Peaceful Breath of Life

by Kay Brightwell

Reading: John 20:19-22 “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors closed for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” After this he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” 

I had not been pastor at First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas before I learned the importance of Kay Brightwell to that congregation. I learned pretty quickly that if I wanted to insure the success of a program or activity, I needed to get Kay involved (not always easy an easy thing to do). Kay didn’t have to be in charge, just involved and things would happen. We have a slogan here in Texas for those who hate to see litter around, “Don’t Mess with Texas. Well, I learned a new version “Don’t mess with Kay or Kay’s Bible Study.” That wasn’t because of Kay, but the ladies in her Bible study. Kay loves each of them but just as importantly, they love Kay. As her pastor it was something I learned too. I am thankful for Kay and her ministry.

Kay is a retired school teacher. She keeps her hand in teaching Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. She not only taught her own Bible study group and wen I asked was always willing to serve as a substitute in my class. Kay is involved.

Kay is the also author of the Bright Reflections Blog. What you will see below is hers style. Each morning, Kay writes a blog that is a love letter to God. Each time I read her work, I am blessed.

Good morning Abba Father,

 Again, morning has dawned on a new and glorious day. I give you thanks for all the sunshine you are blessing me with this morning and for all the time I have to spend outside with you in your wonderful creation, earth. As I sit on the patio, waiting in anticipation of the rising of your glorious sunlight, I sit still and quiet, listening to the sounds of the morning. I am grateful for the time I now have to be able to do this.

As I listened to the birds cheerfully begin to sing their peaceful melodies, sounds announcing the coming of dawn, I began to concentrate on my own breathing, the breath that fills my soul and body to give me life. I thought about how important and wonderful this breath is to me. It is very comforting to be able to breath in your glorious peace deep into my soul and body. 

As I continued to read the scriptures about your first days after your resurrection, looking at what you did each day that was so important, I came across the scripture in John 20:19-22 that intrigued me. Your death and now resurrection were so important to mankind, giving us eternal life. You had a short time to be on earth before your ascension to heaven, and you did not fill your time with frivolous matters.

I know your actions and activities after your resurrection were of extreme importance to the disciples and your close friends. I had read that the first days after the resurrection were filled with telling others that you were alive. Now, on this evening of the first day of the week, you appeared to your beloved disciples and did several important things for them.

First, they were fearful, scared, and filled with sorrow. You came to them to renew their hope in everything you had told them the three years you had been with them. You said “Peace be with you.” This told them to not be fearful or filled with sorrow but to be filled with the Peace of the Father who loved them.

Next, you helped them recognize who you were because you showed them your hands and side where your body had been pierced. They finally realized that you were truly alive, and they were filled with joy!

The third thing you did for them was two-fold: First, you again said “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” This gave them a mission and purpose for their lives from this time on. But the most important thing you did for them was, you breathed on them your breath of life and filled them with the Holy Spirit! This act gave them all the courage and strength and life they would need to fulfill the ministry for which you called them. 

I thought about the first breath that was breathed on earth – your breath of life into mankind. In Genesis it is recorded how the earth was made from your speaking things into being, But in Genesis 2:7 it says “ Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” 

Why was this so important? You did not fill any other created thing with your breath of life! The answer to this why is because you wanted companionship with man, me. You wanted me to walk with you each day, to talk to you constantly, and to share in your love and mercy and grace. In other words, to have the Peace that only you can give through fellowship and companionship with a Loving Father. This fellowship cannot be a one-way street. I have to participate in this fellowship also!

My world today has become so busy and full of activities that I myself know that I have strayed from a close relationship with you. I must choose to spend time with you. This is one reason I am so grateful to have the time, like this morning to be with you. I am not fearful and will not be fearful of anything like the disease plaguing society at the present time. I know Jesus, you are always with me. You care for me, protect me, and love to communicate with me. So, I will only focus on You, being filled with your Holy Spirit, and the life-giving breath of life you give me. I will treasure having the time to seek the Peace that You alone can give me. Thanks be to God for your love for me!

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

In His Service,

Copyright, 2020, Kay Brightwell, All Rights Reserved

All Scripture References are from the New International Version

How Sweet the Sound

By Keith Broyles

Well, it is another Song Style Saturday. I have several songs I could put on here, but I really felt led to talk about “Amazing Grace.” The hymn is arguably the best known and favorite hymn of Christians everywhere. I don’t know that is THE favorite hymn, but it is A favorite. It isn’t my favorite, really it isn’t even close. I personally believe it isn’t the greatest interpretation of Scripture and at best is weak theology, at least a line of the first verse fall into that.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…” Wretch? Really? How do we reconcile being a “wretch” with this.

26 Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.”

27 God created humanity in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,
male and female God created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. 30 To all wildlife, to all the birds in the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground—to everything that breathes—I give all the green grasses for food.” And that’s what happened. 31 God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good. (Genesis 1:26-31, Common English Bible).

