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

Called – Send Me

After that I will pour out my spirit upon everyone;
        your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
        your old men will dream dreams,
        and your young men will see visions.
29 In those days, I will also pour out my
    spirit on the male and female slaves.

30 I will give signs in the heavens and on the earth—blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 32 But everyone who calls on the Lord’s name will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be security, as the Lord has promised; and in Jerusalem, the Lord will summon those who survive. (Joel 2:28-32, Common English Bible)

Sam Cutrone currently serves as the pastor of Alexander Chapel United Methodist Church in Bryan, TX. He has a powerful testimony. Sam and I have worked as colleagues but I am proud to call him friend.

O let the Son of God enfold you
With His Spirit and His love
Let Him fill your heart and satisfy your soul
O let Him have the things that hold you, And His Spirit like a dove
Will descend upon your life and make you whole.
Jesus, O Jesus
Come and fill Your lambs
Jesus, O Jesus
Come and fill Your lambs.

It was just a month ago that we, in liturgical congregations celebrated Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. Pentecost is the Sunday we celebrate God sending the Holy Spirit upon His Disciples in the upper room. The hymn above reminds us of this poignant powerful moment in which God fulfilled His promise to the Church. The account is a humbling reminder how the disciples had to remain open in order for the Spirit to be poured into them. This happened when the disciples let their lives be enfolded into the life and message of Christ. Secondly, they had to open their hearts in order for their souls to be fed. Finally as they gave Christ all their doubts, fears, and anxieties they were healed.

How have you felt enfolded into God’s love?

Since the age of 15 I knew I was called to ministry. However it took me 30 years to fulfill my calling. In 1990, I served a small church in Martindale, Texas. It was a small rural church with 15 congregants. They were a Godsend into my life. One Sunday I had to inform them I had been removed as a candidate for ministry by the District Committee on Ordained Ministry. Hence, I would be unable to remain at the church (appointment). It was a bitter pill to swallow. As I told them, about the decision, I found a strange peace deep within me. I felt a profound love touching my heart that morning. The people were shocked because we had been together for 2 years. But I reassured them the conference and district leaders knew what they were doing: the church had to trust the process. I must admit these were some dark moments for the church and for me as we grieved together. As we wept we found the Spirit leading us to a deeper understanding of Christ’s love we had for one another and a resilient strength to trust in what God was doing.

In those few precious moments we found consolation in Christ’s arms of grace. We discovered that through the years we had learned that God’s love bound us together and kept the cords of ministry strong. We found, in those moments, that Christ’s love was sufficient. While I may have been removed from ministry we were joined in the desire to serve Christ and the community. With hearts full, sorrows shared and remembering we were bound together by God’s love; we left the church that Sunday knowing the Holy Spirit was upon the church and us.

Later that night, I poured out my ardent prayer out before the Lord. I prayed for God’s spirit to comfort the church and my family. I shared with God my disappointments, fears and anxieties; I left everything at the foot of the cross. Later, the phone rang, I was surprised to hear Bishop Earnest Dixon on the other end of the line. He said, “Sam, I don’t know what you’ve done at the church in Martindale but they love you. I think it’s best if you continue ministry with the church. What do you think?” I said, “Well if you think that’s best. Then yes I’ll go.” I continued in ministry for 5 more years. It wasn’t until I moved in 1995 I realized how much they loved me and my family but more importantly how much they trusted God. Unbeknownst to me, the night the Bishop called me, the church had handed the charter of the church to the District Superintendent. They simply said, “if you remove Sam, then remove us! We see the Spirit moving in the Church and want to see what God will do with us.”

It’s a wondrous sight to behold when the Holy Spirit gets involved. Our moment of grace comes when we step aside and let the Holy Spirit fill us with God’s love. Then empty our lives from the fears, anxieties and uncertainties of the world. When we let our hearts be filled with the Spirit we find healing and the ability to trust and love God even more. We are called to the share this hope with others. Take a moment and lift your heart to the Lord, let God’s Holy Spirit fill you with God’s love. Then go into the world and pour God’s love into the lives of those who are thirsty, lost in the darkness, hurting or struggling. This is our purpose and call.

The Owl

By Lisa Price

I introduced Lisa Price last week. I had asked her and her husband Rev. John Price to provide a post and they agreed. Well, John had cataract surgery about the same time I asked that the guest posts be in and he didn’t feel up to writing something so Lisa decided to send me two and I am grateful. I pray you enjoy Lisa’s story of an owl.

I cry out: “Violence!” but get no response;
I call for help, but there is no justice.
He has blocked my way so that I cannot pass through;
He has veiled my paths with darkness.
He has stripped me of my honor
and removed the crown from my head.
10 He tears me down on every side so that I am ruined.
He uproots my hope like a tree.
11 His anger burns against me,
and He regards me as one of His enemies.
12 His troops advance together;
they construct a ramp against me
and camp around my tent.

13 He has removed my brothers from me;
my acquaintances have abandoned me.
14 My relatives stop coming by,
and my close friends have forgotten me.
15 My house guests and female servants regard me as a stranger;
I am a foreigner in their sight.
16 I call for my servant, but he does not answer,
even if I beg him with my own mouth.
17 My breath is offensive to my wife,
and my own family finds me repulsive.
18 Even young boys scorn me.
When I stand up, they mock me.
19 All of my best friends despise me,
and those I love have turned against me.
20 My skin and my flesh cling to my bones;
I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.

21 Have mercy on me, my friends, have mercy,
for God’s hand has struck me.
22 Why do you persecute me as God does?
Will you never get enough of my flesh? (Job 19:7-22, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. “Teacher,” they said to Him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” They asked this to trap Him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse Him.

Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center. 10 When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, Lord,” she answered. (John 8:3-11 Holman Christian Standard Bible)

From the back porch it looked like a large, crumpled sack or a mass of dried underbrush.  But it hadn’t been there before on the wide expanse of otherwise green lawn.  I thought perhaps the wind had blown something out of the nearby tree-line or from a neighbor’s trashcan.  As I continued to sip my first cup of coffee and rock in my old wooden rocker, the sun rose higher in the sky, and I noticed a slight movement where the mysterious lump was.  Again, I blamed the wind, and continued in my early-morning reverie.  But as my vision scanned across the empty lot once more, I realized that whatever it was, it was alive.

Not prone to much movement until after my second cup of coffee, I sat awhile longer until my curiosity got the best of me.  I walked gingerly on bare feet toward the thing, not wishing to startle it, whatever it was.  As I got closer, I realized it was some type of bird, and it didn’t fly away as I expected.  I took a few more careful, slow steps in its direction, and it eyed me cautiously, but held its ground.  Finally, as we stared eye-to-eye, I realized I was facing off with a brown barn owl who had seen better days.  His face looked wet, his feathers scraggly, and he peered at me through squinty eyes that were very un-owl-like.  The poor thing looked as if the last thing he wanted was a big human hovering over him, but he seemed powerless to fly away.  

After a few minutes of silent communing, I went back into the house to finish my morning routine.  Periodically, I looked out the back windows, and my new friend still sat right where he had been.  Awhile later, I returned to the porch and was startled to see several mockingbirds dive-bombing the poor owl.  They would fly back and forth over his head, swooping down time and again to peck at him and generally terrorize him.  Even the squirrels joined in, chattering loudly from their perch on a nearby limb.

I walked toward the scene of the hazing, hoping that the taunters would leave.  Thankfully, they did, and just my friend and I were left.  He looked at me warily, and I wondered if he expected me to mock him as the others had.  After a few moments, he flew several feet away from me toward the tree-line, barely clearing the tops of the weeds.  Thinking I was missing a good photo op, I went inside to get my camera.  When I returned, the owl was gone, and I feared that one of the other critters from the underbrush had carried him off.  But I sneaked a little closer and saw his owl eyes gazing out from about three feet above the ground in a small tree.  I hoped that my presence had somehow helped him gather up his strength to fly out of harm’s way.

Job had a problem just like my owl friend.  He was having more than just a bad day.  His possessions were taken from him, his family was gone, his health was a disaster.  And his so-called friends came to him under the guise of helping him see his sin.  Just like the mockingbirds swooping and pecking at the owl, Job’s friends came to him, not with compassion and love, but with accusations and blame.  

Those who are in distressing situations such as the jobless, the homeless, the depressed, the AIDs patient, the recently divorced—they are the Jobs of today.  Will we taunt them, shun them, or smugly give a token bit of help?  Will we kick them while they’re down?

When my owl friend was in trouble, all I did was come to his side and stand there in silence.  A quiet, compassionate presence is sometimes all a person needs in order to draw on the strength which the Lord provides.  The Gospel of John tells of a woman caught in the act of adultery.  Her accusers wanted Jesus to join with them in condemning the woman, but He refused to either condemn or defend her.  Instead, He provided a quiet, comforting presence until the accusers shamedly slipped away, and the woman was ready to come to Him for strength and redemption.

Today’s Challenge:  Look for the downtrodden, the forgotten, the grief-stricken, the hopeless.  Don’t worry about what to say; just being there will speak volumes.  Embody Christ’s loving  presence today! 

Opening Blind Eyes

by Keith Broyles

From time to time I get on writing.com. You can find different things to help with writing,com, including writing prompts and writing challenges and contests. But I always feel challenged there. Writing from the tags for the Though I have never won’t any of the few I seen there, I still enjoy doing it.

Today’s poem and future song lyrics began as a writing challenge on

Blind eyes fail to see creation’s slow death.
The stench of the air, leaves us without breath
Empty ears ignore the earth’s groans and cries
Still, God who made us, wipes tears from blind eyes

My Blind Eyes bring Empty Hearts
Empty Hearts bring Empty Souls
Empty Souls bring Empty lives
Empty lives bring More Blind eyes

God creates humans for more than we know.
Fun with no joy pulls us from where we grow.
Our hearts are empty, no strength from above
Empty hearts lack peace, Lord send us a dove.

My Blind Eyes bring Empty Hearts
Empty Hearts bring Empty Souls
Empty Souls bring Empty lives
Empty lives bring More Blind eyes

Empty hearts can’t see, God’s blessings for me
Empty souls cry out, yearning to be free.
The soul may be empty, the spirit dry,
God still loves us, let love show in our eyes.

My Blind Eyes bring Empty Hearts
Empty Hearts bring Empty Souls
Empty Souls bring Empty lives
Empty lives bring More Blind eyes

Let love’s light shine, in this dark world.
Let my blind eyes, be blind no more.
My eyes can see, the world alive.
In grace and love, God’s call with thrive.

No blind eyes mean loving hearts
loving hearts mean loving souls
loving souls mean loving lives
loving lives mean, love for You.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

The Lord is My Sheperd… That’s All I Know

A Guest Post by Rev. W.C. Hall Jr

The LORD is my  shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake
 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
(Psalm 23:1-6, English Standard Version).

There is always plenty to do when a pastor moves from one church to another. Things have to be packed, movers have to be called, things have to be packed, oh, did I mention things have to be packed? I am also trying to take a little vacation time before the move, so its a lot. And, things have to be packed. Anyway, yesterday was my last Sunday in Huntington and my first Sunday at Perritte Memorial is July 5th. I didn’t want to take off the blog two full weeks so I asked some friends to contribute guest posts. So, you get to hear some other voices. As of now I will be posting Saturdays and Sundays.

The Rev. W.C. Hall Jr. has been a good friend for many years. W.C. was my pastor when I became United Methodist. He was still my pastor when I entered candidacy for ministry. When one is ordained an Elder two other elders can lay hands on the ordinand. W.C. was one of my two. I don’t remember where all he has served during his ministry but I do know he served Crystal Beach/Bolivar, Texas A&M Wesley Foundation, First UMC Canton, Asbury UMC, Pasadena (this is my home church), First UMC Dayton, First UMC Bellville and Holy Trinity UMC (Houston). W.C. is currently retired and living in Beaumont. He still loves to preach, when he has the opportunity.

I have long enjoyed the story of the young boy who as a Sunday School student was assigned the task of memorizing the 23rd Psalm.  He had many gifts and graces, but memorizing was not one of them!  He worked on it at home with his parents; wrote it one hundred times on his Big Chief tablet;  listened intently as his grandmother read it for him; but nothing seemed to work.  The Sunday morning finally arrived when he was to stand before his Sunday School class and recite Psalm 23. He was a nervous wreck.  His teacher called on him and slowly he walked to the front of the class.  His little knees were knocking and he was sweating in spite of the air conditioning.  After what seemed like a long time,the little fellow cleared his throat and in a soft voice said,  “The Lord is my shepherd . . . and that’s all I know.”  There was nervous laughter from the other students as he returned to his seat, but you know on a very real sense, that’s all you need to know.  The rest of Psalm 23 is commentary on that opening line, “The Lord is my shepherd…”

The image of sheep and shepherd is commonly found in both Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  That is a problem for most of us who live in Texas where sheep have long ago been replaced by cattle.  Most of us have never seen a sheep except in a petting zoo.  If the psalmist had talked about cows and cowboys who take care of them, we would feel more at home.  However, even today in Israel, you would need to look long and hard to find a cow, while sheep can be seen in abundance.  The psalmist wrote and found inspiration in the familiar knowledge of sheep and shepherd.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus talked about himself as being “the good shepherd” (John 10:1 – 15).  In the Gospel, Jesus says there are two kinds of shepherds.  Some shepherds are hired to take care of the sheep that belong to others, while “the good shepherd” owned the sheep in their care.  Jesus taught us that we are the sheep of his pasture, that we belong to him.  We can trust him as the good shepherd knowing that He will take care of us.  That care is extended through the good days (green pastures and still waters) and the bad days (valley of the shadow of death).

I share this with you because it is important to me that you know that I have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, myelodysplasia.  It took me a week to learn how to pronounce that!  It is a disease in which my body has stopped making blood and I am dependent on transfusions to live.  In a very real sense, I am living on borrowed time.  I am not pleased about that, but I am at peace with that.  The Good Shepherd has walked with me for eighty years and has taught me to trust the words of Psalm 23, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”  It is wonderful that the Lord of life, is also the Lord of death.  I have learned through all I have experienced to trust the One who has given me life.  As I approach the last years of my life, it is wonderful to know the reality of which St. Paul spoke to the Romans, “ Whether I live or whether I die, I am the Lord’s (Romans 8:14).  Thanks be to God!

And Finally Beloved… (Manuscript)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beloved, rejoice in the Lord.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beloved farewell. Be perfect.

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

Lollipop Moments One More Time

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

Today’s submission is from Mike Derricott.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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

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

To Tell the Truth

To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up
  you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.”
Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
    I come to the end—I am still with you.
19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
    and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
    and lift themselves up against you for evil!

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
    And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalm 139:1-24, NRSV)

When prime time shows season ended, not long ago, it was time for reruns. There were several reasons people didn’t object too much to reruns. They often hadn’t seen it before.

Three fairly recent phenomena changed that. We have mant networks. I don’t know how many. But, these new networks, drew an audience by running new shows while the old networks reruns. Those three three lost the ratings battle on many fronts.

Akso impacting things was internet programming on demand. When the three networks could keep shows from earlier, I can watch at my convenience more often than not, without commercials.

Fon’t forget about your DVR.

Anyway, it made the networks start to scramble for programming that they could do with lower production costs in place of reruns.

Bringing in newer, cheaper shows to make, principally reality TV, the costs of more expensive shows could be spread over they year.

Oh, and Covid-19 didn’t help. We sometimes saw sports, now, not an option either.

Now it’s game shows. Since mid-March I have seen these games either shown or advertised on my local network affiliates. These shows were on in my lifetime, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Match Game, To Tell the Truth, Family Feud, Press Your Luck, Let’s Make a Deal, Card Sharks, $100,000 Pyramid, and The Joker’s Wild.

We have newer entries like Ultimate Tag, Don’t, and Holey Moley. The reasons for this renaissance is that these shows are cheaper and with Corona these shows are easier to maintain social distancing.

So, for the last few weeks, I have become a game show fan again. Last night 9:00 we watched To Tell the Truth. Last night I thought, “Tomorrow’s Blog.”

The show is hosted by Anthony Anderson and his mother and four celebrity contestants. Three panelists come out, one telling the truth, two lying. The contestants ask questions. When time us up the contestants pick who is telling the truth.

It is difficult for we mere mortals to know who is telling the truth. Out of the four “games” I got two right but it was luck. One game the three contestants talked about getting bit by a decapitated rattlesnake. The guy lost two fingers.

As I watched I realized these people can lie. I couldn’t tell most of the time. And, just like in real life, there’s no sign above them saying who is lying.

Psalm 139 reminds us one who knows us better than we know ourselves. The psalmist says God knows the song before we sing. “O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.”

The psalmist says God knows all about us. Matthew and Luke say the same. God knows us so well, God counted every hair on our heads.

It reminds me, I can fool people. I will never fool God.

Be Blessed

In Search of the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Go Bury Your Junk

trowel

You shall have a designated area outside the camp to which you shall go. With your utensils you shall have a trowel; when you relieve yourself outside, you shall dig a hole with it and then cover up your excrement. Because the Lord your God travels along with your camp, to save you and to hand over your enemies to you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you (Deuteronomy 23:12-14, New Revised Standard Version).

I was driving and listening to Adam Hamilton’s book, Half Truths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn’t Say. It bounced around in my head for a while. Hamilton used this strange little passage in the book.

I have read the Bible all the way through. I have read this passage at least a few times but I don’t remember it. It left no impression on me. I read it and moved on. Nothing stuck with me, until I was driving that day. Hearing what Hamilton wrote, I have thought and rethought these three verses.

Hamilton said, “You most likely have never heard a sermon on this passage (I am paraphrasing). I don’t Ive heard a sermon on it, I know I’ve never written or preached one.

It could have been different in the late 19th century. Indoor plumbing was coming into its own. Homes were getting this convenience. Many thought churches should get the convenience too. During New England winters or Texas summers, going to the outhouse was brutal. Preachers used this saying God didn’t want indoor plumbing in churches, that God intended everyone to go outside. They would “…designate an area OUTSIDE the camp…” Might this have carried a literal reading a bit too far. I am thankful for indoor plumbing.

Hamilton’s use of this passage did get me to thinking. I have thought a great deal about it since hearing that chapter. For a while I was thinking that perhaps I was supposed to preach a sermon on the passage, but I decided against it. I really don’t want to explain excrement to young ears that might be present. The more I thought about it the more I thought, a blog post might be the better way to go. At least to me, it just made more sense.

No, I am not going to write about burying something in a whole in the ground. I am not going to write about going outside the camp to take care of things. No, my thoughts haven’t been about anything quite so literal.

Here is the thing, the passage talks about going outside the camp because God lived and moved in the camp, making the camp holy. So, I got to thinking about where God lives today. Where is that holy place today. Some might make the argument that God lives in the Church. And, at least to a degree that would be true. After all, God is omnipresent so God is everywhere, including our churches (Lord I pray that is true).

I think our comparison would need to be something closer to home. I can’t help but think of Revelation 3:20, “Look! I’m standing at the door and knocking. If any hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to be with them, and will have dinner with them, and they will have dinner with me (Common English Bible).” God’s home, God’s residence is within us.

So, what is within our “camp,” within us that God would call indecent? Remember, the passage says, “…your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you…”

I started compiling a list. The list starts sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good,idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry,jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that. I warn you as I have already warned you, those who do these kinds of things won’t inherit God’s kingdom.” OK, I know, it really isn’t my list, its Paul’s. You can find them in Galatians 5:19-21 (Common English Bible). And, I doubt it is an all-inclusive list.

We have things to leave behind. Bury the past and move forward with God dwelling inside us. And, if we bury them and leave them there, God won’t see “…anything indecent among [us].” God us within us. Without all that mess lives we will be living holy and keeping our camp holy.

Sometimes I think God can and does use the unusual to speak to us, even a Scripture passage about literal stuff we need to leave behind so we might leave some of the things behind that block the Spirit within us from leading us in the holy direction God wants us to go.

Take your trowel, did a hole, and leave the junk behind in favor of a stronger relationship with God.

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, James “Keith” Broyles, All Rights Reserved.