Q & A

This is your spot as much as it is mine, so I welcome feedback and comments and questions. I thought I would share one of the questions — and my answer — with you, especially since if this is Tuesday, the post must be {should be} writing  or reading related.

The question was simple. “What do you do when you just don’t feel like writing?”

My answer was just as simple. “I don’t.”

Of course, there are many, many exceptions that need discussion. I’ll address those before circling back.

My career involved writing, so I didn’t have the luxury of not writing while I was working. There was always a story to cover or a feature to research. It was all part of the job. Like any other job, there are days you enjoy the challenges and there are others when you just go through the motions.

And then there is blogging. A lot of posts — mine and other — are dependent on the format. If it’s freestyle, if you skip a few days you probably won’t hurt your base. This blog, although formatted, is really freestyle. That was especially true prior to January 2019. Since then, each daily post was “assigned” a theme — Sunday Sermonette; Monday Words for the Week; Tuesday Readin’, ‘Riting & ‘Rithmetic; Wednesday Midweek Mirth; Thursday Life & Love; Five Minute Friday: and Saturday Prayer, Care, Share. The Tuesday, Thursday and Friday posts contain the most original content, and I often include my words from the pulpit on Sundays when I am actually behind the pulpit. I have a deep reservoir of resources for the other days.

I try to follow the schedule as best I can for two reasons.

First, it unconsciously forces me to the keyboard. That routine is key.

But I also caution about becoming slaves to that routine, which leads to the second reason. Even though I am borrowing text from other sources about half the time, I am still putting words down, editing words, and crafting a message daily. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy my Five Minute Friday exercise so much. It forces me to focus on a prompt word, one out of the blue. It expands my thought.

All that brings us full circle to the original question. It came from a budding author and writer’s block is a very real issue. My flippant answer was directed at the writing community in particular. My books — published and in progress — came after retiring. I’m not writing books as a profession, although there are authors who do. They might have a different take.

I now write for personal satisfaction. The three — Heaven Shining Through; Wisdom From a Father … one dad’s thoughts on life; and My Name Is Sam … and Heaven Is Still Shining Through — each tell everyday stories with everyday challenges and joys in their own way. They may sometimes be messy, but they reflect deep Christian values.

I came across a forgotten review of My Name Is Sam … and Heaven Is Still Shining Through. It reminded me why I write.

“Sometimes, as believers, we are afraid to present the raw truth of what life is like. We want our churches to be friendly, our marriages to be solid, our kids to behave, and our novels to be chaste. We miss out on the beauty of the experience precisely because we deny the downs and focus on the ups. We present life in a series of vacation pics and high life selfies. In doing so, we leave out half of life and wonder why people don’t take Jesus seriously. Joe Siccardi is not one of those believers, and his story is not one of those stories. While he remains true to the faith, he uses the suffering of Samantha Watt, his everyday girl in her everyday world, to show the ragged lines of humanity. Don’t be shocked, be still. Don’t be judgmental, be honest. Read this story at the peril of your heart, but not in any peril of your faith”

To sum up, I can’t tell you how many times I just didn’t feel like writing. I didn’t write … until passion caught up with my mind. I didn’t force writing, like from 10 a.m.-noon … but waited for the flow, be it during dinner or at 2:30 in the morning {yes, those happened}.

But the caveat: Never give up! You started writing because you had a story to tell. Tell it!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Try to keep your mind open to possibilities and your mouth closed on matters you don’t know about.

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Safer Than a Known Way

Our Words for the Week come from Minnie Louise Haskins, a British poet and academic in the field of sociology, best known for being quoted by King George VI in his Royal Christmas Message of 1939. This excerpt is from her most notable work, The Gate of the Year.

“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.'”

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most. — Jack Kornfield

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A Palm Sunday Meditation

Our Palm Sunday reflection this week is offered by Christian Methodist Episcopal Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick

“Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to Me.” – Matthew 21:2 (NIV)

What I saw this week I didn’t remember seeing before: a donkey and a colt. I’m sure I’ve read this passage many times in the last 50-plus years, but I never remember seeing two animals being untied, at the direction of Jesus, so He could ride one of them (presumably) into Jerusalem.

As we have reacted to the various coronavirus-related “stay inside” orders for everybody except essential workers, I’ve noticed among the good signs, there is creative thinking about what we can do, about how we can do things; thinking that is stretching us beyond our ordinary boundaries. In fact, as Thom Rainey says in a recent article about it, “Pastors, your church is now a blank page.” I urge you to read the article (mychristiandaily/for-pastors-your-church-is-now-a-blank-page/).

