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

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,
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

The Price You Pay for Living in Paradise

A Guest Post by Mrs. Lisa Price

I first met Lisa Price in 2016. She is the music director at First Baptist Church in Sweeny, Texas. She is also the wife of John who is the pastor at First Baptist. We weren’t just colleagues, we were also neighbors. When I moved to Sweeny, there were about 3 lots, one with a house on it between John and Lisa’s house and the Methodist parsonage.

From the First Baptist Church Sweeny website, “Lisa has been on staff at First Baptist Church since 1989. She is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Lisa has also worked as a school choir director in the past and has a great passion for music. Some of Lisa’s hobbies include reading, watching Jeopardy and other game shows, and playing with the grand kids.”

Lisa is an outstanding musician. I even got her to help me out with a piece of music or two. I was thrilled when she agreed to do a guest post on my blog.


16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17, Holman Standard Bible)

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”
43 And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:42-43, Holman Standard Bible)


“That’s the price you pay to live in paradise.”  The proprietor of a rental car business in Cozumel, Mexico, was anxious to tell his story.  In order to better enjoy all that the beautiful beaches had to offer, we had stopped in to get a vehicle for our vacation.  There was business to attend to, but the manager had other things on his mind.  We began by sharing his woes about the month-long lack of tourists to the island due to the swine flu scare.  He explained that because the cruise ships were on “drive-by” and flights from America were scarce, the locals were really hurting for income.  The tourist-driven economy was floundering and families were getting desperate.

As the conversation continued, our new friend, “Panda,” began to think back to an even worse time in the island’s history.  In 2005, Hurricane Wilma, the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, decimated the area.  

Panda described his terror as he tried to keep his family safe.  As the head of a household which included his wife, two young children, and his mother (who had recently had surgery), he felt the tremendous weight of his responsibility.  Wading in waist-deep water inside his home, Panda kept his family members atop tables and other furniture during three long days of torrential rains and Category 5 winds.  

With the windows and doors boarded shut, they must have felt like Noah and his family, not knowing or seeing what exactly was happening.  He and his wife quietly worried that they had only about one day’s worth of drinking water left and very little food.  

With tears starting to form in his eyes at the memory, Panda described to us how fervently he prayed as the winds and rain pounded their house and the water continued to rise.  As he went on, he shared how the Lord answered his prayers, and his family emerged from the storm unharmed.

We commented on how resilient the islanders were as they weathered the storms, both physical and economic, but kept right on working hard to make a good life.  Having regained his composure, Panda shrugged and said, “That’s the price you pay to live in paradise.”

That one short sentence was stamped on my memory as if it were embossed.  I considered Panda’s use of the word paradise.  Surely, if there were a contest for places that meet the criteria of an earthly paradise, Cozumel would be in the running.  The sugar-white beaches, turquoise waters, and swaying palm trees make a delightful place to visit.  But as our friend had reminded us, those who live there are still subject to the many cares and woes of this world.

We who know Christ will live in heaven for eternity:  no more sickness, no more tears, no more money worries, and no more flood waters threatening to overcome.  Just as Panda protected his family by putting them on a higher place, our Savior has provided a higher plane for us.  He paid the ultimate price by giving His life for us, and we can live with Him forever.  Now that’s Paradise!