A “wretch” like me but we are talking about the same creature that when God made that creature and said, “IT WAS SUPREMELY GOOD.” How can something be both a wretch and be supremely good?” I understand we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. I get that. My thought is, I was created supremely good, but I don’t live in the divine, supreme goodness.

Some of the things I do are wretched. God doesn’t make bad but I do bad.

We have a self-esteem issue in our society. We have plenty of people who already see themselves as worthless. We need to show people of their preciousness and value in the eyes of God. I don’t expect that many of you will agree. That is OK. I also believe in the thoughts of retired Bishop Richard B. Wilkie, our disagreements bother us more than they bother God.

For those who don’t know the story, John Newton was a sea going man, a captain. The two worked on cruise together. On one of the cruises he was on later, he got impressed into the British Navy. It was the taking of someone off the street, as it were, and forcing them to work the ship. From the British ship, Newton was sold to an African tribe. He went from trading slaves to being one and one sold freely.

Newton managed to escape with the help of a crew member who knew is father. He got back to England, got a ship and went back into the slave trade. He went from trading slaves, being a slave and back to trading in slaves again.

Newton gave up the slave trade but not before he penned the lyrics to Amazing Grace. The tune, according to Phipps sounded like an African sorrow chant. Phipps would like to think that all of the hymn came into being by what Newton where little else happened besides the tears, talking, and singing.

Several years ago, while serving in Lovelady, TX, we had finished a Bible study and it was going to be a few weeks before we would begin the next study. I looked around until I found a very short-term study on “Amazing Grace.” Those in my study group were very excited about studying. We learned from this study that no one actually knows the number of verses that people have written over the years.

I have known for years that there were verses written by people other than John Newton, some appearing in hymnals and some have never shown up in a hymnal. They have written them, and the verses remained local, never published. Others may get published but in hymnals outside the mainline denominations. We are going to take a look at the verses written by Newton but also some of the verses written by others.

Verse 1
Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound!
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see.

Verse 2
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear.
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Verse 3
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come.
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home!

Verse 4
The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Verse 5
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease.
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace!

Verse 6
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine.
But God who called me here below
Shall be forever mine!

Verse 7
In evil long I took delight
Unawed by shame or fear.
‘til a new object met my sight,
And stopped my wild career.

Verse 8
I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agonies and blood.
Who fixed His languid eyes on me
As near His cross I stood.

Verse 9
Sure, never ’til my latest breath,
Can I forget that look?
It seemed to charge me with His death
Though not a word He spoke.

Verse 10
My conscience owned and felt the guilt,
And plunged me in despair.
I saw my sins His blood had shed,
And helped to nail Him there.

Verse 11
Alas, I knew not what I did,
But all my tears were vain.
Where could my trembling soul be hid,
For I the Lord had slain!

Verse 12
Because he died upon the cross,
He paid the price for me.
He bought my soul for his glory,
And now he’s set me free.

Verse 13
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun!

Verse 14
Jesus remember me, he said,
The sinner’s heart felt plea.
The promise made, the story spread
I know He died for me.

Verse 4 is considered by some in the music world to be the “Forgotten verse. I am not sure I agree. I went through several hymnals looking specifically for this verse. The only hymnal I didn’t find it in was the Cokesbury Worship Hymnal. It has verses 1, 2, 3, and 13. The United Methodist Hymnal has six verses, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 13. The only reason I can see that verse 4 would be “forgotten,” we tend in many settings, to sing a limited number of verses. In this case, we might sing 1, 2, 3, and 6. In my congregations we usually sing all six verses in the hymnal. My wife loves the “forgotten” verse 4 and if we don’t sing it, she will want to know why.

This next verse following was sent to me recently. The gospelweb reader who sent it said it was written by Daniel Mitchell, a 15-year-old boy in San Francisco, California. I have not tried to sing it, but it seems to fit well — here it is!

Verse “13” was apparently added by an American, many years ago to the old original version written by John Newton. It is one of my favorites to end this wonderful old song, whatever number of verses you may sing, but fits particularly well either just before the verse beginning, “The earth shall soon dissolve . . . .” and is often used as the ending verse of the song.

There are hymnals with as few as three verses if Amazing Grace. There are others with as many as six. I am most familiar with The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal and The United Methodist Hymnal as they are the hymnals used most in my denomination. The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal has four verses. The United Methodist Hymnal has six.

Verse 14 above, you will not see in a hymnal. It is my contribution to the hymn. While I said I am not a fan of the hymn, it is really just the first line of the first verse we could leave out.

People often have strange and inaccurate ideas about different songs. One webpage I looked at while searching for other information called “Amazing Grace” the quintessential American Song of Redemption.” That Americans love this hymn is beyond question. However, John Newton was a priest in the Anglican Church. He was British. Amazing Grace, in its original form is a British song.
Beyond the traditional tune that contemporary singer Whitney Phipps identifies as a “West African Sorrow Chant” that Newton may have heard coming from the belly of his slave transport ship. People have sung the lyrics of Newton and others to these tunes. These include:

“Peaceful Easy Feeling” by the Eagles. When this tune is used, the chorus of the actual Eagles song with one minor change. The Eagles song just says at the end of the chorus, “…on the ground.” With Amazing Grace those last three words become four words, in one of two versions, “…on solid ground” or “…on Holy ground.”

