Tag Archive: Christian

fb_img_1479572463549I just got home a little while ago from helping to pick the food up from Metrocrest Social Services with members of Christ United Methodist Church to deliver Thanksgiving food to the Sack Summer Hunger (SSH) families. With the weather having turned cool, it was quite a bit different than the 90+ degrees weather we worked in during the summer. All of the volunteers were in excellent holiday sharing spirit as everyone helped get the vehicles loaded.

When most of the vehicles had been loaded, I headed out with the food for my SSH neighbors. It was the first time I had seen my “summer friends” since SSH ended for the summer on Saturday, August 6th. At the one house I delivered to, the father opened the door as I reached the porch with the food. At each of the two apartments, after a quick knock, they answered the door quickly. Everyone had smiles on their faces – they very much appreciated the food. And they were glad to see me, too. It was like a reunion at each home.

At the one apartment with the little girl that always comes to the door with her mother, the girl was more excited than usual. Partly, I think, because the food was in a sealed box – like a surprise package. Also partly because we were happy to see one another. We had shared smiles once a week all summer. As I was leaving, after I said “Happy Thanksgiving,” the little girl said “thank you, thank you, Happy Thanksgiving, thank you….” and she kept expressing her joy as her mother closed the door.

I don’t deliver the food to hear “thank you.” I do it because it’s the Christian thing to do. But hearing the little girl still talking as I walked down the stairs was a really nice bonus.

I leave you with the video for my song What the Lord Intends (Sack Summer Hunger). Peace be with you.

[Note: Follow the links for part one and part two.]

“Everyone be quiet and stay calm and no one will get hurt,” the gunman commanded. “The shot was an accident. No sudden noises.”

Antonio knew that if the police were not outside by now, they would be soon. He also knew the gunman was becoming more nervous by the minute and he did not want to get caught in the middle, which was now an increasingly likely situation.

“The police are going to be here soon, if they aren’t here now. I’d like to help you if I can,” Antonio said in the most calming voice he could muster with his nerves on overdrive.

“Why would you do that?

“Because I’m a preacher and it’s my job to help people with their problems.”

“So how can you help?”

“I have a cell phone with the number of the sheriff and he will listen to me.”

“Why would he do that?”

“I helped his family out. Like I said, it’s what I do.”

“Why should I trust you?”

“I’m a preacher, for God’s sake! I don’t have an ulterior motive.”

“A what?”

“A reason for lying to you. Just let me call him. If you don’t like what I say you can shoot me. And I wouldn’t give you a reason to do that. But I need to know why you’re doing this. Are you here to rob them?”

“I’m not here to rob the place. I’m not sure how things got this far. Make the call.”

Antonio could sense desperation in the man’s voice. He hadn’t always been a preacher and he knew the difference between an evil man and a desperate one. He pulled out his phone and called Sheriff Martinez.

“Hello, Antonio. I’m a little occupied at the moment.”

“No more than I, Oscar. I’m in the restaurant with the gunman’s arm around my chest.” He felt the gunman relax his hold a bit.

“Was anyone hurt by the shot?”

“No, someone dropped something in the kitchen which surprised him and he reacted. The bullet went into the counter after going through a chair.”

“What does he want?”

“That’s what we’re trying to ascertain. If you’ll let us get to the chapel, we’ll try to resolve the situation without involving the people in here. We’ll be coming out the main door.”

“You got a line on this nimrod?”

“So far anyway. But remember, he’s one of God’s people.”

“But not one of the chosen, Antonio. Call me when you’re in the chapel.”

“First chance I get.” Antonio hung up the phone and returned it to his pocket.

“What’s the chapel?” the gunman said in his ear, tightening the grip on his chest.

“The semitrailer in the parking lot. I’m surprised you missed it.”

“I wasn’t looking for a chapel.” He pushed Antonio toward the door between the two rooms.

“Point taken,” Antonio said as he reached out with his hand and unlocked the door.

The gunman put the pistol in his pocket and stayed behind Antonio. Antonio nodded slightly to Fred as they passed the cash register. The two men walked out the front door of the truck stop and headed for the trailer. Police cars were parked in front of the restaurant. A group of officers gathered behind the cars watching the two walk toward the chapel. .

As the two men walked up the steps of the trailer, Antonio glanced toward the restaurant. A couple of deputies were coming out of the door looking toward the chapel. The gunman,  followed Antonio into the chapel and locked the door behind him. Antonio walked over to his desk, swiveled the chair around, and sat down facing the gunman.

“So now that we’re here alone, what do I call you?” Antonio asked him.

The gunman held the gun on Antonio and looked confused. He was trying to get straight in his head the significant turn his original, albeit on-the-fly, plan had taken.

“I’m Jason,” he said finally.

“Well, Jason, I’m Antonio. Brother Antonio. Sheriff Martinez is expecting me to call him shortly and have the answers to some questions. Why don’t you tell me your story and let’s figure out how to wrap this thing up, whatever it is. What brought you to the truck stop with a gun?”

“A flat tire, an escapee from jail, a woman, two barbeque sandwiches, and a few bad choices.”

[Find part one here.]

Immediately upon spotting the gun, Antonio felt the man’s left arm come around and clamp his chest under his chin, reclaiming his vise grip on Antonio’s right shoulder. Although he  had an urge to turn his head to see where the pistol was pointed, the preacher decided instantaneously that it would not be the wisest choice he could make. His heart was beating so fast that it seemed determined to fly out of his chest. At the same time his brain struggled between telling his eyes to close tightly to feel the barrel of the gun should it be pointed at his head, and telling them to remain open to eliminate the element of surprise.

Francis dropped the coffee pot, which shattered, sending hot coffee and shards of glass onto her shoes and legs. Her fear of the man holding Antonio and the gun offset the pain in her legs. That, and she was praying harder than she ever remembered praying. She wondered if it would matter to the gunman if he knew Antonio was a preacher.

The instant the coffee pot shattered, Fred Martinez, the owner of the truck stop who was still at the cash register, stepped on the floor alarm under the register that signaled the police. He always had unruly customers, but he had the alarm installed when a late night birthday party got  out of control. With the use of credit and debit cards, the truck stop never had enough cash that he thought someone would rob the place at gunpoint. Especially with all the glass and traffic.

“Pull down the shades, and turn the sign around!” the gunman demanded, pointing the gun at Francis – who fought hard against the fainting spell, which along with her fear, was turning her legs to jello.

Francis was not sure how her legs kept moving, but she moved toward the windows as quickly as she dared. As she reached up for the shade on the last window by the door, she spotted Steve Striden at the pump putting gas in his blue Ford F150. He looked around toward the restaurant. Francis tried to catch Steve’s eye as she pulled down the shade. She turned the open sign around in the window, glancing again toward the pump.

“Lock the door,” said the gunman, who had backed up against the wall dividing the restaurant from the store. “Now this one,” he said after she locked the front door, nodding to the door to his right.

The gunman still held Antonio in front of him. Antonio had said so many prayers they had turned into one long prayer. When the gunman had relocated – pulling Antonio with him – the preacher nearly lost his balance. He was sweating buckets and knew the gunman was, too.

Antonio was struggling to keep his bladder in check against the fear and coffee. But that did not keep him from noticing that the man with the gun and arm around his chest was getting nervous. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Which was when someone dropped something in the kitchen, Antonio felt the gunman twitch as he pointed the gun toward the kitchen, the gun fired, and Antonio’s ears rang.

Brother Antonio opened the chapel – a 52-foot semitrailer in the parking lot of the Traveler’s Treasure Truck Stop – at 6 a.m., as he did on most mornings. He liked to have himself and the chapel available for the truckers who were getting an early start and wanted to pray before heading out. As he walked up the stairs and unlocked the door in the wooden wall that replaced the metal doors of the trailer, Antonio recalled the pain of opening the original doors which would swing around and bang against the side of the trailer, knocking a few pictures off of the wall.

Leaving the door open, he flipped on the two window air conditioning units installed on the left wall. The units were a welcome benefit of the redesigned entrance. Taylor Perkins, a long hauler for a lumber company, donated a batch of leftover lumber to the chapel that the company did not want to pay him to haul back. Fred Mullins, the truck stop owner, paid his handyman, Jeff Purvis, to build the steps, the rear wall with the door, and add supports under the trailer.

Purvis, a deacon at the Community Christian Church, painted “The Church of the Necessarily Significant” on both sides of the trailer as a favor to Brother Antonio. He also was a handyman for the Restful Traveler Hotel across the road from the truck stop. The hotel had upgraded from window unit air conditioners in the past year and the owners were happy to donate two of the units to the chapel. Jeff Purvis attended Brother Antonio’s Thursday night Bible study.

The Mothers of Miracles group at the Community Christian Church sewed blue tarps together to cover the underside of the trailer. The women added crosses alternating with the words Jesus, Forgiveness, Redemption, Faith, and Love. Mavis Monahan, secretary of the group, was the evening shift manager/waitress at the diner in the truck stop.  The Mothers of Miracles met at the chapel on Tuesday evenings to crochet prayer shawls for the sick, the infirm, and babies when they were baptised.

Antonio walked out and closed the door behind him. He straightened the sign hung on a nail in the center of the top of the door. “I’m in the restaurant, 406-224-5893 (ask for Brother Antonio) or stop in.” When he was in the restaurant the waitresses would call him to the phone. It gave the drivers who wanted privacy the chance to pray alone in the chapel. We walked across the parking lot and  entered the truck stop through the main entrance – saying “hello” to Fred at the cash register – and turned left toward the restaurant.

“Good morning, Antonio.” Francis smiled brightly as she served his coffee – one sugar, one cream – while he settled into his usual corner booth.

“Good morning, Francis.”

“Do you want the usual on this beautiful morning?” She went ahead and wrote special on her order pad anyway. He had only been in town for four months, but the order had not changed.

“Yes, thank you. It is a good day that the Lord has made, isn’t it?”

“Better than yesterday.”

“Nature has a mind of her own, so to speak.”

Francis smiled, topped off Antonio’s coffee, and headed to the kitchen to turn in his order, stopping along the way to refill the coffee cups of other patrons. Antonio glanced around the restaurant, smiling at everyone who caught his eye, and nodding to the regulars. He pulled out his phone and checked the Church of the Necessarily Significant’s Facebook page. It was not a church, per se, although that was Antonio’s goal. The church had begun…

“Here you are, Antonio. Two eggs over easy, bacon, toast, and grits.” Francis slid the plate in front of him as he raised his hands to give her room. She filled his coffee, smiled, and walked to another customer.

Antonio bowed his head and said a quiet prayer. He added butter, salt, and pepper to the grits, stirred them, and tasted a spoonful. Then he cut a piece of an egg, broke off a piece of bacon, and put them on the corner of a piece of toast and took a bite. As he was preparing his second bite, Antonio felt the rush of air as the door to the restaurant opened behind him. He was chewing the second bite when he was suddenly jerked out of the booth and to his feet by a vise grip on his shoulder. The piece of toast went flying. Then he saw the gun.

Author Spotlight

I would like to introduce two more authors I met at the author signing at Manske Library a couple of weeks ago. Becky Wade, in her words, is “an author of inspirational Christian contemporary romance novels.” She was signing copies of her newest novel, “My Stubborn Heart,” published by Bethany House Publishers this year. I bought a copy and asked her to sign it to  Cyndy. Cyndy reads romance novels, among other types of fiction.

Becky is a personable and friendly person with a bright personality. I enjoyed talking to her. She was as eager to listen to other’s stories as she was to share her own. What I’ve read of her book I’ve enjoyed. Since it is not my favorite genre I skip around. After Cyndy reads the book, I’ll post a review.

I also had an extended conversation with Rita Dear, who was sitting at the next table. Rita has written ten books so far in the Eutopian Destiny series. The series follows the journey of INS agent Joseph Morris that begins when he infiltrates the small town of Eutopian Springs, New Mexico as the new Baptist preacher, Joseph Marsh. Dear has also written a novel entitled “Roxann – A Lady in A Chair.”

Rita Dear is a retired public accountant who has also dealt with breast cancer. She has written a booklet called  “A Smart Ass Guide to Breast Cancer.”  An avid reader, when she found current novels too graphic for her tastes, she decided to write a novel without digressing to the details currently being published. She is the “first to admit that she found it difficult to circumvent the situations she’d found offensive in other books,” but she did.

“In my novels, bedroom doors close and foul words are restricted. That may make my books too tame for the average reader, but it’s a pride point with me. My books have to stand or fall based on the story line.”

Check out Becky Wade’s and Rita Dear’s books and websites. They are interesting, dedicated women with intriguing stories to tell.

Peace be with you.

The full title of Rubel Shelly’s book published by Leafwood Publishers (ACU Press) is “I Knew Jesus Before He Was A Christian…and I Liked Him Better Then.” When I was asked to review the book, I was intrigued by the title. As I began to read, it became apparent that the title was not merely cute to boost sales, but was entirely appropriate for the material. Our small group was deciding what book to study next and I suggested this one. Rather than read through it before the group studied it, I waited to review the book in order to include it’s effectiveness for a small group study.

The conclusion is that I Knew Jesus… works well for small groups. Precisely because it compares the original churches to churches now and the Jesus of the Bible to the Jesus nonbelievers perceive to be preached in churches today. The subject is – and should be – on the minds of all church and small group members.

Shelly begins by asserting that we can be both pro-Jesus and pro-church simultaneously. But not as long as a perception exists of disconnect between the two. Changing the perception necessarily requires elimination of the disconnect. The author quotes Stephen King when he wrote, “And while I believe in God, I have no use for organized religion..”

That is what many Christians have heard, unfortunately, far too often. Then there is the oft-quoted “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” In chapter four, Shelly tells the story of author Anne Rice. Rice renounced the Catholic religion at age eighteen. After a series of tragedies, including  the near loss of her life, she renewed her commitment to the Catholic faith. Rice wrote a book about the experience, dedicated herself to “glorifying God,” and launched a series of Christ the Lord books.

On July 28, 2010, Anne Rice posted a statement on her Facebook page that she was giving up Christianity and doing it “in the name of Christ.” She said that she remained committed to Christ as always, but not to being ‘Christian’ or part of Christianity. Rice followed the next day with “my conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I don’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following his followers.”

Which is precisely the point Shelly is making. The Jesus of the Bible – and by extension, of the original churches – is not the Jesus the people of the world see proclaimed by many of today’s churches. We should strive to be more like the Jesus of the Bible than the Jesus we portray through the filter of our organizational structure and polity. Rubel Shelly, in I Knew Jesus…, looks at different aspects of the disconnect and barriers between Jesus and the church. The author challenges and encourages the reader to work toward solutions in their own lives and churches, with questions found in the discussion guide.

Too many people have decided they are done with the church. They do not want to have anything to do with the church. “But you just might get attention with this radical, engaging, challenging, life-transforming, healing, rescuing person named Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, I think it is the only hope we have for communicating with a postmodern world. The best argument is…a living demonstration of kindness and acceptance, grace made incarnate, or love emptying itself for the sake of others.”

In I Knew Jesus Before He was a Christian, Shelly uses real-life and biblical examples to illustrate that while church membership may be declining, there are still souls searching for the life-affirming love of Christ. For a church to be a model of the first Christian churches and the life Christ displayed, they must first exhibit Jesus in the community and participate in ministering to those in need.

Peace be with you.

[I received this book free from Leafwood Publishers for a review. I was not required to write a favorable review.]

Happy New Year everyone, and I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! The past year was interesting, to say the least, for all of us. I do not make New Year’s resolutions, but I do set goals for the year ahead. There are the usual health related goals: walk more, eat better, and adjust the daily schedule. And the Christian goals: give more, use less, better Bible study, and more mission work. As well as the harder ones: be more sensitive to others’ needs and less attentive to my own, be more considerate and less quick to anger. Lastly, the writing related productivity goals: post more, write more, and publish more.

I will reach some of the goals. I may even surpass a few. Unfortunately, however, I am afraid that I may fall considerably short with others. But that does not mean I will cease attempting to accomplish them. Some of the goals I’ve been working on for years. One of these years, maybe I’ll accomplish all goals across the board. But then there will be more goals to work toward.

Whether you make new year’s resolutions, set goals for the year, or do not dwell on it at all, I hope the year goes well for you. A new year brings new experiences, new opportunities, and new chances to improve our lives. May God watch over you and bless you with grace.

Happy New Year! – peace be with you.

Which is safer, bottled water or tap water? Who or what causes over 85 percent of the lung-damaging ozone air pollution in the D/FW area? How is your “rain tax” used? What is the rain tax? Myron Knudson, Senior Policy Advisor of the Environmental Protection Agency, will answer these and other questions at King of Glory Lutheran on Monday, October 10 at 10 a.m. as part of the Gusto! event series. Coffee and conversation will be served at 9:45 a.m.

Knudson will discuss health and environmental conditions in the D/FW Metroplex relating to air and water quality. How can we trust that these life-giving essentials—air and water— will not harm us? Knudson is senior policy advisor to the EPA’s regional administrator. He is a 40-year veteran of the EPA, serving as director of the surveillance and analysis division, the water management division, and the Superfund division. He has held his present position since 2003. Before joining the EPA, he worked for the U.S. Public Health Service and the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration.

The Gusto! Series, presented by King of Glory Lutheran Church, began its 2011-2012 series on Wednesday, September 7th, at 2 p.m. by attending Theatre Three for a production of Wild Oats. The events continued on Monday, September 12th at 10 a.m. with Jac Alder, Executive Producer-Director of Theatre Three presenting 50 Years in the Round: Jac Alder and Theatre Three. GUSTO! programs are diverse and designed to stimulate intellectual growth and expand personal interactions in a Christian environment.

Although GUSTO!’s programs are directed primarily at mature adults and retired and semi-retired people, all are welcome to attend. Activities focus on intriguing topics that inspire learning, follow-up activities that explore special interests, and opportunities to share skills, talents and life experiences. GUSTO! meets regularly at the church on the second Monday of each month, September through May. Additional field trips, workshops and special events are offered at other times during the month. Guests are always welcome.

Peace be with you.

I was walking to our sons’ school with the youngest son’s football gear stuffed in my backpack. Cyndy was running errands after dropping them off at school. In the waking up atmosphere of sleepy-eyed confusion in which things can slip teenage minds, J.D. had forgotten his gear on the couch. Of course, he had to have it right away. It was a hot and fairly humid day. Which was not conducive to walking long distances on sidewalks with slight, intermittent, shade.

When I am walking, I watch the ground ahead of me – for several reasons. For one thing, I walk quickly which requires watching the terrain. And by watching the ground ahead of me, I am not constantly reminded of how far away my goal is at any given time. I have also found a large number of coins over the years (albeit mostly pennies).

I walk in long strides, setting up a quick rhythm. Inevitably, I set my stride with the aim of missing the cracks in the sidewalk. Lengthening my stride when the situation requires it. At some point the superstition of my youth slips through – bringing to mind the phrase we used to say.

“Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.”

Do I believe it? Not really. Do I avoid the cracks? You betcha – just to be on the safe side. And I will have you know that to this day my mother has not broken her back. A few other things maybe, but not her back. I will also have you know that I do not think my avoiding cracks had a thing to do with it.

Yet, as I was walking to my son’s school, I was avoiding the cracks. Mostly to set up a rhythm in my stride, but avoiding the cracks nonetheless. That got me to thinking – as walking is wont to do – about avoiding cracks and hedging bets.

As a general rule, I can set a rhythm or pace and move quickly along while still avoiding the cracks. As we as Christians can go about our life in the secular world, avoiding the larger, more obvious sins. But then I come across a section of sidewalk – or life – that has begun to show wear, causing a conundrum. There are so many cracks that even a hop-scotch afficionado would have trouble traversing the area.

So which cracks count in the break your mother’s back scenario? If it is a natural part of the sidewalk which was purposefully made that way, is that considered a crack? Is it just the cracks that have developed over time from wear and weather that count? Or do all cracks count, causing the situation to be crucially problematic?

In our Christian lives the question – considering the cracks as sins – is which sins to avoid. Which cracks are actually sins? And which cracks are part of the sidewalk as it was made? When we come to the section with too many cracks to avoid them all, which do we choose not to avoid?

We are human and cannot avoid all sin. And not all the cracks in life’s sidewalk are sins. Some cracks are merely faults in the sidewalk. Fortunately, “step on a crack, break your mother’s back” is just a game. Unfortunately, life is not a game. Even though it might seem that way at one time or another. Some of the cracks we try to cross in life are wider and deeper than we could have imagined.

When we reach those rough spots in life’s sidewalk, we wonder if we took the wrong path – if we are on the wrong sidewalk. We are unsure which cracks to avoid and which cracks are okay to step on. What false idols we have succumbed to and need to avoid, and what we should be embracing more than we are.

During those times of rough spots, when our paths reach too many cracks in the sidewalk and other obstacles, we need to recall what Paul said to the Corinthians. “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” Corinthians 10:13.

As we walk along life’s sidewalk, we need to put our faith in God, and trust the path we take. By the grace of God we make it to the end of the sidewalk.

 Peace be with you.

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