I Never Scream At People

60-Minutes-logo-660x375This past Sunday evening I was really happy that I saw one of Bob Simon’s last stories: his interview with New York Metropolitan Opera Music Director, James Levine. I am not an opera buff even though I appreciate classical music. Simon profiled the highlights of Levine’s return to work in late 2013 after a devastating fall that left him partially paralyzed. The store traced his career over the decades, culminating in his return to the podium in a wheelchair. The Met has provided a mechanical podium that raises and lowers him in the chair so he can conduct the musicians in his orchestra.

Also in the interview came the revealing questions about the music. One could see his knowledge and love of the music on this man’s face… one could almost feel the music as we watched him conduct and as he listened to one of his students interpreting a very difficult piece of music.

levinemainOne of the parts of this interview that caught my attention was this man’s demeanor. He was soft spoken and respectful of those who worked with him, studied with him, interacted with him. Many times we find people in this position of leadership somewhat filled with ego – really puffed up. But not James Levine. Bob Simon asked what do you do when you have to yell at people. He seemed shocked that he would be asked this question for he was taken aback as he calmly answered: “I don’t yell at people. I simply do not yell at people.”

I came away from this interview with renewed faith in the human spirit. We have so many poor examples of what real leadership is in this world – especially in the top spots of this country. One of my blogger friends said today: “We have a bunch of children ruling this country who have forgotten what civil discourse and respect is all about. If they can’t learn to do better we need to replace them all with people who do know what civility and respect are.”

Perhaps we need to do something as simple as sending James Levine to Congress and getting him to offer some direction. If we all could act more like him it would be a better more harmonious world.

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.

New Book in Print

a Grieving HeartNew Book is in print! 

For forty years I have been seeking to console and uplift the grieving hearts of those I served as a pastor. I wanted everyone to leave the church feeling the love of our heavenly Father, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. I have compiled some of these homilies in this book to help us all find comfort and share it with those we serve. I hope you enjoy.

Reverend Stephen M. Martin

Ten Year Old Boy Killed After School Bus Stop

img_0959I can not understand how people can miss seeing this big yellow vehicle with flashing red lights… or why people do not slow down and pay extra attention in places where children are present? It absolutely bows my mind. The headline read: “Child dies from injuries after being struck by vehicle in Winston-Salem; woman charged.”

A child has died from his injuries after being struck by a vehicle moments after getting off a school bus in Winston-Salem. The accident happened in the 400 block of East Wright Street at about 3:25 p.m.

Police say 10-year-old Alexander Torralba Perez was struck by a 2014 Toyota Rav4 traveling toward Emerson Street. The driver of the Rav4 has been identified as Imani Louise Blanche Stanley, 21, of Winston-Salem.

Stanley left the roadway to the right and struck Perez, then continued to travel eastward until colliding into a small tree and fence. Police say Stanley then exited the vehicle and left the scene, but was subsequently taken into custody.

Perez was transported to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center where he later died from his injuries. Stanley is charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle, felony hit and run and failure to maintain lane. She was placed under a $35,000 secured bond.

I continue to see people of all ages and station texting while driving. I see people reading their iPads, even books and news papers while driving. I see people with phones stuck so far in their ears that they wander from lane to lane. I see people driving 40 & 45 through parking lots, where children are apt to appear from behind a parked car, or through a school zone where there is absolutely no excuse.

What will it take for us to wake up and start looking out for each other… especially the children who can’t take care of themselves. Years ago I started driving slow and cautious through parking lots because as little boy got away from his mom and ran out in front of me. Had I not been driving slow and paying attention I would have hit that child. Ever since then I pictured my son running out between those cars. Now, I picture my grandchildren doing the same. In other words, we all have to make it personal… we have to put a name of someone we know behind every death. And then translate that personal feeling to our phone, our driving, texting or whatever other distracted driving we practice.

Make it personal just like Jesus did!!!! That is the only way we are going to save the children.

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.

One Girl’s Response to Bullying

thWe are still hearing of incidents of bullying in schools and neighborhoods, and all over the place. We watch the Big Bang Theory where these PhD’s talk incessantly about all the things that were done to them as they grew up. The catch phrase is “It is Middle School all over again.”