“The House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals. Nothing changes in this version except the tune. Some find this version offensive because “House of the Rising Sun” is a song about a house of prostitution in New Orleans. Others see it as the redemption of “House of the Rising Sun.” They find it appropriate because that is what “Amazing Grace” is all about.

“The Theme from Gilligan’s Island – This version has popularity in some circles, others see it as just silly.

“The Theme from the Mickey Mouse Club” – What was said above about Gilligan’s Island is echoed with “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

One of the most popular settings is for funerals, particularly those serving in uniform, has the song played on bagpipes. There is a truly haunting sound in the melody when played on that instrument.

This song has also made its way into film and television. It appears in both The Simpsons and The Mickey Mouse Club. The movie credits for “Amazing Grace include Alice’s Restaurant, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Silkwood. Amazing Grace, Newton’s Grace, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

There is so much information about Amazing Grace entire books have surrounded the one song. It is a rich song performed by many, many artists over the years. It is the most recorded song in history, and it has a special place in the history of hymns and other Christian songs.

Be blessed.

In Search of the Genuine,

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Something Out of Nothing

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2, New International Version).

My latest creation is in the picture above. It will be a belt when complete. I almost always have something I am creating out of paracord. Mostly I make prayer ropes. But I have made bracelets, dog collars, dog leashes, handles for stainless steel mugs, Christmas decorations, cell phone belt cases, coasters, crosses, rings, lanyards, flowers, and probably a few other things too. I am almost always working on some kind of paracord creation.

I like to carve. The wood that I carve as become different figures, a sailor in his pea-coat, a cowgirl, a couple of guitars, a bear, a Nativity set, and several other things. I created them with wood and carving knives.

There is an old joke that has floated around for several years. A group of dedicated scientists decided they needed to have a meeting with God. As the scientists met, they came to the conclusion that scientists could do everything God did therefore there was no need for God and God could go away and leave us to create all that is around us.

The day of the meeting came. At the designated time God was there. The scientists finally showed up about 30 minutes late. The man speaking for the scientific world said to God, “We can do everything that you do God and quite frankly, we believe you have done a terrible job of it. You can’t even protect us from the evils of the world.”

“So you want to take care of this world. Are you really sure you can do what I do?” God asked.

“Yes,” said the scientist.

God said, “OK then, let’s both make a living breathing human being. I have already done it, but it was my greatest achievement. I can do it again. If you are going to take over and do what I do, you need to do this.”

The scientific community conferred and agreed to God’s project. It seemed fair and they knew they could do it. As old as God seemed they figured he had to slow down at some point.

God said, “I’ll go first. You watch closely and I’ll show you how it’s done.” With that God stoops down and grabs a handful of dirt and then gets some water and mixes it together. God pushes, kneads, shapes, and forms. Finally standing in front of God is a perfect replica of a human male. God walks up to the man and gives a puff of air and the man starts breathing. “There you have him,” said God. “A living breathing man. God did it, again.”

The scientists were gracious and complimented God’s work but said there was no question that science would win out.

With that, the scientist bends down to scoop up and handful of dirt to make his man but God stops him. “Stop. Drop the dirt. That’s my dirt, you go get your own dirt.” They couldn’t even get started without something God created.

I find it interesting how many of us will do something and then think, believe we did it all by myself. Nothing could be further from the truth. First, some teacher somewhere, with art, music, pottery, wood working hunting, cooking and so many more. Someone taught you something along the way and if no one did you have a true God given talent for something.

What about the resources, the supplies required to build something? If you are going to build cabinets you need wood. To make clothes you need fabric. A watercolor landscape requires paper and paint. Someone gathered what you need in a warehouse somewhere and then sent it to your local Hobby Lobby.

You need tools. Even if you could make it yourself you would need raw materials. If you buy them you can get to work on the thing that really matters but you need tools.

All of those things are necessary. We humans cannot build without supplies and tools. They are necessary. We can’t create the raw material necessary to make the thngs we need using the things we have.

Well Keith, farmers don’t use a lot o other resources. Oh but they do. How would they make anything. They get seeds from next fall. Still, seeds, land, fertilizer, equipment are all part of farm life and God got it there.

The musician play or write. There aren’t resources involved in that. Yes they are. Boats are built of the raw materials.

I can make things all day long but I start with something and work until I have it. For me, at best we are co-creators with God. We need God by our side.

God needs nothing to create all we see and all we can’t. Then and only then, we build something out of the materials God provides. God built something out of nothing. God is the creator. We are the visitors. So lets focus on building something out of something. Only God can build something out of nothing.

Be blessed

Seeking the Genuine,

Copyright 2020, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved