Smart and Not Afraid: Fear Factor

31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-35, 37-39 New Revised Standard Version)

When I was doing youth work during my first two years of seminary, I had a set of rules I gave the kids. Initially there were four. I told them if they would follow those four rules I wouldn’t have to make up any more. Yeah, they tested me and I did have to make up a few more. The new ones and three of the original four don’t matter for our purpose today but the last rule said, “God gave you a brain, please use it. If you think it might get you in trouble it probably will. Don’t do it.

Once upon a time NBC television show called Fear Factor? We never watched it much. The first time I saw it, I knew I wasn’t going to watch much. I knew they were in constant violation of Keith’s last rule. God gave you a brain please use it.

Contestants were challenged to do things that seemed more than just a little frightening. There were no snakes that first show but I knew it was coming. Too many of us have that fear.

I got no push back from Cindy. Her fear is heights. Christopher did give us some push back but that was to be a teenager giving his parents a hard time.

I wouldn’t have participated in the show. The prize money was $50,000 and that isn’t enough. Even without snakes, there were scorpions, bugs, maggots, and worms to name only a few.

I question the sanity of bee keepers allowing bees to cover his their face giving them a bee beard. I am not worried about getting stung by a bee. I have been stung before and probably will again. It isn’t pleasant But, to be stung by hundreds of bees. No.

They might had contestants dangle from a rope, attached to a helicopter 100 feet in the air if the scorpions, bugs, or snakes were not enough. After a few years they started running out of ideas and had contestants start eating and drinking things most of which were just plain disgusting. If you don’t know, trust me on this one. You DON’T want to know.

In 2017, MTV ran the show. The stunts became even more extreme, and more disgusting. In 2018 Fear Factor got cancelled for the final time. Eating bugs, carrying worms in their mouths, being covered in maggots all fall into that category of, what were you thinking, God gave you a brain, use it.

Last week we began a sermon series, “Smart and Not Afraid.” We talked about fear and how it isn’t a bad thing. Want to be tough and not afraid of anything. We talked about researchers reporting on benefits fear can bring to life and at the top of the list was, fear keeps you safe.

God gave us fear. Though my fear of snakes sits squarely in line with an irrational fear, Snakes can kill a person and they scare me. That isn’t the irrational part. Snakes on television or in a movie scaring me is. I won’t watch Snakes on a Plane or Anaconda those titles mean that movie is rated “K” for Keith stay out.

That’s where that youth group rule enters into Fear Factor. If I am irrationally afraid of snakes, that rule says, “God gave you a brain, please use it.” Don’t do something you fear, at least not without a plan it could bring harm to someone.

In Scripture, Jesus and others say, “Don’t be afraid.” At times, all of us are afraid. OK, not Jesus and probably not the angels, but the rest of us have fears. If you think your not afraid, you just haven’t found it. We are afraid of something.

Last week Paul said, to “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” There are only a few times in Scripture where fear might be thought of as a good thing. In the Old Testament particularly, the words “fear God” or “Jacob feared God” are used. That fear is considered more respect and awe. But, make no mistake, there should be a little fear of God’s power there too.

Last week I said, every time I preach there are a butterflies in the pit of my stomach. I can go be a public speaker in front of a big crowd and not be bothered. My fear is not public speaking. When I stand here, there is a tinge of fear because I know I speak for God. When you speak for the creator of the universe, if there isn’t fear, go sit down. This isn’t your calling.

In today’s lesson, Paul asks, in the Keith paraphrased version, “If God is on our side, can anyone or anything stand against us?” Think about that. If God is for us can our greatest fears be against us? Paul continues “God did not keep Jesus on the bench, even knowing what awaited Jesus God gave him for us. If God would do that, if God loved us that much, is there anything God wouldn’t give us, the faithful? If God says we are acceptable , can anyone bring anything against us? No! Christ died, Christ was raised, and now Christ is at God’s right side, speaking for us. Isn’t that a kick. No matter what we have done, no matter what we have or not have, Jesus is sitting with God and talking us up. Can anything, Paul asks, separate us from the love of God in Christ? Can trouble, suffering, hard times, hunger, nakedness, danger, I am going adding fear, or even death?

 No, Paul says, we who run scared, we with irrational fears, are conquerors who win a sweeping victory by faith, by grace, because Jesus loves us.

Still in the Keith paraphrased version Paul goes on, NOTHING SEPARATES us from God’s love—not life, death, angels spirits, the present past, or future, not powers above or below, NOT EVEN OUR FEARS. Nothing, nothing in the universe can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ!

Ingrid Betancourt camaigned to be president of Colombia when she was kidnapped by guerrillas. They held her in the jungle for six years. With fear her companion, she learned to use it and grow. They carried her into the jungle. She thought they would kill her first she thought. The first night the guerrillas put an iron collar around her neck and bolted her to a tree, high enough that her toes barely touched the ground. There she stayed all night with one sadistic guard watching her. He tormented her all night, degrading her, and stirring up all her fear and emotion.

New days meant continued torment . Every night fear ruled her. She had panic attacks, tremors, and cold sweats. The more fear shown, the more her tormentor played on her worst feelings. One day she vowed to kill him. For weeks she plotted and looked for opportunities to execute the plan. One day she stopped. She said she wouldn’t allow herself to become one of them and began living in defiance. Things were difficult she wasn’t going to allow them to turn her into something she was not.

Not long after her moment they carried her further into the jungle. They built a concentration camp with twelve foot high walls topped with barbed wire and guard towers in each corner.

She overcame using many principles and lifted up three. The first was to be guided by her ideals. They wouldn’t turn her into something she wasn’t. fter arriving at the camp someone yelled for the captives to number off. When at her turn she yelled, “I am Ingrid Betancourt. I am not a number, I have a name. If you want to know I am here, call me by my name.” The guards went crazy but it was nothing compared to the hostages. They feared she would get them into trouble. But, she was living out of her ideals. She was human. The others were too. She wouldn’t give up anyone’s humanity.

Her second principle was, to build unity. The guards new their jobs and they did them well. They manipulated with fear, mistrust, whatever would tear them apart and make them feel alone and isolated. She worked repairing damage. Her first escape attempt was with Lucho. They tied themselves together. By day they hid. At night they got into water with alligators and piranha, allowing the current to carry them downstream. Lucho was diabetic. They slowed and when he became sick, and the guerrillas caught them. Because she stayed with Lucho unity grew among her and the captives. She couldn’t leave Lucho behind Her ideals wouldn’t allow it.

The third principal, develop faith. Ingrid said by this point she had a master’s degree in escape. One captive, a former police officer she called Pincho, was held the longest. He asked her to help him escape. She was surprised. He was more afraid than anyone. They first had to teach him to swim, not easy for a prisoner. One day he asked Ingrid, “Suppose I am in the jungle and wander in circles unable to find my way out. What do I do?” Sbe said, “Pincho, grab a phone. Call the man upstairs.” He said, “I don’t believe in God.” Her response was classic. “God doesn’t care, He’ll help you anyway.” A few days later, Pincho was gone. The guards said Pincho died, claiming finding his body half eaten by an anaconda. Seventeen days passed. Ingrid knew because she had counted each torturous day. On day 17, news exploded from the radio: Pincho was free and alive They heard him say, “My fellow hostages are listening. Ingrid, I did what you said. I called the man upstairs, and he sent a patrol that rescued me.”

Not long afterward, the Colombian army rescued all the hostages. It was six years for Ingrid. She learned the transformation power of the principles she learned, to live by her ideals, to foster unity, and develop faith. Ingrid always felt fear. It wasn’t about not having fear. It was about surviving. Without ideals she wouldn’t have fostered unity and without unity she wouldn’t have had the faith carrying her and others through.

I believe she also lived out my last rule. She used the brain God gave her to do all those things. To do otherwise, the person she had been wouldn’t survive. And, most importantly, she knew that NOTHING would separate her from the Love of God in Christ Jesus her Lord.

_____

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Remembering a Sad Day

God is our mighty fortress, always ready to help in times of trouble.
And so, we won’t be afraid! Let the earth tremble and the mountains
tumble into the deepest sea.
Let the ocean roar and foam, and its raging waves shake the mountains.

(Psalm 46:1-3, Common English Bible)

I was sitting in the parsonage at First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, TX. I don’t really remember what I was doing when the phone rang. I knew from caller id it was my good friend Mike Deaton. I answered in a cheery mood. It wasn’t five seconds later my mood became downcast. He told me there had been a shooting at Santa Fe High School.

For those of you who may not know, for a little over three years I was the pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Santa Fe. I have a couple of friends on the faculty there. I sent a text message to them. I simply said I am sure you are very busy and overwhelmed. When you get a chance, please call or text me and let me know you are OK.

