True Story

A while back, two stories peaked my interest (other than the insane goings on in the Middle East). The first was about a young college basketball player scoring 138 points in a single game. He set the record for NCAA scoring which use to be 116 points. Jack Taylor (now known as magic Jack) made 27 3-point shots and 52 overall from the field. He attempted 108 shots – an average of one shot every 20 seconds. I like this wording from the press: “He had 58 points at half-time. Then he got hot.” Believe it or not there was a player on the opposing team, David Larson, who scored 70 points.

Isn’t that amazing? Scoring all those points? Setting what may very well be an unbreakable record? Being in the record book for many years to come? WOW!

The second story was about a blind, deaf, 3-legged dog, named “True,” who was more “magic” than Magic Jack. Listen to their story.

GRADY COUNTY, Okla. – Katie Crosley has endured her fair share of hardship. Her son, Jace, was born with a heart defect. Crosley said, “We spent four weeks in NICU. When it rains, it pours, I guess.”

Early Sunday morning smoke and flames consumed their Grady County cabin. Katie and Jace woke up to a wailing Dachshund. A genuine miracle, she believes, considering “True,” their pet dog is blind, deaf and only has three legs. “I thought he had to go outside,” she said. “When I opened the door, it was a wall of flames.” An electrical short ignited a fireball on the front porch, barricading Katie and Jace inside.

They navigated through the smoke and out the back. The fire victims lost everything, including all the baby supplies they had just collected. “All his stuff from NICU, medical records, all gone,” she said. “So that’s the hardest part, having all that stuff from when he was little.” There is little left here and yet, Katie is grateful for so many things, mostly the disabled Dachshund nobody wanted. She said, “We’re thankful for him. This could have been a bad deal.” An animal rescue that somehow returned the favor.

It is amazing to me that this rescue animal – disabled – could do such a miraculous thing. It would be difficult for a healthy dog… but a blind, deaf dog… it is indeed a miracle.

Which story is the one you need today? With all that is going on in this old world… with all that is happening in Texas… I like the guy who scored 138 points, but I need to hear stories – “true” stories of lives that are saved by those who go beyond their capabilities to capture and express their best inner self. Jack may be magic, but True is a miracle we all need.

Dear Lord, there are stories that excite us, thrill us, uplift us and inspire us. Thank you for all of them in our lives, but especially for the stories when even a blind, deaf, 3-legged rescue dog rises above his disabilities to rescue those in danger. We need these stories to remind us who we are in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace


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No Perfect Solution

A man had a dilemma. His beloved aunt was very sick and was not expected to recover. She lived in London. He was willing to spend his savings to go over there but he was not a wealthy man. He knew he could not afford to go twice.

So he was trying to decide whether to visit her while she was alive, so that he could tell her how much she meant to him in person, or whether to wait and spend the money on a ticket to her funeral.

Together, he and his pastor, weighed the pros and cons. They both seemed to feel that he was being pulled to visit her now, while she was still alive. But the choice would not be an easy one. He knew that when the time came for the funeral, he might have deep regrets about not being able to be there with his extended family.

It’s hard to make a decision like that. Much easier when the answer is obvious. In life, is any answer an obvious one? At times when I have thought there was one clear and correct answer, the situation invariably turns out to be more complicated than I had thought. I doubt that there is ever a perfect solution to a problem. In the end, we have to settle for one of many imperfect options. And pray for God’s grace.

Dear God of Wisdom, we pray for those individuals who are torn apart in an important decision, that they will know your peace amidst a sea of imperfect options, and that through Jesus feel the assurance of that continued presence. Amen.

Grace and Peace


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You Are Good Man, Charlie Brown

John Wayne, Sean Connery, Jimmy Stewart, W.C. Fields, Don Knotts and Bette Davis. All of these Hollywood stars have something in common. You don’t have to be looking at the TV screen to know who is talking. The voices of these thespians are unique.

Peter Robbins is such a star. No, his name is not as familiar as those listed above, but if you heard him speak, especially years ago, you would know Robbins as the voice of Charlie Brown in television specials like, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

You remember that voice, don’t you? Click the link above to watch.

You remember no matter how many times Charlie Brown was disappointed, no matter how badly he had been mistreated, no matter how many times his pals let him down, the voice of Charlie managed to express a tone of hope for the future.

Of course, that is Charlie Brown and that is in the cartoons. Reality is quite different. Peter Robbins, Charlie’s voice, was recently arrested by the San Diego Police. It seems he has been stalking and threatening his former girlfriend. According to authorities, he called this lady 37 times in a 24-hour period and in those calls told her he would kill her and her son if she didn’t return his dog and automobile.

It’s a disappointing thing when reality is at such a variance with what we hope for and what we want to believe.

Thankfully, that is not the way it is when it comes to Jesus. He is exactly who the prophets said He would be. He is who He claims to be.

  • When He says He is the Good Shepherd, you can trust that He is. Your confidence in Him will never be misplaced.
  • If He says He is the Physician of body and soul, you can believe His claim and rely on Him completely.
  • If He says He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we know there will never be a time when His words will be found to be false and our dependence in Him misplaced.

Jesus is our Savior; He is our Redeemer; He is the Sacrifice who offers forgiveness and salvation for all humankind.

Believe Him. His is a voice that will never change.

Dear Lord, there are many voices that claim to be trustworthy and reliable. May I trust and rely on Jesus, whose entire life is proof of His sincerity and commitment to the restoration of the human family to God. In and through Jesus we pray. Amen.

Grace and Peace


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How is Your Grain?

An old man named Calvin had lived a good life as a farmer for years. One day an evangelist came to the community, and, in the course of his stay, visited Calvin and asked him what denomination he was. Calvin answered the question like this: “When my grain gets ready for selling, after I’ve harvested it and packaged it, I can take it to town by any one of three roads ” the river road, the dirt road, or the highway. But when I get my grain to town and go to the buyer to sell him what I have, he never looks at me and asks, Calvin, which road did you take to get your grain to town?’ What he does do is ask me if my grain is any good.”

WOW, what a question: “Is your grain good – the grain of your discipleship?” That’s all that really matters. When we get to Heaven we will probably find some (Roman Catholics) and some (Baptists) and some (Presbyterians). And they’ll be just as surprised to see us as we will to see them. But we will all belong to just one fellowship. Let’s call it the Fellowship of the Bearers of Cold Water. We will all be people who have lived out our discipleship through acts of kindness to others.

I must admit to all of you that I am a bit prejudice when it comes to denominations. I really love the United Methodist Church. And I love it because of its beliefs… especially its emphasis on grace. I would not want to be another denomination even though we probably get it wrong sometimes. I admire other denominations for their theology, their ritual, their missions, but I love the United Methodist Church because I have found a home here… and here I have been given life. In this Church I have become (over all these years) part of the fellowship of the bearers of cold water… I am learning how to love and be a person of love. I am learning about grace and how to be a person of grace.

Family July 2005 - 3Most of all, I believe that I am learning that my grain is good – the grain of my discipleship. I am no Billy Graham, even though my dad was good friends with Grady Wilson. I am no Mother Theresa, even though I thoroughly believe in missions. I am no Philip Martin, my brother, who is still preaching into his seventies. I am no Kevin Stamps, who is my grand-nephew, an Army Chaplain at Fort Bragg, even though I wanted to go back into the Navy as a Chaplain.

I am no Peter Marshall, even though I work hard at sermon preparation and delivery. I am no Dee Bee Martin, even though I try to walk in his steps. Over these 40 years of ministry many people have come to know Christ through my availability to God. But my dad – In all his many years in ministry there was only one year of active ministry where he did not bring someone into the membership of the church…ONLY ONE! And one day in 1950 he baptized 45 people in the Little Tennessee River. My discipleship doesn’t seem like much when you compare it to some of the greats… but because of the grace of God my grain is good… Jesus makes it so as I seek to grow in him daily.

How’s your grain? Doesn’t matter what road you traveled to get to the end of your journey… “How is your grain of discipleship… is it good?”

Lord, sometimes I do so wonder about my grain. Sometimes I think there may be a little mold in it or not enough sparkle to it… but it is grain which was grown at your hand, in your field, for your people. Continue to bless it that it may bring forth fruit in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace


What Would You Have Done?

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The town in which the small Christian congregation was situated was often invaded by North Korean soldiers and then, hours later, reclaimed by forces from the South.

That explains why the believers worshipped as quietly and anonymously as they could. Apparently, they were not quiet or anonymous enough. Shortly after they began, some of the communist soldiers barged in, machine guns at the ready. The worshippers were lined up and four of them were selected for special attention.

A picture of Jesus was ripped from the table which served as an altar and thrown on the floor. The soldiers ordered, “You four, one by one, I want you to come by here, spit on this picture, and curse your Savior’s Name!” The first three in line were men of the church, and they did what the soldier said to do. They spit on the picture, and they cursed the Name of Christ.

The fourth one in line was a high school girl. She came up to the picture, and she dropped to her knees. She wiped the spittle off with her skirt, and she said, “Go ahead and kill me. I cannot curse my Savior’s Name.”

The soldier said, “Get up!” They blindfolded that girl and marched her, along with the three men outside. The worshippers left behind heard the shots, and they also saw the soldiers return, with the girl. Then, hearing sounds which said the village was being recaptured and they needed to leave, the spokesman for the soldiers said, “Learn this lesson: those men died because anyone who gives up what they believe so easily is not fit to be a communist.”

The question for us is this: “What would you have done?” For us it is a theoretical question. For many of our brothers and sisters around the world, it is a reality.

What would you have done? I know Jesus endured all manner of indignities, as He walked the path that brought about our salvation. He was rejected, spit upon, beaten, whipped and crucified. Even so, He continued on and gave His life to save ours.

But what would you do? Would you give your life for Him? I believe you would. Then I encourage you to live for Him.

Grace and Peace


Steve, The Great???

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Before I let you go on and on about the title, let me say that I Googled “Steve, The Great” and came up empty with that search. Can you imagine? Perhaps my understanding of great needs some clarification? Maybe this story will help?

Some years ago St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City was seeking a new president. Over one hundred candidates applied for the position. The search committee narrowed the list to five eminently qualified persons. Then somebody came up with a brilliant idea: let’s send a person to the institutions where each of the five finalists is currently employed, and let’s interview the janitor at each place, asking him what he thinks of the man seeking to be our president. This was done and a janitor gave such a glowing appraisal of William MacElvaney that he was selected President of St. Paul’s School of Theology.

Somebody on that search committee understood, in a flash of genius, that those who live close to Christ become so secure in his love that they no longer relate to other people according to rank or power or money or prestige. They treat janitors and governors with equal dignity. They regard everybody as a VIP. Children seem to do this intuitively; adult Christians have to relearn it.

How do we grow to the point that we stop measuring people by their successes and start regarding people for their service, for their sacrifices? How do we move from a world’s model which measures value in terms of wealth, fame, and power to a model which measures value in based on Jesus’ teachings? What is greatness in the kingdom of God?

Someone once asked Dr. Albert Sweitzer who was the greatest person in the world. He answered: “Some unknown person, who is doing the work of love.” When Mike Peters won the Pulitzer Prize for political cartoons (1981), he wasn’t expecting the honor. He described his response by saying, “It is like you are asleep and it is two in the morning and you are hugging your pillow and you are in your funny pajamas and somebody bursts through the door and they come over and start shaking you and they say, ‘Wake up, wake up!’ And you say, ‘What is it?’ And they say, ‘You have just won the Boston Marathon!’ And you say, ‘But I’m not running in the Boston Marathon.’ And they say, ‘Doesn’t make any difference, you won.'”

Jesus taught that heaven will hold some surprises. Honor and glory will be granted for behavior that was so natural, so undistinguished, and so noncompetitive. Take the simple illustration that Jesus gives of receiving a child. From somewhere Jesus finds a small child who he stands in front of them. It is interesting that Mark tells us that Jesus stands the child in front of them and then takes the child in his arms. Perhaps he was highlighting how low the child was by comparison. But as he raises the child in his arms he says to them, “Whoever welcomes on of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Now, what does he mean? He is talking about having a humble servant attitude, being willing to reach out and help the lowliest of people so that we might show them the love of Christ. Such simple acts will be greatly rewarded.

Yes, many of God’s children will be surprised to find that their faithful simple service has brought them top honors. The servant will be honored; the last shall be first. And if there is one thing in this world that short circuits such simple acts it is self-promotion. You cannot both serve and conquer. So put on your funniest pajamas and get ready to hear from God that you have already won… because of Jesus.

Dear Lord, sometimes I would like to think that I am great. I know that history will not record me as “Steve, the Great.” But I do hope that someone will notice that Steve did seek to let you live through me and that all my brothers and sisters mattered. I pray that you lifted someone’s spirit because I happened to be there with kindness and peace. In and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace