christianity

STINKY FEET? A TEST OF FRIENDSHIP

By DANNY MINTON

While I was attending college there was one boy, we’ll call him Joe, who pretty much everyone tried to avoid. He was a nice good looking kid but had difficulty keeping close friends. The problem was his feet. They smelled. Due to this problem, people didn’t like being around him both in class and socially.

Danny Minton

Danny Minton

It was a real concern to him that he did not seem to be able to keep friends for any length of time. He didn’t understand why because he always thought that he and other people hit it off at first. He was kind and friendly to everyone, always making a good first impression.

One day he was walking with one of the only close friends he had and begin to open up and voice his concerns that he felt like an outcast. “Joe,” his friend asked him, “do you mind if I tell you why people shy away from you?” Joe encouraged his classmate to be honest with him. “Well, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but the reason people avoid you is that your feet stink.”

Joe hung his head and with his eyes filling with tears answered, “I know it. You see, it’s the shoes. This pair of sneakers is all that I have to wear. All my extra money goes to school and food.”

The solution was easy to fix. Joe’s friends chipped in and bought him a new pair of shoes and the problem was solved. Unfortunately, if someone had only gotten with him earlier, it would have been so much better for him and his relationships.

Sometimes we think we are kind by not talking to someone about things that need sharing. We don’t want to embarrass them or hurt their feelings. In most cases, it would be better for someone to be a little embarrassed than quietly suffering or being silently destroyed as an object of gossip.

Wouldn’t you rather have someone tell you that you have mustard on your cheek instead of walking into a crowded room looking that way? Wouldn’t you rather be embarrassed with one person telling you that your shoes don’t match instead of standing in front of the group and being quietly snickered at by the whole crowd? Stop and think what you would want your friend to do in situations like these. Our answer would probably be, “A true friend would have told me.”

True friendship has two aspects. One is watching and caring for those whom we call a friend. It’s letting them know things that are for their good. It’s being there for them. On the other had a true friendship allows our friends to talk to us frankly. It allows us to listen to them knowing that they have our good at heart.

An old Jewish proverb says, “A friend is one who warns you.”

Solomon wrote in Proverbs 27:6, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.”

Both are saying that true friendship means we are willing to risk our friendship if it is for the good of our friend.

________________________

Better is open rebuke than hidden love.

Proverbs 27:5

 Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ

THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED

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By LORETTA FULTON

What began on Palm Sunday was completed on Easter Sunday.

From March 25 to March 30, Christians observed Holy Week rituals, including Maundy Thursday, with the institution of the Lord’s Supper and foot washing, and Good Friday, when the light of Christ was snuffed out. Some traditions held all-night vigils. Many churches hosted Easter egg hunts, complete with Easter bunnies, hot dog lunches, inflatables, train rides and all kinds of family fun.

Several hundred people attended the annual Holy Week Luncheon Series Monday-Friday at the five participating churches. They were blessed with outstanding sermons from Felicia Hopkins, St. Paul United Methodist Church; Jonathan Storment, Highland Church of Christ; Susan Payne, First Christian Church; Phil Christopher, First Baptist Church; and Cliff Stewart, First Central Presbyterian Church.

They also were blessed with a variety of types of music, from piano, vocal, and violin solos to four-part a cappella vocals, lunches, and fellowship.

Aldersgate United Methodist Church kicked off the sixth year of its community garden with a Good Friday blessing and seed planting.

“This is something to celebrate,” said Amy Wilson Feltz, associate pastor, as volunteers clasped hands and formed a large circle for a brief service and prayer.

Feltz read from “The Blessing of the Land,” taken from “Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.”

“God of the Universe,
You made the heavens and the earth,
So we do not call our home merely ‘planet earth.’
We call it your Creation, a Divine Mystery, a Gift from Your Most Blessed Hand.
The world itself is your miracle.”

So began the liturgy. After the blessing, everyone dispersed to begin digging, dropping seeds into the ground, and pressing the moist earth around them. But before they did so, they heard Feltz read John 12: 23-24.

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

“We can hold onto those promises,” Feltz said.

Alleluia. Christ is Risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

 

 

 

GOD’S PLAN FOR SENIOR EXERCISE

Exercise FBC

Senior exercise class at First Baptist Church. Photo by Mike Patrick

by Mike Patrick

This time of year, many people are joining health clubs in order to get back in shape after the holidays. That includes senior adults. In 2016, my wife, Nancy, attended a three-day workshop at the Cooper Institute in Dallas. She and about a dozen other people from around the country earned their certificate in senior adult exercise.

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Mike Patrick

Since her return, she goes to Rose Park for an hour three days a week and serves as a substitute leader. She leads a group of older women at a local independent living center two days a week. And she leads a group of senior adults at First Baptist Church Tuesdays and Thursdays. (I go to that one.)

