Monday, March 31, 2014

Who is this God?

To be perfectly honest with you, I still do not understand FaceBook.  At my age - I suppose, I am more interested in the people involved and not what they have done, are doing or even plan to be doing.  We live according to the instincts we have developed in our lifetime and that means, each and everyone of us behave differently.  There are similarities, of course, but that suggests that we do not have a grasp of why we were created in the first place.

Who is this God, we ought to ask.  What follows is little more than my own personal opinion, but since I have been consciously "walking" with Him for almost 40 years, I believe I know Him, well.

Yesterday, I was present at a memorial service for a good friend. Jerry DeVolder by name.  It was held in our church and that is where I met him.  He was a bit younger, but as I listened to some of the things he had said  to others, I became aware that he was a quite a bit wiser.  That was verified by the numbers of his friends who recognized that he had a terrific sense of humor.  Well, I believe I know something about humor by the jokes I enjoy and the people who employ them, but I sense that the jokes I have heard along the way are fading away.  Now, we are besieged with "sight" jokes.  Apparently, the "experts" believe it isn't supposed to be funny if there is no action involved.

I will really miss Jerry as now, I won't have an opportunity to learn more from him.

And I believe, in a very real sense, God planned it that way.

Remember, our relationships to the One we call God all started in a place called the garden.  Yes, you have heard that the first couple sinned and as a result, they were cast out of their home grounds.  We never hear any more about them, but as we continue we read about others, literally, thousands of them, and as we put ourselves in their positions in life, we are able understand about our own lives.  I used to hate the chapter that dealt with the "begats" - I trust you know what I mean.  As I began to sense that God was involved in my life, I asked, "Why, are we supposed to remember these confusing names?"  It was as though He responded, "Listen, you can change their names to ones that are more familiar to you, but the persons would still be there as they are important because they were involved in the times in which they lived".  It also made me start to believe, God cares enough for each one of us that He can recall our names, regardless of our individual significance in the times in which we are involved.

Having said that, let me say this, the reason I believe there is a God, a Creator, is because the Bible has taught me about the significance of the individuals whose names are recorded there.  And since we know there are relatively few people of significance involved in our own lives, it seems to me that we all ought to pay more attention to our Biblical counter parts.  I have learned this because of the fact I wanted to forget my childhood and the people who loved me then, and I discovered it was easy to "use" others rather than obey the most basic commandment of God - we are to love others, all others.

If a person cannot understand that, I urge them to make sense of the Tenth commandment, "Thou shalt not covet anything that belongs to anyone else" - my interpretation.  I've known lots of people and I have yet to meet the first one who does not "covet" what others have. at least to some degree.  Those who dictate their interpretations of God's word makes them hypocrites when it comes to the most basic of all of God's laws.  That is why the New Testament - in reality, boils our obligations to God down to this - we are to love one another.

And yes, I know we have interpretations of the word - love, offered by modern scholars, but it was Jesus who taught us, "Greater love has no one but this, that one lay down his life for his friends."  (John 15:13)

Who are my friends?  The next person I meet and the next one, and so on.  We, who identify ourselves as Christians, do not have it easy.  There are "bad" people everywhere, not just those who we want to believe that they do not believe as we do.  It may be just because they have yet to meet one of us.  Our problem is that we must first understand who God is.

I know, I walked under that delusion for almost 45 years.  I had been attending church for almost all of those years and thought I was a good man.  Then, it was revealed I was not.  There was no escaping from that fact.  I knew that I knew and I was determined to find out - why?   And I did, I had been "worshiping" the wrong "Gods" and there were many.

Upon examination, I discovered the reality of the One true God and I have been blessed as we walked together, day by day.  Nothing happens in my life that cannot be explained by a simple prayer, asking for His help.  It isn't magic or "voo doo" religion, it is juts the way that it is

This God - to me, is as close to me as my next breath.  If you have doubts, you have my address.  Let's talk about Him and what He would do if you began to follow Him as I have.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Let's talk about salvation, saving us from ourselves

I get a lot of mail from my religious friends.  Most of it I have requested and I have "deleted" more than just a few.  The reason is - as I have said before, I will say it again, I am deeply concerned about the future of Christianity as we know it.  Actually, I am even more concerned about the direction we are heading.  Sports fans know the term - momentum.  Take a well trained team and have them win a few games they were not supposed to win and you have momentum.  Now, they are hard to predict and the team is difficult to beat.

We have seen momentum in religious circles.  Our Bible records the work of the Apostle Paul in the days following the Crucifixion and the growth that could not be contained in Judea and Samaria, but crossed the Mediterranean to Italy and on to Rome.  That was momentum.  Recall what happened after Martin Luther broke with the Catholic church and Protestantism came into being.  More momentum.

And so it went for centuries, crossing the Atlantic Ocean to the new colonies and across this land that we love.  As the settlers, decided they would build a town on the prairies, the first thing they did was build a church.  Still more momentum.  And a case could be made for the growth of our Universities on the basis of religious momentum.  That was what some called the Age of Accountability and the rules were being written by the church fathers.

Then, momentum took a new course.  We had begin to enslave blacks who had been kidnapped from their homes in Africa and sold to farmers so that primarily Southern plantations would profit and that resulted in our going to a war against ourselves.   It wasn't that long before religious Mothers and Fathers, under the teachings of the church, realized their children were becoming wards of industry and we began to enact child labor laws.   A woman's right to vote was the next casualty to fall prey to momentum.  Then, we watched as our blacks began to sense they were not considered as equals in a nation that boasted that "all are created equal" and momentum again ruled the day.

Momentum requires the energies of those directing its course and by this time in our history, we were getting tired, not only by momentum, but by the wars that had sapped the strength of our young.

And so now, Human Rights has became the next focus of momentum.  This time it threatens the church.

Many of  their leaders opened their Bibles and realized that the sin of homosexuality could be used as a "just" cause in stopping momentum in its tracks.  They have made a terrible mistake.  There have been homosexuals as far back as the earliest pages of the Bible and apparently it was condoned by many facets of the church.  The first time I ever heard of it - in church, was when our choir leader was identified as "one of them" and he would continue in place because it was not a problem in society.

Now, we have a genuine war on our hands between the self-proclaimed righteous ones of the church and the increasing numbers of the young who were being attracted by this assumed to be, the new intriguing life style of the homosexuals.  The sad part of all of this is that homosexuality is not a new intriguing life style, it is older than most history books.  Its own history is replete with horror stories most of us would not want to read.  And because there are few who have ever seemed to earnestly cared to study the motivation of these citizens, most of us are ignorant as to now we might approach the matter civilly.

Of this we can be certain, their movement is gaining momentum.  In those states where the leaders are aware of the fact that homosexuals vote, their restrictions are falling away.

What do we do?  If we know anything about the Bible, we need to repent.  Acknowledge the hypocrisy that has prevailed in far too many churches and move on.  We have a pattern laid out for us by our Catholic brothers and sisters.  They have been dealing with his matter - at its most sickening level, and are working their way back to civility.

I was asked the other day, do I condone homosexuality?  I hope I left that person with the impression that I do not necessarily condone it, but I certainly understand it.  I have either known many who are either involved in it or are condoning it among their friends.  It my opinion, it is not a matter to be settled in church as unfortunately, many churches have a history of covering sin over rather than trying to deal with it as an individual issue.

We are instructed to go into the world, loving one another, and so we must.  And that must include all others, regardless of their sexuality.  Do this and the war is over, the momentum is halted.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Christian Life - the truth

A fellow asked me the other day, "Where did you get your title for a blog?" and the first thing I did was to wonder why he was asking me this question.  You have to know, I have provoked a few people with talk about my view of Christianity and I had to wonder, "Am I being set up for something more than just an innocent question?"  Believing him to be sincere, my only response had to be, I write because I have been really privileged to live a long life, have been abundantly blessed by God and I want others to know about it.  And while I am it, I need to quote the scripture that changed my life.  You will find it in the gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 10: "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy.  I come that they might have life and have it - abundantly."

With that said, you need to know I will be turning to it more and more as we go along.

I was all set to remind you of an incident that happened a few years ago when I was interrupted by word of a new book, actually, a book that was new to me.  Its title made me think of the title I use for this blog, "A Life Well Lived".  It;s author, Leonard Sweet, is a Pastor who has written others and can be found on the Internet by using his name, followed by .com.