Last Sunday morning I listened and watched the Sunday School lesson presented on line by the Department of Christian Education and Formation (thecmechurchced.org). It was not long (only about 16 minutes), and no time was wasted. As it ended, I felt guilty this was my first time to catch it (I thought I had seen advertisements of its coming). In my guilt I texted Dr. Crutchfield: “Thank you for this week’s Sunday School lesson. I confess this is my first time. How long have I been missing this?” He quickly responded: “One week. This was the second week.” I felt less guilt.

I started marveling at the new reality of how we are stretching in this time of crisis to think in new ways and do new things. I don’t know if I’ll want to spend another Sunday heading to Sunday School without first seeing the lesson taught on line.

As one pastor in the Eighth wrote to me, “We are learning the building is not the church; we are the church. Yes, we are the church, not the building. And the people we are called to serve are not just the people who come into that building. I believe God has pushed us out of the buildings this Palm Sunday and Easter Season.

The Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John all speak of the triumphant entry, and all speak of one colt. Only Matthew speaks of a donkey (NIV) or ass (KJV) with her colt. And the text of Matthew is clear there are two animals tied, waiting to be loosed … and then used for God’s purposes.

This passage makes me ask, on this day in which we remember a common donkey and her colt played an essential role in the triumphant entry of a King who was not coming in earthly regalia or trappings of military might, does God have a role for me? Matthew quoted Zechariah:  See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the goal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9, NIV). They were the sign prophecy was being fulfilled.

What are the signs to you and me that we are essential?

Well, we at least believe we are, for we are doing everything we can imagine – some of us – to prove our relevance during this crisis; and that’s a good thing. We have stretched our abilities to think and plan worship, we have embarked in new ways of using conference calls and Facebook and Zoom to facilitate worship, even while the worshippers are separated by distance. Last week I saw a church use both Facebook (to project what the pastor and musicians were doing at the church) and Zoom (to project, on the same screen, what worshippers were doing in their homes in response to worship being led from an almost empty.

Yes. We are the Church and the Church is marching on.

Bishop Reddick III, the 51st bishop elected in the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, has been presiding bishop of the Eighth Episcopal District (comprised of 226 churches within the state of Texas and Jamaica) since July 2014. Upon election as bishop in 1998, he was assigned as bishop of the Tenth Episcopal District (including the work in Jamaica, Haiti, Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria). He was assigned in 2002 and 2006 as bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District (which includes the denomination’s work in Alabama and Florida). In 2010, he was assigned to the First Episcopal District (comprising Arkansas, Tennessee, and Jamaica). The 2014 General Conference assigned him to the Eighth Episcopal District. Born June 20, 1952, in Huntsville, AL, he is a son of the parsonage. His parents were Rev. and Mrs. L. L. Reddick Jr. He is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University of Delaware (OH) (bachelor of arts degree) and Duke Divinity School of Durham, NC (master of divinity degree). He was conferred honorary doctoral degrees from the United Theological Seminary and Bible College of Monroe, LA, and Texas College, Tyler. He was licensed to preach by the Rev. R. E. Brooks in 1966, ordained deacon in 1968, elder in 1969 by Bishop E. P. Murchison, and admitted into full connection in 1972 by Bishop C. A. Kirkendoll. After pastoral work in Alabama, Ohio, North Carolina, and Missouri, he was elected editor of The Christian Index, official publication of the CME Church, in 1982. He was subsequently re-elected editor by the General Conferences of 1986, 1990, and 1994. During his work as editor, he was also pastor in Alabama; and pastor and presiding elder in Mississippi. As presiding bishop of the work in the Tenth Episcopal District, he expanded the work in West Africa from six to seven annual conferences, and added several districts. During his tenure as presiding bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District, he was also chair of the board of trustees of Miles College, and served as chair during the demise of President Albert J. H. Sloan II and the election of President George T. French Jr. During that stint, he was a founding member of the Alabama Faith Council, an interfaith gathering, with other Alabama judicatory leaders. In his four years as presiding bishop of the First Episcopal District, he was chair of the board of trustees of Lane College during the passing of President Wesley Cornelious McClure and the subsequent election of President Logan Hampton. He also led the CME Headquarters into self-management by professional CMEs and oversaw the boards of directors of six HUD-related housing properties inaugurated by Bishops B. Julian Smith, J. Madison Exum, and William H. Graves. One of his consistent goals has been to visit every congregation within the episcopal district he serves every four years. An avid traveler, he maintains relationships across the seas with CMEs in West Africa (through their episcopal leaders); and he has maintained relationships with the people of Haiti through their episcopal leaders. As a member of the board of directors of Bread for the World, he has lobbied Congress in the interests of ridding the world of hunger. He is married to Wynde (Jones), is the father of five children (Jon, Janice, Iris, Rose, and Samuel), and is the grandfather of three (Sean, Nylah, and Lailah).

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: A word of encouragement can make the difference between giving up or going on.

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Say a Little Prayer …

As we build this community prayer platform, we ask the Lord to listen to our petitions with full confidence they not only are heard but acted upon by God according to His holy will. These requests are on my prayer list and I hope you consider putting them on yours as you place your petitions before the Lord Sunday.

Let’s remember to approach the throne room and respond with faith and not fear, knowing the promises of God and His mighty hand will hold us through any situation! Sometimes, all it takes is just one prayer to change everything. Something extraordinary happens when two or more agree together in prayer.

What is one of the most important things we should do as Christians? Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18).

Thoughts and prayers to all worldwide suffering from the consequences of conavirus flu – and all other strains. Many – many – of the prayer requests are covid-19 related … people diagnosed … people sick … people dying … relatives worried and isolated. We are in this  together – in prayer!

Andrew continues to struggle. He is having a tough time breathing and has lost his voice.  Tough times for a tough guy. Prayers – and a sense of humor – are keeping him afloat.

Dave tested positive for covid-19. With an underlying severe heart condition his risks are significantly higher and he’s been living the last couple of years under a cloud — a dark cloud — dealing with the death of his longtime companion, his son’s deployment to Afghanistan, betrayal in another relationship, a very serious auto accident, and, of course, his declining heart health issues. He needs prayer — lots of prayer — as he battles his biggest challenge: loss of hope.

Julie needs payers her prescribed migraine medication works.

Fred is eating wet food for the first time so please, a prayer circle it doesn’t upset his tummy.

Jonathan asks us to pray for his healing from psoriasis.

Sixteen year old Erin suffers from severe depression and suicidal tendencies. Please include her — and all who are dealing with mental challenges — on your prayer list.

Betty and her brother ask for prayer. She has a heart condition which causes swollen feet and trouble sleeping. Her brother suffers from two hernias.

Shirley asks us to pray with her that she will find the right publisher to publish her books the Lord put on her heart to write.

Please pray for Victoria who is in the hospital.

Please lift Allan in prayer. He is fighting an infection.

Mondo just got the call. He will be getting a heart later today. Prayers for a successful surgery.

Gunny reached out for prayer. His mind is broken and his  PTSD is off the chart. He added, “I don’t like this place. I have so many tears rolling down my face. I hate myself so much.”

Hudson recently had open heart surgery and has had some major complications post surgery. He may have possible brain swelling/damage, if you could specifically pray for that. Please pray for this little guy and for his parents.

Matilda has lots of health conditions and needs prayers.

There were a host of unspoken prayer requests and we heard of a number of deaths this week. Prayers for their families as they go through this earthly trial. We grieve … heaven rejoices.

We come to You, Lord, because prayer is the least yet the greatest thing we can do for each other. When two or more are gathered in Your name, we confidently know You are with us. What better company can we have? You reign and we trust You! We may be broken and battered but know You heal and quiet the soul. You are the source for all that happens in our lives. We thank You for the progress being made. We thank You for the many blessings we have received this week — some we unfortunately didn’t notice. Nonetheless, those blessings are ever-present in our lives. We thank You for healing. We thank You for slowing us down. We thank You for providing us our daily needs — no more and no less. We thank You for being with us, listening to us, walking with us on this journey. We thank You for the support of our family and friends … for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary — sunrises, sunsets, flowers, kids laughing, adventures, good news amid the bad news. We know we can come to You with our concerns and they will be heard. Through Christ all things are possible. We lift up those family members and friends who are battling various physical, emotional, financial, career or spiritual issues and ask not for Your guidance and healing (although that would be welcomed) but to keep reminding us we are not alone in our battles. Specifically we lift up Andrew, Dave, Julie, Fred, Jonathan, Erin, Betty and her brother, Shirley, Victoria, Allan, Mondo, Gunny, Hudson, Matilda, and all those needing Your healing and guiding touch. We pray for the families of all those You have called home. We grieve … You celebrate. We pray for obedience to Your Will so Your “Son” Light shines through us through the power of the Spirit. And we come to You through the confidence of the words taught by Your Son Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Keep your joys and concerns coming. They have been and will be included during my prayer time and I trust they will be on your lips as well as you approach the altar. All it takes is a couple of keystrokes under the “Contact Me” button on the top bar {or to the right if you’re not a follower yet}. I hope it becomes your best friend as you navigate around the site so we can all be viable prayer warriors. You can also comment or reach me at wisdomfromafather@gmail.com.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God. — St. John Damascene

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Five Minute Friday — Now

Happy April! Happy first Five Minute Friday of the month!

You know the drill. We get our weekly prompt, let the spirit flow for five minutes, post, link up in the Community section at fiveminutefriday.com, and — best part — visit other writers in our to support and encourage them.

For the past few months, I have also been sharing testimonials from fellow writers as outlined in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat, compiled  by Susan Shipe. This week, I’ll share some words from Marie’s heart.

“The very first time I ever participated in Five Minute Friday, I stumbled upon the group just days after I found out about my liver problems which meant I had to go off the medications I was taking at the time. I  had no idea that those initial days were just the first of what would be a two years (and counting) journey. The words here reveal more about me than I could  ever share through speech — a frightening thing for a reserved person such as myself. I pushed aside the fears and decided to be vulnerable, to put myself out there with this new group of people. They embraced me. I have not once regretted diving into this beautifully messy and wonderfully weird community. #bacon. They know why.”

That’s common – reaching out and absorbing the  love of this community. That’s why I heartily encourage you to join us. It is a “beautifully messy and wonderfully weird community.” And we’d love to have you in our circle … especially in these uncertain times!

With that, I’ll get off the soap box and down to work. The prompt is NOW. The timer has been set, so let’s see where the neurons GO...

Now what.

We’ve been pretty much cooped up in our houses for a coupe of weeks and look forward to about another month of restricted movement.

What are we going to do now? Relish the quiet time? Fill our lives with hyperbole? Waste time on social media? Interact with those sheltered in place with us? Reflect? Refresh? Look forward? Look back?

These are scary times. Most of us have had breaks from home — even if those breaks were for school or work. Now were crammed together with different age appropriate activities. I mean you can’t watch Ozarks with pre-teens running around. How many times have we watched Frozen? Kids and romance don’t necessarily mix.

We need the breaks. That’s what I fear most about this pandemic. While I am all for togetherness with the family, we also need outside … STOP

socialization. We need our friends. Of course, we still have them — and probably even more through social media. It’s important we stay in touch with our close friends, lift them up, just chat with them. It’s a time to maybe rekindle relationships with long lost friends. Find them through social media and say hi while catching up on the gaps between visits.

I’ve been doing some of that. I’ve also been doing some reassessment about what and who is important in my life. Being retired, I have found sheltering in place less onerous than many — it’s generally been my life anyway — although I readily admit I miss just going for a ride or the movies or out for a sit-down dinner.

I wonder how people will react after we look at this pandemic through the rear view mirror. It will come to an end. Will we — starting with me — have learned anything about ourselves? Will we {me} use this forced time out to focus on ourselves or society in general? Will we become more self-centered with an emphasis on things or less self-centered with an emphasis on others? Will we re-prioritize our lives or jump back into business as usual? Will we look at the heroes of this pandemic — the scientists, doctors, nurses,hospital staff, first responders, essential line workers, truckers, restaurant staff — differently, maybe with a little more respect? Will we recognize a job is just a job and the heart of existence is our interdependence with each other — starting with our family unit? Will this experience strengthen our faith or weaken it?

The next few months will tell. But the time to start dealing with those issues is now.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: You can’t always help what you hear, but you can help what you say!

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Random Coronavirus Thoughts

I’ve been accused of not taking this coronavirus pandemic serious. Well, that’s not entirely true. I am taking the virus serious … but I’m not worrying about it — and won’t. Worry gets you nowhere except to Anxietyville. I can worry about the virus — or anything else in life — until the second coming and it won’t change a thing. The reality is I am NOT in control of things I cannot control. I AM in control of those things I can control — my prayer and personal life, my relationships, my actions {or inactions}.

By now, we are all feeling some effects of the pandemic. Some of us have gotten sick {not me} or know someone who has. Most of us have lost jobs and income. Just about all of us have been “sheltered in place” and had our regular routines disrupted. Life is decidedly different — for all of us.

Worrying is not going to change that.

I have a friend who tested positive for covid-19. With an underlying severe heart condition his risks are significantly higher than mine. He’s been living the last couple of years under a cloud — a dark cloud — dealing with the death of his longtime companion, his son’s deployment to Afghanistan, betrayal in another relationship, a very serious auto accident, and, of course, his declining heart health issues. What bothered me, however, was when he told me he tested positive, he told me point blank, he did not want my prayers. “Where has God been?” he asked.

I didn’t respond with my usual “Thoughts and prayers,” just “Keep me posted.” But he has been moved up my prayer list and will remain there through this latest wave. He needs prayer — lots of prayer — as he battles his biggest challenge: loss of hope. I try to offer that hope through daily communication with him, but not through preaching to him, not through pushing my beliefs on him, not even by letting him know I AM praying for him. Just a hopeful daily message. Just a note showing him the blessing of the gift of today. Just pointing out the joy in tomorrow. Just brightening his spirit.

I’m not worried about my friend. I am concerned. I also realize all I can do is try to soften his heart to the Healer’s touch. He alone will choose which button he pushes when that last breath comes. My job is to give him a reason to push the Up button.

This virus has resulted in a mandated time out. All the disruption is giving all of us a chance to do less over the next few weeks. Our choices will be limited, which means we should have more time to spend with our families … if we take advantage of it. It could be a time to reconnect with your spouse or kids. It could be an opportunity to catch up on the to do list, perhaps even including the whole family to clean up, spruce up or catch up. It could also be a time to some extra reading or extra study or extra prayer time — again as a family?

Don’t succumb to the fear mongers. As bad as this virus is, keep it in perspective. A 1-2% mortality rate is alarming, but look at the 98-99% recovery rate. Don’t allow the greater New York City metropolitan area statistics drive you to a state of fear in your community. You can find up-to-date information on covid-19 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Do confine your driving to essentials. Do social distancing. Stay home! Stay put! Wash your hands regularly with soap. Use common sense. Continue spreading good news, positive {okay, sometimes funny} memes. Check on your family and neighbors by phone or social media. Come together because we’re all in this together.

Take a moment to pray for and thank all those involved on the front line — the scientists, doctors, nurses, first responders, essential workers, truckers and distributors.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all impacted by the pandemic, which probably is every one of us. I’m concerned … but I’m not worried. Because in the end, I also know I am in Good Hands, the Architect who knows the grand plan.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts. – James Allen

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Midweek Mirth

One of the misconceptions about being a Christian is non-Christians think we don’t know how to have fun or have a sense of humor. Trust me, if the Big Guy can have a sense of humor when it comes to dealing with us mere mortals, so can we.

The difference for Christians is we don’t have to debase ourselves or others to generate a smile. Laughter at life or ourselves is a gift from God.

It’s time for some Midweek Mirth so let’s smile a little!

Brief Ponderations

Some people aren’t shaking hands because of coronavirus. I’m not shaking hands because everyone is out of toilet paper.

If Jesus were a virus, would you test “positive”?

You know you are bored when the most pleasurable thing you can look forward to is the next time you must go to the kitchen to take your medicine.

You can tell you are OLD when you go to your medicine container to see what day it is instead of hunting the calendar. I went to mine to also take my pills and saw the first full section was labeled “T”. I knew that stood for “tomorrow” so I waited.

The word “queue” is ironic. It’s just a “q” with a bunch of silent letters waiting in a line.

When will all the rhetorical questions end?

 And now for the bonus …

Learning from Experience

A funeral service was being held for a woman who has just passed away. At the end of the service the pall bearers were carrying the casket out when they accidentally bumped into a wall, jarring the casket. They heard a faint moan and opened the casket to find the woman was actually still alive! She lived for 10 more years and then finally died.

A funeral was again held at the same place and at the end of the ceremony the pall bearers were again carrying out the casket. As they were walking, the husband cries out, “Watch the wall!”

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: A well-balanced person is one who finds both sides of an issue laughable. — Herbert Procknow

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