While speaking at a luncheon about the importance of exercise for those of us getting up in years, she concluded her time with the following, popular internet article (author unknown).

“Most seniors never get enough exercise. In His wisdom God decreed that seniors become forgetful so they would have to search for their glasses, keys and other things, thus doing more walking.

And God looked down and saw that it was good.

Then God saw there was another need. In His wisdom He made seniors lose coordination so they would drop things requiring them to bend, reach and stretch.

And God looked down and saw that it was good.

Then God considered the function of bladders and decided seniors would have additional calls of nature requiring more trips to the bathroom, thus providing more exercise.

God looked down and saw that it was good.”

So if you find as you age, you are getting up and down more, remember it is God’s will. It is all in your best interest even though you mutter under your breath.

Mike Patrick retired as Chaplain and Ministry Education Coordinator after 27 years at Hendrick Medical Center.

LIFE LINES: LOOK BOTH WAYS

By Larry Baker

I caught myself acting on a childhood lesson on a one-way street.

I walked from a building and headed toward my car across the street. At curbside I stopped, as a voice in my head instructed, “Look both ways!” I looked first right, then left, and caught myself chuckling. “Why?” I wondered. “Traffic’s only coming from one direction.” That lesson had directed me for decades, and now barked its orders as I started across a one-way street.

LarryBaker

Larry Baker

“Look both ways!” As I write, I am looking at a calendar about to say, “I have done my job. Get another one. Only a few days remain in 2017. Another annual trek almost over! Here comes next year, a time to “look both ways.”

The Bible wants us to be thoughtful, discerning, and mindful about our lives. “Consider” is a high-profile word in the Old Testament and New, in Jesus’ teachings and in the prophets.

Year’s end is a good time to look backward. Someone contended, “Strong and well-constituted persons digest their experiences (deeds and misdeeds) just as they digest their food, even when they have some tough morsels to swallow.” A longtime friend will sometimes end part of our conversation with a brief statement, “Well, I think I understand that better now.” Looking back can offer new understanding.

In midlife, another friend lost his wife to a rare cancer after a valiant battle. On Christmas he wrote, “We are experiencing Christmas in a sea of great joy and gratitude, while never being outside the looming shadow of debilitating grief.” He continued, “We…all of us, live on Dichotomy Circle.”

Before ending his lines, he observed, “We are not alone and neither are you! Yes, there is this ….all of us are always living within earshot of the Baby cooing and crying in a manger. Emmanuel, God with US! There is always this. Thanks be to God!”

Standing on the banks of tomorrow, we can look backward and see ways God guided us and blanketed our lives in goodness. Our backward survey will chronicle God’s loving kindness and tender mercies. We will recall happily those occasions when God met humankind and pulled us heavenward.

Such memories can help us live in the present. Memory can keep us in touch with who we are as well as our purpose and goals. Now one year prepares for the sleep of history and the other readies itself for birth, and I catch a new glimpse of the importance of looking back.

Year’s end is a good time to look forward. We can look, not with anxiety but with assurance. We can look, not with apprehension, but with anticipation. As we look ahead, we cannot be certain about much, but we know all we need. My calendar already contains notes – reminders, names, appointments, and signals, all tentative. As I think ahead, I remember a colleague who often ended a conversation with “I will see you, God willing.”

We know the Bible is chock-full of visions of good things coming. Promises of wonderful and exciting things in store for God’s people saturate the Bible. Read carefully, watch for the word “shall,” and remember the word runs in front of something good that will happen. God promises things to look forward to, even when skies are dark and life is daunting. That is what “anticipate” means – to look forward to, to await eagerly, and to foretaste.

Standing curbside and looking both ways, we might take a fresh look at some words from the psalmist: “I consider the days of old, and remember the years of long ago….I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds” (Psalm 77:5, 12, NRSV); good for God’s 21st century people as for the ancients. We might recall Moses’ word: “….it is the Lord your God who goes before you’ he will not fail you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NRSV); true then, true now. Jesus’ words assure us, And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, NRSV) — even in our turbulent, unpredictable time.

On second thought, there are good reasons for looking both ways!

 Larry Baker is director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Hardin-Simmons University. 

NEVER TOO EARLY FOR CHRISTMAS

 

By Loretta Fulton

Just days before Thanksgiving, Santa’s elves were already busy in Abilene, getting Operation Christmas Child boxes packed with goodies and ready to ship.

First Baptist Church and Wylie United Methodist Church served as dropoff locations for churches and organizations in the Abilene area. On Dec. 15 volunteers will tow trailers loaded with packed boxes to a sorting warehouse in Grapevine.

