New Beginnings

thWhere in the world has this year gone? In some ways it has been a very long year and in some a very short year. Being retired it seems quite short… not a lot of obligations except to see the doctors more often and to add new doctors to our list. Meds that keep you a little  foggy help to make that year zoom right on by… at least what you can remember of it.

The political year seemed like five or six years… I didn’t think it would ever end. Perhaps with the Russian investigation it may still be going on for some time to come.

An end is always followed by a beginning… at least it has been that way so far as I can remember.  There is a saying I use with my family… when we are speaking about a loaf of bread. What do you call the pieces on each end? Most everyone I know call them “end” pieces. My point is why do we do that? They could just as well be called “beginning” pieces.

It could be kinda like New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day… one is an end and the other is a new beginning. I kinda like that thought… the closing of one door and the opening of a new door of great expectations.

This past year found me not at my best. I let the negative of the election bring me down to its level. I could not believe what was being said, what had been done and what was happing in the now. I could not believe how the American people could vote for a person who was a bigot, an admitted molester of women who said he did not respect them. My only justification is that I believe the vote was not for Trump but for the Supreme Court Justices and Roe vs Wade.

Well, the end is that the election is over and we have a new person who will be President of the United States. The new beginning is what we do with next year. Will we join in the accountable support of the new President or continue to hold the grudge and fight the battles. I plan to give the new President a chance. I hope he will succeed in making America a “Better” place for ALL PEOPLE.

My prayer is that both parties will come together and work together for making America a better place for all our people… that we do, indeed, have a new beginning. Pray for a NEW BEGINNING!


 Perhaps there are new beginnings in my books. Give a look see…

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Christmas Eve

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Myers Park UMC

Eventide is the night before something really important is going to take place. Eventide sounds like one of those theological words all dressed up and ready for use in the sacred places reserved for all of God’s people. To me it speaks not the excitement of a Christmas Eve where we are awaiting toys, great gifts, or even traveling over to grandma’s house to see all the rest of the family (and that was fun way back when).

Eventide for me speaks of another side of the evening before Christmas… it is the quiet, thoughtful, introspective time when we travel deep inside ourselves to contemplate the meaning of tonight and tomorrow on our own lives and the lives of the world. I spent forty years as the pastor of a church. For many of those years we would do one of two things; either a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service or drop in family communion. I loved them both. But the drop in Family Communion gave me more time to just ponder the eventide and prepare my soul for the happenings of the next day.

After Communion had ended I would spend some quiet time in a soft chair in the living room getting lost in the lights of the Christmas tree. After an hour or so of that special time I would move on to finishing off the night with worship at The Vatican. For some reason, even though not Catholic,  I enjoyed the sacredness of that time of worship. Since retiring we spend each Christmas Eve enjoying the Candlelight Service at Myers Park UMC in Charlotte. Their music is wonderful and James Howell (Senior Pastor) always inspires and challenges me to be more like Jesus.

If there ever was a time to ponder the real meaning of Christmas for us and for the world it is this year. The world today seems not all that different from the world into which Jesus was born; Political strife and corruption, factions of all sorts seeking to come into power, people subjected to the rule of the powerful, life having little or no meaning to a large number of folks, and people yearning for hope… crying out for hope in the Messiah.

I know I need to ponder deeply… because I am letting too much of this mad, mad, mad world into my brain, my heart and my behavior. I need God born in me again this Eventide and this Christmastide… that it the only way I can change. My prayer for us is found in these very simple words:

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

Merry Christmas

Steve


More simple words and thoughts are found in my books on line. I hope you will take the time to ponder them.

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Something Tastes Funny

thFood has always been an important part of any celebration or gathering of the Martin, Sechrist, Melvin clan. You simply couldn’t do it properly without food. Back in the olden days (sounds like the Lone Ranger should come riding out of the pages… save that for another time) we would have the huge spread, table busting, buzzard attracting reunions on these long, long, long planks (tables) that connected most of the trees in the backyard of the church… or the front yard of Uncle Tommy Moore’s old farm house in Stuart, Virginia, or food in the kitchen, back porch, and screened in porch at Mama Martin’s house in Mayodan.

