Thursday, May 25, 2006

Praise More - Complain Less Pt. 2

Praise more, Complain less pt.2
Scripture: 1Thessalonians 5:18

Let me share with you this scripture in it’s entirety. 1Thess. 5:18 “In every thing give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”. Now lets look at it in the Amplified Bible Version “Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you, [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. Now, let me ask you, why don’t we thank God FOR everything that comes into our lives. Well first of all, there is another whose sole mission in life is to steal, kill, and destroy everything God said is good. St. John 10:10 reads “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”.

The thief, our personal adversary, the enemy of every soul is satan. And his goal is to steal our hopes, our dreams, our joy; to kill our bodies with disease, kill our children and love ones with violence; and destroy our marriages, our careers, our reputations, and so much more. To often we blame God for the acts of satan, when our Heavenly Father is actually the one who is restoring, healing, and placing the broken pieces of our lives back together. There are many people today who have turned their back on God the Father, because they blame Him for the loss of a loved one, or some unfortunate tragedy. That blame allows the evil one to steal our joy, and hinder the healing process. When my sister Donna died at age 42 of a rare bone marrow cancer, I could have easily become bitter and blamed God for my sister’s disease, her pain and her eventual death, but I choose to praise God for His mercy, His compassion, and His grace.

My sister and I learned to praise God together through our tears. I didn’t thank God for the cancer, but my family and I praised God through the cancer and the loss of my sister. Praising God in the midst of your trials and suffering creates an atmosphere for God to dwell and become apart of your hopes. Psalms 22:3 tells us that God inhabits the praises of his people. Praising God invites Him to join you in your trial, your pain, your difficult situation, and though He may not change the eventual outcome, your praising Him allows Him the opportunity to change you to handle, to adapt, and to shoulder the eventual outcome. Most people who know me well, know that the cars I drive are usually high mileage and usually on their last legs when they are purchased. Therefore they usually last 6 – 8 months and then they stop running and I’ll buy another one for about a thousand dollars and drive it till it stops running, but here’s the point.

Every time one of those cars break down and die on me, I just jump out the car and, NO! I don’t start kicking the tires, I start shouting and praising God because I know that God is going to bless me with something better. I have had cars break down on the highway and people passing me would give me the strangest looks because the hood is up on the car and I’m just dancing, and praising God because of His goodness and His grace.

So when things in your life are not going the way you would like, I want to challenge you before you reach for the Tylenol, or Excedrin, or Jack Daniel’s, to try taking 10 doses of hallelujahs, that’s right say hallelujah 10 times, out loud, and see if the corners of your mouth don’t began to turn up. And for extra strength, start counting your blessings one by one and give your Heavenly Father the praise and thanks giving. After all it is His Will for your life…

So, Praise more and Complain less…Be Blessed

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Praise More - Complain Less Pt. 1

Praise More and Complain Less Pt. 1
Psalms 150: 6 KJV “Let everything that has breathe praise the Lord!!!
1 Thessalonians 5:18 In all things give thanks..,this is the will of God…

Ahh, to inhale and take a breathe, and… PRAISE THE LORDDDDDD!!!! WOW!!! What a WONDERFUL!! NEW DAY!. Begin your day praising God and giving Him the glory He so richly deserves. Let us begin our day waking and walking in the will of the almighty. Now, what was the first thing you said when you woke up this morning? Did you give God the praise and the glory for a new day, a new beginning, a day full of new opportunities and possibilities.

Or did you wake up and mumble under your breathe, “It’s going to be a lousy day”, or “life is not worth living” or “DANG!!! I can’t feel my legs!!!” ( just kidding, on that one). But come on! Snap out of it. Perhaps the things going on in your life are somewhere between hum drum and oh well. But you can change that! Life does not have to be a life absent of joy, a life without meaning, a life empty of purpose.

To begin to effect a positive change in your life is as easy as opening your mouth. First, begin your day praising God! Do you honestly ever listen to the words that come from your lips? Try this, count how many times you speak words that are complaining and murmuring about some need or problem or another person, and then count how many times you speak words that count your blessings, praise God, or that acknowledge you are still blessed in spite of how your day is going. Tally your totals every four hours, and at the end of your day, check your totals and observe how many times you spoke words that were edifying (lifting up another’s need).

Words that were positive (compliments, praise). Words that blessed someone (you prayed for them, interceded for them, said something nice about them). Words that praised God (words that began with “Thank you Lord for…”).

Then compare that list with how many times you spoke words that complained and murmured. Words that were spiteful, and scornful. Words filled with fear and worry. Words that hurt. Hmm, I guess all of us can use some improving on the things that we speak.

