Friday, November 30, 2012

Something about that name, always

What a week of dramatic reversals. Loads of life ...and the terrors and sorrows of an untimely death. Moments of real joy ... followed by sadness deep and complete. Life lived in the middle, though the swings would cause one's neck to whiplash if one allowed it.

Wait! That describes life, doesn't it? Life lived in the way, lived with the truth.

I think most of us want to be on that hill top, forever and a day. Barring that, and it must be barred because life simply isn't lived up there, continually, we would all settle for life somewhere in the middle, wouldn't we?  You know the type of day I'm writing of. The kind of day where you get up and nothing serious or painful or sad happens. Of course, nothing terrific, nothing surprising, nothing eventful, nothing special and new happens, either.

The awful mood swings that come with life lived in the middle of Route 66, come with the territory, I'm afraid. If we could do any one thing about those ups and stomach-surrendering downs, we probably would. I, I'm pretty sure, would love to live a straight-line peace-keeping and peace-giving way. Instead, once I was a criminal, now I'm a prodigal.

My God loves me so much He would gather me like a spilled purse and take me home with Him. That's simply the way of our God. He wants to lift and cherish. He wants the spills on God-aisle No. 4 done away with. He wants us to gently pour the cleaner, the blood of the lamb, onto us and be done with it. He wants it that way, and we wouldn't at all mind it either. But it doesn't happen that manner, does it?

Wisdom literature (primarily Proverbs) tells me this:

"Mark well that God doesn’t miss a move you make;
he’s aware of every step you take.
The shadow of your sin will overtake you;
you’ll find yourself stumbling all over yourself in the dark.
Death is the reward of an undisciplined life;
your foolish decisions trap you in a dead end."

Don't you love it when football teams explain why they lost a game? They give every reason imaginable (and they imagine it in many very different ways), and invariably those reasons don't include, oh, "we actually stunk the place up last night," or "we were very clearly the worst team," or even "Did you see the game? They played dramatically better than we are even capable of." Does the losing team ever simply admit they weren't close to being good enough? Seldom, if ever, would be my acknowledgment.

Lt life dictates that sometimes we simply aren't as good, aren't as educated, aren't as disciplined, aren't as worthy as our opponent, our friend, our competition ... for jobs, for grades, for whatever comes next. But we tell ourselves that life has just plain run over us, that we're not to blame, that our parents or our professors, or our competitors or someone out there in a tough, tough word is responsible.
Not us.
Never us.

We've stumbled in the dark because someone stole the light. We can't be blamed for the darkness if someone stole the light, can we?

We've fallen because others have caused us to fall. Others have done to us; we've never done it to ourselves. It's their fault, not mine. Heck, blame God, he made me this way, we tell ourselves. And the ridiculousness of that argument is that we actually believe it.

In the debate about government and its role as benefactor, I never read that some simply didn't earn their way, didn't try hard enough, didn't confront the evidence that speaks of failure not as a fault but as a character builder.

Life is lived in gray areas, out beyond the gifts of government and out beyond the gifts of benefits not earned.

What one does in the gray is dictated by many factors, but one of those factors certainly is how our decisions leave us. I'll tell you this: My foolish decisions have almost always trapped me, my spouse, our children. My mistakes have almost always stopped the momentum of life, love, joy and happiness. God forgives, but consequences that come from the mistakes in judgment and errors in effort are bone crushers.

It doesn't mean I can't get back up after I fall. It simply means that if I don't try, I'll remain there on my back and the world can't or won't help. I need to remember, as someone once said, the only difference between Christians and those of the world is that Christians get back up when they fall. I believe that.

There is only one way, one truth, and one life when that happens. At the risk of becoming cliched, that way, truth and life is this man named by a Jewish teen mother and step-father. They called him Jesus.

As we head into still another weekend, remember Him. Remember the smiles of his youth, the lessons of his teaching, the memories of Jesus blessing and keeping close to his mentor, his rabbi, his God.

Jesus. There's just something about that name.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The blaze of glory shined through the darkness

Imagine the stench. It literally grew on you, like so much fungus. The hills were alive with the, uh, smell of sheep. The stench grabbed the air as if it were carpet to be rolled or grass to be mowed. When you raised sheep, you raised the bar -- on smells, filth, etc. That was sheep-farming in Palestine. There was little glory in raising these creatures.

The shepherds didn't have to imagine. They lived the life. In their homes, where the sheep were housed during long, cold winters. In the caves of the area, where the sheep were kept if space was a problem. On and on -- up those scraggly hills and down those rocky mountains.


When my wife, Mary, and I were in Israel, we visited the field that tradition says the shepherds of the Nativity would have stayed.

The Message Bible says of these guys: "There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him."
The Message says they were singing; the NIV says they were saying. The point is about the same. Praises rang out. Above the cattle lowing and the sheep smelling and the shepherds quaking, praises rang out."
Imagine, please, imagine.
Last night I walked out of the parsonage and into the most beautiful of nights. The moon lay in the sky like a tired pup. Its glory, a laser-bright light that somehow remained a pale, quiet yellowish tint painted light over the town as if a can of moonlight had fallen from God's cabinet. A star rested to the left and a star rested to the right of the moon, somehow reminding me of the Holy Trinity, three in one, all in all.
When we finished with Club 316, our youth program, I stood in the courtyard of the church, letting the liquid-moonshine envelop me like winter's honey. For a brief moment, I imagined that night 2,000 plus years ago. I imagined the sheep and their racket. I imagined the darkness of the outskirts as shepherds tried to guide the younger sheep to the shadows of pens or even up rocky terrain as they searched for a cave they could call their own -- so to speak. I imagined as some of the young sheep lay down under the tumble brush, calling for mama with bleats and maaasss. I imagined the terror of God's glory "blazing," and an angel saying to not be afraid as if saying it would make it so. I imagined and the  very first first-alert message system going into effect, and angels in the air (IN THE AIR!!!!) blaring  over the God-based, angel-Pads the first Christmas carol. Granted getting things to sync back then must have been difficult, but ...
I imagined, letting the night roll over and through me, and like I suspect the first eve of Christmas was, suddenly the glory, the blaze, the light, the singing was done, gone, kaput.
Solidifying angel-lore, blazing angel-speak, sweet-angelic choirs and shaky shepherds being rather thankful that these angels have left the hills sometime during that long night, all these things were given as part of the first gift-swap.
Imagine, just imagine. The shepherds told everyone they met, the scriptures say. Still quite oderous. Still quite shaky. Still wondering what was in store for them.
Isn't that what lies ahead for most, if not all, of us? That's part of the Christmas story, too.
Let this Christmas be about perfect love running our fears completely out of the picture. Our church still has to deal with those types of fears, the kind that blaze and the kind that sneak up on you.
Let's pray: “O GOD, you aren’t impressed by numbers or intimidated by a show of force once you decide to help: Help us, O GOD; we have come out to meet this huge army because we trust in you and who you are. Don’t let mere mortals stand against you!”

"O GOD, let us be those who reflect that blaze of glory; let us be among those who seek your light. Let us, O give the light to those who are still surrounded by darkness this Advent season. AMEN."


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

And everywhere I go, I see you (always)

I was editing a story on a Saturday afternoon in September in 1997 in the New Orleans Times-Picayune newsroom, a massive concrete structure whose greatest memorable attribute was (and is, I assume) a strange tall behemoth  that points to the newspaper's name stripped across the top of the stone structure in blue lettering, when the Associated Press story came across the wire.

It read in part, "Rich Mullins, a popular Christian musician, died this past Saturday morning in a car accident in Illinois. According to the AP, he was thrown from a sports utility vehicle after the car lost control and flipped over. He was then struck by a tractor-trailer as the trucker swerved to avoid the overturned vehicle. Mullins, 41, and Mitch McVicker, 24, who as of Sunday was in critical condition, were on their way to a benefit concert in his hometown of Wichita Kansas when the accident occurred near Peoria Illinois."

Just like that, the man who had begun to lead me through the bitterness and weakness of early sobriety and early Christendom was gone. Over the years since, I've asked God repeatedly why I'm still here and Rich was taken. The world, in my mind, would be a much better place if he was still writing, singing and playing music. I do none of that. I lift up a very small group of loved ones, but I do not touch the numbers this great man did. It's that simple.

But I've come to understand that His thoughts are not my thoughts, and His actions are not my actions. We live and act on different levels.

Mullins wrote, among hundreds of beautifully structured songs that were unlike any before or since in contemporary Christian music, these words in a song called "I See You"

"And the eagle flies and the rivers run
"I look through the night and I can see the rising sun
"And everywhere I go I see you (Ev'rywhere I go I see You)
"And everywhere I go I see you (And ev'rywhere I go I see you)
"Well the grass will die and the flowers fall
"But Your Word's alive and will be after all."

Yesterday came the news via Facebook that Robert Chance had died. Robert was a great guy, a wonderfully loving pastor, the kind of person some of us would hope to become one day. A part-time local pastor, Robert worked at St. Timothy's On the Northshore as an associate pastor. I don't know what he did, but I greatly suspect he did it well. In all my dealing with him, I never knew him to do something half-way. He was committed, to his secular work, his work with the church, but it truly seemed to me he was most committed to this man we've come to truly know who we call Jesus or Yeshua.

Robert had led or helped lead a St. Timothy's group to Israel when he had a stroke. The fight for life then began, with the power and grace Robert had been given by the God he so dearly loved committing itself. Words, my understanding is, were hard to grasp after the stroke, and the operation to help take the pressure off his brain like many a notoriously dry field in Israel or a vein difficult to find. Once a wonderful and thoughtful preacher and teacher, I understand those words he spoke so charmingly were all but useless to him.

Again the suddenness of death, the quickness of tragedy, the swiftness of loss seems overwhelming, even as it did what is now 15 years ago amazingly enough. It is shocking that more than a decade has passed since Rich was taken from us. It is even more shocking that Robert Chance has crossed that River Jordan, figuratively and literally.  In the end, he was in an Israeli hospital with a few friends surrounding him, awaiting his family's arrival. He was ready for the end, an e-mail read.

A couple months back, I came across a story about Rich, a wonderful Christian who gave so much from his earnings that he lived in a small trailer on an Indian reservation in Arizona when he died. He gave and he gave, till cold, even cruel, death took.

Robert, at each and every opportunity I had to observe his tendencies, his warm smile, his gifts from a caring creator, mimicked much of those Mullinsian actions. He came, he loved, he gave, he left us to deal with loss of another dear fellow.

And Mullins wrote, "Lord You're leadin' me with a cloud by day
"And then in the night the glow of a burning flame
"And everywhere I go I see You...
And everywhere I go I see You
And You take my hand and You wash it clean
I know the promised land is light years ahead of me

And every-where I go I see you...."

Robert saw the murky catfish-filled waters of the Jordan before his death, I think. He saw them after his death. He sees them now. He will see them as we race after him. That's the promise ... every-where I go, I see You. That promise keeps me going on these dark, cold days of grief. Every-where I go. Every-where.

I see Him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

To whom would we go?

The writer of John's Gospel wrote these words to describe the confusion of the crowd of people who were listening to Jesus teach:
"...Then the People began to murmur in disagreement because he had said, 'I am the bread that came dwon from heaven.'
"...Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' they asked."
"...Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them,' Does this offend you?'
And finally, "At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, 'are you also going to leave?' Simon Peter replied, 'Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.' "

There are times when I am a pragmatist, or by way of the dictionary, a practical man. Not often, mind you, but there are times. There are times when logic grabs my collar and shakes me around and says to me that men don't die and rise again. There are times when it all seems to much, that desertion is a thought simply because I can't be what I think He wants me to be.

There are times when I look around me and know without question or doubt that I have wasted days and wasted nights, that I have wasted great sums of money, that I have wasted great opportunities. Wasted. Seen them come and watched as their backs were turned to me as they ran screaming from the arena I was playing in.

Jobs. Family. Times of great rejoicing gone in a millisecond with little to show for it. It just is or it was. There was a time, long ago, that I was something completely different than I am.

I watched the New Orleans Saints-San Francisco 49ers football game Sunday afternoon. The 49ers quarterback was a youngster who played collegiate football at what is now the University of Nevada. But 30 years ago it was known as the University of Nevada-Reno when I was a 29-year-old executive sports editor in Reno, Nevada. I was, according to the column written about my leaving in the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, one of the hottest young journalists in the country. I had six job offers in one year, and for reasons I don't actually remember clearly, I chose that one. Ten months later, after a real crash and burn caused by loneliness and my inability to handle a town that never closed shop (24-hours per day you could get into all kinds of trouble), I limped back to Jackson, taking a job as News Editor of the Jackson Daily News (an afternoon paper).

Sunday afternoon I wondered how those persons I worked with and for during those 10 months are today. I'm absolutely certain they would be shocked to see the transformation Jesus has made of and in my life.

I thought about who I was then, who I am now and who I will one day be judged to be by the Lord of my life, the one with the words of eternal life, and I thought about how little any of that meant to me back then.

It was about the career, having what I perceived to be fun, and struggling each day to not only make it in to work but to make it through work before the cycle started all over again.

The farthest thing from my mind was the Lord of Life, the beginning and the end, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Alpha and Omega. The farthest thing from my heart was the precious blood of the Lamb, which would one day save me for eternal worship of that King. The farthest element from the planning of my days was the idea that the bread of life was being offered to me; that the eating of the flesh would profit me; that the drinking of the blood of the innocent and perfect blood would enlist me in the loving army of Jehovah.

Nah. I had no family. I had no friends. I had nothing that would be of benefit to anyone else, including my own belief system. I was living an eternally damnable life.

I murmured, I complained, I regretted, I argued. The teaching was too difficult. The requirements too many. The changes desired too much to ask.

I was wracked with guilt but unable to do anything about who I was or what I was.

What is missed, I think, in this moment in Jesus' life (which might have been many such moments crafted into one chapter of John's Gospel) is what the bread of life truly is. In my mind, it's not about bread, sustanance, or teaching. All this is about Jesus. The man. The relationship. The love.

He feeds me with love.
He holds me in love.
He guides me by love.
He is love.

When I finally came to my senses, as the prodigal son did in scripture, I came back to earth and back to the South. Eventually, on my 42nd birthday, I came back to the one who treasured me the most.

Simon Peter said, "Lord, to whom would we go?"

I've never found an answer to that question that doesn't begin and end with Jesus.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Another day, another religious survey.

Evangelical Protestants have become more devoted to their religious beliefs over the last three decades, even as Catholics have become less attached to their faith, new research finds. The denominational differences come even as religious affiliations have decreased in America, with the number of people who claim no religious affiliation at all doubling from 7 percent in 1990 to 14 percent in 2000, said study researcher Philip Schwadel, a sociologist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Nevertheless, Schwadel said, these unaffiliated individuals seem to be dropping out of religious institutions that they were previously ambivalent about. People who feel strongly about their faith are as numerous as ever. "The proportion of Americans who say they have a very strong religious affiliation over time is very stable," Schwadel told LiveScience.

What's it mean? 

Depends on how you approach the word devotion, I suspect. And other terms must be explored, as well. First, there is nothing on Mainline Protestants, of which my denomination resides in. We're falling like flies, or at least the last survey of "us" said we were.

But again, I think it depends on what you mean by devotion. We're simply not as, uh, committed as we once were, I suspect. I've taken no surveys, done no research, just done some observation. And what I've observed isn't always beautiful.

We're heading into one of the two most important Christian times of the year, of course, and it will be interesting to see what that does for attendance in my three churches, since it is my first time here during the Advent/Christmas season.

Devotion is as devotion does, I reckon. But how devoted are we in a lifestyle in which we can gather the Internet into our hands with Smart phones and even watch football games on the thing? Everything we've done takes us away from the devotion we once had. 

I'm reminded of the Olivia Newton-John song, "Hopelessly devoted to you." Once we were.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Post thankful sag

The new song by Matt Redman keeps playing in my head, after a 3 hour trip to New Orleans on Wednesday and a 3 hour trip back yesterday.

"Praise the Lord, oh my soul, oh my soul, worship His Holy Name," Redman sings.

The 104th Psalm puts it this way: Praise the Lord, my soul.
"Lord my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

2 The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
4 He makes winds his messengers,[a]
flames of fire his servants."
I must admit that my soul sags a bit when we leave our children and grandchildren. I want so desperately to be closer to them, so close that we could pop in and see them on a whim instead of a plan.
But I guess that God has other ideas, for we're not that close and probably aren't going to be at least in the near future.
There are times I feel totally alone in our home in Eunice, La. We're 150 miles from everyone who I could call friend from just five months ago. We're building friendships in our new pastorate, but truth is, that takes time. Much time. There are great people in our churches, but ... they have lives and Mary and I have lives and so far the twain hasn't met much.
I trust in God that all the "great things that he's done for us, with us, to us in the past 17 years will be continued. The momentum we had at our churches, the best three months of ministry I've ever had or even seen, has slowed. Bible studies are slowing. Things aren't going as well as they had been.
But ...
"4 He makes winds his messengers,[a]
flames of fire his servants."
So, we go on in trust, knowing he is a faithful God. Knowing his grace will suffice.
And we'll see the kids again in three weeks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let there be peace, this year

When my wife, Mary, and I visited Israel about three years ago, we found there extremely nice people in such places as Tiberias, Jerusalem, the area around the Sea of Galilee, and Nazareth. They were used to tourists, and obviously recognized us as such fairly quickly.

Then we came to the day we went to Jericho and Bethlehem. To get there, we had to cross a border of such, a tall wall that was decorated with graffiti.

Guess what the people, the Palestinian people, were like? They were extremely nice. They talked about how poor they were. They talked about the problems they faced. They talked about that wall, at length.

What to do about and with Israel is a sincerely difficult question. Israel is a small, mostly dry area of about 8,000 miles or about the same land area as New Jersey.

It has ell, for one, just recognizing Israel’s existence is enough to push many people over the edge. At around 8,000 square miles, the state of Israel has roughly the same land area as the state of New Jersey,.

But the situation is that Israel has been a place of conflict and even ward since it came into existence in 1948. Even our tour guide talked about that.

Ironically, the only time I ever felt a degree of worry was when a teenager with an Uzi came onto the bus as we were at that checkpoint going into Palestinian land.

This week has been a particularly bloody time for the land that we call Holy. Rockets have flown, persons have died. Tourists, I suspect, have fled early.

Through it all, this country has stood by Israel and I pray will continue to. There are about as many Jews in this country as there are in Israel and we must never forget that.

Course (with help from Shane Raynor a wonderful blogger), there's also that whole end times thing. "Many Christians, especially evangelical dispensationalists, believe that the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and its subsequent capture of Jerusalem in 1967 are signs that we’re living in the last days. (Of course, when you’re talking about almost two thousand years since the Roman Siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple, “last days” is a relative term.) Some argue that people who hold rigidly to this “we’re in the last days” eschatology have created such a formidable movement that some unfolding events may really be self-fulfilling prophecies. As these end times “experts” have gained influence over the years, some have compared them to spectators at a football game who decided to join the game and influence the outcome," Raynor writes.

What to do about all this, one wonders?

I think the main thing is keeping the main thing in front of us. As we were outside the Garden Tomb, one of the two sites proposed as Jesus' resting place between death and resurrection, I noticed there a little sign. It said, "Pray for peace in Jerusalem."

I think that's about what we have left to us. We've tried the whole diplomacy thing, and it gets us little places but not to the main thing, which is peace, true peace.

Both sides need to calm down and learn to live, and greater minds than mine have come up with plans that would do that. Israel must not give up, in my opinion, Jerusalem, but I think that wall must come down someday as well.

When one limits freedom, even in the search for safety, one only spurs more difficulty. Pray for peace this year not only in Jerusalem, but also in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The secret of happiness

A man called me yesterday, a reader of my Sunday column in the Eunice News. After several minutes of talking about who he was, he got to the subject of why he called. He wanted to know why he wasn't happy. We will meet and I'll do my best to listen, maybe even make some suggestions.

But I must be frank here: happiness is often simply a desire, a passion, for God. I searched everywhere and found it only there. And still there are days when my back hurts so bad I don't think you could describe what I feel as happy.

I'm reminded that every where I look, the church is shrinking. The question for the past couple of years has been what do we do about it? What steps must we take? What must we try? What will work?

I think of David's writings when I think of this:
As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.
2 I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I go and stand before him?
3 Day and night I have only tears for food,
while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
“Where is this God of yours?”

4 My heart is breaking
as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
amid the sound of a great celebration!

5 Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and 6 my God!
The answer to the problem of church attendance, membership, etc., is and must be a true passion of its current attenders, members, etc.
We must show those who are not, what we who are can be, could be, used to be.
Happiness is about the love of God and the love of others. I do well with the former. I'm working on the latter.
I will put my hope in God. I will praise him again -- my Savior and my God. It is the only answer I have, the only answer I've ever had, the only answer I can offer.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Twinkie,Twinkie little Star

I took a class a few years ago about Christ in Culture. I don't actually remember most of it, but I know that the class's text came from Richard Niebuhr's work of the same name.

From the Amazon synopsis of the book, we read, "Being fully God and fully human, Jesus raised an enduring question for his followers: what exactly was His place in this world? In the classic Christ and Culture, H. Richard Niebuhr crafted a magisterial survey of the many ways of answering that question--and the related question of how Christ's followers understand their own place in the world. Niebuhr called the subject of this book "the double wrestle of the church with its Lord and with the cultural society with which it lives in symbiosis." And he described various understandings of Christ "against," "of," and "above" culture, as well as Christ "transforming" culture, and Christ in "paradoxical" relation to it. This 50th anniversary edition of Christ and Culture, with a foreword by theologian Martin E. Marty, is not easy reading. But it remains among the most gripping articulations of what is arguably the most basic ethical question of the Christian faith: how is Christ relevant to the world in which we live now?"

So, let's ask the question for ourselves with a little help from reality.

We live in a different world than we did 20 years ago. Anyone who thinks differently has his or her head in the sand, and one can get rid of the blog immediately. Of course, reading a blog in the first place makes my point.

We live in a world where Twinkies are going away. How can that be.
We live in a world that largely doesn't believe the Bible is the inerent word of God any longer.
We live in a world that goes out of its way to meet the desires of all people: smart phones, I-pads and their clones, etc.
We live in a world that is beset with civil rights for persons because of whom they have desires to be sexual with.

That being the case, where does Jesus fit into this culture?

Let me point out that when Jesus came, he automatically began to change the culture of his time. That is still the case.

Culture will always change. Jesus, being the same yesterday, today and forever, does not. Seems a contradiction that can't be overcome, but that's not true.

There will always be those in pain.
There will always be the poor.
There will always be those outside the norm, the lease and the lost.
There will always be those who are in need.

Jesus will always, always fill those gaps.

We might do it with powerpoint, we might do it with new music, we might do it with new teaching and new values, but Jesus will always, always fill those gaps.

Now, if he would just do something about those Twinkies.

Friday, November 16, 2012

LIving is beautiful

I used to spend some time each week at a nursing home in Lacombe, La. My wife, Mary, and I would go there to "entertain" the residents with a bit of bad singing and guitar/mandolin playing. I know nothing that brings the level of joy and thanksgiving up  in one's life than visiting those who are not nearly as fortunate as you and I are.

This week I noticed someone with a bit more fame did the same. Pope Benedict visited a home for the elderly on Monday and told its residents that life can be beautiful at every age. "I feel younger after being here," the pope, 85, said as he was leaving a home run by the Roman Catholic Sant' Egidio Community in a Rome neighborhood near the Vatican.

"In every age we have to know how to discover the presence of the blessings of the Lord and the riches that they contain," he told the residents.
"You must never lock yourselves in sadness. Living is beautiful even at our age, even though we have some ailments and limitations," he said. 

We're approaching the week of Thanksgiving. As I look around, there are numerous opportunities to show gratitude to the Lord of All. Good health for my family, a reasonable amount of money and a place to cover my head, and the blessings that are not so obvious but are still God-given  are among the many, many things for which I lift my praise to the giver of all good things.

As Chris Tomlin writes, "The splendor of the King; clothed in majesty, let all the earth rejoice."

This year, take the time, short of long as it is, to thank God for all you have, all you ever have, all you ever had had. Give Him thanks for the wonderful-ness of grace, a concept that is foreign to most of us. Give Him thanks for the love that we could not possibly know or understand without the incredible gift of Jesus.

Give ...
give ...

That's life, and beyond.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Isn't that Joseph's son?

Years ago, per the request of my mother, I went to the little church called the Lockhart Church of God Holiness to preach (and/or teach) and sing some contemporary Christian tunes on a Wednesday night.

I was eager to show the persons of this church how I had turned out. I don't remember the subject matter, but I do remember I got the idea from a Max Lucado book rather than my own thoughts. I had, at the time, no formal training of any kind, had not actually "preached" and knew nothing of the whole process. I knew only that my mother had asked me to do something on this night.

The other thing I remember, vividly actually, was how much I bombed. The songs did not inspire. The "message" had no message. I relied on "me" far, far too much, and I (for lack of a better word) bombed. Sank like a ship that had been torpedoed. The crowd, in the teens, smiled at me as if I was a stranger in need of deep comfort. I wasn't a stranger, but oh did I need comfort. My zig zagged and my zag was zigging as I sank into the cold depths.

This morning as I read scripture, I was reminded of this story:
"53 When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, he left that part of the country. 54 He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” 55 Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph,[f] Simon, and Judas. 56 All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” 57 And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.” 58 And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief."
Some of the things I notice here include these:
1) Nazareth is called his "hometown" though we know that is not the case in the strict sense of the phrase, his having been born in Bethlehem to the south of Nazareth;
2) the word carpenter here could be translated in the Greek as "stone mason," and since there were a small, limited amount of trees in Palestine it would probably have made more sense that Jesus (and his father, Joseph) worked in stone rather than wood;
3) the idea of where his teaching or authority comes from is again brought up; Rabbis didn't grow on trees; they were educated; Jesus was not, in the strict sense of the word;
4) the idea of what the people were doing in terms of the strength of their faith is tied in this passage to what sort of miracles are done; the stronger the faith, the greater the miracle;
5) and finally, Jesus' very famous statement ... 'A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family' is stated here.' Because the people of Nazareth knew Jesus, his parents, his siblings, they didn't believe he could be the Messiah. Their lack of faith limits the size of the miracle, the passage says.
When I went to my mother's church that night, with aunts and cousins still making up the most of the congregation, I felt little success was possible. Truthfully, I had a hard time imagining on that Wednesday night, that I could change the way they believed. I knew them. I knew their background. I knew what I believed to be the depth of their faith, and I certainly knew what I believed to be the depth of my own (which was a fresh slice of faith at the time).
As I spoke, the feeling I get sometimes when things are going well and I sense the words making their way into the hearts of those who are listening (and that truly does happen) was not happening -- at all. I spoke, and the words fought their way toward the heart of the listeners as if they were drones flying over Iran.
But I sensed whatever that long ago mystery topic I was speaking about was having no effect at all. Nada. The message wasn't affecting, changing, motivating or even causing any of the listeners to think about it at all. The songs were skin deep at best, bouncing off rough country skin at best.
I was done long before I was done.
I understand, somehow, that the words I type most days have little impact on the strangers who read them. If there was any one thing I wish I could change about what is now the way I live, it would be the ability to affect changed hearts coming more often and consistently.
I understand, somehow, that the words are mere carriers of the Gospel, not the Gospel itself. I wished I could impact the world each time I choose to speak or am asked to. There are times when I see the feeling behind the fabric, the wizard behind the veil.
But the simple truth is there are times when I speak, preach, pray and the words are nothing more than time-killers. Never was that more true than the time I went "home." In Luke, the crowd said of what Jesus did, "How can this be? Isn't this Joseph's son." Jesus said to the crowd, "You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: 'Physcian, heal thyself -- meaning 'Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.'
Jesus knew himself, and he knew the crowd. He said, "A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family."
Jesus preached to the masses. In Nazareth, he preached to the few in the fields, and even they didn't "get him" or his message. 
They saw no Messiah. They saw Joseph's son. My former friends wonder where the guy they used to know all those years ago went.
What do do? Move along, I suspect. Make the best of the situation. Heal, preach, pray, teach, love.
At the end of the tale in Luke, the synagogue participants were furious. They attempted to force Jesus to the edge of a hill and push him over the cliff. The Bible says, however, he passed through the crowd and went on his way.
Heal, preach, pray, teach, love. Even in our hometowns.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

True prosperity leads to true thankfulness

I've been seeing these countdowns of gratitude by friends on Facebook lately. You know, Day 1 I'm thankful for ... Day 2 ... and on and on.

I'm not sure whether I missed the memo or what it is, but I thought I would give an honest effort to examine what I am thankful for.

This has been a spectacular year for my wife, Mary, and I. When 2012 began, we were excited and happy and -- yes -- thankful for our two churches we were serving. We had moved over a five-year period from having a congregation to having friends. I'm aware that being friends, as opposed to being friendly, with congregations can be a struggle sometime. It's difficult at times to be a pastor to someone if you're great friends. Still, time crawled by and I looked up and saw great friendships developing. The churches weren't growing as quickly as they once did, we had lost some members to death and some had moved from the area we lived in outside Covington, but all-in-all, things were rosy as the dusk of 2011 slipped into the dawn of 2012.

As happens with the United Methodist Church, however, we got "the" call, and we were asked to move to Eunice with churches (in what we call a charge, which is simply a cluster of churches) also in Kinder and Iota. We happily said yes, and in late June, off we were.

You never know, really, how these move things are going to turn out. Developing new relationships is, I imagine, always difficult, but truthfully it is difficult for me because at my core, I'm shy. (There are some who would dispute that statement as apparently coming from a nutty persons, but it is true.)

So, in the time since we moved, we've begun the slow arduous process of again forming, growing, increasing the depth of relationships. We've seen friendships be planted like crops in the spring, and we've seen relationships deepen and flourish.

That being the case, it is time I think to be incredibly thankful to the God who has watched over our steps all along the way.

We are at a time in this country, it seems, where whining is the national pastime, not baseball. We complain about the president, the Congress, the courts (supreme and otherwise). We complain about what we have and we whine about what we don't. We do comparison shopping, noticing what others have and what we do not as if we somehow should have been given things and others should not.

The prosperity Gospel came along about the time I was born, but as far as I know, the two things weren't connected in any way. Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel) is a Christian doctrine that says that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one's material wealth. Based on non-traditional interpretations of the Bible, often with emphasis on the Book of Malachi, the doctrine views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver his promises of security and prosperity. Confessing these promises to be true is perceived as an act of faith, which God will honor.

The problem I have with the theology, and I have a rather large disagreement with it, is that I see plenty of wonderful, faithful persons who aren't blessed financially. So, by the theology of these rather famous persons (Oral Roberts, Jim Bakker, Joel Osteen, Bruce Wilkinson, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland and many others), if you're not receiving financial blessing, something must be wrong with your faith. That doctrine is difficult at best, depressing at worst. And it reduces the faith one must have to simply be thankful for WHATEVER one has rather than just the good things in life.

His Word tells me, "Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness."

His Word tells me, "Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe."

And His Word tells me, "Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart."

Summing it all, if we had moved to Eunice and things were rotten to the core, we should still have been thankful to a God whose faithfulness endures forever. If we had lost all our money on the move, lost our health, lost our pets, lost the love of our children and grandchildren, still, still we should have been thankful to a God who watches the lost and the least as well as those who are prospering as the world sees it.

In the end, I see a wonderful Christ hanging in pain on an old, rugged cross. I see an unusual Messiah looking out over some persons who sought to kill him rather than give up the power they had stolen for their own. I see a God, incarnate, loving and faithful, who gave up all his power that existed in glorious waves of love coming from the throne itself. I see love where love had not existed, and love is far different than material things.

Yes, I'm thankful today because when I couldn't possibly save myself, Jesus did it for me. That's true prosperity, I reckon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's a dog's life II

It's very instructing, very informative to watch dogs. There's a great, great part of me that still believes the way dogs love is about as close to the way God does it that one can find in the world. Dogs love you because, well, because you exist.

We have a dachshund named Breezy. Breezy came to us about two years ago. Breezy is dappled, a mix of gray and black, and a mini.

I collected Breezy from an animal shelter in Pearl River, Miss., after our beloved Shelty Tweetie died. He was pleasant on the trip from the little shelter, sitting on my lap as I drove.

But from the beginning of our relationship together, Breezy was emotionally stunted. He loved my wife, Mary, but seemed to be both frightened and angry at me. He barked. He ran when I talked to him. He would not come to me at all, but loved to sit in Mary's lap. And he ducked, often, when I would attempt to extend a hand to pet him.

It was apparent, me being a psychologist and all, that he had been abused, and I believe by a male. My voice was enough to set him off.

I wanted so desperately for Breezy to be a replacement for the previous dachshund in my life, one Mr. Frankie, who was my best friend ever, but he couldn't be because of someones treatment of him.

But time has passed as time is wont to do, and in the past month to six weeks, there has been a thawing. In the mornings particularly, Breezy comes to me -- reluctantly. He allows me, after a couple of tentative tries, to pick him up, and he seems to almost enjoy sitting in my lap. When Mary is away, he is sometimes happy to come to me even in the afternoons. Nights are still bark city, but we're slowing making progress there, too. He still ducks when either of us reach out to him, and his tail still goes under him immediately, but once he's picked up, that tail sets off like a propeller.

The point of it all?

Again, dogs love because that's what dogs do. But when they're abused, they don't always turn mean; no, sometimes they simply turn fearful.

I picture that as a pretty good rendition of emotionally starved and stunted humans. I know persons for whom God's love is the absolute remedy for their problems but who duck when God reaches out to them. They're fearful of being hurt, again, so they don't reach out at all or allow God to reach out to them. And don't even mention allowing other humans to reach out to them, for that's just not happening.

In scripture, I think of Nicodemus coming at night to Jesus, wondering who this person is and how this person can help him but being totally frightful of him at the same time. What if he's not the one? What if I reach out to this person and I'm burned again? What if, what if, what if?

God's love is such that it can tame over time even the most heart-broken of persons. God's love is such that even the ones who have lost so much can be healed. Time does truly heal all wounds, but I strongly suspect that a being who is outside of time, God the Father, is the one applying the healing agent (his bountiful, incredible love).

The 136th Psalm tells us, "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever."

If you're a pet lover, watch your pet sometime and see the way they love. They love not for what you do, not for what you are, not for anything but the inexpressible fact that you exist and they're love.

John tells us in the first of his letters, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters."

Love is an extension of the best we can be. Love is above all our virtues. Without love, we are useless, banging cymbals.

Breezy wants nothing more than to be loved because he first loves. Someone took that love, and that little long body, and abused it at some point.

But it is comforting to note that love is finding a way to his heart, removing the icy fears of being hit, removing the steady resolve to not love as a mechanism of being safe.

For anyone who has held back from the touch of God because of similar fears, let it go. Don't be afraid to loosen the bonds that surround your heart. Let God come in, healing and holding and helping.

They call that kind of love unconditional.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A dog's life

This morning, the randomness of life came back to, uh, lick my hand.

When my wife, Mary, was ready to go to work, a beautiful, extremely friendly Pit Bull was there to greet her. She wanted nothing more than to get in Mary’s truck and cruise. My dogs went berserk, but I kept them in the house as I went out to help get the newcomer settled so Mary could leave.

Then, I was stuck. Eventually I was able to get back into the house. I went for a bath, got myself ready, came out thinking the newcomer would be gone, and she was sitting in one of the rocking chairs in the front of the parsonage.

Somewhere out there, someone out there is missing a fine, fine dog.

As I write this, she is out there, waiting, somehow waiting, for someone to come. No collar. No idea about name. No idea what to do next. There she is.

I’m not sure that isn’t a pretty good picture of our lives. Oh, we’re fairly confident of our names, I imagine. But we really, really don’t know what is coming next. One day we’re in our yard or our house or whatever the case might be and the next we’re, what, lost?

That’s, again, pretty much the way I run this thing we call life. I have some vague outline of what I want to do, but really, I don’t have a clue about what’s next. Retirement? How? Work till I drop? That’s not far away, I figure.

So, one step after another, trusting all along that God has my back and that there is a home to get back to, I walk, wondering half the time where my master is and what steps must I do to get to him.
I imagine this beautiful, friendly, lost dog feels the same way. What can she do without her master?

Friday, November 9, 2012

What indeed is truth?

One of the more difficult statements in scripture, to me (as all these things are but opinions) is when Jesus stands before Pilate. They're having THE discussion to end all discussions.

Jesus says, "You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me."
Pilate asks, "And what is truth."

And the chapter ends with no answer.

I suspect we've been fighting hard to answer that ever since.

I'm not one who believes this country is going to fall in the next four years, but clearly this is a different country, a different electorate than existed 12 years ago. Anyone who disputes this, it seems to me, is disputing the absolute "truth."

In this country this week, persons of this nation voted:

To legalize marijuana as a recreational drug;
to legalize same-sex marriage in four more states;
to legalize spending more on government.

I thought I had heard it all. Then in true Red State mania, I heard (by accident; my alarm clock somehow wound up on a country station) a tune called, If I could have a beer with Jesus.

The words include: "If I could have a beer with Jesus Heaven knows I'd sip it nice and slow I'd try to pick a place that ain't too crowded Or gladly go wherever he wants to go."

The chorus is, "How'd you turn the other cheek to save a sorry soul like me Do you hear the prayers I send What happens when life ends And when you think you're comin' back again I'd tell everyone, but no one would believe it If I could have a beer with Jesus."

This is a different world, a different country that songs like this can exist. Though clearly the intent is (along with having a catchy title) to say something relatively benign about Jesus.

Still, in this country at one time, there would have been an absolute uproar about this song in the very part of the country where I assume it is selling, since I heard it on radio.

I'm not particularly offended, but I am surprised that our thinking has changed so much. When Jesus is a drinking buddy, well, muslims would be rioting if that same sort of sentiment were to be spoken about their prophet. Jews wouldn't even say the name of God for hundreds of years. Us...we're going for a beer with our diety.

But following the elections on Tuesday, I shouldn't be surprised any longer.

What indeed is truth?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The hard questions

I was this close to quitting this blog a few moments ago for any number of reasons. Lack of readership no matter what I've done to promote this thing. Unhappiness with what I'm seeing out there in our country. Not feeling all that spiffy. On and on and on we go.

Then my pay-attention-meter went off, and I began to think about the past couple of days.

First, we buried a good man in Vidalia, La. Mary's step-father, Robert, was one of the good ones, and we laid him to rest after a long bout with difficulty breathing and such. A terrible way to go, actually. I saw my own mortality in what he went though, again. And while I was there, the country swung left again in its voting preference.

Then last night at our youth session, Club 316, our wonderful leader Dwight Jodon was going through the meaning of the Apostle's Creed, pretty much line by line, with 46 youth. Somehow we opened the floor to questions.
There were three. Is there anything God can't forgive? What about suicide? Is being gay a sin?

Youth don't fool around. They ask the questions, the hard questions, that the church is going to have to deal with over time. The answers Dwight and I gave aren't as important as noticing the questions, I think. We said the only thing God can't forgive is for you to not believe Jesus was the Son of God who came to save you; that forgiveness must include suicide, but ultimately that's between God and the person in pain; that too is between God and the person.

Then a got a call from a gentleman who wanted me to do something. He said there were 10 businesses in our little town that were not using Merry Christmas in their advertising, instead using happy Holidays. He wanted churches in this town to take this on, having each church mail 10 Christmas Cards each to the ones not doing things right. That'll show them, I might have heard him say.

Let me say this. I don't actually disagree with that he wants, but I don't think Jesus would have taken these types of things on. Isn't there something out there greater than what we call a holiday we made up to honor the birth of our King? Can't we give at shelters or feed the hungry or help the poor or any number of a 1,000 gifts at Christmas that would have more meaning?

We've got to reach a stage where we're talking about the difficult questions and we must stop letting little things get in our way.

If 25 readers a day is all I can muster for these thoughts, I guess I will keep doing this. As long as I have something to say.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A footprint is left behind

  During the Second World War, somehow an American graffiti drawing of a bald-headed man beame quite popular.
The accompanying phrase, “Kilroy was here,” set the graffiti apart. The expression along with the drawing of a man with a prominent nose peeking over a wall with the fingers of each hand clutching the wall became associated with GIS in the 1940s.
Its origins are debated, but the phrase and the distinctive accompanying doodle was found on walls throughout the world. Somehow, there was a footprint left behind by an unknown man or men. I suspect that somewhere in our DNA, there is a desire to have that happen to us. We long to be remembered, to have something that will stand the test of time, something about us that lets us know that we won’t be forgotten down the corridors of time.
The closing of Psalms 90 reads “Let your acts be seen by your servants; let your glory be seen by their children. Let the kindness of the Lord our God be over us. Make the work of our hands last. Make the work of our hands last.”
I was pondering things lately. Getting sick – again – and having hours upon end to contemplate life, death and destinations in between does that for you. You ponder. You think. You muse. You reflect.
In the end, if you’re so very lucky, you come to some conclusion or you reach deep inside and come up with maybe one answer.
The question was a simple one, arriving as it did during a fever dream (I think). The question: Did you do anything that will be remembered when you’re gone?”
I’m reminded of a Brandon Heath song that (paraphrased) reflects upon that first breath in heaven and last breath on earth. Heath writes that we won’t be asked how well we did, but instead will be asked how well we loved.
That’s something that can be remembered, I think. That’s an imprint, a footprint, a bit of one’s soul left in the dust of time and place. How well did you love is the ultimate question, and thus the ultimate answer.
I think one of the main reasons I loved having a couple books published was that forever and a day I’m written into history. The Library of Congress keeps track of all books published, I’m told. Hence there is a footprint. I’ve been here, and somehow that won’t be forgotten. That and microfilm editions of various newspapers literally across the country that have my face and columns in them.
Killroy wasn't here, but I was here. I made some small degree of an impact. Ultimately, however, that means nothing without love. “Let the kindness of the Lord our God be over us. Make the work of our hands last.”
That’s life, or what passes for the goodness of life.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The scales of love versus justice

When I was a senior in high school, my mother (and father, I expect) bought me a camera, a Polaroid. I paraded that thing around as if God had walked down the middle aisle carrying the camera, waited a bit, then handed the camera to me. I was ecstatic. I was professional. I was already writing for the local newspaper. Now I thought I could be a photo shooter, as well. As always, I was way ahead of myself.

My creativity was running ahead of my ability. The local newspaper told me if I could get pictures of the South State basketball tournament, they would publish them. I took photos. They did not publish them.

Why? Uh, they stunk. Bad composition. Bad contrast. Bad lighting. I still loved that camera, though. I loved taking the photo, pulling out the "instant" developing film. You would pull out the single, shake it, then put it on a table of something akin to that and watch it "develop." From nothing came people, places, things. Spectacular work, I thought. Why knew others didn't quite see it that way. Within a year I was shooting photos for the newspaper using one of their Nikons. Though you couldn't see the finished product within a minute or two, at least when the photo was developed, you could see what was in the picture.

Lo and behold.
Wave, wave, wave goes the photo as I tried to dry it.
Wush, wisssshhhh, wavey, wavey.

Thousand of years earlier, the Apostle Paul spread the offense out and powered through the line to a synagogue or two in Asia. He took with him the Gospel, the good news of Jesus. Paul's definition of good news stood for a while, but then it would always come back to "Can we see this Jesus?" And inevitably, since Jesus was killed, dead and buried' raised from the dead after three days; ascended into heave.

But there was more, much more, than simply seeing a living body, God walking the earth. There was the little matter of love. Paul makes, made, it clear that even if you gave everything you have, even if you taught the scriptures, even if you gave up every second of every day to the cause of Christ, without a loving relationship with the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, it would be nothing but white noise.

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am becoming sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal," the Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the church in Ephesus.

Naturally, we can't handle that. We can't love the way God loves by our own means. We can't save anyone... ANYONE on our own. Simply can't.

Paul also wrote in verse 12 of the 13th chapter of his first letter to Corinth, "For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known."

Symbolically, the morning shows us what we face. This morning, the fog was truly deep and thick. I walked out of the parsonage about 7:10 a.m., headed for the fellowship hall, and I wanted to get there early to start the coffee and go back over my notes of the fifth chapter of John's Gospel.

The fog made the early morning quite eerie. The sun wasn't capable of burning off the darkness, not with the fog developing quite on its own. It wasn't cool, but the humidity was dripping, literally. Jesus stood tall in this pre-dawn light, calling out the tongues of men and of angels.

Can we call out to God, church? Can we exchange the clanging cymbal and sounding brass for the love of God, a unique love that needs no explanation?

And there's the dilemma. Scales of justice, with one side weighed down by all we've done, the other side weighed down by love. Eventually, the love will out-weigh the other side. But we've got to wait for that to come. It simply isn't on demand.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Healing from around the lake

The list is a long one, but a constructive, entertaining, informative one, at that this list of healings that Jesus conducted.

I'm going to take only the ones in Matthew to discuss.  That means we see 32 healings in that Gospel, alone. He healed on the Sabbath. He healed up close and personal. He healed over distances up to 20 miles or so. He healed with a word (unknown), and with spit and mud (again, unknown what He said). He healed with the faith of the individual being key, and he healed where his own faith was the triggering aspect. He healed withered limbs. He brought at least two back from the dead. He healed whole crowds at least once.

Jesus was a healer, and the abundant, incredible grace of God, triggered by the faith of the healer and the faith of the recipient, was enough to change lives.

If you look at the 22nd chapter of Matthew's Gospel, you get a feel for what Jesus was doing in Galilee. Perhaps the sentence that attracts the most attention from me is this one: "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people." Which ones did he heal? EVERY disease and sickness, the scriptures read.

Look, I don't know the how or the why. But I know what I read, and in black type it tells me EVERY disease and sickness was healed. He took care of the lepers. He re-attached bad arms. He healed the blind, the deaf. He was continually going out of his way to make the acquaintance of those who needed full-on healing ... the depth of his own healing, holistic and saving.

 In the 22nd chapter of Matthew's Gospel, we read this story:  Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”  When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” "Yes, Lord,” they replied.  Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region. While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”  But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”

Why? Why then, and clearly not now? Why did he tell some to go and tell others about him, and still others he commanded them to be quiet about the healing?

Jesus lifted up the spirit of a discouraged preacher who retired early because of what happened to him. "In the Pentecostal Evangel church leader George U. Wood writes:

"Have you ever heard a healing take place? I have. I listened to an audiotape of Duane Miller teaching his Sunday school class from the text of Psalm 103 at the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on January 17, 1993. Duane prematurely retired from pastoring three years earlier because of a virus which penetrated the myelin sheath around the nerves in his vocal cords, reducing his speech to a raspy whisper....

 "Teaching his class that day with a special microphone resting on his lips,
he reaffirmed his belief in divine healing and that miracles had not ended
with the Book of Acts. Listening to the tape, at times you can barely
understand his weakly spoken wheezy words of faith. The miracle happened at verse 4 when he said, "I have had and you have had in times
past pit experiences."

"On the word pit, his life changed—the word was as clear as a bell, in contrast to the imperfect enunciation of the preceding "word past. He paused, startled; began again and stopped. The class erupted with shouts of joy, astonishment and sounds of weeping. God completely healed him as he was declaring the truth in this psalm.