Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nobel Peace Prize for Pete Seeger . . .

Editorial addition . . . 12/1/08) . . . I have a great respect for the musical efforts of Pete Seeger since I first became aware of him in the late 1960's and early 1970's. I do not agree with all the causes and stands Pete has taken over the years. I have, however, been drawn to his music, simple as it is, and his style of performing which invites the audience to participate in the concert. Other favorite artists of mine, Harry Chapin, John Denver; Peter, Paul and Mary, Arlo Guthrie . . . did the same thing. All shared in many different ways how Pete Seeger was an influence to them.

I guess I am drawn to stuff like that.  Seems a lot of folk singers in the past not only sang for people, but also sang with people.

Singing, for me, is a way of getting different people who believe different things to all come to the same table . . . for while singing around that table, different people (in my humble experience) become family together. Becoming family (again, in my humble experience) is the first step in getting people, who support conflicting causes, talking about peace with one another. If that's the case, then I believe Pete's name is worthy of submission for the Nobel Prize, for he has done just that for many, many years.  

Yes, I know and am well aware about what many say about Pete's past. But I believe in grace and a 2nd chance. I believe his music, his work toward world peace, and support of environmental causes over the past 30 years are, in my opinion, worthy of my personal respect. 

Will Pete ever be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize? In truth, I honestly doubt it. 
But, stranger things in this world have happened.

RM ><>
____________________

My grandmother's death got me thinking about a few things. My first 12-string guitar was a gift from my grandmother. She knew that I enjoyed singing several songs that Pete Seeger was singing at the time, and he often used a 12-string guitar.

Later, she helped me get my "old" 4-string tenor banjo. Funny thing. Pete Seeger plays a 5-string banjo.

I just found out today that there is an effort underway to have Pete Seeger nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Info can be found here.

I have never been one for petitions. I have always preferred individual action over just signing my name to something. Seems to me that signing petitions is to simply and never costs me much.

I did sign this petition.

Please read more about this petition effort if interested, and if after reading and further reflection you feel motivated to do so, then please add your name to it. If not, then know that I respect your opinion and decision.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In Memory - Jewel Brown-Sharpe . . .

Yesterday, Tuesday, November 25, 2008, around noon-time, my dear maternal grandmother, Mrs. Jewel Brown-Sharp, passed away at Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas. She was 93 years old.

For a few moments yesterday . . . the music that is always in my heart and life . . . stopped.

My mother, my uncle, along with my eldest daughter and her husband, and I were having lunch down the street from the hospital. My daughter and I sensed that my mom, an only child, was a little "tired" and we had driven down to be with her, and to visit "Granny", who had been mercifully sedated by her doctors following two heart attacks over a 3 day period. When we arrived at the hospital, my grandmother, as we were told, had just died only a few minutes before. The hospital staff so tenderly prepared her for viewing by the family, and my mom received many hugs and condolescenses from hospital staff.

We are all so grateful that her recent physical and mental sufferings are now over. Granny was a deeply devoted Christian, whose devotion to family and friends was the stuff of legend, and an inspiration to many.

Granny was like me . . . an aspiring singer and musician who probably never got all the support she needed to pursue her inner passion. She always had a flair for the "theatric" at home, school and at the church . . . in the way she sang, in the way she played the piano or organ, and in the way she dressed.

I think her "flair for the dramatic" got passed from my grandmother, to my mother, to me. Except the dressing part. Blue jeans are always my first choise of "manly outer-wear!"

Many times on Father's Day, Granny had all the kids present sing before dinner. Usually, that was my brother and I, and my brother was terrified to sing. So I sand louder for both of us.

It was Granny who called and said, "Get on the bus and come to our house this weekend." Upon arrival, she took me to the piano to rehearse the "solo you are going to sing in church this Sunday."

My opinion or permission was never sought on these many occassions. She knew I was always willing to sing.

At the Broadway family Thanksgiving dinners, back when they were held at the Highland Lakes, Granny would encourage me to recruit cousin my Mike, my brother Mark, who had by then come to believe that singing was a good way to get the interest of girls (something that Mike and I had already come to understand), and other cousins to sing before Thanksgiving dinner. This of course was done only with and through Uncle W.D.'s permission. Granny later told me that if we sang, that W.D. or my grandfather's Thanksgiving Prayer would be shorter and we could eat sooner. She wanted some of Mary's dressing before it was all gone.

When I began fiddling around with the guitar (her words - pardon the pun), Granny gave me my first 12-string guitar, which I used when I sang with the group God-Unlimited down in South Texas in the 1974-75. My love and appreciation for the 12-string guitar has only grown these 33 years later. She attended several of our concert-church services, even scheduling us to sing for the youth at the Methodist Church in La Feria where she and Grandpa lived for over 30 years.

She was the one who would call when I served at FUMC-Waco, and later at FUMC-Hewitt, to tell me that she had "booked" me to sing at the Wesleyan Home or Wesleyan Nursing Home in Georgetown. Didn't matter if I had a local church or district event already on my calendar.

I joyfully showed up . . . and we always enjoyed the music.

She was the one who first introduced me to my favorite scripture in the Bible, Psalm 100:1-2 . . .

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

That Bible verse would later become my life mission to this day, and how I serve God best.

It was Granny, who not only surprised me with a guitar or two over the years, but also with a banjo.  She said that banjo's made such a "happy" sound.  Actually, she knew that I was very fond of Pete Seeger's music.

It was Granny, who on several occassions knowing that Liz and my Christmas budgets were very tight, sent us an early monetary Christmas gift, that always arrived in time for us to make Christmas a little more special for our two daughters, or for the foster girls we cared for at times in the past.

It was Granny, when finding out that our car had "finally died on the side-of-the-road" called me with instructions to call a car dealer she had already called and made arrangements with.

It was Granny, who sent me Grandpa Cokesbury bookstore card after I received my first appointment as pastor at Palo Pinto and Graford near Mineral Wells, with the note that read, "Go buy yourself a nice preaching robe . . . and forge your Grandpa's name on the receipt."

It was Granny, who believed so strongly in education, that she helped numerous members of m family many, many times so they might enjoy attending a good school and working toward their degrees.  She gave a lot of many over the years to Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas as well.

It was Granny, who, upon my ordination as an Elder in the United Methodist Church, who after hugging me with tears in her eyes only said . . . "Hello Brother Elder . . . finally!"

Granny had this one particular trait known to many in the family. She would not tolerate, from her grandchildren or from her students, a mediocre effort of any kind. She demanded our full concentration to the task at hand. And we knew best from experience, that she was in charge . . . she had a way to remind all of us, unique to who we were, that she was not pleased. In my case, it was my absentmindedness about sending thank-you cards. Several times she wrote me notes, "Thank you for the sweet thank-you card which I am sure you intended to send!"

My mother is in her early 70's . . . to have been blessed with a mother for all her life until yesterday is a blessing. She will tell you the same.

I am 51, and to have had a Granny for all my life until yesterday. . . a Granny who loved me, who helped raise me, who encouraged me, who often held me accountable to the family at only the appropriate times, who was generous to me and to so many others, who unknowingly helped shape me largely in part to be who I am today by giving me permission to be who I am . . . 

A blessing! A blessing indeed!

So, I only pause to stop singing for a moment of recognition, in dear memory of my dearly loved Granny.

After which, the song will come again, and will most assuradely continue . . . in her honor . . . and enpowered in her memory.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I give thanks for my family and friends . . .

As I approach the Thanksgiving holidays, I am reminded about a quote from Erwin T. Randall . . .

"True friends are those who, when you make a fool of yourself, don't believe that this condition is permanent."

Amen and Amen!

Ever forward . . . ><>

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sniff, sniff . . . ah chooooooo!

For the record . . . I do not like or enjoy allergies.  

The same time every year, right before Thanksgiving . . . my allergies blow up like a Oklahoma farm house hit by a tornado.

I don't like the way I feel with the allergies.

I don't like the way I feel taking medication for the allergies.

What I "most" do not like . . . is how it affects my voice.  Singing for the children's time tomorrow will be difficult.

If I am not singing or whistling . . . I am sick.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I can't help falling in love with you . . .

One of the highlights of my year is to present my pastor's report at our annual Charge Conference.

Seriously.

The reason I enjoy it is that I usually sing a song as part of, or as all of my report, inviting those in attendance to sing with me.

Truly, more so than any other activity, when we sing together we are family . . . one big happy family.

At least, that is my experience and perception of what happens when we sing together.

Guess Pete Seeger had more influence on my life than I thought.

I shared that I wanted to sing a song that put into perspective what I hope people of our community hear when we live with, witness, share and help on a daily basis.

The song I chose to sing . . . I Can"t Help Falling in Love With You!

Wise men say, only fools rush in
But I can't help falling in love with you

Shall I stay, would it be a sin
If I can't help falling in love with you

Like a river flows, surely to the
Darling so it goes, some things are meant to be

Take my hand, take my whole life too
For I can't help falling in love with you.

For the record . . . I do not like Elvis' version of this song all that much.  Arlo Guthrie's version is my favorite.

Connally Dugger, our Mid-Cities District Superintendent, joined me in singing the 2nd time through, and those in attendance joined us as well. It was awesome.

My hope is that whenever the people of our church are living out their faith in the community, what other people hear, see, feel, and learn about us is this . . . because of Christ, we just can't help falling in love with you!

I think we are proving this more and more,  as we intentionally minister to those who live within one mile of the church.

Ever forward . . . ><>

The Red Marble . . .

One of my fishing buddies, Ned Conner, sent me this story. I do not know the author's name. If you know who wrote the following, then please let me know so I can give appropriate credit.

Yeah, yeah, I know . . . I am a sucker for a good story or song that tugs on my heart.

After reading this story, I thought how true last line of the chorus is a from the Randy Travis song, 3 Wooden Crosses. "It's not what you take, when you leave this world behind you . . . It's what you leave behind you when you go."

I was at the corner grocery store buying some early potatoes. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean,hungrily apprizing a basket of freshly picked green peas.

I paid for my potatoes, but was also drawn to the display of fresh greenpeas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller (the storeowner) and the ragged boy next to me.

'Hello Barry, how are you today?'

'H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas. They surelook good.'

'They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?'

'Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time.'

'Good. Anything I can help you with?'

'No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas.'

'Would you like take some home?' asked Mr. Miller.

'No, Sir . Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with.'

'Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?'

'All I got's my prize marble here.'

'Is that right? Let me see it' said Miller.

'Here 'tis. She's a dandy.'

'I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of gofor red. Do you have a red one like this at home?' the store ownerasked.

'Not zackley but almost.'

'Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble', Mr. Miller told the boy.

'Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller.'

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile said, 'There are two other boys like him in our community,all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain withthem for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bagof produce for a green marble or an orange one, when they come on theirnext trip to the store.'

I left the store smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado , but I never forgot the story ofthis man, the boys, and their bartering for marbles.

Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his visitation that evening and knowing my friendswanted to go, I agreed to accompany them.

Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives ofthe deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could. Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, darksuits and white shirts...all very professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke brieflywith her and moved on to the casket. Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young manstopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand inthe casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and reminded her of the story from those many years ago and what she had told me abouther husband's bartering for marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket.

'Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about.They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim 'traded' them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size.....they came to pay their debt.' 'We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world,' she confided, 'but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man inIdaho'.

With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Is the "Religious Right" dead? . . .

My friend, Floyd, sent me the link to a recent article by columnist Cal Thomas.

Floyd is a good friend.

In the past few years . . . I have moved away from the conservative side of faith and politics. I have not gone to the left, but rather find myself in the gray area between the left and the right.

I guess by some people's definition, that makes me a moderate, or "centrist."  I like that term better than moderate. Call me whatever . . . just listen to what I have to say first.

I have used a joke a time or two about religion and politics . . . it goes something like this:

I want to start a new political party . . . the "something has to change" party.
I want to start a new church . . . the "something has to change" church.

Funny thing . . . the other day at IHOP in Euless (my favorite IHOP in the whole entire world), I was sharing the joke with the waitress (my wife and I know all of them by name . . . we go to tthe Euless IHOP a lot) about starting the "something has to change" party. The guy in the booth behind me leaned over and touched me on the shoulder. He then proceeded to ask, with all earnestness . . .

"Who is your party's candidate for president? I want to vote for them."

I wonder, as Adam Hamilton has preached at COR these past few weeks, that what we need is a reset . . .

I would suggest that our reset might be to focus on the words and actions of Jesus Christ as never before. I believe it is time to re-read carefully all the "red letters" (words of Christ) in the Bible.

Every time I do, I am always reminded that Jesus offers us some great advice about the human heart . . . that before you can affect another's heart, your own heart has to be in the right place first.

The effort, it seems, of the Religious Right and other groups has been to force, through legislation, the changing of people's hearts. Seems to me to have been a lot of wasted effort . . . and not the Biblical way to approach a situation.

For me personally, it is time to diligently examine the words and actions of Christ, and to take them completely to heart, and let them change me again from the inside out. . . . so that I might be a better disciple of Jesus, and perhaps try more earnestly to live life as he suggests it is to be lived:

-Loving God
-Loving others
-Serving others
-Working for/ through a lifestyle of peace
-Helping the sick, poor, disadvantaged and oppressed
-Approaching life in a servant spirit
-Lifting up others first

Ever forward . . . ><>

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Adam Hamilton - "Now I Know Why I'm Here" sermon . . .

I enjoyed Adam's message from last Sunday. Click here to watch and listen.

"Why am I here?" is a good question to ask ourselves all the time. I think he use of the "reset" illustration . . . going back to the factory setting . . . was a good use of the metaphor.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Monday, November 10, 2008

More thoughts on the ESV Study Bible . . .

Well, I have had my ESV Study Bible for almost a month. Except for the words of Christ being in black (and yes, I know that most all scholarly study bibles do not put the words of Christ in red) . . . I find that I am becoming more and more pleased.

The ESV translation . . . if I can put this is a politically correct way . . . and can borrow the words of my friend, Floyd . . . is what I would have hope the NRSV could have been. It reads very well . . . actually, it flows so well that I enjoy reading it out loud. I have decided to make this the translation I use for personal reading and teaching through the end of 2009.

The ESVSB is set in a single column format . . . something I appreciate. I still have my old Harper's Study Bible (RSV) from my college years . . . it was a single column format . . . with headings and good notes. I have used the Life Application Bibles for some time because they also were single column formats. It is just easier on my eyes.

As for the ESVSB notes . . . so far so good. Somewhat more scholarly, with less application than the LAB. However, the notes have been a help in preparing for the weekly bible study I lead on Tuesdays at noon, and for studying for our Iron Men Bible Study on Thursday mornings.

So far . . . so good.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Check out Pandora.com

For those of you who have not yet purchased an iPod type music player . . .

And, that may just be me for all I know . . .

Check out Pandora Internet Radio. No commercials, and just the artists you want.

I have set up about 25 stations . . . from southern rock-n-roll to the cool Joan Baez tunes I am listening to as I type this.

I am a happy man.

Yes, I will own an iPod sometime in the near future . . . because I can no longer stand AM / FM stations on the radio . . . and I am too cheap (or a good steward of my resources) to purchase a satelilite radio.

But until then, Pandora is the music source for me.

Check it out!

Ever forward . . . ><>

An after-election reflection . . .

Some good words from author John Mason concerning the recent election, and the future that each of us chooses daily to live out.

I offer for your consideration . . .

Ever forward . . . ><>

America has selected its next President. And whether or not you may agree or disagree with this selection, we definitely should note the significance of an African-American elected to the highest office in the world. We have come far as a nation.

Many people on election night, as all election nights in the past, felt overwhelming joy or sadness in the result. But to those of you who voted, I commend you for taking action.

In this time of economic uncertainty and with election results that may not be what you desired, it is easy to feel powerless. And what I have found in most situations is that people tend to quit at two significant times in their lives. After a victory and after a defeat. But now is not a time to shrink away and let outside influences take over. It's a time to, now more than ever, pray for our leaders, trust God, and act for the good of the people around us.

Do more than ever before...
Do more than exist, live.
Do more than hear, listen.
Do more than agree, cooperate.
Do more than talk, communicate.
Do more than grow, bloom.
Do more than spend, invest.
Do more than think, create.
Do more than work, excel.
Do more than share, give.
Do more than decide, discern.
Do more than consider, commit.
Do more than forgive, forget.
Do more than help, serve.
Do more than coexist, reconcile.
Do more than sing, worship.
Do more than think, plan.
Do more than dream, do.
Do more than see, perceive.
Do more than read, apply.
Do more than receive, reciprocate.
Do more than choose, focus.
Do more than wish, believe.
Do more than advise, help.
Do more than speak, impart.
Do more than encourage, inspire.
Do more than add, multiply.
Do more than change, improve.
Do more than reach, stretch.
Do more than ponder, pray.
And do more than just live, live for Jesus.

Remember, God is in control and will use you right where you are today.

-John Mason, from the book
An Enemy Called Average