Tag Archive: God

Richie Smith and I

Richie Smith and I

I was hosting the Angela’s at the Crosswalk Monday night open mic on Halloween when I first met Richie Smith. He came in with his mom and dad, waving to people as they came by the tables – just saying hi. His dad, Rick, came over and told me who he was so I knew when his slot came up. I asked him what he needed, sound-wise. He said Richie just needed a mic because he was going to play the song on a small Bose iPod/iPhone player.

When his time came, Rick helped Richie up to the microphone. Richie’s left leg was in a brace and his left arm was in a sling. I got him set up with the mic and his dad helped him start the songs. I adjusted the sound and Richie introduced himself.

“I’m Richie Smith. I had surgery for brain cancer to remove a tumor and what was left was diagnosed as grade 4 brain cancer. After surgery, I came out I was like this. This isn’t part of my costume.”

The crowd erupted in laughter. That is a perfect introduction to Richie. He is a twenty-two year old young man who has always loved music. He could play piano as well as other instruments. Music came to him naturally. He performed in cafes for charity.

Then he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2011. No one outside of his family knew he had brain cancer. When it worsened in 2012, he had two

Richie and his father, Rick.

Richie and his father, Rick.

days to live without immediate brain surgery. After the surgery on November 24, 2012, what could not be removed was diagnosed as grade 4 brain cancer, and he was given two years to live. “The fight raged on, and in 2013 there were two brain tumors growing in size, leading Richie to lose most mobility on the left side of his body, but he never gave up.”1

Richie thanks God for his music even after all that has happened. His positive attitude and faith in God is infectious. There were a number of his close friends there, but, as far as Richie is concerned, everyone there was his friend. He had everyone laughing and dancing along to one of his songs. Even me – and I don’t dance – used to long ago,  but not anymore. Except for Halloween night.

Two weeks later, when I once again hosted the open mic, Richie was on the list. His left arm hung by his side rather than held up in a sling. He played piano with his right hand while he sat behind it and sang. His father, Rick, played the cajon. Once again, his laughter and infectious spirit filled the room. He played a hilarious cover of Skinny Girl Jeans with some additions of his own. Richie had the crowd singing along on Lean on Me by Bill Withers.

Veronica, Richie, and Rick Smith

Veronica, Richie, and Rick Smith

And, naturally, he played his song, For A Reason. Not only is it the name of his song, but it is also the name of his For A Reason Foundation. For A Reason is also Richie first official song release, produced by multi-platinum producer, John Kurzweg. The song was released this past Thursday, the fourth anniversary of his first brain surgery. It was also – as Richie pointed out at Angela’s – Thanksgiving, his mother, Veronica’s, birthday, and his re-birth. His re-birth is how he refers to the immediate emergency surgery.

For A Reason is available on iTunes, Amazon, and the usual online music distribution sites. You can also check out Richie’s Facebook page and his YouTube channel. You can see Richie on Mondays at Angela’s or  at the fourth Saturday Dallas Songwriters Association (DSA) showcase on December 17.

Peace be with you.

                                                                                        1  Quoted from ournewmonarch.com

Rashad and Kaleigh Okay, maybe not babes exactly, but children nonetheless. The girl, Kaleigh, is my friend’s daughter. The boy, Rashad, is Kaleigh’s nephew. I took the picture when Cyndy and I were watching Kaleigh and Rashad for Randy and Kelly. Rashad is now about five or six. Randy came by today and had Rashad with him. He just dropped by to pick up Disc Golf brochures, so he ran in without Rashad.

When he was leaving, Randy asked me to come out to the car so Rashad would know who I was. Randy had asked him on the way over if he remembered me, and Rashad wasn’t exactly sure. He’s been over quite a few times since the picture was taken, by the way. When we reached the car, Randy knocked on the window and Rashad popped his head up and saw me. He squealed, then jumped in the back seat and kept squealing at me and grinning.

“Now he remembers who you are,” Randy said, laughing.

I said goodbye and went back in the house. Not long after the phone rang. I assume Randy was going Dennis to Valwood to Josey, because of the number of churches within the two blocks of Valwood. Either way, I answered the phone.

“You should hear Rashad,” Randy said. “The things that kids say. Rashad would say, wow, look at that cross. Look at that church. There sure are a lot of churches.”

“Look at that church!”

“Do you like church and churches?” Randy asked.


“What do you like most about church?”

“There’s a lot of Jesus stuff in church. And Jesus is my Lord!”

That is when the true spirit of Christmas shines through.

Peace be with you.

Hunting Catfish

Cyndy and the boys with fishIt is not a trick title . A friend of mine who is visiting in Tennessee at the moment was sitting in the house, minding his own business watching tv one evening. Suddenly, without warning, he heard shotgun bursts not far from the house. He was accustomed to his son-in-law firing shots into the woods and at trees to “calm down.” But the sounds did not emanate from one person.

My friend went out and discovered his son-in-law and compadres at the small pond. They had become irritated that the lone catfish in the pond had eluded capture. They were annoyed that the catfish was eating the smaller fish – which is a part of nature. They had worked themselves up to the point that they were shooting at this poor fish with shotguns. I cannot imagine that they did the smaller fish a whole lot of good themselves.

The friend said something I will not repeat here, but that seemed appropriate given the circumstances – and God’s tendency for forgiveness. It does seem rather excessive behavior to conceive of firing a shotgun at one catfish in a pond. Accidents do happen and people could be hurt. It is certainly a frame of mind that I would not entertain. And we will not mention the shooting at small animals with assault rifles.

(The picture is of Cyndy and the boys with fish they caught quite a few years ago. The fish were caught with fishing poles, not shotguns or AK-47’s.)

Peace be with you.

JD Pitching 1 I was in Fort Worth this past weekend with J.D. at TCU for a baseball camp. We were driving from one field to another and were driving down W. Berry from TCU. Coming down the hill, I spotted a man and a woman waving from a concrete platform that turned out to be the entrance to a church. They were not waving “come here” like parking attendants, but they were using a modified princess wave. Unfortunately, their signage was not sufficient for me to see the name quickly as I drove by. And time did not permit stopping to take a picture.

As I told J.D. later, if we hadn’t been on a schedule, I would have stopped and attended their service. But while I couldn’t stop, it was a bright spot in the morning. It was over 100 degrees for most of the weekend and J.D. had already played two games (albeit short games). In the picture, J.D. is the pitcher. It was a showcase camp before coaches and recruiters from numerous colleges and some major league teams. It was a high intensity weekend, which made the smiles and the waves all the more important.

When I saw them and realized it was a church, I said to J.D., “so simple, but effective. How cool is that?” I happen to be on the communications committee of our church. It was certainly a Jesus moment in which life is briefly in the background and God’s light shines like a beacon in the wilderness. One of those moments that reminds us that life may be tough at times, but something better awaits us.

Peace be with you.

Where was God when disaster struck?

God was with the baby who survived
because her window
was the only one in the house
that did not implode.

God was there to comfort
the woman who lost everything
she owned, and most
of her family.

God was with the family
who stuck together
during the tragedy
and survived – together.

God was with the family members
who were separated
before the disaster,
but found each other safe.

God was with the people
who – despite injury and loss –
helped others who could not
assist themselves.

God was there with the families
of the victims
helping them to deal with
the question of why?

God was there with the family
of those who may have caused
the disaster and who are
struggling to understand.

God was there with grace
to pour upon those affected
and help them to carry on
despite unexpected change.

God was there.

Love thy neighbor as thyself
is not only one
of the Ten Commandments,
it is actually a good idea
I am glad God thought of it,
Because I am afraid
we would not have
-on our own-
Thanks be to God.

Clouds 1When I was growing up, my grandmother on my mother’s side – Grandma Kelley – lived in the other side of a duplex from my aunt, uncle, and cousins in Adele, Iowa. The large screen porch led to separate entrances for each side. But when you went up the stairs in one side, you could walk all the way down the hall and then down the stairs to the other side of the duplex. I don’t remember if there was a bedroom on the first floor of either side, but if there was, there was only one and it belonged to my grandmother, and my aunt and uncle, respectively.

My brother and I slept upstairs. On one occasion, I was sleeping by myself. I don’t know why. We usually slept together at relatives’ houses. I think I was ill, but I wouldn’t swear to it. I was sleeping on one of the old, raised beds, the kind you had to climb into – particularly if you were under the age of twelve.

There were vents in the floor upstairs – or the ceiling downstairs, whichever way you look at it. I assume it was a way to keep the house warm in the winter – letting heat rise to the rooms upstairs. You could see down into the lower floor through the vents. You could also hear everything that was said over a whisper. Which could be embarrassing, but it also kept me from making several unwanted entrances into family rooms.

I remember having a hard time going to sleep with the voices coming up through the floor vent. It was hard trying to go to sleep and still trying to hear what the voices were saying. They sounded as if those talking were in the bottom of a shallow cavern. A head cold or flu would have increased the effect (I don’t remember having anything worse than that away from home).

I have no idea exactly what I was dreaming about. But I do remember the voices guiding the dream on some level. At some point I imagined stepping off of the bed and dropping through the floor. I kept falling, with clouds below me and no earth in sight. I remember actually having a falling sensation.

While I was falling I was frightened, but it never occurred to me that I would hit anything – much less hit it hard enough to die. I was sure that God would save me. As young as I was, I had faith in a loving and just God. I didn’t have all the baggage I have now. Baggage that makes me question something when I should just take it on faith.

I finally woke up, of course. But what one would consider the innocent dream of a naive child was actually an implicit assumption based on unquestioning faith. We all have had a similar type of experience when we were younger. A time when (real or in a dream) we mentally and physically had no control and had to depend on God.

I’ve had numerous experiences since that night – both in life and in dreams – in which I felt out of control. Unfortunately, I wasn’t always as successful as that night in trusting God to help. And I know I am not alone. We need to get some of that naivete back. True, we cannot undo experience and knowledge. But we can return to a childlike wonderment of God. Trusting him to protect us, even in our dreams. He does keep amazing us if we’re paying attention.

What was one of your most memorable faith experiences or “God moments?”

Peace be with you.

Zion UMC 1When I take trips – or even when I am just driving around – I like to take pictures of churches. All kinds and types of churches, but small churches in particular. Churches that have been around for many years. Some are worn and broken down, but show signs of tender loving care and have the appearance of an active church – albeit with a tiny congregation. Other churches have not held services for several years, but still show signs of upkeep by faithful congregants or their descendants. The church buildings resemble souls on the side of the road.

Churches with a past – not the negative sort of past that the phrase ordinarily implies – but a glorious past of vibrant congregations, spiritual worship services, and dinners on the grounds. The church buildings, along with the surrounding property, echo the vocal strains of gospel music, prayers, and praise. I often wonder if the Holy Spirit doesn’t return occasionally to the former churches to bless them one more time for their meritorious service to the glory of the Lord. Roadside reminders of years of faith and praise.                   Preston Road Church

I am rarely traveling on Sunday in order to attend our church. I take pictures and write articles for the newspaper, website, and archives. But one of these weekends when I’m on the road, I’d like to stay over and revisit the churches I’ve seen. Mainly to see if they still have services. I would like to get pictures of the small congregations that have served throughout the years and still faithfully attend.

I’m afraid, however, I would find that they would be closed for good. My next question would be if someone was still tending to the building. Or if it had been left to nature and future real estate developers. Which is why I take pictures of those churches. In some small way, I want to preserve the memory of the congregations and churches that helped develop the society in which we currently live.

But I will not only post pictures of churches with a past and possibly no future. I will also post – in order to celebrate – pictures of ministries that represent the church in the world. Or simply unique churches.

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.”

Pretzels Dont PourTo begin at the beginning, in case you didn’t know, pretzels don’t pour. To which you might reply with “who would expect them to?” Well, I would. In case you haven’t noticed, the bags that pretzels come in are considerably more fragile than regular chip bags. Regardless of how careful you are, if you are lucky enough to open it without tearing it down the side, the second time you reach in for more pretzels (again carefully) a jagged tear will appear.

The tear is always such that any further handling of any sort will cause the bag to begin the various stages of disintegration. When it happened again the other day, I grabbed a quart size baggie and attempted – for the umpteenth time – to pour pretzels into a baggie. At first, they poured as easy as stick-shaped objects can. Then they began to catch on the curled up edges of the pretzel bag.

I tried to gently jerk the bag to coax the pretzels into falling into the baggie. At which time the bag began to give way further, sending pretzels onto the counter and – to my chagrin – a few onto the floor. The more I tried to be careful, the faster the bag fell apart. I ended up having to pick handfuls of pretzels off of the counter and put them in the baggie. Which worked only a tad better than trying to pour them out of the bag.

I finally got the pretzels into the baggie. Minus, of course, the few that fell onto the floor. But not without some serious consternation on my part. A major cause of the consternation was the fact that I saw it coming. But even though I saw it coming there was little I could do to alter the circumstances.

And that is one of my pet peeves – I firmly believe that you can have more than one. When I see a situation coming in which I’m sure things will go awry, it ticks me off. I sometimes think I’m daring the situation to prove me wrong for a pleasant change of pace. Then, by God, it goes awry just like I thought it would. Which ticks me off even more.

I have other pet peeves as I’m sure you do. People refer to someone’s pet peeve. As if there is only one peeve and that one is the pet or favorite. It sounds as if it is special rather than a pain in the ass.

I’m sure God has quite a few pet peeves. The Old Testament illustrates a few. Breaking a commandment is a safe bet to touch on the real favorites. That is, if you equate “pet” with good or favorite.

But at the same time, God is forgiving. While I can be forgiving, I’m not as forgiving as I should be. If I was, it wouldn’t bother me as much that pretzel bags tend to disintegrate as one is simply getting another small handful of pretzels. It wouldn’t bother me that pretzels don’t pour. And when I can tell someone is going to do something stupid, I would forgive them ahead of time. Unfortunately, I’m not that forgiving. But I’m working on it.

Peace be with you.

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