The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton


Dudley’s Dilemma (Up-date)


Steve Martin

John 8:5-10
5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

We have a high school here in Greensboro which enjoys a 25 game winning streak in football. In fact, they are last year’s NC 4-A State Football Champions. This is a school with a rich history in sports. If I have read the record correctly this season’s run for state 4-A football champs would be second in a row and fourth title in school history.

However, this year’s run for state champs found Dudley on the horns of a dilemma. You see, in their last game of the season the coaches brought up four players from the JV team to replace injured players on the varsity team. The problem is these JV players had played the night before and there is a rule in High School Athletics that a player can only play once a week. I understand that the one player who played for the JV team that night was involved in two plays in the last minute of the game. Southeast Guilford High School could have scored two TD’s and still would have lost.

Someone brought this infraction to the attention of the Dudley coach and he did as he should have, he self-reported the problem to the High School Athletic Association. They, in turn, quickly vacated the win against Southeast Guilford and tossed Dudley out of the running for the state championship. Dudley appealed this finding and the appeal was denied. They have now appealed to the full board. That ruling should come down sometime later today.

Here is something to consider: What was the intention of the rule not to allow a football player to play in more than one game a week? I imagine that it was for the player’s safety, not that it gave an advantage to the team with the exhausted player. So… if there was no advantage gained can’t we just say that no advantage was gained by Dudley and allow them to play?

Some will say we must follow the rules. Here are some silly rules (laws) still on the books in Alabama:

Google Silly Laws on the Books of Alabama
  • It is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while operating a vehicle. (GOOD)
  • It is illegal to sell peanuts in Lee County after sundown on Wednesday. (REALLY)
  • Putting salt on a railroad track may be punishable by death. (KIDDING I HOPE)
  • Boogers may not be flicked into the wind. (DUCK)
  • You may not have an ice cream cone in your back pocket at any time. (NO WORDS)
  • It is illegal to wear a fake mustache that causes laughter in church. (HA HA HA)

If we were to just follow the rules (laws) without interpretation or understanding we could really be in a mess – don’t have salt near the railroad, and for goodness sake don’t laugh in church.

All of this is to say employ grace whenever and wherever possible. Dudley no doubt has the best 4-A football team in the state for the second year in a row. Could there be people who would like to see that come to an end? Of course there are… but I hope not at the expense of the kids who did not do the wrong thing. In my book, Dudley is still the winner. When they found out they did wrong they stood up and self-reported. They are already champions.

Jesus was faced with a similar situation about rules and laws. Some men wanted to stone to death this woman caught in adultery. Jesus simply stated the fact: “If you are without sin, step up and cast the first stone.” One by one they all drifted away.

Later on today we will find out how the ruling turns out. I hope grace will rule the day for Dudley. I pray that grace always rules our days.

Dear Lord, touch me with your grace that I may employ grace evermore freely… In and through Jesus. Amen.

UPDATE: The ruling came down a little after noon affirming the earlier decision: Dudley is out of the playoffs. This time we found that there were infractions of the same rule during four games this year. The coach made a sincere apology for overlooking these errors. I guess now we live out the grace to make sure that all future kids have the opportunities to play in every sanctioned game.


It Takes Time To Work Through The Process

It Takes Time To Work Through The Process.

It Takes Time To Work Through The Process


The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul…. Psalm 23

Way back in July 2013 I really thought that retirement would be manageable, with little to no problems. Little did I know that the coming year would be filled with all sorts of emotional, physical and psychological distress. I even got to the point where I questioned my own worth. It was as if retirement (and all the STUFF that came shortly after that) made me feel like my whole life had been a waste. It was a VERY difficult year.

So what do we do when, even a pastor, finds himself in such a bad place?

To be very honest I simply could not find my way to a church. I wasn’t ready to face that, deal with that, process all that would go with it. Before we actually retired, Shirley and I joked that we would be going to the “Church of The Holy Comforter.” That is, we would pull the comforter up close on Sunday mornings. What I did do was what I had already started doing, I went to Myers Park UMC, through their streaming worship service each Sunday. Before I retired I would participate in the worship experience at Myers Park on Tuesdays through their Pod Cast.

Dr. James Howell is the senior minister there and I admire him tremendously. He is smart, cutting edge, creative, serious about faith, not sold on himself as the savior of the world, and knows how to lead worship. It is not a performance. It is not James being cute. It is James bearing his soul; doubt, faith and all before those he cares about and serves. Through his honesty, humility and very deep faith, this man of God helps us through the daily struggles of life.

I needed him and his comforting words for a broken soul all throughout that 15 months. What James did was to help heal my brokenness and restore a sense of worth in and through a renewed sense of the grace of a loving, healing God.

The reason I am writing this tonight is to remind us that even someone who has given 40 years of their lives to ministry… to caring for others, who is trained in ministry… if that person (me) can fall to a point of seeing no self worth left, feeling a great big hole in my heart, and a loss of hope… it can happen to you.

In many respects for me this was far worse than a diagnosis of cancer or my heart disease. I believe those things I could handle because I know that God is with me through it all and will be with me on the other side as well. In my heart attack and surgery I always felt close to God and knew that God was with me. This was different. It was as if the Church to which I had given my life had turned its back on me, trusted friends and colleagues didn’t know me any more. All I could hear was “Elvis has left the building.”

In my emptiness I know now that I could have gone to colleagues I have worked with for years in local and conference positions and they would have listened with the soul of a pastor. But I am not really sure what was happening to me… health? Emotions? Depression? While I couldn’t go to a church, every Sunday I was at Myers Park UMC on my computer. Steadily, week after week James started bringing me out of my funk, leading me beside the stilled waters of faith inviting me to drink again from the fountain of faith. He calmed my fears that I may receive the needed rest. He pointed me to the One who was restoring my soul.

It took over a year to be where I am now. Am I healed, restored, whole? No, I don’t believe I am. I still have anger and great disappointment toward those persons who brought me to such a bad place. I don’t think of them. I don’t want to be around them. The bad part for me right now is that I don’t value them and that bothers me. However, I know there will be a day when I will forgive them – I need that for me not for them.

Your journey may be completely different from mine. You may have it all together, smiling all the time with your joy still in tact. If that is you celebrate it everyday… it truly is a gift! If you are facing health issues, family issues, perhaps there is that co-worker walking around with a knife twisting in your back, or an assortment of potholes in your pathway… you may need to know that it just may take time to work through the process. The process itself is filled with ups and downs, steps forward and backward. However, take each step with the thought that today I will hear, see, or feel something that will bring me closer to the recovery I am seeking. Take the time… allow the process to work… don’t give up. You are worth the touch and sacrifice of a loving Father above.

Dear Lord, the first Bible verse I learned as a child was the 23rd Psalm. Its beautiful and comforting words have been with me throughout my life, in doubt and faith, in smiles and tears, in sickness and in health. Sometimes I forget that you are with me and allow the world to do a number on me and my faith. Thank you, Lord, for walking with me through all the valleys of life, holding me close and lifting me up and restoring my soul. In and through Jesus. Amen.

P.S. I will not continue to stay on this topic. I will seek to use life, humor, and daily malfunctions to speak a word of inspiration. Forgive me as I get use to this format and writing again – – expect mistakes???


Is You Is or Is You Ain’t?

Is You Is or Is You Ain’t?.

On The Back Pew

The Journey

Steve & Shirley Steve & Shirley

“Finally, [the spirit] took me to the inside court of the Temple of God.” – Ezekiel 8:16

Have you noticed that most people, when they come to worship, don’t sit up front? The back of the church tends to fill up first almost as predictably as the bottom of a glass will be the first to be filled with water. You have to get there early to get a good back seat. Why is that? If we are attending a concert or a lecture, we would charge down front where the “good seats” are, even pay extra for those seats. But why not when we come to worship?

I have heard a number of theories. People want to be able to see who else is there, which is easier to do from the back. And it is easier to slip out quickly during the last hymn if…

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Mad As Hell!!!

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

This is not a devotion tonight. It is more of sharing with you a dream a fear, and what I plan to do.

I have to admit to you that I am very mad at what the people in Washington are doing to our country. I don’t believe I have every been so angry at or so disappointed in our country’s leaders. I am so angry that I am going to get involved in politics. I ALWAYS VOTE. But this time I am going out to help organize people to vote for people who will walk across the aisle and compromise in order to do the BUSINESS OF THE PEOPLE. I will work to vote out ALL people who have an agenda that is not surrounded around the good of the people of America. They must be willing to work together or they will not have my vote.

I am afraid that people are running out of hope that their government will ever do anything to help them. It is kinda like the Vietnam veterans felt when we came home from the war and sought to get help for PTSD or Agent Orange… right after the government required us to fight for our country… our country denied help to many for conditions they put us in.

I read today that some of those people are beginning to act. A Truck Drivers Association, some 3,000 truck in all, are planning a slow-down of all traffic on the Washington Beltway 3 days this week beginning Friday. They are not letting anyone into or out of Washington. They are leaving a lane open for emergency vehicles only. This is their protest for the gridlock in Washington. (USA Today)

I had a dream the other night about the people who wake up one day and find that they have lost all hope. That is the last straw of a desperate person… the loss of hope. Perhaps they have lost their jobs, their homes, maybe the family has split… and there is nothing left.

In my dream there are millions of these people who are marching on Washington and blocking the streets to and from the Capitol building. But, they are peaceful… angry but peaceful. I never even thought about trucks on the Beltway.

Worse than that are the ones who are so desperate that they get violent. If you know someone like this, please talk with them, make arrangements for them to get help, or call someone to help. There may be an element out there who will seek out these Tea Party people, who are reportedly safe in their own districts, and take some violent action toward them in their home district.

I know people are mad, especially when cockroaches are rated higher than Congress, but we need to take action in ways that are legal… in the voting booth. Please be on guard about your own anger and the anger of those around you. Be vigilant to help those who are losing hope… get them help before they do something very bad. Be alert.

It is okay to be Mad as Hell. It is okay to vote the rascals out. It is NOT okay to take any violent action. If that is you or you are not sure… get some help right away. You will be glad you did… and so will your family.

Dear Lord, help our country in this time of great need. Help those people who are losing hope to find hope in you and thereby recover from sinking into desperate actions. Speak to our leaders to come together for the good of the country and make the decisions needed to heal our land. In the Spirit of love and mercy. Amen.

Grace and Peace


Myers Park UMC PodCast

I invite all of you to watch (Myers Park UMC) the Reverend Doctor James Howell’s sermon this morning about God’s broken heart. It is very moving. You can do this later in the week (I think after Tuesday). Simply go to this URL: and click on the words “Click here to subscribe Via iTunes Store” and they will be delivered to your iTunes account each week. They are free and inspirational.

Grace and Peace


Can I Have a Do Over?

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9

Let me ask, as you look back on your life, what would you change? What would you do differently if you were given a second chance?

* One person, when asked that question, said, “I regret having lived the first part of my life as a follower. I’ve done much of what I’ve done just because somebody told me to. If I could start over again tomorrow, I would ask more questions and seek more answers. When someone tells me ‘no,’ I would ask, ‘Why not?’ When someone tells me ‘yes,’ I would want to know why.”

* Another individual said, “If I could do things over, I would tell my mom and dad I loved them more than I did while I had them on earth. I would have not worried about things that really do not matter that much.”

Yes, most of us have things we would like to do over, including some things that are sinful. Do you need an example or two? How about the person who said,

* “If I could go back in time to two years ago, I would have never cheated on my wife, would have made her happy, and tried to be with her every day.”

* “If I could go back to one year ago, I would have never said all the awful things I did to my son. I would never have let him leave the house.”

For a do over all we need to do is really want that change to take place, go to the one who can make change possible (Jesus), ask for forgiveness for the past and strength to follow Jesus into all the steps that may be required for recovering the past, the renewal of the present, and the restoration of the future.

Dear Lord, there are many things I have done wrong and would like to do over and change. Today I am thankful Jesus’ grace covers my flaws, falsity, foolishness and sin. May I know to turn to him that I may be renewed, in and through Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace


Signs of The End Times

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

“… in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

     “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned…” 2 Timothy 3:1-14

Many people are caught up in the prophecy of the End Times found in the Book of Revelation. Some so much so that they can give you a list right there on the spot – off the top of their heads.

Howmany can you name? I won’t look till I get stuck – and I know they will not be in order.

  1. The stars will fall from the sky (Happened in the 1800’s I believe)
  2. The sun will grow dark (with ever solar eclipse)
  3. You will not be able to tell the seasons by the trees (Leaves were turning in August this year)
  4. Increase of knowledge (I guess everywhere except Washington, DC)
  5. People will hate and betray one another (Cain and Able kinda started that)
  6. False prophets will appear (I think I read some of them in preparing this devotion)

Some of these are biblical and others are dug up out of the bias of people trying to influence other to join their cause.

Today at Jay’s Deli, I witnessed – up close and personal – an actual sign of the end times. I left my iPhone in the car while I was in the restaurant. Boy, if that is not a sign I don’t know what is… Oh no… Disconnected from the source… that has got to be a sign that the world is ending… the Rev. without a phone. Holy End Times,, Batman!!!

Seriously, I believe there are signs – easy to see – which point to the end of life. When we stop caring for each other and live only for ourselves – the world will start to crumble. When we stand by and watch our neighbors beaten and robbed and do nothing – the world is crumbling. When we lock our doors, hoard our food, money and possessions while people are dying outside our doors – the world is about to blow apart.

Here is our question: By our actions, behavior and beliefs are we bringing the end of the world closer… or by our actions, behavior and beliefs are we opening wide the windows of heaven to allow the light of the love of God to flood the world and bring about reconciliation, restoration, wholeness and peace.

Dear Lord, help me to open those big ole windows that all may feel the warmth of your love and grace, and through Jesus help them to feel my love along side yours. Amen.

Grace and Peace


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