One Story Out of Many

One Story Out of Many

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

Let me tell you a story.
A woman called this week and asked to speak to me. Most of the time when that happens, it is some kind of benevolence request. And that was true with this call. On the phone, Angela seemed to be an articulate, well-spoken woman. She told me she was a veteran, and had run into some recent financial issues, resulting in a past due electric bill. The power company had turned off her service earlier that day. Curious, I asked her if she could come in and see me, and bring a copy of her bill with her.
Angela is a Navy veteran…10 years…and was in the Gulf War. She is in her mid-50’s now, and suffers from PTSD and other medical issues. She’s being treated at the local VA and is also in therapy for her PTSD. She has received VA disability status, and is on a fixed disability income. She brought in the papers that showed all of this is true.
Angela had unexpected financial expenses the past few months, and had to decide which bills to pay. The electric bill was one that she did not have the funds to pay. She applied for, and received a LIEAP (Low Income Energy Assistance Program) payment, but it wasn’t enough. By the time she had called me, she had contacted other social service agencies…United Way, Salvation Army, Open Door, VFW, Red Cross, Center of Hope, various churches, etc. None would help her.
As I looked at Angela’s electric bill and thought through her situation, I knew I could not turn her away, even though the amount she was requesting was above what we normally do for non-members who have a legitimate need. She appeared to be exhausted, mentally tired, and emotionally drained. I was concerned for her welfare, should I turn her away.
I told her that we normally pay only up to $100 on an electric bill, and we do that only if by paying we can either keep the electric turned on or get it turned on. Then I said, “Here’s the deal. I will pay the entire amount necessary to get you turned back on, and will ask the veterans in the congregation to help cover the cost.”
Angela was visibly moved, broke down, and I saw a face of relief in her tears. She thanked me profusely, and wanted to also express thanks to the veterans of the congregation. I went ahead and paid the entire amount needed to get her electric turned back on. The amount was $318.41. She called me back later in the day and told me that they had turned the electric back on. She again expressed her appreciation and thanked us all.
Angela’s situation is, unfortunately, all too common. Not a week goes by but what we don’t get at least two or three requests for help of some kind…often a utility bill…and often there are kids, the disabled or elderly in the house. Often, multiple utilities are turned off, including water.
We cannot fix everything, but I try to work with the client to do the most good with the dollars I have available. I also encourage them, if they haven’t already, to work with other agencies, and I encourage them to be very conservative in the use of utilities. It amazes me the number of people who have to pay very high utilities because the landlord won’t fix a broken window, leaky toilet, or repair a furnace…which requires the tenant to use electric heaters for warmth and results in a sky-high electric bill.
Thank you for any help you can give. We are able to do what we do because of your generosity and your love for your neighbor. Blessings…

