Monday, December 31, 2007

Stages of Faith

"What stages has your faith gone through?"

I had faith from even before my birth in Christ. I always knew somehow that someone was watching out for me for some reason. I couldn't really put my finger on God for that, because I didn't really know Him. As a result, I flitted about from false religion to false religion to no religion at all for a large portion of my life. But this doesn't mean I had no faith. It was merely misplaced faith.

At one point, I was involved in the New Age movement. You know, "I am that I Am," and all of that. I was getting into the candles and the crystals, thinking that I could channel the power inherent in them to bring my life under my control. You can't, you know. I don't know of anyone who has gone that route who has been able to get their life under their control by sheer force of will. Since we're all unfinished business, we usually end up fouling up what we have control over. Or, at least, what we think we have control over.

The next stage of my faith was my attempt at following Christ while mired in denominations. I was still in the Marines at that time, and on my dog tags under religious preference I had entered "Christian." I knew denominationalism is wrong, but I couldn't quantify it. Just as importantly, I didn't know how to find other people who believed the same way to worship with. So I prayed about it.

As I wrote earlier, I met Tommy Thompson at a swimming pool party in Santa Cruz, CA back in 1989. It was Tommy who taught me about the Lord's church, about denominationalism and about baptism. He baptized me and helped me further both my knowledge and my faith.

I left Santa Cruz in 1992 to go sing with a singing group in Arkansas and immediately my faith leaped to another level. I'd never been on the road with a Christian singing group before, so I got to learn many new things. In singing with several singing groups now, along with Christian education, the added knowledge along with experience has brought my faith to unbelievable levels.

Ironically, the thing that did the most to build my faith was my divorce in 2000. I remember a family taking me in and sharing their roof and food with me while I looked for housing. I remember waking up with a bible in my hand, reading through teary eyes. I remember praying with a soggy voice to a God that I know was the only hope in that dark time. I recall being reminded that God always answers, but sometimes the answer is "no."

Somehow, I was brought through the other side. I don't know how God did it, but here I am. And that has brought me farther along than just about anything else I've been through. I think it helped me to minister to jail inmates in their dark times. We share something in common, they and I. Rock bottom can be a real bear.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Is God Fair?

"In view of Romans chapter 9 have you ever wondered whether God plays fair?"

Of course I've wondered whether God plays fair. I don't know if fair is what God is shooting for. I know God is just. I know God is love. But a "fair" God would not have allowed me to grow up in group homes. A "fair" God would not have allowed a philandering politician to cheat on his wife some 70 years ago and have an illegitimate child whom he then ignored. A "fair" God would not have allowed a musical child prodigy to gradually go deaf.

A "fair" God would not have allowed a barren couple to have a baby and then force the dad to attempt to sacrifice his son. A "fair" God would not have allowed a liar from a family of liars to be the genesis of God's chosen nation. A "fair" God would not have allowed a murderer and an adulterer to be labeled as a man after God's own heart. A "fair" God would not have ordered a man to marry a prostitute and still require him to preach to His chosen people.

A "fair" God would not have allowed a persecutor to write most of the New Testament. A "fair" God would not have allowed a Jesus denier to preach the first Gospel sermon. A "fair" God would not have allowed His new people to be persecuted by the Jews AND the Romans.

And a "fair" God absolutely, positively, most certainly would not have allowed His only Son to die for the sins of all mankind.

The wonderful thing in all of this is that God is merciful, not just "fair." He is merciful in that the group home resident is now able to minister to inmates in a county jail. He is merciful in that the illegitimate child became a great gospel preacher. He is merciful in that He gave us some of Beethoven's greatest works AFTER the composer went deaf.

He is merciful in that many nations were raised from that barren family. He is merciful in giving imperfect people a chance to take part in His Kingdom.

He is merciful in redeeming us with His only Son.

I'm thankful that God is more merciful than fair.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Sad Anniversary

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

On this day 27 years ago, the world lost quite a voice. A mind. A musician. A poet. An artist.

December 8, 1980 was the day we lost John Winston Lennon.

I remember that day for the Howard Cosell announcement on Monday Night Football. December 8, 1980 had a huge impact on me, though not on that day. I was a Beatles listener, though not yet really a fan. I had just owned a hand-me-down copy of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band for about a couple of months, maybe, and, since I was only 13, the full weight of what had happened didn't really strike me at the time.

As I got older and the Beatles' influence grew in my life, the realization of just what had been lost began to dawn. John Lennon meant a lot to me, personally. I remember listening to Plastic Ono Band, crying myself to sleep over "Mother" as I mourned the loss of my own mother's relationship. I remember pantomiming "I Am The Walrus" in time to the music in front of my foster brothers. I remember listening through headphones in absolute wonderment to "A Day In The Life" and "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds." I also remember singing along with "Watching The Wheels" on lazy Summer days.

When I got a little older, I realized that I had some disagreements with his political stance and his religious (or non-religious) views, and I had some problems with the simmering cauldron of temper that seemed to continuously find its way to the forefront. However, I never lost my love for his ability to craft poetry and set it to music. We can look past certain things to appreciate beauty, you know.

It's a dirty rotten shame that the man who wrote "Grow Old Along With Me" didn't get to. It would have been interesting to see how age would have affected his writing and his public persona.

We miss you, John.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,"

"What are some of the implications of (Romans) 3:23 that we are all sinners?"

There is exactly one Person who has ever lived a perfect life, and we killed Him. We seem to have a habit of doing things like this. What does that say about us as a people? We get jealous of people who we think carry on better lives than we do, and so we do as much damage to them as we can. We may not physically put them on the Cross like Jesus, but we commit character assassination and libel and slander. We call such people "do-gooders" and "holier-than-thous" and publicly castigate them.

Meanwhile, someone like Mother Teresa, who has been put up for sainthood by many in the Catholic faith, has been discovered to have had doubts about her faith. As though she hadn't done enough in Calcutta. As though her work for the poor was just business as usual. As though her example wasn't good enough somehow.

We are too quick to believe the very first bad report, the first bad news about someone. Who doesn't know the story of Richard Jewell by now? The man finds a bomb at the Atlanta Olympics just by doing his job, and the next thing we know, he's accused of planting it himself.

We've heard of the downfall of many a televangelist such as Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Bakker and cheered their fall. We jeered at the Catholic church for the habits of some of the priests in her service. We take pleasure in pointing out the infidelities of our political leaders, such as Bill Clinton and John Kennedy. We love to point out the drinking and frat-boy habits of George W. Bush. Not to put them on the same level as biblical figures, but this is nothing new--Scripture says that the Jews of old did the same thing to the many judges and prophets who were called by God to lead them.

If everyone has sinned and fallen short of the kingdom of God, we need to be a little more forgiving of those around us. Don't be so quick to believe a bad report about someone. Don't believe every rumor you hear. There's more than enough bad news to go around without trying to dig some up.

We also need to be less harsh on ourselves. If Mother Teresa thought she wasn't doing enough, that her faith was lacking, then I'd say that anyone is susceptible to worrying about that very thing. It is destructive, it weakens us, and it keeps us from seeing God's glory because it can put a wedge between us and God. We start to think that even God Himself can't move us to where we need to be. We should know by now that this is far from the truth, that God can take us right where we are.

He can, you know...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

That family relationship.

In our Romans class, we are asked to write an answer to an application question at the end of each chapter. Out of six possible questions, this is the one I picked:

"Paul says he is a 'slave of Christ.' If you wrote a self-introduction what words would you use to describe your relationship with God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit?"

This is how I answered:

I think that there are a number of words I would use to describe my relationship with Christ. Words like 'family,' 'mentor,' 'counselor,' and 'savior,' among others. However, if we are to focus on just one, I think 'family' is the one I'll choose. By way of explanation, I need to start with a story.

There was once a young boy who was born into a family of strife. His parents were constantly at odds with each other--fights and arguments were the currency of his world. When his parents divorced, the four year old boy went with his mother to Colorado while his father stayed in California. While with his mom, he was in and out of foster care.

When he was seven years old, there was a hearing to see who would get custody and, since his mom never showed up to court, his grandparents ended up getting custody. His dad asked if he could have the boy for a half hour for lunch, and his grandparents agreed.

He never came back.

His dad had spirited him away, managing about 15 minutes for lunch.

The boy stayed with his dad until he was nine, when he showed up at school with bruises on his hands and arms. The principal had a police investigator take pictures of the bruises on the rest of his body that day...

The boy ended up in group homes from nine years old to 18 years old, when he graduated high school. After high school, it was off to the Marines (a little bit of adolescent rebellion, as both parents were Viet Nam War protesters), and a spiritual search commenced. He bounced around from denomination to denomination, much like his family life had been.

When he got out of the Marines, he came back to Santa Cruz, California. He went to a swimming pool party put on by a high school friend, where he met Tommy Thompson. Tommy took the young man under his wing, but killed him by drowning a month later on July 31, 1989.

When I came out of the water, my old self having died, I found that I had a family. This family is so large that it would not be possible for me to meet every living member of it. I have many spiritual parents along with brothers and sisters worldwide.

Jesus is the one who gave me that family. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Boy. What A Weekend.

A couple of weeks ago, I got to visit with my cousins from Montgomery, Alabama. My cousin Michael Henig plays starting Quarterback for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, so I was in Starkville, Mississippi for a Thursday night LSU game. It was wonderful to stay with the family and tailgate a bit.

The game was enjoyable, even though the Dawgs got blown out pretty bad. (It's okay, Michael led the Dawgs to a really good game the next week!!!)

As wonderful as it was, the family visit was only the beginning of an extraordinary weekend.

On the way back home on Friday, my car started making some funny noises. It was like the fan had gotten loose somehow and was rattling against the housing. Since there was no indication of any other problems like overheating or lost oil pressure, I started looking for an exit rather than pulling over immediately. Well, I heard a "pop" underneath the car, and immediately found that I had zero power, so I pulled over. I was about a mile from exit 81 on Hwy 78 in Tupelo.

I took a look underneath the hood and found that I had very little oil on the dipstick. When I pulled the dipstick though, there were still no signs of overheating to be found. So I decided to walk to the exit and over to the nearby truck stop. I hadn't made it but about 25 yards before a motorcyclist stopped for me. Since he didn't have an extra helmet, he couldn't give me a ride, but a man in a pickup truck stopped less than thirty seconds later to give me a ride to the truck stop.

Amazing but true, no one in the truck stop could give me any ideas as to where I might find a good mechanic. I made my way across the road to Belden Baptist Church, where I met a man by the name of Kelly McGinnis. This kind man gave me a ride to a reputable mechanic's garage--Tri County Auto Repair--just a few short miles away. Nick and John Hazel were more than gracious and helpful. They took me out to my stranded car to find the problem. When it sounded like the car wasn't gonna' make the drive, they got a tow truck for me. When I got back, Kelly was waiting for me with money for an overnight motel stay. He couldn't stick around very long, but he had Nick and John drive me over to the motel and he called in the bill on his card.

After a good night's sleep, I started making some phone calls to try to get home. My first shot was trying to find a Harding student in the area who might be going home. So I called some area churches, but didn't have much success. However, the folks I talked to were more than helpful, many offering a place to stay the night, or to help find one.

I finally ended up staying in the household of Mark and Julie Halbert. What an outstanding couple! The two of them and their three boys made for an exciting stay, playing Wii games and talkin' and jokin' the whole time. They took me out for dinner that Saturday night and brought me to worship on the Lord's day the next morning.

Lee Acres church of Christ
. Now THAT'S a good congregation, right there. Their hospitality knows no bounds. Brad Carman preached that morning and taught the auditorium bible class--a class on benevolence. Kirt Hunt, Glenn McCullough Jr., and Jerry Grammer, among others, were quick to step in and lend a helping hand. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of the loving kindness you showed me.

That Sunday, Jeff Montgomery drove out with his Suburban from Searcy, AR to pick me up and tow my car on a UHaul trailer. Boy was THAT an interesting ride. For those who have never towed a car on a car trailer, let's just say that you have to get used to swayin'! We got back in time to drop off the trailer and get back to the jail by 7:30 that night--and Jim Galyan came back to his ministerial stomping grounds to cover for us early, so we wouldn't be behind the eight ball that night.
Since this blog entry is already rambling, I'm gonna' go ahead and cut it short, but not before I thank a few people by name:

Chad and Beverly Ramsey, and Russell and Rennie Smith. These two couples helped a lot by just being able to direct me to someone to stay. Both Chad and Russell were out of town, so staying in their homes wasn't gonna' work for obvious reasons, but they gave me Marlin Williams and Mark Halbert to talk to. Marlin was out of town, but he came up with Mark's name as well. Guess what, Mark, you came highly recommended! I also want to thank Anita Llewellen for her help. Jeff Kreh, you came up with some good ideas as to locating folks in the area.

Thanks especially to Jeff Montgomery, who went well out of his way to help a friend in need. Thanks, bro!

Boy. What a weekend.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We MUST remember.

I'm not feeling particularly eloquent today.

In the midst of my pity party over financial issues, my broken-down car and school pressures, I received a visual reminder of the need for a rearrangement of my priorities.

I was clearing my mind to write a paper for school by doing a li'l web-browsing. I do that a lot. Maybe too much. However, I came across Michelle Malkin's website and her tribute/coverage of the sixth anniversary of 9/11.

Yeah, it's been six years. Six years since 3,000 folks lost their lives in a grisly real-life version of Towering Inferno. Six years since New York City and the Pentagon irretrievably lost these precious souls. Six years since a visit to an elementary school was interrupted by national tragedy. Six years since impact, concussion and burning jet fuel overcame concrete, glass and steel. Six years since we saw the results of people having to make a decision to die in pieces on the pavement rather than burning to death. Six years since a brave group of passengers stopped another attack with the words, "Let's roll!" Six years since time stopped and our hearts beat as one nation. Six years since 285 million people cried with one tear.

And six years since an entire nation prayed to God with one voice.

I read a wonderful news article today in the Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo News. In the article, mention was made of making September 11 a day of service and self-sacrifice every year. I second that motion. Instead of allowing September 11 to resemble December 7 and fade out of our collective memory, we need to remember it with the things we should be doing anyway but don't.

Here's to remembering.

There is some strong language in this video, and it'll probably ruin your day. But I reckon you'll remember.

Friday, August 24, 2007

What makes me tick?

I was assigned the task of writing a short paper for my Romans class entitled "What Makes You Tick?" Well, I dunno if it's interesting reading, but here 'tis anyways:


What makes me tick? Good question.

First, I'm a man fully in love with the Lord my God. I've a funny way of showing it sometimes, but He is ever-present in my thoughts and activities. Sometimes I think of myself along the lines of David or Paul wherein my desire is to fully dedicate myself to the Lord, but my flesh has this nasty habit of getting in the way. Of course, I'd hardly elevate myself to the level of David or Paul, but that is the comparison--albeit on a lower scale.

Of a much lesser note, I dig coffee. Hearty, robust, fresh-ground coffee. Straight from the bean. There are many flavors of coffee that I've found enjoyable, such as Snickerdoodle, Hazelnut, Egyptian Harrar, and even Blueberry Creme, but none can replace a good ole' fashioned French Roast. That's right, I said French Roast. Due to the election of a conservative hard-liner in France, I no longer feel compelled to boycott all things French. I'm not worried about calling it "Freedom Roast" or anything like that. I am kind of worried about the packages with the white flag on the label, however.

I truly enjoy singing. I've always had a love for music. The first "favorite band" in my life was the Beach Boys way back in the fifth grade. "Endless Summer" was the album (remember vinyl albums?) that I wore out for about a year. Soon after that, I discovered "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by the Beatles. This plunged me into an extensive love affair with the Beatles' music--mostly their later material, but also including their earlier stuff to a lesser extent. When I got to high school, I was introduced to Led Zeppelin, which proved to be a gateway drug that lead me to myriad types of other music, such as the Blues, Jazz, and Classical. The problem I found with the groups I lionized was that I tried to sing along and butchered it badly. This lead to the thought that I couldn't sing and never would be able to. When I became a Christian many years later and sang in worship, I discovered that my vocal range was Second Bass. Well, no wonder! You see, all of my favorite bands growing up had extremely high tenor lead singers, and I was a bass trying to sing along with those jokers! Once I started singing along with other basses, I learned that I could, in fact, carry a tune. There's a lesson in there somewhere...

I am currently working in the White County Detention Center as a jail minister, which is a rather fulfilling task. For the last two years, I've been going in on Sunday nights and Tuesday nights to take care of Communion and the library cart along with other administrative duties--basically clearing the hurdles for the volunteers. Whenever someone doesn't show up, I go in their stead to lead singing, lead Communion or give the lesson. I've also had occasion to baptize folks, and that has been VERY rewarding. I must say that it is an awe-inspiring thing to be present at the birth of a new babe in Christ, especially when the baby has been through the mill, battle-hardened, broken, scarred and tested like these folks behind bars have been.

Well, that's what makes me tick. Of course, this isn't everything there is, but this is only a two page paper...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I Had A Dream

No, it wasn't some Dr. Martin Luther King thang...

Last night I dreamed one of the funniest dreams I've dreamed in years.

First, the stage needs to be set. Jeff and Julie Montgomery have a large family by today's standards. They're raising a basketball team. A large brood. Three girls and two boys. Lots of funny stories about raising them.

Well, last night I dreamed they had another one. This would be baby number six. I guess he'd be the equipment manager.

We were in Jeff's front yard talkin' and jokin' when his newest baby (didn't have a name yet in the dream, even though the boy was about a year old) says, "I go boo-boo." Jeff checked the diaper, but there wasn't any evidence. "You didn't boo-boo." "I go boo-boo," replied the boy. Jeff checked it again, and the boy released a stream of kimchi gas straight up Jeff's nose.

"WHOA!" Jeff flinched like he'd been punched in the face. The next thing we knew, Mt. Saint Helens was erupting in the boy's shorts. Seriously, it was like the bubbling mud puddles at Mount Lassen. Geysers were shooting out of the leg holes and gurgling out of the waistband.

Something you have to know about Jeff is that he's a very resourceful parent. He told me that he once had a child throw up in church--something like a gallon of oatmeal and orange juice--and he cleaned it up with a church bulletin, a diaper bag, and baby wipes.

Well, out of nowhere, a 13 gallon kitchen trash bucket appeared--kinda' like out of a Looney Tunes cartoon with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck--and he scooped up the diaper with the overflow straight into the bucket. Now, don't ask me why he worried about the mess, since it was on the grass in his front yard, and all he'd have to do is spray it off with a garden hose, but this is MY dream, not what Jeff would actually do.

When Jeff was done cleaning up the mess, he started on the baby boy with a miraculously appearing box of baby wipes. I probably would've sprayed the boy with a shot from the garden hose, but Jeff is a li'l more compassionate than that--and it's also a dream. Come to think of it, Jeff might've sprayed him with the garden hose, too...

As Jeff was wiping the boy down, tears were streaming down Jeff's face. It smelled truly bad. Kimchi gas. If you don't know what kimchi is, you're in for a treat. It's a Korean dish made with fermented cabbage. They take cabbage and bury it for a while, and then serve it on your plate. Ick.

So Jeff wiped the boy down and looked at him mournfully, saying "You make daddy cry."

I laughed so hard I woke up.

Usually when I wake up in the middle of the night, I'm bothered about it because I'm truly a man in need of beauty sleep. Not this time, even though I couldn't get back to sleep. No, I was too busy giggling. Man, I'm STILL giggling.

Maybe I should start a blog.

Locations of visitors to this page

free website counter