot be perfect if we are not who God created us and calls us to be.

To be Christian, to be perfect, shows in our joy. It shows in our prayer life. It shows in our priorities. It shows, not because of what we do, but because of what God does in us . It shows because our strength comes from God.

Beloved farewell. Be perfect.

So, I close by saying just a few more final words, and these are my words, not Paul’s. And finally, beloved, I take my leave with the hope and prayer that you will always stand firm in your faith. May your days be filled with joy and your life filled with God’s grace and strength. Follow only the things that come from God. Live a full and whole Christian life. Cindy and I covet your prayers as I begin new work in Nacogdoches and we want you to know, our prayers are with you. we bid you Farewell, with his grace and peace. We will love you always.

A Plant Held without Love

In Memory of Faithful Former Church Member

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like someone who planted good seed in his field. 25 While people were sleeping, an enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 When the stalks sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The servants of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Master, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? Then how is it that it has weeds?’

28 “‘An enemy has done this,’ he answered.

“The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them?’

29 “But the landowner said, ‘No, because if you gather the weeds, you’ll pull up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow side by side until the harvest. And at harvest time I’ll say to the harvesters, “First gather the weeds and tie them together in bundles to be burned. But bring the wheat into my barn.”’”

3Jesus left the crowds and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 Jesus replied, “The one who plants the good seed is the Human One. 38 The field is the world. And the good seeds are the followers of the kingdom. But the weeds are the followers of the evil one. 39 The enemy who planted them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the present age. The harvesters are the angels. 40 Just as people gather weeds and burn them in the fire, so it will be at the end of the present age. 41 The Human One[d] will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that cause people to fall away and all people who sin. 42 He will throw them into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Those who have ears should hear.” (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, Common English Bible).

It is another “Song Styles Saturday.” I am sharing with you today a poem I wrote with the intention of putting to music but have not done so yet. This is a poem I have wanted to write for a few weeks not.

I have always loved the parable above. I think I have preached that lesson in just about every church I have served. I preached this text one Sunday. It was a sermon that went well. A man met me at the door. The region around this church was known for one particular agricultural product. This man was a principle grower. As he was leaving worship that morning we shook hands and he said, “Keith, a weed is just a plant nobody loved.” That was more than 15 years ago. It has obviously stuck with me since and has grown to mean a great deal to me.

I discovered a few weeks ago that he had passed away. I am not sure how long ago but he is someone I will not forget and my poem “A Plant Held Without Love” I write in memory of him. If I can get permission from his family, I will edit this post to give him the full honor due him.

Once a man was a little tike,
He looked around both day and night
A gift for mom, he knows she’d like,
Flowers would make her day so bright.
Colors of yellow, green and white
A child’s gift seems so so very right?

Dandelions that bloomed held in hand.
In Mom’s vase he knows they’ll look grand
Mom kissed and squeezed her son’s small hand
Some told him that his flower was weed
But he gave flowers for loves deeds
Were his flowers now only weeds?

Weeds he can’t understand or see,
Nor hear about while watching TV?
Flowers still bring to his Mom’s glee.
Despite the words for weeds he hears
Strange sounds that ring loud in his ears
As some eat dandelions with cheer.

Blooms that are weeds he says can’t be.
Some see flowers and some see weeds
And the dreamers of bright green leaves
People drool over harvested sheaves.
Food for the journey, strength for now,
Ready to serve, this is my vow.

Strong dandelions push up, won’t quit
A plant that grows through dirt and grit
One plant that we see in three ways
Flower, food, and weed seem to stay
A paradox in a firm plant
For people to decide we can’t.

Weeds he can’t understand or see,
Nor hear about while watching TV?
Flowers still bring to his friend glee.
Despite the words for weeds he hears
Strange sounds that ring loud in his ears
As some eat dandelions with cheer.

Today the weeds won’t go away
See God’s faithful are here to stay
God’s great harvest will come one day
The weeds and wheat, will move apart
God calls us to reach out for hearts
So all are here for God’s next start.

May we know God’s love for all these
The sprouts, the weeds, the wheat, and leaves
We pray to God, all will know Thee.
Repent so forgiveness we’ll see.
To live alone our love will decay
All are weeds we meet on the way.