I remember in the 9th grade someone I thought was a friend tried a bullying thing on me… the old Alpha Dog approach to life and school. I didn’t react very well, very thoughtful, very politically correct. I simply punched him in the face. It wasn’t planned. It was just a knee-jerk reaction to something going wrong in the moment. I just happened to land a punch that knocked him to the floor and changed his mind. It was the Opie Taylor thing without all the drama. Believe it or not, everything was fine after that. He knew I would be a friend but I would not be run over or taken over. Respect me for who I am and I will do the same for you. We became good friends after this incident.

bullyingWe recently saw a video on channel 8 about a four year old girl who was bullied at school and her response to that attempt. Every child needs to see this video. I believe it would help them when the same thing happens to them.

It is very clear to see that this little girl has had some discussions about bullying with her mom. Lacking no self-confidence she sees right through the situation to know that this is bullying and she is not going to be taken down by it. I applaud whatever this mom did to give her child the right attitude and approach to a bad situation.

Have you had that talk (over and over again) with your child (children)? And do they know they do not have to be bullied but can approach it from strength. I pray that all our children will be strong within, treat each other with sensitive and compassionate hearts, and seek to lift up the child who needs a friend. I know that is an unrealistic dream – but I dream it anyway. We need that goal before us where all children can join hands and hearts and love and respect one another.

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.

I Love You

th(Jesus said) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:34-35

In a recent (re-run) episode of the Big Bang Theory, Leonard gets in trouble with Penny because he says “I Love You.” Did you wonder why? I sure did.

There is a research paper Pennsylvania State University had published in the Journal of Social Psychology. It seems the university had interviewed a bunch of young men and the thing they found was, well, they found out that it was the men, yes, the men, and not the women, who were first in saying those three little words: “I love you.”

It’s true. Men were three times more likely to initiate that verbal expression of emotional commitment. The researchers were surprised. I’m surprised. Even the men who took the survey were surprised.

Of course, there is an ongoing discussion as to what those findings mean.

There are some who think this proves the modern young man has become the perceptive, sensitive, caring individual his mother spent years trying to shape — the kind of young man eligible ladies have been praying they would someday meet.

And there are the cynics and skeptics who believe “a young man will say anything if it will advance his case and take him to where he wants to go.”

As for me, I find myself disagreeing with the university’s study. That’s because I am absolutely sure it’s not the man, nor is it the woman, who is first to say, “I love you.” I say this without fear of contradiction or exception, the first person to say “I love you” is God. Long before the foundations of the earth were made, He loved us. When our first ancestors sinned by wanting their own way, He loved us with a sad love, but He still loved us.

It was that love which had Him promise He would send His Son to save us. It was God’s love that watched as Jesus breathed His last and claimed victory on Calvary’s crest. It was that love which sends the Holy Spirit into this world and, by means of Word and Sacrament, calls people to oneness with God.

Now I don’t fault Pennsylvania State University for not expanding their search to include God. It can sometimes be difficult for an institution of higher learning to make an appointment with the Creator and Redeemer.

Even so, I thought it was something that needed to be said. We have been blessed to have a God who is always first, always faithful in saying, “I love you.”

Dear Lord, thank you for loving us even when we are so unfaithful to you. So many times we think we are in control and that you love us because we are so lovable, when in reality we are not the least bit lovable… and yet you love us in spite of ourselves. In and through Jesus. Amen.

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.

FINALLY, ready for Print

a Grieving HeartMany of you know that I have been working on publishing three books since around the middle part of December. It has been a long and tiring process. Many times it has even been very frustrating. The process is writing, formatting, editing and proofreading… creating a cover (I didn’t want to pay $400.00 for a cover so I used the design your own limited cheapie chugger module they offer at Createspace), send in the changes and wait for a printed copy to come … so you can proof it all over again.

That is where my frustrations came in… I wanted to get this puppy on the market as quickly as possible. I would proof it and send in the changes. After I did that… after each time I did that Shirley would find mistakes… careless mistakes that took away from the book. So the whole process would have to be done again. I believe I sent in corrections four times.

This last time I finally got halfway smart. I asked Shirley to proof it. I had asked her before but she didn’t have time. This time she did and it made all the difference in the world. She found tons of stuff… even after three proof readings… stuff that should have jumped off the page screaming at me “I Am Wrong!” I know there are probably some errors in this book but not as many as before.

It is amazing to me that the writer (me) can put words on a page to be spoken to folks needing comfort in a time of grief. Those words were spoken from this page… delivered with heart, head and compassion, and then tucked away in a file. I gathered them together for this book and it seems that “auto-correct” has got a hold of them and twisted them all around. The part that bothers me the most is that it appears as if I am losing my mind by not being able to see all these mistakes.

Sometimes it reminds me of Paul when he says “The good stuff I want to do I do not do, and the bad stuff I do not want to do I end up doing.” (Paraphrased) Why is it that we can’t or don’t see the error stuff in our lives? I know we are trying to get it right, see the wrongs in our lives, correct them and do the right. Have I become so use to this wrong that I don’t see it any longer. Are there darkened glasses keeping me from seeing correctly?

Perhaps what is needed is a little more focus, little less distractions, and someone to walk along side of us who will help us to see the erroneous ways we are living. I have Shirley, who is a great proofreader, reading over my shoulder… pointing out what needs to be changed. In my spiritual life Jesus has always been there to give me courage in the face of despair, strength when the way seems long, and hope when I can’t seem to find my way. It seems that God sends across my path people I need to help me to overcome the wrong and seek more to do that which is right in God’s heart.

Last night just after dinner Shirley and I finished the final proof of the printed book “The Grieving Heart.” If you purchase a copy I hope you will overlook my errors… the ones I still missed… and know that the heart of the matter was to help those in their time of grief. If it did that then it is a good work.

You 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.

Before and After

eourlordAnd he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

Each of us has moments, choices, circumstances in our lives that act as a watershed — experiences dividing our life into everything “before” and everything “after.” The event doesn’t have to be devastating or dramatic. Sometimes it is joyful and exhilarating. Sometimes it is a quiet realization. Sometimes it takes decades for us to even determine just when that moment occurred.

You have a parent or a sibling die. 
You are the first in your family to go away to college. 
You enlist in the military. 
You get married. 
You become a parent. 
You win the lottery. 
You declare bankruptcy. 
You have a heart attack . . . but you wake up.

Whatever it may be, the event changes your perspective, changes your life’s trajectory, changes your dreams, and changes your goals. All is different now.

“Before” you lived in one world. 
“After” you live in a different world.

A different world is what Jesus kept trying to describe to his disciples. A world so completely topsy-turvy to their experience they found it incomprehensible.

The disciples think they have already had their “watershed” moment, that their lives changed when they were called by Jesus to “Follow me.” But the disciples had no idea what “discipleship” meant. They felt empowered by their chosen-ness. But they had no sense of the cost of their calling. They did not understand that to be a “disciple” was to be “under discipline.”

Discipleship is the carrying of the cross of Christ. But the cross is not a burden. The cross is a death. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die,” wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his classic The Cost of Discipleship. Come and die to self. Come and die to the world. Come and die, that we might go and live. The emptying of self (kenosis) is for the filling of Christ (plerosis).

Jesus changed everything into Before and After. Jesus inverted all the hierarchies that the world holds so dear. The strongest are not the strongest. The weakest are not the weakest. The most righteous are not the most righteous. The most knowledgeable don’t know-it-all. The outsider is welcomed inside and becomes the ultimate insider.

There is only one power and presence that unites us all. That is the name of Jesus.

Dear Lord, help me to know that I live in a different world in a different time… your world… your time. I know that I live too much in the before and not enough in the after… help me to be your disciple, in and through Jesus. Amen.

I have published three new books which are listed at the bottom of the header above. I would be very grateful if you would take the time to click on each title and read a sample chapter. The Sayings of Noah is a sermon series I wrote for Lent which came from the sayings my grandson, Noah, made around the time he was four years old. It is a lite Lenten approach. The Daily Moments with Pastor Steve are daily devotionals. And the Grieving Heart is a collection of uplifting funeral homilies I have given over the years. I hope you will enjoy reading these and even more I hope they will help you help others.

Thanks, Steve.

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