The Flat Jesus Project

The Flat Jesus Project So Far

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! (Philippians 3:10-11, New Living Translation)

On the Sunday before I officially became the pastor at Perritte Memorial, Cindy and I attended worship there. One of the announcements talked about Vacation Bible School for this summer.

Like just about every church in the country, many of the ministry programs, including Vacation BIble School, Perritte was having to rethink the approach to VBS and many of their ministry programs. How could we have VBS when we have to worry about social distancing, keeping things clean constantly, and keeping masks on kids? Trying to do VBS fully online wasn’t really an answer either. Too many kids don’t have internet access. Any church wouldn’t want to leave other kids behind.

That Sunday I heard a new idea. I had not heard of “The Flat Jesus Project” until that day. We got a sheet with three copies of, “Flat Jesus.” The instructions were to color the flat Jesus and cut him out. Then we had a calendar with different assignments each day. July 7th assignment was seven. Find a way for Flat Jesus to communicate seven. On the fourth of July the assignment was “patriotic.”

With the assignment set up, we are to use a cell phone to take a picture and send that picture to our education chair. She in turn is putting them on the church Facebook page.

I got to thinking about it and decided I needed to participate in VBS. I colored three flat Jesus (Yes, I colored them) and started doing the daily assignments. My pictures are above.

As I thought about it, something kept gnawing at me. I kept thinking there was something else I needed to do. My mind went to “Bible” in Vacation Bible School. I decided to start including a Bible verse with the picture of the day.

I write this to recommend “The Flat Jesus Project” to any who are still looking for an approach to Vacation Bible School or other children’s ministry. Today, as much as anytime before, finding ways to demonstrate Jesus to the children of the Church and all the children of God need us all to think creatively during these difficult times.

Whether you use “The Flat Jesus Project” or not is up to you. How each of us go about doing God’s work in the world today is up to each of us to use the gifts God has entrusted to us to serve all of God’s people that we can help them on their journey with God.

For years I have had a good time in my various congregations with the children of the church. One time I had orange hair and another time pink hair by the time it was over. Yet another time, I had no hair and not even a beard. I might have liked that back in May when I was really wanting a haircut.

The thing is, for now at least, I can’t have that kind of fun with the kids like I have with VBS for years. Now I need to find ways to make a difference in the life of the kids in my community. I think I can do that with “The Flat Jesus Project.” Do you want to join us?

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

The Volunteer Watermelon

18 “Consider then the parable of the farmer. 19 Whenever people hear the word about the kingdom and don’t understand it, the evil one comes and carries off what was planted in their hearts. This is the seed that was sown on the path. 20 As for the seed that was spread on rocky ground, this refers to people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully. 21 Because they have no roots, they last for only a little while. When they experience distress or abuse because of the word, they immediately fall away. 22 As for the seed that was spread among thorny plants, this refers to those who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the false appeal of wealth choke the word, and it bears no fruit. 23 As for what was planted on good soil, this refers to those who hear and understand, and bear fruit and produce—in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one.” (Matthew 13:18-23, Common English Bible)

Before I went into the ministry, Cindy, our boys, and I spent a year living in my maternal grandparent’s house. My grandfather had Parkinson’s Disease and they moved in with one of my aunts for help in his care. Our role was to live in the house and take care of things while my grandmother decided what she was going to do with the house.

One day I was in the backyard and saw these strange looking leaves growing in the center of the yard. Right there in the back yard, surrounded completely by St. Augustine grass. I really thought it was a weed.

I didn’t bother me. It wasn’t poison ivy or anything. I mowed around it. We moved there in early August. While I didn’t do anything to kill it, I also didn’t encourage it. If you know about Texas and August, it is hot and generally there usually isn’t much rain. I wasn’t helping either.

A few weeks later I looked again and saw three small watermelons on that vine. I saw my grandmother a few days later and said, “I have watermelon growing in the backyard.”

She said she and my grandfather had eaten watermelon out there at the beginning of the summer. They picked seeds out and spit seeds out that fell to the ground. Some took root and grew. Those three watermelons never got big or ripe.

I understand that farmers call those watermelons “volunteers.” They weren’t planted, they grew on their own.

At times in my life, when I think of “The Parable of the Soils,” why would anyone plant where it would seem there is so much more bad soil than good soil. Of course I knew that, at least in theory, that is all the land some people have that they can use for planting. If they want to eat, they have to use what they have.

Several years ago I made a couple of trips to Heifer Ranch in Arkansas. There they experiment with many different soils for farming in different parts of the world. I saw them trying to make so many different soils effective for planting.

Of course when Jesus tells this parable he has an explanation for each element of the story. He tells that the thorns choke out some, some fall on the path were they are useless. Others start to grow but don’t establish a good root system and wither in the harsh environment. But others, the ones planted in good soil take root and yield a crop.

In this year when we seem to have so much going on, could we be seeing all the soils existing around us? There is so much going on in 2020 and if you are anything like me, I am past ready for this year to be over and we are barely half way through what is obviously a difficult time. Before the first quarter was over we were facing a lock down from a global pandemic. We have seen racial unrest like we haven’t seen since the 1960s. We have endured politicians and their usual election year rhetoric (that assuredly will get worse before it gets better). Now we are facing a rebound of the virus that seems to grow almost exponentially each day. It would seem on the news every night there is some new threat. And, I haven’t mentioned any of our personal crises.

The good news is, the Church has worked finding new and creative ways to share the Gospel and love of Jesus with this hurting world. From internet worship and drive-in services to blocking off every other pew for face-to-face worship, and so more the Church scatters seeds!

Some seeds land in the path and birds eat them. They aren’t taking root and never will. Some land in rocky areas. People dig in but won’t root well. Some grow in tight places that can’t survive like seeds rooted in thorns. But, know this, God is working among people and some seeds will land in good soil. These are ones that God sends our way who put down roots. They will grow and make a difference for the Kingdom.

May such be the case for all of us.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Worshiping Stella

Worshiping Stella

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’’ (Matthew 7:21-23, New International Version).

“A person will worship something, have no doubt about that… That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives and our character. Therefore it behooves us to be careful, what we worship for what we are worshiping we are becoming.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Well, the guitar collection is up to 18 plus a baritone ukulele and an acoustic-electric bass. I have my eye on sweet number 21. It is an acoustic guitar made without any wood in the guitar’s skin. That’s right. It is an acoustic-electric made by Schecter Guitar Research that has no wood in the skin of the guitar. It is made out of carbon fiber. The only wood in the body is bracing. I have wanted a carbon fiber guitar for a while now.

A year ago, Cindy bought Annie for me for my birthday. All my guitars have names. Annie is an Ibanez Tallsman six-string acoustic-electric. I keep a “wish list” on Amazon and when we got home that day I opened my wish list so I could take that guitar off the list. When I finished, I found myself looking on all my favorite guitar pages trying to decide what I wanted to get next.

As I was stretched out on my recliner, laptop in hand, and looking through all the guitars on reverb.com and looked at what was there. Then I moved on to Sweetwater Music then Musician’s Friend, and somewhere in my the middle of Guitar Center’s web page I stopped. I thought to myself, “Keith you are being really dumb. You have a brand new guitar that you haven’t played a total of an hour yet and here you are already wanting something new.

Most of the time that is my problem. Before the new is even worn off, I want something new.

But I also have to careful. Stella is my favorite guitar. She feels good in my hands, she has a beautiful tone. She is pretty to look at. I have had a few people make me really good offers to sell her. She is my favorite and I can’t turn loose of her.

There is nothing wrong with having a favorite guitar or favorite of whatever your thing is, as long as you keep even that favorite thing in perspective.

Some years ago, back when I had two guitars, one with sound hook-ups and one without. It was a pretty blue Austin Guitar. When I walked into the office it was obvious someone had broken in. Not much was missing except that pretty blue Austin Guitar. I wasn’t devastated by it. Of course I would have preferred that they had left my guitar alone.

After I bought Stella and really started enjoying the play and feel of that guitar, I thought about that day a couple of years before when I had that pretty blue guitar stolen. Would I have been so calm about my loss had it been Stella and not the little blue stolen guitar.

I came to realize I had and continued to elevate Stella above the place any guitar or any other “thing” deserved? Was I worshiping her? No, but I did realize I needed to be very careful. That guitar, named or not, could become an object of worship if I wasn’t careful. I could not allow that to happen. Stella could not be the object of my worship. I couldn’t allow it to happen.

I am not sure if it was a Sunday school teacher of someone else but a number of years ago, someone told a group I was in, “It is amazing how someone can cut down a tree then carve the head of an idol on it. Then take the other half, set it on fire and come back later and cook dinner over it. How is that an omnipotent God?

Any of my guitars have something in common.The are all inanimate objects. On there own, they have no power. My guitar can do noting without me or someone else picking it up and playing it. It can be the source of beautiful music (if someone is playing it besides me) but only with someone moving the strings.

I do love to play Stella, but Stella is not and cannot be the object of my worship because I need a God who can move mountains. I need a God who can make the sea part. I need a God who can heal the sick. I need a God who can raise the dead. I need a God who can change my life, who can forgive my sin, who can set me on a journey for the rest of my earthly life that will lead me to the life everlasting. No guitar can do all that. That can only happen with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and David, the God who became a human, who lived as one who knew joys and sorrows, happiness and pain. A God who could be born a human birth and who would die a human death. That is the God I need.

I have Stella to satisfy my love of music and even that, doesn’t come without one of the many gifts God has given me.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

My Heart Grieves

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger 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, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-35, 37-39, New International Version)

As I write this it is Sunday afternoon. After a joyful first Sunday at Perritte Memorial UMC, I was talking with a few people in my new congregation and Cindy’s telephone rang. It was my niece. By hearing Cindy’s end of the conversation I knew something was wrong.

What I thought I was hearing proved to be correct. My brother-in-law had suddenly passed away. We are never ready for these kind of things but they happen. They happen to all of us.

Victor Campbell was one of the good guys. It hadn’t always been that way. Victor would be the first to tell you he was a recovering alcoholic whose misdeeds while drinking had put him in prison. But he got it together and became a man of great faith.

He was an astute student of the Bible. He studied regularly and in depth. He and I had several theological and Scriptural discussions over the years. We might not always agree but we did always respect one another’s perspective.

Vic was a man of prayer. If there was a special prayer need, I could call Vic or my sister and ask for prayer. I knew there were a couple of people in central Texas praying for whatever the need might be.

When Vic married Brenda, the two were both strong in faith and prayer. Their’s was a great relationship with God and each other.

Victor also understood that he needed a life partner who was a woman of faith. He found that in my sister. Brenda’s faith has always been strong. She has always been a strong person of faith. Vic saw that in her too.

I was honored to officiated their wedding. Last week Cindy and I were talking. She asked me if I remembered how long Brenda and Vic had been married. I said, “I don’t know, 10 years or so.” I was wrong. They were married 18 years. It doesn’t seem that long ago.

He was a man who helped however he could for the people around him. When she has needed it, my Mom was able to call on him for help since we lost my dad a few years back. Living hours away, I have always been thankful he was there.

No matter how well, or how long we know someone, at times like this we learn something new about them. Before I started writing this I went out on my sister’s Facebook page searching for a picture of Victor to use here. I found the one above. I never knew Vic played the guitar until I saw that picture. During the midst of the quarantine he led his family in an Easter Sunrise service, including leading the music himself.

Victor was also a business man. He started his own dry-wall business before he and Brenda married. He worked hard at being fair to his customers and provide them with good service. Vic didn’t do the day to day dry wall work anymore. He had crews for that, but he knew his business and bid the jobs so his crews made money and so did he. Sometimes strong honest business men are hard to find. There is one less today.

The Scripture above is my favorite in all the Bible. “What can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?” To paraphrase Paul, not a blessed thing. I don’t know if my sister will read this or not. She has much more on her mind than what her brother puts on his blog right now. Still, nothing will separate Victor from the Love of God in Christ Jesus, not even death itself. Nothing will separate Brenda from the Love of God in Christ Jesus, not even Victor’s death. As she walks through the days ahead she has her family to walk with her but most importantly the Holy Spirit walks with her, God walks with her. She can lean on us, but she needs to remember that she can lean on God too.

When any of us face losses like my family faces this weekend with Victor’s death, we need to remember that nothing separates us from the love of God. We have our families to lean on. We have people of faith to lean on. We have God who is ready to hold us tight and walk us through this dark valley.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church July 5, 2020

Sermon: Where in the World is Elwood?

12 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
    those who curse you I will curse;
        all the families of the earth
            will be blessed because of you.”

Abram left just as the Lord told him, and Lot went with him. Now Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all of their possessions, and those who became members of their household in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, Abram traveled through the land as far as the sacred place at Shechem, at the oak of Moreh. The Canaanites lived in the land at that time. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I give this land to your descendants,” so Abram built an altar there to the Lord who appeared to him. From there he traveled toward the mountains east of Bethel, and pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and worshiped in the Lord’s name. Then Abram set out toward the arid southern plain, making and breaking camp as he went. (Genesis 12:1-9, Common English Bible)

Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church

Phone (936) 564-8427
Email info@perritteumc.org

Mailing Address

638A N University Dr # 255
Nacogdoches, TX 75961-4617

Physical Address

1025 Durst St
Nacogdoches, TX 75964-5063

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

Where in the World is Elwood?

12 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
    those who curse you I will curse;
        all the families of the earth
            will be blessed because of you.”

Abram left just as the Lord told him, and Lot went with him. Now Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all of their possessions, and those who became members of their household in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, Abram traveled through the land as far as the sacred place at Shechem, at the oak of Moreh. The Canaanites lived in the land at that time. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I give this land to your descendants,” so Abram built an altar there to the Lord who appeared to him. From there he traveled toward the mountains east of Bethel, and pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and worshiped in the Lord’s name. Then Abram set out toward the arid southern plain, making and breaking camp as he went. (Genesis 12:1-9, Common English Bible).

It was almost lunchtime one day in May, 1991. I was in my office at Fondren and the Southwest Freeway in Houston. I was a programmer/analyst with the FDIC. I was working on some random computer code when my phone rang.

It wasn’t a call I got at work. My calls usually were about a program I had written and someone managed to find a way to break, doing something they weren’t supposed to do and the program wasn’t designed for.

Occasionally a Scout leader would call to talk about some activity. We were very involved in Scouting then. Our boys were young and very involved.

Cindy called to talk about kid stuff and if any of us had anything in the calendar that night. It might be what was on the dinner menu.

I wasn’t used to calls about church work. I was, after all, an employee of the Federal government. They wouldn’t have had much positive to say about church.

It was a surprise then when I heard, “Keith, this is Asbury Lennox.” The late Dr. Asbury Lennox was then the District Superintendent of the old Houston East District. I had anticipated a call, but I assumed it would come one night at home. I never thought he’d call during the day the workday.

Dr. Lennox said, “I have called to talk about an appointment. The cabinet met with Bishop Oliphant and we want to appoint you to Elwood.

Before I realized it, the words tumbled from my mouth, the title of this sermon, “Where in the world is Elwood? I hadn’t said it. I knew Texas pretty well, but have learned not as well as I thought. I hadn’t heard of Elwood and and many other places in the Lone Star State. While it is on some state maps, Elwood isn’t even a town! No wonder I hadn’t heard of it.

Elwood is a rural community about 12 miles northeast of Madisonville in rural Madison County. The closest real town, if you can call it that, is Midway, named that because it’s located about midway between Crockett and Madisonville. Midway’s population at the time was 333. Today it has declined to 229 as of the last census.

