Let Me Tell You A Story

I love stories.  One of my favorite memories as a child is my parents’ reading me bedtime IMG_1173stories. Some of my favorites were “Sam and the Firefly,” “The Firecat,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” and “The Bike Lesson.” I can hear my mom’s soft voice and my dad trying to do voices.

If you are not familiar with these books; well, bless your heart.

One of the reasons, I preach has to do with my love for stories.  The Bible is full of great stories. Some of them are also among my favorites: Noah, Isaac and Esau, Moses, The young boy Samuel, the many adventures of David, Solomon’s early years, Elijah at Mt Carmel, Balaam and the donkey,  many accounts in the life of Jesus, as well as the stories of people following Jesus and turning to His way. I can hear my parent’s reading those stories. There was a slight difference when they read these stories. Something in their tone let me know these were more than fairy tales and fiction. Early in my life, I saw that these stories had an impact on my parents.

On to the story.

As he walked about the capital city, he saw people tipping the scales, so to speak, in their direction. Always trying to cheat the system. Customers would negotiate for the lowest price, store owners would inflate prices and rig the scales. Everyone yelled and everyone felt cheated.

Men and women alike were looking for companionship for the night, not concerned about tomorrow. The addicts filled the streets, their temporary fixes, were . . . well, just that  . . . temporary. Homeless and hungry people begged for handouts – they preferred cash, but would take food. Had selfishness lead people to this?

“No,” he said to himself. These people had abandoned law and order. They were neglecting the constitution that gave true life to his country. Their downfall was self-reliance and not reliance on the Godly morality passed down from The Forefathers. He was proud that he was one of the few conservatives who followed the principles laid down by those who established this great nation.

These poor people were not the greatest threat. There was a new, radical ideology emerging. A claim that his teachers at law school were wrong about how they interpreted the National Constitution. Just a few years ago lawyers like him lead an effort to end this ideology. They had the spokesman arrested, accused of treason, sentenced, and permanently silenced. They hoped this would end this subversive movement. But others picked up where he left off and the message was spreading.

He watched firsthand as violence escalated against one advocate of this new movement, this new way of looking at life. The violence reached a fever pitch and resulted in the death of the radical. He heard what the man said, and he was as angry as the mob. He approved of their actions. This radicalism had to stop! Such teaching would ruin his country.

A fire burned in him. He wanted to do all he could to stop the spread of this dangerous message. He applied for a governmental position that would allow him to help end this . . . rebellion. That’s what it he would call it. Rebellion against the Forefathers, rebellion against the law, and the worst crime of all rebellion against God who established this nation as He guided the Forefathers.

Saul had letters from the chief leaders to travel to Damascus and arrest and put to death those that followed the Way (of Jesus the so-called Christ). While he journeyed something strange occurred. He met Jesus – literally and supernaturally. He came face to face with the Christ. After this encounter he traveled on to Damascus, blinded by the experience. There he spent time in prayer. He realized how wrong his choices were to that point. He was no different that those living for themselves. He was doing the same thing.

A preacher named Ananias visited Saul three days later. Ananias told him more about this Jesus. Saul tells the story better that I do:

“And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ “(Act 22:12-16)

Life changed for Saul. Life was not always easier, in truth life was sometimes difficult, very difficult. But for Saul, whom many called Paul, life was better. Better because he knew the One he believed and this persuaded him that the Christ would keep His end of the promise to keep and provide for him. No more living for self. No more hurting others. No more hate. Only love.

What is your story?

Are you living for self?

There was a time when I did. But no more. My life is for God. Christ is my life. I live by God’s Spirit and not my own flesh. I am not perfect, I still fall back into old habits in moments of weakness, but by Grace God forgives.

-Scott

 

Thank You

I am not convinced that these two words are enough, but 10457592_621156656250_8216987243847011345_n

Thank You.

Thank you for your comments over the last weeks and months.

Thank you for your concern for Charles.

Thank you for asking about his family, his wife and his girls.

Thank you for asking about my parents.

Thank you for the food. I should say FOOD.

Thank you for the condolences.

Thank you for the offers of help around our houses.

Thank you for the donations you made in Charles’ honor to Escambia Christian School, to AGAPE, to Central Church of Christ Building Fund, to FWB Church of Christ Ecuador Missions, and to Charles’ daughters’ trust/scholarship fund.

Thank you for sharing memories of Charles and telling stories about your connection with him.

Thank you to Niceville, Leonard Street, Ft Walton Beach, Gulf Breeze, Parrish, and Central Churches of Christ for you outpouring of love.

Thank you to the City of Gulf Breeze, the IT Department, and employees for your compassion and care.

Thank you Ross Mitchell, Doug McCown, and Jeff Spooneybarger for your leadership and participation in the memorial for Charles.

Thank you Mom and Dad for your strength, love, and faith you continue to pass along by example to your sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren.

Thank you everyone, most especially for you prayers.

Thank you.

-Scott

This is for Charles

This is a very personal post. This is for Charles.

charles

Charles loved to sing. I loved when we could worship together and harmonize. His tenor / baritone and my bass voice blending together on old and new songs, hymns, and spiritual songs is one thing I will truly miss. One of the last times we talked he told me the thing he missed most, the thing that cancer had taken from him was the ability to lead songs of praise in worship.

But he loved more than church songs. He loved to sing.  In the mid-nineties Charles and I sat at a keyboard that had drum effects and single finger chording and recorded our own mix of The Beatles song, Help! Think two Caucasians trying to sound like RunDMC. It was fun, but I hope there remains no recording of that song.  If there is one, I will pay to have it locked away for ever!

Charles loved when I posted songs and videos on this blog. So in his honor, I recorded one specifically for him.

 

What Happened to Peace

This post is cathartic. Who am I kidding? Much of what I write is to help me think through

and work through my emotions and to improve my walk with God.

Sometimes, life hits hard. My brother’s diagnosis of cancer and his passing last week are a major blow. I know he has relief from cancer’s pain and the problems of earth now. That is comforting. But the gut-punch still hurts.

Then yesterday, a young man who was friends with many at Parrish Church of Christ – where I was minister for 15 years – died defending his home and trying to identify those whom he caught robbing him. Lyle was a teenager when I moved to Parrish. He often worshipped with the Church at Parrish. I loved seeing him, Beth and their baby – small child now. His affectionate nickname was Big Guy. He was big; at least 6’4″ and strong. He used that nickname in his business as owner of Big Guy’s Tires. He worked hard to provide for his young family. Now he is gone.

A violent death. The alleged thieves, shot into his truck as he tried to at the very least identify them to law enforcement. The alleged thieves crashed their own truck not far from where Lyle was shot. Within minutes Sheriff Deputies found one of them still in their truck and a K-9 Unit found the other hiding in the woods not far from the scene.

Life hits hard!

What happened to peace? What happened to the brotherhood of mankind? Where has the sanctity of life gone? Did we every really have it?

I know where to find it. It being “peace that passes understanding.” Peace is in the “Prince of peace.” Peace with man starts with peace with God. Peace started with God and now peace on earth begins with me. Will you pledge to join me?

-Scott

Alone, Lonely, or Choice

IMG_1173I met him one fall day. I sat watching him more than the game on the field. He came in alone with two soft drinks and two small popcorns. He sat one drink on the seat beside him and began eating and drinking the other. I watched as the other popcorn and drink sat through the first quarter. No one sat with him.

He was dressed nicer than most around him this early fall day. Yet, he seemed lonely.  I wondered about the empty seat; Did it belong to him? Was it for a friend who was meeting him? What was the story of the seat?

Curiosity got the best of me, I had to know. During a long network timeout, I made my way to this gentleman. I asked if he was saving the seat for a friend. “No, it is my wife’s seat. We have been to every home game since we were students and started dating in 1952.” He breathed a deep sigh, “She passed recently, so I am here alone. We always bought two cokes and two popcorns.”

I wanted to communicate my sympathy.  I was touched by his tradition and love. I chocked on the words, and he continued.  He told me about all the wonderful people they had met. The stars they had seen play. He talked about her favorite players and how much she loved The Million Dollar Band. He talked about the good years and the not so good years of their beloved Crimson Tide. He talked about hopes for the season that was unfolding. sixty-four years of history, sixty-four years of love of a team and a love as a couple.

Tears came to my eyes. “I am sorry you are hear all alone. I am sure you had friends or family that could have come with you today.”

“I do,” he said, “but they are all at her funeral.”

OKAY, Okay, I made that story up. It did not happen. 

I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and I know enough fans to think it could happen. Football is a priority. Many plan their fall schedule around their favorite team including away games and neutral site games. They put a lot of time and money into “their team.” I am not too far from this myself. I may not go to many games or travel, but I am always watching or listening to the games, and I watch the rebroadcasts during the week.

Priorities.

There is an observation I have made about people. We have time for the things we want to do. I may not have time to mow the yard, but I have time to watch a three hour football game. I may not have time to study and pray, but I have time to go to the beach, lake, hunting club. I don’t have time to prepare to teach a class, but I have time to go to the gym. I don’t have time to visit the sick, hospitals, or homebound, but I have time to read novels and magazines.

