Angel & Soccer Star


Shirley posted these two pictures several years ago as throw back pictures on Facebook and they popped up as a memory on Facebook the other day. I remember these pictures from a long time ago. I think this was one of Noah’s first years playing recreational soccer at Pleasant Garden, and perhaps Abby’s second Christmas program at the church. I look back on those precious faces and I see so much hope and trust in them. Who would believe that yesterday Noah entered school as a High School freshman and Abby entered the seventh grade? (BTW – Noah still advertises (after all these years) Nike Sportswear, and Payton Manning stoled Abby’s play signal and used it right up to his last game.)

I think back over the years and wonder… did we do it right? Did they always know they were loved? Did they know we were always there for them? Did we make life better for them? And the big question is did they see Christ in us?

Time flies by and we forget along the way to stop in the moment and ask those questions of ourselves. If we are making an impact on our grandchildren is it for good, bad or indifferent? We look with great pride on Joy and Stephen and the love they have and express for their children. They would do battle with the devil himself over those children. They have taught them by example a great sense of responsibility for themselves and to their community and friends. They are always at church helping out where they can… doing what needs to be done. They have done for Noah and Abby that which we could not do for Stephen… give them roots. It has been a joy to watch them grow up at Pleasant Garden with their friends and family… a support system who cares enough to never let them down.

Thanks to all the PGUMC family for accepting, loving and caring for my family. You make me so proud to have been a small part of that church.

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Thanks for taking a look at my books.


Those Crazy Teens

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

And this is His commandment, that we believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us. 1 John 3:23

Seventeen-year-old Courtney Thorp goes to Shell Rock Senior High School in Iowa. There’s another thing you should know about Thorp. You should also be aware that when she was nine months old she was diagnosed as having cerebral palsy. It is an illness which can negatively affect speech, balance and many other aspects of an individual’s life.

Mainstreamed in her education, Thorp, along with her parents, were always dedicated to minimizing those negatives.

Even though she knew her daughter was an upbeat kind of kid, when Thorp’s mother heard her only child had been nominated for homecoming queen, she was worried. Yes, the kids at Thorp’s school always seemed to be nice, but … maybe this was some kind of prank: a cruel hoax which some bad-attitude students were playing on her daughter.

Thorp’s parents received some degree of peace when the school’s associate principal called and assured them the nomination was legitimate, and there was no ill will or cruelty in it.

I have to tell you the night the homecoming king and queen were crowned, Thorp’s mom ended up in tears. In her words, “I lost it.”

Had the assistant principal been wrong? Nope. Not at all. Mom “lost it” because her daughter’s coronation as queen was marked by applause, cheers and high-fives by the rest of the court. The homecoming king said, “It was such a great feeling when she won. She comes to school every day with a big smile on her face. She is happy 110 percent of the time. She loves life and she makes the best out of everything. She’s a big inspiration to everybody.”

So, that’s the human-interest story from Iowa.

Now there are two reasons that narrative has been shared. The first reason is because it’s easy for these days for my blog (and me) to center on the sad, the sick, the terrible, and the tragic. For you and for me that can be discouraging and depressing. I felt it was time (after the Mad as Hell rant) for something upbeat. The second reason the story is shared is because here is a high school filled with kids who get it.

I think they get it partly because of parents, partly because of their stable community, and partly because most of them are members at one of the churches in Shell Rock. These kids may not know it, but part of their specialness has to do with their belief system. It is a system which says we are redeemed sinners, no one is perfect, we all fall short of the mark, but we have Jesus who loves us and by his mercy lifts us to the Father’s throne, and restores us to the Father’s house.

Knowing this Jesus the teens of Shell Rock, Iowa, have put into practice an attitude of love and acceptance… By God’s grace may their attitude become contagious all around the world.

Hopefully, our time together tonight has made you feel a bit more thankful for Jesus and a whole lot more thankful for some of the Christian kids who are coming after us.

Dear Lord, today we give thanks for kids who conquer problems and those who support those who need it. Most of all we give thanks for Jesus who taught us how to love and support someone else. In His Name. Amen.

Grace and Peace


PS. We think our cat is watching the Animal Channel while we are away every day. We even found cat nip on the TV remote the other day. She has learned to sit at her bowl and rattle it until we come fill it. She is almost 14 years old… so old cats can learn new tricks.

Looking Back – Leaning Forward

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:6-13

A little while ago Shirley and I found and old box of pictures. It was almost like we had found a hidden treasure. We spent over an hour going through these pictures and remembering all the events and times they brought to mind. Like: Shirley and I standing in the snow a week before I made the trip to Paris Island for Marine boot camp. Our wedding pictures and remembering the rush of that weekend and how the Captain told me “If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife they would have issued you one.” He didn’t want to let me come home and get married. Many pictures of our son, Stephen, in many different stages of his life. How proud we were and are of this young man. The houses we have lived in and the churches we have served… wow, what a life we have lived… and how we have been blessed to serve God through the church. And finally, we noticed the pictures which chronicled our increasing age – and how life was morphing our looks. I think that was when our journey through the pictures ended. I could go on, of course, as we did that morning, wading into all of those times and places until we were chest deep—heart deep—in nostalgia.

Nostalgia is a very natural and powerful emotion, particularly for those of us who are older.  But nostalgia has its dangers.  If it gives us renewed appreciation for the ways God has blessed us in the past, then it can be a wonderful occasion for thanksgiving. But nostalgia also can make us idealize the past and in ways that make the present pale by comparison.  So nostalgia can rob the present of delight and the future of hope.  

As Christians we draw on the past in a myriad ways, of course, but our faith is always forward leaning.  We are assured that the good old days, no matter how good, are nothing compared to what God has in store for us. Paul quotes Isaiah to remind the Corinthians, but perhaps also to remind himself: “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” So the advice for all of us is to look back, yes, and be thankful. But lean forward to all that God has in store for us.

Dear God of yesterday, today and tomorrow, help us to look back in ways that keep us thankful, but leaning forward enough to keep us alive and real in the faith of Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace


It Finally Happened!

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

As most of you know, I retired (after 40 years in ministry) on July 1, 2013. Since then I have sought to live out the laws of “Casual Friday.” That is – be as casual as you can be or dare to be. I have only worn long pants part of one day and my neck has not touched a  buttoned collar or a tie. I now know why that has caught on so rapidly in church. It has nothing to do with that word “contemporary” just simply comfort. I now know why preachers want to dress casually in the pulpit… it is much more comfortable without a tie or a tight collar.

But, alas my friends… it all ended today with a terrible reply to a text message. You see, I am officiating at a wedding Saturday. That means tonight is the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. Since the rehearsal is at the home of the groom, I thought it would be, at the most, business casual. I texted David (the groom’s brother) to ask about the dress code. To my shock… he texts back “The norm is coat and tie.” I woke up about a half hour later as Shirley was drying the tears from my eyes. I checked the phone several more times and there was never the reply which said “I am kidding.”

I expected the horse collar tomorrow, but I thought I had one more day. This will mean that I have had to wear a tie or collar two days in a row…. plus, I have to wear a belt and socks and dress shoes. Oh, the humanity????

I kid you about all this… but I have enjoyed shorts, sandals – the casual feeling. The truth of the matter is I would wear a monkey suit to be with this family. I officiated at the wedding of another brother (David and Kendall) a few years ago. Being with the Murphy’s was and is an absolute hoot. Folks, they could take their conversations on the road and make a killing… packing the halls and clubs every night.

So tonight as I dine with them at Sedgefield Country Club, with all these constricting articles of clothing around my neck, waist and feet, know that I will be having a wonderful time.

It is good to have friends that you want to be around – even if you have to wear uncomfortable stuff. Thank God for your friends. Take steps to always stay as close as you can. All of us will benefit greatly from having true, good friends.

Dear Lord, thank you for allowing these families to cross paths and become friends. Thank you for lifting us up by being together, in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace


PS: Remember Kendall who is in UNC Hospital


Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

Shirley and I were on Facebook earlier today and noticed some very good news; someone we knew, I officiated at their wedding, announced that he had just got the perfect job and would be moving closer to the beach. We thought that was wonderful news and so Shirley commented to them that we hope he and (we used his wife’s name) would be very happy in their new home.

A few moments later another friend of their’s responded with their joy because these two would now live closer to them. Very quickly a person we did not know, but had seen pictures of her on his Facebook page, responded lol. That was an odd, if not  hurtful thing to say. We don’t think it was “Lots Of Love” but “laugh out loud”.

Shirley looked more on his page and his wife’s page and found some interesting things. No one in her family is listed as a friend. She is listed as married while he lists nothing in that status.

I don’t know what is going on, but they are/were a beautiful young couple with great, great promise. I just hope they are ok.

But my fear is everything is not ok… because after the other woman wrote her lol… we were de-friended immediately.

I would have preferred a private note but I think I get the message. I would love to be proven wrong. My best wishes to these friends.

Facebook is life unfiltered by the brain. So many times we put things on there (and I believe we are encouraged to do so) before we think or in order to get a reaction.

I am so thankful that Jesus doesn’t de-friend me when I say things that may unintentionally be offensive or hurtful. I am glad that he can see me as I really am – warts and all – and still be my friend. We all need friends, especially Jesus.

Dear Lord, bless this young man and woman, and no matter what the situation may be, surround them with your love and your grace that they may live lives on the higher plane of life, 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


Caring for Those Who Have Cared for You

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

Tuesday I had an appointment with my cardiologist, Dr. Thomas Kelly. I have known Dr. Kelly for many years, you see he was on call when my regular cardiologist needed some time off. Dr. William Gamble was my cardiologist for many years. He was there to see me through my heart attack, heart failure and all the stuff afterwards. He saw me through several cardio-versions, medication changes, and a time of great stress and depression.

He was more than a doctor. He became my trusted friend.

What I have shared with many of you before is that Dr. Gamble, who is only 63, has been diagnosed with alzheimer’s, and a couple of years ago had to retire. I have tried to email him on several occasions to no avail. Tuesday, Dr. Kelly let me know that Dr. Gamble was now in assisted living. My heart was crushed as I thought about how this brilliant, compassionate, servant of the sick now cannot practice the art and science of healing.

When I returned home Tuesday I told Shirley about our conversation and then gave Dr. Gamble a telephone call. To my great surprise, he answered, he knew me, he still had the same upbeat tone in his voice. We talked for about a half hour. Anyone who knows me, knows that is a long conversation for me. We planned to talk next week and set up a time to eat lunch together at his place and spend some time looking over his photography. I am so deeply pleased and scared at the same time.

I remember Dr. Gamble who knew how afraid I was of going through my first cardio-version, reach down and hold my hand as I was being put to sleep for this procedure. He brought me great comfort and peace by holding my hand. I now have the opportunity to return some of that comfort and peace to him as we visit together over the next few years.

Please pray for him and for me: that I can say and do the right things, and that he will find peace and comfort in my care for him.

Dear Lord, help me to help this dear man – one of your called and equipped healers – as he makes his journey through this scary valley. Speak through my words. Touch him through my actions. Give him peace and comfort as he faces what each new day may bring, in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace


PS: If you would like to follow this blog go to the top left of this page and click on the word “follow.” This will notify you by email everytime I send out a blog.

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


Condos and Bracelets

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

Let me begin tonight by offering a very deep and appreciative thank you to all who shared in comenting on us making it 48 years together. I am so thankful Shirley allowed me to live.

Yes, we are at the beach (Myrtle) and, as always, you run into all sorts of people. Last year while here, Shirley purchased a safety chain and one small charm for a Donatella bracelet she received as a gift from Stephen, Joy and the kids years ago. It is like the Pandora Bracelets but a little different.

Last year these items were purchased here in Myrtle from Reed’s Jewelry. Well, the safety clasp would not fit – it was too small, and so was the charm. Shirley waited to come back down here to make exchanges or get things fixed.

With receipt in hand we make the long journey down to the mall south of Myrtle beach. It is a thriving mall. The people at Reeds would barely give her the time of day. “We can’t fix it, your time limit is up – notice on your receipt it says ten days. However, we can sell you a $180.00 Pandora bracelet.”

I wasn’t in there or else I may have revealed my retired status. Shirley was nice, disappointed, but kind.

The next day we were in another mall – North Myrtle – a mall that is not doing quite as well. We passed another Reed’s store. Shirley reached in the pocket-purse (that is what Abby calls it) and pulls out the little plastic packet with all her bracelet stuff in it and heads for the store. This man is nice and accommodating. He wasn’t able to refund her money or fix it, but he made a trade for something else. Guess what that nice man did? He won back a person who would have never walked in another Reed’s store again. I should have gone in the store and thanked him.

We all have the opportunity to say the right words, take the high road, and do the right thing. It is harder to do… but in the long run you make yourself and those around you winners.

The other day, as we were going out to dinner, I looked at the name plate of the owner of the condo across the hall from us. Now these are condos in the $450,000 and up category. As I was looking two people walked up. I said, “I was just looking at the name of the owners of this condo.” Their reply was “We are the owners.” So, with nothing else to say, I said: “You must be Charles and Sarah Brown?” Quickly they said “Yes, we are.” and moved into their condo and loudly turned the dead bold. It was so noticeably loud we were sure that they thought us to be the strange people across the hall who were plotting a way to break into their home.

Today Shirley stopped and talked with Sarah in the hallway about a place to get a good haircut. In their conversation she learned that Charles was a former Marine who served in Vietnam in the 1st Marine Division in Da Nang. He took a pin off his jacket, gave it to Shirley and told her to tell me: “Semper Fi!”

Why is it that so many times we accept the first impression we have of people and things. What a loss if we had never walked into that second Reeds Jewelry Store or stopped to talk with Sarah and Charles? We would have been the losers had we not taken that second step.

Next time we have a bad encounter, perhaps we need to be reminded that we can make a second effort that just may change everything into a whole new adventure where friendships are made and conflict ended.

Dear Lord, thank you for inviting us always to go that extra mile, to speak that word of kindness, to hold our tongue when our thoughts are unfavorable, and to speak words of grace and love, kindness and forgiveness, in and through Jesus. Amen.

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


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