Change Your Path

MyWindow
Today Shirley and I went to Target to pick up some items. As usual, I sit in the car while she flits up and down isles looking for her items and scouting out any new items that just may happen to be on sale. Sitting in the car I do the same thing I do at the beach – People Watch.

People watching is such fun. I see people who think that they must be the queen of something by the way they walk. Others, I want to get out and help them into the store – they can barely make it. Some kids are exited to be going in the store while others must believe they are going to their death. Driving and parking is both a LOL and a WTH? Some people drive through a parking lot like they were in a 45 mile per hour speed zone. Still others are passed by walkers.

Today I noticed one older lady (yes, older than me) who pulled into the parking space close to me. Her daughter was in the passenger seat but did not have room enough to get out of the car. Therefore, the older lady backed out to adjust her parking and pulled back into the parking space in the very same tracks. The daughter looked over at her and for some reason she backs out again… I think she is going to give it one more try but, instead of correcting her path and pulling back in, she goes around behind me to get this big handicapped parking space. I just sat there and smiled. My parking has become very poor. Sometimes I have to back up and pull back in two or three times… but I think I change my tracks a little… I don’t come back in the very same tracks.

I am reminded of the church and how we remain in the same tracks. We think we are changing but we follow the exact same track that has failed before. I wonder what we need to do in order to make sure that change is taking place. Some church people think that if it is not contemporary worship it is not change and will not last. I participate in worship every Sunday morning with Myers Park UMC in Charlotte. They have three services every Sunday (one contemporary and two very traditional). I participate in the 11:00 traditional service. This service is packed every Sunday. Even on this snow day, when the organist is stuck in the ice and snow north of Charlotte, and most people can’t get there, the church is almost full. It is traditional at its best and I do love it so.

I believe what makes this church work so well is that the pastor has been there thirteen years and relationships have been developed and are cherished. It is a relationship that says very clearly: the pastor loves this church, loves these people, wants to be there, and works very hard to offer these people his very, very best… they KNOW it…. They FEEL it. The pastor knows he is loved… he feels it. The staff knows they are loved and supported by the pastor and the congregation… they KNOW it… They FEEL it. I think this is part and parcel of a healthy church, one that allows the Spirit of God to move in and  through the lives of the pastor, staff, congregation, programs and ministries. People actually seek to love, respect and care for one another. I hear so much of private agendas from pastors and people in the congregation which are the downfall of the church family – splitting the church into many different factions. Oh God, I pray that Your Church would come together in love, forgiveness and fellowship.

It is my prayer that more of our churches would experience this kind of presence of the Spirit of God where everyone knows, loves and supports one another in their lives, faith journey and work-a-day world.

I close this blog with what I consider a beautiful and very touching prayer for all of us, especially for those who are servant leaders in the church:

Come, Holy Spirit, I need You, Come

1. Come as a wisdom to children, Come as new sight to the blind,
Come, Lord, as strength to my weakness, Take me: soul, body and mind.

Refrain:
Come, Holy Spirit, I need You, Come, sweet Spirit, I pray;
Come in Your strength and Your power, Come in Your own gentle way.

2. Come as a rest to the weary, Come as a balm for the sore,
Come as a dew to my dryness: Fill me with joy evermore.

Refrain:
Come, Holy Spirit, I need You, Come, sweet Spirit, I pray;
Come in Your strength and Your power, Come in Your own gentle way.

3. Come like a spring in the desert, Come to the withered of soul;O let Your sweet healing power Touch me and make me whole.

Refrain:
Come, Holy Spirit, I need You, Come, sweet Spirit, I pray;
Come in Your strength and Your power, Come in Your own gentle way.

This song is by Bryan Duncan and can be found for 99 cents on iTunes
– Check it out. It will touch your heart  –

Check out my books. I pray they encourage and uplift your spirit


Next Time You Will Be Brand New

GhandhiToday I went to the VA Clinic in Winston Salem for an examination concerning my Ischemic Heart Condition that has grown worse. My appointment was at 3:00pm so that meant we got there by 2:45. We checked in and was sent to the C & P waiting area for a second check in and to see the doctor. I really didn’t know what to expect. I have never met this Dr.

Soon she came out and called my name and told me her name which sounded nothing like the word printed on my appointment sheet. Still not understanding her name we went back to her office. There she asked me tons of questions about the paperwork I had submitted to the VA on line. All of it had to do with my heart condition and the different stages it has gone through. For instances; heart attack in 1995, by-pass in 1995, atrial fibrillation in early 1996, cardio-version in 1996 and 1999, heart cath with two stents done in 2008, flutter ablation in 2008, Atrial Fibrillation at Duke in 2009, heart cath in 2015, and echo-cardiogram in 2015. All of which showed that my heart pumping function was reduced from 40% to 30%.

My cardiologist states it like this: “Mr. Martin has established coronary artery disease as well as diabetes mellitus. In 1995 he underwent CABG revascularization surgery. He also has a history of significant cardiac arrhythmias and has required ablation procedures. He has developed significant left ventricular  dysfunction leading to increasing shortness of breath. He has documented renal insufficiency. He has undergone recent right and left heart cardiac catheterization, and has severe native coronary artery disease with total occlusion of the LAD, total occlusion of the proximal RCA with both antegrade bridging collaterals and retrograde collaterals and circumflex disease. He has a patent LIMA graft to his mid LAD and has progressive disease with now total occlusion of the proximal vein graft which supplied the RCA. He also has a recurrent atrial fibrillation which is now permanent. He was found to have at least moderate pulmonary hypertension with a PA pressure at 50/32. He has become significantly disabled with reference to development of significant dyspnea.”

WOW… sounds worse when the doc explains it in terms the average person cannot understand. All I know is that I had a CABG, and something is wrong with my LAD that affects my RCA and something is happening with my LIMA. All of this is making me feel bad and taking away my energy.

We went through all these questions. I had an EKG and a chest x-ray. I had to walk with her around the complex to see how long it took for me to get short of breath. It was a quick hour and 1/2 consultation/exam/interview. She was nice even though I could not understand a lot of what she was saying. Now, you have to take into consideration that I was listening to her with my 68 year old “Married” ear. And, as I have been told repeatedly, it don’t hear too well.

As we were leaving and she was handing me off to the lady at the window, from about ten feet away, I heard her say: “Next time I hope you will be brand new.” And replied: “I sure do hope so.” I turned to Shirley who asked me what she said and I repeated that she said: “Next time maybe you will be brand new.” The lady behind the window broke in and said:  “Honey, she didn’t say you would be brand new. She said Next time I see you it will be in Kernersville.” (They are moving to the new Kernersville clinic in February.) I snickered and said: “I really prefer to take it like I heard it… Next time maybe I will be brand new.”

It is fun to get old and hard of hearing… it makes everyday an adventure. I imagine people saying all kinds of weird stuff to me… and I remark: “I am sure they didn’t say what I thought they said.” Laugh or cry? We prefer to laugh.

It reminds me of the old story that goes around the District Committee on Ordained Ministry – which tried to help persons to understand and develop their call to ministry. One day a young farmer boy appears before the Dcom saying that he saw a cloud formation in the sky that clearly read G P. He took it to mean that God was saying “Go Preach.” But the committee could not find any gifts or graces that would warrant them to encourage him to pursue a call to ministry. Finally one of the committee members spoke us and said: “Maybe God is saying Go Plow?”

The doc I met at the VA was Indian. She spoke quickly… much quicker than I listened. On her wall she had this huge picture of the Taj Mahal. It made me think about Ghandi and how we Christians didn’t hear the call or obey the call to be Christian in his midst. Gandhi told missionaries, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” When asked why he did not embrace Christianity, Gandhi said it offered nothing he could not get from his own religion, observing, “…to be a good Hindu also meant that I would be a good Christian. There is no need for me to join your creed to be a believer in the beauty of the teachings of Jesus or try to follow His example.”

Ghandi was given the name Mahatma, which means “High-Souled.” I wonder, are we high-souled? Do we know that we have been called to live on a higher plane… to allow others to be attracted to the teaching of Jesus by the way we live our daily lives among everyone we meet? We are called to be new creatures in Christ. “Next time I see you, I hope we will be brand new.”

Lord, take these old, tired, unhearing ears of mine and let me truly hear your call for me to be brand new. Amen.


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If We Win the Lottery We Will…

homeless-jesusI know how we are… we are always dreaming of what we will do if… what we will do when. That is ESPECIALLY since Saturday the NC “Education” Lottery payoff will be around 700 Million dollars. It is expected that many, many more people will be buying tickets for this drawing. I know the chances are very, very, very remote of winning. I also know that I am assured of not having a chance if I don’t buy one ticket.

Isn’t this the way it works: You get a card with all the numbers on it, pick your numbers, buy your ticket… and then the dreaming (I think which has already started) continues in all ernest. We turn to our spouse and utter these words: “If we win the lottery we will…” and then we go through the list we have in our written in our mind.

Early on in the process we would say:

  • Pay off all my bills
  • Pay my children out of debt
  • Buy a new house
  • Buy our kids a new house
  • Buy a new car (my cousin is a car dealer – see him for a car)
  • Pay for grandkids education (Yes, they still need to go to college)
  • Give all my relatives a percentage
  • Give the church 10% (Bargaining tool)
  • Get a place at the beach
  • Quit work

Does that sound about right? All of that has to do with making the lives better for ourselves and our family… the ones we love and care about. In the process some sort of epiphany happens to you. Somewhere along the way you expand that circle of caring to include all sorts of people and ideas. It is not a way of soothing the lottery gods, but a way of expanding our philosophical circle of concern… where it more aligns itself with the thoughts of Jesus.

What has touched my heart in this Epiphany season, with its winter blasts of sub-zero temperatures are who is really caring for the homeless in our town, county, state, country? I know there are people called by God to care for them all… and they do a very good job with what they have. But it is not yet a community-wide, citizen driven, government supported, top down, heart-felt concern. We are more concerned about where the money will come from, and the not in my neighborhood worries, than we are about really joining hearts and hands to do something about EVERY HUNGRY, HOMELESS CHILD.

When I mentioned that recently: “If I won the lottery I would do away with homelessness and hunger in Guilford County” the first response I received from several people was: “But what about all those people who make homelessness a business… stand on the street corners and beg while their BMW is parked down the street?” For me that is an excuse that we must deal with and get beyond in a compassionate way.

My thoughts are that to really do away with hunger and homelessness in Guilford County one would have to gather the forces of people in the know who could make a difference from all walks of life… government, community health ministries, finance people, food bank ministries, homeless representatives, and others as needed. It must cover all the areas of concern these people are facing on a daily basis. The second thing is that for this to work I believe it must be financially self-sustaining. We must find a way to generate funds to replenish the funds we are using… or it would run out before long… yes, even 700 million dollars.

I know I don’t know everything… or even all I need to know to do this in a sustainable way. But I do know that something MUST be done if we are to be the compassionate people and civilized society we say we are. What would you do… If you won the lottery? Would you care just for your own or expand your care to include the untouchables and the invisibles in our society?

Reach Out And Touch Someone… That is what Dr. James Howell asked us to do in his sermon on January 3rd, 2016. Here is our chance… lottery or not, we can do away with hunger and homelessness… if we have the heart to do so.

Lord Jesus, give us a touchable, reachable heart… so that we may reach out and touch all your children. Amen.


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Being Positive

IMG_0398I haven’t been sleeping all that well lately. I have this heart thing that causes me to run fast, slow down, wobble and skip through the night. I get hot… real hot and cold… real cold. Most of my dreams seem to correspond with my heart rhythm. I am either in a race, running to or from something or in a demolition derby where I am getting knocked around.

So last night was a welcomed relief. I basically (best as I can remember) had two dreams which seemed to come from the same vault. The first one was like a slide show and a collage of old, old pictures – say in the teens or twenties and even back into the previous century. It was a very interesting  walk through the past. I didn’t remember much of what I saw but I kept looking for our story – history of who we are and how we progressed through the years. It was very peaceful as I looked, with anticipation, for the next slide to appear.

Apparently in the first slide show dream I ran across a slide about positive thinking. In this dream this church put out a newsletter, pamphlet or curriculum item which helped people who wanted help to become or stay positive in their thinking and living. This pamphlet had all kinds of different resources to help with our outlook. It even had creative crafts for adults and children to get us in the right frame of mind. I could feel myself smiling as I was warmly drawn to this resource.

I must have loved it so much that I took this little course where a leader would take us through the pamphlet and demonstrate several of the ways to remain positive. We were sitting around these tables and the class leader was starting a new phase of teaching. She would mention a word and we were to write down words from our lives that related to her word. I had this lady sitting beside me who would, when given a word, repeat her word out loud… which really disrupted the class. As we started doing this session she moved closer to me – taking up the space I was using. I moved over a little to give her more space and she moved on it taking that space as well. Finally, I stood up and said: “Well, I guess you need more room.” Before I could completely move out of my seat she said: “I sure do!” and moved into my spot.

I moved t0 the other side of the room and finished the class. It was still a good experience for me but it would have been more positive had there not been this arrogant, selfish person in the room spreading her negative feelings to everyone in the class. I must admit that I let her get to me but I just wasn’t going to return negative for negative. I felt that would defeat what I was trying to experience and learn.

Perhaps the lesson for us all is there is negative all around us and how we respond to it will tell the story if we are positive or if we let the negative drag us down to its level. Sometimes we need to confront the negative in a positive way. At times it may mean that we simply moved to another seat. At others it may mean we need to say a positive word to those who are filling the room with the negative. Do what you can to stay up and positive. You will make a difference being positive.

Happy 2016


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