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

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”

The Lollipop Moment

28 One of the legal experts heard their dispute and saw how well Jesus answered them. He came over and asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

29 Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.[a] 31 The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself.[b] No other commandment is greater than these.”

32 The legal expert said to him, “Well said, Teacher. You have truthfully said that God is one and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love God with all of the heart, a full understanding, and all of one’s strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more important than all kinds of entirely burned offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered with wisdom, he said to him, “You aren’t far from God’s kingdom.” After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:28-34, Common English Bible)

Years ago I heard about TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talks. The subjects of these talks are varied. They cover topics like recycling, vehicles and traffic, leadership, and many more.

I love TED talks. On Fridays when I taught, my students watched a TED talk. Then I was so mean. I made them write a one paragraph summary.

Until the past week or so, I haven’t watched many but that changed last week. Some lack excitement but some are powerful.

Last night I saw a powerful talk sporting the title, “Everyday Leadership.” Take a moment go online to TED.com and look up either “Everyday Leadership” or “Drew Dudley,” who is the speaker.

The talk is short, just over six minutes, but he packs a lot into six minutes. Dudley talks about leadership is more about small things than large events.

Typically we see leadership in relationship to a position. “The President leads our country, representing us on the world stage.” Or, “The Speaker of the House leads half the legislative branch, keeping things moving and on track.” I left names out to focus on leadership, not politics. These are two of obvious offices in American society.

The quarterback of the football team has an expectation to be a leader. Most carry a “C” for captain on their jersey. But, Dudley argues he is not a leader unless he does things solidifying him as a leader among those on the team.

These “things” are Dudley’s “Lollipop Moments.” He relates his Lollipop Moment,

Dudley begins his story by telling of a female college freshman. Really it is her story. This girl decided she didn’t belong there. She was faking it. She told her parents about her doubts as they moved her into the dorm. They convinced her to stay that night but at any point the next day if she felt the same way, she could go home, no questions asked.

The next day she and her parents waited for registration and her doubts, concerns, and fears were growing. She decided it was time to leave and was about to tell her parents when Drew Dudley walked in carrying a box of lollipops, passing them out while wearing what the girl called the stupidest hat she had ever seen. It was to bring awareness to his favorite charity, the Cystic Fibrosis Society.

Drew stopped in front of her, stared for a creepy few seconds. Then reaching for a lollipop, handing it to the guy next to her saying, “You need to give a lollipop to the beautiful girl standing next to you.” She said she felt sorry for the guy, from him as he turned red, totally embarrassed. She also took the lollipop.

His face became serious, saying to her parents, “She’s been here one day and already takes candy from a stranger.” Then off he went for more fun and games as everyone laughed hysterically. It was a life changing moment for the woman.

With fun and humor, the moment changed the girls life. Her doubts vanished and she was ready. Or at least that is what she told Dudley.

Four years later Dudley was leaving the school and the girl, hears about it. They hadn’t spoken over that four years. She said she wanted him to know he had made a difference for one student. She turned to walk away, then stopped turned back and said she and the young man had dated for four years. A year and a half later, he received a wedding invitation.

At the end of the talk, Dudley said he couldn’t remember the encounter. He inspired this girl to make a life altering decision in less than a minute. Something he can’t remember changed her life. Telling that story is now his mission.

Often it isn’t the big things we do (though it can be) that make the difference. We often aren’t able to do the big things. But we can do little things that make a real difference. A little thing that was so insignificant you don’t remember it, made all the difference for someone else. That is what Drew Dudley did.

Have you made that kind of impact on someone? Has someone made that impact on you? Jesus says the most important commandment is to love God and love neighbor. When we do a little thing that makes a big difference, we show love of neighbor, and in doing so, we show love of God. “For as much as you have done it to one of the least of these, you’ve done it to me.” (Matthew 25:40, paraphrased).

Tomorrow let’s talk about making lollipop moments for others.

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

The Missing Ingredient

13 Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13, Common English Bible).

I enjoy Texas Barbecue. I know, some of you don’t think Texas has a real barbecue. You’re wrong. I have had your barbecue too. What you have is good, You can call it barbecue (like I could stop you). Something is missing. It isn’t the meat. I think the meat is generally prepared the same (If I am wrong, don’t beat me up over it. I am trying to give you credit).

That leaves the sauce. There are differences in the sauce. I am not sure what all the differences are, but there are four basic categories. There are vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, and tomato-based. There are different sauces within each category.

Texas sauce is tomato-based. So, for me, the others may taste good, they are a nice change of pace, but without that tomato base, something is missing.

One night Cindy picked up ribs or some other meat we Texans cook on a fire and pour our barbecue sauce on. I got the pit ready and make some homemade sauce. No bottled sauce from the grocery store was going on these ribs.

I was right. That sauce was outstanding. I loved it. It was good. You folks who want other sauces, you missed out that night.

Fast forward a month or so. Cindy brought barbecue meat home again. I got excited. I was going to make that great sauce again. After I got the meat on the fire I went to the kitchen to make the sauce. I had a problem. I didn’t think I would it but I did. I didn’t write anything down. I pulled out the ingredients. I thought I put the same amount of the same ingredients into the pan, heated them up, and tried it. It wasn’t right. It was off. I added some of this or that. Tasted it again and it still wasn’t right. I kept trying and I couldn’t get it right. It was like one of those other sauces. It wasn’t what it should be.

Life can be like that. Our society values the idea of personal independence, the idea of rugged individualism. We want to say, “I did this on my own. I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps. I don’t need anyone or anything.” We push people away thinking I am an island unto myself.

We are wrong. None of us are islands unto ourselves. None of us do it by ourselves. There are teachers, coaches, friends, spouses, parents, bosses, coworkers, and more. Would the concert pianist be that without a teacher? What about parents taking the student to lessons?

We also miss out spiritually. We think about happy lives, but we are missing something. When people walk away from faith because of wrongs seen in others (and there is plenty of mistakes to see in us as we are human) but we miss the things of God giving life real meaning.

When we give up on those things and try to make our way alone, we look for ways to fill the holes in our lives. We try to fill it with other things. Drugs and alcohol, self-medicating and when we fail, double down with more of the same. It doesn’t work. To quote an old Johnny Lee, song, we’re “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.”

What is missing is on us. We miss relationships. We miss connections. We isolate ourselves from others and from God.

Our lesson tells us about three important needs, faith, hope, and love. Paul says the most important of the three is love. Without having relationships we miss the mark. We need friends and family supporting us but also will tell us we are wrong. These are people bringing love to our lives.

What we really need most is God. Why? Because Scripture tells us God is love. Without love, particularly divine love, faith is impossible and real hope, a hope that says I have no reason to fear, is equally out of reach.

I don’t understand how someone can live life without God’s presence in them. Without God in us, there is no faith. Without God, hope is small, but where God is, there is always hope.

This isn’t barbecue sauce. Barbecue sauce may taste OK without a key ingredient but there is something important, a missing ingredient that keeps it from being as great as it should be.

Paul says, “Faith, hope, and love abide these three…” When one is missing, we may think life is good. But it is a feeling that won’t last. Without any of the three, especially love life won’t be all it could or should be.

Open your heart to accept the faith, hope and love God offers. You needn’t have any missing ingredients. They are all available to each of us.

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Stone of Help

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer, explaining, “The Lord helped us to this very point.” (1 Samuel 7:12, Common English Bible)

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

1. Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it, Mount of Thy redeeming love.

2. Sorrowing I shall be in spirit, Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit, Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer; Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.

3. Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall lose me I cannot proclaim it well.

4. O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.

5. O that day when freed from sinning, I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry, Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry Me to realms of endless day.

