Am I Normal?

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

Rebekah called her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother is consoling himself by planning to kill you… Flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran, and stay with him a while—until your brother’s anger against you turns away, and he forgets what you have done to him.” – Genesis 27:42-25

In a town called Normal, Illinois, there is a lovely sculpture in a park that features a husband and wife embracing and looking lovingly into each other’s eyes, while their young children sit contented on their laps.  The sculpture is entitled, “The Normal Family.”

The only trouble with that image of family life is that none of us live in a place that could be described as Normal. That may be why that sculpture is regularly vandalized—the vandals are striking out at an idealized image of the family none of us can live up to.  As a mother once told me, “The only thing normal in our family is the knob that says Normal on the clothes dryer.”

In contrast to that sculpture, the Bible does not hold up an idealized picture of family.  Instead, the Bible depicts families with rival siblings and tension between the generations.  There is marriage and betrayal, children who refuse to honor their parents and parents who hold back a blessing from their children.  There is love expressed in many of the families of the Bible, but there are also heated arguments and stony silences, slow-boiling resentments, and rifts as wide as a canyon.

So when I hear reference to biblical family values, I wonder:  are they talking about the rifts and alienation or about the sibling rivalry and bitter resentments?

Catholic author Richard Rohr tells a story of Navajo rug weaving.  These beautifully handcrafted rugs are perfectly structured, except for a corner on each rug where an obvious flaw can be found.  When he asked why flaws were allowed to remain in such otherwise perfect rugs, he was told, “This is where the spirit moves in and out.”

Our families, and the families depicted in the Bible, are far from perfect.  They are flawed.  Yet it is exactly in those flawed places that the Spirit of God can move and where we can catch a glimpse of grace.

Dear God, may your Spirit move in and out of the imperfections of our lives. Where there are flaws, let there be grace, in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace


Jesus Wept

1174831_10151632886487947_607091026_n“Jesus Wept!”

I never thought I would hear what I heard on TV News tonight… not in North Carolina… Not in America.

It seems that in Raleigh – our State capitol – it is against the law for churches to feed people – homeless people in downtown Raleigh – especially one area of Raleigh. It is true. Over the weekend three churches were feeding the homeless downtown and a policeman came up to them with the warning that if they did not stop feeding the homeless he would have to give them a citation. He would arrest the church for feeding the homeless in an open place in downtown Raleigh. 

This is the  same Raleigh who voted (legislature) to end extended unemployment and reduce the amount of they would get overall. Don’t they know that if you take support away from those who are unemployed they will become homeless – there will be more homeless people? Cutting the funding to Community Colleges which get more people back to work quicker than the four-year colleges, and making it even harder to get help through government sources just adds to the problem. For them it seems to be about money and not about people.

Here is what Raleigh is more worried about… in the news piece the business owner being interviewed said “these homeless people could hurt their business.” Isn’t that what it is really about… money and not compassion… possessions and not people??? I think “Moral Mondays” and “Moral Wednesdays” should turn into “Moral Everyday.”

Even more severe is the news coming from Columbia, South Carolina. Columbia’s proposed new homeless program called “Columbia Cares” is giving the homeless in the city of Columbia three choices: 1). Agree to be relocated (out of the city to a rural area) to a homeless shelter; 2). Leave town on their own, or 3). Be put in jail. This to be built homeless shelter is not funded and the council expects the churches to take care of the homeless.

Do you hear what they are saying: “We don’t want people to see that there are homeless people in Columbia – don’t stain our pristine look – get out of sight – especially the historic district. And the money to support them is to be a “Budget-Neutral” situation. That means the city is not going to pay for it.

Haul them out-of-town, make it illegal to be homeless and feed homeless out in public. Doesn’t the legislatures of North and South Carolina realize that we are called to help those in need. 

I have done a lot of things wrong but I, knowingly, have never pressed that button to make it against the law to feed the poor in a public area. I think my finger would catch on fire.

I pray that people’s voting fingers catch on fire the next time they vote for anyone who voted for this law (those who take that safety net from the poorest of the poor).

I honestly believe Jesus looks down on our lawmakers and what they are doing to the poor and those of us who remain silent, and his heart breaks. Jesus not only wept at the death of a friend, I believe he weeps every time we ignore those in need.

Dear God, if there is anything that makes Jesus weep it is our blindness when the poor come around and we want to run them off rather than care for them. Lord, we need some help down here now… our government is going crazy. Touch our hearts and melt them… cause the scales to fall from our eyes till we can see the poor and take steps to help them in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace


Who is Raising Who?

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

Last night Shirley and I went to eat at Mimi’s at Friendly. They seated us back in the New Orleans section of the restaurant. The waitress had come and we had given our order. We were just sitting there having a quiet and relaxing time, preparing our minds and stomachs for the treats that were to come.

All of a sudden about twelve people walked in as the staff prepared this long table in the middle of the room. Yippie! It was a birthday party for these two twins. There were so many presents I thought it was Christmas. However, one of the twins wasn’t feeling all that well. He was crying and didn’t want to sit in the chair assigned to him. Before long, the young (20 some year-old) mom is taking these two twins (boy and girl – probably 3 years old) to the bathroom for a talk. When they returned the little boy was quiet happy to sit in his seat.

It wasn’t long till another young couple with a young boy (perhaps also 3 years old) was seated in the booth directly behind us. The little boy was fussy, jumping around in the seat, and generally not going along with the program. In an attempt to control the situation we heard this young mom (early 20’s) say to this three-year old: “If you can’t sit still we will have to leave.” He called her bluff. He said: “I don’t want to eat here.” Guess what? After making apologies to the waitress, they got up and left the restaurant. I wonder where they ended up? Probably McDonald’s or Chick-Fil-A.

These two families begged the question: “Who is raising who?” I know we all have different styles in raising our children, and there is perhaps not one way that is correct for every child and every family.

The first young mom took her children to a place where they would not be embarrassed to have mom remind them of how this game of life is played. Who is the parent and who is the child, and how the parent is in charge of raising the children. Apparently this young mom was skilled enough that when they returned to the table everyone was more accommodating, pleasant, and there were no signs of tears being shed. I was really impressed.

The second mom framed her argument in such a way that the child made the decision whether they ate at this restaurant or not. When the child called her bluff, she had no choice but to leave.

Mom one was raising her children. Mom two was allowing her child to make the decisions on how this he would be raised. Somewhere down the road someone is going to have a come to Jesus meeting with one of these children. I wonder which one?

Growing up – back in our day – there were not as many restaurants and we ate at home most of the time. We were not asked what we wanted. We ate what was on our plates – or children in China would starve… and we didn’t want children in China to starve… so we ate carrots, squash, vegetables and all sorts of stuff children today will not consider eating. When we did go to a restaurant we didn’t have many choices… most of which were what we would have received at home… so it was quiet easy to decide what we wanted. One thing was for sure, we were expected to behave. If we didn’t there would be no bathroom talks, we would answer for our disrespectful behavior when we returned home. Everybody of my age knows what that meant. No, it did not mean we would lose our iPad for a week. It meant we had better find something to pad our behind cause it was going to come into contact with some disciplinary actions.

So who was right and who was wrong? Here is my own personal philosophy. Make sure your children know you love them above all else… that is CRITICAL. Teach them to respect themselves and others. Teach them to reach for the highest goals they can attain. Try not to box them in so much that they lose their creativity or eagerness to learn. Teach them that there are consequences to every action. Both parents must agree on how to raise and discipline the children. If you must correct them in public, do so without taking away their dignity. Treat them with respect in front of their peers and friends. The tough talks are done in private where all parties are allowed to express their true feelings and come away knowing what the offense was, why it was wrong, what is the plan for correction, and how we will deal with it in the future.

If they know and experience your love for them you are well ahead of the game. If they don’t know you love them, you are losing the battle, and so will they.

Dear Lord, help me to make sure my children know that, above all else, I love them with a love that stretches to the end of the earth, and that the motivation behind all I do is to foster greater love and respect in their hearts and mine, in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace


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Still waiting for pictures of the Ivory Ordination Statues that were given to the ordinands in the late 1990’s. I you have one or know of someone who does please send pictures to share with others.

Wag More… Bark Less!

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

Today we pulled up behind a vehicle which had a sticker that read “Wag More… Bark Less!” I thought to myself “Self, that is a very true statement which we all need to be reminded of from time to time.”

Some of our members who lived down the street from us in Asheboro got a beagle. I don’t know if all beagles are like this or not, but this beagle seemed not to be able to control his barking. It appeared to be an involuntary response to something it smelled and liked or didn’t like. Either way, he would put that big old nose to the ground and take off barking at every step. Every once in a while you would hear him go by like a fire engine on the way to a huge fire.

(A funny sideline to this dog is that he would go around the neighborhood and steal clothes off clothes lines and bring them home. He was particularly interested in ladies bras… don’t know why… never asked, but they had quite a collection.)

In our world today there seems to be way too much barking and very little wagging. It, too, seems to be almost to the stage that we have done it so long with so little consideration to alternatives, that it is an involuntary bark that just automatically jumps out to defend, belittle, or set someone else straight about the matter before us. And it may not even be our matter we are barking about.

Have you ever noticed a couple of dogs standing toe to toe on different sides of a fence barking as hard as they can – each one trying to out alpha the other – to scare the other into submission? Many times if someone doesn’t break them up – bring one of them inside – they will keep on till they either lose their voice or fall over dead.

What makes you bark? Something must, because there is a lot of barking going on out there. Have you considered if your barking is appropriate… if it is needed… if it even matters… that you are doing more harm than good by barking your way through life.

What makes you wag? What makes you so happy that you can’t help but wiggle? I think that is why I love happy dogs. Saturday we returned from a week’s vacation at Myrtle Beach. Stephen and Joy boarded their Golden Retriever, Rascal, at the kennel. When Stephen went to get him they couldn’t get that tail to stop wagging, and Rascal stayed close to Stephen all day. He was glad to be celebrating his family being home together again.

Celebrate that which is important: love, life, family, faith, everything beautiful, peace, joy, hope, health, happiness, friends…. wag, wag, wag!!!!

Keep the barking to a minimum. It interferes with your wagging. Wag much more. Bark a lot less. Our dogs teach us to wag more, bark less, never stop playing, be loyal and faithful, be quick to forgive and love unconditionally.

Grace and Peace


Come, Holy Spirit Prayer

Just in case you were unable to download the music

for the prayer last night I wanted to share the words

with you tonight. WOW, what a wonderful prayer for

us all as we face each day.

Come, Holy Spirit

Bryan Duncan

Come as a wisdom to children

Come as new sight to the blind

Come, Lord, as strength to my weakness

Take me soul, body and mind

Come as a rest to the weary

Come as a balm to the sore

Come as a dew to my dryness

Fill me with joy evermore

Come Holy Spirit, I need you now

Come, Sweet Spirit, I pray

Come in your strength and your power

Come in your own gentle way

Come like a spring in the desert

Come to the withered of soul

O, let your sweet healing power

Touch me and make me whole

Come Holy Spirit, I need you now

Come, Sweet Spirit, I pray

Come in your strength and your power

Come in your own gentle way

Come in your own gentle way

Grace and Peace


Worship Anywhere – Everywhere

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

“Late that night Paul and Silas were praying and singing God’s praises, while the other prisoners listened.” – Acts 16:25

A friend tells about some years ago he was with a group from his church on a mission trip in Nicaragua. He said: “We were welcomed for dinner at the home of a member of the church we were visiting. After dinner our hosts got up and sang hymns – without hymnals or accompaniment – beautifully.”

He continues: “I was really enjoying this gift until it suddenly occurred to me what was coming next. They would, of course, invite us to stand and sing too. And what would that be, “Jesus Loves Me?” “Kum Ba Yah?” We weren’t very well prepared for such sharing because we had few hymns written on our hearts. We would look around and wonder if any of our group were choir members who could take over.”

Here, in today’s passage, Paul and Silas were singing and praying – worshipping – in, of all places, jail.

Sometimes I wonder if we’re too dependent on the idea that worship only takes place in a church building. That we have to have organs or pianos to worship. Or that we have to have hymnals to sing praise to God. Or (worst of all) that you can’t worship without a “bulletin.” (OMG!)

Suppose you had to do “take-out” worship? That you worshipped the living God wherever you were – in a jail cell, around a campfire, in a home, a hospital, or on the city street? Would you be ready? What hymns do you know by heart? What Scriptures are written upon your heart? Are you ready to pray? And, in the words of Peter, to “give an account of the hope that is in you?”

In truth, worship doesn’t happen because of a church building, instruments or bulletins (!). It happens because we trust God, because we want to seek God and need to praise God. It happens because our church has equipped us with the words and ways of worship to take with us wherever we go.

Do you have worship you can take anywhere?

Write your word across our hearts, O loving God, so that when our hearts break, your word will fall into our hearts and heal us, in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace


Where Are You Dad?

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. … Hosea 8:7a

Hosea’s words about reaping the whirlwind have found a new application in the 21st century of North America. That calls for an explanation — an explanation which begins with a quiz. And, lest you’re wondering, it most certainly is not a trivia quiz. Just fill in the blank:

* According to the U.S. Department of Health, 63 percent of youth suicides come from _______ homes.

* According to the Center for Disease Control, 85 percent of all children with mental or behavioral disorders come from __________ homes.

* According to the National Principals Association 71 percent of high school dropouts come from ______________ homes.

* According to The Christian Post, girls are 711 percent more likely to have children as a teen, 53 percent less likely to marry as a teen, and 92 percent more likely to get divorced if they are from a ____________ home.

Well, did you figure out the answer?

To get 100 percent on the quiz you can put the word “fatherless” into each of the blanks above.

In spite of those frightening figures, in my lifetime I have seen society “sow the wind,” as fathers have gone from knowing best to knowing nothing at all. The king has deserted his castle and is now confined to his man cave. No longer revered and respected, dads are discounted and disregarded.

And where does the whirlwind come in? In this: even as the percentage of women who respect marriage is rising dramatically, the percentage of men who value marriage is dropping — like a stone. And who will pay the price for this shift in society? It will be the children, of course. You need not be a rocket scientist or brain surgeon to see the downward spiral this situation creates.

Now you may wonder what does all this have to do with a Devotion. Simply this: the homes of Christian men and women are to be different. We have a different standard, a different goal, a different direction. Most certainly, in Jesus, we have a different model to follow.

Paul showed us that model when he wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

That is a concept the world has never understood. The best, the most noble idea it can come up with is “Marriage is a 50-50 proposition.” That is not what the Bible says. In Scripture fathers are told to emulate Jesus; they are told to give as Jesus gave.

That means giving when it’s not wanted, giving when it’s not appreciated, giving when it is not applauded. It means putting the welfare of others above that of yourself. It means giving until it hurts, giving even to the point where you are ready to sacrifice yourself.

We are to give because that is what Jesus has done for us. From start to finish, from beginning to end, Jesus’ life was dedicated to us. And we fathers with our families can honor our Lord and impact the future by doing as He did. Fathers are you listening?

Dear Lord, may our homes be blessed by Jesus’ presence. May our lives be lived trying to follow His example, in and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Grace and Peace


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