A Good Christian Man

Leland Cantrell

This man above is one I have admired since we first met in 1997. You see, my son was dating his daughter, Joy. He impressed me because of his faith and devotion to the church. I have never met anyone so involved in the community, the church and the mission of the church.

Over the years he would go on mission trips (Building Teams) to help build churches in other countries… sometimes even twice a year. He also worked to help people in need in the community. He has been a faithful and active member of the church from childhood til this day. He is one of those people I call the “Fabulous Fifty.” These are the ones you can always… always count on to be present, ready and supportive. If you were to ask anyone about Leland, they would tell you that he is a good Christian man.

He not only helps people of the community, the church and those in need around the world, he also extends that Christian compassion to family and friends. A few weeks ago he borrowed his son-in-law’s car to get some pine needles. On his way to pick them up he was involved in a car wreck which totaled both cars. Our son’s insurance was responsible for both cars. This week Stephen received notice of the settlement… which would not replace his car… and would add to his insurance rates.

Soon after the wreck, I called Leland to see if he was okay… and thank goodness he was. He didn’t speak much about himself… as others might have. His concern was being part of the remedy for the situation the wreck had caused. I expected nothing less from this Christian man. I know this will relieve our son of just another happening to his young family, confirm his children’s respect for Gramps, and put a smile of pride on his daughter’s face.

Thank you Leland for always being that Christian example will all can follow. You make us proud to know we can call you our friend.

Grace and Peace

Be Back Shortly

Today I went for my first hemoglobin shot at Cone Hospital. Seems that my hemoglobin number has dropped to 6.7. The way I feel is like the opening words of the old Superman television series of the 1950. “Faster than a speeding sloth. More powerful than a moving nat. Able to leap tall curbs in a single bound. Look! Down on the ground… it’s a mannequin… a wrinkled pile of clothes… It is super old man saying Help, I have fallen and can’t get up.”

I will be back on line as soon as I get some strength back. Remember me during this time of recovery. I will miss being in touch with you each day.

Grace and Peace

The Prayer for the Children

A while back, I was introduced to The Prayer for the Children, which is a contemporary ballad written by Kurt Bestor and arranged for choir by Andrea S. Klouse. It is a God thing how this song came about.

Bestor described how he came to write the song: “Having lived in this war-torn country back in the late 1970’s, I grew to love the people with whom I lived. It didn’t matter to me their ethnic origin – Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian – they were all just happy fun people to me and I counted as friends people from each region. Of course, I was always aware of the bigotry and ethnic differences that bubbled just below the surface, but I always hoped that the peace this rich country enjoyed would continue indefinitely. Obviously that didn’t happen. When Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito died, different political factions jockeyed for position and the inevitable happened – civil war. 

Suddenly my friends were pitted against each other. Serbian brother wouldn’t talk to Croatian sister-in-law. Bosnian mother disowned Serbian son-in-law and so it went. Meanwhile, all I could do was stay glued to the TV back in the US and sink deeper in a sense of hopelessness. Finally, one night I began channeling these deep feelings into a wordless melody. Then little by little I added words….Can you hear….? Can you feel……? I started with these feelings – sensations that the children struggling to live in this difficult time might be feeling. Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian children all felt the same feelings of confusion and sadness and it was for them that I was writing this song.”

“Those children didn’t hate anybody,” he said. “They didn’t care about who owned the land, or who had the power or the money. These are adult neuroses. They just wanted to have a mom and dad and a place to play.”

That is so true of every child in every place in the world. We take these words for granted but for some this prayer for the children is so real that it breaks your heart to hear these words. Click the link below to hear this beautiful prayer sung.

The Prayer of The Children

Can you hear the prayer of the children on bended knee,
in the shadow of an unknown room?

Empty eyes with no more tears to cry,
turning heavenward toward the light.

Crying, “Who will help me to see
the morning light of one more day?

But if I should die before I wake,
I pray my soul to take?”

Can you feel the hearts of the children aching for home,
for something of their very own?

Reaching hands with nothing to hold on to,
but hope for a better day.

Crying, “Who will help me to
feel the love again in my own land?

But if unknown roads lead away from home,
give me loving arms, away from harm.”

Can you hear the voice of the children
softly pleading for silence in their shattered world?

Angry guns preach a gospel full of hate,
blood of the innocent on their hands.

Crying, “Jesus, help me to feel
the sun again upon my face.

For when darkness clears I know
you’re near, bringing peace again.”

Dali cuje te sve djecje molitve?
Can you hear the prayer of the children?