The only store closes at 6:00. The Walmart in Madisonville closed at 8:00. Our closest neighbors, other than cows were over half a mile away.

At one time, Elwood, then named French was a thriving town and the county seat for Madison County. That was before anyone thought about Madisonville.

Today Elwood consists of a few residences, ranch land, and the Baptist church. I am sorry to say, the Methodist church closed a few years ago. The building is there but belongs to the Elwood Cemetery Association today.

That was a culture shock for a city boy used to 24 hour Walmart stores and convenience stores that never closed, even on Christmas Day. Elwood took careful planning. To get something after 8:00 PM required driving an hour each way to Huntsville, or doing without. Only something important made that drive.

The title of today’s message, “Where in the World is Elwood?” is because of that phone call 30 years ago. I could just as easily titled it after a good number of the places like, “Where in the world is Lovelady, Kennard, Mt. Sylvan, Van or Grapeland. I thought I knew Grapeland but I was talking about Grapevine. I’ve heard it from many since then. “Where in the world is…” Groveton or Huntington. I did know where Prairie View is but it isn’t the same one.

I had heard of Canton, but I didn’t know where it was. I had to look for it on a road map in the days before most any of us had a GPS in the car.

I knew where to find were Tyler, Freeport and Diboll. I made trips to Tyler when I was younger. I went fishing a few times in Freeport. And, my mother’s family used to have a family reunion every year in a little community a little larger than Elwood, named Central, just north of Lufkin.

I could have titled the sermon, “Where in the world is Santa Fe?” and no, not New Mexico. This Santa Fe is in Galveston County, on the mainland. I hadn’t heard of it before a UM ARMY.

I couldn’t have titled the message, “Where in the World is Sweeny?” I knew where it was long ago. But I did hear the question many times when I would tell people I had been appointed there. Much like Tyler, nobody questioned me on. “Where in the world is Nacogdoches?” when I told people about this appointment.

The point of all this is to say, for all of us, there are places in the world we know little, if anything about. Yet often these are some of the very places where God calls us to go and most needs us to go.

Such was the case for one of the great heroes of the Bible, Abraham, or Abram as he was called in our lesson this morning. God spoke to this 75-year-old man and told him to pack up all his stuff and move, only God didn’t tell him to move to Elwood or Nacogdoches or Grapeland or some other named place you might find on a map or with your GPS. God told Abram to move to the land God would show him. Friends, God was asking Abram to take a great leap of faith.

But, God didn’t ask Abram to take a walk on the wild side. God made Abram some promises too. The biggest promise was, God would be there and that Abram would be blessed.

Abram went packing and God made another promise, Abram, descendants would inherit the land where he stood. Abram never saw that promise fulfilled, but he knew God would keep the promise.

If we continued on in Genesis we would see God’s faithfulness in those promises. God blessed Abram in virtually everything. God promised land to Abram’s descendants. God saw to it. In time, those descendants grew in number as promised. If you keep reading, in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Joshua, as promised, Abram’s descendants inherited the land God promised.

God gave a faithful man a task. The man did as instructed. God made promises and kept them, including a promise of blessings on a faithful man.

Blessing is a recurring theme throughout Genesis. Really it is a recurring theme throughout Scripture. When people remain faithful, they receive God’s blessing.

The same is true for us. God asks us to start a faith journey together. It is something that in many ways will be different. But, we don’t travel alone. We travel together as the people of God in this time and place. Further, we don’t just travel with each other, God travels with us.

Friends, if we are faithful to God’s call, we will be blessed.

Someone emailed me a little clip I thought I would share with you as I close the message.

At first I thought God was my observer, my judge, keeping track of my wrong doings to see if I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was sort of like the President. I knew the picture but I didn’t really know God.

Later, I recognized God, and life was like a bike ride, but a tandem bike, and God was in the back helping me pedal. I don’t know when God suggested we switch but life hasn’t been the same since.

When I had control, I knew the way. It was boring but predictable. We took the shortest route. When God took over there were delightful long cuts, up mountains and rocky places and fast speeds! Sometimes I could barely hang on. I was scared sometimes, God reached back and touched my hand.

I met people with gifts I needed: gifts for my journey, our journey, God’s and mine. Then we were off again. Then God would say, “Give those gifts away, extra baggage, too much weight.” So I gave them to people we’d meet.

I learned then that in giving we receive. Our burden was light. I didn’t trust God at first, being in control of my life. “What if God wrecks it?” But God knows, “bike secrets,” how to make it bend in sharp corners or jump high rocks or to fly through scary passages.

I’m learning to shut up and pedal in strange places. Now I enjoy the cool breeze on my face, with my delightful companion. And when I’m sure I can’t do any more, God smiles and says,”Pedal.”

We have work to do. Let’s be faithful like Abraham. If we are, God will bless us to be a blessing. Oh, and don’t forget, pedal!.

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

The Right Thing to Do

Make no mistake, God is not mocked. A person will harvest what they plant. Those who plant only for their own benefit will harvest devastation from their selfishness, but those who plant for the benefit of the Spirit will harvest eternal life from the Spirit. Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. 10 So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith.

11 Look at the large letters I’m making with my own handwriting! 12 Whoever wants to look good by human standards will try to get you to be circumcised, but only so they won’t be harassed for the cross of Christ. 13 Those who are circumcised don’t observe the Law themselves, but they want you to be circumcised, so they can boast about your physical body.

14 But as for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except for the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through him, and I have been crucified to the world. 15 Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t mean anything. What matters is a new creation. 16 May peace and mercy be on whoever follows this rule and on God’s Israel. (Galatians 6:7-16, Common English Bible)

For this “Song Sounds Saturday,” as today is Independence Day I have gone back and forth as to what my post for today should be. If we have watched the news in recent days there has been a great deal of talk about our individual rights. The rights of the people are indeed one of the things that make the United States great and Indpendence Day is a great time to celebrate the rights of our free state, its people, and the philosophies that created them and allows us to live in a land of rights and freedoms.

At the same time, however, I fear we have begun to ignore or at the very least forgotten that what makes our rights work is to recognize that we are not the only ones with rights and sometimes one persons rights stands in opposition of the rights of another. When I always worry more about me and what is mine (i.e. MY rights) we may well be limiting the time we will have in the future to celebrate our rights. Why? I believe our rights will only stand when we recognize that my rights can only stand as I listen and accept the rights of others and we find ways to honor our rights, yours, and mine.

To that end, I decided I would address the importance of our rights with a poem addressing the idea that having the right to do something, doesn’t make it the right thing to do. I hope you find these words useful.

The Right Thing to Do

We fail to give, so all will be free,
The rights of all, we cannot agree.

This land is your land, this land is mine,
Our freedom stands and our rights a sign
Freedom and rights, our talk is trite,
To have the right, won’t make this thing right.

Why is that man, wearing a mask
Masks do no good, he should ask
Leave your mask home so smiles shine bright
To have the right, won’t make this thing right.

Why is that man, acting so dumb
That does no good, his brain must be numb
Throw that away, freedom shines bright
To have the right, won’t make this thing right.

She screamed of the laws that people break
With her deed done, more than rude is at stake.
Rights of others, taken in flight,
To have the right, won’t make this thing right.

You have your rights, I have mine too
Anger from each side, that’s nothing new
Feet stomp, fists clinch, let’s get on with the fight
To have the right, won’t make this thing right.

Those who know call masks good things
A piece of cloth good health could bring
A simple act, might win this fight,
To have the right, doesn’t make this thing right.

Life in freedom, can be a mess
Striving for love, and know God will bless
Both you and me, shine freedom’s light
We have the right, let’s go make this right.

This land is your land, this land is mine,
Our freedom stands, our rights a sign
Freedom and rights, as talk is trite,
To have the right, doesn’t make this thing right.

When we both give, people are free,
For rights of all, please can we agree.

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! 

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.

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