Those were some very happy days. Even we kids just loved the food and everybody laughing and telling stories of how life had been for them since the last reunion. We just missed the Martin-Sechrist reunion back in early December. I wasn’t feeling well at all, and my cousin Kenny’s step-son was taken to Duke for a bleeding brain tumor. Several went to Durham to be with them. He has since gone on to heaven.

I also remember how the responsibilities and locations of the reunions and other celebrations changed as some of the younger ones took their turn as Reunion Celebration Activities Directors. My immediate family (being in ministry and always working while everyone else was celebrating) fell out of the loop for the Martin reunion. The Melvin’s, as far as I know, did not gather for reunions, but the Bruce’s and McGehee’s did up until there were not enough left.

When we lived in Asheboro (mid 90’s), all Shirley’s grandparents were no longer with us, 13213716aunts, uncles and cousins were scattered from Tennessee, Texas, New England, and Georgia. We just didn’t get together that much – the linchpin; her grandmother and grandfather were not there to bring everyone home. The responsibilities of the Thanksgiving and Christmas meal had now fallen to Shirley. We had a parsonage large enough to accommodate everyone and a formal dinning room able to seat everyone.

One year on Thanksgiving Eve Shirley had two tickets for a basketball game in Cameron. She and Stephen (our son) headed off for Duke while Shirley’s mom, Margie and I were left to fix the potato salad and the sweet potato casserole. Needless to say, Julia Chiles did not show up that night nor answer the phone. I allowed the potatoes to scorch a bit….(UNDERSTATEMENT) Margie and I laughed as we decided not to reveal our big secret. We worked hard that night getting the black burned spots off of and out of both sets of potatoes. We added the mustard, mayonnaise, sweet pickles and onions for the potato salad, and all the sweet stuff for the sweet potatoes, baked the casserole and put the salad in the fridge.

We aired out the house and until there was no oder that would give away our secret. Shirley and Stephen arrived back after midnight. All of OUR stuff was ready… nicely covered in the fridge. The people started arriving around ten the next morning. We gathered round the table, the blessing was said, small talk had given way to eyes that were searching out the next big spoonful of something delicious. And then it happened. Shirley said right out loud: “This potato salad tastes a little funny.” Margie and I looked at each other and just grinned. I think I responded with something like; “Do you think we got too much mustard in it?” Shirley quickly added: “No, It tastes burned!” Margie and I appeared shocked for a second and then bursted out laughing, sharing the big reveal. Everyone got a big laugh out of that… but I don’t think they ate any more of our original country-fried potato salad.

For some strange reason Margie and I were not called to potato duty for quite some time. Since then we have blown tradition out the window. Instead of hours and hours of work at someone’s home usually by the woman of the house, we have ordered ready made meals, turkey and ham with all the fixings from Salem Kitchen in Winston or the Moose Caffe at the Farmer’s Market, we have gone out to Kanes and Walkers at Myrtle Beach, visited that place in Sophia that Richard Petty likes so much. Only recently have we come back home with the adjusted tradition. Now the three men of the family wait for the three ladies of the family to tell us what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and why we should do it faster. Everyone is happy.

I hope you have enough food for Christmas… burned or regular. But more than that I hope you have family and friends with whom you can share some of this day. Yes, the food is important… but sharing our hearts is a much greater gift.

Merry Christmas

Steve


Only 75 more showings of “The Christmas Story” with Ralphie before Christmas.th


The Big Wait

Well, as usual, Shirley is out shopping and I am at home doing what old people do at home, not a whole lot of anything. Sitting here with my cup of joe and starting this blog. Soon Kenny (the handyman) will be here with me finishing up the framing of the kitchen door. I got to thinking that this almost month long ordeal has turned into quiet a wait. At times this wait was disappointing, at times downright frustrating, and others the excitement grows as we near the completion of the long wait.

I remember way, way, I mean way back, when we children “waited for Christmas.” Those old enough will rem87b8ae2b641c79ea92f6694baa45cc10ember the Christmas season ritual of the child. It all started with the famous SEARS CHRISTMAS TOY CATALOG. I can’t begin to explain what a BIG, BIG deal that was. My brother and I would (reluctantly) take turns looking, staring, dreaming into and about the stuff in that holy book. It seemed that most of November and December was spent looking through that book a thousand times. The pictures drew us right into the scenes of whatever joy and excitement that particular toy was to provide.

Now the second most popular book at Christmas was the Lionel Train Book. These two books kept the kids of the world busy. In writing this story I even found a Sears Catalog from Japan with Godzilla on the front cover. Never knew theyf6b3880dd36743b80e0b1ea0eabf7bcf had one of these. But didn’t those trains look beautiful as they took us to new places all over the United States, especially if there was smoke coming out of the engine?

This is the season of waiting for that which will speak to our needs, desires, successes and failures. We wait not for something from a toy catalog that will make us happy as long as it doesn’t break. No, we are looking for something that is permanent, eternal, real and everlasting… something that will bring about real change deep inside where we really live and move and have our being.

Santa says: “I’m making a list, checking it twice to see if you have been naughty or nice.” Our receiving a gift… the one we have wished for, dreamed of depends on how well we have measured up… fulfilled the law. Jesus comes and takes all that burden on himself as He touches human life… all of human life with His Wonderful, Life-Giving GRACE. It is a grace that is wonderful and amazing which is for us personally and last from everlasting to everlasting.

Sears can’t do it! Lionel can’t do it! But Jesus can. Pay attention. Wait for the gift He brings to your soul.

Merry Christmas!

Steve


I know you can find the Grace of Jesus Christ in all my books. Hope you will take a look on line:

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Fridge Has Been Moved!

img_6283Last night I ranted on and on about the new fridge I bought Shirley for Christmas… and how it was stationed in our living room because someone forgot to measure and purchased a fridge so big it would not go through the kitchen door. Several people had been there to help get it through the door (Sears people the last ones would not even try).

Today Kenny came back to make the opening a little larger. He took out another inch or so of door space and he and his brother moved that big ‘ole fridge into the kitchen. Now the big ‘ole fridge in the kitchen looks like a walk-in fridge. But… Hey… it is in the kitchen.

We have placed our moveable food back in the fridge, run several cups of water through the water dispenser, turned on the ice maker and set the ice style to crunched… my kind of ice. I was disappointed to find that the first make of ice takes 12 to 24 hours… boooo.

One of the things I have found is that whenever you get something new there is a learning curve. Yep, you have to relearn how you have done this whatever for as long as you have been doing it. That is what Shirley sorely dislikes about cell phones, computers and automatic updates. It changes the stuff she likes from the way she is use to using that application to a new application or a new way.

Well, on this fridge, I assume we do what we have always done… put food in and take food out. Push a lever and get ice or water. However, this thing has a lot of lights and buttons that set temps for each section, checks air and water filters… but will not give you change for a dollar? I know that we will learn how to operate this monster, and that will be an accomplishment at our age.

The description of a true Marine is that they innovate, adapt and overcome. We may have to use some Marine logic on this fridge. But, you know, life has been teaching us to innovate, adapt and overcome for 70 years now. Sometimes we have done that well and other times proved that we were not up to the job. That is life for all of us.

Whatever you may be facing during this time of the year… particularly this year may very well be more difficult than any you have faced so far. But, as God walks with you everyday of your journey, He will see you through all the doors that are too small, help you get that big 800 pound gorilla out of your living space, and bring you the peace your soul longs to experience. Advent (Pay Attention to Jesus) is the time for close walking, hand holding and soul searching. May you find the Peace of God which surrounds your every moment.


I pray that you will find in my books examples and experiences of the Peace of God. My books can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Nobles.

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