Go Where You Are Needed

2014-12-20_21-42-27On Wednesday we found out that our dear friend, E.L. Thomas lost his battle with cancer. Earlier that week, on Sunday, we learned that an old school buddy passed away. I really wanted to attend both services to support these people and their families. Here is the problem; both services are scheduled so close together that I can’t go to both.

What should I do? Here is my reasoning (good or bad, right or wrong). E.L. was a good friend whom I loved, respected, appreciated and admired. He was a big part of the church and gave all that he could to seeing that the work of the church went forward. He was a Jesus man and everyone knew it.

My old school buddy is a person I knew in the 8, 9, and part of the 10th grade. We played sports together, delivered papers together, failed at Boy Scouts together. We weren’t real close but we did a lot of the same things – so we were in the same ball park of thinking and doing.

I moved away to another town in the 10th grade and did not see this friend for 53 years now. Since retiring I have tried to locate him to get reacquainted, but no one seemed to know exactly where he was. It was as if there was an official edict given that his name not be spoken. It just seemed so strange.

Later, especially this week, some information came dribbling in: He graduated from high school, went in the Navy where he served a tour in Vietnam. He went to college and retired from being the greens keeper at one of the local golf courses. All of that was in his obituary. What was not in there was the back story of his life. I have heard from several friends and my family members that he had a problem with drugs. Don’t know what kinds. I do know that for some people one taste and you are hooked. Some say that some drugs are so strong that it attacks the pleasure centers of the brain and you would rather have that drug than any thing else… even friends, family, etc. I don’t know what my friend was in to, I just know that he spent some years in and out of prison.

Like I said, I don’t know what my friend was into… but I do know one thing… no matter what it was, he was and is still a child of God. His life may have taken him to darker paths than most of us traveled… still Jesus was close at his side. He may have done things that were outside the norm and most of us would find appalling. Still, still Jesus was holding him close.

I want to say a word to my friend… a word that has become synonymous with returning Vietnam veterans. It speaks a word to those of us who served there and were not welcomed back home. We were labeled with all sorts of names by people who would not serve their country. Every veteran who served in Vietnam came home wounded in some way. For many of us we died over there and just didn’t know it. So to my friend, on many different levels, let me reach out my hand, open my heart, and say: “Welcome Home brother, Welcome Home.”


a Grieving HeartYou will notice at the bottom of the header (above) are a list of my books. I have added the last one so you can order The Grieving Heart in paperback form. All the other books are eBooks. I hope that you will take the opportunity to read these and I hope they will help to bring you comfort and grace in time of need.


The Heart with a Smile

45241_1484948975411_5273848_nToday we lost a beautiful person to the ravages of cancer, E. L. Thomas. I will always remember how he introduced himself to me as we met for the first time several years ago. He was the lay leader at the church I was being appointed to serve. He stuck out that salesman hand, and with a huge smile on his face said: “Hello preacher, I am E.L. Thomas – your lay leader – the E.L. stands for “Ever Lovin’”. We had a good laugh about that, but I later realized that “Ever Lovin’” described him to a tee.

I never saw E.L. just sitting around. He was always a blur of motion and activity – always laughing, always planning, always on the move, always helping, hoping and praying.

E.L. was also a bright and shinning example of caring for all of us to see, as he constantly cared for his wife Martha who was going through the different stages of MS. I know there must have been moments when he was at the edge of his energy, when he felt like he couldn’t do this any more. But we never saw that. We saw an E.L. who was always lifting, hauling, caring – doing all he could for the love of his life. If we could care for our spouse half as much as E.L. cared for Martha we would be in great shape. He set the example by showing us it could be done… and done with style.

I loved his smile which opened the world to his heart. He was a happy, loving man who really cared for people – all sorts of people – and cared for his Lord and His church. He was always excited about his church and what we were doing and could do. When we saw E.L. we saw a man who was being touched by Jesus.

I will miss him – we all will – because we need, really need people like E.L. Thomas – people who bring the Lord into our presence with their care, energy, love and grace. “Ever Lovin’” we are gonna miss you – but we know you and Jesus will always be Forever Lovin’.


a Grieving HeartYou will notice at the bottom of the header (above) are a list of my books. I have added the last one so you can order The Grieving Heart in paperback form. All the other books are eBooks. I hope that you will take the opportunity to read these and I hope they will help to bring you comfort and grace in time of need.

The Big Dance

thLast night the NCAA Division One Collegiate Basketball Tournament proper began. Sixty-four of the best teams are seeking to be crowned champions. We always see great basketball in the NCAA Tournament. We don’t always win, but there are usually some really good games.

The ACC looked terrible last night. All our teams were lucky to come away with a win. We turned off the NC State game  and went to bed knowing that they were going to lose… and woke to a great buzzer beater surprise. I am glad all our ACC teams won (even the baby blue one).

Basketball players… from the time they are kids in the driveway or backyard are dreaming about making it to the Big Dance. The Big Dance is the NCAA Tournament – the place where all your skills are played out on the big stage. It just may be that place where the thing we have practiced in the driveway all those years comes true: 4-3-2-1 he shoots and hits. We win the game.

There is another Big Dance going on that many times we miss… the Big Dance called a life that matters… where we are not afraid to get involved and live our lives to the fullest.

What made me think of this was a video we made for Stephen and Joy for Noah’s first birthday. The music behind the video was a prayer by Lee Ann Womack entitled “I Hope You Dance.”

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder

You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leaves you empty handed

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’
Don’t let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

Did you hear those words: “When you get the chance to sit it out or dance… I hope you dance.” Enjoy these games – these guys are dancing. Enjoy the fullness of your life and keep on dancing… and give faith a fighting chance.


a Grieving HeartYou will notice at the bottom of the header (above) are a list of my books. I have added the last one so you can order The Grieving Heart in paperback form. All the other books are eBooks. I hope that you will take the opportunity to read these and I hope they will help to bring you comfort and grace in time of need.

The Dropped Baton

oly_ap_relay_drop_580Our grandson has just made the middle school track team. He is not a big, fast runner with great endurance. He does run the 800 meter, which appears to be a paced sprint. Yesterday was their first track meet at Northern Guilford Middle School. Northern Guilford Middle and High school is one of the newest high schools, middle schools in the Guilford Country system. Being the newest also means the best facilities of all the public schools in the GCSS. It is a school facility we should all appreciate.

There were middle schoolers of all shapes and sizes, abilities and lack of ability all over the place. Some of these students (especially from Northern) looked like they were already on track for a college track scholarship… wow were they fast. One kid on the 1600 almost had the whole last lap to himself. He had a good stride and a great pace. This guy knew what he was doing.

Then came the “Oh No” moment. During one of the relay races, on the last turn – running neck and neck, our guys dropped the baton. That race was over right there. I felt so bad for them. The hardest part of a relay race is not the running, not even knowing which runner to put in what leg of the relay, but the critical part is making a smooth hand off of the baton.

Dropping the baton is also important in the life of the church. Earlier this week I was reading a blog (I believe it was), a Christian Clergy blog where the clergy blogger was stating that Evangelism is the only thing pastors should be doing these days in the church. He even went so far as to say that all that old time pastoral work of caring for the flock was out of date. We are not to spend our time visiting the sick, teaching Bible studies or spiritual renewal, caring for the so-called needs of the congregation. We are to be out bringing people into the kingdom.

I was shocked and stunned as I read this. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I sure hope I read him wrong. But then another clergy blogger… also speaking in “aren’t you impressed with my intellect” language, voiced the same opinion.

I was about to respond when this new clergy blogger responded in words I could relate to. I wish I could locate the blog so I could quote it. But I guess I will just have to try to remember the gist of what he said. Our calling in ministry is the call to care for God’s people in all situations of life. As pastor we are called to care for our flock – the people we are charged to serve and the wider parish of those in need. Yes, that means we are to visit in homes, care for the elderly, the infirm, the sick, those in prison, counsel with those who seek our understanding, preach sermons written to speak to the needs of our folks and all folks going through the dark night of the soul. We are also called to create an atmosphere in the church where all people feel loved and welcome. This means we spend many nights in hospital waiting rooms, the bedside of our folks in nursing homes and Hospice facilities. And yes it means that sometimes our families come in second place to the work of ministry…but that is also part of the calling.