Though there was a lot I didn’t know about this hymn, it has been one of my favorites for many years. There is a particular line in the third verse in most of our hymnals (fourth verse above) that really speaks to me but more on that in a minute.

Though I had sung this hymn many times in my life, I never really knew what an Ebenezer was. I didn’t even know it was based on our verse for today, 1 Samuel 7:12. It was a rock, a monument if you will. English translations of Scripture translate the stone as “Ebenezer” meaning, “Stone of help.” Samuel, in placing the stone says, “The Lord has helped us to this point.”

Isn’t that true for all of us? In what John Wesley would call Prevenient Grace, grace that comes to us before we ever know there is a God, the grace of God calling us and wooing us into a relationship. It is the beginning of a life in grace, a life that has helped us to get to the very point where we now live.

Another thing I didn’t know for most of the time I have sung this hymn is in Robert Robinson’s original version (penned when he was 22 in 1757) there were five verses to the hymn instead of the three in the United Methodist and Cokesbury hymnals as well as most other modern hymnals. Truth to tell, I didn’t know about these additional verses until I started researching for today’s blog post. Also of note, when we read through the original version of the hymn (above), after the first verse, they all read differently than the versions we are familiar with today.

Still, my favorite line of this great hymn comes in the last verse (actually verse 4 in the original version above), “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love;” how easy it is for me to wander away from God. I do it each time I sin. I wander from God when I do not put in the effort to maintain our relationship. I wander from God in so many ways in my life.

That is the bad news. The good news comes in the very last line, “Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.” And that God will do. Holding us close as we live out life in this world in preparation for life in the Kingdom to come.

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

It’s God’s Fault

The Lord won’t always reject us 32 He causes a lot of suffering, but he also has pity because of his great love.
33 The Lord doesn’t enjoy sending grief or pain. (Lamentations 3:31-33, Contemporary English Version)

I am once again in a book of the Bible I have never preached from or really studied. There should little wonder about why, Lamentations is one of only a few books in the Bible. Lamentations is a book that is a downer. It is even in the name. Lamentations, meaning, it is a book of laments. A few months back, when we were working through the first part of Psalms, we talked about there being more psalms of lament than any other type. Here we have an entire book devoted to complaining to God about the way the world is treating the writer.

When I went through deacon (20 years ago United Methodist pastors were first ordained deacons and a few years later were ordained elders) ordination interviews I was asked a “what would you do if…” question. The question was this (I can remember just about the exact wording), you have been out all day doing the various things pastors do. When you returned home you found that there was a message on your answering machine that said one of the boys in your church was out riding his bicycle, was hit by a car, and killed. Being the good pastor you are, you immediately leave and drive to the family’s home.

When you get there, a neighbor is there and you hear them say, “You just have to accept this. It is the will of God. God needed your son and called him home.”

Before telling you my answer, I cringe at the thought of such statements. That being said, the writer of Lamentations understands the neighbor’s sentiment. Biblical writers from the Old Testament portray God differently than the writers of the New Testament. I think the writer of Lamentations would probably agree with the neighbor’s statement to the family in the question. I think other Old Testament writers might say the same thing.

As for New Testament writers, if they were to say this was the will of God, their understanding of God’s will would likely be different.

In his classic book, The Will of God, Leslie Weatherhead divides God’s will up into three categories. The intention wil of God, how God intended for the world to function. The circumstantial will of God. Because God allows us free will, the decisions and action we make can cause trouble and because of the gift of free will, what we do can clash with God’s intentional will. God’s will still ultimately will prevail through The Ultimate will of God which is a peaceful world of love and compassion.

Weatherhead would say it was not God’s will for this boy to die. To say that would make God out to be a killer. Circumstances in the situation interfered with God’s intentional will.

So, back to the question in my interview, I said this setting was not the place for theological debate or argument. I would first, work on getting the neighbor whose good intentions are doing more harm than good. Then I would sit down and tell them, this was not God’s will for their son. God gives us all free will. The decisions we make can and do impact the lives of those around us. Because you are hurting, God hurts with you. God grieves with you because of the love God has for both you and your son. And ultimately, God’s will, a world of love and compassion will win the day.

I am not sure that the writer of Lamentations would get that. He talks about God causing a lot of suffering and grief and pain. While God does have that ability, we cause enough of that. God doesn’t need to cause us grief and pain. Thankfully, God doesn’t love us that way. Yes, God can cause grief and pain but when we are talking about God’s children, Why would God want to do that?

I am thankful for the relationship we have or can have with God who wants to fill us with love that we might go into the world to share love and compassion.

I think we reach for the excuse, “It’s the will of God” sounds good. It sounds to our ear to be comforting. We mean well but what that person all too often hears, “It’s God’s Fault.” Such words can hurt their relationship with God at the time they need God most. We need to be careful because when all is said and done, we can’t fix this. We can’t heal a broken heart but God can do all of that and more.

Some of you have heard me talk about it before. Cindy has worked on staff for a few different churches in her working life. At one of them, on the back of her office door was a sign that had a picture of Patrick Stewart decked out in his Star Trek uniform. He has a finger pointing up. Under that picture there was another piece of paper with a letter “R” on it. In much smaller print it said, “It’s all about relationships.” Under Patrick Stewart was the word, “Engage.” In other words, Go build relationships.” We need to be at work building relationships with God and neighbor.

So, “ENGAGE!!!”

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

Don’t Mess with Dinner

27 But if you eat the bread and drink the wine in a way that isn’t worthy of the Lord, you sin against his body and blood. 28 That’s why you must examine the way you eat and drink. 29 If you fail to understand that you are the body of the Lord, you will condemn yourselves by the way you eat and drink. 30 That’s why many of you are sick and weak and why a lot of others have died. 31 If we carefully judge ourselves, we won’t be punished. 32 But when the Lord judges and punishes us, he does it to keep us from being condemned with the rest of the world. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32, Contemporary English Version)

Back in the mid-1990’s there was a commercial for Boston Market I loved. I looked around the internet trying unsuccessfully to find the commercial. So please, allow me to describe the scene to you. Perhaps you will remember the commercial too.

My favorite one from the campaign had a woman who Boston Market had to have cast as the perfect stay-at-home wife/mother. It is dinner time and the door bell rings. There is a trap door on the front porch. The salesman who rang the bell, of course was standing right on top of the trap door. When she answers she flips the lever on the trap door and the salesman falls through, finding himself nose-to-nose with a full-grown tiger. The camera flashes back to mom who, in a very sinister sounding voice says, “Don’t mess with dinner.”

I found one I liked from the same campaign. Let’s take a look.

It has always bothered me how many people mess with dinner and I am not talking about the evening meal for the family. I am talking about messing with the Lord’s Supper. That is the ultimate in messing with dinner.

How do they mess with it? Probably not in how you think.

The woman in the van with her young daughter wants everyone home for dinner so she sends the band director on a rocket ride so will see things her way. Her point is, if you aren’t there, or if you keep her kids late so they can’t sit together as a family, you are messing with dinner.

When we skip communion, we mess with dinner. Did you know that in some congregations communion Sunday is the lowest attendance Sunday of the month. When we aren’t there, we mess with the family dinner. We mess with family dinner because all the family members weren’t there.

“Well preacher, that scripture you put up there says, ‘But if you eat the bread and drink the wine in a way that isn’t worthy of the Lord, you sin against his body and blood. ‘”

That scripture is more than just telling you that if you are unworthy don’t eat. Yes, that is what it says. But if you heart isn’t right with God and neighbor you shouldn’t take the meal. By the nature of the examination, it means that, after your self-examination and you find yourself coming up short, you need to go out and get things right with God.

God is good, all the time. God is waiting to forgive. Get your heart right then come to the table and DON’T MESS WITH DINNER.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Remembering a Sad Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jared Conard Black

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

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

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

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

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

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Give Thanks Everyday

18 “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, New Revised Standard Version)

While surfing around the internet last night, I ran across a blog post intended for pastors to read. It really wasn’t a long post. The title is 8 Easy Blog Post Ideas for Pastors by Amanda Lanche who owns AGL Creative. The post is on Concordia Technology Solutions (a division of Concordia Publishing). They produce church management software including Shepherd’s Staff and Church 360 degrees.

I hadn’t really started thinking about this post yet. So, I thought I would take a look. I saw that some of them, without prompting from Amanda I was already doing sometimes. But there was one that I saw on her list that not only had I not done a post like it, I had never even heard of it. She called it “The Verse of the Day.” By that, today is May 18 so the verse would come from some book of the Bible, chapter five, verse 18. So, I decided to take up the challenge. I looked at every book if it had at least five chapters and if the fifth chapter had at least 18 verses. There were quite a few to choose from but I finally settled on the verse above, 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

In some ways, talking about giving thanks seems to be a cop-out. I do talk about it quite a bit. But, many of us still think the only time it’s necessary to give thanks is on “Thanksgiving Day.” I know we all have more for which we should be thankful and we shouldn’t be waiting for Thanksgiving Day. That is still six months away.

Further, we Christians should not be the only people saying thank you but in our society today, we receive from others and all too often we don’t say thank you for them either. No matter what our faith or if we are one who says they are “none of the above,” we have someone or something for which we are thankful.

This morning, the congregation I serve as pastor, Huntington United Methodist Church in Huntington, Texas, had our first face-to-face worship service in more than two months because of the Corona virus. After worship today, before I even ran across Amanda’s blog post I was thinking about how thankful I am to all the people who made that first service back possible. I certainly didn’t do it alone. There was Jamie, Cindy, Dianne, Janet and Byre and I haven’t even begun to think hard on the subject. I am so grateful to them, not only for their part in making this all possible, I am thankful for all they do to keep our church running and assist me in the tasks of ministry. Though they are the ones who were central today, there are many others who play vitally important roles in our church.

Over the past few weeks I have come to realize just how thankful I am for my barber. My hair is getting pretty shaggy and while I am completely comfortable going to church, I am not ready to go back to the barber. Still, I am thankful for my barber.

There are so many things for which we should be thankful to someone, if not God, a person or group of people. We are not islands unto ourselves. None of us can say we made it totally on our own. There were parents, teachers, spouses, friends, and so many more.

Recently I encountered a book that makes a pretty bold claim, expressing gratitude by giving you positive emotions. Shouldn’t it be that having gratitude should make the person on the receiving end have positive emotions? Of course they will likely feel positive emotions when they receive your thanks. Still, the book makes the claim that we will feel better because of our act of thankfulness.

The book is title A Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik. He said his life was pretty messed up. He had an Epiphany while hiking on New Year’s Day. He said he would write one thank you note every day. That is 365 thank you notes in a year. Were there that many things for which he could say thank you? He discovered there were reasons for thankfulness right under his nose.

Keep in mind, we don’t write the notes for the feeling we receive. John says we write them because it’s the right thing to do. I would say, we write the notes because we are thankful and we (well I do for sure) need to act that out for a hurting world.

Since that time he has both written and received thousands of thank you notes. It has all been enough for him to say, “Gratitude presses outwards and that creates good feelings in the universe. A lot of that comes back to you eventually.”

So, I want to challenge you to be thankful. That doesn’t mean copying John’s idea of a thank you note a day though it is a good way to exercise thankfulness. Find a tangible way to state your thankfulness. If each of us can do that, we will be well on our way to giving, “…thanks in all circumstances…” and making the world a better place.

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Smart and not Afraid: Lessons from a Turtle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved