Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Least of These

Every community has its own person that qualifies as a "least of these." Think about your family and I am sure you can think of at least one. If you are employed at a big enough organization or interact with enough people, you know a least of these. They are at your church, the parent of your son's team mate, the person you see at the grocery store. There is that person that everyone is as nice as they can be to them for short periods of time, but you can see them planning their escape. Tonight I sought out a least of these.

I could tell she was one almost right away. She was awkward. She was hard to understand. She was not voluntarily going to go away. She also had these Bible quiz cards in her purse and proceeded to quiz me for quite a few minutes (talk about pressure!). But I saw something else for the first time. I was an outsider making a first impression and the community that this least of these belonged to was watching me. They might not want to take the time with her, but they sure did not want to see anyone mistreat her. I made sure that they saw me intentionally not walking away. I was trying to be patient and really listen to what she was saying. I had to separate at one point, but I imagined what someone might be thinking if they were still watching. Look, she could not even stand her for long, how could she love her? I really doubt that is what anyone was really thinking, but they could have been. So I made the decision to seek her out. Not only did I find her again, I sat down. I remembered her name. I remembered something that she had said about her family earlier. From what I pieced together, she had an incredible story but just lacked the ability to tell it in a way that made sense. I did things that I usually am not able to do because I truly believe that God wanted to teach me a lesson with this precious least of these woman. If that community was watching, and if my experiences have taught me anything it is that you are always being watched, they saw that people from our church, including me, were showing love to the least of these. They saw that we were different because we really were interested in their lives. We made it a point to be friendly. We cared about more than physical food. We cared about them.

I promised my new friend that I would see her again. I intend to keep that promise. I am sure it was heard by more than just her and they are wondering if I meant it. I did. I want to go back. With God's help, I will remember her name. With God's help, I will remember a detail from her life that she told me tonight. In reality we are all a least of these at some point in our lives, but we have a God who loves the least of these. He chooses the least of these to carry out His plan so that it does not make sense to the world and He gets the credit. I am a proud member of the least of these and I am even more proud to have a new friend who is created in His image and who God used as an unexpected blessing because I was willing to pay attention to a "least of these." May He bless her as I have been blessed by meeting her tonight.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Be Intentional About Creating Intergenerational Friendships

As a young person who has a gift of obtaining and retaining knowledge, especially theological knowledge, I can fall into the temptation that I have this life on earth figured out and do not need help. I could not be more wrong. I would not know this if I did not feel convicted to be intentional about creating intergenerational relationships. I want to encourage all younger than fifties to find several older than fifties friends to live life with on a deeper level. I attended the funeral of a patriarch of his family and church this week. As I looked at those who were attending the visitation and funeral, I could not help but see the intergenerational mix that was present because this man had been intentional in creating friendships with many generations. He believed in living out the Titus 2 life and teaching young men how to become men of faith. He left a long line of godly men behind him and gave us hope for the future of male leadership in the church because he invested so much of himself in those younger than him. Since I was born into the church, I also could name older, godly men that had invested in him and taught him. What a beautiful thing to see that God has been faithful to provide a line of godly men in our church that ran through him, but it looks like, by God's grace and the obedience of His servants, is not going to end with him. Last year since I had a child living with me and this summer since I had multiple children living with me, I tended to think that I did not have time for many things. I was wrong. The problem is that I did not make time. I ended up spending more time than I had planned at the house of one of the ladies in the church. I was having problems with the child who was living with me and it seemed like nothing worked. It turns out that this lady had also been a single mother (and I knew that) and had some of the same problems with her son. She had many words of encouragement to offer, not just advice. I left thinking how in the church we seem to think that we need to pretend our child does not have problems or that our child is the only one with these problems. Guess what. In a church the size of ours someone else has struggled with the same issues we have with our child. Try to find that wealth of wisdom and encouragement. Older ladies whose children are grown, volunteer in the children and preschool ministries so you can spot that parent and child. Young mothers need encouragement and ideas. Give the encouragement first and ideas when asked. I know that as soon as encouragement was offered, I asked advice! So many times we say, "I do not have time." Guess what - many older ladies do have time and are willing to love on you and your kids while helping you. Seek out a second mother or adoptive grandmother for your children. Invite them to events so that there can be a second set of eyes on your child who love your child. Invite them over for dinner and let them help you prepare it. Cooking is much more fun with two instead of one. By the same token, older ladies, bake an extra loaf of bread and take it over. Cook a big pot of soup and call a younger lady up to ask if her and her family would like to help you eat some of it (boy, did I enjoy those surprise meals last year!). Now single friends, I am not going to leave you out. Guess what - you can do it too, even without experience with children of your own. Your schedule is a little more free to spend that extra time with someone older or younger. Learn to cook and share with a young family. Be the extra set of eyes on children and learn to love them. Go to visitations and funerals. Quick side note - I am glad that I was trained to go to visitations and funerals. I do not know if it is a Southern thing or a church thing or maybe even an American thing. What I do know is that I am encouraged to see young families bringing children to the funeral home with them and teaching them to show compassion for the family. Death is a part of life and should be taught in an age appropriate way to children. Also, compassion is learned and it is a great opportunity to teach compassion. Back to the topic at hand. Learn a craft and help others do it. Like to scrapbook? Find that mother in the church who is sending her child to kindergarten but still working on the baby book and help her with it. More can get done with an extra set of hands and extra eyes on the kids! Titus 2 tells us that we are to live our lives as teachers to the next generation. It is not too early to start. Our legacy is to lead to the glory of God and His faithfulness. He is faithful to create generations who follow Him when the generation before is obedient and faithful. One final thought - there is a period in your life where you are likely investing in the generation you are raising. That should be the priority for a while before you take on a mentoring role. Just know that there is an empty-nester out there who can help you make it through this time. There is a widow whose family has moved off and she wants nothing more than to be a doting grandmother to your children. There is a couple who wants to open their homes and hearts on a regular basis to your family. Make time for that. You may be called to minister to them through an illness, but also be the encouragement to them that they have left a long line of godly men and women who are going to faithfully serve once they are at rest in the arms of Jesus. What an encouragement the younger generation can be to those who are at the end of life and concerned that the work of the gospel may not continue. Be faithful and love others. Be humble and learn from others/teach others. When you are serving, bring someone else along with you to learn by example. Live out your theology instead of just learn about it. Once we learn to make time for others, we will figure out that we have time for what is important and will experience the blessing of living life together from the cradle to the grave.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why I Vote for Life

Some of you will wonder why I am writing this blog post after the election. I have been thinking about the subject for several weeks now and trying to determine the best way to articulate my views so that anyone can understand why I choose life over other social justice issues when I vote. Once I had determined how to articulate my position, I saw how negative people were being in social media, especially those on my friend lists, and I decided to post after we knew the results. I am a single issue voter. I determine my position in any given election for any candidate based solely on that person's position regarding abortion. I know that this seems irresponsible or irrational to some/most of you. However, I feel that this is the most biblical position to take. It is my conviction. The Bible is clear that the life of a child begins at conception. It is not a gray area. The stories of Jacob and Esau, Samson, David, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and ultimately Jesus (to name a select few) all support the position that life begins before the baby is born. Therefore, any abortion is the killing of a life. It is murder. Even worse, it is murder based on selfish and sinful decisions. I have not heard a case made for a selfless abortion. In case some of you are going to argue about the quality of life in the case of severe physical or mental disabilities, who are we to judge the quality of life that a person can have? We know that all life is precious. Plus, a doctor cannot really predict the potential of a child before it is born. In the case of rape, why should the child be killed for the sins of the father? Think of how special it could be to tell the child that what their father meant for evil, God meant for good. Finally the health of the mother is cited quite a bit as well. The problem with that justification is shouldn't a parent be willing to die to give their child an opportunity to live? It seems that abortion points to heart problems and often results from a mother finding herself in a scary place and making a decision that is difficult, yet sinful. Thank God that He is able to forgive and restore women who have made the decision! The Bible is also clear that the government and society is not to oppress the poor and is to take care of the widows and orphans. Poverty alleviation is a biblical goal for the government. I believe that many of my friends who chose other social issues over abortion are seeking to fulfill the biblical mandate to help the poor. I think that the problem with the governmental structure currently in place in our country is that it is set up as relief instead of developmental and therefore further oppresses the poor by making them dependent on the government for survival. Since it will take too much space to explain what I mean, I would refer anyone interested in reading about relief and recovery versus developmental and how relief becomes oppressive in the book called When Helping Hurts. It is not an attack on the American welfare system (in case that scares some away), but more of an attack on how Christians have been assisting the poor at a church level. Knowing what I believe, I have to choose between the pro-life stance on the right and the social issues stance on the left. I have chosen to vote life over social justice. I cannot legally prevent a woman from having an abortion to protect the life of the unborn child without the help of the government. I can counsel. I can pray. I can offer resources. However, the decision is ultimately up to the woman, and I believe that abortion is like any murder and therefore should be legislated as illegal. The child should not die for the sins of the parents. It is as simple as that. Poverty and social issues are different. I can do my part to alleviate the poverty of some or all of the persons I encounter. I can feed the hungry and clothe the naked. I can open my home to provide a place for someone to stay. Some in poverty are reaping the consequences of their choices in life. For those, I should show mercy where appropriate. Some are in the situation due to circumstances beyond their control, and for those I should be an instrument of justice. I cannot support a government system that is oppressive to those in poverty. The current system keeps the impoverished in poverty because they are constantly in fear of making too much money to have the benefits taken away instead of learning and taking pride in living independent of government assistance. I do not know the answer to welfare reform. What I do know is that I am responsible as a human being and a Christian for each person in poverty that I meet and therefore I have to do my part. I also know that the government has to have something in place to keep from oppressing its citizens. Politicians cannot buy the votes of babies with benefits like they can the votes of the poor and oppressed. I often feel like my vote is being bought with a promise to protect the life of the unborn, but I would prefer to err on the side of standing against murder and using other means to alleviate poverty. Social justice issues are not as clear cut as abortion. If I am ever presented with two pro-life candidates for president, I will be forced to think deeper about social and economic plans. Until then, I will continue to vote on the single issue and the party that is most likely to defeat the party taking the opposite stance, whether that be Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or some other independent candidate. I will also continue to try to alleviate the stresses of poverty for the impoverished I encounter. Finally, I will put my hope in God instead of the government because He is the only one who can provide for my daily needs whether He chooses to use the government or some other means. If I put my hope in politics or religion instead of God, I am putting my hope in the wrong place and sinning. If I have a selfish motive instead of a pure motive, I am sinning. I only pray that my motives can be pure and I can walk this journey staying true to my convictions so long as they line up with God's word. The methods used can be disagreed upon at times, but the biblical mandates remain the same - to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.

Monday, April 2, 2012


I have probably written on the topic of forgiveness before, but since unforgiveness continually pops up in this life, I can never write enough about forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of those lessons that is painful to learn because it can only be learned by forgiving. You have to be sinned against in order to learn to forgive. In our human relationships, we are constantly being sinned against and sinning against others. Some sins are more painful than others. Some betrayals run deep. At some point we are all faced with the need to forgive.

There is a common misconception in the idea of forgiveness. I have noticed that us humans tend to see forgiveness as something we do for ourselves. We think that we need to forgive to keep ourselves from becoming bitter. We think we need to forgive to heal our own hearts. Although a true attitude of forgiveness will result in a healed heart, this is not the purpose of forgiveness. The purpose of forgiveness is to restore our relationship with God.

When we have an attitude of unforgiveness, our heart is sinning against God. Our heart is telling God that the sin someone else committed against us is worse than the sins we have committed against God. We put our pride ahead of God. We fail to see the correct perspective of our own sins. The absolute worst sin someone has committed against you cannot compare to the sins you commit against God on a day to day basis. This is a difficult realization to come to when you are on the path to forgiving others. No human wants to admit or even come face to face with the magnitude of the sin that we commit against God. However, when we have a heart of unforgiveness, we are sinning against God. The bitterness and discontent in an unforgiving heart comes because our heart is sinning against God. Unforgiveness affects our relationship with God. We cannot draw close to Him because we are not being honest about our own sinfulness.

Forgiveness is not easy. It is never easy to confront your own sinfulness so that you can put the sins of the other person in perspective. The Holy Spirit must give a spirit of conviction and humility to the person seeking to forgive. It is not a pleasant process, but it is a process that leads to a closer relationship with God. Only then can the heart begin to heal because the most special relationship is being restored. Only then can the Holy Spirit begin to reconcile relationships. Only then will the forgiver reap the benefits of the forgiveness. So yes, forgiveness is the only way to make yourself feel better, but it is not the purpose of forgiveness. Forgiveness has to flow from a heart of gratitude towards God for His willingness to forgive us when we have sinned against Him.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Trayvon Martin

This post is barely coherent, and if I took more time, I could probably make it make sense. One of the things that has struck me about the Trayvon Martin story is that it seems too many (mostly white) people are refusing to see one of the real issues in this case. A black boy who was doing nothing wrong was basically chased by a man who thought he was doing wrong based on an irrational fear. Although I understand that there may have been some illegal activity in the area in the past, this man chased this boy down instead of allowing law enforcement to check the boy out. The boy was guilty only of walking to the corner store to buy a snack in the rain, and wearing a hoodie to do it.

This police department failed both the victim and Zimmerman by failing to treat the investigation as a homicide until the defense of self-defense was proven. Self-defense is just that - a defense to a killing. The investigation should have been conducted as if there was a homicide, and leave it to the DA or a jury of Zimmerman's peers to determine if there is a sufficient self-defense argument to determine if the case should be thrown out. This police department acted as a jury and accepted the credibility of Zimmerman on the scene instead of collecting evidence. Now Zimmerman is being tried in the court of public opinion, which is never a good court to be tried in. Martin was failed by the police department because he was treated differently than another victim would have been treated.

One thing that I think that most white people do not understand is how they react when they see a black man or teen walking around them. Do you pull your purse closer to yourself when you see a black man but not when you see a white man? Do you automatically assume that a black person walking through your neighborhood is up to no good but do not think twice about the white person? Those actions are based on irrational fears of a person who is different from you. If you are a white woman living in the South, a black man is very rarely going to do anything to you because they understand that it would be a max sentence if they did. You do not need to fear "them." They may speak to hit on you, so just politely respond declining the advances. Do not fear someone just because of their race! It is ok to watch someone you do not know in your neighborhood to make sure they are not up to something, but it is not ok to track them down with a gun so that an altercation ensues and someone ends up dead. It is ok to be vigilant, but not ok to have irrational fears that someone is up to no good because they are dressed in a hoodie or any other way.

I realize that I come from an entirely different perspective than most people I know because of my life experiences. I cannot help but think though that one of my innocent boys (and I have a few of those) could easily be Trayvon. My boys look like him. My boys walk to the corner store for snacks like him. My boys even wear hoodies in the rain like him. My boys would probably fight if they were followed like him. The police department probably would not do as thorough of an investigation if they were shot like him. If the tables were flipped and one of them followed Zimmerman and acted as Zimmerman did, there is not a doubt in my mind that a proper investigation and arrest would have occurred at that time. Our society values certain lives above others, and you can see it the most when those who are valued least are victims instead of perpetrators. It is time to do a reality check as a whole and start addressing the irrational fears. I think some are learning from Trayvon, and at least his death will not be in vain if some change their irrational fears. Justice will not be served because we are humans living in a fallen world. However, maybe change will come in the way that certain victims are treated and how some laws are applied. And maybe we can overcome some of our irrational fears and not take matters into our own hands.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


One thing that hit me today as I read a letter from prison quoting Paul who wrote the verse quoted while in prison was that we benefited from Paul's imprisonment. If it were not for the imprisonments that Paul experienced, he probably would not have slowed down long enough to write letters. Paul was able to devote the time to writing letters because he had time on his hands. He was not preparing for the next sermon or dealing with church issues, but was able to devote time to the letters and to conversation with those around him at the jail. I am sure that I have heard this before in sermons, but it is something that seems to be more clear to me today.

One thing that prison gives a person time to do is think. One of the things that I think some of my boys needed was time to think. In the past when they have started thinking, they have done things to try to push out the thoughts. Although some of those things are still around in prison, they seem to be concentrating on good time more than trying to dull any pain. One of the brothers of both Guy and James are in jail right now. I heard from both this week. Their letters have a much different tone than the boys I saw before they went to jail. One thing I noticed in both - hope. They have thought about the future, and are planning for it. I think that one of them is finally ready to leave the old life completely behind. I pray that he continues toward his goals. I know that I am grateful for the words I have read this week. I am also glad that they know that there is still someone who has hope for them as well. I love my boys!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Something Changed

The biggest change I think I have experienced between Guy's murder and James' murder - I don't even care who the shooter(s) is/are or whether they are ultimately tried for the crime. It is sometimes easier to not know and not put a face on the killer. I have barely given the shooter(s) any thought except to think about how I am not thinking about them this time.

I remember telling my pastor this summer that sometimes when a family learns who committed the murder, it is more difficult to deal with the death. When a family in our church learned who the murder was of their family members, that was proven true for them. It was true for me when Guy was murdered. I hope I never learn who did it to James because of the extra layer of emotions that it causes. His death is hard enough to deal with without knowing.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Six Flags 2002

If there was one day I wish I could have captured on video so that I could watch it over and over again, it would be the day that the Center kids went to Six Flags in 2002. I remember bits and pieces of that day. I ended up with a group of four boys - I always get along with the boys better. One in my group was too short to ride many of the rides. I noticed his pouty-ness and decided I would not ride the ride if he could not ride it. I spent a lot of time with him that day. I also made the rule that we had to alternate rides between the ones he could ride and the ones he could not. My reward was some hand holding and lots of smiles. He was my buddy that day. My little sidekick. He was one sweet little boy.

Later the younger kids went back to the Center and I volunteered to stay with the teens. I assumed the older kids would not want me around. I was wrong. When they saw me they asked where I had been, and forced me to walk around riding rides with them. I say forced - I am sure I was easy to convince. One of the boys made me sit on the outside of him on a spinning ride. This resulted in him being pressed up against me for the entire ride. Another boy kept saying he felt like he was going to be sick causing me and my ride partner to laugh so hard we were almost crying. We got along that night. We were friends.

Now both of my ride buddies are gone. I said goodbye to the teenager - Guy - almost three and a half years ago. My short boy grew up - taller than me, but did not get to become a man. I will be saying goodbye to James this weekend. There is one day in my memory that unites them and it was that day at Six Flags. Sure, I remember them being around me together at other times, but this day was a special day. I am thankful for the precious memories. I am thankful for that day at Six Flags nine years ago. For the moment, it feels like it was yesterday.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

James Wells

May 1, 1994 - August 26, 2011

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21b

Friday, August 26, 2011

Camelbak Water Bottle

I am not an environmentally concerned person. I am not one to really worry about the amount of trash I have. I do not recycle regularly even though that is available here. However, since becoming self-employed, I realized I was going through WAY too many bottles of water. While at the firm, I had a seemingly unlimited supply of cold water that claimed to be spring water and had very little taste. I do not like the taste of the tap water here so I became a bottled water addict once I entered the world of self-employment. I began to notice that I had too many water bottles everywhere waiting for the next trash day or recycling, and I would refrain from drinking water just because I did not want to throw away more bottles.

One day while shopping Target I ran across this water bottle:

I bought it on a whim, and I have been pleased with the purchase ever since. Due to its price and the price of the filters, I don't think it is cheaper (or it will take a while for it to be cheaper) than bottled water. However, I have noticed my water consumption returning to the pre-self-employment levels. The water tastes filtered coming from the bottle. The bottle is a convenient size. The filters supposedly last three months, and my experience has been that it was pretty close to the three month range before the taste suffered, and I think I used the first filter exactly three months (bought in late March/early April and changed in July). The filter system is easy to use. I have carried this bottle on trips, to camp, and all over the house. It is definitely a good alternative to drinking lots of bottled water. I still keep bottled water around for guests or to make Crystal Light since it is the act of using the straw to take a drink that filters the water. Additionally, the Camelbak, since it is a filter, is not made for flavored drinks, just water. Overall if you are a water drinker, I highly recommend this water bottle. I think it is worth the price for a single person drinking 3-4 bottles of water every day.

*The picture is a link to the Amazon listing for this water bottle. I bought mine at Target for a little bit more than this one, but I did not have to wait for it to ship. Also, my bottle is the charcoal bottle instead of like the one in the picture.