Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Surrounded By Witnesses

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a reunion of former members of South Avondale Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  This church, which was established in 1917,  has been a part of my family for years.  My grandparents attended there.  My mother started there as a baby and attended there most of her life.  My father joined the church when he married my mother.  My sister, brother and I all attended South Avondale.  Unfortunately, I had to leave for a different church in 1983 when I moved to a different part of town.  But, I essentially attended the church for about twenty two glorious years. 

Needless to say, it was a big thrill when we gathered in the sanctuary of the church a few weeks ago.  As a matter of fact, I almost started crying as I heard the worship team and band practicing as I entered the facility.  The sights, the sounds of exaltation, and the warm embrace of old friends made it a moment to remember.  In addition, the presence and affection of the new members there (now called Redeemer Community Church) were exhilarating. 

During the service, the pastor mentioned that the original church had buried a time capsule in 1917 and that the new church was going to open the time capsule later this year to reveal its contents.  In the sermon, he even read a letter which was supposedly buried in the time capsule from the first pastor, Reverend Inzer.  It was a sweet, sweet letter from what sounded like a godly shepherd.  Also, if I recall, the letter mentioned "the war" which was occurring at that time (which we now refer to as World War I).  It will be interesting when the time capsule is opened later this year and will give a glimpse of the heart of the congregation at that time.  What were their hopes for future generations?  What was important for them to place in the capsule?   

Finally, after a time of worship, a challenging message and communion, we had lunch outside with the new members and relished the days of old.  

Looking back on this special day brought to mind Hebrews 12:1 which states,  "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.."  How indebted I am to the witnesses who have propelled me along the way!  The friends who helped developed the foundation of my life, whether it were the old friends I saw a few weeks ago at South Avondale or even the first pastor of the church whom I never met, although he was thinking of me when he penned his letter for the time capsule.  Have I made some mistakes in my life journey since the early days of my life at South Avondale?  Absolutely.  Yet, being embraced by those who continue to love me and pray for me in whatever situation give me the strength to carry on in life, no matter what the tribulation.     

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Happy Birthday To Me!!!

I'm a little late penning this blog.  Yet, I had some thoughts as I celebrated another birthday last month.  As is my custom, I thoroughly enjoyed the caramel birthday cake so wonderfully constructed by Rickey J.'s bakery down the street.

So even though I am late sharing this particular blog, it really doesn't matter in the broad scheme of things.  Every day in life is precious, especially when being told my chances of living five years after my cancer diagnosis were only 15-20%.  Of course, if you know my story, my cancer reoccurred in my lymph nodes in 2006 and I underwent chemotherapy.  My five year anniversary of treatment officially was around June 15th, 2011.  So, as of today, by God's grace and plan, I am still very much alive, in spite of the odds.

There was an old wine commercial which stated, "We will sell no wine before its time".  In like manner, I know that I am not going to die one second before it's supposed to happen.  Psalms 139:16 states, " Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them."  My length of days are all pre-ordained by God.  

So, not to worry, my death will come at the right moment as God plans.  As a matter of fact, I guess one could say I'm already living on borrowed time.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Read Your Bible

I've been privileged to write two books, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer" and "Glorified Sickness: Honoring God Through Illness."  I am always thrilled when I hear from someone who has read one of my books.  Just last week, I got a phone call from an elderly gentleman who had read my first book and absolutely loved it. His wife also called me and was also very complimentary.  Nevertheless, these phone calls made my day.

After all of the research, all of the many hours writing and editing, the time meeting with the publisher, basically the extreme effort it involves in writing a book, it is thrilling to discover that it touches someone in some way.  It's great to write a book or's even better to find out someone has actually read them and were moved in a special way.

Come to think of it, there is even greater book which is probably found in most people's households.  It has a much better author than myself, the topic is much more interesting, and its words are eternal.  I'm talking about the Bible, the greatest book ever written.  Just as I enjoy it when others read my books, how it must please the Heavenly Father when his creation reads His written word.

Hence, in whatever situation which confronts us, perhaps the best advice is to read (and live out ) the Bible, "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12:2).  


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Putting Life On Hold Temporarily

I was greatly looking forward to this past week.  Why?  Because I was going to have a week long vacation from work.  After not taking off any time since last summer, I was ready to be off and relax. 

The first day off was fun.  I played golf with my father and some golfing buddies.  I didn't shoot too well but it was good to hit the links after a lengthy absence.

Then it happened on the second day off.  Of all things, I started coming down with a cold (which is extremely rare for me).  I didn't really have a sore throat or nasal congestion.  However, I developed a persistent cough.  In addition, I have felt extremely "washed out" during this time period.  So, what should have been some fun vacation days for me have actually turned into your basic sick days.  Any dreams I had of accomplishing great things this week, e.g. cleaning around the house, trying to get caught up on some paperwork, etc., have been put on the back burner.  Each day I have done little more than guzzle cough medicine and lie around the house.  Not the best vacation in the world.

Yet, sometimes that is what happens in life.  Due to illness or other distress, life gets placed "on hold".  There is really nothing to do but wait out the storm.  Hopefully, when the storm dissipates, life will resume as it is supposed to be.  The same place you get off the merry-go-round is where you get back on, ready to resume the ride.

I hope to be back in action soon.  But for now, much to my dismay, life is temporarily on hold.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Getting Firm Footing

I went out shopping for new tires the other day.  I didn't buy any, but was just checking the prices on various brands at different stores. 

One store I visited was advertising some tires which provided "serious traction".  Basically, the ad described tires for all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).  In looking at the advertisement, I was amazed at the variety of treads on these tires.  Some were like dimples, some looked like zigzags, some indescribable.  Nevertheless, whatever the tread pattern, the major purpose of the tires was to allow vehicles to ride in rugged terrain without incident.

Come to think of it, just like a car cannot run without wheels, you can't make it in life without some "serious traction" as the ad proclaimed.  This does not necessarily mean tires, but anything to hold on to during times of distress.  It can be your faith, your family, friends or even your finances (good luck with that).   However, I feel that ultimately the best option of stability is to trust in the Lord.

Psalms 55:22 states, "Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you;  He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."  No matter what the weather or the terrain, clinging to the Lord provides, as the ad proclaims, "serious traction".  Ready to hit the road?  


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Following The King's Example

I felt led to write this "after Christmas" blog, although we typically associate the story of this king with Christmas Day.  Basically, the carol, "Good King Wenceslas" is based on the story of a Czech king, Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, who went out into harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (which is the day after Christmas or December 26th).  A page who was accompanying the king almost gave up the journey but felt the strength to go forward by marching in the king's footsteps.  King Wenceslas reigned from 907-935 A.D.  Later, hymn writer John Mason Neale with assistance from Thomas Helmore forever remembered this gracious king in the carol, "Good King Wenceslas" which was written in 1853.  Consider the richness of these lyrics:

"Good King Wenceslas last looked out on the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shown the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.

Hither, page, and stand by me. If thou know it telling:
Yonder peasant, who is he?  Where and what his dwelling?
Sire, he lives a good league hence,  Underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence by Saint Agnes fountain.

Bring me flesh, and bring me wine.   Bring me pine logs hither.
Thou and I will see him dine when we bear the thither.
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.

Sire, the night is darker now,  and the wind blows stronger.
Fails my heart, I know not how. I can go no longer.
Ark my footsteps my good page, tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter's rage  freeze thy blood less coldly.

In his master's step he trod, where the snow lay dented.
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,  wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor s
hall yourselves find blessing." 

This is a great story of the generosity displayed by a king to a poor person.  The Bible says, "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap.  For by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you in return. " (Luke 6:38).  Essentially, whatever we give to others, we will receive in return.  If we deal out kindness, we will receive extraordinary kindness in return.  If we assist in meeting the needs of others in their distress, then we may receive the same favor when we are in anguish.  What we give, we get back in some form or another.  Perhaps, as occurred with King Wenceslas, our kindness will be forever mentioned in song or in the annals of heaven.



Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Joy of Christmas

Occasionally during the holidays, one hears the song, "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day".  It's a great, great song.  Perhaps we should sing it more often, especially in these troubled times.

It actually has a sad beginning.  During the Civil War, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had a son, Charles who joined the Union Army, much to his father's dismay.  Later, the elder Longfellow was notified that his son had been severely wounded in November 1963.  This dreadful news,  coupled with the recent loss of his wife in an accidental fire, prompted Longfellow to write the poem, "Christmas Bells" which would later become the carol, "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day."  Ponder the richness of these lyrics:

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn the households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong, And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

In the midst of human sorrow, Longfellow was comforted by the bells of Christmas.  God is not dead.  Righteousness will prevail; evil will be obliterated.

How we need the sounds and joys of Christmas in life  In sadness, in despair, in the midst of darkness, God has provided a light which provides peace on earth and good will towards men.

Merry Christmas to all!