I am taking inventory.

I am looking at me.

I am asking myself,

“What do I consider as priority?”

Paul teaches that Christ is not looking to be first simply be first in our life, but that as a child of God, Christ is TO BE our life (Colo 3:4).  All we do is for Him. Are you and I living that way?

-Scott

 

Losing the Battle

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The three of us Charles, Scott (me), and Doug who did not see the camera

For the last five months my younger brother, Charles, fought a glioblastoma. A glioblastoma is an aggressive malignant brain tumor. At age 43, he lost this battle on Friday.

I despise cancer!

I want to take the high emotional and spiritual road that says, “This was for the best. He is no longer suffering, etc.” He might not be but we – the survivors are.

Those that study grief tells us that there are five stages to the grieving process:

  1. Denial & Isolation: This isn’t happening, this can’t be real, I am dreaming, or similar thoughts run through our minds.
  2. Anger: We lash out at family, friends, co-workers, hospital or medical staff, God, or our loved one who is suffering.
  3. Bargaining: We try to regain a sense of control. The “if only” stage.  If only I had had more regular check-ups, If only we had _______________.
  4. Depression: Depression over the financial costs of the illness and funeral. We begin to wish we had only spent more time with them and less time bring busy. We think about the deceased and intensely miss them.
  5. Acceptance: We know what happened is real. We have moved passed anger and worked through our bargaining stage. We still miss them and will still feel sad all along, but we are recovering. We focus on the good things our loved one left us and we smile, maybe for the first time in a long time.

Everyone moves through these stages at different speeds, some take very little time, others may take years. You may even experience more than one of the stages simultaneously. The best we can do as we grieve is to allow ourselves to experience the grief as it overcomes us. To quote the Borg of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Resistance is futile.” Resisting grief only acts to lengthen the time it takes you to go through the stages.

In other words, it is okay.

  • It is okay to deny the reality of the situation for a time. It took me a week or more to accept that my brother had a dangerously malignant tumor that would eventually take his life.
  • It is okay to be angry. Confession time. I am ANGRY at cancer! I am ANGRY that this world broken by sin and Satan takes life.
  • It is okay to bargain and try to control.  I have wondered if I should have seen changes in my brother’s personality that are common with glioblastomas.
  • It is okay to be sad, to cry, to be depressed. I am here too. In moments of solitude I tear up. Writing this is hard. I think of song he liked, I see a meme of Kermit the Frog and I laugh and cry. Charles did a spot on Kermit imitation. I miss him.
  • It is okay to accept the loss. I think I have generally accepted that Charles is no longer living. I know life goes on for the survivors. I don’t like it, but I know.

Let me thank you for your thoughts, gifts, prayers, and compassion. It truly means a lot to the family. As we get ready for a memorial service this Saturday, please keep us in your prayers.

Death is a part of life. Allow me to put on the “preacher hat” (I never really take it off, but you know what I mean) and encourage you to ensure that you are ready for that day. In Christ, we may lose a battle, but He has won the war.

-Scott

A Shoulder to Cry On

Depression hurts.

Pharmaceutical companies are continually  running the-deepest-fear-we-have-the-fear-beneath-all-fears-is-the-fear-of-not-measuring-up-the-fear-of-judgment-its-this-fear-that-creates-the-stress-and-depression-of-everyday-lifeadvertisements for different medications for the treatment of depression. Clinical Depression seems to be at near epidemic levels in our culture. If you are suffering from depression, please, talk to your doctor and take advantage of the help that is available.

Some depression is not as severe as others. Yet, when one suffers from any level of depression they need encouragement. When we are depressed we need to know someone cares. Even if I am simply feeling “down” or “blue” I need reassurance that someone cares. At times in our lives we all need a shoulder to cry on. When you and I have our moments of self-doubt or when we feel alone; remember:

  1. Your real friends careProv 27:9, “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.”
  2. Your family caresMatt 7:9-10, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?”
  3. The Creator caresRom 8:31-32, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
  4. The Savior caresJohn 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

I care!

I care, even if I do not know you personally. I daily pray for you as a reader of this blog.

-Scott

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

Now that the song from Five Man Electical Band (or if you are younger – Tesla) is stuck in your head, I want tosign talk about church signs.  Not the sign for the congregational name, but those marquee or digital message signs.

I have a love-hate relationship with these signs, although they don’t know it.

  • I love that they draw attention to simple truths. I hate that the message is so short that sometimes it miscommunicates.
  • I love reading them as I drive or travel. I hated when I had to help come up with messages.

One church sign I read said, “Directions to heaven, turn right, go strait.”  I followed these directions and ended up at a community college. Do you see what I mean;  these signs can really mess someone up.

If  you have a sign, please consider that drivers can only read so many words as they pass by.  Long quotes or long verses are hard to read and may cause traffic accidents. Now that I have this mini rant out of my system . . .

Yesterday I read one that, honestly, I liked. It spurred a lot of thought.  I did not have time to stop and take a picture, I wish I had. I did find a church sign generator online and made one.  The sign read,

churchsign

Just something to think about today.

Get active for God.

-Scott

 

 

 

Attitude of Gratitude

When is the last time someone sincerely told you thanks? Maybe they told you in person, or maybe the sent a note or card in the mail; whatever method they chose, you felt blessed. When was the last time you told someone thank you? You know how receiving thanks makes you feel, have you blessed another by saying thanks? together-we-all-say

Here are some people to start with:

  1. A teacher, whether your own or one of your children’s teachers. They put in great effort to educate your child. Tell them thanks. Especially those extremely special teachers.
  2. The one(s) who taught you the good news of Christ. Paul says in Romans that they have beautiful feet, in other words, they took effort to bring the message to you. Tell them thanks.
  3. Your spouse. Of all the people in your circle this is the one who puts up with you the most. Maybe I am just thinking of what Amy puts up with in me. Words cannot communicate how much I thank her.
  4. The cashier at the grocery, department store, dollar store, or dollar store. They never get enough thanks.
  5. The worker in heat, rain, sleet, snow, and hail who delivers your mail.
  6. The teller at the bank who has to deal with other people’s money all day.
  7. The one who held the door for you today as you were rushing in with full hands.
  8. Your local law enforcement who protects and serves at great risk to themselves.
  9. Your local firemen whether paid or volunteer.
  10. Military personnel – those who keep our country safe.

I’ll stop at ten (10) and let you add to the list . . .

Okay, one more. Thank you. Yes, you. Thank you for reading my posts and for your continued support. Thank you for commenting on Facebook, on the blog, and in person when we meet. You are a great encouragement to me. More than you will ever know.

-Scott

Romantic Marriage

  • “Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?” – Groucho Marx
  • “If you want to read about love and marriage, you’ve got to buy two separate books.” – Alan King
  • “A wedding is a funeral where you can smell your own flowers.” – Eddie Cantor
  • “I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.” – Rita Rudner
  • “If you want to sacrifice the admiration of many men for the criticism of one, go ahead, get married.” – Katharine Hepburn

celebrateromantic-marriageThese cynical quotes hint at one of the problems I see in many marriages. The problem of a lack of romance. Do you remember how you pursued your spouse? Men do you remember all the little things you did to impress her, to show her your love, affection, and care? Ladies, do you recall how you chased him until he caught you? If your remember all these things, why did this pursuit stop? Somehow after we “won” the hand on that beautiful young lady or that handsome young man, we stopped pursuing them – romance slowly dies. Romance does not have to die!

Long term, happy marriages keep the romance alive.

Others often say of these couples that they act like teenagers when they are together. You can see the love in their eyes.The following five points are to help you begin to rekindle that chase. If your spouse was worth the effort then, isn’t she (he) now?

  1. Make ordinary times extraordinary. This is not as difficult as it seems. Simply slip notes of encouragement and love into work papers or pockets so they can find it while they are at work. Call or text during the day . . . just because. Say “I love you,” with an embrace and a kiss at the end of the workday.
  2. Make time for special occasions. In other words, KEEP DATING. Leave the children with family or friends and go out on a date. This does not have to be a full, expensive evening. This can be a trip to a fast food place and a walk in the park or at the mall. Just take time for the two of you. Now that our son is away at college, this is easier for us.
  3. Practice spontaneity. I know that practicing being spontaneous sounds like an oxymoron, but stay with me on this. As couples we need to be prepared or at least be open to the idea of the moment. We need to realize we can drop what we are doing, turn off the game and do something together for a while. Whatever you leave undone to be spontaneous will be waiting when you get back and you can check the scores or watch the replay for that game.
  4. Show appreciation. Say “thank you” to your spouse. Thank them for: taking care of the children, for cooking a wonderful meal, for taking you out to dinner, for what they do around the house, for what their job provides, etc. Thank them for being who they are. Tell them you love them for being them.
  5. Be compassionate. This is as simple as listening to each other and showing empathy to their personal and work struggles. This necessitates kind responses and conversation. This offers and provides assistance when needed. Compassion is a practical demonstration of the love you profess

-Scott