Weeds he can’t understand or see,
Nor hear about while watching TV?
Flowers still bring to his friend glee.
Despite the words for weeds he hears
Strange sounds that ring loud in his ears
As some eat dandelions with cheer.

Along our way, we think we know
We judge the weeds so they won’t grow
Yet even wheat is stomped and mowed
The man said God does see all three
A weeds not loved by you or me
Lord forgive me, for this I plea.

A weed is a plant, hated by all
It is beaten down large or small
A weed is a plant nobody liked
Dug with a spike, cut with a knife
A weed is a plant, held without love
May I treat all like you above.

Weeds he can’t understand or see,
Nor hear about while watching TV?
Flowers still bring to his friend glee.
Despite the words for weeds he hears
Strange sounds that ring loud in his ears
As some eat dandelions with cheer.

A weed is a plant, hated by all
It is beaten down large or small
A weed is a plant nobody liked
Dug with a spike, cut with a knife
A weed is a plant, held without love
May I love all as you above.

A weed is a plant, hated by all
It is beaten down large or small
A weed is a plant nobody liked
Dug with a spike, cut with a knife
A weed is a plant, held without love
May I love all as you above.

A weed is a plant, held without love
May I love all as you above.

Be Blessed,

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Lollipop Moments One More Time

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. James 2:14-17, New Revised Standard Version)

Today’s submission is from Mike Derricott.

Mike was in fifth grade when it happened. He lived in Alberta Canada where they have real winter. The day was a cold, snowy but regular day in the morning. At lunch it became a different matter. For whatever the reason (Mike said he didn’t remember why) a classmate named Jeremy, decided Wednesday was a good day to rearrange my face. good beating (I honestly have no recollection of what had caused the discord). Both boys were about the same size so Nick wasn’t concerned. Mike found out Jeremy’s “HUGE” cousin, as he slammed Jeremy into a locker.

The rest of the day  flew by for Mike as he dreaded the afternoon bell. He decided when school was out he was just going to head straight for the bus but when he got to the door, those who sought to see him dead were already there so he turned around and went back and made his way to his locker to retrieve his coat hat and mittens.

As Mike made his way back to the bus and his date with destiny and death as he would now have to face both David and Goliath. As he walked he ran into one of his good friends who knew something wasn’t right. After Mike told the story, his friend wanted to help. He came up with the idea of the two swapping coats and hats. His friend was the fasted kid in school. When they reached the door he would take off at a dead run, pulling them away and giving Mike a chance to get to the bus.

Mike didn’t think the plan would work, but it did. The friend hit the door running and Marshall and his cousin were after him. Mike got on the bus and watched the chase. Mike’s friend made a quick turn, causing the cousin to slip and fall. Jeremy kept up the chase but not for long and Mike’s friend made it safely home and Mike sat safely on the bus.

Mike was amazed by the courage his friend showed though his friend never saw the same danger that was Mike’s perception. And, Mike knows now that his life was never really in danger. But he also knows it was a risk his friend didn’t have to take. Now, years later, the two are still best friends. This was his lollipop moment.

Lollipop moments, those times when someone gives another person a life-changing, life-altering blessing.

I heard about the lollipop-moment a couple of days ago while watching TED talks. It originated with a man named Drew Dudley. He didn’t even remember the event that was the lollipop moment for a young woman who was attending college. When he heard the story, it inspired him so deeply he has made lollipop moments his mission (you can hear more from him in this short TED Talk).

Graffiti Church, in the East Village of New York City started out their existence doing a unique lollipop ministry. They went into businesses and cleaned their bathrooms. The proprietor, a man from the Middle East with poor English skills was brought to tears by what the church did. He became a Christian and a part of that congregation.

Lollipop moments are moments of leadership but they can also be evangelism moments. God can be at work. You and I need to watch to figure out ways we can create opportunities for others in our Lollipop Moments.

To get ourselves into the habit of watching what people are doing, until we can save our own lists/criteria, perhaps this list from Drew Dudley might be helpful. This is, at least in part how he evaluates his day.

  1. What have I done today to recognize someone else’s
    leadership? (To operationalize impact)
  2. What have I done today to make it more likely I will
    learn something? (To operationalize continuous improvement)
  3. What have I done today to make it more likely someone else will learn something? (To operationalize mentorship)
  4. What positive thing have I said about someone to her
    or his face today? (To operationalize empowerment)
  5. What positive thing have I said about someone who
    isn’t even in the room? (Also to operationalize recognition)
  6. What have I done today to be good to myself? (To
    operationalize self-respect)

In the end, Lollipop Moments can have significant impact on us. More importantly, Lollipop Moments impact and often profoundly change the lives of those around us. As a Christian leader, making a difference in people’s lives is exactly what I want to do.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources:
https://lollipopmoments.tumblr.com/ “Be Each Other’s Heroes”

https://mdrtresourcezone.azureedge.net/assets-prod/2014_proc_dudley/2014_Dudley.pdf?sv=2012-02-12&st=2020-06-11T19:33:33Z&se=2020-06-12T15:33:33Z&sr=b&sp=r&sig=tbvoJ%2FD%2BuZa9VxvkOOuEyUBhy323QpO%2BMj844Zkyu3M%3D “Lollipop Moments”

Making Lollipop Moments

28 One of the legal experts heard their dispute and saw how well Jesus answered them. He came over and asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

29 Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. 31 The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

32 The legal expert said to him, “Well said, Teacher. You have truthfully said that God is one and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love God with all of the heart, a full understanding, and all of one’s strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more important than all kinds of entirely burned offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered with wisdom, he said to him, “You aren’t far from God’s kingdom.” After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:28-34, Common English Bible)

Yesterday we talked about Drew Dudley, a guy giving away lollipops to people during college registration. While jokingly playing “matchmaker” with his supply of lollipops, he was just out having some fun. He had no idea they would take him seriously. The girl found Dudley on campus four years later. She tells Dudley that she and the guy started dating and had kept dating all four years of school. She tells Dudley he had made a difference for at least one student, her. That day, she was ready to give up before she ever started. Drew and that lollipop made a huge difference for her. And the biggest part of the story? Drew Dudley could not remember the encounter with the girl and her now boyfriend?

About six years ago, every Wednesday I went to the local elementary school and listened to kids read all day. Most of them were behind grade level and the teacher thought reading to me might get them move closer to grade level.

When Julius’ teacher came in, she said she was going to send him to me. He was three grade levels behind in reading. For the whole school year, I listened to Julius read. We would talk and he told me he was afraid he would be taken from his family. He and his six siblings lived with grandma. His mom was in jail. No one knew who his dad was. The two of us just talked.

One day after I had finished listening his teacher came in to take Julius came in to take Julius back to class. She sent the boy back to class, She said, “I want you to know how much you have helped him.” She reminded me that at the beginning of the year, he was three grade levels behind. At the end of the year he was back on grade level. I told the teacher that Julius’ improvement had more to do with her than with me. She was with him five days a week. I was with him for an hour.

She said he also went from being a behavioral problem to a model student. She was convinced it was because he had a positive male role model. That was something new to his life.

I knew what I was doing mattered. If it didn’t I would have found something different to do with my Wednesdays.

Steve was a student in my government and economics classes. I also had him in my psychology and sociology classes. Steve said he wanted to be a psychologist when he finished school.

He was the first student I met at that school. Once school started I saw some problems in his writing. It wasn’t a huge deal but he and others struggled with their writing. Because of that struggle, I had them write more than I might have otherwise. One day, write after I had given them a writing assignment, Steve asked, “Have you ever thought about being an English teacher and writing coach?”

Steve and I talked one day this week. Steve is the only one of my former students that I talk with. I wanted to see how he felt about his first year of college went. He said it was great. He was particularly thankful that I had pushed him in both of my classes. He said, “Whether you know it or not, you have made a difference for me.

Lollipop moments are those times when we make a difference with those around us. I am thrilled to hear someone say I made a difference. That is what I do. That is how we do it. I love talking about how these kids have touched my life. I pray the mark I leave behind is a changed life. Changed lives are my goal in life.

So, what can we do to impact lives and change lives to figure out ways we can go out, and with God’s help have lollipop moments.

  • Volunteer to tutor math or reading at your local school
  • Clean up a park
  • Buy a meal and give it to a homeless person
  • Give a homeless person get clothes from a thrift shop. Help twice.
  • Sew blankets for kids in the foster-care system
  • Smile at someone who is obviously having a bad day
  • Work with an elementary school teacher to have a class birthday party during school one day and celebrate everyone’s birthday.
  • Go to the local nursing home and do something directly with residents
  • Go to the local nursing home sometime that isn’t Christmas
  • Teach someone something.