Posted in Jay's Blog | Leave a comment

Please, God

Please, God

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

”Please, Lord. Just make it stop for awhile. I’d like to catch my breath.”
It seems that these past several weeks have been filled with one tragedy after another. Children who have been horribly abused. Young and older alike who have taken their own lives. Friends who have succumbed to cancer or other ailment or illness. Relatives battling for their lives now because of cancer. Childhood friends who daily are battling with and dealing with the infirmity of M/S and other ailments. Families in the throes of divorce and separation. Hundreds living on the street. Hundreds more living without running water, hot water, or electric service. Babies being aborted. Children who are hungry and neglected while whoever passes for a parent is either on a meth high or sleeping off alcohol or dope. Children who came into this world with brain damage or some physiological problem that will be with them for life because of a mother’s use of drugs.
Please, Lord. Just make it stop for awhile. I’d like to catch my breath.
And I see the ills of society. I see greed, uncontrolled anger, jealousy, selfishness, and all of the other on full display pretty much wherever I go. And when I’m driving, those emotions and outbursts seem to just manifest all over the place. People cut in line. They ignore traffic laws. They act as if they are the only ones on the road or in the store. If it isn’t “me first,” it isn’t going to go down. The middle finger salute is alive and well. The desire to elevate oneself at the expense of another is a game many play…and play for keeps.
Please, Lord. Just make it stop for awhile. I’d like to catch my breath.
But it doesn’t stop. It just goes on. Sometimes, it gets to the point that I can’t seem to go any more. It seems that I can’t hear about one more unpaid electric bill. I can’t hear about one more suicide. I can’t hear about one more abused child. I can’t hear about one more death. I’m filled up to here with it all, and I’m helpless and powerless to change it.
And then I think. I think about how Jesus must have felt seeing the same thing in his day. Yes, he saw it all. There truly is nothing new under the sun when it involves human behavior. And I think of what he said, “In the world, you will have tribulation; but take heart! I have overcome the world.” He also said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Don’t be afraid.”
The great Apostle Paul said that we “overwhelmingly conquer” or that “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” And Revelation describes a risen Lord Jesus Christ who has already conquered and now sits at the throne of God.
So, why the disparity? Why is it we seemingly see one thing, and in the spiritual realm, we hear of (and see with eyes of faith) another? I’m not sure. I don’t really know. I suspect the answer to that question would take much more space than I allow myself for articles such as these.
But one thing I do know. I know that the spiritual is the genuine reality. I know that the physical is but a shadow. I know that one day, all will be made well. And I know that even now, God is working through his people in this life…on this earth…to redeem the creation and bring about grace, mercy, and true peace.
That is our job. That is our work. Ours is not to render judgment. Ours is not to throw stones. Ours is to go about the work assigned to us and diligently complete it as best we can, with the help, wisdom, strength, and guidance of the God of the universe.

Posted in Jay's Blog | Leave a comment

Truth Time

Truth Time

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

It is interesting to me that people often have nothing to do with a church of any kind until they hit a bump in the road of life and need help. Then a church is often one of the first places they contact for that help.
Many of the people that I talk with regarding benevolence have no church. Or if they do, they have not been active, and their church barely knows who they are. Something happens in their life…some kind of financial or health reversal or a family emergency…and now they can’t pay the electric bill, the rent, or some other necessary bill. They then turn to churches to provide the help.
I’ve often wondered how things might have worked out differently for them had they been actively involved in a church family over the years and had been connected to people who genuinely cared about them and their situation. I’ve wondered how differently their feelings of loneliness, discouragement, and hopelessness would be if they would have an active church family that they could lean on in troubled times.
People would pray for and with them. Others would counsel, mentor, and befriend them. The church would provide financial help, professional counseling, and perhaps even job/career assistance. Perhaps someone would volunteer to take them to the doctor or be with them during a medical procedure. Someone would call and look out for their welfare. And they would be loved and accepted for who they are…just like us, a child of God who is in need of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
I often ask if they are people of faith and if they have a church family. Most say they are of faith, and most will also admit to not having a church family…or at least a family that they have been an active part of for the past while. I sometimes tell them that they really need the friendship and familial support that comes from being part of a church family. And usually, the conversation doesn’t go any farther than that. Why, I don’t know.
I don’t know if they are more concerned about the immediate issues of survival, or perhaps they have had a bad blood family relationship and can’t relate to families truly loving and serving one another. Or maybe there is something else involved in that lack of family contact that I’m not aware of.
I’ve heard many people say that they are Jesus followers, but don’t want to be part of an organized church. And as long as one can remain independent and not need the support and service of a loving family such as what the church is supposed to be, everything seems to rock along OK in a person’s life. But let one bump…one hiccup…one barrier loom, and suddenly, that person is alone. He is by himself in a world that is much bigger and much meaner than he ever thought or knew. As Abraham Lincoln said (and taking out of context), “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here…” The world will little care or be concerned with someone’s inability to obtain health care, pay a utility bill, or with whether they are living on the street or with a roof over them. But the church…the church should care and be concerned for its family members primarily, and others secondarily as well. The church is where God’s love and compassion are brought to the reality of action…mentoring, providing, challenging, loving, serving. It is the church that puts legs on God’s provisions for His children. It is the church that makes the love of God real and tangible, and gives meaning to the truth of “God is love.” It is the church that puts God’s love into action.
I often get the feeling that we ask God to intervene in a situation, then sit back and wait for Him to do something about what we prayed about in some way, as if we expect God to wave a magic wand and “BOOM!” everything is taken care of. No, God doesn’t tell us to sit back and wait for Him to somehow pay an electric bill or relieve suffering. He tells us instead to offer that cup of cold water, to go the second mile, to be the servant of all. He tells us that we are His chosen vessels, His workmanship. He tells us that we were created to do good works…those good works that God Himself has prepared for us…and that this is to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:10) “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life.”
OK, the question. What is your “way of life?” Is it to do good works as God’s workmanship? Or is it to serve yourself? Is it to relieve the suffering of others, or to assure your own comfort? Is it to bear another’s burden, or is it to relieve yourself of yours?
Truth time.

Posted in Jay's Blog | Leave a comment

Going About Our Business

Going About Our Business

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I was on an astronomy web page today where they were talking about resonant, co-orbital motion of heavenly bodies. It’s a long explanation that I won’t bother with right now, but the sum and substance of it is that there are planets, moons, asteroids, and other bodies in space which have a “relationship” with each other such that they affect the orbital paths of one-another. They may be in some kind of “locked” or resonant relationship where they give and take orbital motion, thereby maintaining their place and relationship in space for millions of years.
As I thought about that “millions of years” statement, I quickly thought about the brevity of life on earth for human beings in comparison to the movement of these heavenly bodies. I’m not here to argue about young creation or old creation…to me, that’s not an issue…the science on that is settled.
Sometimes, from the human point of view, time seems to pass ever so slowly. When we aren’t feeling well, or when we are in a difficult circumstance, time seems to almost stand still. We go from minute to agonizing minute, hoping for some kind of relief.
Then there are other times when the time seems to fly by, and weeks quickly turn to months, and months to years. Before we know it, the grandkids are grown, getting married, and having careers. And we…we are much older.
The dwarf planet Pluto orbits at a speed of over 10,000 miles an hour. Yet it takes 248 years for it to make one orbit around the sun. I have made well over 60 orbits, and Pluto has gone about ¼ of an orbit in the same time. The planet Uranus will make one orbit in my lifetime, assuming I live to age 84, as that is the number of years it takes for it to make one revolution around the sun. You can easily see that the quick or the slow passing of time depends a lot upon one’s point of view.
So, what does the Bible say about life, time, and the passing of time? There are several passages. The first one is in James, where it is said, “For what is your life? For you are a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.”
The Psalmist says this, “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”
The Psalmist also speaks of God’s dealing with His people. “For he remembered that they were merely mortal, gone like a breath of wind that never returns.”
I don’t intend to make you feel down, depressed, and miserable. I DO intend for you to understand that in our hurried and quick-paced life, we often forget that we are indeed just a blip on the pages of history. Some of us are larger blips than others, but everyone eventually succumbs to death, and what remains of us in memories is gradually forgotten by succeeding generations.
During our time on earth, we are to “Fear God and keep His commandments,” according to the wise man. Jesus says we are to love God and love our neighbor. Paul says we are to work quietly and earn our own living. We have been given plenty of time and plenty of instruction. Now, let’s go about the business God has for us to do.

Posted in Jay's Blog | Leave a comment

Christianity…What It Is and Is Not

Christianity…What It Is and Is Not

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

”Christianity is NOT about a new moral teaching—as though we were morally clueless and in need of some fresh or clearer guidelines.
Christianity isn’t about Jesus offering a wonderful moral example, as though our principal need was to see what a life of utter lover and devotion to God and to other people would look like, so that we could try to copy it.
Nor is (the point of) Christianity about Jesus offering, demonstrating, or even accomplishing a new route by which people can ‘go to heaven when they die.’
Christianity isn’t about giving the world fresh teaching about God himself—though clearly, if the Christian claim is true, we do indeed learn a great deal about who God is by looking at Jesus.
Christianity is all about the belief that the living God, in fulfillment of his promises and as the climax of the story of Israel, has accomplished all this—the finding, the saving, the giving of new life—in Jesus. He has done it. With Jesus, God’s rescue operation has been put into effect once and for all. A great door has swung open in the cosmos which can never again be shut. It’s the door to the prison where we’ve been kept chained up. We are offered freedom; freedom to experience God’s rescue for ourselves, to go through the open door and explore the new world to which we now have access. …this new world is indeed a place of justice, spirituality, relationship, and beauty, and we are not only to enjoy it as such but to work at bringing it to birth on earth as in heaven.”

—–N.T. Wright in “Simply Christian”

We as Christians and followers of Jesus Christ often miss the boat when it comes to the great truths of God and His relationship with his creation…and specifically with us. We tend to focus on the minutia of the faith…and ignore completely the wondrous gift of freedom that has been bestowed on us. God through Jesus has set us free. Once, for all time, completely, perfectly, God has given us a freedom that surpasses anything we can know or experience on our own.
What do you focus on in your daily Christian life that you might consider now to be minutia? Is it God not answering a prayer the way you want him to answer it? Is it whether or not the Elders of the church are allowing too much “variety” in worship services? Perhaps it’s the tattoo that is sported by the new church member. Or maybe you are having issues with the way the preacher preaches, or how long his sermons are.
Whatever, please take note of what God did through Jesus Christ and ask yourself if you really need to expend precious time, energy, and treasure on those things that really don’t matter that much. And focus instead on what God has done for us…you included…in giving us freedom. As Paul says, “So, Christ has truly set us free!” (Galatians 5:1) And it was Jesus Himself who said, “And if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!” (John 8:36)
Bill & Gloria Gaither have captured this concept well in the song, “Let Freedom Ring.” I’ve posted the lyrics before, but will do so again. Read them. Understand them. Believe them.

Deep within the heart has always known that there was freedom
Somehow breathed into the very soul of life
The prisoner, the powerless, the slave have always known it
There’s something that keeps reaching for the sky

And even life begins because a baby fights for freedom
And songs we love to sing have freedom’s theme
Some have walked through fire and flood to find a place of freedom
And some faced hell itself for freedom’s dream

Let freedom ring wherever minds know what it means to be in chains
Let freedom ring wherever hearts know pain
Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key
We can be free and we can sing, let freedom ring

God built freedom into every fiber of creation
And He meant for us to all be free and whole
When my Lord bought freedom with the blood of His redemption
His cross stamped pardon on my very soul

I’ll sing it out with every breath, I’ll let the whole world hear it
This hallelujah anthem of the free
That iron bars and heavy chains can never hold us captive
The Son has made us free and free indeed

Let freedom ring down through the ages from a hill called Calvary
Let freedom ring wherever hearts know pain
Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key
You can be free and you can sing let freedom ring
Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key
You can be free and you can sing let freedom ring
You can be free and you can sing, let freedom ring, let freedom ring

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVVbSXz7jaU (Video of “Let Freedom Ring” by the Gaither Vocal Band)

Posted in Jay's Blog | Leave a comment

Serve With Joy

Serve With Joy

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I’ve posted several things written by Kendra Broekhuis in her book, “Here Goes Nothing,” an introverts reckless attempt to love her neighbor. Broekhuis writes in a way that is dynamite in getting to the heart of the matter quickly and without a lot of fluff. She writes of the real world of what it means to be a “mommy,” including the routine of washing windows, doing laundry, going to the bathroom, cleaning up baby diaper blow-outs, and other, shall we say, “nuances” of modern life. She integrates all of this into the joy of loving God and loving one’s neighbor.
We tend to think of serving the Lord as some kind of chore that we have to get done…something to be checked off of our righteousness list in order to go to heaven when we die. We seldom see the joy in service to God…we see instead the guilt, the weariness, the rejection, the hostility, and all of the other that we’ve piled onto the concept of God-service. And we see loving others as something to be endured and avoided, if possible. After all, people are messy. People smell. People are dirty. People’s problems are often intractable. People take our precious time away from us. People are demanding. People are ungrateful.
Broekhuis says this in response: “God continues to teach us that truly loving others is best motivated not by formulating a bunch of man-made rules for ourselves, not by constant guilt over what doesn’t come naturally, but by the deep joy of accepting Christ’s great love for us.”
She continues with a scripture: “Enjoy serving the Lord, and he will give you whatever you ask for. Depend on the Lord. Trust in him and he will help you.” (PS 37:4-5)
Did you see that? “Enjoy serving the Lord..” Service is not something to be endured…it’s something to be done with joy and gratitude. Service to God should be something we wake up to each morning and are eager to begin…thinking with anticipation and joy of what the day will hold for us.
No matter if we are stay-at-home parents, business people, tradespeople, retired, students…whatever our lot in life right now, we CAN serve the Lord with gladness, joy, and contentment. If we aren’t, maybe we need to stop for a bit and do some evaluating of what we are doing and what our attitude is toward service.
Are we demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit? Are we living the Sermon on the Mount? Do we have as of prime importance the “First and Greatest Commandment” to love the Lord God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves? Are we generous, patient, kind, merciful, peacemakers, and all the rest? Just where do we see ourselves as living examples of the love of Christ?
Have we really accepted the great love of Christ? Have we polluted our lives with our own rules that make us feel guilty when we don’t measure up? Do we really know what it means to joyfully love our neighbor and joyfully love God? Have we tapped into the freedom that comes with becoming a child of the living God?
My prayer and desire for you is that out of God’s glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Posted in Jay's Blog | Leave a comment

Are We Part of the Failure? Or the Solution?

Are We Part of the Failure? Or the Solution?

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

Kendra Broekhuis is the author of “Here Goes Nothing…an introvert’s reckless attempt to love her neighbor.” I’m reading her book, and have just read a chapter titled, “But Do They Deserve My Gift?” In that chapter, Broekhuis talks of the time she and her husband were in Guatemala at a Christian school. She talks of the poverty everywhere outside the doors of their home. And she talks of people there who would ask for help of some kind or another, and of her and her husband’s struggle to discern whether or not to help. This is what she says about that experience.
I don’t have the answers to what we need to do about welfare. But I do know one thing: Christ never asked the question, “But do they deserve my gift?” to the people He personally encountered. Not when He gave up heaven for humanity, not when He caused the blind to see and the lame to walk, not when He stood on the hills and preached His truth to the masses, not when He washed His disciples’ feet, and not when He died in my place. He already knew I didn’t deserve His gift. And yet that didn’t hold Him back from giving me—an undeserving sinner—the gift of His grace.
Christ died for me, even though I didn’t deserve it. Even though He knew I would take advantage of His gift of salvation each and every day. And that gives me freedom, freedom from the obsessive worry over giving “correctly.”
Knowing Pablino, Victoria, Victor, Estuardo, and Alejandra (people they dealt with in Guatemala) changed the conversation on poverty for me. They reminded me that poverty is more complicated than what we read in textbooks and articles on the Internet. That I have no idea what it’s like to be poor. That there is a great divide between the Uppers and the Lowers all over the world. That when I merely focus on whether or not a person deserves my gift, then I am part of the failure of the church to do its part in demonstrating Christ’s boundless grace.”
Husband and I prayed about supporting Victor and Alejandra. We asked God for wisdom, sought guidance from other Christians, and at different times we made different judgment calls. If Victor or Alejandra chose to take advantage of our compassion, that is not our fault. We did what we thought was right even if they chose, for whatever reason, to be dishonest with us.

This is Jay again. I know I’ve talked a lot about benevolence the last while. But it is a significant part of what I do each week. I too have struggled with the “Do they deserve it?” mentality, and with whether or not I am using the funds you donate in ways that demonstrate good stewardship.
But when we cut to the chase…when we get to the bottom of it all, we find the example of Jesus Christ as he gave all on our behalf, even “while we were yet sinners,” as Paul the great Apostle tells us. We do NOT deserve God’s grace. We do NOT deserve God’s mercy. We do NOT deserve God’s love. But we have it anyway, because He sent Himself in the form of Jesus Christ to visit humanity, and show us the love, grace, and mercy of the Father. And when I begin to wonder whether others “deserve” something we might have that we might give to them, we really are part of the “failure of the church to do its part in demonstrating Christ’s boundless grace.”

Posted in Jay's Blog | Leave a comment

Facing Mortality

Facing Mortality

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

As I write this, Karl is dying. My childhood best friend is dying from cancer.
Karl has lived a wonderful life. Raised on a farm, Karl got up each morning to “chore.” Cows needed to be milked, hogs needed to be fed, and the chickens and other animals needed daily care as well. Then it was off to school or if in the summer, on to the tractor to work the ground, mow hay, or whatever else needed to be done.
Sometimes I would be able to help, and always marveled at the work ethic of his family. They seemed to always have several irons in the fire at the same time, and managed to keep them all going strong.
I learned a lot from Karl in my younger days. He had a small-engine repair shop where I learned to repair small engines myself. He raised domestic rabbits, which I picked up on, and to this day enjoy seeing the rabbit exhibit at the state fair. He was a fair basketball player and a follower of WSU (then WU…Wichita University) basketball on KFH radio (1330 on your AM dial).
Sand creek flowed through their pasture. We often would take our .22 rifles there and plink at things. We’d camp overnight there. We’d explore along the creek. In those days, we were much more nimble and quick than we are now, and had great fun along the creek.
Karl had a great career in aviation. I’m not sure exactly what he did, but he ended up at Duncan Aviation in Omaha as a company rep. I lost track of him for many years, and only relatively recently made contact again. Duncan has been good to him and his family, even during these dark days of cancer.
He has always maintained his faith, and although more conservative than I politically, was empathetic for those who were struggling or dealing with the bad things in life. He and his wife were foster parents, and also raised their own kids. Living in a modest area of Omaha for much of his adult life, Karl made it a point to leave the world a better place for his having been here.
But now he is struggling himself. About a year ago, he went to the doctor for some unexplained internal issues, and discovered a stage 4 cancer had been silently growing within him. Given six months to live, he continued to work as best he could, and also began therapy of different kinds. The treatments have prolonged his life, but did not cure him. He is now in hospice care.
Karl has always relied on God for his strength, peace, and courage. He has cried out to God in his pain and grief much the same way as the Psalmist did centuries ago. Family and friends have prayed for healing and now are praying for relief. One of Karl’s last posts had this from him in it, “I am in desperate need of prayers for you to stand in the gap for me when I cannot think and need your strength when my strength does not work.”
And so we basically wait, as does Karl, for him to be called to his forever home. And it makes me think yet again of the fragility of life, the vaporous nature of our time on this earth, and what is really important. For, you see, Karl is not talking at this end stage of his life about how well the Chiefs did last year, or what the stock market is doing. He’s not discussing the latest clothing trends or the hit movies of last year. And he isn’t thinking much about international politics or the royal wedding.
No. He’s thinking about eternity. He’s thinking about life. He’s thinking about suffering. He’s thinking about the forever that looms before him. And he’s resting in the arms of the Almighty God, drawing from Him the strength and sustenance he needs right now…and that he will experience in the full in the hereafter.
It would do us well to do the same, at least from time to time in our busy-ness and in the rat race we call living. It would do us well to relieve ourselves of the stupidity of materialism for just a moment or two and consider what our treasure in heaven may look like. It would do us well to evaluate our relationships and truly consider the well-being of others…even at our own expense. Because one of these days, we will be where Karl is…facing our own mortality, and drawing on the strength of what we have laid up during our younger years.

Posted in Jay's Blog | Leave a comment

How’s It Working For You?

How’s It Working For You?

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

So, grown-ups.
How’s it working for you? Does it all make sense now that you’re grown up? Or do you immerse yourself in your daily activities to the point that you can’t really think about the wonder, beauty, and fragility of life?
Calvin and Hobbes do the right thing in the last panel…they’re taking some quiet time looking at living birds, no doubt contemplating the very thing that most adults fail to do until it’s too late.
There’s something both soothing and scary about carving out quiet time during the day and just soaking up the view, so to speak. There’s something strangely disquieting about contemplating some of the weightier matters of life, which includes death, by the way. Yet there’s also something compelling that continues to tug at us to get us to stop for just a moment or two and “watch the grass grow.” A beautiful sunset (or sunrise for the early birds). A baby’s laughter. Seeds that have sprouted in the garden. Birds on the wing. Flowers. The heavens. Music. I don’t know what it is that does it for you. All of those tend to do it for me in some way.
Some years ago, I attended a graveside service in a cemetery that was bordered by a busy street. The burial took place just a few feet from that street. As I looked on at the family, I was struck by the fact that time essentially stopped when Jim died. All that had been priority was shoved to the side, and new priorities of funerals, family, and arrangements immediately came front and center.
However, as I also watched the bustle of the busy street, I thought about how life was going on as normal, seemingly oblivious to the incredible changes of life and the stopping of time, if even momentarily, that were going on for those in the family of the deceased. What a contrast that was in that moment!
Think again about your willingness to be quiet…to contemplate…to think about life. Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Timeless questions that deserve, and need timeless answers.

Posted in Jay's Blog | Leave a comment

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

I never cease to be amazed at the stories I hear from people who come through the office with some kind of need that they believe we can help fill. Television soap operas, crime shows, and movies have nothing on the stories that are told to me and other ministers as we try to decide whether we can help with some need, or whether we need to refer them to someone else. Many of those we heard this month have been referred to us by others who are also “in the business” of helping, and have already vetted the stories.
You might skeptically ask me if the stories that are told to me are legitimate…truthful. I’m not certain that anyone could really make up some of the stories that we hear. People seem to have an amazing ability to slide farther and farther into the pit of despair and hopelessness, while not recognizing the danger signs along the way or the pathways out. The danger signs turn into warning signs the farther one goes into the pit, and those pathways out become fewer and more difficult the farther one falls until they just seem to disappear all together. There is no place to turn…no way out. And the danger signs that became warning signs now flash “GOTCHA” as one wallows in the bottom of the pit of human darkness and hopelessness.
There are untold millions of these people in the world today. There are more of these people in your culture and your neighborhood than you might think. Just look around you. They are there whether you know it or not.
These are people who expend incredible amounts of time and energy just surviving. They have no time or resources to enjoy life. They cannot sit back and relax. They are struggling, scrapping, clawing, just to survive the day or the night. And the demons within them continue to knock them down, wear them out, and grind them up. They are merciless, these demons, and they get their energy by sucking it out of the lives of those they torment. And just like terminal cancer, which eats up the very body that gives it life, these demons eventually kill their human host…but unlike the cancer they live to inhabit yet someone else and repeat the cycle.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Paul the Apostle in the Letter to the Christians in Ephesus)
However, what is even more amazing is watching the power of God working in the lives of these people to extricate them from the darkness and gloom. We see that from time to time, and rejoice & praise God each time we do. The God of heaven and earth reaches down and pulls the tortured soul up from the abyss, sets her (or him) up on firm ground, and directs her to the path God has planned for her. And as long as she follows that path, she can avoid again falling into the abyss. She can find peace. She can find contentment. She can find genuine love and real purpose. She can find herself as God created her.
This, I believe, is the only sure way to salvation. This, I believe, is the only way to be brought up out of the pit of doom. One cannot do it on his own. No other human agency can accomplish the task. Only God, who often works through human agency as well as the individual, can accomplish the otherwise un-accomplishable.

Note to the RiverWalk Congregation: As I’ve said before, YOU make this happen. YOU provide the means for us to continue to reach out to those who are hurting. YOU are partners in this ministry of rescue and reconciliation. YOU are the prayer warriors, the resource givers, and the encouragers. God provides the divine means, the power, the amazing grace, and the resources. YOU provide the human component that God works in and through.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Paul the Apostle in that same letter to the Ephesian Christians)

Posted in Jay's Blog | Leave a comment