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Blogger, Christ-follower, Encourager, Friend, Husband, Dad

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

We Must Remember

Memorial Day – A United States national holiday where those who have died in the service of their country are remembered by backyard cookouts and sales at furniture, electronics, and automobile retailers.  

Actually, according to Wikipedia,

“The practice of decorating soldiers' graves with flowers is an ancient custom. Soldiers' graves were decorated in the U.S. before and during the American Civil War. A claim was made in 1906 that the first Civil War soldier's grave ever decorated was in Warrenton, Virginia on June 3, 1861, implying the first Memorial Day occurred there. There is authentic documentation that women in Savannah, Georgia decorated soldiers' graves in 1862. In 1863, the cemetery dedication at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was a ceremony of commemoration at the graves of dead soldiers. Local historians in Boalsburg, PA, claim that ladies there decorated soldiers' graves on July 4, 1864. As a result, Boalsburg promotes itself as the birthplace of Memorial Day … The preferred name for the holiday gradually changed from "Decoration Day" to "Memorial Day", which was first used in 1882. It did not become more common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967. On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971. After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply, all 50 states adopted Congress' change of date within a few years.”

So, officially, Memorial Day is intended to remember those who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.  I have to admit, however, that there are other losses that are on many of our minds this year.  Whether we are thinking of victims of terrorists, fertilizer plant explosions, or tornados, it seems that there has been too much suffering, sorrow, and death in the past few weeks.

As a human being, I am reminded of how quickly life can change and those we love can be gone in a moment.  It makes me want to make sure that every conversation with my family ends with an “I love you.”  If this is the last conversation we have, I want them to know how much they mean to me.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am also reminded that death is not the end, but the beginning of the rest of eternity.  Regardless of the circumstances under which each person breathes his or her last breath, each one enters an eternal existence either with God or separated from God.  Because I am a follower of Jesus Christ, I know which destiny is mine, but I don’t know that about everyone who is reading this.

Don’t forget how much your life matters to God.  Jesus died for you.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

With One Hand Tied Behind My Back

(Written 5/15/13)

I am composing this week’s column almost a week ahead of time because I am finally having carpal tunnel surgery on my second hand tomorrow.  I’m not interested in trying to meet my normal deadline one-handed.

This time it will be my dominant hand, so I am thinking a little more about what it will be like with one hand out of commission.  It was hard enough for a few days last time, and that was my “the only thing I can do well with my left hand is scratch my right hand” hand.  This time, it is my “teeth brushing, pants zipping, note writing, text messaging, and other things I don’t want to mention in the blog” hand.

You may have heard (or spoken) these words at some time, “That’s so easy I could do it with one hand tied behind my back.”  As I ponder the next few days, I’m thinking the list of things that I could, or would want to, do with one hand tied behind my back is a really short list.

Two things occur to me as I ponder this dilemma.  One is the idea of limitations.  My handicap will be temporary and may actually result in the removal of some limitations.  But during the handicap, I am going to need the cooperation and patience of people around me to accomplish some basic tasks. 

There are people who live with chronic and permanent limitations.  They are keenly aware that some basic tasks cannot be taken for granted and cannot be accomplished apart from the cooperation and patience of others.  I hope I never forget that.  I hope God reminds me to be patient and cooperative and look for ways to lift others up rather than keeping them down.

The second thing that occurs to me is the idea of excuses.  There are things I won’t be able to do for a few days.  That should not keep me from doing the things I can.  Having a hand out of commission does not hinder my prayer life one iota.  Having a bandage on my hand does not in any way affect my ability to love and show compassion.  The inability to text or write for a few days does not keep me from speaking words of affirmation and grace.  Instead of focusing on what I can’t do, I need to focus on what I can do.

In one of my favorite New Testament stories, Jesus said of a particular woman, “She did what she could.” (Mark 14:8).  She didn’t worry about what she couldn’t do.  She didn’t compare herself to anyone else.  She didn’t stop with good intentions.  She did what she could.  No excuses; just a simple act of devotion.

