God speaks. Faith awakens.

This is a true story that might be the beginning of my true walk with God. It is surely the beginning of my witness, my testimony. The awakening of my Faith. I am telling this for you, Abbie. You are a dear friend and you hold an important place in my heart. I know you will feel the rawness of the telling. I hope it moves all my readers as much as it does me in the telling.

Back in the late 70’s my wife and I had tried nearly every method to get pregnant with no success. After three years of disappointment we grew frustrated, as one might expect. Her doctor flippantly told her we should try more often.  Great idea, but still no positive result. Months went by and still no baby bump.

My wife, in going through her medical records, discovered that she had never been exposed to nor had a vaccination for rubella (German measles). Being exposed to the German measles during the first trimester of pregnancy can cause catastrophic birth defects in the baby. So, as a precaution, my wife got a rubella vaccination, only to find out a few days later that she was finally pregnant.

Our world was turned upside down. Our emotions ran the gamut from shock to anger to disbelief (How could this happen to us?) to serious despair.  The doctor was certain that the only alternative that we had was to abort the baby. We consulted other medical minds and their opinions were equally dire. We must abort. The child could not possibly be born healthy.

Keep in mind that this was all going on in 1979, but the prevailing medical opinion is still not much different today with all the advancements now at our disposal.  The Center for Disease Control currently has this to say about pregnancy and exposure to rubella.

“Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) is a condition that occurs in a developing baby in the womb whose mother is infected with the rubella virus. Pregnant women who contract rubella are at risk for miscarriage or stillbirth, and their developing babies are at risk for severe birth defects with devastating, lifelong consequences. CRS can affect almost everything in the developing baby’s body.”


I won’t list the possibilities, but they were and still are, gruesome, at best. What were we going to do? We fretted. We cried. We prayed. We shook our fists at God. This was the toughest decision we could imagine having to make.

My wife was seriously Catholic. Italian. Catholic schooled with all the guilt and fear of Hell that the nuns and their rulers could instill in a child. I was new to Catholicism but was pretty sure that if we did abort this pregnancy, we would be reserving a seat by the fire. More anguish. More despair. More tears.

As you probably know, we didn’t have a lot of time to put off making a decision. The day finally came and we mustered up the courage, made the call and set the appointment to end the pregnancy. Why didn’t we feel like we were doing the right thing? Days passed uneasily.

On Sunday, the day before the abortion was scheduled. We did what we always did. We had our morning coffee, got ready and went to Mass. The Church was full of eager faces. Nothing out of the ordinary. Our priest began his homily and everything changed.

All at once it was as if God himself were speaking. As though he was seated on the back of the pew just in front of us. My bride and I were held captive by every word. I could hear no other sounds around me save the words being spoken directly to me. This message had our names on it and it was being written on our hearts.

There was moisture in our eyes as the Priest finished his homily. His topic was Faith. My God had answered my prayers. He sent His answer to me as surely as I am taking a breath. My wife and I cried on the way home after Church. These were different tears. These were tears of relief.

We arrived at home and went directly to the phonebook. There were no cell phones in 1979. We managed to find the doctor’s home number and we called him. “Doctor we can’t do this. We have to cancel our appointment.” To our shock, he was relieved. He told us that professionally, he had to counsel us to abort, but as a Christian, he was happy that we had changed our minds. Everything would be fine. After all, we lived in Memphis where we had St. Jude and LeBonheur Children’s Hospitals. God would provide.

We stopped worrying that day (well mostly). Knowing that everything would turn out fine. We had a strong family behind us and the best medical facilities in the country for sick children and this child would be loved. The pregnancy passed mostly without a major snag.

Our son was born on April 7th, 1980. He had all his fingers and toes and he was healthy! Praise God! Rubella had been a factor in a minor way. Ben has a genius level IQ, a nearly eidetic memory. He is an Eagle  Scout. He once found an old pocket pager in the mud in the backyard and after cleaning it up and tinkering with it, he turned it into a radio receiver. He does, however, lack certain fine motor skills. He will never be the star quarterback. Oh well, who cares? He is a gift from God. A constant testimony to Faith!


Discipleship is not a spectator sport

Contrary to what is apparent by observing our western societal norms Christianity, specifically Discipleship, is NOT a spectator sport. We, as Disciples of Christ, are called to action by Jesus himself. Most of us have heard of The Great Commission as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt.28:19-20 ESV

Perhaps not so often quoted, the Apostle Mark also wrote of Jesus’ last set of instructions, just before ascending into Heaven. Mark gave us this account of The Savior’s last words.

15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:15-18 ESV

Though Jesus spoke specifically to the Eleven (Judas Iscariot had already hanged himself in shame over The Betrayal), I can’t imagine that his words were only intended for those ears. The implication here is clearly that this teaching is to spread from teacher to follower, that follower becoming a teacher, and in turn teaching a new group of followers and so on through the ages to present day.

All too often, we are complacent to allow our Pastors and Deacons to carry the load. To be the teacher. We, as followers, are happy to tune in on Sunday mornings. Feeling satisfied that we have done our duty to God by our mere presence in Church. After all, we sang. We heard the sermon or the homily (can’t leave out Catholics). We even took Communion. What more does He want?

Tighten your seat belts folks! Here comes the big question! We call ourselves the Body of Christ. How can we be the hands and feet of Christ if we are sitting on our hands with our feet propped up in the grandstands? Pretty much just what many of us are doing. It is time for us to get up, get in the game.

Anybody can do it. We must do it. Before you say that you aren’t qualified or that you are afraid you will fail, consider these lyrics from Broken Things by Matthew West.

“The pages of history they tell me it’s true
That it’s never the perfect; it’s always the ones with the scars that You use
It’s the rebels and the prodigals; it’s the humble and the weak
The misfit heroes You chose
Tell me there’s hope for sinners like me”

The Body of Christ is so necessary today. Don’t believe it. Look at the violence in the streets, the racial unrest, and those stupid pink hats. We need to stand up. Stand up for Christ. He certainly stood up for us, all the way to the Cross of Calvary. We don’t have to be deal closers but we have to be present in the deal. The movement started over two thousand years ago. We just need to place our shoulders to the stone and make it roll again.

Love the one you’re with

Nope, this is not a 60’s flashback. My apologies to Stephen Stills and to you for the song now playing in your mind. I haven’t completely lost mine. Though it occasionally wanders off on its own when left without adult supervision.

Actually, I am rather referencing the second great commandment as Jesus gave us in Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Amazing in its simplicity. Not nearly as easy as it sounds.

A little over twenty years ago, while attending Freshman’s parent orientation at Catholic High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, I picked up a bit of wisdom from the featured speaker that has resonated through me constantly throughout my days since.  The speaker was Lou Holtz, once the football coach at Notre Dame and Arkansas among others.  Lou has always impressed me as a man to listen to when he speaks. The address to this auditorium of eager parents did not disappoint. He said many things that day that would leave a lasting impression on many of those in attendance.

Probably the most profound thing that he shared was this. Talking specifically about some of the difficulties involved in turning his players from growing, testosterone-driven athletes into teachable young men of purpose. Lou’s pungent point was simply, “Those who need love the most, usually deserve love the least.” From that moment forth I will always lend an ear when that wise old football coach speaks, hoping to glean another bit of an inspiring life-lesson.

It is easy to love your spouse (most of the time) because you share so many happy times. The same is true of the people at work who, along with you, band together to triumph over the dilemma-of-the-day. Those with whom you share church services, singing songs of praise; my heart swells just looking at the angelic faces. Jesus knew that we were easily capable of this type of love.

I believe that Jesus and Lou were both speaking about the guy who cut you off in traffic and then took up two spaces in the parking lot you both turned into. Maybe it is the lady behind you in the lunch-time line at the bank who is having a meltdown about how horrible her day is and feels that it is her duty and right to make every individual she comes into contact with as miserable as she is. It is the homeless guy standing in front of McDonalds or the kid down the street practicing the bagpipes, sounding like he is killing the golden goose.

It isn’t always easy! If it was everyone would do it. I think we should challenge ourselves to share kindness with every person with whom we come in contact. It may take prayer and it will be difficult some days. The results will be more pleasing than not and, I promise, every day it will get to be easier and your day will be better. Less anxiety-filled.

We must see others through the eyes of the Savior. We were all created in the same manner. He loves us all the same. He favors us all. When we make the effort to love the one we are with, not superficial love, nor romantic love but the unconditional Love of Jesus Christ, we will change lives. I have. Maybe the largest change is the one in my own life.



The journey begins

Today I have had the idea placed in my heart to open a document to chronical my journey.  I will not start at the very beginning, nor will start at the end, but I will try to set the stage for where I am now and how and why I have arrived at this place and state of mind. The opinions expressed here are solely mine unless otherwise noted. I have had many influences in my life, many good, many not so good, many that were bad. In the end, it is my fondest hope that I shall hear my Creator say “Well done, good and faithful servant.”(Matt. 25:23 ESV). That is closer to the end of my story, let me rewind a bit.

I am the son of a sailor. I was unchurched in my youth. I never attended any school longer than 2 years until my father retired. Oddly, I attended high school (all 4 years) with kids with whom I shared the first grade. I was a better than average student –Beta Club and National Honor Society. I was an average athlete, earning my letter in basketball and track. I made a failed attempt at college, was the president of the Residence Hall Association, served in Student Government and ultimately spent more time playing Hearts and Spades than attending class.

I have been married more than once. More than twice… a fact that I am not proud of, but in the end, I am married to the one that was meant for me. The most important factor in our longevity is that God is a third member of our union. Sadly, He was not in previous attempts, thus my track record is not what I wish it could be. My wife, Cynthia, and I have been through a lot over the years. Like many others, we have had our good times and our bad times, our sickness and health; but by God’s Grace, we have survived to find a stronger love than most discover in a lifetime.

I am a broken sinner, as I believe we all are. I believe I may have been more broken than most. I am a child of the 60’s. I experienced all that brings to mind. I worked in the bar business for years and saw, often participated in, some of the least wholesome activities imaginable. As they say, there was sex (lots of sex), drugs (too many drugs) and rock and roll. I am not proud of my time spent in darkness. I am overjoyed that Jesus Christ sought me in the darkness and extended His loving arms to pull me into the light of His Mercy. I survived, no thanks to my own efforts but by the Grace of Almighty God.

Throughout my lifetime I have grown to believe in the Truth of God’s Word, the power of prayer, the unconditional Love that we are called to offer each other, and that we are all God’s Children. We are Citizens of Heaven and sojourners in this world. Just passing through. We are being prepared for Life Eternal. For some of us, the lessons come more easily than for others of us. Many receive their gifts from God at an early age. Sadly, I have come late into my inheritance. But now that I have received, I am thirsty for all I can consume.

That which follows will reflect my journey down the path of discipleship. Join me if you are so inclined. The Holy Spirit will light the way…