I have barely scratched the surface of what these moments might look like. You can make a difference. It doesn’t have to be big it just needs to show you care.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

The Lollipop Moment

28 One of the legal experts heard their dispute and saw how well Jesus answered them. He came over and asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

29 Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.[a] 31 The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself.[b] No other commandment is greater than these.”

32 The legal expert said to him, “Well said, Teacher. You have truthfully said that God is one and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love God with all of the heart, a full understanding, and all of one’s strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more important than all kinds of entirely burned offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered with wisdom, he said to him, “You aren’t far from God’s kingdom.” After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:28-34, Common English Bible)

Years ago I heard about TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talks. The subjects of these talks are varied. They cover topics like recycling, vehicles and traffic, leadership, and many more.

I love TED talks. On Fridays when I taught, my students watched a TED talk. Then I was so mean. I made them write a one paragraph summary.

Until the past week or so, I haven’t watched many but that changed last week. Some lack excitement but some are powerful.

Last night I saw a powerful talk sporting the title, “Everyday Leadership.” Take a moment go online to TED.com and look up either “Everyday Leadership” or “Drew Dudley,” who is the speaker.

The talk is short, just over six minutes, but he packs a lot into six minutes. Dudley talks about leadership is more about small things than large events.

Typically we see leadership in relationship to a position. “The President leads our country, representing us on the world stage.” Or, “The Speaker of the House leads half the legislative branch, keeping things moving and on track.” I left names out to focus on leadership, not politics. These are two of obvious offices in American society.

The quarterback of the football team has an expectation to be a leader. Most carry a “C” for captain on their jersey. But, Dudley argues he is not a leader unless he does things solidifying him as a leader among those on the team.

These “things” are Dudley’s “Lollipop Moments.” He relates his Lollipop Moment,

Dudley begins his story by telling of a female college freshman. Really it is her story. This girl decided she didn’t belong there. She was faking it. She told her parents about her doubts as they moved her into the dorm. They convinced her to stay that night but at any point the next day if she felt the same way, she could go home, no questions asked.

The next day she and her parents waited for registration and her doubts, concerns, and fears were growing. She decided it was time to leave and was about to tell her parents when Drew Dudley walked in carrying a box of lollipops, passing them out while wearing what the girl called the stupidest hat she had ever seen. It was to bring awareness to his favorite charity, the Cystic Fibrosis Society.

Drew stopped in front of her, stared for a creepy few seconds. Then reaching for a lollipop, handing it to the guy next to her saying, “You need to give a lollipop to the beautiful girl standing next to you.” She said she felt sorry for the guy, from him as he turned red, totally embarrassed. She also took the lollipop.

His face became serious, saying to her parents, “She’s been here one day and already takes candy from a stranger.” Then off he went for more fun and games as everyone laughed hysterically. It was a life changing moment for the woman.

With fun and humor, the moment changed the girls life. Her doubts vanished and she was ready. Or at least that is what she told Dudley.

Four years later Dudley was leaving the school and the girl, hears about it. They hadn’t spoken over that four years. She said she wanted him to know he had made a difference for one student. She turned to walk away, then stopped turned back and said she and the young man had dated for four years. A year and a half later, he received a wedding invitation.

At the end of the talk, Dudley said he couldn’t remember the encounter. He inspired this girl to make a life altering decision in less than a minute. Something he can’t remember changed her life. Telling that story is now his mission.

Often it isn’t the big things we do (though it can be) that make the difference. We often aren’t able to do the big things. But we can do little things that make a real difference. A little thing that was so insignificant you don’t remember it, made all the difference for someone else. That is what Drew Dudley did.

Have you made that kind of impact on someone? Has someone made that impact on you? Jesus says the most important commandment is to love God and love neighbor. When we do a little thing that makes a big difference, we show love of neighbor, and in doing so, we show love of God. “For as much as you have done it to one of the least of these, you’ve done it to me.” (Matthew 25:40, paraphrased).

Tomorrow let’s talk about making lollipop moments for others.

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved