Saturday, July 30, 2005

Another Case of Popcorn Today

I bought a case of popcorn yesterday. It's the kind in the packages complete with the oil and popcorn salt in the same package. I buy popcorn by the case. I don't like micro-wave popcorn. Either pop it in a pot on the stove or churn it out of a popcorn machine.

So, I gave myself a present a few years ago. I bought a popcorn; just like the one in the movies. It's always filled with hot, fresh kernels. When I walk in my door the smell of popcorn meets me everyday. It's my favorite snack.

The problem is that my favorite snack often replaces my meals. Even though it's low on calories and has plenty of fiber, it's short on protein. It's quick, convenient and tasty, but not very nutritious. It's supposed to be a snack; not a meal.

There was a time when I tried to exist spiritually on snacks; everything really nourshing took too long or had a high cost. The problem with snacks, you know, a little praise here, a little worship there; a bible scripture every now and then is that they were not really nourishing. They were spritual snacks.

I learned that I need more spiritually to be fully nourished; snacks were fine but not sufficient.

Now I study regularly, pray constantly, worship, serve and give. I believe I'm on the right right level of the spiritual food pyramid.

But that popcorn machine that keeps turning out the snacks...that's a horse of different color.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Where are the volunteers?

A group of young people from across the nation come to our city every year to spend a week repairing the homes of the poor and the needy.

This year, the group called "Work Camp" is spending a week in 100 degree heat helping 18 famlies repair their homes. They are painting, repairing screens, steps and making other changes.

The youth pay over $300 a week for the "privelege" to stand in the heat and sweat for a week helping people they do not know. At night, they sing and pray and sleep on the floors at a school.

After a week they return to their homes. Hundreds of youth like these are doing the same across the nation.

This week's Sunday School lesson is about helping the needy in the name of Christ. At Bible Study last night we talked about the need for missionary service. The "Work Camp" volunteers were given as an example. They were praised.

Why is it that, allowing for a few exceptions, most volunteers such as these are whites helping Blacks?. It's rare for Blacks to volunteer to help whites in such efforts.

The people in the neighborhood watched as they worked in the sun. They thanked them. They praised them.

It just appears that we won't volunteer unless we are being paid to volunteer. We are definitely not going to pay over $300 for the privelege of working in 100 degree heat, working for free and sleeping a hard school floor.

As I reviewed Sunday's lesson from Matthew 25:31- I thought of the "Work Camp" volunteers and wondered to myself, "Where are the volunteers?"

Are we sheep or goats?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

He wore flip flops to church

I read the morning paper today and saw another in a series of editorials I've been reading on the internet, in newspapers and TV news about the the young ladies who wore flip flops to the White House a while back.

The articles hit home because Sunday, one of the youth of our congregation came to worship wearing short pants and flip flops.

On one side the young man is very active in our congregation, volunteers, studies and lives a pretty straight life. He has a fascination with flip flop shoes. He has a pair to match everything: plain flip flops, designer flip flops; etc.

On the other hand I feel like I have failed him. I have taken him half way around the world and given him the best instruction I know; but somehow I can't get it over that there are standards beyond his own. The same rings true with others concerning sagging pants, gold plated teeth, and hoochie mama dresses.

The WORD says that there is a way that seems right to men. Until we can see with spiritual eyes what we do always seems right, if the only persons to be pleased are ourselves. When God is left out of the picture, anything goes.

The young ladies who wore flip flops to the White House fouled up a golden opportunity. If they failed to learn when and where to wear flip flops; then there are probably other social graces they haven't learn either.

I feel compelled to be sure that those who are around me won't get invited to the White House; or worse become President wearing flip flops.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Finished the Book

I finished reading John Grisham's "The Testament" yesterday.

I started reading it on the plane from Hawaii. There are a few fiction authors that I read every year. I started reading Grisham novels a few years ago. I also read John Jakes, and Michener. Pure entertainment.

I picked up the habit of reading fiction from my wife. I usually read non-fiction religion, politics,social science, journals and what she calls "heavy" stuff. When we met in 1973 she ordered romance novels from a book club by the box and read whole boxes in two weeks; then ordered more. I'd listened as she described the places, scenery and other details of her mental visits to the scenes of the novels.

So, I went half way. The authors I read tell a good story but pack it full of what I'm interested in: history, religion, politics, social science, etc. That way I kill two birds with one stone. So, occasionally she listens as I describe the scenes of the places I have visited in my latest read. In 31 years, we have traveled the world.