At that moment I didn’t think about any of the students. The high school kids I knew when I was pastor there, had long since graduated and moved on. The kids that had been in the lower grades were by then the high school but I still saw them as being in kindergarten. Because I hadn’t seen them in a few years, they all where, still the same age. Intellectually I knew they had grown but I still remember them being small.

The next day, 2 years ago today, I saw a list of those killed at school. One name jumped off the gate at me, Jared Conard, Black. I had baptized Jared when he was a preschooler. His brother Anthony was an older elementary student at the time. He was one of those who had already graduated. From time to time when they came into the church building Anthony would run up to me and cross his arms standing in front of me. He wanted me to reach out and grab him and I would lightly hold him against the wall. He could escape anytime he wanted but usually only made a token effort. Anthony was waiting for the next phase of our game.

Jared Conard Black

The next phase was Jared coming to Anthony’s rescue. He would run up in front of me and stop just outside of arms reach. I would grab at him and missed more often than not. Sometimes I just missed. Other times he had faster reactions than me. Because he hadn’t “rescued” Anthony (eventually I would let him), he would say, “I’m sorry Antny, (not a misspelling or a typo, I’m sorry, I tried, I tried.” Then he would run off, only to come back 15 seconds later and do it all over again. Occasionally I did grab Jared. When I did I always let Anthony go and would hold on to Jared. Jared would start in a half giggle, half screaming, if you can imagine a four or five year old, “Antny come help me! Antny come get me out of this. Help me Antny, Helm me.”

Anthony would turn around and wave at Jared and say, “Bye Jared. See you later) and then he would run off to whatever his age group activity was happening. I would put Jared on my shoulder and go into the fellowship hall where everyone had gathered. I would go around asking people, “I just caught this, what should I do with it?” People would give a variety of answers but eventually someone would say, “Just throw him in the trash.” This would go around the room for a while. Eventually, I made my way back to his mom and asked her the same question, she would say, “Oh, no! I will take him.” With that I would put him down, he would go run around and play, occasionally coming up close enough to grab him again but most of the time I would ignore him because I needed to go get ready for Bible study or something.

All those memories came flooding back when I saw Jared’s name on that list. It brought me to tears. I think it is the first time that someone I baptized, I was also involved in burying him. It was truly a sad day, one of the saddest of my time in ministry.

Every time I hear of a school shooting it upsets me. Most of them are so senseless. And death is so permanent. Sometimes I don’t think people think about that part before pulling the trigger. But this one was different. This one hit close to home. I knew people there. I had worshiped with them, was in fellowship with them, and served with them. And now one of them was gone. Someone I knew. It was all so senseless. My heart was broken.

Two years and a day later (I couldn’t make myself do this to be posted yesterday. I’m not sure why that is the case, but it is) I still pray for Jared’s mother, Pam. I pray too for his brothers. I pray for that church and that community regularly. Something happened there that should never happen anywhere. It was pointless. It was tragic. It was evil. And I still pray, something like this will ever happen again. So no parent will be in the position of my friend and Jared’s mom, Pam.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Smart and not Afraid: Lessons from a Turtle

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. 16 It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you— 18 and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:12-18, New Revised Standard Version).

Giuseppe’s granddaughter and Bill’s mother was a four-years-old when the Great Depression began. One day in 1930 Giuseppe brought home a pair of box turtles for Bill’s mother. Giuseppe fenced in the yard to keep the turtles in. As was for most pets during the great profession, the turtles, ate whatever the family ate. They named the male Horace. Bill, the author of the story said he regrettably never asked why an Italian family would pick such a name for their pet turtle. His best guess was that there had been an Italian poet of some note named Horace.

Bill said he never knew the name of the female who, around 1950 escaped the fenced in backyard. They found the turtle at the neighbor’s home who refused to give it back. So then it was one box turtle, Horace, and Giuseppe reinforced the fence.

In 1990, Bill’s great-grandfather Giuseppe, was long deceased and his grandfather was recently deceased. His grandmother decided to sell her home and Horace’s habitat in New York and get a much smaller place near her sister in New Jersey. She called Bill and asked him to take over the now 60-year-old box turtle. He agreed and with a friend’s help and some books and articles about building an outdoor habitat for a box turtle, Bill did just that.

Over the next 25 years, Bill said he learned a lot about turtles. Horace is on a healthier diet these days. His people don’t feed him table scraps. He eats a balanced died of fruits and vegetables and worms and bugs. The article Bill wrote was published in 2012. About that time, Horace lost a leg to a predator. Bill’s daughter made a comment to Bills story about Horace in 2013 and said Bill came through his hibernation fine. I could find nothing new about Horace since 2013.

Until reading Horace’s story and doing some research for this sermon, I had no idea how long box turtles lived. They are right there with talking birds and us!!!

I learned box turtles don’t travel far from where they are born. If a human picks one up in the woods and carries it home to be a pet, the turtle has some kind of homing mechanism built in and will work itself quite literally to death trying to walk home. Turtles have no concept of glass and will beat itself up trying to get past the glass and go home.

I learned that turtles hibernate. As a reptile, they don’t handle the cold so they hibernate. I always thought turtles like we see around here were amphibians. I never thought about them as a reptile though that one doesn’t surprise me. Their periods of hibernation are vitally important to them and they can lose as much as a quarter of their body weight during hibernation.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that the most vulnerable time in a turtle’s life is when they are young. After they are hatched, for several months their shells are not fully hardened. Some predators like alligators and crocodiles can, if they have unusually strong jaws, break the shell of an adult, any can break the shell of a hatchling. Only 20 percent of hatchlings live part their first year. But, if they make it past the first year, living to a very old age improves dramatically. It is not uncommon for turtle to live to be 100 years old.

When I started on this search for turtle data, I wasn’t really looking for much of what I have said this morning. I was focused on finding one thing. I remember as a kid, when me and my friends would play with a turtle, we knew as soon as we picked it up, we would startle the turtle and legs, feet, claws, tail, and head would all be pulled into the shell and that shell was closed and locked just about as good as a bank after closing time. Oh, that was something else I learned, not every turtle can pull itself into its shell. Only the box turtle can close itself up tight.

So I knew a turtle retreated into its shell when it was scared. I wanted to know the other times a turtle hid out in its shell. There were two I found and both are related. Neither was surprising. The first is to sleep. I guess I always assumed when looking at a turtle when I wa a kid that they were still fearful so they had not come back out. It is likely that at least some of that time they were asleep. The other is to hibernate. Since I didn’t know turtles hibernated, I also didn’t know they did that in their shells.

Turtles hide themselves well when they sleep. They bury down and hide themselves VERY well when they hibernate. Aside from their first year, hibernation and sleep are the two most dangerous times for a turtle. Sure, they have the protection of their shell but they are still very vulnerable.

I have give quite a bit of thought lately to the turtle’s hangout, its shell, its house. They are there to hibernate and fight off the cold of winter. They are there to sleep. And, they go there when they are afraid.

In those ways, we are a lot like a turtle only we don’t carry that house around with us. I think of the proverbial story of the tortoise and the hare, no wonder tortoise was slow. More than a quarter of its body weight is that house he or she carries around on their back.

We may not carry a shell around but we still find ourselves seeking the shelter of our homes. Just as the turtle needs the security of its shell to protect it from predators during its vulnerable times, we seek that same kind of security.

The turtle’s world is pretty scary. They have many different natural predators and when those vulnerable times come, they place themselves in the best possible position to survive. The box turtle pulls itself tightly into its shell and seals themselves in. When ready to sleep, the turtle may push itself into a hollowed log or up under leaves.

When we are at home and about ready to go to sleep we go around the house and make sure everything is closed up and locked. We want that additional level of security.

For the turtle, the desire is just like us. The turtle wants to make itself as secure as possible before it goes to sleep. First under leaves or plants or wood, pull in the head and the extremities, close up the shell and then sleep.

Hibernation is a bit different. Because the cold weather makes a difference, the heart rate slows, temperature changes, other things in their body changes. The place where turtles set up for winter may or may not be more secure than where they slept the night before but to bury itself or close the ends of that hollow log added make that place warmer and more comfortable for hibernating. In the cold, with all the physical changes for the turtle, they are at risk to the cold. The best line of defense from predators is to disappear. The best defense from the cold is to add layers of protection around the shell and then pull up inside the shell.

Of course, you and I don’t hibernate. That being said, when cold weather rolls around, we often do sleep longer. We spend more time inside because it is more comfortable. Much like a box turtle, when we head for our sleep time in winter, we do make sure the house is closed up and locked. We make sure that the household heating devises are operating appropriately, meaning off if that is what should happen, and throw an extra blanket or two on the bed. They keep us as warm and the weight gives us comfort. Our Loose Threads group understands that as they regularly sew weighted blankets for autism patients.

The third thing that sends a box turtle hiding in its shell is when something scares it. Fear, and knowing the comfort and safety of its shell will pull up inside.

Every living creature has fears and something they try to do to keep themselves sake. From the turtle’s shell to natural camouflage, to growls, rattles, hand hiding, animals try to protect themselves from whatever they fear.

The human animal is really no different. We all have fears. I know people who don’t name their fears but I am convinced after talking to them that they have fears but don’t want to let others know or want to take control of what scares them.

I have told you before, I hate snakes, but it is more than that. I am flat out afraid of snakes. Yet it is still even stronger than that. I have an irrational fear of snakes. Still pictures of snakes don’t bother me too much but if I see a snake in a movie or television, I hide my eyes until its gone. That snake on the screen can’t hurt me but I am still not looking.

Several years ago, back in the late 1990s, Cindy had a job working in a chiropractor. This guy loved to scare people with his life sized statue of a rattlesnake. He would set the snake on the floor just outside an examining room or office. Then he would hang back for the reaction when someone saw the snake. When it was my turn, I saw him set the snake on the floor. He came back in and we carried on a normal conversation like I knew nothing about the snake. When I left the room a few minutes later, I simply stepped over the snake, turned around and laughed at the good doctor. He said he loved to scare people and that getting scared was good for you.

Until just recently, I thought him to be joking. While preparing for this message I discovered, The Adventure Collection Blog said there are a number of benefits when you get scared.

Fear keeps you safe.
Fear helps you lose weight
Fear temporarily boosts your immune system
Feeling fear-in the right dose-can be fun and exciting
Fear gives you a natural high and a sense of empowerment
Fear helps you manage stress and relaxes you.
Fear helps you stay in the present moment and to focus
Fear socializes you and bonds you to other people
Fear allows you to live life to the fullest
Fear gives you clarity on what’s really important in life

All over the Bible we have people telling others Don’t be afraid. In the Emmaus story, Jesus tells the disciples in the boat, right before Peter walks on water,. “Don’t be afraid.” An angel tells the shepherds outside of Bethlehem.”

Then here, Paul says to, “Work out you own salvation with FEAR and TREMBLING. In other places in the Bible we find places that talk about the fear of God and living in the fear of God. I have long argued that the Fear of God is to be in awe and respect of God. We also know that God loves us. That alone should remove some of our fear.

The bottom line is, fear is not such a bad thing. The thing that makes fear bad is when we let fear take control. If I know there is a snake in the yard, no longer do I want go out in the yard. I seek the safety of my house. But, if I go look, I don’t see the snake. I am not staying in the house because I fear the snake. I am going outside because that is where I feel best. I will not let the snake control my life.

For the past two months we have been staying in. We have avoided just about all things out. I am more than ready to be out. This extrovert needs out of the house and back around people. This preacher is glad to be able to look into people’s eyes today instead of only looking at empty seats and a camera lens. Though I know God is with me, it is still a scary world. I know this, I am not going to let my fears be in charge. Just like a rattlesnake in my yard might keep me out of his way, the possibility of a rattlesnake in the yard tells me I need to keep my eyes open if I don’t want an unpleasant encounter but so can getting out of bed in the morning.

Friends the fear we feel is not a bad thing. I am glad gave it to us. Because of fears, in some settings it causes me to be alert and think about the best way to protect myself should the need arise.

I don’t stay home because I fear the virus. I don’t wash my hands just because it is good hygiene. I don’t wear a mask because I am going out on a robbery binge. I do all these things because there is something scary out there. Because God gave me a gift of respectful fear, wisdom says, I should do all I can to protect people around me and encourage others to do the same. In reality, if by being a bit afraid and use that fear to motivate me to protect myself and be an example for others, that’s what I should strive to do. It’s what we should all try to do.

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

#M.O.M.-Mother on a Mission

Matthew 15:21-28 21
21 From there, Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from those territories came out and shouted, “Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” 23 But he didn’t respond to her at all. His disciples came and urged him, “Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.” 24 Jesus replied, “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” 25 But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.” 26 He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.” 28 Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed. (Matthew 15:21-21, Common English Bible).

John 13:31-35 31
31 When Judas was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Human One[a] has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify the Human One[b] in himself and will glorify him immediately. 33 Little children, I’m with you for a little while longer. You will look for me—but, just as I told the Jewish leaders, I also tell you now—‘Where I’m going, you can’t come.’ 34 “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. 35 This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” (John 13:31-35, Common English Bible).

Many things about us from our mannerisms to our looks and other physical traits are ours because of who our birth parents happen to be. When we see a child, we might say the child has her mother’s eyes or his father’s hair. In Cindy’s family they talk about the “Oquinn Little Finger.” You can see the bend in pictures. It is slightly bent. 

What we inherit often goes beyond physical appearance. There are also hereditary medical conditions many people have. This is one of the primary reasons some who are adopted what or even need to locate their birth parents. 

Our oldest son Wayne has the misfortune of inheriting both his mom’s and his dad’s vision issues. Christopher was fortunate enough that he didn’t get much of either. He wears glasses now but that is mostly to help him reading. 

Cindy is VERY near-sighted. I have a disorder called hyperphoria. It is a five-dollar medical term that simply means one eye looks up and one eye looks down. For me it isn’t as pronounced as it is for many people, but it is there and it does present me with problems. Until I was in seminary and developed what my ophthalmologist called “grad school syndrome,” meaning I spent way too much time reading, I didn’t really need my glasses. 

I was often frustrated if I tried to do extensive reading and didn’t have my glasses. I would start reading on one line and when I got to the end I was reading the next line. The reading didn’t make much sense. It would also make me very sleepy. I would usually fall asleep after reading only a few pages. 

While a student at University of Houston I went to their optometry clinic. After several days of testing they found the problem. I had the condition all my life and it is 100 percent correctable with the right lenses. It made reading easier. 

About the time Wayne hit junior high, he started complaining about symptoms much like I had. He had already been wearing glasses for nearsightedness., but he was still had problems. 

As we listened to him, we knew he had hyperphoria. We made an appointment at University of Houston. They ran all the tests and found he had the same problem as me. He got the right lenses and we went on about our business. 

A year passes. Wayne’s eyes need to be examined again. Now we’re living in east Texas. Still we went to Houston to take advantage of U of H optometry clinic. They knew his eyes and we thought they would have his best interest in mind. 

The student examining Wayne said he outgrew his hyperphoria and no longer needed the correction. We questioned the student extensively and later his professor, both insisted the correction was no longer needed. 

Having little choice, we left. It was shortly before Thanksgiving. As we walked to the car Cindy said, “By Valentine’s day we will be back with Wayne showing the same symptoms.” 

Sure enough, February first, Wayne started complaining again about his eye issues. Cindy went off. If you have never seen a red- head ready to battle, if you do, get out of the way. 

She went on a campaign, determined her son wasn’t going to suffer with a correctable eye problem. She started calling people at the U of H. When she didn’t get satisfaction from one person she went to the next. By the time it was all said and done, Cindy talked with the dean of the optometry school. There were casualties in her wake. Cindy doesn’t go redhead often, but when she does, it’s not pretty. You don’t want to be in her line of fire. When we went to U of H again.

Wayne the examining wing, a space that could house 10 patients and the examining student optometrists, all to himself. The supervising professor would watch five students or more. Wayne was his only patient. Beyond that, this professor was the head of the binocular vision clinic, where I was diagnosed. After the exam, the original student and professor came in to learn from their mistake. At the end of the day Wayne left with new glasses, correcting his hyperphoria. 

Through this, Cindy became M.O.M., she coined an acronym, “Mother on a Mission.” 

During my years in ministry I have seen M.O.M., mother on a mission, several times and more moms than my wife. I have seen M.O.M., mother on a mission in hospitals, schools, and even twice in a courtroom. 

I feel certain if I could walk among you this morning and handed out a variety of difficult or threatening situations to you moms no doubt I would see MOM, mother on a mission. Most mothers tend to be that way. They protect their children. They will fight any fight to protect their child and the child’s needs. It makes them who they are. It’s makes our mothers special. 

Society, churches, and families we celebrate what mothers mean to us. We celebrate the love they bring to our lives. Most celebrations are also times for special memories. Most of us, remember times when our moms show us love in a special way. We remember times when our mothers turned into MOM, mother on a mission. I’m sure the moms watching this morning remember those occasions too. And, likely they would do it again. It is your child and mom’s love for her child sets you’re actions into motion. 

