The Reluctant Confirmand

Imagine a church with such beautiful architecture that you can look up and see the clouds gently painting their pictures of angels and saints we use to know. The sunlight streams in at just the right angles that you can almost touch heaven. There seems to be a gentle breeze that brings a refreshing lift to your spirit. The music was majestically sweet and soul warming. The sainted preacher stands in the grand pulpit to deliver a sermon with the voice of thunder and the power of God strong enough to reach even the darkest soul. We sit in our pews stilled and awed by this powerful personification of God’s Word.

As the sermon reaches its climatic conclusion a young confirmand is brought forward for baptism. The sacrament is so real that it leaves blood dripping from the preacher’s hand. What a powerful day! What a beautiful church!

Ever been to a church like that? Ever been in a service like that? I have. As Paul Harvey would say: “Now the rest of the story.”

The church was the side yard of our parsonage in Bryson City, NC. Of course, the great architecture was God’s nature all around us on that Spring morning. The grand pulpit was the old tree stump and the old sainted preacher was my 6 year old brother. I (4 years old) was the song leader, the entire congregation and the one who helped to bring that young confirmand to the Baptismal Font: that is bring the scrawny neighborhood cat to the mud puddle in front of the tree stump. The blood came about because that cat must have been of some other faith since I am pretty sure he didn’t like the idea of baptism and fought tooth and claw not to receive this Wesleyan Sacrament. My brother preached with some sort of book in his left hand so he could used his right hand to point at the sins of the congregation. I would shout out amen at the appropriate times (I think he instructed me when to do that).

My brother and I grew up to be United Methodist pastors. We never saw that cat again. I guess he went as a missionary to China?

Isn’t it strange the games children play? I wonder, do surgeon’s children carve up the neighborhood cat with a “butter” knife and talk with the family afterwards? I do know that some teacher’s children play school. Do we do what we see others do, especially if they are people who are role models for us? When I was in college as a student pastor (serving a church and going to college at the same time) I would try to spend time with my son, Stephen. He liked baseball, so we would get out in the front yard and I would throw the wiffleball for him to hit. He had watched enough baseball to know what to do. He would rub dirt on his hands, take a few practice swings, and spit on the ground before I pitched each ball. I think he was in the first grade then. Later in life he turned out to be quite a short stop in slow pitch softball.

Once, when I was three or four, my dad noticed that I was watching him and doing everything he did. Later he told my mom that he prayed that he did only that which would lead his children to be good Christian men. I do thank my mom and dad for doing just that. This little story and many just like it are played out all over the world every day. Children are doing what they see adults of influence doing. Here is the question: If we continue to do what we are doing now, and our children continue to watch, what will we have contributed to the kind of people they will become? I believe, one way or another, we make a difference in the lives of others, especially our children.

Dear Lord, we are proud of our son, his wife, and our grandchildren. They are people of great character and solid faith. They are faithful to the church and devoted to you. If Shirley and I had some small part in that, we give you all the thanks and praise. We sought to love and be real, but your love taught the real lessons of life. Help us to continue to always live lives of courage and faith. In and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace

That Dream Has a Hold on Me.

Ordination 1983

Any of you who spend time on Facebook know you will endure . . . well, uh, let’s keep it decent and say a pre-edited version of “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.” And not just from . . . uh . . . the incredulous and socially-challenged who have too much time on their hands.

There are also memes from the seriously well-intentioned, like the one I saw recently proclaiming, in all caps and bold face type, “RACISM DESTROYED IN ONE MINUTE.” As if being able to state insight about a problem is equivalent to implementing the remedy.

Like many, I thoroughly enjoy stimulating conversations exploring seemingly intractable problems and coming to what feels like actual clarity about what might be done to at least nudge reality toward just and compassionate solutions.

The genetic flaw in this form of idealism is that it substitutes ideas for solutions, severs vision from strategic planning. There’s a difference from having a dream and dreaminess.

If having a good idea is like hearing the starter’s gun, the race has just begun. What comes next is sweat, persevering through frustration, maybe pain, coming to terms with the possibility that your best effort may not be enough, maybe even realizing you’ve marched up a dead-end street, or that you are but one participant in a relay that will stretch on for years, decades, maybe even millennia.

Having a dream is not the same as being had by a dream. The later may very well pick you up off the ground by your collar, toss you into a tornado, land you on a small boat in a very large storm—all without so much as a please-and-thank-you.

Any dream worthy of the name may be hazardous to your career, your reputation, surely your economic security, conceivably your health, possibly even your life.

The sharecropper turned civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer understand the risk. “Sometimes it seems like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed. But if I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I’m not backing off.”

The vast majority of those caught by a dream will never appear in anyone’s gun sight, or feel the weight of a billy club on your head, or hear a prison door close behind you. But there’s no warranty coverage.

Ideas that matter will almost certainly cause calluses, maybe blisters, likely emotional turmoil and spiritual vexation of every sort. Tired bodies, cluttered minds, lagging spirits—all these and other impairments will have to be endured.

A true and worthy hope, as Barbara Kingsolver wrote, requires more than admiration from a distance. You to take up residence under its roof.

New friends will most certainly come along; but you may lose a few, too. If you’re honest, you will recognize there is always a little slippage between your comprehension of how to reach the Beloved Community and the actual Way forward. Righteous intention is no guarantee that you’re right. Owning mistakes, false conclusions, premature judgment, your own capacity to wound as well as heal—in short, living a life of penitential readiness—all of these foibles can be turned to strength if the ground of your confidence is more than personal pride.

With any struggle worth the time, perseverance is more valuable than brilliance, in no small part because actual engagement is the best source of learning.

Grace and Peace

Building Up or Tearing Down???

Two boys on the school playground were discussing a classmate. One of them remarked, “He’s no good at sports.” The other quickly responded, “Yes, but he always plays fair.”

The critical boy tried a different tack: “He isn’t very smart in school either.” His friend answered, “That may be true, but he studies hard.”

The boy with the spiteful tongue was becoming exasperated with the way the conversation was going. “Well,” he sneered, “did you ever notice that he never wears clothes that are cool?”

The second lad kindly replied, “Yes, but did you ever notice, he doesn’t seem to need the newest and best to be cheerful? He seems happier than most of us.” The conversation went on for a while that way. Every negative observation was countered by a positive comment.

Now if this was a parable, and it is, I would ask which of the two boys on the playground is most like you?

* Are you the one who defends others, or are you the one who criticizes?

* Are you the one who builds people up, or the one who tears them down?

* Are you the one who puts the best construction on everything, or are you the person whose construction is pretty slipshod?

Now I know your mother told you, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” And I know we are also told to say “everything in the kindest way.” But do we do what has been suggested to us, or is our conversation filled with criticism and complaints about others?

I wish I could answer all those questions in a way which makes me look good. I can’t. Odds are you probably can’t either. Therefore, we need to, in the words of James, “bridle our tongues.” Tongue-bridling is a good thing for many reasons. First, it helps and builds up others. Second, it helps us see the world and each other in a positive light, and most of all it reflects positively on our Savior.

This is why today’s devotion encourages us to refrain from “evil speaking” and asks that we be “kind to one another” (see Ephesians 4:31-32). Rather than contributing to the spirit of criticism, let us be known as those who do their best to cancel it.

Dear Lord, it seems like my tongue is so small it ought to be easily controlled. That is the way it seems, but the reality is different. It is far too easy for me to shoot the verbal arrows, to unleash the thunderous tirade against others. For this forgive me. And now I ask that you will not just create a new heart in me, but you will also give me a new tongue, in and through Jesus.  Amen.

Grace and Peace

How To What For Dummies???

The other day Southeast High School had a Library Fund Raiser at Barnes and Noble here in Greensboro. It was really nice, running from 5:00pm to 8:00pm with a percentage of all proceeds going toward SEHS Library Fund… to help them buy books for the school library. One of the choirs sang beautifully… while the Jazz Band really rocked the house.

I wandered throughout the store which Shirley and I shop at quite a bit. Up and down the aisles, retrieving, flipping, though, and replacing books on many shelves. I looked at all the little knickknacks on display and even purchased a few. All the latest and hottest books… ones they are trying their best to get you to purchase were on display near the entrance… almost tripped over them on the way in.

One thing I did think about was the real important question of the evening: “Why are my books only on line with Barnes and Noble and not on their physical shelves?” There are other authors who have several books on the shelves… little known authors like John Grissom, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and some guy named Mark Twain… wow what a funny name? I guess these guys are ok to read but I am a local boy… shouldn’t that warrant some consideration?

I am sure you know that this is all in jest. I envy the talent and skill and imagination of these very famous and successful writers. If I keep working at improving my skills and techniques perhaps in about 30 or 40 years, I will be a famous, well-read writer?

As I walked around the computer book section looking for some written help for my ancestry work, I noticed that there is this series of books on everything you ever wanted to know about everything you wanted to know. The series is entitled “(Blank) for Dummies.” Some are funny. Some make you say what? While others you look at and say Really? Amazon Books online has 20 pages of listing the titles of Dummies book titles. Add the words “for Dummies” after each of these: the Bible, iPhone, Running a Bar, Auto Repair, Raising Chickens, Hacking, Facebook, Puppies, iPad, Music Theory, Pit Bulls, Football, Fishing, Christianity, U.S. History, Dad’s Guide to Pregnancy, Gardening, Wine, Bird Watching, etc. for many more pages.

There was one that caught my eye… even though I am a dummy at fishing and would love to be able to catch the big one… one book, in particular, stopped me dead in my tracks: “Mindfulness for Dummies.” It seems to run right along with the Bible for Dummies and Christianity for Dummies. I am afraid that what we are handing out today is the Cliff Notes version of things that really matter – things vital to life and faith – things that call us to a higher plane of living and understanding and loving. And in the process, we are losing the deeper meanings of that which is vital. An old college Philosophy professor who was dry as dust and even put a dog to sleep during a summer school class – that wise old professor gave us a quote that has stayed with me since 1977: “If you think you have your philosophy of life all figured out with that philosophical circle complete, watch out cause God is getting ready to let you know that your philosophical circle of life is not big enough to include all God wants to say or do or include”.

It seems these days that the world has gone mad trying to push people out of their circle for reasons that are simply beyond me… like they are immigrants, law breakers, not up to our standards, sick or different than we are. And a host of other reasons. I look at what we are doing and how we are acting, and I see the people of Jesus’ days on earth pointing fingers at Jesus because he was different. He healed people on the Sabbath (when they needed healing – didn’t wait for a more suitable or acceptable day). He ate with sinners – people we wouldn’t let in our house – he welcomed people he didn’t know – strangers. He touched the untouchables – the sick lepers – who were spiritually unclean.  He welcomed the Samaritans – the ones our priests and business men leave in the side ditch on the road to church… the office – the ones who worship differently than us. He welcomed the different, the outcast, the ungodly people from whom we would look away. In other words, he would welcome anyone, eat with anyone, pray with anyone, walk with anyone, invite anyone, love anyone, and die for anyone.

Several years ago, I spoke about the doors, hearts and minds of the church being wide open to welcome anyone and everyone. Someone in the congregation needed clarification and ran up to me after church and said: “Preacher, just how open are these doors?” (meaning, do we let in even those people with whom I don’t agree?) And I answered they are to be wide enough to welcome everyone God wants us to love. I don’t think he liked my answer, but it still is the truth… still today.

Our world today needs a crash course in “Mind-fullness for Dummies.” We need to be mindful of all the people God is calling us to love – to love with God’s love – to love with our love. God calls us to welcome the stranger not to send them away. He calls us to care for them – lift them up and not to bring them down and trample them under foot.

Do we really need a book on Christianity for Dummies? I guess we do if we think God has said the last word on Christian belief, faith and action… and that we know all we need to know about how God works and who God loves and welcomes into God’s own heart. How closed off are you? Is your circle complete…finished? If so, Dummy, you need to read: Open Hearts for Dummies. Open Minds for Dummies. Open Doors for Dummies. How to Be Compassionate to ALL People for Dummies. Read and learn. You’ll be glad you did… believe me you will be glad you did.

Grace and Peace

Having a Real Person as a Real Friend

A few years ago, when still in Winston, a Thursday night I met Shirley in Greensboro to spend the night and take my Friday (day off) there. On the way in I met her at Red Lobster for a special meal. I couldn’t believe it. It was just about 5:00pm and there was a 45 minute wait. If it weren’t for the garlic biscuits we would have gone somewhere else. Our ideal meal at Red Lobster is to order 2 dozen biscuits and asked them to bring them out two at a time every 5 minutes. Haven’t tried that order yet but maybe we will one day before they come in the white coats to take us to our own little private (padded) rooms.

Before going home we had to stop by Harris Teeter because we needed some things for the house. I went into Starbucks and wrote my devotional while Shirley shopped. On the way out of the parking lot (Shirley was in her car and I was in mine) I noticed this man and his wife looking at her car as it passed them– really staring at her car and laughing. I was right behind her watching this unfold. I rolled down my window and said: “She is a crazy woman. She is my wife.”

What caught their attention was all the Duke stuff all over her car. Did I mention we (Duke) had just won the NCAA championship? It is a white Kia with a Blue Devil Head inside the D on both front doors; a Duke National Champion sticker on the back driver side window; a Duke Gnome on the gas tank lid; a small Duke in a circle on the back bumper; a Duke Alumni sticker on the back window; an oval circle with Duke inside it on the back of the trunk; a Big Blue Devil inside the D on the hood, and finally a big Blue Devil Fish eating a Tarheel Fish. I think that is all – except for whatever Duke outfit she may be wearing. I told her that all her car was missing was a sign made buy our friends, Mike, Angela and Mary Drum (Iron Dukes) which says “Official Duke Car!”

On my car I have a small oval circle with Duke in the center and an Alumni sticker on the back window. (Shirley put a Blue Devil D on the passenger side door – so I wouldn’t know it was there). I went to school at Duke. I am quite proud of having a master’s degree from there. But I don’t put that stuff all over my car.  I guess I am shy about what I believe or like or support. Do you think Shirley is shy about what she believes, likes or supports? Not a chance! I have grown accustomed (whether good or not so good) to being more diplomatic in my approach to my beliefs.

Shirley simply tells it like it is. Don’t ask her what she believes if you don’t want an answer – a full, complete, long version answer. In other words, if you give her a soapbox she will speak from it. Everywhere I have served people have liked Shirley – most people say more than me – because Shirley is Shirley – she is real, plain, and straightforward – what you see is what you get.

You know it is refreshing to have someone like Shirley in your midst. No pretense. Just someone you know will tell you the truth in love. I know where I stand with her – often she lets me know where I stand with her – but at least I don’t have to wonder.  I hope you have a friend like Shirley. I am glad I do. Be thankful for whoever is in your life that is real and honest.

We have been married for over 54 years and I love her more every day. We have shared many anniversaries and birthdays together over the years…. and they have all been good ones. I never have too much wife!!!

Dear Lord, I run into all kinds of phony people these days who play all kinds of political games which I can’t even begin to understand the rules or the purpose. I try to be the same around everyone and treat everyone with the same respect. Thank you for sending me a real person who has been a real wife and friend all these many years. I know it has been in and through Jesus that this marriage has been so blessed. Amen.

Grace and Peace

Those Stinging Bellyflops

Isn’t it strange the things you remember? Many times it seems like it is those times we fail that we remember most.

I remember in high school, during the summers I really loved to swim at Mayo Lake. I even took the life guard course they offered and did diving off the low and high boards. Now you are going to have to use a lot of imagination, but back in the day, I had a good physique. I played football, basketball, ran track, played baseball and softball in the summer.

I loved to swim and dive. I remember that we would practice diving wearing a sweatshirt to keep the mistakes from hurting so badly. My favorite dive was a backward 1/2 gainer off the high board (12 feet) and a 1 and 1/2 off the low board. I still vividly remember to this day when I did a 1 and 1/4 off the low board. You must picture a 1 and 1/4 – that means to land in (or in my case ON) the water, stretched out with every part of your body hitting the water all at once. I hit so flat that I don’t believe I even went under the water… just kind of laid there on top stunned and stinging. (Yes, it hurt!)

I seem to forget all the good dives I made over the years and remember with great shame that one big splat.

One night we were eating dinner with Stephen, Joy and the kids at Kick Back Jacks. Joy asked the waitress some question about their pizza specials. The waitress responded: “I don’t know, I don’t usually work the Friday shift.” (Duh, it is Monday). When we see her again, that is what we will remember. Sometimes there are people who only remember that perfect dive they made… forgetting all the mistakes.

Have you ever wondered what people think when they see you? Do they see a person of care and compassion, one who gives others many chances in life, not judging but understanding and forgiving? Do they see a Christian person or one who just pretends to be a Christian? Perhaps we have forgotten that we missed those real live dives so badly that the pain should remind us of our failures and imperfection. But instead we pretend we have never messed up and judge others for their messes and simply will not give them a chance to redeem themselves. We forever remember them and judge them on that one missed dive.

Isn’t it a good thing that Jesus looked past our belly flops to see that there is something in us worth redeeming, forgives us, and gives us a new life of walking in his footsteps.

Dear Lord, I have missed a lot of dives, but you have always been there to pick me up, renew my spirit and restore me all over again. Keep on working on this old retired preacher… don’t be finished with me yet. Amen.

Grace and Peace

When Mommy is On the Plane

Several years ago, our daughter-in-law was getting ready to take a business trip to Orlando. She flew out of Greensboro to stay for five days – learning some new, good stuff for her work. Our grandson (13 year old Noah) was very concerned about her flying. His concern is about terrorists. Isn’t that a sad commentary on life in the world today where a 13 year old worries about terrorists attacking his mommy’s plane?

So, what would you do to comfort this young man if he were your grandson? Really, I would be interested to know.

The first thing we tried to do was convince Noah that planes are very safe today, in fact, they are safer than driving. But Noah knows that his dad nor I like to fly. We don’t want to be involved in the consequences of the pilot’s bad day. So, I am not so sure that we were very convincing on that part.

The next thing is to pray with Noah. But here is the catch… what we believe about prayer and what Noah believes about prayer may be completely different things. Most of us start out thinking that God is a candy machine that we put in our request (quarter) pull the knob (pray) and out comes the candy (the desired results). In other words Noah just may think that when we pray for God to look after his mom that God is going to insulate that plane from any harm whatsoever – nothing will happen to that plane no matter what – cause God has made it off limits from the circumstances of the physical world. Is that really what we believe happens when we pray – that God changes the physical nature of things in order to accommodate our wishes?

Shirley prayed for me every single day I was away from home in Vietnam. Did I get to come home safe because she prayed for me to come home safe? Quite honestly, I don’t know. But what about all those other guys (some with me) whose wives and mothers prayed the same prayer every day with as much faith as Shirley? And they didn’t come home alive. How do we explain that? Do we say God blessed me but not my buddies? I don’t think so.

Do we explain to him that what we really need to ask for is for God’s will to be done in this situation and in every situation… and to help us accept what happens? That is a tough thing for a seventy-two-year old to accept, much less a (at that time) 13-year- old. So where does that leave us?

It leaves us in the mystery of God’s will, God’s providence, and God’s grace. I must admit that there is more that is beyond me than what I know. I do know what I can do. I can take this little guy in my arms and tell him the truth that I believe from the depths of my soul – that God wants only that which is good for us. And that God will do all God can to make sure your mommy is safely back home. We will pray for her every night and you will talk with her every night till she gets home and you are back in her arms again.

Dear Lord, help me to be able to pray with children prayers that enable them to know that you do, indeed, watch over them through every difficult situation, through every time when they are afraid of the world and all the evil it may produce. Give them strength and courage in the face of it all, knowing that you are holding them in your loving arms. In and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace

Before, During and After

We see ads for all kinds of products these days which show the “Before” picture and, to sell you on their product, they will produce an “After” picture. Don’t you just love them? Some, I am positive, are Photoshopped… just too good to be true. Many make the “Before” picture so noticeably unattractive that the “After” picture doesn’t have to produce much of a difference to look better. Some of these ads are spot-on in their presentation of the before condition and the after results.

The one thing they usually miss is the “During” part which is, in most cases, tough, rough and hard-fought – if you are going to get the promised results. The commercials that really get me are the ones who promise you are going to look like the 6-pack guy by just taking some kind of magical natural herb… found only in the jungles of the Amazon by this one doctor who has been searching for the Fountain of Youth all his life. Now he has found it… and it can change your life for only four payments of $29.95. Many promise great result with little to no effort… and folks – we all know it ain’t going to happen… But we send in the money… we take the pills… we do their thing… and nothing happens. I wonder why?

In real life there is a before picture of us… and an after picture – what we have become. But often we are so caught up in the before and after that we fail to be in the “During.” I had a friend – a colleague – Reverend Eddie Black who use to tell the story of how people saw different preachers. Early on in his ministry people would say: “I bet you are going to be a great preacher one of these days?” When we are retiring they say: “I bet you use to be a good preacher.” He said: “I either use to be or are going to be, but never do I hear you are a good preacher now… never do I hear them talk about the present moment – the “During.” Truth of the matter is that to be a good preacher requires a great deal of study, preparation, self-evaluation, self-correction, and a ton of mercy and grace. In the Methodist Church our vows of ordination asks “Are you going on to perfection?” That kinda means I am going to work at growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ….

There is no magic potion, no talisman which casts some spell over our path and propels us to the after picture with no effort from us. I have a lot of health problems which are very serious. One requires that I eat less than one gram of sodium per day to keep me from retaining fluid which affects my heart, liver, and kidneys… Plus eat less that 1,200 calories per day to ensure that I lose weight. Yes, I have to give up some things I really enjoy… but the benefits greatly outweigh doing the magical erroneous quick fix things right now.

We could apply this to almost any situation we face… the during is going to be tough… much tougher than the magic pill. Put your heart, energy and wisdom into your “During” moments and you will not have to worry about the real “after” picture.

Grace and Peace

I Think We Should Fight

The Reverend Doctor James Howell quoted Thomas Merton’s famous prayer in his sermon today. It is a prayer for me, perhaps for you, maybe even for all of us as we stumble through life’s journey.

It is from Thoughts in Solitude(1958)

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Does that sound like you? It sure sounds like me… I mean when I am really truthful and thoughtful about my life, who I am and what I am about. I seek to be what God wants me to be all the time, but truth be known, I rarely get there. Truth be known, I am just like this prayer – I have no idea where I am going even though I think I am doing my best to follow Jesus. I do not see the road ahead of me… If I did I just might choose a different path… one more pleasing…comfortable… less stressful, less painful. And the biggie is I don’t even know myself. Is that ever true? I want to be like Jesus, sometimes I think I come close (like from the sun to earth close) but even that perception misses the mark by millions of miles. I think I am a peacemaker even when my real life reveals that I contribute to bigotry and hatred in very subtle ways. I think I am being kind and compassionate, when all along I am just trying to sooth my own guilty conscience.

A while back my blog found me trying to give voice to my own frustrations about the sad events which happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. One person took issue with me over this, saying that I shouldn’t be posting Martin’s beliefs on the Madison-Mayodan Facebook page. I am not sure he was correct, after all I am from Mayodan. I went to school there. I still have family living there. I don’t believe what I posted is against any rules set up by the site host. 

My intention was to help us to seek to be peacemakers in this and all situations. I know there is a lot of pushback about removing Confederate statues in southern states. And I understand the reason why it is a tough issue. One side says it is a symbol of hatred, while the other side says it is a symbol of their heritage – which does not represent hate. A lot of southern people feel like their history is being erased statue by statue, building by building, street by street. Anyone who had anything to do with slavery should be stripped of any honor what-so-ever and their names be banished from all public buildings. If we do that, what do we do with the names of cities, places, schools and buildings named after George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant, Zachary Taylor, Harrison, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, James Madison, James Monroe, James Polk, John Tyler, Martin Van Buren – ALL of whom owned slaves. I guess we start with the Washington Monument and then move on to the Jefferson Memorial. And what would be the new name of Washington, DC?

You see, it is not an easy fix. People on both sides of this issue need to sit down and logically figure out how to honor our past while not encouraging any hatred today or in the future. So, let’s put our differences aside and pray together that cooler heads will come to terms with a treaty we all can live with. My thoughts about “Silent Sam” at Chapel Hill was to use it, along with Union Soldiers, to build a place where a teaching moment about the whole history of that period of America could be told in a respectful and truthful manner. Perhaps people could come away with a more complete understanding of what really happened and why. Perhaps, just perhaps the Civil War could finally end?

People in our family fought in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War, but we don’t hate England, nor are we still fighting the north… at least I have never heard the subject come up at a family reunion.

I think we should fight… fight for peace on all sides, in all places, among all people. That is looking into the face of Jesus.

Grace and Peace

A Bad Moon Rising

Some of the happenings of today have made me wonder if we are in some sort of bad moon phase… you know like “A Bad Moon Rising.”

Everything started out very well. I got up early… around 7:30am staggered to my chair and slept another hour. I got up, took my blood pressure and heart rate, weighted in and cursed the scales. Took my medications, fixed a cup of decaf and headed for the study to do some writing. All of this was going well, as I remember, because I was working on a new article, I am writing on how we are experiencing Jesus in a world gone mad. The words just seem to flow with great ease. Wow, what a good feeling.

Then… Then… we went to Office Depot to get new roller ball refills for my Cross pen. I just love the feel of this pen. I can’t spell any better with it, but I write with greater ease… it is easy on these old hands and fingers… it just feels great as you write with it. We walked to the back of the store where they keep the Cross roller-ball refills. I can’t seem to find the right one… reason being we can’t get the cap off my pen to identify the refill we need. Shirley tries to untwist it and so do I. To little avail neither she nor I can budge this stubborn pen. Shirley grabs it up and heads for the front of the store. Nothing like a woman on a mission… She found another lady who couldn’t open it… and then she found this extra big Office Depot dude who took it and very easily untwisted the pen. There you go, lady.

Returning to the Cross-refill isle Shirley brings help. This time we have an Office Depot lady rummaging through all the refills Cross has on these hangers. Finally, she finds one that appears to be near the one I need. The only problem is that the numbers don’t exactly match. You see, not knowing exactly what the numbers mean (her quote) we had a choice between a 1326 and a 0116. We rolled the dice and chose 0116. Finally, with great determination and assurance she says; “This is the roller ball refill you need. I think?” With my 0116 double-pack refill I leave the store and look for the first opportunity to see if it fits, and I can once again start using my smooth, easy on the hands, great feeling Cross Roller Ball Pen.

We moved on to Oakcrest Restaurant for veggie land. I took my newfound goodies in to try them out; a notebook and my roller ball Cross pen. As we entered the door, we noticed the sanitation grade is an 87, a “B”. We moved on to be seated by the waitress in the doomsday booth right next to the kitchen pass through window, where the waitresses pass their orders to the cooks in the kitchen, receive the completed order back, and prepare drinks, bread and other items to complete the customer’s order. This is also the place just outside the kitchen where dirty dishes are brought and placed in rubber bends for the dishwasher to collect. (A word of warning… if you are ever seated in this place, move or leave. It is not worth the experience.)

Sitting down in our booth we notice (can’t help but notice) this waitress talking very loudly on her cell phone to a Dr.’s office operator. She is discussing a couple of appointments for her kids (or dogs) one at 3:00pm and one at 3:15pm. She says to the operator that she sees no difference between 3:00 and 3:15. She doesn’t get off until 3:00 and can’t get there until 3:15. Apparently, the operator is suggesting that she will lose the 3:00 appointment if she is not there. To which miss congeniality says: “You tell Dr. (blank) that we have been waiting four months for this appointment. And I will be sure to let him know (insensitive language) how retarded you are acting.” With that (and this is hard to do on a cell phone) I got the very clear impression that she slammed the phone down. Dale Carnegie would have slapped her right there.

Can you imagine that things went downhill from there in this small restaurant??? Sure did! Plates were dropped. Drawers were slammed. Dirty dishes were thrown into those rubber tubs. I think she even poured tea loudly. She wanted everyone in the place to know she was unhappy. Message received loud and clear!!! On and on the scene grew more intense with her grunting and growling.

Amid all this comes the big hit… the grand slam of the day… the winning run that brings utter defeat to the foes… the manager/owner comes back to the battle station and has the gall to suggest to her that she allow the other waitress to have a couple of customers. KA-BOOOOOM!!!! More plates dropped and thrown. More drawers slammed. Louder talking. Insulting words to the other waitress, who by the way was in her second week at this job. She even told her not to come back into that little section because every time she did miss congeniality forgot what she was doing. She drops some glasses and the manager/owner sees them and comes over to pick them up and she chimes in: “I know there are dishes down there. Just leave them and I’ll get them in a minute. You know, you have a smart-ass cook and a smart-ass waitress… deal with it – join ’em.”

If miss congeniality had been working for me, she would not be right now. Out the door… goodbye Charlie… it has been real. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Call me for a GOOD recommendation. Acting that way in a business, in life in general, is simply unacceptable behavior. It makes everyone uneasy and it kills any good feelings with which you entered this place. I want people to leave my place feeling better for having been there not running for the door…screaming into the night. I don’t know what she had on her boss, but it must be a doozy. If I were him, I would be training a new lead waitress (one with personality, poise and a sense of maturity). And I would be building a team of employees that function as family… care for the customers… and seek to create a family atmosphere in that restaurant

I have got to say my veggies were good, as they usually are but Shirley’s hamburger was so big she had to cut it with a knife. My un-sweet tea came out sweet tea, so I ordered iced water. We were charged for tea anyway. I hope this young, new, confused waitress doesn’t let the bull in the china shop run her off. I think that must be her way of doing things. If the manager/owner allows this to continue he will find his customers leaving two by two.

By the way, I checked the moon phase. It is a “Waning Gibbous.” OMG! No wonder things are going so badly.

Grace and Peace

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