Spark Some Laughter In Your Life

Spark Some Laughter In Your Life

Susan Sparks is a breast cancer survivor.  A nurse where she was tested for cancer told her that the Lord would take care of her. Susan reacted with sarcasm, “I think the Lord should have started a little earlier in taking care—like a couple of years ago when these cells started growing!” When the nurse put her arm around Susan and once again assured her that the Lord would take care of her, Susan rolled her eyes and said, “He has never had breast cancer, so I seriously doubt that he has any idea of how to ‘take care’ of this!” In her book, “Laugh Your Way to Grace,” Susan is refreshingly transparent about the anger she felt when she first learned of this devastating news. Anyone diagnosed with cancer or any disease can understand her pain and anger.  But Susan soon learned that her path to healing wasn’t found in her anger.  She began to rise above her pain and transcend her grief through the power of humor. She remembers drinking out of a coffee mug that said: “My Oncologist Can Beat Up Your Oncologist,” and she had a magnet on the refrigerator that said, “Cancer—it’s not just an astrological sign anymore.”  I think the saying would have been funnier if it had ended with these words: “it’s just an ass.” Soon humor became the sieve that allowed her to see, hear, and bear the truth. I saw a video of a parent trying to feed a baby, but the baby wasn’t having the food from the jar. So the parent dangled an ice cream cone in front of the...
Thanks to Our Veterans!

Thanks to Our Veterans!

During the last month, our church veterans have been turning in their photographs. Most have given me pictures in their uniforms from their early days in service. Dennis Elrod actually took a current picture in his old Navy uniform. He said when his unit was discharged they were told to always have their bags packed and their uniforms ready in case they were ever needed again.  He said his bag was still packed, and his uniform was still ready! Many of the veterans in our church served before I was even born.  Some fought in wars I read about in history books. The pictures of these men and women are from every branch of service and from many different conflicts from Korea to Afghanistan. What’s striking to me is how young these men and women were when they committed themselves to service or were drafted into service. That’s the way it almost always. The military takes our boys when they are barely old enough to shave; our women when they’ve just attended their last senior prom. Within three months of training, they can be shipped out to a foreign land to protect our country and even die for a cause they may not completely understand. They must be willing to fulfill their duty to our country, to defend freedom and liberty. That much most seem to grasp. Because they do, our country remains free, and our freedom is something we must never take for granted. As parents who drove our 19-year-old son and dropped him off early one Sunday morning to be bussed off to Paris Island, my wife...
How Can You Hold Your Work in Proper Perspective?

How Can You Hold Your Work in Proper Perspective?

Most of us seem to have a love/hate relationship with work. We bemoan Mondays because we have to go to work, and we love Fridays because we get off of work. Yet, if we didn’t have a job, we’d be poor as dirt and depressed. It would be a major crisis for all of us. I have known people who have looked forward to the day they didn’t have to work only to discover they were miserable once they were not working and they soon found themselves another job. I have known people who were addicted to work, and I have known people who worked hard to keep from working. Work can be virtuous, but it can also lead to a life of dysfunction. What makes the difference? It’s important to keep work in proper perspective. One way to do that is by understanding what place God wants to play in our work. In Genesis 2:15, we discover work was ordained by God as a good thing. We can and should embrace work because God did and does. It’s safe to assume Adam and Eve sweated and were tired at the end of a day in the Garden of Eden and felt good about it. The garden was not going to just take care of itself. Part of the purpose God created humans for was to take care of creation. We were created to work, and work is part of what gave the first humans purpose and joy. If work was a part of Eden before the fall, we should expect work to be a meaningful part of our...
Every Flower Is Not Worthy of a Bouquet

Every Flower Is Not Worthy of a Bouquet

Every Flower Is Not Worthy of a Bouquet When I was a boy, on a hot summer day, I noticed some beautiful orange flowers growing along a fence near my home. I picked a lovely bouquet of them and presented them to my mother. While she was appreciative of the gesture, I was surprised that her response was not a pleasant one. What I was handing her were poisonous flowers from a trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) vine, more commonly known as a cow-itch vine. She gave me instructions to go and immediately discard them and then to come back inside and wash with soap and water. Thankfully, I didn’t suffer a reaction to the flowers potent toxins, which can cause a painful red rash to break out on your skin. I always remembered my mother’s strong warning never to pick them again. I saw a cow itch vine grow recently near the same place where I picked those blooms about 45 years ago. Since those days I’ve learned not to run after everything that looks pleasurable or pleasing to the eye. I’ve learned that not everything that looks pleasurable will give lasting pleasure. The Bible says that there is “pleasure in sin for a season,” but only a season. In fact, that’s how this entire sin thing got started—the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was “pleasing to the eye” (Genesis 3:6). Eve was duped, and so was her husband. Our senses can mislead us. Every flower is not worthy of a bouquet. Every fruit is not worthy to be eaten. Everything that is pleasing...
Building Space Into Our Lives

Building Space Into Our Lives

The secret to building a good fire is to put some space between the logs so the fire can get some oxygen.   Without proper oxygen, the fire has trouble burning. We all need to build some space in our lives to keep the fire burning. Otherwise, all the demands and duties of life will eventually choke out our creativity and our joy. Jesus often pulled away from the crowds. He built space into his days to pray, to think, and to plan. He took the disciples to Caesarea Philippi, a place where the springs bubble up to from the Jordan River. They join with waters coming down from the snowmelts from Mount Herman. There Jesus and his disciples could have some space from all the people. There is where Peter made his great confession that Jesus is the Christ. When we build space into our lives, we can often see and hear Jesus in ways that help keep the fires of our faith burning.   This summer, I hope you find some extended time to pull away from the normal routines of life. But if not, each day, build some space into your life so you can breathe in the fresh word God has for you on that day. cover credit: fanpop.com...
What Grace is About

What Grace is About

What Grace Is About This year marks my thirtieth year of fulltime pastoral ministry. In 1988 I served my first year of fulltime ministry with Dr. Hugh Kirby as the Minister of Youth at First Baptist Church in Hartwell, Georgia. However, my ministry started long before then.   I began preparing and preaching sermons at the age of 18. I came from a tradition where people believed that when God calls you to preach, you should be given a chance–the sooner the better.  Various churches started calling asking me to preach. I filled in for one church for a month until they found a new pastor. Then another small country church with about 40 people in attendance asked me to come preach at their church. Word about my “calling” had reached their church through a member that was a beautician in town.   Beauticians are not omniscient, but they know most things that happen in a small town. She happened to the matriarch of the church. Her son later called and asked me to come preach a sermon. After that, I kept going, morning and evening for two years until I left the area to attend college at Samford University at the beginning of my junior year. During this time, I was dating Tina, whom I eventually married. Most Sundays she attended church with me.   She supported my commitment to follow God’s calling on my life. This created a strong bond that allowed our relationship to grow. This gave me assurance that she was the person God meant for me to marry. Our marriage began with an unwavering commitment to serve...