Today’s lesson shows MOM, Mother on a Mission. Please note, I do not fully understand this story. It has made me uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable with Jesus, in essence, calling the woman a dog. 

There are scholars who argue that Canaanite has the same root word as canine, so Canaanites would be “dog people.” First, that doesn’t really help. Second, Jesus likely spoke Aramaic or Hebrew. It was translated into Greek and then English. Not all words translate from language to language. There are two Greek words in the Bible for dog. One is a large cur dog. The other a small dog, a pet or puppy. Matthew had Jesus using the second word. It was more of a pet name. I still don’t understand or like it so I am not going to try to elaborate on what I don’t know. 

Some might ask, “Why would you preach a story you are uncomfortable with and don’t understand? That is a good question. This is a great story of M.O.M., mother on a mission. As the lesson begins, Jesus is in Canaanite country. The Jews didn’t like Gentiles in general and saw them as dogs. Canaanites were particularly loathed. This woman was in a hotbed of Canaanite activity when Jesus came by, she comes to him she asks healing for her daughter. At first Jesus ignores her. She was undeterred. Jesus’ non-answer wouldn’t be her answer. 

The disciples begged Jesus to send her away. She was determined to pressure Jesus, she was a total nuisance. 

Jesus gave an answer, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” So, Jesus said, “No, I won’t help you.” 

This isn’t what the Canaanite woman expected or wanted to hear. Jesus told her “no.” No less determined, she comes and kneels in front of him and begs him to help her daughter. Jesus tells her, “It’s not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 

I don’t think Jesus was being critical. He explained his mission and tested her faith to see how far she was willing to go. Still, people thought as a cut down MOM, mother on a mission, she wasn’t going quietly. “No” wasn’t her answer. She was determined to find healing for her child regardless of insult or cost. Her reply to Jesus was direct if nothing else. She said, “Yes Lord, but even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 

What a woman. A silent “no” on Jesus’ part be her answer. She wasn’t going to take a response of “it’s not my job,” and she wasn’t going to take a put down, if that is what Jesus was doing. This is a story of not only great determination; it is also a story of great faith. It is an example saying, “whether we know it or not, most all of us follow. We pray for those who are close to us, our children, our parents, our spouses, when they are faced with great problems, physical or otherwise. 

The woman’s faith was well founded. Jesus even told her, her faith healed her daughter and sent them on their way. It was a wonderful story of MOM, mother on a mission. 

When I read this story, I have no trouble seeing MOM, Mother on a Mission. Just as importantly, however, it isn’t just in these words of Scripture where I can see MOM. I have seen it in my own home. I have seen it in my mother. I see it on many of your faces and in your love. The love is great. The love is what makes you determined. It is wonderful to see that love in our mothers. We all need to have that kind of love in our lives. That kind of love makes us feel good. It makes us feel special. But, most importantly, that kind of love is a good example for us of the kind of love God asks us to share with others. 

In John’s gospel, Jesus reminds us of the importance of that too. The love of a mother for a child, while a good example, does not in show us either mother or child as a Christian. Mothers of other faiths love their children. Mothers of no faith at all love their children. But Jesus also says this, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

As people of faith loving our family is not our calling. That is the easy part even though it can be difficult and challenging at the various times. Our call is higher and for more difficult. Our call is to love one another, which includes but is not limited to our families. 

The truth of the matter is, while most of us have a special love in our mothers, it isn’t true for everyone. Some children have no mother in their life. Some children have a mother but might be better off without. For whatever reason, the mother is incapable of loving her child. Yet they need to feel love too. They need to feel they are important to someone and that they are important to God. 

It is because of these people all of us can join the MOM, mother on a mission brigade, even if we are not a MOM. This is where the new commandment comes into play. And, it is where we are people of faith entering the picture. People out in the world need to know our faith. They learn of our faith by seeing our love. 

As people of faith we are called to love, not just when and where it is easy, but to love everyone sharing our world, even the unlovable. No, it isn’t always the easy thing to do. People of faith struggle with that every day, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary. God’s love needs to be seen at work in the world. 

M.O.M., mother on a mission is a great acronym. It is an even better example for us. Not everyone, however, has a mom or can be a mom. But we do all need to know about and experience and even give that special kind of love. So maybe a new acronym is called for, one that speaks to our need to be faithful in the mission God has given us, to be faithful in love. I think maybe F.O.A.M. fits the bill because it fits all of us as people of faith. May we all be, Faithful on a mission. 