It is not a nice, easy, stressless 9 to 5 banker’s job. It is caring for people with the love of God in all situations, circumstances and all times. If you are not willing to give it 70 – 80 hours a week, you should find a nice office job somewhere. The ministry is a calling upon your whole life… first place in that life.

But here is the deal… until our folks know that we love them… and they know that by our words, actions and heart… they will never give us the political capital needed to do the work of evangelism. Yes, I believe evangelism is part of the calling as well. But it should happen through the ordering of the ministry of the entire church through the leadership of the pastor. It grows out of a love for each other and a willingness and desire to share that love with all outside our doors.

When we do not care for our people and seek to do evangelism it is understood as the old numbers game… making the old barn bulge. They see it, know it, and reluctantly go along with you. But it will not last long before you find open revolt. Why? Because you haven’t taken the time to love them and show them that they matter. What you have done is tell them they are less important than the ones you are trying to reach now. However, if you go the extra mile and really love them, show them you love them… they will follow you into legitimate areas of ministry… even ones they feel are out of their comfort zone.

Yes, evangelism is important. But caring for your charge comes first, last and always.

When I was appointed to the Leaksville Church in Eden, I compared the pastoral transition to a quarterback throwing a pass down field and the receiver catching it in stride… not missing a step. We build upon what others have done before us… add our layer of ministry… as others add their layers after us. We can either add to the ministry of the church or take away from it by our approach. If we decide making a name for ourselves is more important than the growing of ministry, then the church will falter in its steps while we are there. If we build upon what has gone on before us we will find that we leave a much stronger church. We are a brotherhood/sisterhood. When we see it as I AM IN CHARGE we lose at lot… and so does the church. Don’t drop the baton.


a Grieving HeartYou will notice at the bottom of the header (above) are a list of my books. I have added the last one so you can order The Grieving Heart in paperback form. All the other books are eBooks. I hope that you will take the opportunity to read these and I hope they will help to bring you comfort and grace in time of need.

Bracketology

thWell, the selection committee has made their selections and filled out the field of 64 teams who will make up the NCAA Tournament this year. And, as of course, there is always some controversial selections. Needless to say, they cannot please everyone.

I don’t understand all that goes into being in or out of the tournament, but I have heard that it includes things like strength of schedule – how many tough teams, ranked teams you played this year, how well you did against them, and perhaps what the coaches think about the potential of your team.

I am sure there is more, much more than that. These are highly knowledgable people who live basketball who are making these decisions. This year the controversy is over the number one seeds – how did Duke get a number one seed and Virginia who was ranked number 2 in the nation most of the year end up with a number 2 seed? I went to Duke – that’s my team, and yet I wonder about this also. We did beat them this year… So maybe that was the difference.

I must say we never get it all right – none of us – no matter how well we think we have it together or how on top of things we believe ourselves to be. We may think that we should be chosen but those who do the choosing may have a completely different idea of who is chosen. We play well some days and other days we don’t even show up (look at Duke). This is true in all areas of life. We don’t know what brackets lie ahead of us. Some may be easy while others impossible. We are thankful that the brackets have NOT been already chosen for us… we have free will. But we are even more pleased that the final game has already been won. March madness (Lent) leads to Championship Sunday (Easter).

Since the game has been won we don’t work to get into heaven – that is already ours through faith – what we do is respond in faith to the victory of Christ Jesus by living in a way that each day reveals more of His likeness living through us. Do others see Jesus living through you? Be a winner in life, love each other and people will begin to see Jesus living more and more in us.


a Grieving HeartYou will notice at the bottom of the header (above) are a list of my books. I have added the last one so you can order The Grieving Heart in paperback form. All the other books are eBooks. I hope that you will take the opportunity to read these and I hope they will help to bring you comfort and grace in time of need.