Proverbs 18: 21 shares a spiritual law that impacts our lives everyday. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue. And those that love it shall eat the fruit thereof”. Let me say it in words that you will completely understand. In our court system, man’s court of law, before a person opens their mouth and incriminates themselves, the police have to read them their rights, well, in God’s court room concerning spiritual law, the same is true…what you SAY, can and will be used against you.

Therefore, Praise more and Complain less. After all, it is the will of God, 1Thessalonians 5:18, to give thanks IN all things. The scripture does not say give thanks for every thing that happens to you, but while you’re going through some things, Praise Him. Praise God when things are not going well. Praise God in the midst of your trails. Praise God in the midst of your struggles. Praise God in the midst of your difficult and trying circumstances.

Praise God and trust God to comfort you, strengthen you, console you, guide you, and restore you as you go through the storms of life. Walk in His will for your life and , Praise more Complain less…Be Blessed.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sunbury OH.: Blessed Through Adversity

Get a glass of milk and some cookies and enjoy the story : )

I was invited to Phillips CME church in Akron, Ohio to Rap for the young people on Saturday and preach the morning message on Sunday. Everything went well, and I got on the road late that Sunday afternoon to go home. I got about 100 miles down the road and decided to get some gas. I was 22 miles from Columbus and still about 400 miles from my home in Madisonville, KY.

I filled the car and got back on the enter ramp to 71 south. Just as I was about to merge with traffic, I lost power in the car and I quickly pulled over to the side of the road and turned the car off. I got out and there was anti freeze all over the ground. Now I had a blown hose before but could not figure out why the car lost power. There were no oil leaks, and the levels in the transmission and engine were good. But when I checked the fluid on the ground, it felt like it had a mixture of anti freeze and TRANSMISSION FLUIDDDDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!.

Oh well, now I know why I lost power, but I still didn’t know why the transmission fluid was in the anti freeze in the first place. Well I called my shade tree mechanic back in Kentucky, Terry Perkins. (actually Terry is an awesome mechanic).

And Terry told me that the anti freeze runs through the transmission to keep it cool and it sounds like the coil in radiator has ruptured and I'm getting anti freeze in the transmission and transmission fluid in the anti freeze. Duhhhhh, so does that mean I'm stuck here in whoknowswhere OHIO!. Terry said, in his best Nebo, KY accent... yep! So I got back in my car, and the Lord and I had a goooooooooooood talk. I said, ok God, I've spent most my life helping people off the highway, and I've never broken down before so far from home.

Therefore, HALLELUJAHHHHH!!!!!!! Lord! You must want me to bless someone while I'm in this predicament. Ok Lord, so who needs a, that was my conversation for real, because you see I knew the Lord had my situation taken care of, so, I didn’t have to pray about it, I just wanted to know what He wanted me to do while I'm waiting for the car to get fixed.

So I sat there on the highway and an Ohio State Trooper pulled up and I explained the situation to him and he said he would call me a tow truck. Well it's going on 9pm and the tow truck comes and after he hooks up the car, we make a U-turn and he asks me where I want to go. Well, there was a sign that said Delaware 12 miles, and then a marker that said Sunbury 4 miles. Well since I’m paying the guy by the mile, that choice was easy SSSSSSSSUUUUUUUNNNNBBBBBBUUUUURYYYYYYYYYYY!

On the way to Sunbury I asked him if he knew of anyone that worked on cars and he told me the town had one auto shop, and as far as he knew they did not work on transmissions and were not opened on Mondays. Hmmm, was about all I could think of at the time, but I was still staying focused on the mission. I'M BROKE DOWN AND IN THIS SITUATION BECAUSE SOMEBODY NEEDS A BLESSINGGGGG!!!

It only took a few minutes to get to Sunbury, the tow truck drivers name was Roger. He was a cool elderly white guy and as we approached Sunbury, I asked him if there were very many folk like me in Sunbury, he just chuckled and said he didn’t know for sure. I'm like WHATTTT!!! HE DIDNT KNOW FOR SURE! If he broke down in Harlem and asked me if there were any white folk in Harlem, I would just have to be honest with him and say HECCCCCCKKKKKKKKK NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...LOL. So I kind of got the impression ole' Roger was having a little fun with this thing. On our way into town we passed two police cars sitting at the neighborhood Dairy Mart, and Roger told me he would be glad to let those fellas know that I was sleeping in my car at Ruark and Sons Auto Repair on his way out. I really didn’t know if that was a good idea but Roger assured me Sunbury was really a nice small town and there was not a hotel in Sunbury.

We got to the Ruarks and after he dropped my car he checked their hours on the door and informed me that they will be open on Monday (thank you lord) at 6:30 but he was not sure when they would get to me. Hey, I knew God was in control and I knew it would be all right. It cost me $69.73 for the tow and I told him to keep the change about the same time he was telling me don't worry about the .27 cents. Roger told me that the Dairy Mart is open 24 hours and it was only about a block from Ruarks and two blocks from Town Square.

Well, I sat in my car for about 45 minutes reading a good book on Ephesians, and still thinking to myself that the Lord has me in Sunbury for a divine purpose, I decided to walk to Dairy Mart and get me a juice. Then I walked another block and sat down on a wicker chair in front of an antique store and drank my juice. I kind of nodded to all the passer-byers as they drove by and Yep!, I didn’t see any like me as I sat there for about a half-hour. My cell phone battery was about dead and I forgot and left my charger at Gary and Sherry Greens house back in Akron...duh. So I briefly called all the important people I needed to call and told them I was stranded, and I began to walk around the square back to my car to sleep for the night. The square was filled with dim lit antique shops and as I rounded my first corner I could see a light shining down the road in what appeared to be a pub.

As I got closer I discovered it was a Pizza Restaurant called Long Ranch or Longbranch Pizza. It was about 10:10 and they didn’t close till 10:30. So I went in and order some bread sticks and sauce. The store owners name was Tom and when he brought my order to the table I asked him how he was doing and he said great!. Then I asked him how was he feeling and again he said great!. I thanked him for my order, and he asked me why I asked him how he was doing, and I told him I was broke down and felt the Lord had me here for a reason. I asked if there were any hospitals around and he said no. And I said oh well, I know there is someone in need of a blessing. Tom sat down at my table while his daughter Shania was in the back cleaning things up.

I shared with Tom about my ministry in Kentucky and Tom shared with me about his relationship with the Lord and how the Lord was blessing his family and his business. Tom told me that Ruarks auto repair is also run by Christians and that I was in good hands. I thanked Tom and when I got ready to pay for the bread sticks, Tom told me not to worry about it, hes got it. As I got ready to leave, Tom told me he would be glad to give me a ride to a motel out of town, but I told him that I needed to be at the shop when it opened in the morning and that he would have to come back early in the morning to get me. So I told him that’s ok, I would be all right. Without hesitation Tom said, well why dont you sleep in my store tonight, it stays warm and you can watch TV and use the facilities if you need to.

All I could do was look at him and say thank you. Tom said no problem, just lock the back door on my out in the morning. I told Tom I needed to go back to my car and get my personals and Tom said he would still be here when I got back. I got my tooth brush and other items and when I returned it was about 10:50. We talked till almost midnight. I got to meet his daughter and of course I rapped for them and played my harmonica. Tom kind of grimaced while we were talking and I asked what was up. Tom said he had kidney stones and some times they can be very painful. He said he had already had two operations and had to have another one.

On my way to Akron, my car leaked so much anti-freeze from a broken heater coil, I had to stop in Louisville, KY and trade cars with my son. I told Daniel about the blessing and would let him know about his car latter. I slept on the long seats in the Pizza store and keep waking up because I didn’t want to be late getting back to the shop. I woke up at 6:30, freshened up and walked to Ruarks and Son. I got there about 7:20 and no one was at the shop. The first person to show up was a young man named Levi. This was his first day and the job and I helped him unload his tools. While unloading his tools Donna, one of the employees, opened the doors and took Levi in to fill out his new employee papers. A few minutes later, the owners Mr. and Mrs. Ruark showed up and totally ignored me. After I finally got their attention, everyone laughed because they thought I was with the new guy Levi. Duh, they dont want me under the hood of a car, they would get sued and I would be in Sunbury the rest of my lifeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

I introduced myself and shared with them what I thought the problem was with the car. Mr. Ruark told me his wife was a pastor and while he and Levi checked on my car we began to share about each others ministry. Pastor Jan Ruark is a pastor in the Nazarene Church and after I told her I had a prison ministry, she just lit up and told me she had a prison ministry also. She told me she helps women when they leave prison to transition back into the community by coming to a house she started called Rachel’s house, and then she yelled at me, "I know why God wanted you to stop in Sunbury so you can take the information back to Ky and start a home for men and call it Jacobs house". I just laughed and told her it sounds good, and she told me she would get me all the information I would need to start a home to help inmates transition back into the community.

Hmmm, as we continued to share, with more than a dozen cars on their lot, they put my car on the rack right away and diagnosed the problem, but everyone that came in the door while I was sitting there was told over and over again they would be able to look at their car on Wednesday. Wow, what a blessing. The business had wonderful Christian pictures hanging throughout the store and one in particular I just fell in love with. It was a picture of Jesus being crucified and I told Jan's son, Joe, I had never seen a picture like that before. Joe told me his dad brought it back with him from Arizona. I loved it. I told Pastor Jan about meeting Tom and that he allowed me to stay at his business, and told me that where my car was dropped was a Christian business. Jan told me that Tom was a Christian and asked me if I saw their sign on their door when the wrecker dropped me off. I told her no it was dark. Then she took me outside and showed me the sign and under the store title it read "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God", and all I could do was say thank you Lord.

That was until they told me the cost to fix my son's car $493.00 WHATTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT FOURHUNDREDAND NINTYTHREEDOLLARSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS LOL. Just kidding, but not about the price, it really was $493.00, but my response. I was like ok.

They told me they gave me all the discounts they could but the radiator split in two and that it needed to be replaced and the transmission cleaned out of anti-freeze. I told them I got paid $350 for my ministering in Akron and sold $100 worth of CDs, but I had just filled my car, -$20, and paid the tow -$70, and $40 of the CD money was in checks. So minus $130, it left me with about $320 in cash and I needed some of that to get gas on the way home.

Soooooooooooo, having already cut up my credit cards, I asked them if I could give them about $300 in cash and write them a (OUT OF TOWNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN CHECK!) for the rest. They said (without hesitation or even my driver’s license number) sure!. Again Thank you Lord. About that time Donna, one of the clerks said her shoulder was hurting and I asked if I could pray for it and she said sure. After praying for her, Pastor Jan went on her way to Columbus to her church, and about the time she left Tom comes in and asks if everything is going ok. I told Tom he was right, this was truly a Christian business and that I am truly blessed to have broken down in Sunbury, Ohio.

Tom told me he was on his way to open his store, and as we shook hands and embraced as he left, he placed something in my hand. Tom said he just wanted to support my ministry, and left a $100 bill in my hand. I just looked at him, and said thanks. I thanked God and told Tom I'm going to apply this to my bill because I'm a little short and how much I appreciated his kindness. Tom left and I decided to walk around town while they fixed the car. The square was antique heaven. I'm serious... there were at least two or three antique stores in each block.

I didn’t know it, but that wicker chair I sat in last night was also an antique in front of an ANTIQUE STOREEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank God it didn’t break on me. No wonder it kept creaking while I was sitting on it. The first antique store I went in was called Lindas 3. A very nice store. Killing time while waiting for my car to be repaired, I sifted through a display of paintings, pictures and antiques. After a few minutes of admiring all the great antiques in the store I saw a picture hanging on the wall that was the exact picture of Jesus I fell in love with at the repair shop. The price on the picture was $168 in the frame. So I asked the owner, Linda Powell, if she had another picture, but not in the frame. She asked me if I looked in the picture bin and I told her I had but not all of them. She began looking where I ended and PRAISE GOD!!!, pulled the picture from the bin that I had simply fallen in love with. I asked her how much and she said $30.

Gosh, I could give her the thirty dollars cash and then I would be $30 shorter than I had said I would pay for the car, or I could put it on the check, goshhhhhhhhhh, I just told her that I can't get it at this time because I promised all the cash I had on me to pay for the repairs on the car, but the next time I'm through Sunbury, I'm going to stop by and pick up THAT PICTURE. Linda took the picture, rolled it up, placed it in a tube, handed me the tube, and told me to take the picture and when I got home to mail her a check when I had the money. (speechless)
I spent the rest of the day, thanking God for allowing me to break down in...Sunbury, Ohio.

Twelve hours later and 400 miles behind me, I arrived home, not a dime in my pocket, but I was far richer than I could have ever imagined when I left home for Akron, Ohio. Though I arrived in Sunbury expecting to be a blessing to others, it was my soul that was truly blessed and touched by the wonderful people of Sunbury, Ohio on August 24, 2004. That day will always be Sunbury, Ohio day in my life. Be Blessed...Go

Monday, May 22, 2006

God told someone to...GIVE ME A VAN!

For the past 5 years I’ve been part of a ministry team that has gone to the prison once a year to minister to the inmates at Vienna Correctional Center, a state prison in Illinois. At one time we were called the Emmaus Walk, but it’s now called the Great Banquet. After two years of going to the prison with the team, the Chaplain asked if any of the team wanted to volunteer to come back to the prison to minister to the men at their convience.

Well, I volunteered to come twice a month, every other Friday, to teach bible study and worship with the men. I did this for about a year and then felt the Lord leading me to go every Wednesday night and I have been doing this for the last two and a half years. Then the Lord put it on my heart to come every Wednesday night and one Saturday a month, and before I knew it I was asked by the Warden if I could perform weddings and I’ve been doing that for about a year. December 2003, the prison put me on contract for a minimum of 12 hours a week to minister to the men at Vienna and the first time offenders at a boot camp down the road in Dixon Springs, about 8 miles from Vienna.

In my travels over the past 4 – 5 years I’ve probably gone through 8 or 9 cars, honestly. My Social Work team at work will tell you, I’ve said it a thousand times that I refuse to buy a new car to go in debt. I’m trying to hard to pay down the bills I have already accumulated. Therefore when a car dies on me, I shout and praise the Lord because I know He’s going to give me something else better. Most of vehicles I purchase range from $400 to $1200. Cash and carry, and I drive till they die. I’ve been doing this for several years now. Now, my volunteering at the prison over the years has certainly taken it’s own toll, after all the prison is 110 miles one way.
(here comes the blessing)

One of the men on the prison team from Madisonville, Bro. Barry McGraw, that I’ve served with for 5 years, called me in January 2004 and asked me how the ministry was going at Vienna, and I told him…"great!". He then asked me if I were still driving that 2 door Ford Escort, (that got hit by an 18 wheeler a year ago and wedged into a guard rail…another story…: ) and I told him sure. I told him it’s got 280,000 miles and still running good. “Well”, he said, “the Lord put it on my heart to do one of two things for you”. Of course I said…”what’s that?” He told me that the Lord told him to help my ministry by either purchasing me a vehicle or helping me to purchase one. Of course my eyes watered, I was truly taken back, and I told him that I didn’t want to incur more indebtedness, and that I would rather he purchase the vehicle than he help me to get one because I don’t want payments. “Well” he said, “I’ve been trying to reach you for two weeks, but I’m gonna have some folk to start looking for you again”.

He said “Now if I buy it straight out, it want be brand new, but it’ll be a lot better than what you’re driving”. Of course I’m still just stunned and said, ok, thanks. Three days later he calls me back and says, “Preacher!, when you get home from the prison tonight, stop by Bogess Chevrolet in Madisonville and take a look at the van on their lot. It’s a 2000 Chrysler, Venture and tell me what you think. I got in town about 11:30 that night and stopped by the car lot. Gosh, it was beautiful. My friend called me back the next day and asked me if I liked it, and of course my response was YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, So, he told me what we needed to do to complete the transaction. And one week later, my friend called and said preacher when you get in town stop by Bogess Chevrolet, and lets finalize this thing.

When I got to town, my friend had already taken the liberty to stop by my insurance office and give them the information so it could added to our policy. They called earlier to confirm the right amount of coverage. Then he took a copy of the insurance card to the courthouse and had the vehicle transferred to my name. So when we met him at the dealership not only had my friend paid, (I took a peak and saw the checks on the dealers desk), $5300 for the van, but when he stopped by the court house to transfer the van, he also found out how much the taxes were and there laid another check on the desk for $367 for the taxes on the van. My friends, I didn’t even have to pay the taxes. I signed the papers, he gave me the keys and after we gave everyone a hug and a thank you, I drove off Bogess Chevrolet’s parking lot in my new 2000 van, all I could do was say, Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus. What a mighty God we serve!!! And I still don’t have a payment. My friends, talk your faith. God is listening. Be Blessed…Rev.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Angel Unaware Pt. 4

Angels? Pt. 4
Scripture: Hebrews 13:2: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”.

June, 1992, Paducah Kentucky, Saturday afternoon, District Conference, St. James CME Church.

It was youth day, the final day of a three-day church conference. It had been almost four weeks since I left Frank on the eastbound ramp of the Western Ky. Parkway to catch a ride to Virginia. It was customary for the past few years for the youth director of the Evansville-Hopkinsville District churches to close the conference with a message at the noon service. I, was the youth director. My preparation was a little different this time than usual. In the past I probably would have looked through a stack of old sermons; fine tuned one, beefed it up a little, and delivered it with as much enthusiasm and vigor I could muster. But, meeting Frank a few weeks ago, had left a mark, a visible impression on my heart that had and would heavily influence my life and calling as a minister for many years to come. The youth choir sang several selections and then it was time to share the Word.

My friend Rev. Velma Thomas Fleming, a young Minister from Evansville Indiana, introduced me. As I stood in the pulpit I took out my harmonica and began to play a song for those in attendance accompanied by a contemporary Christian music cassette. I have been playing songs in church for almost two decades on my Harmonica, and some folk will not let me leave till I play at least one verse of Amazing Grace. After the selection I began to share with everyone a brief message about a person I had met on the highway a few weeks ago. I told them that too often we judge a book by it’s cover and you really don’t know the true substance of a person until you began to talk to the person, until you acknowledge they exist.

In the story of the Good Samaritan, many think when the Priest and Levite passed the man in trouble that that was an awful thing to do, but the real crime was not that they passed the man by, but after they saw the man’s need, they pretended that he didn’t even exist. I told everyone I picked up a total stranger a few weeks ago just lying on the side of the road late one evening waiting for a ride. I told everyone he was a white man, skinny, appeared to in his early 50’s and actually he looked more homeless than like a hitchhiker. But I picked him up and gave him a ride to my home, and the following day he went to church with me and my family. I told them that he spoke French, and his words of wisdom seemed to take on a life of their own. I told them the night before he left, I didn’t go to bed till after three o’clock in the morning, because I felt I was in the presence of someone who was truly walking by complete faith, and had an intimate relationship with his Heavenly Father.

I told them I had never heard a drifter or anyone speak about life in such simplicity. To look at his frail stature, many would have dismissed him as a vagabond, someone looking for a hand out, and yet he shared with me the only thing he had to give, his words. He gave me, words. Words that will live on in my life forever. Frank told me that as a society we raise our children to be the best they can be; the best student, the best athlete even if they’re on a team, we want them to be the best on the team. Then he said after years of raising our children in our institutions to be the best, to reach for the stars. They graduate from our high schools and our colleges thinking only of themselves, only of their self-interest, but now we want them to be part of a team in our work force, to blend in to society, to think of others and work side by side with their fellow co-workers to achieve a common good. Frank said we needed to start teaching our children early how to get along and work along side with their neighbors.

I told them that Frank told me to stop trying to understand people, and that God has called all of us to love one another, not understand one another. I told everyone that the Words of Jesus came to my mind when Frank was talking to me, “Love ye one another as I have loved you” (St. John 15: 12). That kind of love Jesus is speaking of is unconditional, without strings attached, we simply love because it’s the right thing to do, not because we expect something in return. Agape love. Frank said trying to understand one another only builds walls between churches that are different, walls between communities, walls between people of different cultures and lifestyles. Frank said he doesn’t understand himself most of the time, how could he possibly understand another person’s life story, another person’s pain, another person’s baggage. Frank said he doesn’t have that much time, but he can take time to love them, and not judge them. I told them he was a chain smoker, and had a dry sense of humor, but he never wasted his words.

I told them my life has truly been touched and enriched by the words of this total stranger. As I took my seat my friend Velma said, “did you see him?” I said, “see who?” She said, “did you see him?” Again I said, “Velma, See who?” “The Angel!”, she said. To which I replied, “Velma! What Angel!” “The one in the balcony”, she replied. I laughed under my breathe and said “Velma, What are you talking about?” and she said, “While you were talking I saw an Angel in the balcony and I said who are you, and he said “I am the Angel that was with Rev. a few weeks ago”. “And then he told me to stop looking at him and to listen to you”. I told Velma I had thought to myself he might be an Angel, or that he could have been, but, I just dismissed it because he chained smoked and who ever heard of a chain smoking Angel. duh! I began to tell Velma more about my Angel unaware and we both just marveled that God had blessed the both of us with such a wonderful experience. Me with the experience and Velma with the revelation. Wow. I wonder if I’ll ever hear from Frank again. I just wondered………..Be Blessed….Go

p.s. (next…The Letter…welllllllllllllllllllll, if Angels can chain-smoke, I guess they can write also…: )
…coming later…: )

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Angel Unaware Pt. 3

Angels? Pt. 3
Scripture: Hebrews 13:2: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”.

A duffel bag full of knives, sharp chisels and crude home made tools didn’t appear to be the kind of things people carry with them on the road. Could this guy be an escaped psycho-path or a chisel murderer or something. Frank told me he uses these tools to carve wood. Hmmm, so he reached into his duffel bag and pulled out a beautiful piece of pine that had been carved into two separate but interlocking hearts.

Frank told me that pine was a softer wood and easier to work with. I began to look more closely at Frank’s tools and each one seemed to have a character all of it’s on. One in particular caught my eye. It appeared to be a small, thin chisel, about 6 inches in length with a very sharp curved point. But the handle appeared to be made out of ebony with two quarter inch thick pieces of copper, wrapping itself around the top and bottom of the ebony anchoring it to the chisel. I thought, “simply beautiful”.

Frank pulled a few other carvings out of his bag, a spoon made out of maple, and an unfinished work made out of mahogany. Oh well, so much for my first chisel murderer sleeping under my roof. Everyone retired and all of us awaken early the next morning. While getting dressed I prayed a silent prayer and told that Lord that if Frank wanted to go to church with us this morning instead catching his next ride to Virginia, then let him initiate the conversation. Our early Sunday mornings were like Grand Central Station. Everyone fighting for the next chance to grace the bathroom, only to discover by the time it’s your turn we should have been on the road five minutes ago.

Hence, the mad dash to the car, seatbelts, and like a bat out of …, hmmm, like a dove descending on a june bug, we were on our way. : ) Frank simply observed the frantic pace of our household, and was very careful not to get in anyone’s way. As we neared the entrance ramp to the Western Ky Parkway, I told Frank he was in our prayers and to be careful as he traveled the highway. Frank said, “hey Rev., mind if I go to church with you this morning”. Smiling to myself, I said…”Great”! We arrived at church, customarily five minutes after the hour to start. Hurried in, jumped in my robe, the rest of the family headed for the choir loft, and Frank sat up front on the first row. All of our visitors filled out the visitor cards.

When it came time for the announcements, the church secretary, Mrs. Jones, read the visitor cards and all the visitors stood. When she got to Frank’s card, she hesitated, and instead of reading where the visitor was from and the remaining information, she simply said, “ It’s good to have Mr. Frank Baker with us this morning” and Frank stood up and smiled. At the close of service I asked Mrs. Jones why didn’t she read all the information on Frank’s card. Mrs. Jones handed me the card, and on the line where it asked for his address, he wrote, earth, and on the line where it asked for his home, he wrote, heaven.

I just chuckled and dismissed the whole thing as cool. After church we ate dinner with Robert and Jan Thompson family. Dinner was always great and all the children went outside to play afterwards. While watching the children playing from inside the house I told Frank my thoughts on the message our guest speaker preached during the morning worship. I told him I thought he could have emphasized certain points in his message more. And Frank said “Rev., you can only run, what cha brung”. I said, “huh”. Frank said yeah, he can only run what he brung. He can only preach or talk about what he knows. I said “Ohhh, I guess you’re right”. He said “nope, I’m not right, I’m Frank”.

I began to tell Frank about a member in my church that would always get mad at me and not speak to me, for no apparent reason. I told Frank I didn’t understand her. Frank told me “Rev., God didn’t call you to understand folk but to love folk. He said “heck, I don’t even understand myself most of the time, how can I honestly understand somebody else”. He said “I don’t know what folk have been through, and I don’t have to know or understand. I just have to love them”. I thought for a brief moment and said “ you know Frank, you’re right”. To which Frank replied, “I’m not right…I’m Frank”. We finished watching the children playing and as the evening drew to a close I told Frank he could spend another night in my home and I’ll be glad to take him back to the highway in the morning. Frank accepted and we all headed back to Madisonville.

It was late when we got home and everyone went to bed except for Frank and I. I sat down with Frank in the basement and he began to tell me a little about himself. He told me that when he is hitch hiking from one state to another he would often leave the road when he sees a church steeple from a distance to get some refreshment. But when he gets to the church he finds the doors locked and no one to offer any assistance. Frank said it reminds him so often of a story about Jesus and the fig tree. Frank said when Jesus and his disciples needed some refreshment after a long day, they saw a fig tree in the distance. When they got to the tree, there were no figs on the tree.

Frank said it’s the same thing when you see a church steeple from a distance, and you get there for some relief, some refreshment, and there are no people at the foot of the cross, no people around the church. Frank said I watched your children playing today while we were at the Thompson’s house. And as they played they were having so much fun. But when they started to keep score they started arguing and getting mad with one another. So long as they didn’t keep score they had fun, but the fun stopped after they started keeping score because…No one, wanted, to lose. Frank said, wouldn’t life be great if we didn’t keep score. I said “yeah, you’re right”. To which Frank replied, I’m not right, I’m” to which I interrupted him and said “yeah, I know, you’re Frank”. He just smiled.

But now looking back I believe Frank was trying to tell me that he did not want to receive credit for the tidbits of wisdom he was sharing with me, and when I told him he was right, I was giving him credit for something he didn’t want credit for. Frank was being humble. Frank showed me the correct way to hold a knife when carving, and to always cut away from my body. I took a few swipes and then retired to bed, but before I could say good night Frank looked at me and said “ The things you see are in disguise, Changing right before your eyes, and while you watch the ones you do, the ones you don’t, are watching you”. I stood there, thought about it, and in my thoughts I said…”you’re right’.

The next day I dropped Frank off where the Pennyrile Parkway and Western Ky. Parkway meet. I gave him a hug and thanked him for blessing my life. He just smiled and told me he was going to tell others about my vision for ministry. As I left him on the highway I felt as though I was leaving a brother behind. God had truly blessed my life with a kind soul. But it wasn’t till a month later, it was revealed to me, who Frank REALLY was…: ) Be Blessed

Friday, May 19, 2006

Angel Unaware Pt. 2

Angels? Pt. 2
Scripture: Hebrews 13:2: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”.

Have you ever really thought what an angel; one of God’s holy ambassadors from the heaven would actually look like. Long hair, short hair, jeans and a tee shirt or a shark skin suit, sandals, Nikes, or best dressed shoes, tall or short, walking or driving, flying, hmmm? Now, I honestly never gave it much thought. After all, during the days of Abraham angels appeared walking among the people dressed in everyday attire. They ate, drank, and held casual conversations. Hmmm, let me introduce you to the angel I picked up on the side of the road.

Of course at the time I didn’t know he was an angel. He appeared to be just another stranger in need of assistance. It was a full moon on a Saturday night and I was on my way home from Princeton Kentucky where I had spent much of the day with the members of a small Christian Methodist Episcopal church I was pastoring in 1992. As I got onto the entrance ramp to the Western Ky. Parkway, my headlights reflected what appeared to be the image of a man lying a few feet from the road. His head was neatly resting on a small duffel bag and I thought to myself, “that looked like a person lying there”. So, I slowly backed the car up, let my window down, and what do ya know, there was a guy lying there as though he had just checked in to a Holiday Inn.

I almost felt I was being rude waking him and asking if he needed a ride. Well, I asked, and he raised his head as though he had just awakened from a peaceful nap and said, “Sure”. Now I’ve picked up lots of hitchhiker’s over the years but I’ve never had to wake them up to see if they needed a ride. He had shoulder length sandy brown hair. He stood about five feet four inches tall, and appeared to weigh no more than 110 pounds soaking wet. He was dressed in blue jeans and a tee shirt, and a pair of well-worn no name tennis shoes. He picked up his duffel bag and got in the car.

I introduced myself to him as Rev. GoLightly, pastor of the Spillman Chapel CME church in Princeton, (I said proudly), and he told me his name was…Frank. I asked Frank where he was headed and he told me Virginia. Well, I laughed out loud and told him I wasn’t going to Virginia, but I would be glad to take him to a 24 hour truck stop in Morton's Gap where he could catch another ride, or at least have a cup of coffee before he got on the road again. He said, “Sure”. I began to tell Frank about my ministry and then he began to tell me how good his Father in heaven was.

I thought to myself, “Wow this guy knows the Lord”. Now, its not often I pick someone up and they began talking so openly about the goodness of God. Yet, Frank’s conversation about God was not as though he was talking about some distant entity that sat on a throne somewhere in heaven. It was as though he was talking about someone that traveled the road with him daily. Someone he knew on a personal and intimate basis. When he said the word father, it was as if he was really saying…Dad.

As we traveled the highway on our way to the Morton's Gap truck stop, I had already decided that I was not going to leave Frank at the truck stop that night, but give him an opportunity to get off the road and get a good nights rest in a bed. As we approached the truck stop instead of exiting, I continued driving towards Madisonville. I told Frank that he was welcomed to stay in my home for the night and again he said…”sure”.

I told Frank I’m always picking up hitchhikers and people in distress and just trying to make sure folk get home safe. When we got into town he asked if we could stop by Arby’s to get a large cup of coffee. And of course I said…”sure”. We picked up the coffee and headed towards my house. Well, Denise, my wife, was use to me bringing strangers to the house, but let me note that I didn’t say she was comfortable with it. And something about Frank made Denise a little uncomfortable. I told her that he sounds like he’s a Christian and after he gets a good night’s rest we’ll drop him back off on the highway on our way to church in the morning.

I introduced Frank to my wife and children and I showed him where the sofa sleeper was in our basement. I told him he was welcomed to use the bathroom and freshen up if he wanted. Frank was very cordial and polite. Denise didn’t take a liking to him right away, but my children thought he was cool. Frank showered and settled in for the evening. I gave Frank something to wear while his clothes were being washed. As Frank and I talked in the basement, he began to smoke…one cigarette…after another. Hmmm, and my wife is a respiratory therapist, I knew right then…THIS IS NOT GOING TO WORK!!!

But Denise said she could handle it for one evening and the smoke never really filtered its way upstairs. As Frank began to tell me a little about his travels, he opened his duffel bag and pulled from the bag a block of wood and large roll of felt. As he unrolled the felt, much to my surprise he had several knives and other peculiar instruments that appeared to be very, very, very, very…sharp. Well, my eyes got as big as little Debbie moon pies, and I asked Frank what he intended to do with those knives…and he said…: - )

Go to PT 3 For the rest of the story…

Be Blessed…Go