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,
Kay 

Copyright, 2020, Kay Brightwell, All Rights Reserved

All Scripture References are from the New International Version

It’s About Grace

20 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion,[a] he sent them into his vineyard.

“Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ And they went.

“Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing. Around five in the afternoon he went and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?’

“‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied.

“He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. 11 When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 ‘These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’

13 “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ 16 So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.” (Matthew 20:1-16, New International Version).

A story is told about Fiorello La Guardia, who, as mayor of New York during the Great Depression and World War II, who many New Yorkers called “the Little Flower.” He stood five foot four and always wore a carnation. He was a colorful character who rode city fire trucks, raided speakeasies with the police, take orphanages to baseball games, and when New York newspapers were on strike, he went on radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids. One cold night in January of 1935, he turned up at the night court serving the poorest people in the city. La Guardia dismissed the judge took over the bench himself.

It wasn’t long before an old woman appeared, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told La Guardia her daughter’s husband had left, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. The shopkeeper refused to drop the charges. “It’s a bad neighborhood, your Honor.” The man told the mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach people around there a lesson.”

La Guardia sighed, Turned to the woman saying, “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions – ten dollars or ten days in jail.” He wasn’t finished. He reached into his pocket and pulling out a bill, tossed it into his hat saying, “I remit the ten dollar fine; and furthermore I fine everyone here fifty cents for living in a town where a person steals bread to feed her grandchildren. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”

The following day the newspapers reported $47.50 was turned over to an old lady who stole bread to feed her grandchildren, fifty cents contributed by the grocery store owner, while seventy petty criminals, traffic offenders, and policemen, having paid fifty cents to do so, applauded the mayor.

Here is my question for you. Did the elderly lady in the story get what she deserved? Clearly the answer is, of course not. She had stolen a loaf of bread. Yes, she may have had good reason, but stealing is stealing and regardless of the reason, punishment would seem to be the order of the day.

There’s a word for what La Guardia did, grace. Grace is when one in power shows mercy to less powerful people. The mayor, rather than demanding punishment, paid the fine and helped her with the collection of the fifty-cent fines she received. It was more than she deserved. It was grace.

Our lesson is about that too. The lesson is the wonderful story of the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who hired workers for his vineyard. Some he hired early, telling them that he would pay them the usual daily wage. He found more workers to hire, telling them he would pay them what was right.

At sunset it was time to pay the workers. He began with the last hired, paying the usual daily wage. Those working all day got really excited. Surely they would get more for all day.

The excitement didn’t last. Ill feelings arose when they got paid the same working all day as those only working an hour.

He heard grumbling and explained he was fair. He paid what was promised. Couldn’t he pay everyone whatever they wanted with his money?

The landowner didn’t live in our time. He also didn’t seem to know much about business. When he next hired help none would until the last hour.

The landowner did know grace. Workers at the end of the day didn’t get what they deserved they got mercy. That is grace.

In the parable the landowner is God, we are the workers, and the pay is the kingdom. Studying this parable, we see, it’s about grace.

First, the parable says grace is received, not deserved. We all should know we do not deserve grace. Nothing we do will leave us deserving grace. All we can do is receive the gift God offers.

David Seamands ends his book Healing Grace with this story. For more than 600 years the Hapsburgs exercised power in Europe. When Emperor Franz-Josef I of Austria died in 1916, his was the last extravagant imperial funeral. Dignitaries escorted the casket, draped in the black and gold. A military band played dirges and by torches light, as the party descended the stairs of the Capuchin Monastery in Vienna. At the bottom an iron door lead to the Hapsburg family crypt. There was the Cardinal-Archbishop of Vienna.

An officer followed the ceremony. “Open!” he cried. “Who goes there?” responded the Cardinal. “We bear the remains of his Imperial and Apostolic Majesty, Franz-Josef I, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria…” the officer listed the Emperor’s 37 titles.

“We know him not,” replied the Cardinal. “Who goes there?” The officer spoke again, this time using a less ostentatious title. “We know him not,” the Cardinal said again. “Who goes there?” The officer tried a third time, using the humblest title: “We bear the body of Franz-Josef, our brother, a sinner like us all!” The doors swung open, and Franz-Josef was admitted.

Whoever we are, whatever our titles, how much we have, it can’t open God’s grace, given freely, left for us the undeserving.

Second, God’s grace is about mercy, not fairness. Fair would be to pay the later workers less than those working longer. That would be fair. Grace isn’t fair. It is merciful. God loves us and gives us more than we deserve.

Christian financial consultant Larry Burkett tells in Business by the Book about going the extra mile, beyond fairness. In 1984 he leased an office that was a nightmare. The foundation was faulty and was singing several inches a year. After more than three years of problems, including power failures and weeks without water, Burkett moved his business.

Soon the former landlord called demanding Burkett remodel and repaint his former office space. Burkett said no. He had already been more than fair with the landlord. The demands continued. Burkett got an attorney who agreed Burkett fulfilled his responsibility and need not do anything more.

Burkett saud his son offered him different counsel reminding Burkett of the landlord’s family, who had lost their only child a few years before. The still suffered. Burkett had commented he would wanted to help them. The son said this was an opportunity to do more than what was fair, but merciful. Burkett considered and agreed. He spent several thousand dollars to restoring a virtually unusable building. That goes past fair, to merciful. It is what grace is about.

Third, God’s grace is for the last and the first. It’s easy to say we deserve more. We’ve been faithful. God doesn’t work that way. God wants a relationship with all of us, those hired early and those who worked an hour. That is Grace.

A woman was abused by her father when she was a small child. She grew up, overcame the damage, became a Christian, then married. Years later, her children grown, she received a letter from her father saying he was a Christian and asked God for forgiveness. He realized he had sinned against her and wrote asking her to forgive.

Feelings surfaced. It wasn’t fair! He should pay. This was easy. Now he was part of God’s family! Her home church was killing the fatted calf and she was invited to the party! She was angry, hurt, resentful.

Then she had a dream. Her father stood on an empty stage. The hands of God held a white robe. She recognized it, she was wearing one. As the robe descended toward her father, she awoke crying , “It isn’t fair! What about me?”

She moved past it by realizing her earthly father was now like her, the same in God’s sight. Grace was his as it was hers. With that, she was able to forgive her father.

God’s grace is a free gift and available to all. It’s a free and more than we deserve. Grace is about mercy, not fairness. Grace is for the last and the first. Thankfully, it is about grace.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

Complaining to a Good God….

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:1-6, New International Version)

Rev. Alan Van Hooser has had an impact on my life that he may not even realized. I attended a pastor’s retreat, it had to have been at least ten years ago. Alan led a workshop on prayer beads. It wasn’t something I had ever done or really given much thought. Alan led a great session and it wasn’t long before I was making strings of beads and looking for more. My more was spiritual directors’ training and prayer ropes. I am pretty sure, if it was not for Alan Van Hooser I would not have those things and they have become important parts of my ministry and I am grateful to him for his work and ministry. I am also grateful that when I came to him again, Alan again agreed to help my ministry again as a guest post but you can also follow Alan’s own blog at thethoughtfulpastor.com Alan has served as pastor in several places including Cheatham Memorial UMC, in Edgewood, Texas. He currently serves as pastor at Friendship United Methodist in Porter, Texas.

God has been good to me.  There have been rough places made both of my own choices and things beyond my doing.  BUT, a faithful and loving God, who holds me in the name of Jesus Christ and lives in and through me with the Holy Spirit has used them all to my growth in faith. Yes, I have whined and that has not been fruitful.  There must be a more spirit led way to share my pain and disappointment with God.  Maybe you are there too.

We are in a crisis that has challenged the faith of many.  The rough places of isolation, loss and uncertainty have created a crisis of faith much larger than the threat of physical illness.  Yes, yes “All things work together for good” but what do we do in the meantime. Can we complain to God in our  anger, doubt and fear?  The short answer is yes.  The Bible is full of faithful whining called prayers of lament

Scripture has famous laments from the Psalmist, the Prophets and even Jesus.  (My God, why hast thou forsaken me!) Our God of grace has big shoulders and allows us to speak of negative things.  How does this work?  

Below is a teaching/learning element, a “formula” for a lament created in your own words.  This guideline is a help, a starter that forges faith from the depths of our pain and  grows our relationship with Christ.  How are you praying from your pain?  Try writing a prayer like this.

  1. Sit quietly and write your deepest pains. Just or unjust.  Put them in words and write a prayer in this way
  2. Address God in a personal way. (Example: Almighty, Father, Faithful God-whatever has meaning for you)
  1. Thank God for ALL things.  (Example: Lord you gave given me good, bad and ugly. Thank you for being able so see me through them all)
  2. Complain! (Example: I am all alone, my job is uncertain and I am losing hope)
  3. Confess your own sin ( I confess things done, undone, attitudes and letting fatigue look like doubt )
  4. Pray for HELP! ( I don’t know how to pray-HELP ME LORD. Pray Psalm 13 or other scripture with YOUR NAME in place of the “I’s” and “me’s”)
  5. Trust God. ( God, I am wounded-but even so I will trust you.  (Psalm 51:8)
  6. Finally, offer this lament as a praise (Psalm 51:8. “Let me be happy and joyful! You crushed my bones, now let them celebrate” )

Write this on a card, carry it, revise it, pray it until the “formula” is simply your honest response from your pain to our God. Watch your relationship bloom through the negative things in your day!

Lament and be healed, pray and be strengthened.  Let others  see your witness of faith in the rough places. By being stronger in your relationship with God, you create a healthier community. 

Peace be unto you! God is near.  (Many thanks to Smith and Schoenfeld in “Growing through Disaster” for the outline)

Keep It in Tune

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7-9, New International Version)

I have told you before that I love my guitars. My collection continues to grow and I am well aware of the fact that I can only play one at a time. Some of them are already scheduled to go to someone who cn and will play it more often than me.

The three guitars above are part of my collection. The white guitar, the one on the far left I picked up for next nothing. It had some problems, a child had a permanent marker and had scribbled on the guitar top. It took me some doing because I wasn’t sure the best way to refinish it. By the time I sanded off the scribble, I had also managed to sand off the finish. I found some direction online. I will be sending this guitar to my favorite charity, “Guitars 4 Vets” where it can be a loaner guitar for a vet new to the program.

The guitar on the opposite side is the newest addition to the collection. Ibanez is my favorite guitar brand. None of them are my favorite guitar but I enjoy playing three of the four very much. One of them is a gift for one of my grandkids. I look forward to playing with her.

The guitar in the middle is an electric guitar that is called a silent guitar. Like all non-acoustic electrics, it doesn’t make much sound when you strum it. I bought it for when I want to practice at 2:00 AM and Cindy is sleeping. I plug in my headphones and I am ready to go.

I tell you about these three guitars because all three guitars have new strings. That one I got last month came with new strings. The white guitar only had 3 strings on it when I got it and one of them wasn’t in the right place. And, the silent guitar? I plugged it in to an amp and it sounded “HORRIBLE.”

Old strings, nylon or steel, just don’t sound good. Their tone becomes dull. Steel strings, lose their bright sound. Nylon strings, not so bright already, lose the brightness faster already sounded particularly bad.

I guess I change my strings often enough because I have played off and on for 30 years and never broke a string. I have, however, played with friends who have broken strings. It is a problem for some guitar players.

The strings don’t stay in tune when they are old. The strings tend to lose their flexibility. Flexibility impacts tone which is related to tuning. If tone is poor, tuning will also be poor.

I don’t like new strings. Much like old strings they don’t stay in tune as well. When strings are new, you must wait for them to stretch. As the stretching happens, the guitar sounds better longer. To me, a new set of strings is a lot like a promise from God. It will not sound good until sound possible without someone tuning it. The Bible is like that. Without study, we don’t even kn ow God’s promises are there for them to claim.

The strings break more easily and so do we. Without being able to build our faith, because we fail to look at the Bible every day. Without that source, eventually we will be broken.

Eventually, in another day or two those strings will stretch out and those guitars will sound good again. And, we can hear the sweet music of the guitar.

If we remain faithful and keep the guitars and ourselves in the getting burned out, out of tune, flexible, and unbroken, with a beautiful to to sing for Jesus.

Be blessed,
Keith

June 2020, J. Keith Broyles

Seeing Jesus – Part 2 Rembrandt’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee”

I am getting a bit adventurous and trying something new today. Below begins a PowerPoint presentation that is the main part of the post. You can change the slide manually by pressing on the appropriate arrow button below the PowerPoint window. The slides should change automatically after 10 seconds. If I should adjust the timings, please let me know.

Be blessed!

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

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,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved