Time For Some Feet Washing

“He who is greatest among you shall be your servant, and whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” –
Matthew 23:11


There is a great ship called “public relations” that moves throughout the world on a never-ending quest to change our viewpoint and draw our attention. Whatever the product, topic, political party, film, or music star, there is an opinion you are supposed to have which calls out to you and says, drive me, read me, order me, vote for me, cheer for me. Yet, when you stop and really think about it, both you and I stand at the helm of our own miniature version of that public relations ship as we walk through life trying to draw attention to ourselves by saying, “I’m important, too, so why not look at me, and listen to me?”

It’s interesting how it was no different in the time of Jesus, just over 2.000 years ago. Even then, everyone from political leaders, to religious leaders, to everyday fishermen clamored for attention in hopes that the people would follow. Then Christ had the amazing wisdom and fortitude to say, in Matthew 23:11, that “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant, and whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” Not only did Jesus speak these words, He backs them up in John 13 by washing the feet of His disciples before saying, “If I, then, your Lord and teacher washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

The challenge for us, today, is to send our mini-public relations ship away from ourselves and toward the needs of others. Our neighbor just lost a spouse; they need a friend now more than ever. That teenager, who walks around our block looking lonely, is lonely. We don’t have to stop at just writing a check and mailing it for some need halfway around the world. Loneliness and hurt reside in our very own neighborhood, and probably right next door. My friends, I think Jesus is saying “it’s time to go wash some feet.”

Here I am, Lord. Use me, lead me, guide me. Direct me to the person You want me to help. Show me how to make a difference in his or her life through You. I have ears to listen to those who are hurting, and a heart for those whose broken hearts need mending. Thank You, Lord, for letting me wash the feet of those around me just as You taught me to do. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Grace and Peace
Steve

An American Tragedy

I think it would be an understatement to say that over the last few weeks our eyes and ears have been tuned to the American devastation wrought in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. As the storms continued and grew much more fierce and deadly our hearts were broken and our wallets lightened… We watched. We cried. We prayed. We gave. Still today, we can’t believe the devastation wrought especially in Puerto Rico… It simply breaks our hearts.

I remember back in 1965, while in the Marine Corps, we went on (what they call) a Caribbean cruise to Vieques, PR, San Juan, and the ABC Islands. It was this same time of the year… September – December. It was very hot and very beautiful… as we ran around the island playing our little war games. I, to this very day remember the white beach sand and the crystal clear waters surrounding this paradise island.

Turn the page… look at this paradise today – post second hurricane. Not paradise today but a hell for those people. I know it seems that we have been slow in responding to this tragedy, but we must take into consideration all that has taken place this hurricane season.

On August 17, Tropical Storm Harvey formed east of the Windward Islands, before opening up into a wave over the central Caribbean three days later. Harvey then regenerated into a tropical depression over the southwestern Gulf of Mexico on August 23, and rapidly strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane before making landfall near Rockport, Texas, late on August 25. 

September featured copious activity. Irma formed in the Eastern Atlantic and rapidly intensified into a Category 5 hurricane east of the Leeward Islands. Irma is the strongest hurricane in terms of sustained winds since Wilma in 2005, and the strongest hurricane outside of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico on record. While Irma impacted the northern Leeward Islands, Hurricane Jose formed on September 5, peaking as a strong Category 4 before weakening and making an anti-cyclonic loop in the northern Atlantic Ocean. When Katia formed, 2017 became the first year since 1998 in which six hurricanes have formed in a row. On September 17, Maria became a Category 5 hurricane, threatening the same areas devastated by Hurricane Irma. When Tropical Storm Lee became a hurricane, the streak was extended to eight hurricanes in a row, which made 2017 the first hurricane season since 1893 to have eight hurricanes in a row. 

So, from August 17 to September 17 we have seen the effects of Harvey, Irma and Maria. That is a lot of response for the US to do. But even more than that, Puerto Rico was hit twice… within a few days. It seems what the first did not destroy, the second one just about finished them off. Over 40% of the people do not have electricity, running water, air conditioning and are now running out of food… and the banks are now running out of cash.

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We still shutter as we see the pictures and hear the reports of how the people are suffering… and we can’t begin to imagine what this must be like.

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And these pictures are not the bad ones. 

We all need to just stop our busy lives for a few moments and put ourselves in the place of these people: Walk at least an hour to get water for the day. Stand in line to get money from the bank…(while they still have cash) another hour. Stand in a three-mile line to get gas to run a generator… if you are fortunate enough to have one. All of this is in a heat index of 105 degrees. And it has to be done… completed before the curfew sets in for the evening. Your day is gone just getting a couple of gallons of gas and a couple of gallons of water. You have been in line with 40,000 of your closest friends. Oh, BTW you may be sick… but you must go. This is your only chance to survive. Some are wading through waist deep water to get there.

Today we didn’t go see our grandson play soccer at the high school because we would be sitting out on the bleachers in 90 degree heat. We don’t have a clue how these people feel… do we? We don’t really know nor can we imagine what they are going through just to survive. We would have to go back to the Great Depression to get a HINT.

Lord, help us to be the Samaritan and pray for them, and cry for them, and give to help them, keep them in our daily thoughts… in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace
Steve

 

   

Blue Ant, Speak To Me!

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ephesians 4:29


We now have a car with a hands-free phone system, allowing us to push a button on the sterring wheel to call up the car’s call system, speak the persons name you want to call, and it makes the call. You can drive with hands free. I really enjoy this. But I remember the days when we sought this sort of feature in our cars.

Back in the day, Shirley and I wanted to get a hands-free device for our cars before the law was passed and the price for hands-free devices went through the roof. So we went to Best Buy and talked with this very knowledgeable lady who told us about the devices we need and how easy and popular they were.

Since I have an IPhone and Shirley has a Motorola with Verizon we had to get different devices. Well, the purchase was made and two happy campers headed home thinking that things would be better and we would be ahead of the curve when it comes to hands-free devices for our cell phones.

I set up mine first and it seemed easy as it paired with my phone and transferred my contact list from my phone to the device. I was impressed. Everything was ready to go. All I needed to do was give it the right recognition words and it would do what I needed for it to do.

The key words are “Blue Ant, speak to me.” The Blue Ant device replies; “say a command.” This is where I get all lost, and confused, and downright mad. I say: “call” and it calls the last number that called me… and I can stop it. I say wait! Cancel! End Call! And a few other things, but it still calls the last number that called me. I say “Dial” and it re-dials the last number I called. Same is true here. I can’t get it to stop.

Finally, I can say; “Telephone” and it will go to the voice activation on my IPhone where I can say call so and so. The problem is that it has called many so and so’s that I didn’t intend to call. I can’t stop those incorrect calls either. I think I will use this device just to answer calls to my cell phone. Supposedly, all I have to do is say “accept” the call or “ignore” it. (We’ll see?)

If you see me going down the road screaming at my sun visor… you will now that I am having a heated conversation with my “Blue Ant.” Hopefully you will not witness a blue ant flying out of my window. Pray for me!

Isn’t life like that sometimes? We want someone to speak to us and yet they, and us, have difficulty communicating. God tries to communicate His love to us and show us how we should pair (join) our life with His. Only as we pair our lives with God can we communicate with God and receive His communication with us. You won’t need a blue ant to talk with God… just a humble, willing open heart.

Lord, sometimes my communication skills are very poor even when I use devices that are designed to help me do just that easier. I say the wrong words. I make the wrong calls. Draw close to me and join me to you that we may communicate with each other … heart to heart. Amen.

Grace and Peace
Steve

The Life Guard

(Jesus said) “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Luke 19:10


Long ago, when I was young, I was qualified to be a lifeguard. (And, yes, that was a very long time ago.) I remember one of the things we had to do to qualify is to dive down to the bottom of Mayo Lake and bring this huge rock to the surface and place it on the pier.

Although I’ve forgotten much of what I was taught, I do remember one thing: the job of a lifeguard is to … well … it’s to guard and save lives. That probably doesn’t surprise you. Most normal folks think the foremost duty of a lifeguard is to save lives.

Tomas LopezWe all were surprised to read some time ago about a Florida lifeguard by the name of Tomas Lopez who was fired because he had rescued a person from drowning. Lopez was fired because the drowning man was not in the area of the beach that had been assigned to him.

To be fair, the company which had employed Mr. Lopez was pleased he had saved the life of the endangered individual. Even so, his employers felt there were liability issues involved, and Mr. Lopez shouldn’t have put the company at risk by going after a drowning man in an area of the beach that wasn’t his responsibility.

Does all this sound strange to you? If so, you’re not alone. The company’s ruling seemed crazy to some other lifeguards, who walked off their jobs in support of Lopez. These lifeguards were also fired. When Hallandale officials gave them the key to the city. The Jeff Ellis Management, a private company the city has paid about $334,000 a year for lifeguards since 2003, fired Lopez for abandoning his post. They even offered their jobs back to the fired lifeguards, but they all refused. Lopez said “I was just doing my job.”

Now, here’s a question for those of you who think the first job of a lifeguard is to save lives and not watch a beach. Tell me, “What do you think is the prime job of the Savior?”

It is my hope your answer to that question sounded something like this: A Savior should save. It’s that simple.

Sadly, we live in an age where many wish to rewrite Jesus’ job description. There are some who would reduce Jesus to being a teacher, a philosopher, a genie whose only desire is to give them whatever they can imagine. 

Maybe the only answer that can be trusted — the only answer that counts — is that which comes from Jesus. He settles the debate by telling us He has come “to seek and save the lost.”

Dear Lord, no matter how great I think I am I cannot save myself. There are so many circumstances in life where I try and try only to finally realize that if I would only put my trust and faith in your love you would rescue me. In and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace
Steve

 

 

Cimb Every Mountain

“Every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain brought low.”
Isaiah 40:4


The singer songwriter Melody Gardot had a terrible bicycle accident that kept her in a hospital for 18 months. While riding her bike in Philadelphia in November 2003she was hit by an SUV that ran a red light. She suffered head and spinal injuries, and her pelvis was broken in two places. She was confined to a hospital bed for twelve of those eighteen months, and had to remain lying on her back. She had to re-learn simple tasks, such as brushing her teeth and walking. She was left oversensitive to light and sound, requiring her to wear sunglasses most of the time. Gardot suffered short-term and long-term memory loss and had difficulty with her sense of time. She described her ordeal as “like climbing Mt. Everest every day.” She is back and has just put out a new album, appropriately titled, ‘The Absence.”  Not every story of Everest has such a good ending but enough do that the climbers keep climbing.

It helps the climber to know that there are others who have climbed. I think of Edith Wharton’s character, Mrs. Manstey, who lived alone for 18 years, watching the seasons change outside her Manhattan window. Then the landlady built an extension, barring the small view that she had enjoyed. She died the next day. What an accomplishment to have found a small view to enjoy on a daily basis. She climbed a little Everest every day.

I remember listening to “Climb Every Mountain” over and over and over again because it gives such hope to the listener. The lyrics seem to capture your heart, mind and soul by giving you the courage to follow your dreams… climb all those difficult mountains before us – no matter what they really are. And we all know there are times when we need that kind of courage. The words could be used as a prayer in times of distress:

Climb every mountain,
Search high and low,
Follow every highway,
Every path you know.

A dream that will need
All the love you can give,
Every day of your life
For as long as you live.

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
Till you find your dream.

I think of people who no longer have their minds due to dementia – or those who have to take care of them, long after they have run out of money or care. My own dad and his wife are perfect examples of that kind of mountain.

There are also people who live for years with diseases they know are progressive. Some days they even smile. I think of men in prison (one I heard of years ago for stealing a loaf of bread), or parents deported because legislators can’t resolve laws. I don’t know that all of their stories have “good endings” or even decent endings. I do know that enough do make the difficult climb that we can pray “Climb Every Mountain” and mean our prayer when we pray it.

Dear Lord, there are so many different mountains we face every day of our lives. I remember Elvis singing a song with the lyrics: “Lord, this time you gave me a mountain… a mountain I may never climb.” But we know Lord, the mountains before can be climbed with you as our guide. Help us to reach the peak and experience coming out of the clouds to see the brightness of your loving presence. In and though Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace
Steve

Dream A Little Dream

“And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ Joseph answered Pharaoh, ‘It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.'”
Excerpt from Genesis 41:14-36


Recently I got a little nostalgic as I wandered through I-Tunes looking for some of my oldies but goodies of the 60’s and 70’s. Man, that sure was some good music. One of my favorite groups of those days was the Mama’s and Papa’s. And Mama Cass had a voice that just wouldn’t quit. I spent some time listening to their songs but focused in on one of my favorites… Mama Cass singing; “Dream A Little Dream of Me.” It got me to thinking about dreams. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. Does it mean something if I do or don’t? Who knows? I do know that I have been awakened by a dream many times… or some God nudge, or something.

The Rev. Will Green, who was both a pastor and psychologist, led a group through a series of dream workshops in which they shared their dreams. Each imagined having had the dream of one person who would share his or her dream. As each shared the dream’s meaning for the others, the original dreamer took notes and identified interpretations that resonated. The group became the “Joseph” of this biblical story. The idea of the group was that God speaks though our dreams in symbols or code so that our conscious mind will not suppress them and divinely inspired messages can get through. I don’t know if that is true or not. 

However, I do believe that we should pay attention to those hunches, and not suppress them. Test significant dreams, visions, or hunches with others you trust, and then prayerfully act on them. Your dream, vision, or thought may be the difference between life and death, for you, for someone you love, for a generation, for the world. If it isn’t, after discernment and prayer, know when to let go. (Do know that God will not encourage you to harm anyone.)

I remember having some kind of divine nudges (even though at the time I didn’t understand it that way) to go visit someone, to preach a certain message, to talk with the youth about a special topic, or lead the congregation in a special time of prayer. Many times when I did not act on that nudge I regretted not acting on what I later believed to be a nudge from God. I could have helped someone if I had only listened and acted on that Divine nudge. So, I am learning to be sensitive to the nudges from God. I don’t always get it right but I am getting better at listening for God to speak or tap me on the shoulder.

What is the dream or hunch God gave you? God is still sending Divine hunches, many more than we acknowledge. Work on your listening skills. God just may be wanting to use you as an instrument of His grace. Listen and be ready to act.

Gracious God, Help me discern and share the dreams and thoughts you give me today that have divine purpose. Help me sharpen my listening skills so that I may hear you calling, feel the nudge and act in your behalf. In and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace
Steve