Dear Lord, help us be the answer to the prayer for the children of the world in and through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Grace and Peace

Creating a Masterpiece

It was reported that one man was killed and another wounded in the Philippines when a fight broke out at a karaoke bar in Manila over the quality of the singing. The fighting evidently broke out when a group of drinkers claimed the man at the microphone was singing out of tune. Many karaoke clubs in the country have already removed Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” from their play lists because of fistfights as the song was being performed. There was apparently no tolerance to let them sing it “their way.”

While it’s true that some people perhaps believe themselves to be talented in ways they clearly are not, that is not the case with most of us. People frequently lament that they have little or no talent; that they possess no “gifts” or unique abilities. Too many of us see ourselves as having little to contribute beyond our jobs. Too often we feel that we will make little difference in this world because we have nothing to offer.

But then there’s a young woman I read about named Mary. Mary has Down syndrome. She is a volunteer teacher at a school she herself attended many years ago. Mary works with 2- and 3-year-olds, some of whom are developmentally delayed and some are not. Among other tasks, she helps with puzzles, reads stories and teaches her students a variety of athletic activities. “We care about little kids here,” she says. “We set examples for them.”

Mary does not say that she has nothing to offer; she knows better. And I suspect she knows that it does not matter WHAT talents and abilities any of us has, but what we DO with them that counts.

John Ruskin correctly says, “When love and skill work together; expect a masterpiece.” Mary takes what skill she has, combines it with a heart full of love, and gives it away as a masterpiece. 

Now … who can’t do that?

Grace and Peace

The Bulldog’s Persistence

Vicki Huffman, in Plus Living (Harold Shaw Publishers, 1989), tells about a man who loved to hunt and bought two pedigreed setters that he trained to be fine bird dogs. He kept them in a large, fenced pen in his backyard.

One morning he observed a little bulldog trotting down the alley behind his home. It saw the two dogs and squeezed under the fence. The man thought he should perhaps lock up the setters so they wouldn’t hurt the little dog, but changed his mind. Maybe they would “teach that bulldog a lesson,” he reasoned.

As he predicted, fur began to fly, and all of it was bulldog fur. The feisty intruder soon had enough and squeezed back under the fence to get away.

To the man’s surprise, the visitor returned again the next morning. He crawled under the fence and once again took on the tag-team of setters. And like the day before, he soon quit and squeezed out of the pen.

The incident was repeated the following day, with the same results.

The man left early the next morning on a business trip and returned after several weeks. He asked his wife what finally became of the bulldog.

“You won’t believe it,” she replied. “At the same time every day that little dog came to the backyard and fought with our setters. He never missed a day! It has come to the point now that when our setters simply hear him snorting down the alley, they start whining and run down into the basement. Then the little bulldog struts around our backyard as if he owns it.”

That bulldog inspires me when it comes to managing problems. Not that think I have to fight and impose my will on whatever is in my way. But I appreciate that little dog’s perseverance. He persisted with his problem until it disappeared.

Dale Carnegie made this observation: “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” In the end, it’s the persistent bulldog that will own the backyard.

Grace and Peace

The Magic is Inside You

When Jeanne Calment turned 120 years old, she was asked what her view of the future was. “Very brief,” she responded. I would imagine so at 120, but I expect I still have a future.

What is your view of the future? 

A lonely frog called a psychic hotline. “You will meet a beautiful young woman who will want to learn all about you,” the psychic advisor told him.

“Where will I meet her?” he asked. “Down by the old mill stream?”

“No,” she said. “In biology class.”

I think I would want to call another psychic for a second opinion.

Scott Adams, of “Dilbert” comic strip fame, says this about predictions: “There are many methods for predicting the future. For example, you can read horoscopes, tea leaves, tarot cards, or crystal balls. Collectively, these methods are known as ‘nutty methods.’ Or you can put well-researched facts into sophisticated computer models, more commonly referred to as ‘a complete waste of time.’”

I received a postcard from a psychic adviser once. It said that if I call a certain number (one for which I would be charged a hefty fee), she would lead me through a hazy future to clarity and happiness. I wondered if she really could tell me important details about my life and future – I mean, clarity and happiness don’t sound half bad. Then I turned the card over. I noticed that it was addressed to the wrong house. That’s when I thought, if she doesn’t even know where I am, how can she know where I am going?

But if the future is not ours to see, I’m okay with that because I go along with Dolly Parton in her song “These Old Bones.” Dolly sings, “You just remember that the magic is inside you, there ain’t no crystal ball.” The magic is inside you. Maybe not the magic to see into the future, but certainly the magic to shape it.

At the end of my life, what will matter to me? Not that I ever had the ability foresee my future (I have little interest in that), but that I had a hand in shaping it. I refuse to think my life is in the hands of the fates and what will be, will be. I have dreams. I have longings. I have significant aspirations for my own future and even for the world. Much of the world I can’t influence. But I can control my thoughts and actions; I can choose my attitudes and behaviors. That is the magic inside me. I can largely shape who I will become, and when I do, I am shaping my future.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” said Eleanor Roosevelt, a woman who did much to change the world around her. If there is only one thing to do today, that would be it: to believe in the beauty of my dreams. Really believe in them. That’s where the magic is and anything can happen.

Grace and Peace

The Dawn has Come

Many years ago Bertrand Russell, the English philosopher and mathematician, was imprisoned for opposing World War I. “When I reported to the warder,” Russell said, “he asked me the customary questions – name, age, place of residence. Then he inquired, ‘Religious affiliation?’”

Russell replied, “Agnostic.”

The poor man looked up. “How do you spell that?”

He spelled it for him. The warder wrote the word carefully on the admission form, then sighed, “Oh, well; there are a great many sects, but I suppose they all worship the same God.”

I’m sure Russell could not help but chuckle.

It is true, however, that there exist many spiritual paths. The world has always teemed with a wide variety of spiritual thought and many differing journeys of the heart. But too often the world has used these differences as a weapon. How much agony has been wrought by what should be a thing of beauty – religious passion?

I appreciate an old Jewish story that tells of a rabbi who asked his disciples, “How do you know when the night is giving way and the morning is coming?”

One of the followers stood and said, “Teacher, won’t you know that night is fading when, through the dim light, you can see an animal and recognize whether it is a sheep or a dog?”

The rabbi answered, “No.”

“Rabbi,” asked another, “won’t you know that the dawn is coming when you can see clearly enough to distinguish whether a tree is a fig or an olive?”

“No,” responded the teacher. “You’ll know that the night has passed when you can look at any man and any woman and discern that you are looking at a brother or a sister. Until you can see with that clarity, the night will always be with us.”

The night has been long. Isn’t it time for dawn to break? No matter who we are, no matter what religion we profess, isn’t it time for us to see one another as the sisters and brothers we are? All of us? Only then will we know that night has passed and a new day has dawned. 

Grace and Peace

True Peace

Where is true peace to be found? Archbishop Desmond Tutu might say it can be found in the African concept of “ubuntu.”

He says, “Ubuntu is a concept that we have in our Bantu languages at home. Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We cannot be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence, we are made for family. When you have ubuntu, you embrace others. You are generous, compassionate.”

He also says that if the world had more ubuntu, there would be no war. The powerful would help the weak. That is where peace is to be found.

A story from World War II shines a spotlight on ubuntu. In 1942, the American consul ordered citizens home from the Persian Gulf, for fear they might get caught in the spreading conflict. Travel was difficult, and some civilians secured passage on the troop ship Mauritania. Passengers included thousands of Allied soldiers, 500 German prisoners of war and 25 civilian women and children.

The ship traveled slowly and cautiously, constantly in danger from hostile submarines patrolling the ocean depths. It was Christmas Eve and they had traveled for a full two months. They had only made it as far as the coastal waters of New Zealand and all on board were homesick, anxious and frightened. 

Someone came up with the idea of asking the captain for permission to sing Christmas carols for the German prisoners, who were surely as homesick and lonely as the passengers. Permission was granted and a small choral group made its way to the quarters where the unsuspecting prisoners were held. They decided to sing “Silent Night” first, as it was written in Germany by Joseph Mohr and was equally well known by the prisoners.

Within seconds of beginning the carol, a deafening clatter shook the floor. Hundreds of German soldiers sprang up and crowded the tiny windows in order to better see and hear the choristers. Tears streamed unashamedly down their faces. At that moment, everyone on both sides of the wall experienced the universal truth – that at the core of our being, all people everywhere are one. They experienced ubuntu. Hope and love broke down the barriers between warring nations and, for that moment at least, all were one family.

We are meant to be one. And only after we realize that amazing truth can we find what we need – true peace. 

Grace and Peace

Renewing of the Soul

ANTWERP, BELGIUM – SEPTEMBER 5: Marble relief of merciful Samaritan scene in St. Charles Borromeo church on September 5, 2013 in Antwerp, Belgium

Writer and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together.” But I was not thinking about a golden chain of kindness one day when a dilapidated automobile, possibly held together with glue and wire, parked in front of the house. During those years, we lived in a small mountain town next to a freeway. Our home was located across the street from the church I served, and travelers in need frequently found their way to our front door, usually aided by townsfolk who pointed out where they might get some assistance.

Let me confess: kindness can be difficult and thankless work. Though the little community generously donated to help with this cause, I grew weary of the numerous strangers who constantly rang my doorbell. My life was busy, my work was demanding and I was tired. I was also beginning to feel “put upon.” One time our property was vandalized by a man I had invited to spend the night in the warmth of the little church; once I drove 30 miles through a hazardous blizzard to carry a couple of hitchhikers to shelter who showed no appreciation for the sacrifice; frequently I was awakened in the middle of the night to get out in the bitter cold and give assistance to someone passing through; too often travelers manipulated or lied or stridently complained that I didn’t give them more. 

Not that I need a lot of thanks. But my work with these people was volunteer and I was losing the warm feeling I once had by doing it. At one time I felt I was truly helping. Now I felt stressed and harassed. Early on it seemed like I might be doing some good, but as of late I wondered if that was true. 

It seemed as if the golden chain of kindness was broken. Instead of binding me closer to others, I felt increasingly distant.

I also felt guilt for feeling sorry for myself. “I should WANT to be more helpful,” I told myself. I questioned my motives. Am I doing all of this so people will value me, or because there is a need here I can help meet? Is this about me or about them? I still offered assistance where I could, though more than once I silently wished that people wanting something from me would just go away.

But on this day, a young man with a week-old beard climbed from the broken-down automobile. He had no money and no food. He asked if I could give him some work. I offered him some gasoline and a meal. I told him that if he wanted to work, we’d be pleased if he’d cut the grass, but work wasn’t necessary.

Though sweaty and hungry, he worked hard. Because of the afternoon heat, I thought he might give up before the job was completed. But he persisted and, after a long while, he sat wearily down in the shade. I thanked him for his work and gave him the money I promised. Then I offered him a little extra for a task particularly well done, but he refused. “No sank you,” he said in heavily accented speech. I insisted that he take the money but he stood up and once again said, “No sank you. I want to work. Joo keep the money.” I realized his dignity was at stake and thanked him again for the good job.

I never saw that man after he drove away. And interestingly, he probably thought I helped him that day. But that is not the way it was. I’m sure I didn’t help him as much as he helped me. In his honesty and sincerity, he reminded me of the innate decency of people. He helped me recall just why I wanted to reach out to strangers in the first place. Something that had almost died inside seemed to wake up. I remembered my real reasons for reaching out and immediately began to feel better…more hopeful, more useful. I believed, again, that the little I was doing could actually make a difference. 

This stranger (I don’t even recall his name) helped me to once again WANT to do something for those who are in need. I wish I could thank him for giving me back a little optimism I had lost somewhere along the way. Because of him I felt that once again the golden chain of kindness binding us to one another was restored. We were brothers. I may have fed his body that day. But he fed my soul.

Grace and Peace

Sticking Together

An old story is told of two men who went fishing in a small boat. The day was uneventful until one of them hooked a huge fish, which, in the struggle, pulled him overboard. He couldn’t swim and began to panic.

“Help!” he yelled. “Save me!”

The friend reached over and grabbed the man by the hair to pull him closer to the boat. But when he tugged, the man’s toupee came off and he slipped down under the water again.

He came up shouting, “Hey, help me! I can’t swim!”

So the friend reached down again and this time latched onto the struggling man’s arm. But when he pulled, the arm came off! It was an artificial limb.

The drowning man continued to kick and thrash around and his friend reached out a third time. This time he grabbed a leg and pulled. You guessed it — a wooden leg.

The man continued splashing and sputtering and calling out, “Help me!” until his friend finally called back in disgust, “How can I help you if you won’t stick together?”

And that is a metaphor for each of us. How can people in marriages and families stand a chance when they won’t stick together? How can religious communities, civic groups, schools and businesses get anywhere when they won’t stick together? And how can a nation or even our global village function well when it won’t stick together?

None of us lives in isolation. This experience we call life is a group outing. We’re in it together. And some conflict along the way is inevitable. But our highest priority, when all is said and done, has to be commitment to each other – sticking together.           

Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it this way: 

“We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.”

I can’t say it any more clearly.

Grace and Peace

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