And when I hear about a book, before rushing out to purchase it, I go to, type in the title of the book and click on the title when it comes up.  That leads me to the book reviews and I read what others have to say.  Here is part of one review, entered by a UMC Pastor:

"Sweet points out that somewhere along the way, humanity forgot how to play – or at least relegated it to the life of a child. Life became about pursuing a 5-year plan rather than an eternal Promise; following rules and regulations rather than chasing relationships; avoiding learning from mistakes to striving to never make a mistake at all. We have been so focused on successfully knowing/following God’s ‘plan’ for our lives (and in our churches) that we have forgotten how to enjoy God in every aspect of life."

Therein lies the reason I have for the title of my blog.  I have made lots of mistakes and through them all, I have found God to be the more perfect answer to all, each and every one of them.  He has taught me to be faithful - full of faith, as that is His nature.

Now, back to what I started out to write.  Yesterday, Katie interviewed a woman you may not know.  You certainly have heard of her husband as he was the demented soul who entered an Amish school house in Pennsylvania and eventually, murdered five of the children before turning the gun on himself.  According to the testimony of his wife, there was nothing wrong on that morning.  He hugged and kissed his wife and their three children and left for work.

But there was something wrong.  Deep in his psyche he apparently harbored the loss of their first child who was dead as an infant.  She thought that they had worked through that dreadful experience and were pleased by the three healthy, wholesome children that followed.  Obviously, he had not.

You can read all about those years - and those hours, in a book she has written and is now on sale in our bookstores.  The title:  "One Light Still Shines, My Life Beyond the Shadows of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting".

I could tell you more about her testimony, but to me, the part i will never forget came about shortly after the shooting.  She had moved in with her family and was looking out of the window one morning when she noticed Amish elders walking toward the house.  Her father went to greet them and learned that they were there to express their condolences to the widow and offer their help to her as time moved on.  You will have to read the book to understand all that transpired in that meeting.

Tears came to my eyes as I recalled the many times while driving through this area and would come upon one of the Amish horse drawn buggies and wondered how they could live in the world that is so independent of the "machinery" we require for our existence.  I have gone to their roadside markets to buy fresh produce and noticed how efficient they were in carrying out each transaction.  More often than not, there were no smiles, no words of greeting, just commercial exchanges.

I have visited their homes - on display, and often wondered, could I live in this world that they appear to be so content to eke out an existence?  I have read of the youngsters who have left it to find whatever it was they were seeking in the "outside" world and often, the "shunning" that followed such occasions.  I remember visiting a factory in Pennsylvania when an associate made a foolish comment to the receptionist and within a half hour, the whole plant shut down, waiting for an apology.  The receptionist was the daughter of the plant foreman.

And I will never forget the hearts of the kin folk of those who were murdered came to express their sympathy to the family and the wife of the murderer.

You have heard this before, you will hear it again, the wisdom of my grandfather who taught me these words long before I would ever understand the thoughts, "God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform, He plants His footsteps in the sands and rides upon the storm."

I have this to ask of others, those who seem to enjoy debating their knowledge of the Bible versus the knowledge of others, how often have you walked up to the houses where those others live and inquire if there was any way you could serve their needs?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Listen, listen to who is speaking - and why!

Good morning!  Busy morning for me as I just realized I am about to run out of some of my "meds" and there are two doctor's offices involved.  I don't know about you, but I still have not become accustomed to recordings and you have to leave a message, hoping they will respond properly.  So, I have started this morning on high hopes!!!

And I promised myself I would introduce you to someone who has me excited about the word of God and how it really ought to be interpreted by those of us who have placed our trust in our Lord.  She is a real lady who has been through the kinds of struggles in her personal life that makes too many of us give up hoping.  That is not her testimony, but it is mine.  I still weep when I know what has happened or is happening in the lives who give up, give in, too soon.

OK, here goes... her name is Beth Moore and she can be "heard" through her blog and that address is:   She has a web site at "

I have never met her in person, but she has appeared on James Robinon's program - over TBN and others, I assume.  I have known of James for many years and - at first, I was really angry about the way he was preaching.  Now, however, he seems to have repented and with his beautiful wife, they are living witnesses of the power of God to change lives for all who will listen,

Speaking of the power of God, I witnessed it again last evening - at church.  In my "heart of hearts" I weep over the direction of the messages I hear coming from many churches.  Not my church, the church worldwide.  Yes, I know of the "good works" being delivered to those in need in many faraway places and even here in our cities and towns across America.  But it appears to me that we are being torn apart by voices that demand we will all bow down to their interpretation of the Bible.  I don't understand it. Over the last forty years, I have read my own Bible cover to cover many times, so often that I dare not believe otherwise.  But there are those that will take their interpretation of what they have read and use it against others they do not even know and want the rest of us to believe they understand what Jesus meant when He said, "By this all will know you are My disciples, if you love one another.  (John 13:35)  Note the italics.  All will know, if you love one another.  In another verse, He talks about laying down our lives as evidence of our love for Him. 

And please note, all - in Jesus' times, still means all today and forever.  Then there is that little word, if.  A friend of mine, many years ago insisted that it is the word - if, that we find implanted in another word that ought to mean everything to us, the word life.  Think about that for a moment.

I still can not understand why brothers and sisters who claim to love God and agree to love one another are so intent on believing that others are going to Hell, just because everyone does not agree with their interpretation of the words and meaning of words written thousands of years ago.

Then the Pastor referred us to the verses starting with Luke 15:25.  It concerns the return of the prodigal son and the Father's immediate acceptance of his return, in spite of the life he had been living.

Everything seemed to working out well until the scriptures reveal another side of the story.  Verse 29 records the words of the other son... "Look, for so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours, and yet you have never given me a kid that I might be merry with my friends. but when this (other) son of yours, who has devoured your wealth with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him."

Reminds me of pages from the American history books I have read over the years.  We are privileged to live in a land dedicated to the One who we want to call our Creator, but the history books reveal the fact that we have not always been God fearing people.  First it was the Indians who inhabited their lands that we confiscated and how did we treat them?  Then along came the emigrants, many of whom were rejected out of hand and how did we treat them?  Then, we divided our own selves and fought a war that still rages in the minds of some.  We continued to insist those who were "freed" in that war must live as second-class citizens until we changed our laws.  And of course, there was the way we treated our mothers, our wives and our daughters in the workplace until we began to come to our senses and do what was right for all of us.

Now, we are faced with an even greater challenge and as has happened throughout our history, we will either change or we will be forced to change by others and - in my opinion, by the One who spoke so eloquently, so many years ago, "By this, all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

It was on May 12, 1975 that I asked God what He meant by the word, repent.  (Matthew 4:17) and to my amazement, my mind was suddenly filled with reminders of those years when I was angry because I did not have a Father like my friends, nor the nice clothes that others wore, and there was more, much more.  With those thoughts overwhelming my mind, I began to realize that I had reasons to repent, many reasons and I did.  From that moment on, my life has been blessed over and over and over again and yes, there have been hard times - in my mind.  But my heart clung - and still clings, to the realization that there is a God and in spite of my foolishness at times, He still loves me and blesses me.

It's like that old song from many, many years ago, "Every body ought to know, every body ought to know, every body ought to know, who Jesus is.   He's the lily of my valley, He's my bright and shiny star, He's the fairest of ten thousand, every body ought to know."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It's Today and a peek at my day

These days, I get out of bed around 7AM and after the typical "chores" most of us are accustomed to, I switch on my TV and normally, I discover my "friends" on NBC are hard at "work".  Of course, it's work, it's the routine of their lives.  Most of the time, I get a little bored at the chatter and decide there are better things to do and I move on.

This morning, however, I was moved to tears after watching the lives of two young girls in a city I forget, as they dealt with a circumstance involving their individual lives.  One has cancer and according to the regimen prescribed by her doctors, her head was shaved.  It had to be embarrassing for her, but she was obviously dealing with it and then her best friend realized that others were teasing her, so she decided to have her head shaved as well, hoping to help others understand, they were bff's. "best friends forever".

There was a difference, they went to different schools and the school where the other girl attended chose to enforce their "no head shaving" rule and were about to refuse her admittance, until some of the "wiser" heads prevailed.  They chose to suspend this rule in this occasion.

As I reflected on this situation, I could not help but think of articles I received yesterday from those who have chosen to raise their voices in the ongoing debate as to whether Christians are supposed to love those among us who have admitted their sexual preferences are different from others.

One voice, a significant one, as he carries a substantial title as a "leader" of a leading denomination, referred to the "flawed moral vision" of those who those who chose to love others, regardless of their sexual preferences.  Of course, he would be referring to the Apostle Paul's words in I Corinthians to the effect that " you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?"  There was more of that verse to follow, but his point is obvious.   It must follow that those who disagree with his point of view are lost forever, there is no hope for their salvation.

Then, there was another point of view, this from a mere Professor of the Old Testament, at a renowned seminary, and an ordained minister in another Denomination.  She refers us to the gospel of Matthew, chapter 23, wherein Jesus condemns "leaders" who ...."tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others, but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them."

Her point moved me as almost from the beginning of my own church life.  Over my many, many years I have known of people with "deviant" sexual preferences and have been known to be fellow members, but there was little of the antagonism that ought to be recognized in the previous leader's condemnation.

The other "voice" that I heard through my e-mails belonged to widely known - in this area, a religious teacher who refers to the constantly decreasing numbers of American Protestants.  In the '60s, they made up two thirds of the population, but today, they make up less than half.

There has to be a significant reason for this trend and I believe the answer does not come from the pulpit, but from the pew.  After a half century of serious church attendance, my response has to be centered on a simple verse that has been the back bone of Christian thought down through the centuries.

Jesus teaches in John, chapter 13, verses 34-35:  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  But this all will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

We must always remember, there were no "churches" then as we know them.  There were synagogues for those of the Jewish faith, but the Christian faith was developed in the hearts of those we know a the disciples and carried from home to home in all of "Judea and Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth" as was the Lord's commandment in Acts 1:8.

Those who came before us appear to have been more interested in the economies involved by calling people to the church - typically the denomination, rather than to the message of the One whose name we bear.

And proof of this takes me back to the relationship developed in the hearts of the two little girls I cited in beginning this blog.  It doesn't require a church, nor the leaders of the church, to extend the kingdom on earth of which Jesus spoke.  It merely requires that we hear of the love between the two mentioned earlier and extend that same kind of love to all others.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Running a race, or...

I want to start with an exchange of thoughts I had as I read one of my incoming e-mails this morning. First, my response, and then the thoughts that prompted it:

"Amy, you may have to forgive me, but when I read the following, it was as though a tear was forming in my eye.

After 84+ years of life, almost 40 of which have been dedicated to my Lord and Savior, I find that "strolling casually" is the better pace for most of us.  It has nothing to do with my age, it has everything to do with my observation with the Christian "walk" as it is being revealed, daily.  I have to doubt that the writer of Hebrews had in mind, the frenetic preparation leading to racing as we know it in these times.

Behind our eyes and ears as we pass along the way, our mind is taking into consideration everything that is observed and serves as a reminder when we miss what we ought to be reflecting on as we pass by.  In my "early" life, my elders urged me to succeed, whatever the cost, and I swallowed that advice like the hungry little pigs I had observed when growing up on the farm.  So it was that I stayed "busy" and missed out on much of the life that I now believe, the Lord had in store for me.

Those are not noises that tend to irritate us, but reminders that we are but one among the billions of others on our planet.

Some say, "Slow down and smell the roses."   I prefer to suggest that as we slow down and take into consideration all that God ha provided to each one of us, we will begin to appreciate our "true" inheritance.

Sherwood MacRae

Amy had written:

"We often find ourselves strolling casually through life, many times doing things for God on the way - serving in our churches, helping others, occasionally reading God's word. That is not necessarily wrong, but we seem to have forgotten something important.

According to Hebrews 12:1, our life is a race, not a quiet stroll.  We forget the urgency with which we're supposed to pursue God, His kingdom, and the lost.  We don't focus on a goal, or we lose sight of the ones we once had.  And a great many of u have been out of the race so long, we're sadly out of shape."

So, lace up your sneakers.  This week, we're going to learn to RUN."

Back to Sherwood...  I like Amy, I love her because of what she does as the "editor" (I believe) of an interesting Christian effort to encourage Believers.  It's called - Zookeepers Ministries.

And we all need encouragement.  That is why one of my more favorite characters in the Bible is the man, Barnabas.  In the scriptures, he is known as the "Son of Encouragement".  We need more Barnabas' in our world, where we live, today.

But I don't like Amy's attempts to get us to get into the race, to win.

I have already won.  It happened almost 40 years ago.  Although I had been a church member for almost 45 years, I was still ignorant of what the Bible has to say about - me!  I had typically thought it was the other guys and gals.  I thought I was good and from what I had seen and heard in church, it was those others who would not listen.

It took awhile for me listening to finally hear that my salvation was secured, long before I was even considered to be a possibility.  As a matter of fact, I grew up believing I was a mistake.  My father had wanted a daughter so much that they had even named "her" - Shirley, after the movie star, Shirley Temple.  It took me decades to get over that thought.

Worse, I grew up ignoring my little sister who eventually arrived.   Ignoring is a kind word, I just did not like her because we were separated and we were adults before we ever got to really know one another.  What a shame!   Today, she is my inspiration  and we seem to have become, "two peas out of the same pod".

I learned to run a race.  She learned how to serve others.  What a difference. 

Now, we are heading into eternity, arm in arm, and heart to heart and I have to believe that is what life is all about.  We are integral parts of the family of God.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

In search of answers...

Well, I really don't know what or "Who" controls my computer, but there are times when I have to believe there has to be something beyond my control - at least, beyond my competence.  Every time I tried to reach this site, I was rejected.  Asked my "expert" and she told me what to do, but it did not work.  Then, I come home from church, today, and well, here I am "a-typin..."

What intrigues me is the fact that in this interim,I have learned that a good friend of mine, a Civic servant, who I had always thought of as being the epitome of concern and caring for the public, is under attack by people who would replace him when the next primary election is held.  Yes, people from both of the prevailing political powers are opposing his bid for re-election.

Well, of course, that happens.  Not often, but it seems to be happening here - as they say, "right here in River City."

What troubles me is that I have known my friend to be a really fine Christian.

He is well known a a member of a significant local church and - in particular, is highly regarded for his skill in playing with the church orchestra.

But now I read in one of those politically oriented web sites being read locally that he is being called a scoundrel, intimidating the employees in his office and other suggestions that he is incompetent.  I have heard from people opposing him in the primary election who agree that he is not competent.

I have heard that he has been dismissed from participating in the church orchestra.

I happen to know his Pastor and asked him if he was aware of the comments being distributed in our community and his only response was, ..."lies, all lies."

He is my friend!  I have visited him in his office while on official business and always, he has handled my business efficiently and effectively.  We have talked on a number of occasions and it has always been a heart warming experience.  Of course, we are "brothers" in the same faith, but - to me, that is not why I vote for or against others.  As a civic servant, I have expected him to be efficient, not only in the way the office operates, but in his concerns for the public he serves.

My heart is broken.  I cannot understand the accusations, except that possibly, his political opponents are exaggerating the claims made on the web site I referred to earlier.

What do I intend to do?  What "brothers" are expected to do, to pray for him, for the people in his office, for his opponents and perhaps, most important of all, for his family.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Further along the road

Charlotte was a heart warming experience, a church that appeared to embrace me, a family that thought I ought to marry their daughter - only she had other thoughts, jobs that kept me busy until I ran into a man with deep concerns about his family, a few days after I gave my car to a family in real need.

I had been encouraged to attend a meeting being run by a person who was introducing a new concept on how to live and why I decided to attend, I will never know.  But I did and a few minutes after the speaker had begun, I got nervous and was looking for a way of escape.  I noticed the "light" of a cigarette being smoked on the porch and although I had quit smoking a couple of years ago, I decided to meet that person.  Surely, he or she would be better company than listening to an ages old script being delivered by someone in a suit that looked like it had been hanging in local thrift shop.

I was about to meet a genuine person who was waiting patiently for his wife to be "entertained".  Turns out they were quite wealthy, had traveled to Charlotte to meet old college friends whose wife was excited to hear the speaker in the other room.  My soon-to-be new friend explained that both of the ladies were bored with life and enjoyed spending the good fortunes that had been earned by the "sweat of the brows" of their husbands over the years.  When I mentioned that they ought to go to church, he laughed and explained they had visited every church in Florida that was being led by a handsome young mam.  That made me laugh and asked if he was serious.  "To the tune of a few thousands of dollars that I had earned," was his immediate response.   We kept talking about his life and certainly he had been more than just successful over the years.  "What about you, son?" he asked.  "Oh, I just enjoy life and giving wherever possible."  "Seriously?" he asked and wanted to hear more.

We had talked, actually most of the time I was talking, for almost an hour when the ladies came out of their meeting.  "Honey," my new friend asked his wife, you were in the wrong room.  You should have been here with me, listening to this young man."

"Son, I want to ask you something.  You say you have not been here long and have no family in this area.  What would you say to coming to Florida with us, so we could talk some more?  I'll pay your way and take care of your expenses while you stay with us."  I was dumb founded, but looking at their clothes and listening to him for awhile, it didn't seem like there would be a problem.  I said, "Yes!"

The next morning, I let my landlord know that I was moving, that I would not need the (second hand) furniture I had bought, nor the groceries.  And I was gone.

I rode in the front seat of their Mercedes Benz and answered questions from the both of them as we traveled along.  By the time we got to the Florida line, we were good friends.  Their house was in a twenty acre plot of various fruit trees and had six bedrooms, each with a bathroom.  There was a tower in what they laughingly called their front yard where you could climb up and view the coast line.  Close to the top, there was a platform, with space for four lounge chairs, as they liked to entertain friends and watch the sun set into the Gulf of Mexico to the West.  It was ideal  

The next morning, they let me know breakfast was ready and as I took my seat, I saw the $500 bill under my silverware.  "I think your Bible teaches that a "workman is worthy of his hire," he offered, "So, as long as you stay with us, that will be your weekly wage."  After breakfast, he said he wanted us to (as he said) "actually" study the Bible from your perspective and take our time.  His wife would be leaving to attend one of the many Bridge games she enjoyed and this was her practice, six days a week if she did not have to see her doctor.

So, we began.  Genesis, chapter one, verse one.  "You believe all of this?" he asked and I was honest with my answer.  "Most of it, but we will come to places where I have my doubts or, places where the practices are no longer applicable to the Christian walk.  What a fascinating experience and the truth be known, I was learning as much as he was.  I could recall the days when I started reading the Bible in earnest and I had often wished there was someone nearby to discuss what I had been reading.  We were through the first five chapters in the first week.  (Incidentally, for those who might read this and wonder about my credentials as a Bible teacher, we were studying using my Thompson Chain Reference Bible, NASB).  Referring to many details, I was learning as much as he was.

The next week, the wife was not at the breakfast table with an explanation that she was not feeling good and "we" would be taking her to the doctor's office.  It turned out that she knew every doctor in each of the surrounding counties, even those in Tallahassee, if they were young, he explained.  She did not look young until she knew you were looking in her direction.  Later, he would explain, this had been part of her life style - for years.

When we walked into the Doctor's office, the ante room was filled, almost to overflowing.  There was no place to sit, but after she walked up to the receptionist's desk, she was ushered right into his office. You could hear the others whispering and recognize their stares as they looked at us.  Within a very few minutes, she was out of the office and we were on our way.  Stopping at a restaurant on our way home, she told us how wonderful this new man was, how he had just received some new medicine that he knew would make her feel better.  She was ready to go to her bridge club.  We dropped her off and we headed for the pier to watch a fishing fleet come in.  Of course, that was not why.  He wanted to find a seat away from others where he confessed to me, "This has been going on for years.  Right now, as we are talking, she is treating her friends to the wonderful news, of this brilliant new doctor and his wonderful new medicine.

"Do you believe in miracles?, I asked.  "When I see them, of course." he replied  "Well then, when she gets home, let's practice one."

She called for one of us, she said, to come and get her.  I smiled at him, "I think God is going to show us his miracle healing power."  I picked her up.  On the way, I asked if she ever gave a thought to the others her reputation had by-passed, those left waiting in the waiting room.  "That is how it got its name," I replied, "but it is not you to blame, but the practices that allow it.  There is a time to wait, of course, but to use your position of influence, should not be one of those times."

When we got home, I asked him to explain what we talked about when we were talking about sin.  He did a good job and her conscience helped her to explain.  "Do you mean that just because I used the little influence I have to by-pass others, it was a sin?"   "I really do not know, how about you?  The
Bible teaches that 'as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto Me'."  All I did was sit there, hoping that she would answer.   "I'll let you know in the morning."

In the morning, there were two $500 bills under my plate.  "Sherwood, I want you to help me sort out the medicines I don't need and I'll tell the ones I do.  OK?"   "Of course"   There were over 60 medicine bottles in her cabinet.  She started picking them out, one by one and handed them to me.  I would look at each and ask her, "What do you think?"   If she would shrug her shoulders or say no, I would uncap them and pour the contents in the toilet.  Every fifth bottle I would flush the toilet so that they would not harm the environment or other forms of life.  It took almost an hour and there were five bottles left.  I asked her to write the names of each down, their strength and the reason she thought she needed to take them and show it to her :regular" doctor.

She hugged me and with tears in her eyes, she thanked me.  When she came home from her regular doctor, she interrupted our Bible study and gave me a kiss on my cheek.  "You were right," she said, "how did you know?"   I reminded her that she made all of the decisions.

A couple of weeks later, they asked me if I had ever been to Europe.  "Only a brief 'fly over" I had to say, why do you ask?"  We have decided to take a long over due vacation and want you come along."
And they added, "If you do not want to come along, you can stay here, use our car, our phone, anything that you need.  We have decided to put your earnings in an account and will have a credit card for you to use, as if we were still here."  What a nice offer, but I was not going to spoil their honeymoon.

I drove them up to Atlanta and wished them well.  On the way back, I wondered what I would do.  It did not take me long to decide.  When I got back, there was another car in the driveway.  The door was open and I met their daughter, the only one, for the first time.  "I'm moving in.  If you will let me, I have every intention to sleep in your bed."  She made my decision for me.  After she passed out, I called for a taxi to take me to the main highway and I was on the road again....

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Further along the road

After a week or so, I felt well enough to continue my journey and my Uncle offered to take me to a spot where it would be easier to catch a ride.  On the way, we would pass through Yale, our home town, and stopped to chat with friends - including my grade school teacher.  It was good to have a chance to tell her how much her considerations of me as a student and friend had meant to me over the years.  Of course, we had to pass the old home stead, now changed dramatically from those earlier years.  It was good just to chat with the man who has always been my boyhood idol and I could tell as he stopped to let me out, he was really concerned about me.

My goal was Charlotte, NC - for some reason, long forgotten.  It was a beautiful day  and I had no problem catching rides, even passing an area where someone has escaped from prison and the driver and I laughed as the radio warned everybody to beware of picking up hitch hikers.  I was in Hinkley, OH, by early afternoon, a spot I will never forget.  A policeman stopped me, asking where I was from and where I was heading to.  Then, he came back, referring to my Texas drivers license and informing me there was a better place to try hitch hiking.  He took me out to a road where he let me out.  It took only a few minutes to realize that this road was just an old country road and I would probably be there for hours looking for anyone who would even think about picking up a hitch hiker.  The sun had set before a big Lincoln flashed his lights when he saw me and stopped.  "How far are you going?" he asked  and when I told him about my experience, he told me, "I'm headed for Columbus, OH, and I can get you on a main road again."

He had been in the Air Force so it wasn't long before we were getting along very well and as we got near to where he would let me out, he suggested he had a big house with lots of bedrooms and offered me a place to spend the night.  It turned out to be a bunk in the pool house, next to a huge swimming pool and it didn't take me long to fall asleep.  I woke up the sound of someone in the pool and peeking through the blinds, there she was, a beautiful lady and she was naked.  I went to the door and looked around to the other side of the house and saw there was a road leading away from the property.  I was thinking about bits and pieces of our conversation on the way South and really did not want to get involved.  I quietly walked out of the house and was on my way to the road.  It was about an hour's long walk to the main highway, but I was pleased to be on my way again.

Two or three more rides and I was in a little town along the Ohio River.  I stopped to get a meal and asked about the possibilities of work in that area.  "Like barges?" was the first answer I received and was told about the barges that take oil to the Mississippi river or thereabouts.  Sounded good to me so I crossed over to the other side and applied for a job.  The fellow who interviewed me said it might take a week or so before any openings might come up and I told him that I would need some work to do until then.  It just so happened he was the Pastor of a local church and told me he could keep me busy for a week at least.  It turned out to be three weeks and a bed in the loft that was part of my wages.  He and his wife turned out to be the nicest people I had ever met and we spent our evenings, studying the Bible.
A barge opening never did come up, so when I finished the work I had started, I was on my way again.

The next stop was Charleston, WVa, one of the dirtiest towns I have ever been in, but I located the Mission my new friends had told me about and the next day I was "hired" as the interim Director.  It so happened the fellow who had been there had family problems in Ohio to take care of and I agreed to "run" the place until he got back.  There were very few men coming to the Mission and no women, so I really had nothing to do in the day time.  Wandering around the city, I started to call on the churches as I passed by and discovered that very few of the Pastors knew anything about the Mission.  What became very interesting to me was the fact that when I got to speak with a Pastor, I came away with a donation, on two occasions, it was a hundred dollar bill.  When "Jim" the permanent Director came back, he was astounded by the fact "we" now had over $500 in the bank.  He wanted me to stay on, but the place was too dirty and dismal for me, I needed to get some country air to breathe.

I was on my way to Beckley, WVa, on one of the craziest rides over some of the crookedest roads I had ever taken.  For a few minutes I was scared that the driver might have evil intentions.  I don't know how far it was, but it seemed like it was hundred miles, but looking at a map it probably wasn't fifty miles. All of a sudden, he stopped in front of a Drive In movie theater and asked me if I wanted to see the show.  "No," I replied and told him I had to get on down the road.  It was getting dark and difficult to get a ride because most people were going to the theater.  I was standing in front of a house where there were two big cars parked on the lawn and a car pulled into the driveway.  A fellow got out and came over to ask me if I had seen anyone looking at the cars.  I had not, so he told me he and his family were going out of town and would not be back for a week and drove off.  When I was not getting a ride and it was dark, I checked to see if the car doors were open.  They were and I realized I had a comfortable place to sleep that night and locked the doors to be safe.

The next day, a fellow stopped and as we talked along the way, I learned he was an Elder in a church we would being stopping in to visit and he invited me to come along.  It turned out to be a vacated old Methodist church and they were thinking of opening it under a new name.  To make a longer story short, I stayed around to help them.  There was a cot in the former Pastor's study so I had a place to sleep and money to pay for the paint and materials to patch up places where it was needed.  Within a couple of weeks, we had it looking nice and some women made padded cushions to help with the hardwood seats.  They decided to bring in an elderly evangelist to open the church and he came, although it was obvious, he had health problems.  Sunday's services, morning and evening, were well attended and we had a high school principal interested in bringing a bus load of students on Tuesday evening.  We lost our evangelist after Monday evening as his voice gave way and his wife insisted that they go home.  It was fascinating watching the leaders try to entice others to replace them and kidding, I told them if bad turned to worse, they could always use me.  I had preached sermons in Texas after training for what was known as "lay" preaching.  A country church had used me when their Pastor was ill and I had a number of nice compliments.  When they couldn't find anyone else, they decided to "try" me.  We had a full church that night and I titled my sermon, "Sir, we would see Jesus" referring to the note I found on the pulpit of my first sermon.  I had a well prepared sermon then, based on the lessons we had learned, but my preparation went out the window when I realized the importance of that note.

I was raised in the church and for years, I had wondered why the sermons were always aimed at the adults.  Now, I started answering questions that I had wanted my Pastor to answer in those days.  It included the years when I strayed from the truth, had suffered as a result, and now, I firmly believed in what the Bible had to say.  Three young women answered the "call" but I was surrounded by many of the others, questioning what I had said.  The "local" folks were amazed by their interests.

As it turned out, I was in the pulpit for the rest of the week and actually, was offered tuition at a nearby Bible college, up until they discovered that I was not only divorced but separated from the Mother of my children.  But they did give me a substantial sum from the collections and an older couple who came with the youngsters gave me the keys and title to an older car they owned but were not using.

Now, I had a way to get to Charlotte without using my thumb.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

On the road

I was heading North when a guy picked me up and we chatted as we rode along, but then he topped at Howard Johnson's to eat and invited me.  Knowing that I did not have much money, I begged off and instead, ordered a cup of coffee to go.  When the waitress told me it cost $1.75, I almost passed out. Leaving the rest of my money as a "tip" I was back on the road - and a test.

My next ride was with three Hispanics in a pickup and they offered me a "seat" in the truck bed and we were on our way.  I was joined by a dozen or more crates filled with tomatoes.  Thirty miles or so up the road, their truck broke down.  When I got a closer look at the three guys, I decided my best alternative was to keep moving.  Fortunately, a truck came along and I flagged him down.  I would admit to him, I was scared to stick around with those other guys.  Probably, they would not have harmed me, but it was pitch black and I was not accustomed to being in that position.  It was my first lesson - along the way, that I do really have a "friend, who stays closer than a brother".

That driver could not carry me beyond the next truck stop, but he went out of his way to get me another ride and this would carry me a hundred miles or so and he was interested in my testimony.  In fact, so interested he bought me breakfast and took me up to another Interstate where it would be easier to find another ride.  That led me to a fascinating experience.   The next ride took me into a town and for some reason, he suddenly decided he had to turn off the highway and let me off.   It was Sunday morning and there was very little traffic so I walked out of town and began to notice in the cars that were passing me by, families on their way to church.  The longer I walked, the sadder I became as I really wanted to go to church.  After a while, I got tired of walking and found a big shade tree with a huge rock beneath it.
Seemed like a good place to rest and was amazed to see a bird land nearby and it began to chirp - or whatever birds do, looking directly at me.  So, I thanked him (or, her?) and he chirped even louder, or so it seemed.  Then, a miracle - at least, in my mind, began.  Birds in adjoining trees joined in.  You don't have to believe it, but I was there and those sounds are still with me.  It seemed to me, I was in church and the "choir" had a special number just for me.

It didn't last, but then came a string of rides until I was in Springfield, MO, an objective I had decided upon shortly after I started.  The last driver I had, stopped at a restaurant and reached into his pocket and gave me a $20 bill,  "Get some breakfast for yourself.  You don't know it, but our talk along the way has given me a lot to think about."  So, I got breakfast, located a labor place and was sent to work a few minutes after I had registered.  I was sent to a place where the "boss" needed two men to clean out a house that had been vacated by people who had not paid their rent.  The other guy was a bit strange.  He was long on talk, but short on the energy needed to do what needed to be done.  At least I learned there was a mission nearby where I would be sleeping for a couple of days.  I was asked to come back to the job for the next three days and able to get some needed rest.  The mission director was "stuck" with the job he claimed when his father who had started the "ministry", ran off with some woman.  Welcome to a world that I had never known, but it served as an education I needed as I traveled on.

The labor "boss" told me that jobs were scarce in that area and suggested I head up to Kansas City. The first car to stop knew all about Kansas City and he was kind enough to drop me off at a Mission.  It seemed to be a real blessing.  It was a place to get a meal and a bed for the night.  I really wanted to go to church tomorrow and so it seemed, I could.  While I was waiting for "dinner" a man came in looking for help to move some furniture so I jumped at the opportunity.  It was easy, the guy paid well for my efforts, but as I was jumping off the trailer we used, I twisted my ankle.  No problem, I thought at the time, but it changed my plans.

The "dinner" had to wait until we learn a sermon and I will never forget the title.  "God will set you free" referring to the verse in the Bible,  Galatians 5:1, "It was for freedom that God has set us free".  Our "dinner" was watered down gruel and then we were ushered into a room with one window and 18 double decked bunks.  There were 18 of us, I was the only white man..  And then, they locked the door behind us.  "What if...?' I thought to myself and tried to force myself to not think about what I had to think about.  What would happen if there was a fire?   Obviously, I did not sleep well.

And when I jumped down from my upper bunk in the morning, I realized my ankle was worse than I had thought.   Breakfast was more of last night's gruel which I turned down and headed for the door.

Hobbling!  What was a I going to do?  I asked about a medical clinic, but it was a long way's off.  One of the guys headed for the freeway which was close and so I decided, I would give him time to get a ride and I would follow.  It was a nice day, so I chose to ignore the ankle and headed out.

I had no sooner got to the other side of the freeway so I could head East, when a sports car pulled up and asked how far I was going.  "St. Louis" came to mind and with that he offered me a ride telling me he would driving right through there.  What a neat guy.   I would learn he was as Air Force Chaplain headed for Louisiana where he intended to reign.  That opened the door to a long discussion about the military, the church, Catholics and Protestants.  It was precisely what I needed as my ankle healed.

Turned out, he would be heading South off of the Freeway we were on and by that time, I had decided I would go to my uncle's house in Michigan to recuperate.  So, we parted ways and I walked on, blessed to have had such an intriguing conversation.  It was my day.  No sooner had I stuck out my thumb and some kids who were headed for Springfield, IL stopped to pick me up and they were smoking "weed".
That was a challenge, but I decided to ride unless that were really affected by it.  Turns out they were not and I had an opportunity to "witness" to them and their responses were classic.  I wish that I had a tape of our conversations.

When they dropped me off, another car stopped and he was headed for a hot air balloon race and encouraged me to go along with him.  Sounded like a good idea, but I did not want to change my "route".

He would turn East so he let me off at a spot where I had to walk a half mile to keep heading North.  It was then I realized I had to go to the bathroom.  I could see a cafe ahead so I started trying to run when I noticed I had a "friend".  Apparently, I was passing a nest where a mother pheasant had some babies as she was intent on making sure I didn't bother them.  She chased me for about a hundred yards when I noticed there was a "Port-O-John" right ahead of me.  When I got there, I discovered it was brand new, even had a new roll of toilet paper.  Had anyone been close they would have heard my laughing and my praising God for all of my "benefits".

Another ride brought me close to Chicago and the highway leading East towards Ohio where I knew of the highways heading North.  Now, I found another ride and this was a real blessing.  He asked if I could drive.  I showed him my driver's license and he gave me his keys.  He had the first GPS I had ever seen and he set it for his home address, South of Monroe, MI, and told me to follow the instructions. With that he crawled into the back seat and went to sleep and did not wake up until I drove up to his garage door.  He went inside to get approval of his wife and then invited me in for breakfast and a bed that I really needed at that point.

He drove me over the highway heading North the next day and as I was getting out of his car, he handed me an envelope "from his  wife" he insisted.  The note inside read, "God bless you" and there was a fifty dollar bill "to help you along the way."

A few hours later I was at my uncle's address and they were not at home.  I took advantage of the lounge chair nearby and that is where they found me when they got home.

I will be heading South later

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Walking with God

March 11, 2014

As I arrived at my destination, I found a public telephone and called the offices of the man I had hoped might help me get my life in order.  I was not prepared for the answer.  As President of the college, it was graduation day and after the commencement exercises, he and his wife were leaving on vacation and would not return for at least three weeks.

At first, I was stunned, but there had to be an answer and I sat down to review the possibilities.  One of the real problems I faced was that I was almost broke.  It was them I recalled that we had passed a "labor" office on our way in and I discovered it was not that far away.  It was still morning and I felt there would be a possibility of finding a job, today.  It didn't take me long to get there, register and find a seat, hoping, not yet praying, there would be a job.  Hours passed, it was approaching 2 PM when the phone rang.  The dispatcher looked my way and asked if I could count.  "Certainly, yes I can!"  With that I was on my way.  In a few minutes, I was introduced to a man who had a problem.  "I have to take take inventory and have the results on my boss's desk by Friday.  Do you think we can do that?   "Yes!"

Come Friday, he signed my work ticket, indicating 40 hours of work performed and handed me $20, saying, "Thanks, you don't know It, but you just saved my job!"

I was about to have the most fascinating experience I have ever known.  After cashing my voucher, I was headed for the YMCA where I heard I could find lodgings.  Passing a cocktail lounge, I thought to myself, "You have worked hard, earned your keep.  It would be good to celebrate with a beer."  Guess what!  I tried to open the door and it seemed to be locked, even though I could hear people talking and laughing on the other side.  There was nothing I could do but walk away.  And then I noticed two couples coming my way, laughing and enjoying themselves and watched as they turned to go into the lounge and they walked right in.  "Why could they go in and I could not?"  I tried again.  It was still locked - to me.  I walked away and thought to myself, ..."perhaps, my life was changing."  I decided to see if this was true.

Obviously, it was as I found myself all alone in a city I had never even visited.  All I needed now was to find a good church.  There were two Methodist churches nearby and I called both.  One responded with a recitation of the schedule for Sunday services and the other, by a young girl who seemed to be more interested in me that any schedule.  Learning that I thought of myself as a Christian, she warmly invited me to the 8 AM service, "You are going to love this one."

She was right.  The people greeted me as warmly as the girl had suggested would happen and it was to become my "home away from home" for the next two years.  I was not only welcomed there, it seemed I was as welcomed by every place I turned to for employment.  For years, I had struggled to find a job that really appealed to me.  Here I was to find several.  And I would find more friends than I had ever met in my years since leaving the service.

I was about to discover, my problems were typical.  We tend to look on a job as a task to perform, but I was beginning to learn, jobs are opportunities to serve others, no more, no less.  If you are employed where you are needed and do what you can do to the best of your abilities, it is no longer just a job but an opportunity to become all you were destined to become.

Eventually, I was lured away to Dallas, TX, where I had discovered an opportunity to serve a man who had become a paraplegic and was operating a business in which I knew I could excel.  I was wrong.  It was not the employment opportunity, but the way he treated those assigned to help him.  For the first time in my life, I found a person who not only failed to appreciate the gifts he had received, he was not appreciative of almost all efforts to simply help himself.  It was a tough place to work, but it led me to a friend who came to my aid as I walked out.

He had noticed my disciplines.  "On time and at work, consistently," those were his words as he told me of a part-time job he had been ignoring and thought I might be the person to bring it to life.  It would become the opportunity of my life time.

His prime business was newspaper advertising and he was working with a number of different papers and magazine.  My job was to work with his clients to build their businesses, beyond the results of the advertising, to working with one another so that they might offer more than the printed word.  It took a lot of imagination in many cases, but since I represented an established entity, most of our customers were eager to listen and buy into our proposals.  The beauty of our offer was that most of our plans did not require investments, so we were able to pay ourselves handsome dividends.

My personal obligation was the support of my children and since I no longer trusted their Mother, I employed a lawyer to deal with the payments.   When my deposits with him reached a point where I could pay more, he used the excess to add to investments he made for his firm.  It worked well.

Just when I was thinking of opening a business related to the efforts we were already making, we were offered a lot of money to sell our interests.  When my share was far more than I had imagined, I asked my lawyer to talk with the California agency governing child support and learned that I could advance enough to pay for my requirements until they reached age 18.   We discovered the figures were equal to each other; my contribution would be slightly more than my obligations and so, a deal was made.

With that, I had nothing to do, nowhere to go, and prayed, asking God, "What would you have me do?"

It did not happen immediately, but His answer was clear to me, "Go, be with My people."

What did that mean?  I kept reviewing the people I had known over the years, but my mind kept drawing me back to the Labor agencies I had operated in California.  "Why," I used to ask myself, "could a person sink to such a level that they believed they could not live without giving themselves to an agency that only paid the minimum wage, but we paid for their efforts, daily."  It dawned on me that God's love for such people was no less than He extended to the richest in His kingdom.  I decided to - Go, be with His people.   With nothing more than a pair of jeans, a tee shirt, underwear, socks and loafers, plus my Bible in hand, I walked out of Dallas into a world seldom seen by most people.  Oh, I forgot to add, I had less than two dollars in my pocket.

More, much more, later on...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Reasons for God

My Pastor, his wife and others in our local body of believers in Christianity had the rare privilege over the weekend to attend a seminar in Nashville TN, chaired by Marcus Borg, Canon Theologian of Timothy Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, discussing his book, Speaking Christian.

We had been studying that book at our church and it is extremely interesting.  I do not intend to quote it as over the years I have come to know Borg as an author of other books and more specifically as a member of the famous, or infamous if you please, the Jesus Seminar.   I do not like debates and have no interest in debating his views or, collectively, their views.  My interest in Borg and others in the faith is to help me grow in the knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

What I will offer is my testimony as a Christian and that is open to debate, if that is your desire.

I was literally raised in the church.  In the early thirties while my Mother and Father were experiencing problems with the state of the economy, they also ushered into this world, my younger Sister.  So it was that my Grandmother, my Mother's Mother, offered to take me to the farm where I would be safe from economic anxieties and there was plenty to eat and lots of room for me to play.

There were conditions that did not bother me.  We went to church every Sunday and every Wednesday night.  As far as I can remember, I enjoyed the experience.  I really do not think I learned anything, but I am certain, I was being taught about the Christian experience.  Most of the "do's" and "don'ts" of my early education came from my Grandfather with this admonition, "We don't do things like that."  That being drinking alcohol, swearing, lying, doing things that only "bad" boys did.  I have always been grateful that there were very few "bad" boys in our neighborhood.   And I do remember going to the alter one night at church when I "gave" my life to the Lord, but I got up and left with no apparent change in the ways I thought or acted.

I went into the Air Force at age 17 with the thought I was a Christian and no one ever challenged me.  I attended chapel regularly and that continued until I left the military seven years later.  I moved to Atlanta, GA, to attend Georgia Tech and immediately became a member of the First Methodist Church of Atlanta, again, no questions were ever asked.  I got married in a church where my wife had attended as a child and we went to church regularly only we changed to a another when I learned that my "First" church would not allow minorities to attend their service.

Later on, we would get a divorce.  I was not proud of the first few years afterwards, but one Sunday morning I woke up with a terrible hangover and decided it was time to get back into church.  After a few moths in which I really enjoyed church, I met a young lady who I would marry and with whom we would bring four beautiful children into this world.  I never really gave up drinking and for sure, she not give up stealing money from others.  We were still going to church when she was sentenced to ten years in prison for stealing money from our neighbors' mail boxes.  Fortunately, she was given parole, but it did little to change her ways and to be perfectly honest, I did not change mine, either.  We went to church on occasion, but its message went unheeded by either of us.

Finally, after agreeing we would both change our ways, she stole again and I thought - for certain, she would be required to serve the full sentence dictated by that first judge.

It was then, I finally decided I was as much to blame as she was for our situation and so I sought counsel from church elders.  To be honest, they had nothing to offer, but guilt had set into my mind and I would eventually call upon a "wise" church elder who I had known over years.

It was suggested that I go to Tulsa, OK, to counsel with him and I made arrangements with the State of California to care for our children during my trip and I left on a Greyhound bus.  In route, I realized that I was on my way to talk with a man who had forgotten more about the Bible than I had ever known, so I decided to "bone up" before I met with him.  So, where should I start?  It occurred to me that the words of Jesus appeared in red letters and I decided to find the point where He started His ministry.

Turns out that was in the book of Matthew, chapter 4, verse 17.  The words that immediately struck me were, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."  That intrigued me.  I had to stop and see if I could recall ever hearing that word before or, read it in a Bible.  I had not.  I decided to pray and ask God what it meant.  It did not dawn on me that He might not answer.  But He did, I know because in a few minutes it seemed as though my mind was recalling those days when my Mother and Grandfather used to argue over the cost of my "care".  And there was more.  I sat there cringing as had been my practice whenever those arguments would happen and there was more, the attitude I developed against my Mother for - it seemed to me, not seeming to care about my feelings on that and other matters.  Then, I began to realize I had reasons to repent.  I had no idea why my Mother felt as it seemed to me that she did.  My grandmother used to remind me that I was to love my Mother, regardless of my feelings.

To the best of my knowledge, I asked God to forgive me and within a few minutes, I noticed that it was raining and as the bus drove on, it seemed that the wind was "rolling up" the dirt on my window and it was being washed.  Could it be a sign that God had done that for me?  I had no idea, but I did know I needed something like that to happen and I began to cry, thanking God for washing my sins away.

More tomorrow....

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Changing gears on the highways of life

March 7, 2014

Ever watch Dr. Phil?  There was a time when I thought he was an offspring of the proverbial "snake oil" salesmen we used to see at the travelling carnivals visiting the farm lands in Eastern Michigan.

But yesterday, I needed a rest and discovered he was on TV with an intriguing segment involving a couple with a young son and when she had an "affair" with another man, her husband divorced her and married another woman, who became the boy's step Mother. I was about to learn that the Dad married a personification of the "wicked witch of the West'.

As it turned out, she not only abused the boy, somehow she convinced him that if he murdered his father, their lives would be better.  The sad fact is, the boy now realizes he is a murderer.   Fortunately for him, the step Mother went to prison.

On Dr. Phil's program, he was now face to face with his birth Mother who wanted to establish a new relationship with her son and he was adamant that because of her past failures and the fact he no longer had a father, there was no way he was going to reconcile.

So, Dr. Phil addressed the boy' reality and the fact that bad things happen to good people, suggesting that there comes a time in all of our lives when we much face up to that fact. - if we are want to live as we were meant to live.

I turned the TV off to read the evening news paper, but the facts of that situation started working on me.

I have never murdered any one, but the fact is, there have been times when I have thought it might be a solution to the way I was feeling at the moment.

It all started when they used to tell me that my Father was more interested in having a daughter than the son I turned out to be.  He had been married previously and already had two sons.  I don't know how much I thought about that at the time, but it was at the beginning of the truly Great Depression (in the early 30's) and to make it easier on the family finances, I was sent to live with my grand parents on the farm.  As a result, I would never get to know my Father as he had an car accident that would eventually take his life.  I was not at his funeral, nor did I know anything about his burial place.  And the only time I really got to see my Mother was when one of her new boy friends would drive her up to the farm, as always, dressed to enhance her natural beauty while the guys were trying to make friends with me.

I learned to hate that and that attitude began to control my life until I realized, at age 17, I could join the Army Air Corps and earn a college education, something that was out of the question otherwise.

Seven years later, I left the service to enter college and because my Mother was instrumental in getting me enrolled at Georgia Tech where she was living at the time, we tried living together in her one bed room apartment.  After awhile, I had better ideas,  I found a girl to marry and when I announced it to her and her long time man friend, her response was, "Sherwood, there has never been a divorce in our family."

As my wife-to-be and I were at the County Clerk's office to get the marriage materials, I would learn that she was ten years older that I was, not five years as I had been told.  I almost called it off, but had to thunk of returning to live with my Mother and decided it might work.

It did not.  After five years in which I graduated from college, there was no real love in our marriage and I decided to leave the State.  If she wanted a divorce, she could arrange it, but I was more intent on getting established and a new life underway.  What I did not realize at the time, I was wrestling with demons that wanted me to believe I was no longer a success, but a failure.  I started drinking in earnest to escape such thoughts that were now driving me further and further away from the "home" I thought I should have enjoyed in those early years.

It would take a decade for me to understand, it was not my Father's death, nor my Mother's struggles in just surviving the Depression years, nor my first wife's failing to understand that I was not the nice guy she thought she had married, it was me.  It was my failure to accept the fact, you are not what you think you are, but who you actually are.

It's fine to recognize this, it's more difficult to live up to your recognition.  I married again to a gal who wanted children and we were off to a good start.  A month before our wedding day, she was pregnant.

Our first child was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, weighing in at 10 lbs. and 8 ounces.  And followed by another daughter, sixteen months later, two months premature.  I thought I was being chastised for not being all I should have been and the pain of the  thought that we almost lost her was almost more than I could stand.  I traded jobs from one that offered opportunity for one that offered the same paycheck every week.  And apparently, because we were not making enough, my wife was caught stealing money from our neighbors' mailboxes.  My life was spiraling downward faster than I could recognize, in spite of the fact that our marriage had now produced two handsomea  young boys.  There was another incident involving missing money and all I did was move on, desperately searching for an answer to my failures as a husband, father and a productive citizen.

When it was over, I was on a bus headed for Tulsa, OK, to find answers.  I found them before I was even halfway to my destination.   I offered and prayer and for the first time in my life, I had an answer.

Repent!  What?  Repent!  But this time I knew the reasons for my need to repent and it was something I should have seen - had I only looked for answers, almost forty-five years ago.

I didn't understand my Mother's ways, then; I still didn't understand them now.  Why didn't I have a Dad like the other guys, but I had two, my grandfather and his son.  They were there, but I was too consumed with my fears to recognize my provisions.   And so it had continued, year after year, decade after yet another decade.  Repent!  I had been wrong and all I ever had to do was recognize the truth that if your house is not built on solid ground, it will fall - again and again, whenever the storms of life attack.

Watching Dr. Phil, I wanted to step through that TV screen and embrace that young man and plead with him, if necessary, to look squarely at the future ahead and forget the problems of the past,  It took me decades to recognize that answer, but having embraced it and am now having lived for still more decades, my life has become an exciting experience.  I wake up every morning looking for the joys that will come my way on each new day and I have yet to have it fail to come into being.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March 5, 2014whe

I don't know about you, but one of the many debates raging across our nation the is one that gets head- lines whenever someone shoots up a school or a movie theater or whatever might come next, and is the one that tends to infuriate me.

I am not opposed to people owning guns as long as they have a legitimate, personal reason, to own and to use one, but turning them on our innocent is beyond the pale - in my opinion.

Hiding behind the Second Amendment is not a legitimate excuse.  Problem is, when they taught history in most of our schools - including my beloved Yale HS in Yale, MI, in the early 40's, they failed to make the events, personal.  For example, the Revolutionary War which had to have been in the minds of those authenticating the Second Amendment, where the gallantry of Washington's volunteers would be uppermost in their thoughts, many of those soldiers were carrying weapons they brought from home. The first armed resistance to the British came from our locals, carrying their own weapons.  These men and some insist, their women folk, were so determined that they were not going to live under the reign of a foreign power, they were willing to give their lives as a tribute to the freedoms we have today.

So, as the Second Amendment, came up for a vote, the electors had a vivid picture in their minds and the need to have a well regulated militia was appropriate.  There was no way they could have envisioned a demented person in the 21st century entering a classroom, intent on slaughtering as many children as possible.

Please don't try to argue Second Amendment "rights" with me.

Especially when tomorrow, a foreign power, intent on destroying all of our efforts to live as free people in a nation bent on preserving those freedoms, could loose a thousand drones, each carrying a nuclear bomb into our beloved land and our freedoms would be blown away.  An exaggeration, you say, so let me ask you, prior to the time when slaughtering children in their schoolhouses became almost too common place, would you have believed that we would experience such horror in our nation in your generation?

I vividly remember December 4, 1941, as the only person in the family assembled that day, who knew where Pearl Harbor was and was familiar with the shape of the Japanese aircraft launched to create the horror that happened.  Prior to that day, such an invasion was unthinkable to most of us.

Now, that we have experienced 9/11, we have a corporate fear that it might happen again, so we seem to be intent on arming ourselves to prevent such a recurrence.  What other excuse do we have for our demand that everyone have a gun to protect ourselves?   It is an irrational fear and it occupies the minds of those who appear to be reluctant to protect the innocents among us.

So, what are we doing about it?  Frankly, I do not know, I do not have a clue as to how I might influence the minds of the NRA members who are party to our mania.

This I do know, I can tell you about an incident that happened recently among our neighbors to the North in Kentucky.  It came to me over my computer from  It involves the Kentucky Baptist Convention's initiative to "lure unchurched men" to worship in one of their churches. It involves. specifically, the Lone Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah and a wild game dinner to be known as a "Second Amendment Celebration and Dinner".  Their Pastor, Dan Summerlin, was formerly the President of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

What intrigued me was the fact they would be giving away shotguns, rifles and handguns as incentives to attend what they seem to insist is a legitimate Christian activity.  As one person suggested, it was a "hook that draws the unchurched".   I have no problem with the motive, if it really is their motivation, but what ought to be obvious, it is a distorted endorsement of the Second Amendment "right" violations promoted by the NRA.   And it seems to be endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention.

I know the  Christ of whom they would claim as their motivation for their spiritual endeavors.  I have claimed Him to be my Lord and Savior from the first I really came to know Him.  It was through a very personal encounter almost thirty nine years ago and I vividly recall His first "instruction" to me as a follower.  It can be found in the book of Acts, chapter 1, verses 8: " shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and YOU shall be MY witness..." as I like to add, "..wherever your feet shall lead you" (which I believe is what He meant when He referred to as "..the remotest pats of the earth.")

I pray that these Christian brothers and sisters will come to their senses and stop attempting to draw the world into their churches and instead, work on drawing their churches into the world where the love of Christ is even more desperately needed.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Voting, your responsibility and mine

March 1, 2014

I attended a meeting earlier in the week, sponsored by people involved in the local Democratic Party, most of whom I have known for years.  The topic to be discussed was:  Income Equality and the Importance of a Living Wage.  There were three speakers; one, a retired Pastor who had spent many years in the Appalachians, whose ministry was concerned with caring for people in need and most of us who have studied American history are aware of the fact that most of those people - if they could even find a job, were asked to support a growing family with little more than a minimum wage.  The other two speakers were engaged in Union activities, one involved with home care, sanitation and public employees and the other, involved in college campus workers.

All three spoke well of their efforts and the attendees were invited to respond.  Then, the fun began.

One of the problems with meetings like this, if the activity is not well plannedt in advance, chaos is the probable result.  A dozen people rose to offer their opinion, but without specific guidance, we were offered  twelve different opinions of close to twelve different situations.  The only real positive result of the meeting was the general opinion, it was a good meeting and we needed to have more like it.

In my opinion, the case for an increase in the minimum - or living wage, was lost in the confusion.

That saddens me as we do need an intelligent discourse on the subject.  As it is, our nation is divided; the Democrats demanding an increase and the Republican staunchly opposed to it.  Thus we are led to believe, nothing will be accomplished.

We seem to forget that there was a day when every citizen was encouraged to exercise his or her most solemn duty - that is, to vote, in every election.   As a child, growing up in Michigan in a farming area, I vividly recall my family and all of our neighbors stopping what they were doing to go and vote even when that often meant standing in line at the polling office.  I joined the Air Force at age 17 and so it was that I was not even eligible to vote until I was 21 and I had to wait two years to vote in a national election.  And I have never missed an opportunity in the years that followed, regardless of the issues.

In 1955, a good friend encouraged me to get involved in the Senatorial race in Georgia, where two candidates were widely known throughout the area.  My natural response was to support the incumbent, Walter George, and was chosen to become part of the statewide organization, Collegians for George. It was great fun, attending speeches, applauding loudly and encouraging the folks who were not seated to be sure and support the candidate who had spent a life time supporting them.  It was exciting.

Then another friend offered to take me to a Talmadge rally, George's opponent.  I had heard a lot about him as his father had been a controversial Governor of Georgia and so I was curious to hear what he was saying.  After the speech, one of his aides sought me out and told me that Talmadge wanted me to ride back to Atlanta with him.  I must say, I was overwhelmed, considering the fact that I was a "Yankee" in the eyes of many, so I was curious as well.  We were not out of town before I knew that he knew a lot about me and he wanted me to do something for him.  There are 159 counties in the State of Georgia and he wanted me to pick up reports from a number of those counties.  Could I do it?  I would be paid well for my efforts - and I was.  He told me he intended that the campaign would carry the vote in every one of those counties.  And he did.

I learned a lot about politics in those days, starting with the fact you do not offer to run for an elected office if you do not have the resources.  Of course, that meant money and if you did not have it or could not raise it, you were not a viable candidate.   (That also meant, if the voter does not know where the candidate has raised the money - and campaigns take a lot of money, then he or she is not worthy of your vote.)  Next, you need an organization of dedicated people.  By dedicated, it should mean that as a prime supporter. your family, friends and neighbors will all be voting for your candidate.  Then, you need a map of every square mile of your district and a marker that will eventually indicate that every house in that district has been contacted and you know, precisely, how they intend to vote.  Finally, if you do not know whether or not you will be elected, two weeks before the election, you can get your
concession speech ready.

Many people tend to believe that elections have a "romantic" flavor, they are exciting, challenging and suspenseful.  They are none of these things.  Essentially, they are hard work by many people and if they really know what they are doing, they are prepared to lose.

That was yesteryear in practice.  Today, they rely on huge sums of money to support a candidate and those involved in the campaign are not really involved.  They are asked to phone people they do not know and somehow, the campaign managers believe they are making an effort.  To be realistic, the only effort involves spending lots of money and, in the process, the voters who care are left out.

It is not democracy.  At best, it is dollarocracy.