Our lives matter to God.  Seriously.  My life means no more or less than yours based on abilities. So let’s just do what we can to honor Him.

Even with one hand tied behind our backs.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Another Brick in the Patio

This is one of those weeks.  No, not one of those weeks; I mean one of those weeks that I am stuck on what to write.  Mother’s Day was Sunday, but I’ve mentioned women and moms for the past several weeks.  I met a new friend last week, but I’m not sure how to tell the story.  I had my first full Saturday at home in about six weeks and got to do some much needed work around the house and yard.  It was glorious for me, but not necessarily compelling reading. Or maybe I could write about finishing up a great concert season with the Singing Men of North Central Texas last Thursday night in Cedar Hill, but I’m not sure how to make that interesting reading either.

Maybe I’ll write about all of the above.  “You just did,” said the reader.  “Hang with me for a minute,” replied the author as the wheels began to turn. 

Part of my Saturday at home project was to build a small brick patio.  Actually, it is more of a “landing”, about 4 feet square, at the bottom of a ramp that comes down off our back porch.  When we bought this house 22 years ago, we found tons of spare construction materials piled up on the back of the property.  Mrs. Sweetie used over 1000 bricks we found to build a patio.  When we had the new Sweetie Suite built last year we had to dig up the patio, but we saved the bricks. So, I had plenty to choose from to build my little landing on Saturday.  A future planned brick project is a larger patio with a fire pit and a place for me to exercise my outdoor culinary skills. 

My brick collection has a lot of variety in size, color, and texture.  So, part of the challenge was to put the individual bricks together in some sort of pattern to create the whole. Individually, they are bricks.  Collectively, they are one “patio”.

As I consider the various stories and experiences of the past week, I realize that each one is a brick in the patio of my life.  I may not immediately see all the connections and patterns, but God is building something in me that utilizes, perhaps even requires, all the various sizes, colors, and textures.

Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

That tells me that, because I love Him and have been called by Him for His purpose, God is working in all the circumstances of my life to make me more like Jesus.  Each circumstance is a brick in the patio and each one matters to Him.

What is He building in you?

Monday, May 6, 2013

I've Got New Names

Thomas Gerald Lewis: That’s the name I was given at birth. My parents and namesakes, Thomas Jefferson & Geralene, shortened it to Gerry and that’s what I’ve been called most often for these 50 plus years. 

I’ve inherited a few other monikers along the way.  In sixth grade, one of my friends started calling me Dumbo because I had not yet grown into my ears. My pastor and mentor, Roland Earl, called me Goober.  Once I became a pastor, both Gerry and Lewis often got preceded by Brother, Pastor, and Reverend.  That last one was my least favorite.  I’ve always been more irreverent.  When I completed my doctorate, then I gained Dr. Lewis, Dr. Gerry, Dr. Lew, and Dr. G.  A couple of my associate pastors called me Master Doctor and El Doctoro.  Once I started writing about Mrs. Sweetie, it wasn’t long until Dr. Sweetie came about.

Twenty-five years ago today (May 5), I got a new name that was a game changer: Daddy.  I think back to the time when I couldn’t wait to hear that baby girl say “Da-da” for the first time.  What an amazing sound! She has grown up to be a wife and high school teacher and my heart still melts when that name crosses her lips. She’s one of those important women in my life that I have been writing about for a few weeks. When she ends a phone call with, “I love you, Daddy,” I can’t feel anything but amazed and blessed.

There is a common thread that runs through this process of the acquisition of new names.  Each one came about because of a change in circumstances or location, or because of a significant event.  Another common thing about those new names is that they were in addition to rather than instead of the previous ones (with the exception of Dumbo and Goober—those did eventually go away).

However there was another significant event and change that resulted in some new names that were not simply additions; they were exchanges.  The event was responding in faith to the grace of God offered through Jesus Christ.  When I did that, everything changed.

You were dead in your transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1).  You were separate from Christ … without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:12-13). You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord (Ephesians 5:8). Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds … But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Colossians 1:21-22). You were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:25).

New names, new focus, new destiny.  Talk about a game changer.