The testament is about a billionaire who leaves 11 billion dollars to an illegitimate daughter who is a missionary for Christ in the jungles of Brazil. The thrust of the novel is the quest to find her and convince her to accept the money.

When they find her they learn that she is totally committed to Christ, and is uninterested in the money at all. The unsaved lawyer who finds her is impressed by her sincerity and devotion. Ultimately, he finds peace with God himself. The daugher contracts malaria, but in a dying act, accepts the 11 billion dollars, puts it in a trust for Christian causes and places the converted lawyer over it to dispose of as the Lord leads him.

In the process I learned a lot about lawyers, wills, courtroom battles and a tremendous amount of history about the Panatal in Brazil, malaria, floods, Anacondas, and the Indian tribes of the region.

It was a good read. I enjoyed reading about Brazil. I wouldn't want to visit; not even a day.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Bald Heads

I went to the Louisiana Baptist Convention yesterday. The President, Dr. Harry Blake, gave his address. It was dynamic and powerful.

He is a good looking 70 plus man who likes to make jokes about his bald head. He usually gets plenty of laughs when he talks about other leaders in the convention who are also bald headed.

As I looked across the stage it dawned on me that nearly all of the leaders of the convention were either gray headed or bald headed; and all men(Except for the Women's Deparment Leader).

There was a noticeable absence of young, non-traditional pastors; and since the convention does not embrace women preachers, a noted abscence of female ministers. (Those who were there were not recognized as such).

Then it dawned on me that I was a gray head, everyone on my row was a gray head or bald head and the women who made up the majority of the crowd, were not recognized at all.

The spoken message of the President was euphoric.

The unspoken message of the bald heads was troubling.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Movie Provided Sunday School Insight

During our bible study last night there was a lively discussion about forgiveness, which is the subjection of Sunday's International Sunday School Lesson.

Most participants easily said they were willing to forgive offenses; that is until the subject of the marital infidelity arose.

The issue surfaced as Tyler Perry's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" was raised. The movie made the point that the heroine would not be really free until she forgave the husband who dogged her out and cheated on her. In the movie she helped her dog of a husband find himself, regain his spirituality and get back on his feet. Then she left him for another man.

The issue raised is whether or she actually forgave him in the spiritual sense. His infidelity gave her a scriptural way out of the marriage. Even though she had an "out" she did not have to use it. Forgiveness means to forget the past and restore an offending person to their previous status.

Did she really forgive him?

Those who freely said they were willing to forgive had a variety of views when it came to forgiving a cheating, dog of a spouse.

Forgiveness is a tough pill to swallow. The main point of the lesson is that if we have been forgiven ourselves, and we have, then we should be willing to forgive others.

It's easier said than done.

Hmmmm

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Shouting over the vacum cleaner

For two days now, I've been pushing a vacum cleaner and carpet steamer!

Whatever was in the shot the doctor gave my wife Sunday, charged her up. She left Sunday evening for Alexandria to attend the Louisiana Baptist State Convention. She wanted to operate a booth during the convention this week to meet many of the Louisiana ministers who share with us all year.

I stayed behind..to do the house work while she went to the convention.

House work is more than a notion. It's been ten years since I've done this. My wife has been doing this for 31 years, while she kept up with me, and mothered our three sons. I see, it's more than a notion. I'll have to raise her pay.

I washed the dishes, but soon as I washed them, they seemed to reappear, one by one: a glass, a dish, a spoon; pretty soon the bottom of the sink vanished out of sight.

Where did all of those dirty towels come from? If you clean something once, why doesn't it just stay clean?

If the floors have been saved from dirt once, aren't they always saved?

If the towells have been been washed in the suds, why can't they stay clean?

If the floors have been anointed with shampoo, many years ago, why do they still get dirty?

When you come to my house don't you know my floors have been anointed? Someone brought the world in on the bottom of their shoes and messed up the shampoo I did ten years ago!

My goodness there is a spider web! It wasn't there the last time I swept there about 10 years ago. If I removed the spider web 10 years ago, why does it keep coming back? Forget about, "Who let the dogs out", I want to know, "Who let the spider in?"

Somehow I get the idea that cleaning a house is much like our spiritual lives. We may have cleaned house sometime ago, but the devil keeps looking for ways to dirty our dishes, walk on our clean floors and build spider webs on unused gifts.

Theses dirty floors are witnessing!

Somehow I feel a whoop coming on! The broom is testifying! The vacum cleaner is glorifying! And the clothes in the dryer are shouting..."I been washed...I've Been redeemed!"

I'm about to have church over this vacum cleaner!

I feel a whoop coming on!

..now back to the real world. I still have eleven rooms to go!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

My Son Will Take Care of the 5th

After reading my last post, my son Robert, sent me an email. He says, he'll buy the 5th and put it in my refigerator for me.

He questions why I would even be concerned with what others think since I have freely stood alone against public opinion in the past. It's pretty easy to stand alone when you know you are right. It's harder to do when you know that Word does not back up your action.

The problem with me standing in a line in a liquor store is that it clashes with
1 Thessalonians 5:22 which says believers should, "Abstain from all appearance of evil." A prominent, nationally known pastor standing in line at a liquor store somehow seems to give the appearance of evil to me; even though I know that the 5th would be used for medicial purposes and would probably take 30 years to consume.

Well it turns out that we didn't need the 5th anyway. Sunday morning, Dr. Claude Minor, a deacon of our church and his wife Dorothy, a registered nurse, came to Joslyn's rescue. They came to our home in a "house call" and pulled out the old needle to the arm. A fresh shot of anti-biotics runs away the germs which caused, what turned out to be bronchitis.

The issue of avoiding the appearance of evil is a dilemma of many pastors who are constantly aware that often innocent acts may be perceived by others as an evil that will diminish their witness. It should be an issue for everyone who is a Christian.

For example, when my son walks into the liquor store to buy the 5th for me; someone from the church where he serves as musician is bound to see him with the little brown bag. They won't ask why, they'll just repeat what they saw, "the church musician was in the local liquor store. He bought a fifth of whiskey, put it in a brown bag and walked out of the store."

What they will report will be the truth, but not the whole truth. Since the whole truth won't be told to explain questionable activities; many believers have learned to avoid known questionable activities. This is done for the good of those who would be devastated by our misinterpreted action.

Preachers live in fish bowls. Everyone watches every action.

What some people forget is that non-believers put all Christians in the same fish bowl.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

After 24 years, The bottle was empty

After 10 hours on an airplane, it was good to touch ground in Monroe yesterday.

The warmth and beauty of Hawaii is a nice post card memory, but Dorothy had it right, "There's no place like home."

When we entered the airport all of the youth were met by their parents with smiles and hugs. My wife and I were met by our luggage. We loaded it all in our vehicle and made it home.

There were newspapers and mail stacked neatly inside by my youngest son looked after things while were away. Everything was just as we left it.

The cold that my wife, Joslyn, wrestled with during the whole trip, came down hard on her once we made it home. She was coughing and weazing something terrible. She tried all of the medicines we usually use for colds, but they didn't work.

I would have made her a hot "totty" (A tea with a shot of whiskey) but the 5th of whiskey that we used for 24 years for such occasions was gone. It was given to us by an elderly woman who told us about "hot totties." It took 24 years for us to use it up. I could have bought one in Hawaii but it would have been my luck for someone to see me buying a fifth of Whiskey on a church trip in Honolulu. Neither was I about to be seen standing in a liquor store buying a 5th of whiskey at 1 a.m. in the morning in Monroe! Try to explain that on Sunday morning!

So at 1:45 a.m. this morning I was standing in Walmart with two bottles of Night time Nyquil. It wouldn't be as effective as the "Hot Totty" but it would have to do.

She coughed and weazed for a while until the NyQuil kicked in. About 2:30 this morning I finally dozed off too.

It was a great trip. The Lord favored us with a safe journey and return.

Before I dozed off I had a very silly thought, "I have to figure out a way to get another 5th without standing in line at the liquor store. At age 56, the next one will have to last about 30 or 40 years."

As I smiled to myself, I said, "Maybe someone will send me one, like I was given the first one. Home remedies beat Nyquil anytime." Then I dozed off to sleep

Thursday, July 14, 2005

"Ohana" and "Aloha"

We are packing up to leave Hawaii today. Last night we attended a Hawaiian cultural feast in the spirit of "Ohana" and "Aloha." Aloha means, hello, goodbye and love in a spirit of warmth and friendship. Ohana means family.

There were plenty of activities at the feast, plenty of food: poi, cake,chicken, beef, fish, fruits of every kind and loads and loads of rice.

There were many couples who were celebrating their wedding anniversaries, some as new as four days old. One couple marked their 60th anniversary. There was friendship everywhere.

Our youth are required to keep journals, recording their impressions of what they saw and experienced. I have not been to sleep. I stayed up all night long, editing their journals and measuring the effectiveness of these eight days on their spirituality.

The idea is to learn to see Christ in every experience. With many of them we achieved our goal.

There are others that have a ways to go, before they can see Christ in every experience.

I saw Christ in the words that were spoken by the Hawaiian guides as they constantly reminded us of "Ohana" that we are related by virtue of having the same spiritual father. There was a special moment at the feast when 1,200 people of different races, cultures, colors and kindred all joined hands in the spirit of Ohana and asked blessings for the food. It was a snapshot of what will be when the savior returns. One family.

We parted the same way we met, with Aloha.

In life we live with Aloha (love). When we leave it is with Aloha (farewell). But, when Christ comes back, he'll probably say something that sounds pretty close to "Aloha!"

I'll get an hour or so of sleep; then catch the plane back to Louisiana.

Aloha!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Which body clock do I use?

After six days in Hawaii, I'm finally getting adjusted to what they call "Jet Lag." My body clock has been out of sync for nearly a week. My secretary calls me at 8 a.m. Louisiana time, but it's 3 a.m. in Honolulu. I call her at 1 p.m. and she's gone for the day because it's 6 p.m. in Louisiana.
I try to compensate by setting my watch to Louisiana time to keep reminding myself of the real time. That helps.
I find a spiritual truth in this frustration. The Christian is constantly striving to live by God's time. Often, like many people, I'm trying to push him to move on my time. Maybe I should set my spiritual watch by heaven's time; that would help me overcome spiritual jet lag.
Anyway, there's just one more day to go, then we board a plane back for Louisiana. The beaches, palm trees and sunny weather are nice, but Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz had it right; "There's no place like home."
When I get home, then I'll be on the right time, all the time.
That goes both ways! Hallelujah!

Monday, July 11, 2005

The View from Honolulu

I've been in Honolulu since Thursday. Along with my wife and two deacons from Tabernacle, our youth are here for eight days and seven nights. It's part of our fellowship and cultural study for youth. This makes state #50. Last year it was Alasaka.

Sunday, we attended the Waikiki Baptist Church. It was close to our hotel. We didn't know what to wear. So All 25 of us put on suits and ties, like most traditional Louisiana Christians. We were over dressed. No one had on a tie, not even the preacher.

We didn't feel odd though, we dressed they way we felt comfortable for worship. We felt safe in a Baptist Church. In a strange city where the hotels have four bibles in the desk instead of one, is a little unsettling. There was the "Sayings of Buddha","The Book of Mormon","The King James Bible" and "The Aloha Testament." We didn't know what to expect. We looked for a Baptist Church or least a Methodist or a COGIC congregation nearby. We didn't know what "Non-Denominational" would mean since that has no clear meaning and changes from culture to culture. We saw a Baptist Church and chose to attend the Waikiki services.

We attended Sunday School and I was impressed with the wisdom of the instructor. The class and its members were very warm and receptive. If we had reservations about being Black and 4,500 miles away from home, the mixed cultured class took away our reservations. They were accustomed to people of many races. Visitation at this congregation just blocks from the largest hotels was 75 percent of their Sunday attendance.

We should have noticed it at first, but it took some time for us to really realize what we were experiencing. The truth we learned left a sad note in our hearts. There were absolutely no youth. No youth department. No babies. No teenagers. All senior citizens.

The minister who preached talked about Stewardship. But the bulk of his message was about leaving a gift to the church at death, living wills, and illustrations about dying and leaving something behind.

The people themselves were so friendly. They were very warm, friendly and welcomed the large audience of visitors from USA, Russia, Australia, New Zeland and other places. One family of visitors brought brought a young child about seven years old.

There were children in the house; but they were all visitors.

The expected skirms and figitry of youth, amidst the aging silence of this congregation of sainted souls said more than words could say: A church that does not cultivate its youth has only one thing to look forward to in this life...living wills and figuring out how to live without children or grandchildren to carry on the legacy of its local congregation.

It's a picture that I will keep in my mind and reflect on it the next time someone criticizes our congregation for spending so much time and money developing our youth.

Amid the excitement, culture and leisure of Hawaii; that single picture lingers.

I prayed for Fred today

I thought about Pastor Huff in Alabama today. He had a big funeral yesterday. A very important member of the community has passed. He was anxious. I know the Lord empowered him.