We Search for God

Hear the birds, sing songs bright
Can’t hear God, in day or night
God speaks we hear not with ears
Is God near?
 
We search for God in how we feel,
Don't taste God in the meal,
We breathe and try to smell,
God's near, and my soul is well
 
Eyes that try fail to see,
That my God is near to me,
My senses are short of the mark
Sight's in the dark.
 
We search for God in how we feel,
Don't taste God in the meal,
We breathe and try to smell,
God's near, and my soul is well
 
We can feel what God made,
The Lord is near in what we taste,
Senses fail our souls do know ,
God’s near hearts grow.
 
God gives the rose for sight and smell,
Feel dog fur, hear church bells,
We taste and see God's good
Sense and soul I’ve understood.
 
Gifts of grace from God are good.

Prayer 101: Breakthrough Prayer for My Friends

15 We who are powerful need to be patient with the weakness of those who don’t have power, and not please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good in order to build them up. Christ didn’t please himself, but, as it is written, The insults of those who insulted you fell on me.[a] Whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction so that we could have hope through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures. May the God of endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude toward each other, similar to Christ Jesus’ attitude. That way you can glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ together with one voice.

So welcome each other, in the same way that Christ also welcomed you, for God’s glory.

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:1-7, 13 Common English Bible).

Author and LaSalle University professor, Grace Brame, says some of her students claim heaven is of no concern to them. Life is precious. This world matters, and it is all we have for sure. So why concern us with something for which we have no evidence?

How sad that so many in the world around us have little, if any faith. Dr. Brame goes on to say, “Every night one of my friends prays that he will die before morning. He fervently hopes there is no hereafter. Something in him says eternal life is a pie in the sky, a human concoction that became dogma when it was accepted by enough people. Considering his many disappointments with God, why should he trust the next life will be any better than this one? For we who believe, its sad when people have no hope. It is difficult for me to imagine living in such a state of mind literally having no hope.

A preacher friend of mine is the opposite, calling herself a “hope junkie.” She surrounds herself with signs of hope. I can’t understand a person having little hope. Still, it happens.

I knew a woman in college who was much like any older college student. She was married with four kids. She went through a lot. When you talked to her it was clear, life was bad, and she had no hope.

Younger students didn’t know the depth of her problems. We talked often and I knew more than most. Still, I didn’t recognize the depth of her issues until after Thanksgiving. She became suicidal. The director of the Wesley Foundation and I spent quite a bit of time individually and together, in prayer for her.

In the spring semester, she was better but had a long way to go. We convinced her to get counseling. I lost contact with her but on occasion, when I think about it, I still pray for her. She needed a breakthrough. She might still need one.

Today we continue Prayer 101 and breakthrough prayer. Today is Breakthrough prayer for my friends.  We all know people in need of intervention beyond our abilities. People have financial issues, health issues, relationship issues, work issues. Some people have lost hope.

As I read today’s lesson, Paul reminds the Romans, and us, of the importance of hope. Paul wants Jesus followers to be people of hope. It is easy to see why. Without hope, what is the point? And, if you spend time around a person who lacks hope, it gets hard fast. They seem miserable. And, if they seem miserable to us, imagine, if you can, what it must feel like to walk around with that baggage and no hope. Imagine your very worst day, a day where little, if anything, seems to go right, a day where you are miserable. Now, compound it with things continuing day after day.

It might be like that old movie from the 1980’s Groundhog Day where Bill Murray’s character seems to keep reliving the same bad experience every day.

Imagine Job’s experience. But for Job, something happened. God broke through. When God broke through everything changed. His life was restored. It all came back and more. But most of all, when God broke through for Job, Job found hope. Job’s hope was restored because God was there. Where God is, there is always hope.

We need to pray, asking God to break through in our communities. We need God to break through in our churches. We need to ask God to break through in the lives of our friends.

Each of us should pray for a break through for our friends. The greatest gift you could give someone is asking God to break through in their life. We all need to see God in powerful ways. That divine action can build hope.

Many around us lack hope. Pray God will break through to bring healing, wholeness, and hope for people who desperately need it. If they don’t have God, there isn’t much room for hope. But, where God is, there is always hope.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved