My General (Circus) Conference Report

I have read a lot of articles, blogs, tweets and posts about the Special Called Session of General Conference. What I have noticed is that there is a slant to most of what I have read and I have done my best to keep quiet but I can’t stay silent any longer. I want to begin by saying I am sure what I am going to write will make some people angry. I can’t help that. All I am writing about are facts. Facts don’t care about your feelings. If facts hurt your feelings then you should probably stop reading this right now. I will wait while you find something else to read.

Well, if you are still here that means you are interested in some facts that may disturb you but I will nevertheless state them. My intent is not to make you angry (even though some of you will get angry) nor is it to be perceived as being mean and uncaring (even though some will say that I am those things). My intent is to share the other side of a story that is not being told. The other side of the story is being drowned out and covered up by a narrative that appears to have the intent to vilify those with whom they disagree. I will simply let the facts speak for themselves. You can draw your own conclusions.

I attended the Special Called Session of General Conference of the United Methodist Church held in St. Louis on February 23-26. I observed every session and listened to every speaker. I knew this was going to be an historic conference and I also knew it was going to be one in which the delegates and the observers would be passionate about their positions concerning the issue at hand. What was the issue? Should the UMC maintain it’s historic position on human sexuality, the definition of marriage and the ordination of homosexuals? The positions of the UMC on these issues are as follows:

  • All people are people of infinite worth and value.
  • With that understanding we do find that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.
  • Self-avowed practicing homosexuals will not be ordained as pastors nor will homosexual unions be performed by UMC pastors nor will homosexual unions take place in UMC churches.
  • Marriage is defined as being a union between one man and one woman.

This has been the stance of the UMC since our inception in 1968. This issue has been debated every General Conference since 1972. The position of the UMC has not changed. This called General Conference was called for the express purpose of addressing this issue yet again.

The two plans that made it to the floor of the General Conference for a vote were the One Church Plan and the Traditional Plan. Very briefly, the One Church Plan wanted to change our Discipline so that each local church, Board of Ordained Ministry and Annual Conference could decide their own position on these issues. Also very briefly, the Traditional Plan sought to maintain the current position of the UMC as stated above.

As United Methodists we believe in what is called holy conferencing. That means that we are supposed to be able to disagree without being disagreeable and treat each other with respect and grace and hear what each side has to say on the issue and come to a consensus and then go out and support the position the majority agreed upon. That is not what happened in St. Louis. It was the most unholy conferencing I have ever seen.

Before I continue I want to share these facts with you. They are easily verifiable. All you have to do is watch the videos from the General Conference to see that what I am writing is the truth.

We were told by the ones presiding over the meetings (our bishops) that we needed to be in order. We were told not to clap for the speeches given or to disrupt the sessions with our actions. Not a single individual in favor of the Traditional Plan disrupted the sessions. Not a single person supporting the Traditional Plan tried to shout down the speakers. Not a single person supporting the Traditional Plan called for the injury or death of those who opposed the Traditional Plan. Not a single person supporting the Traditional plan called those in opposition to it a terrorist. Not a single person supporting the Traditional Plan held up signs in protest of other plans or individuals. Not a single person supporting the Traditional Plan tried to intimidate or bully those who opposed the plan. Not a single person supporting the Traditional plan accused those who opposed it of buying votes. Not a single person supporting the Traditional Plan had to be restrained by police and escorted out of the building because they wanted to invade the floor of the General Conference to show they didn’t like the votes. Not a single person supporting the Traditional Plan gave a speech in which they accused those opposed to the plan of being hateful and unloving and uncaring. The same cannot be said for those who opposed the Traditional Plan.

I have stated publically and I will repeat it here – General Conference was not only disgusting to watch but it was also embarrassing. The only thing spiritual about General Conference was the spiritual warfare. Let me explain.

The first day of General conference was designed to be spent in prayer and preparation for the work ahead of the delegates. Scripture was read and prayers were prayed and songs were sung and protests began. During a prayer time in the afternoon some people gathered on the floor of the conference holding up a rainbow-colored flag and while we were supposed to be praying and focusing on the task at hand, they were dancing around with the flag.   For some that might not be a big deal but that action was not helping us focus on worship and prayer. That action brought attention to the people waving the flag and dancing with it. Worship is not about the individual. It is about God. The focus of worship is always supposed to be God. That was not the focus of the dance.

On day two we entered into the legislative session in order to set the priority of what petitions and legislation we would address. These pieces of legislation were voted on by the delegates who placed a priority on what would be brought to the floor of the General Conference for action. During day two and day three we heard the debates around the pieces of legislation and the votes were taken and the decisions were made by the body. The only plan voted to go forward to the floor of General Conference was the Traditional Plan.

On day four of General Conference a minority report was brought forward to petition the General Conference to allow the One Church Plan to be presented even though it was voted down in the legislative committee. The motion passed and the One Church Plan was presented for debate and vote. Rev. Tom Berlin gave the minority report. Berlin stated that those in favor of the Traditional Plan were intentionally injecting a virus into the denomination that could not be cured and would destroy the church. A terrorist is someone who intentionally brings irreparable harm to someone without concern for the individual. In essence Berlin was accusing those in favor of the Traditional Plan of being like a terrorist. At the end of the debate and before the vote, Berlin told people to vote for the One Church Plan and if they couldn’t vote for it, then just abstain from voting. You read that right. Berlin wanted people to vote his way or to not vote at all.

In an effort to derail the Traditional Plan and stop the vote on the plan to take place Carlene Fogle-Miller accused those supporting the Traditional Plan of buying votes. There was no evidence presented and not one delegate was named in the accusation. She just dropped that on the General Conference and motioned for it to be referred to the Commission on Ethics. If this is true it needs to be addressed but there also needs to be evidence presented and not just accusations. As of the writing of this article these allegations have not been proven nor has anyone been charged with buying or selling votes.

If you were to listen to those who opposed the Traditional Plan, you would think that every young person in America was going to leave the church if this plan passed. That is an intimidation tactic and a lie. Just ask Aislinn Deviney. She told the General Conference that she and many more like her believed in the stance of the UMC on human sexuality and that she and many more like her believed in a traditional marriage between one man and one woman. But the opponents ignored her.

Rev. Mark Holland, with a stack of amendments in his hand, threatened the General Conference saying he was going to tie up the vote on the Traditional Plan until the end of the General Conference so that the plan would fail due to not allowing a vote to take place.

Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey presided over the debate and the vote for the Traditional Plan. While she had a hard task I watched her interrupt and stop speeches being given by international delegates while allowing American delegates to come to the microphone for a point of order but who wound up giving speeches against the Traditional Plan without raising any points of order. This happened multiple times.

There are individuals I once respected and admired but I lost my respect for them because of their actions on the floor of General Conference and due to their reporting following the General Conference.

Rev. Mike Slaughter used the threat of people leaving the denomination in order to intimidate people to vote against the Traditional Plan. Apparently he didn’t care if those in favor of the Traditional Plan left the church if the plan was not passed.

Rev. Adam Hamilton is a pastor I had met before, listened to him preach, read his books and highly respected him. But I lost all of that respect when he came to the floor of General Conference and began attacking the Wesleyan Covenant Association for their support of the Traditional Plan. He ended his time by trying to intimidate the delegates in favor of the Traditional Plan by having the delegates opposed to the plan to stand. This was followed by cheers from the observers who opposed the Traditional Plan.

Immediately following General Conference, Bishop William Willimon published an article about the conference in The Christian Century (www.christiancentury.com). Though in previous years I had heard this bishop preach, and I had read his books, and admired him, I lost respect for him after reading his article. Here is one quote from what he wrote: “At some point my prayers (at General Conference) shifted to, ‘Lord, melt the hardened hearts and SMITE everyone who intends to vote against the One Church Plan.’” Yes, you read that correctly. To smite someone means to cause them to receive serious harm or injury or death. A sitting bishop who is supposed to be a leader in the denomination and a pastor to pastors prayed that God would severely injure or kill those who opposed the One Church Plan. Despicable, sir!

The opponents of the Traditional Plan used parliamentary tactics to stall the vote and to prevent amendments from being made to the Traditional Plan. The opponents of the Traditional Plan were constantly interrupting the proceedings with clapping, yelling, protesting, marching and singing. They were constantly being rude and disrespectful. Supporters of the Traditional Plan were called hateful, bigoted, homophobes, among other things, by those who opposed the plan. They were also told they just need to leave the church.

I have heard that the Traditional Plan would drive young people away from the UMC. If that is true, then why aren’t those churches busting at the seams with young people who are in violation of the Discipline and who have homosexual pastors? Why aren’t the annual conferences that are in violation of the discipline growing by leaps and bounds instead of dwindling away? Why aren’t the denominations which have already accepted the full inclusion of the homosexual lifestyle and ordaining homosexuals as pastors exploding with growth instead of shrinking and dying? Why aren’t the four other denominations that have voted for full acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle and ordaining homosexuals receiving record numbers of people instead of dying an agonizing death?

It was the international conferences that helped to pass the Traditional Plan. The African Church is 100% in favor of the Traditional Plan and they are growing faster than any other part of Methodism. How is that possible if what the opponents of the Traditional Plan say is going to happen with the young people is true? Because it is not true! Jason Schifo tweeted, “It is a modern day parable of sorts that the African Church which you (UMC) planted and trained in the truth years ago returned this past weekend to remind you of the truth.”

After watching everything that went on at this General Conference Chad Holtz tweeted this, “Judging by my #GC2019 feed, gay folk would be far more welcomed in a traditional church than a traditionalist would be in a progressive one.” Based on what I observed at this General Conference I would have to say I agree.

The next time those who oppose the Traditional Plan start talking about how mean, hateful, bigoted, unloving and uncaring those who support the Traditional Plan are just show them this post.  They won’t like it or won’t believe it because it doesn’t fit their narrative but that doesn’t change the facts.  What they are accusing the Traditional Plan supporters of doing they are doing themselves in more ways than can be counted.  And doing it all in the name of wanting unity and inclusion.

I could go on and on but I think you can get the picture. It is a sad time for the United Methodist Church. We used to focus on making disciples and winning people to Jesus and now we focus on fighting at General Conference. We are not presenting a witness to this world that honors Christ. Why would anyone want to be a part of the United Methodist church if they watched any of the General Conference? We need to do better. We can do better.

It is important for us to remember some vital truths that are unchanging. All people stand in the need of being forgiven. All people are loved by God. God desires to have a relationship with all people. May that be the message we share with the world and stop all this arguing.

My Prayer: God, I am so sorry that this part of your universal church is acting this way. Please help us get back to what you have called us to do and stop debating issues you have already settled. May we be about making disciples instead of playing politics. God, please heal us and make us into what you want us to be. We need you now more than ever. Amen.

Jesus entered into the darkness to bring us The Light!

Darkness. Have you ever been in a place that was so dark that it felt like you could feel the darkness all around you? You could not see anything. It did not matter how much you strained or how wide you opened your eyes there was just darkness.

I have been there. I was serving in a church and our youth minister would set up these very elaborate mazes made of cardboard boxes. He and his team would spend hours designing these intricate mazes that would fill a small warehouse. Once the maze was complete several of the volunteers would crawl into the maze with all of the lights on in the warehouse. They would look for little holes and seems where light was shining through and then they would tape them up. By the time they were finished no light at all could get in the maze.

Then they would open the maze up for all the youth and anyone else who wanted to try to figure it out. If you went into the maze you could not take anything in it with you that would shine any kind of light. No watches. No flashlights. Nothing. Then when the time came the lights in the warehouse were turned off and the brave would begin crawling through the maze. Most had a lot of fun. There were some that just could not take the confined spaces and the total darkness and would need help to get out. Occasionally, someone would get so desperate that they would literally break through the boxes to get out.

I decided to try the maze out. I entered into complete darkness. There was no light anywhere. I could literally not see my hand even when it was touching my nose. I did conquer the maze and made it all the way to the end.

The maze was fun and I knew that if I needed help it was not far away. But the darkness was intimidating. The complete inability to see anything at all was enough to make me or anyone else feel very apprehensive. You did not know if there was a turn coming up or if you were coming to a dead end and needed to find a way to turn around and go back and find another way out. Fortunately for me and everyone else that went in the maze there was a way out.

The darkness I felt in that maze reminds me of another time of darkness. This darkness was not a fun filled game people played. This darkness was not confined to the inside of a maze made of boxes. This darkness covered the world.

It happened just outside of Jerusalem. A three-hour darkness covered the entire land. And while everyone alive at that time experienced it there was one for whom the darkness was even greater. Jesus entered into what I would call four different kinds of darkness.

  1. Jesus entered the darkness of rejection.

As Jesus was on the cross those who were supposed to be looking for Him to come and save them, those who were supposed to be telling others about Him were standing on the ground at the foot of the cross mocking Him.

Mark 15:31-32“…the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked Him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but He can’t save himself!  32  Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with Him also heaped insults on Him.

These priests and teachers were responsible for preparing others for the coming of the Messiah and yet they were at the foot of the cross hurling insults and celebrating the fact they had helped to crucify the One whom they were supposed to Worship and follow. Jesus had been rejected by the very ones who should know who He really is.

Not only that but at this point in this story the criminals being crucified with Him were joining the priests to mock Jesus. Those who were suffering the same fate as Jesus were mocking Him!

Jesus could have saved Himself but He endured this suffering and rejection because of His love for them and for us. He knew there was no other way to save them or us. Jesus could have chosen not to take the pain and humiliation. He could have chosen to kill those who mocked Him but He suffered through it all because He loved even His enemies.

  1. Jesus entered the darkness of desertion.

Even those who said they loved Jesus turn their backs on Him. His own disciples deserted Him in His time of greatest need.

  • Judas had betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver.
  • James and John had said they wanted to be on either side of Jesus when He came into His Kingdom but the only ones by His side are those who were crucified along with Him.
  • Peter said that everyone else would desert Jesus but he never would.   Not only would he desert Him but he would also deny Him three times.
  • All but one of His own disciples had run away from Him and were in hiding. Only John was at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mom and a few other women.

Think about it. In the time you are in your greatest need, in the time you are hurting the most, in the time you are at your most vulnerable you suddenly find yourself completely deserted by those who said they would be with you no matter what. We can all imagine how dark that would be.

  1. Jesus entered the darkness of loneliness.

Mark 15:33-3433 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

At this point in history something happened to Jesus that has never happened nor will it ever happen to anyone else. Jesus was completely alone. 

Jesus was quoting from Psalm 22. That entire Psalm is a prophecy expressing the deep agony of the Messiah’s death for the sins of the whole world. Jesus knew that He would temporarily be separated from God the moment He took upon Himself our sins.

That separation is what He had dreaded as He prayed in Gethsemane. Jesus knew that our sins separated us from our Heavenly Father.   He knew that when He took our sins on Himself that God would have to look away from Him because a Righteous Holy God cannot look on sin.

The physical agony was horrible but the spiritual alienation from God was the ultimate torture. That was the darkest time for Jesus. That was the time when He was completely and entirely alone!

  1. Jesus entered the darkness of the grave

Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus asked for Jesus’ body.   His body was taken down from the cross and hastily prepared for burial. He was then taken to a freshly prepared grave and placed in it. Then the stone was rolled over the opening, those who brought Him there walked away and He was left in that place of death.

Can any of us begin to imagine the pain and darkness Jesus’ mother Mary and the other women were feeling when they watched Jesus die and be buried? Can any of us imagine what John and any of Jesus’ other friends must have been feeling?

The darkness they entered into must have been overwhelming. The One they believed was coming to deliver them from bondage was now dead and bound in grave cloths. The One they believed was going to establish His Kingdom was crucified. The One they had chosen to follow was now at the end of His journey. The One they believed would bring them victory was now buried in defeat.

That Friday was the darkest day of their lives. They thought it was all over and the darkness would never leave. They could not imagine a way out of this pit. But that was on Friday and what they didn’t know is that the story was not finished yet.

What about you?   Are you in darkness right now? Do you feel that the darkness you are dealing with is so great that you can’t see any way light could ever overcome it?   Is it emotional? Is it spiritual? Are you dealing with the darkness of despair? Has your past so overshadowed your present that you feel it is blocking out all light? Do you think that because of your past that your future looks dark?

You may be in the darkness of your own personal Friday but I want to encourage you and give you hope. Hang in there because your story is not yet finished.   The Light is coming!

Who is to blame for the Parkland, FL, Shooting?

I feel like I just cannot avoid addressing what has happened in Florida this week. I feel led very strongly to try to share with you some thoughts and hopefully offer some hope and comfort for those who are struggling or who may know of someone who is struggling. Too many are reacting in fear and they are letting that fear take root in their lives and begin to control their thoughts and actions. I would never be so arrogant to say to you that I have all the answers because I don’t. No one does.

I cannot speak for you but I have been struggling since I heard of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. I have also struggled since the shooting that occurred at the school in Kentucky and at the church in Texas. I have read posts and articles and listened to news reports and interviews. I have heard how people have tried to find someone to blame for allowing this to happen.   Republicans and Democrats blame each other. Citizens blame the government for not doing its job. The gun manufacturer is blamed for making the gun. The NRA is blamed for standing up for the 2nd Amendment and rights for individuals to possess guns. Those who oppose guns and who are in favor of banning guns are blamed for pushing schools to be gun free zones and thereby open up schools to be attacked by gun toting criminals. Video game designers and movie studios are blamed for producing such violent material and making it available to children. Parents are blamed for allowing their children to play those games and watch those movies. School personnel are blamed for not picking up on the actions of the troubled shooter that supposedly pointed to this man as being someone who could commit this horrific act and then allowing him to slip through their system unchecked. Those who had their suspicions about the shooter are blamed for not speaking up. The media is blamed for making this shooter a celebrity by sharing his name and story with the rest of the world and possibly encouraging other would be criminals to do these very same acts. And, of course, God gets most of the blame for allowing the shooting to happen.

The one thing I have picked up from all of this is that there are plenty of people to blame for what happened but there is a problem. The problem is that they are all wrong. This is not a gun issue or a mental health issue. This is not a political issue or a media issue. This is not a video game or violent movie issue. While each of these influences could have contributed to what happened they are not the cause of what happened. This is a heart issue. Our actions originate in our heart. The real reason for this shooting relates to the condition of the heart of the shooter. The one responsible for the shooting is the shooter. We all need to understand that the shooter made the decision to do what he did. He did not have to do it. He was not forced to do it. He chose to do it. The blame for this shooting rests completely on the shooter. No one else.

But it is not just the condition of the heart of the shooter but it is also an outgrowth of the heart of our society and culture. As a society we have taken away personal accountability. When someone does something wrong they want to blame anyone and everyone else, including God, for the actions of the person who committed the vile act. All the fault and blame for what happened in Parkland, FL, rests completely on the individual who chose to commit this horrific act of violence against innocent people. Any time that we as a society try to put the blame for a wrong action on anyone other than the one who committed the wrong act then we foster a culture of blame that fosters the abdication of personal responsibility. Again, there is one person to blame and that is the shooter. Not God or the gun or the games or being bullied or the media or the NRA or the politicians or society or anyone else. The shooter owns all the blame. Everyone needs to stop trying to take the blame away from him. He planned the attack. He pulled the trigger. He killed and injured those innocent people. No one else! Period!

Some have asked, “Where was God? Why didn’t He simply stop this?” That is a good question. I don’t believe I will ever be able to answer that question to anyone’s complete satisfaction. I can’t grasp why this happened. But I will tell you what I believe. I still believe that God is good. I still believe that this act broke the heart of God. Even though I don’t understand why this shooting happened I have to believe that God is still God and that He can work through this situation. I don’t know or understand how. My finite mind cannot being to comprehend the infinite mind of God.

Far too often people want to blame God for all the bad things that happen in the world and never want to give Him credit for the good that happens in the world. You simply can’t have it both ways. That is disingenuous at least and ignorant at best. This dichotomy shows that a person who thinks this way does not have a grasp of who God really is or how much He cares for all of us. When you try to make God the scapegoat for all that goes on wrong in the world and never acknowledge what is good in the world your view of who God really is is drastically skewed. If God is not God all the time then He cannot be God any of the time.

A perspective shared by author Lane Palmer really spoke to me about God in relation to this senseless act of violence. Palmer writes in an article written on the 10th anniversary of 9/11:

Where was God and what was He doing on that day? Any “‘answer” to this question that comes from a finite and limited human being would be in the category of flawed opinion. It seems to me that if we have a question for God – especially one that involves such a weighty issue – we should let Him answer. So let’s listen to the words of the One who has graciously chosen to speak to us: The LORD reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness (Psalm 9:7-8).

“So the initial answer to “where was God on 9/11?” is simple…He was where He is today 10 years later. He is on the Throne of heaven where He always has been and always will be. He is perfect, so it is impossible for Him to operate outside the parameters of justice and fairness.

“But how is it “just” and “fair” when planes are used as weapons of war?

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

“In other words, in our limited perspective we take complicated scenarios and try to simplify them so we can try and make sense out of senseless violence. Or worse, in our arrogance we try and take a higher moral position than the God who is the source of all morality in the first place!”  https://www.christianpost.com/news/where-was-god-on-9-11-55203/ 

Make no mistake – God did not cause these shootings to happen. God does not do anything that is evil because that would violate His character and that is something that He cannot do. What God does is give us free will. Unfortunately, sometimes the actions of others in exercising their free will adversely affects others. An intoxicated person gets behind the wheel of a car and runs into someone else and kills them. A person with evil intent in their hearts loads a gun and shoots innocent people. Both the drunk driver and the shooter exercised their free will and others were harmed. God did not cause that. He was not pleased with that. It broke His heart.

However, we need to understand that same free will that people can use to do evil can also be used to do good. The coach who jumped in front of the shooter to protect the students. The first responders who came to the aid of those who were injured. The good Samaritan who stops to help when they come across a wreck. All three of these are also exercising their free will by doing good and others benefit from their free will. That does please God. This kind of exercise of free will warms His heart.

If we did not have free will then we would be nothing more than robots programmed to act a certain way and do certain things and we would lose the ability to have a true relationship with God or anyone else. You see, that free will we have been given can be used to either love God or to reject Him. God gave us that free will knowing that we could make a choice to turn our backs on Him. God knew that without free will we could not truly love Him. God wants us to choose to love Him and not be forced to love Him. If we are forced to love Him then it really is not love.

God understands what it is like for the innocent to die. His Innocent Son was tortured and murdered for our sins. Jesus had done nothing wrong. He simply loved everyone. And even though He was innocent Jesus chose to go to the cross for us. He chose to give His life for us. On the third day after He was murdered He arose from the dead and made a relationship with a loving God possible.

God has already made His choice about you. John 3:16 tells us God’s choice – “For God so loved the world (that includes you) that He gave His One and Only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  He chose to love you. The question is what are you going to do with your free will? Are you going to choose to love God or reject Him? Are you going to choose to do good or evil? The choice is completely yours.

 

 

Freedom Rains! (No that is not mispelled)

The representatives from the various states had gathered and the discussion and the debate were becoming more and more heated. Each one of these representatives was fighting hard to get their own thoughts and desires included in the legislation. They were doing what representatives do, protecting their own special interests. The more they debated and fought the more it appeared that they were at an impasse and this legislation would be defeated. No one wanted to give in. They were all so focused on themselves and their own personal wishes they were forgetting what was best for the people they were representing. Some of the representatives had even walked out of the proceedings in anger. There was a growing sense of hopelessness and despair.

Finally, having listened to all the arguments, having observed the passion of the representatives and having watched as this gathering appeared to be dissolving in front of his very eyes, one elder statesman stood and gained the attention of the assembly. He was a well-known man who had the respect of those gathered.

The group was the Continental Congress. The issue at hand was the birth of America. The elder statesman was Benjamin Franklin. He addressed the group:

Mr. President,

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understanding? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. …. And have we forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men.

Benjamin Franklin, addressing this assembly of the greatest minds in America, continued:

If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground with His (God’s) notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the Sacred Writings, that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.

Benjamin Franklin concluded his remarks with his own personal conviction concerning the future of the nation:

I firmly believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the buildings of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a bye word down to future ages. …. I therefore beg leave to move – that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed with business…  (Renewing The Soul Of America – pp. 26-27)

Don’t miss this – this assembly of 56 of the greatest intellectuals and leaders of their time listened to Benjamin Franklin and adopted his motion. Every session after that one was begun by prayer seeking God’s guidance and wisdom. This group of men went from fighting against each other for their own interests and wishes to joining together to fight against the tyranny of Great Britain.

Now instead of the Constitutional Congress dissolving and this idea of freedom fade away, they are now united in purpose. God’s wisdom began to prevail and consensus conquered confusion. These men began to get a sense of order and direction and the result was the drafting and adoption of the greatest document ever crafted by the human mind.   No other constitution of any nation in the world has endures as has ours.

James Madison, the principle drafter of the constitution and our 4th president said: “Without the intervention of God there never would have been a Constitution.” (Renewing The Soul Of America – p. 27)

Up until this point all these men had been trying to go it alone and were looking out for their own self interests and the particular desires of the colonies they represented. Then, through the power of God, they began to work together. They began to realize that they could not go it alone. They understood their need for God.

I would like to share with you that I believe that we as a nation need to come to the realization that we cannot make it on our own today. We need help. That help is God!

I could spend some time this morning talking to you about how bad things are. I could talk about corruption and lying. I could talk about how neither branch of our government is doing what it should to follow the principles upon which our nation was founded. I could talk to you about how members of both major parties are more interested in keeping their jobs than in doing what is right.

I could talk to you about how politicians are more interested in not offending people than they are in standing on the principles of honor and integrity. I could talk to you about how people are more interested in being popular than they are in leading properly.

I could spend time today talking to you about how our Constitution is being ignored and the rights of the people are being discarded and treated as insignificant. I could talk to you about how the freedom of religion in our nation is under attack by those who desire freedom from religion.

I could talk about how we have gotten our values so messed up. For example – why is Bruce Jenner celebrated for becoming Caitlyn Jenner and why is he being given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPY Awards on ESPN?

Why is Tim Tebow praying on the football field condemned? Not only condemned but criticized and mocked and ridiculed.

I could talk about how reconciliation and cooperation among all people is being replaced with race baiting and class warfare.   I could talk about so much that is wrong with our great country and how we have gotten away from the principles upon which we were founded.

But I am not going to talk about all of that. Instead, I would like to talk to you about how America can be redeemed.   I would like to give you some principles that will help to bring revival to our nation and that can help to put us back on the right track.

Ronald Reagan said,  “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God then we will be a nation gone under.”

As we are going through these principles you will notice something in particular about them all. Don’t miss this – They all begin with the individual!   If we want to redeem our nation, if we want revival to come, if we want to leave a nation for our children and grandchildren that is better than the one we have now then we must begin with ourselves.

How Freedom “Rains”

  1. Reestablish the Bible, God’s Word, as the final authority for our individual lives.

Every person, no matter who they are or what they claim to believe or not believe, has something in their lives that is the final authority for how they will live their lives. What is yours?

The Bible has been around longer than our nation. It has already withstood more tests than our nation has and it is still here providing truth and guidance to all who will receive it. God has not given it to us for our opinion but for our instruction.

2 Timothy 3:15-17 – …from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

  1. Choose to exalt and obey the timeless principles of the Bible over the ever-changing dictates of popular culture.

Popular culture lies to you. It changes constantly. According to popular culture what was true yesterday is not necessarily true today and can change again tomorrow. There is no consistency with culture except that it changes.

You cannot base the way you live your life on the popular culture because of the inconsistencies. According to popular culture if you don’t go along with it then you are wrong and there is something very wrong with you.

Have you ever noticed that those who are the most exclusive are the very ones who scream about you needing to be inclusive? They only believe in “one way inclusion”.

The Bible is consistent and the truth found in the Bible does not change with culture. When are we going to stop following the changing winds and whims of culture and start following the unchanging truth of Christ?

  1. Teach our children and grandchildren the principles of God’s Word diligently, realizing that their future and the future of the nation is at stake.

Deuteronomy 11:18-20 –  Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,

If we are not teaching our children and grandchildren the truth the world will teach them lies and tell them it is the truth. Our children and grandchildren will not learn the principles of God’s Word from the world.

  1. Be a living, walking example of God’s principles of life, truth and freedom.

We are all an example. What kind of example are we setting? As Christ Followers we are to lead the world and not have the world lead us. We are to set the example and not follow the example set by the world. We are to be difference makers.

Matthew 5:14-16You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

All the darkness in the world cannot put out the light of a single match!

  1. Stay connected to a church that is dedicated in both word and practice to teaching the Bible as the authoritative Word of God – unchanged by popular culture.

The Bible is the Truth. It has never been proven wrong in anything. Even though we may not understand everything that doesn’t change the Truth in the Bible. We are committed to preaching and teaching the truth of Scripture here at Woodbine. We will not compromise the truth and we will not water it down.

It is not up to us to apologize for Scripture nor to alter it in such a way so that the Bible conforms to culture and society. Culture and society needs to conform to the teaching of the Bible.

  1. Serve your neighbor and fellow Americans, especially those in need, as though you were serving God Himself.

Colossians 3:23 & 24bWhatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men….It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

  1. Pray! Pray! Pray!

2 Chronicles 7:14If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

If we want America to be “one nation under God” then we need to follow these principles.

America’s finest hour is not the glory of a magnificent military victory but the outpouring of God’s grace upon us as we fall on our faces in repentance for sin and selfishness before our true “Founding Father” – God Himself. (Renewing The Soul Of America – p. 184)

Once we do that we will see things differently. Things will change.

  • When we see someone of a different race we will see them not as a black or white or Latino or Asian but as a person for whom Christ Jesus died and someone with the potential to be our friend and fellow Christ Follower.
  • We will no longer see that homeless person as someone who is too lazy to work but as someone for whom Christ Jesus died and who has great value in the eyes of God.
  • Families will be stronger and more united as we seek to have our families under the guidance and leadership of God.
  • Crime will diminish as more and more people follow Christ instead of their own evil desires.
  • More people will be helped because we will look at a person in need as someone we can show the love of Christ to instead of someone who is looking for a handout.
  • More people will look at how they can serve instead of how they can be served.
  • More people will stop looking to government and start looking to God.
  • Life will explode with meaning because our God who gives meaning to life will be in our hearts and will guide our lives.

If we want freedom to rain on our nation then we need to have freedom reign in our hearts!

Do you want to make a difference in our country? Do you want to see our country changed for the better? Do you want to see God do a new work in our nation? Do you want to see revival come to America?

It all begins with the individual. Revival must first come to your heart before it can come to our church, our community and our nation.

Are you a Christ Follower? Then I want to ask you to pray for a fresh move of God in your life. Pray for personal revival. Then ask God how He wants you to make a difference and do it.

If you are not a Christ Follower I want you to hear the words of Jesus when He said, “I have come to set you free.” Do you want to be free?

Off With His Head! Just kidding….

On Tuesday, May 30, comedian Kathy Griffin released a picture of herself holding an effigy of President Donald Trump’s bloody head giving the appearance that she had severed his head and was holding her “trophy”. There are so many things I could say about this ridiculous “artistic expression”. First, while I am not a professional art critic I am confident that this “expression” cannot begin to compare with art. I have seen some of the works of artistic greats like Michelangelo, Van Gogh, and Da Vinci and I think it is safe to say that, “Kathy Griffin, you are no Michelangelo!” This was not an artistic expression. This was an expression of disgust about someone Ms. Griffin hates! Any other interpretation of this “expression” is either naïve or an attempt to justify something that is atrocious.

Let’s be honest – If Keith Oberman and Chelsea Clinton think you have done something bad when you have criticized or belittled President Trump then you have really messed up.

Now, Ms. Griffin has apologized. “I’m sorry I held what appeared to be the severed head of President Trump complete with blood dripping all over his face in my hand and had a professional photographer take pictures of it and then had it leaked to TMZ so I could get a lot of attention for myself and show the world how relevant I am and get a lot of ‘Likes’.   It was in poor taste but I am a comedian and this was just a ‘funny thing’ I did and I didn’t mean that I want anyone to actually do that to the President (who I loath and detest and wish he had never been born much less elected President).   I’m sorry that people are so sensitive that they can’t take a little joke about killing the President. After all, it was just in good fun. Lighten up, people! I’m truly sorry and I apologize from the bottom (not really) of my heart.”

Now before someone starts having the “epizootics and the vapors” as my grandparents used to call them, I know that Ms. Griffin did not say all that I wrote above. However, that is what I felt like she truly meant. I know that it is dangerous to assume what someone else means when they say something but I don’t think I am that far off in my observation.   Honestly, does anyone think she would have apologized if there had been no backlash? Does anyone think that had she been complimented and applauded and congratulated for “freely expressing herself through her art” that she would have apologized? Does anyone really think she is truly sorry for what she did? I’m sorry but I don’t think she is. I believe she is only sorry she got called out on it. She is only sorry she got caught. Had the mainstream media and her other actor friends supported her I believe I can say with almost 100% certainty that she would not have apologized. I believe she would have gone on the talk show circuit and all the morning news shows bragging about how relevant she is and how good she is at what she does. And had there been just a few people who didn’t like her picture she would have simply written them off as being too prudish or lacking an appreciation for her comedic talent. But since they didn’t come to her rescue she came to a microphone and apologized. “Sorry, but not for the picture but for the negative publicity.” “Sorry, not sorry.”

What if Jeff Foxworthy had done the same thing with President Obama? What do you think would have happened to him? People would have been calling for the end of his career. His address where he and his family lives would have been published and people would have gathered outside his home and threatened his family with bodily harm and possibly death had he “expressed his art” in that form. The outage would have been so much greater had it been Jeff but it was Ms. Griffin and she may get a little righteous indignation but that is about it.

Some would say that I’m upset because I don’t agree with Ms. Griffin’s politics. Whoever says that is ignorant! This has nothing to do with politics. I would be just as angry and someone done the same thing to President Obama or any other human! It has to do with the fact that Ms. Griffin did this with no regard for anyone but herself and her own self-promotion. She wanted the controversy in order to boost her own career. She just did not expect this kind of pushback. She expected some but not to this extent.

I’m upset – no, that is not true. As my 97 year old Mama Rena would say, “I’m just flat out mad” that Ms. Griffin would do something like that and my grandchildren would be exposed to it. Now before anyone says anything dumb like “They see worse on TV” you need to know that my grandchildren don’t. What they watch is monitored by their parents (as it should be) and they are not allowed to watch such garbage. But when Ms. Griffin put this out she knew it would be shared all over the place including social media. She knew it would hit Facebook and people would be reading it. Normally, anything on my Facebook page is fine for my grandchildren to see but every now and then something pops up like this that they shouldn’t be exposed to and that is what happened. My oldest grandson was looking over his mom’s shoulder at something on my Facebook page and saw Ms. Griffin picture with President Trumps’ effigy. It greatly disturbed him and now me and his parents have to try to explain what this is all about and why someone would want to do that to the President. I got so mad at Ms. Griffin that I (to quote Mama Rena again) “wanted to cloud up and rain all over her!”

But now everything is ok! She has apologized and now we move on with life and forget the whole thing. Right? Not so fast!   I don’t think so. There is something wrong with our country when we simply let something like this continue to happen. How many people, including very famous people, have called for the death of President Trump? And they have done so with impunity. IT MUST STOP! Not because of politics but because it is just not right!

Why do we continue to give people a pass for this kind of stupidity? I believe it is because we have lost our moral compass as a nation. Now everything is accepted and if it is not accepted then those who fail to accept it are not relevant and contemporary. I believe in freedom of speech but I also believe in doing so with a standard of morality. What are we teaching our children? What if our children did the same thing with their toys that Ms. Griffin did with her picture? Would we think it is cute and that they were “freely expressing themselves artistically” if they brought in Barbie’s head with read crayon all over it and said, “Look, Mommy, I cut off Barbie’s head!”? Would we say, “You are just so creative and talented!” If you would say that I would like to suggest you take some parenting classes! And quick! Shouldn’t we expect adults to at least act in the same way we expect our kids to act?

To paraphrase – What Ms. Griffin did was not only in poor taste but it was also wrong and she should never have done it in the first place. As a people and as a nation I pray we get back to a set of higher morals that will help make this kind of “expression” the exception and not the standard.   We do need revival in our nation! And quick!

On The Shoulders Of Heroes

John 15:13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

How do you define a hero? I suppose if you were to ask several people to define a hero you would get many different answers. A sandwich. A fictional character – superman, batman, spiderman, etc.   An athlete.  An actor or actress.  Emergency response personnel.  Military personnel.

According to the dictionary a HERO is a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities.

I am sure you have your definition of a hero. I would like to share with you some of my heroes.

My heroes are real, ordinary people who find it in themselves to do extraordinary things. They are those everyday people who are willing to step up and put the needs of others above themselves.

I believe that this great country was founded by heroes. They were men and women who were willing to put the welfare of their neighbors and friends above themselves. Men and women who were willing to take a chance and trust God.

We enjoy freedoms today that, to be honest, most of us have not earned. Most of us have not gone to foreign lands and fought for these freedoms. The reason we have these freedoms is because of those heroes who have gone before us and who have fought to secure them for us. I want us to remember that all the freedoms we enjoy today we have because we stand on the shoulders of heroes.

The Founding Fathers of our country were just ordinary men who were called on to do extraordinary things. They were men who were willing to put everything on the line for a cause they strongly believed in.

On July 4, 1776, in the city of Philadelphia, the signing of the Declaration of Independence marked the birth of this great nation, which, under God, was designed for world leadership.

Let us not forget that on that day, by declaring independence from an earthly power, our Forefathers made a direct declaration of dependence upon God. Look at the closing words of the Declaration of Independence:

“With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Those 56 heroic men who signed that document knew that this was not just a political statement that they could take back at any time. They knew that this was not going to be some kind of passive protest that would simply be looked at by the king and then dismissed.

They knew that if they succeeded, the best they could expect would be years of hardship in a struggling new nation. If they lost, they knew they would face the hangman’s noose as traitors to the crown. Yet they were willing to risk everything because they knew that what they were doing was right and they firmly believed that their actions were in line with the will of God.

We need to always remember that freedom is never free. It is always purchased at great cost!

John Quincy Adams“Posterity – you will never know how much it cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.”

 Thomas Payne – “What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a price upon its goods, and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”

 We are a blessed people and we live in a great nation. We are here today because we are standing on the shoulders of heroes!

Men and women have put their lives on the line for us all. They have done so willingly, with honor and integrity. There are many who have fought hard and served with integrity and honor who sit among us right now. We are thankful for what you have done and for what many of you continue to do to protect us all.

Freedom is never free. It is always purchased at great cost!

I have spoken to many serving in the military and they have all told me to please not recognize them on Memorial Day Sunday. I can appreciate why they would tell me that. Memorial Day is a day in which we recognize and honor those who are no longer with us. Memorial Day is a day that we recognize and honor those who never made it home. They are the ones who put on the uniform, kissed their family goodbye and left to obey the oath they took to defend this country from all enemies.

These are the heroes we honor today. The ones who knew that when they kissed their family goodbye they might not ever see them again and yet they went anyway. The ones who knew when they went into battle that they might not make it out alive and yet they went in anyway. The ones who put God, country, family and comrades in arms first and themselves last.

They were men like a young man President Ronald Reagan spoke of in a Memorial Day speech many years ago. Private Martin Treptow left a job in a small town barbershop in 1917 to go to France to fight with the Rainbow Division. There on the Western Front he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire. He had almost reached his goal when a machine gun cut him down. On his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading “My Pledge” he had written these words. “America must win this war. Therefore, I will work. I will save. I will sacrifice. I will endure. I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost as if the whole issue of the struggle depended on me alone.”

Freedom is never free. It is always purchased at great cost!

President Reagan said, “We must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is as formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today’s world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors. As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it. We will sacrifice for it. We will not surrender for it now or ever. We are Americans.”

Those are the kind of American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who were willing to give that last full measure of devotion. They did so with honor and courage.  Those are the kinds of heroes we honor today. It is on their shoulders that we stand today as Americans.

Freedom is never free. It is always purchased at great cost!

As much as I love this country and, without a doubt, this is the only place I wish to call home, I am also aware that this is not my final home! This nation, as wonderful as it is, will one day pass away. It is not eternal.

There is another set of shoulders that support me. There is another set of shoulders that I can stand on that I know will never falter or fail. We can know that what this world has to offer is nothing compared to what the Hero of our faith has to offer. Who is this Hero?

Hebrews 12:1-3Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

We are so thankful for those who have given their lives that we might enjoy our freedoms in America. However, let us not forget that there is One who gave His life that we might enjoy freedom for eternity.

Freedom is never free. It is always purchased at great cost!

I don’t want us to lose sight today of the greatest freedom we can all enjoy! Christ has come to set us free from the sin that shackles us and the guilt that imprisons us and the bitterness that attacks us and the resentment that batters us and the shame that pursues us!

Christ is the HERO of all time! It is upon His shoulders that we can build our eternity. We can be assured that His shoulders are strong enough to hold us all and that He will never let us down!

While I greatly love and respect our Flag, I want to share with you that there is a higher standard we can follow and that is the Cross! Jesus Christ went to the cross and gave His life in order to gain our freedom from sin. We have a choice to make. We can believe His message and have life or we can reject it.

Have you ever wondered why God has blessed America so much? In spite of those who are trying to rewrite history let us never forget that this country was founded upon Biblical principles that honor God. The phrase on our money is indicative of our religious beginnings, “In God We Trust”. No matter how prosperous we may become, we must never forget that God is the Giver and Sustainer of life and blessings.

I think, at times, we have forgotten God. To a great extent, our modern objectives have become success, status and security. They are followed closely by self-indulgence, comfort and pleasure. Our permissive society turns freedom into license, rights into riots, and pornography into profit.

Concerned about a higher standard of living, some fail to live by any standard. Riches are elevated above righteousness and science above the Savior. We abandon the moral law and then shake our heads in disbelief as crime increases.

Some day our money and economy may totally collapse. When and if it does, we’ll be left with those four words, “In God We Trust.”

Where do you place your trust today? What are you dealing with today? Are you struggling?   Do you think that everything and everyone is against you? Do you feel like your life right now is in the darkest of night? I want you to know that there is hope.

Psalm 30:5b – …weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

By dying for us Jesus showed us how far His love was willing to go – all the way!

John 3:16For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Today we honor those who died on the battlefield on our behalf. But, more importantly, today we worship the One who died and was raised again to give us eternal life.

Freedom is never free. It is always purchased at great cost!

I Have Two Moms

I have been blessed in so many ways.  I have a good family who loves me.  I get the opportunity to serve in a church doing what I love to do.  I have friends who are concerned about me and who are there to support me.  And I have two moms.  Wait!  Don’t freak out!  I know in today’s culture that statement can be taken in many different ways.  Let me explain.  I have a Mom who gave birth to me named Betty.  I love her dearly and I miss her so much.  She died on my 49th birthday.  I know she is in Heaven now and I know one day I will see her again.  She taught me so much.  And I have a Mom who is still with me named Mama Rena.

Let me explain.  My dad remarried many years after he and my Mom (Betty) divorced.  He married a wonderful woman who became my second Mom.  Me and my family love her dearly and she is a wonderful part of our lives.  That is Mama Rena.  As I write this I am sitting in a recliner near her as she is napping.  She is 97 years old and is one of the sweetest, most caring people I have ever met.  Mama Rena has never given birth to any children.  Her and her first husband were married over 35 years before he died.  She has never told me why they couldn’t have children and I have never asked.  That is none of my business.  That all happened before she came into my life.

I first met Mama Rena when I had just turned 18.  I remember walking into her house to eat a meal with her and my Dad.  I had moved to Coffeeville, AL (if you haven’t heard of it I wouldn’t be surprised.  It is a very small town in rural South Alabama) to live with my Dad and start college at a little Junior College near where he was living.  We sat down to eat a breaded steak sandwich and some banana pudding.  This would be the first of many meals I would enjoy at her table.  She is an excellent cook.  I believe feeding people is her love language.  Eating her cooking was one of my love languages and was one of the ways I showed her how much I loved her ( and how much I enjoyed her cooking!)   After my kids were born she even made bananaless banana pudding for them because they like banana pudding but don’t like the bananas in the pudding (Don’t think too hard trying to figure that out.  Just go with it.).

Today, Mama Rena is still worried about making sure we all eat.  She has me eating all the time while I am staying with her this week.  I guess she is worried that I am going to wither away.  I know that her eyesight is poor due to an eye disease and she has trouble seeing me but I am definitely not withering away.  But she still wants to feed me.  One night she was not even hungry and was not going to eat but she wanted to be sure I ate.  I was not hungry either.  We had eaten a late lunch and I was not interested in eating supper.  But Mama Rena was interested in me eating supper.  She insisted.  As a matter of fact I had to cook me some supper that I was too full to eat.  Even though she was exhausted she did would not go to bed until my supper was done and on my plate and I was sitting down to eat it.   Ephesians 6:1 says “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right…”  Yes, I am 53, but I still obey my Mama Rena.  She may be 97 and I may be grown but she is still the boss.

From the first day I met her she has impacted my life.  Her kindness and compassion are evident in everything she does.  She has a heart that completely fills up her little 5 foot body.  She has shared with me her wisdom for 35 years.  She has offered advice when I have asked and correction when I needed it (even though I didn’t ask for that).  She has loved my family and accepted us all as her own.  I am not and have never been her step son.  I have always been her son.  She has always introduced me that way.  And she has never been my step mother.  She is my other Mom.  Always has been.  Always will be.  By the way, everyone she meets starts calling her Mama Rena.  They can’t help it.  They can feel the love in her flowing out to them.

I wanted to share this story of my two moms to remind us all that there are women in our lives who love us and mother us even if they did not give birth to us.   There are the moms who gave birth to us and give us life and there are women who have never had the privilege of giving birth to a child but who have been an example of a Godly woman.  There are those women who have not given birth but who have spoken life into so many children.  I was blessed by the Mom (Betty) who birthed me and raised me and loved me and I have been blessed by another Mom (Mama Rena) who has loved me and accepted me and spoken life into me.  I believe I am a better man because of both of these special women.

The question I ask myself is am I following my two Moms example?  Am I being a Godly example to my children and grandchildren?  Do they know that not only do I love them but that God loves them even more than I do?   Am I speaking words of encouragement, love and affirmation into their lives?  Am I offering advice when I should?  Am I as concerned about their spiritual nourishment as I am about their physical nourishment?  I can only pray I am doing half as well as my moms did for me.

For the men and women out there who have never had the privilege of being a part of conceiving and birthing a child I want to remind you that you still have the opportunity to impact children by speaking life into them.  You can set an example of what it means to be a Godly man or woman and show them how they can live life to the fullest. Please don’t use the excuse that because you don’t haven’t had children you can’t impact children. You can teach them by example. There are so many ways you can impact children positively.   You can serve them through a children’s ministry or youth ministry or by volunteering to be a Big Brother or Big Sister or by reading to them in their schools or by volunteering in your church or through Scouting or by coaching their recreation league teams.  The list is endless.  The only person holding you back is YOU!

To paraphrase – You can be a “Mama Rena” to so many others.  What are you waiting for?