Time For Some Feet Washing

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

Still The Storms of Life

The weatherman tells me there are some storms hitting parts of our country. It won’t be the first time; it won’t be the last. Even so, that remark on our local news reminded me of another storm that took place several years ago.

A submarine had just returned from a rather long, very secret mission. When the captain of the sub came ashore, he was asked, “Did you suffer damage in the storm?” The officer was surprised at the silliness of the question. He shot back, “Man, don’t you know because of where we travel, we don’t even know if there is a storm?”

It was true. That submarine had been traveling so far beneath the sea’s surface it had reached the area known as “the cushion of the sea.” At that depth the waters are never stirred by what is happening on the surface.

Every person who lives in this sinful world has seen some kind of storm in his or her life. It may be a major storm like cancer or family problems. It may be a minor whipping of the waves caused by a sore tooth. Whatever your storm, no matter how much you are being rocked, let me tell you there is a place where you can be protected.

The Father who has sent His Son to live, suffer, die and rise has promised to keep his children safe — so safe the waves of life can have no lasting or permanent effect. Yes, I know it seems you are being rocked and buffeted, but when all is said and done the Lord will bring you through spiritually unscathed.

That’s because the Lord is always ready to help. Indeed, He is helping — helping and holding on to you, because you, my friend, never know when that next storm will hit.

Heavenly Father, grant me the grace and faith to bring my problems and concerns to You. Further, let me have the confidence to know You can still the storms of our lives and bring us safely through. In and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace
Steve

On Their Level

Recently a church youth group was on a wilderness back-packing expedition and got lost. It was supposed to be a half-day trip, so they soon ran out of water in the Texas heat. One boy especially became dehydrated and seriously ill. Another hiked miles to get help, then hiked back with rescue team to show them the location. A helicopter came and took him and this now seriously ill friend to a hospital over 100 miles away. The other hikers were provided supplies and were eventually trucked out. Fortunately, the rescue was in time – the young man’s life was saved.

Nice story, so far. Right? Here is where it gets dicey. Our young hero is now in the hospital waiting room. He calls home to bring mom and dad up to date. So far so good. The boy continues his vigil, but soon realizes a predicament – he has no money, the rest of the group is still hours away, he needs food and a place to stay. The hospital staff suggests the local shelter for the night. He calls home again.

Dad goes ballistic. He calls the hospital, gives his credit card number and insists that his son be taken care of. Put him in nearby hotel till the parents can get there in the morning. Forget this Homeless Shelter stuff. Both father and son (who happened to be 17 years old and over 6′ 4″) are convinced that such a suggestion is insane. Why? The lad responds, “Hey, I don’t have anything against homeless people. I’ve done my service projects for church at the shelter at home, but I don’t need to stay with them or have them sleeping near me. Yuck!”

What do you think? I do not mean to pick on someone who is certainly a brave and courageous young man. But I don’t think it is proper to have an attitude that says it is all right, even GOOD, to HELP the “riff-raff” but that to actually stay overnight with them, receive the same help as them, be on the same level as they are, is dangerous and disgusting. Somewhere along the line, people hear the message that we are called to help, but then miss the part about Jesus identifying HIMSELF with those in need of that help. The real help… the help that offers the ability to overcome is brought about by people who take the time to really understand who these people are and what they are going through. Remember Matthew 25? “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to ME!” We find out who Jesus is when we find out who they are.

Dear Lord, I must admit that sometimes we have a problem with those in need of help… we wonder how they got there, what is keeping them there, are they really conning us, and even more. I don’t like thinking that way. I hope that is not part of my character. Help me, Lord to care, really care for all your children… no matter what. In and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace
Steve

The Game is Almost Over

This morning we were trying to keep in touch with our grandchildren as we watched them play soccer. Both have been playing soccer for some time now. Noah’s game was a nail biter as they won 3 to 2 in the very last seconds of the game. By the way, this is the first game they have won all season. Noah said they won because we were there. We proudly accepted his accolades. Abby, on the other hand did not receive the same lucky presence from her grandparents. I guess the rabbit’s foot got a little worn out between games. Abby’s team wins when we are not there and loses when we are… kinda makes you wonder?

Near the end of Abby’s game they are losing 5 to 2. On the sideline, sitting side by side, are four of her teammates, three little girls and one little boy, chanting as if cheerleaders in a low voice: “The game is almost over and we are going to lose.” Over and over and over they repeated this chant while their coach stood right next to them. He must really be focused or perhaps he was thinking the same thing. When the game finally ended this little squad cheered “Yeeeeaaaaaaaaaa”. I was with them… it was quite hot out there and I was ready to find some cool air.

It is fun to watch kids, young kids, play sports of any kind. Most of them have a completely different agenda. Some are more concerned with how they look in their uniform… this is usually the girls. Others run a little and walk a little… you know, not completely in the game. Then there are those kids that are very good and very aware of the game. They are the ones who are giving everything they have no matter what the score… winning or losing they are giving their best.

I have been all of those (except wondering how my uniform looked) over the years. When I first started playing sports, basketball in a Grey Y league in the fourth grade, I tried my best even though I didn’t know what I was doing. Over the years as I learned more about the sport I gave more of myself.

One of the things I learned in sports, something this little band of cheerleaders have yet to learn, is that no matter what, you do not give up. You continue to play, continue to hustle no matter what the score. It is called play till you hear the whistle.

That is also something we need to learn in our faith. Some of us just stand around without heads and hearts not completely in the game. Others of us wonder how good we look in our faith. Still others fight all the way through to the end.

When we stop fighting, we are giving up hope that things will ever be any different. We feel like we have already lost the game and there is no sense in putting anymore into a losing proposition.

Jesus turns to his disciples saying are you going to leave me too? Are you going to give up, quit giving your best? And they answer: “To whom can we go? You are the One who has the Word of life.” What are you chanting in your little group… the game is over… or let’s go team… Jesus is on our side. Your answer makes a world of difference.

Dear Lord, thank you for allowing us to enjoy our grandchildren playing sports and giving their best, as they see it. Help us to live a life before them that encourages them to give their very best and never, ever give up… especially when it comes to faith. In and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace
Steve

Whose Windows are Dirty?

Their city houses were only a few feet apart. Although Ardith hadn’t met her new neighbor, she already knew a lot about her. That’s because their houses were situated in such a way that Ardith could look into her neighbor’s house through a multitude of windows.

Yes, Ardith knew a lot about her neighbor. Ardith knew when her neighbor got up, and Ardith knew her neighbor sewed every day in the late afternoon. Ardith also knew her neighbor wasn’t very clean. That fact was obvious because her neighbor’s windows were so dirty the images Ardith saw were quite fuzzy.

One sunny day Ardith decided to set an example and do some housecleaning of her own. Part of those duties included washing her own windows. After the work was done, Ardith sat down by her dining room window to rest and admire her work.

To Ardith’s amazement, she could distinctly see her neighbor sitting by her window, sewing. Commenting on the clarity of what she was seeing, Ardith said to herself, “Well, I’m pleased, my neighbor has finally washed her windows!” I don’t need to tell you that it was Ardith, not her neighbor, who had the dirty windows.

That’s a story which is, for the most part, made up … for the most part. Indeed, it is more true than we would like. That’s because most of us, in one area or another, could be Ardith. All of us have times when we think somebody else has dirty windows or dirty family laundry, and we jump to some pretty quick conclusions about them.

Such jumping usually is a big mistake. It’s almost always a mistake when we have the very sin or shortcoming about which we judge others. This is just one more reason why we need the Savior and one more reason why our daily prayer ought to be “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.” Thankfully, because God is merciful and because Jesus has offered Himself in our stead, there is forgiveness and the opportunity to change. God grant that we do change and look twice to see whose windows are really dirty.

Heavenly Father help us give our neighbor the benefit of the doubt. May we always make sure there is no log in our eye while we are pointing out the speck in the eyes of others. In the Name of Jesus, our Savior, we pray it. Amen.

Grace and Peace
Steve

Have We Been Lead?

We ought to be something we’re not. I should be smarter, more thoughtful, not so impatient, more self-confident, less risk averse, not so concerned about the approval of others. I should be able to attach a file to an email all the time. I should be able to send the right file. I shouldn’t make so many mistakes in typing. The list is endless. We’re never enough. So, it seems.

We turn into whatever we need to be when first we know that God is with us, just as we are. Saul remained Saul but with a difference when he could believe that despite his weakness and inadequacy the spirit of God was with him. In his case, he became king.

While hard to grasp, God’s presence is not as far from us as we may think. As with Saul, awareness of this makes a difference: looking ahead becomes a lot more promising. In the words of the lead character in Wendell Berry’s novel, Jayber Crow: “Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there…Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led – make of that what you will.”

Maybe we should quit thinking of all the ways we should be different and be glad for the difference God has already made. The grace that has led us this far is not through with us yet… and neither is God through with any of us.

Dear God, “Finish, then, thy new creation,” O God. Change us “from glory into glory, ‘till in heaven we take our place.” Amen.

Grace and Peace
Steve

One of Those Exhausting Days

We had such a wonderful time at the 55th high school reunion last night… remembering the old days… good old days when we were young… trying to remember who was who. We even stayed out past 9:00pm. We went to sleep with sugarplums dancing in our heads… happy memories.

I woke up this morning only to find out that my blog had some kinda bug, gremlin, or some whirlies mischief happening that would not allow me to send out my blog. UGH! I was not a happy camper… but after four years in the Marine Corps, I’ve never liked to camp. I’ve had my share of mosquitoes that were so big they had landing lights. I’ve wondered what every sound was out there. Was it a Viet Cong or just some noise. Was it a sapper digging his way to the command post. After all that, plus the heat and rain and cold, my idea of camping is the Holiday Inn with room service.

I tried all day to get the blog program to work… with no success. I read the dummies book and viewed the videos about these problems on line. No answers.

In the midst of that channel two’s NFL game was being broadcast in Spanish. What in the world was that all about? The commercials were in English but the commentators speech was all in Spanish. It was the only channel that did that. Shirley called channel two technical support and they said our Time Warner device must be set on a secondary language. With his instructions we finally found that it was indeed set on secondary language. Now, we didn’t do that. It was almost impossible to find the way to fix it… why would we want to listen to the game in Spanish. I am thinking that someone came in the house last night while we were enjoying the reunion and played this trick on us. It would not have been something that we accidentally did… you really have to want to do this to make it happen.

By now we were beginning to think that we had gone round the bend… peeking out the windows to see if the people in white coats were walking toward the house.

Then tonight Shirley was wanting to send out a new email list for the Page Ladies Lunch Bunch… a group of her classmates who meet every month to share a meal, support, remembrances and laughter together. Well, the list on my computer had a watermark that was a pirate… and it looked pretty good. Every time she pulled it up on her computer, the pirate was so dark it made some of the names unreadable. I guess we spent a couple of hours with that. She tried to scan my copy and would get a scanner error.

By now we kinda feel like Lee Marvin in the picture above. Not only are we out of it, but so is our horse. It was a mentally tiring day… and we don’t have a lot of mentally left to lose. In church today we sang “It is Well With My Soul” Got a bit lively with “I’ve Got Joy” and the “Hymn of Promise.” Tonight I really needed those hymns to lift up my spirit. I think Jesus has a strange way of knowing exactly what we need, even when we don’t. I needed to be reminded that all is indeed well with my soul, even with the small, insignificant matters like computer and television problems. He knows and surrounds us with the problems of life are almost unbearable.

And so we pray: O Lord, your grace is sufficient for all areas of my life, from the minor to the major. You pour your grace on us and before us. Thank you for surrounding with your loving arms and lifting our spirit. Amen.

PROBLEMS WITH THE PROCESS

Something happened while we were at the reunion last night… but my WordPress program will not send out email notifications of new posts. I am working on it and hope to have it up and running in no time… sometime…anytime. I do not have a mailing list so this Facebook page is the only way I may be able to contact you till the work is done.

Hang in there with me.
Steve

Right Now. Right Here.

In The Sermon on the Mount Jesus offers two simple but very powerful images of the role of His disciples in the world – to be salt and light. At first sight, salt does not seem very glamorous – but anyone who has had to go on a low-salt diet knows the difference it makes to a meal! The job of salt, though, is not really to be tasted itself – but to bring out the other flavors in the meal. In Jesus’ time, it was also important in preserving food – a vital job in a hot country where food would quickly become dangerous.

In a similar way with light – the job of light is not to draw attention to itself – it is there to allow people to see things that would otherwise be hidden in the darkness.

So it is with Jesus’ disciples – that is us… Like salt, we are not to overwhelm the world – but to bring out the goodness – or preserve the goodness that we find in it.

Like light, we should allow the Light of God to shine through us – not so that we dazzle people with our radiance – but so that they can see the light of truth.

We may be tempted to hide the light – especially when it might get us noticed – or where people would not understand. That is a risk of discipleship – but, Jesus says, that by allowing our light to shine, other people will see clearly and give praise to our Father in heaven.

Another point worth noting is that Jesus was not speaking to the great and the good – He was speaking to a crowd of people who had followed Him to the hillside. He was also speaking about what He saw as real in the here-and-now – not something that would come about when everyone was perfect. Jesus looks at the people before Him – then and now – and says, “You are the salt of the earth…You are light for the world…”

Our role as salt and light for the world is something we are called to do right now – however imperfectly. The little flavor we bring – the small light we can offer – all make a difference to the world. Without us – life is tasteless and dull!

Dear Lord, help me to be the salt and light you called me to become that I may more fully share in the advancement of your kingdom here on earth. Amen.

Grace and Peace
Steve

Don’t Just Hope… Decide

Michael Hargrove tells about a scene at an airport that literally changed his life. He was picking up a friend. He noticed a man coming toward him carrying two light bags. The man stopped right next to Hargrove to greet his family. The man motioned to his youngest son (maybe six years old) as he laid down his bags. They hugged and Hargrove heard the father say, “It’s so good to see you, son. I missed you so much!” “Me, too, Dad!” said the son. The oldest son (maybe nine or ten) was next. “You’re already quite the young man. I love you very much, Zach!” Then he turned to their little girl (perhaps one or one-and-a-half). He kissed her and held her close. He handed his daughter to his oldest son and declared, “I’ve saved the best for last!” and preceded to give his wife a long, passionate kiss. “I love you so much!” He said to his wife softly.

Hargrove interrupted this idyllic scene to ask, “Wow! How long have you two been married?”

“Been together fourteen years total, married twelve of those,” the man replied, as he gazed into his wife’s face.

“Well then, how long have you been away?”

The man turned around and said, “Two whole days!” Hargrove was stunned. “I hope my marriage is still that passionate after twelve years!”

The man stopped smiling and said, “Don’t hope, friend . . . decide!”

And that’s it, isn’t it? For most of us it comes down to a decision. “Till death us do part.” It doesn’t happen in every relationship, but that is still the ideal that Jesus gives us.

When we step before the altar to wed what have we decided… to make it work at all cost? Or to see how long this will last? Let me suggest to decide together that you will make it work… which means give and take on both sides as you grow and move together to become one. Don’t just hope it will work. Decide it will work. And then stick to it.

Dear Lord, I thank you for my marriage of 53 years. I thank you for all the good times and even the difficult times. I thank you for the love, wisdom, and understanding of my wife. I thank you for the blessings of all these happy years together. Lord, it has been a hoot. You really know how to pick ’em. In and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace
Steve

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