There, thousands of boxes will be opened, inspected, resealed, and packed into shipping crates for distribution to children in 100 countries. Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief agency.

Joy Daffern, a member of First Baptist Church, has been a volunteer for several years. She helped with the collection process at First Baptist and will join about a half-dozen other volunteers from the church for the trip to Grapevine.

“We have so much fun,” she said.

At the warehouse in Grapevine, all the boxes will be opened and inspected to make sure no prohibited items are shipped. The boxes are filled will all sorts of fun stuff, from toys to school supplies, to clothing, hygiene items, and cards offering Christmas wishes.

People get innovative, Daffern said, with their packing, including stuffing a deflated soccer ball and air pump into the small space. Seeing all those donations and thinking about the people who did the shopping and packing brought a smile to Daffern’s face.

“You just see the love that people have put into them,” she said.

Each year, Sunday School classes, organizations, families and individuals participate in Operation Christmas Child. This year, children receiving the boxes also will get a booklet titled, “The Greatest Journey.” The children will be invited to go to a local church and participate in a 12-week study based on the booklet.

Samaritan’s Purse website, http://www.samaritanspurse.org, tells the story of the beginnings of Operation Christmas Child: “The program was started in the United Kingdom in 1990 by Dave and Jill Cooke. Three years after this beginning, the Wales-based shoebox gift project merged in a partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, allowing us to share 20 years of expertise in relief and aid work with the project, and expand the reach of the shoebox gifts to more than 28,000 children that year. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to over 146 million children in more than 100 countries.”

 

POVERTY IS LACK OF HOPE, KENYAN NATIVE TELLS HSU AUDIENCE

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David Kirika, 27, tells his story of surviving poverty in Kenya as a child, thanks to Compassion International. The photo in the background is David as a child after he got into school in Africa, thanks to Compassion International. Photo by Loretta Fulton

For more information on Compassion International and Youth Arise Africa, go to the following websites:

www.compassioninternational.org

www.youthariseafrica.org

By Loretta Fulton

The message projected on the screen was bleak.

“Poverty is not a lack of material wealth; it’s lack of hope.”

The speaker behind the PowerPoint presentation was David Kirika, 27, a native of Kenya who knows all too well what poverty means. When he was 2 years old, his parents separated. He lived with his mother, who married a man who did not love David.

Within a span of 18 months, David lost his brother, mother, and stepfather to the HIV/AIDS virus.

“At this point I lost hope,” David said in a chapel presentation at Hardin-Simmons University on Oct. 10.

But that was not the end of David’s story. Now 27, David lives in Colorado Springs, where he is director of Youth Arise Africa, a nonprofit that aims to instill godly principles in the next generation of Africans through mentorship.

David was rescued from his bleak life through another nonprofit, Compassion International, whose motto is “Releasing Children From Poverty in Jesus’ Name.” He spoke on behalf of Compassion International at HSU, issuing a plea for students and faculty to sign up to sponsor a child–a child just like he was.

The transformation that David went through, thanks to being sponsored through Compassion International, was nothing short of miraculous. David was introduced at the chapel service by Grey Hoff, assistant to the president for university marketing and global engagement at Hardin-Simmons, introduced David.

“This man has the fingerprints of God in his life,” Hoff said.

David knew physical, as well as spiritual, poverty as a child. He watched children die of starvation in their mother’s lap, he witnessed people digging deeper and deeper into garbage dumps in search of food or something to sell. He knew a boy who woke up one morning next to his dead sister.

After David’s mother and stepfather died, he was taken in by grandparents. Twelve people lived in a two-room house the size of an American bedroom. On most mornings, his “breakfast” was a glass of water–that’s all he had to sustain him for the three-mile walk to school.

David went through a long period of doubting God’s love for him.

But at age 9, the miracle began to happen. He was sponsored through Compassion International by a boy a year younger than himself, Aaron Mitchell, who lived in Florida with his family. Through Compassion International, David saw his dream realized–he was going to high school.

And, for the first time in his life, he got new shoes, something that made him so happy he wanted to sleep in them. But he still didn’t connect his good fortune with the God he was doubting.

“I couldn’t understand any of this about God,” he said.

Then, a setback occurred. He didn’t score high enough on the national exam to go to high school. He was devastated but motivated to find his biological father, whom he had heard had money. His grandmother bought him a one-way bus ticket to the town where his father lived.

David found him, but also found another disappointment. His father disavowed him.

“He had replaced me with someone else,” David said.

However, a private school opened in his home town and David was able to attend. When he was in the 10th grade, the pastor at the school issued an invitation.

“If you doubt God has a plan for you,” the pastor said, “come and see me.”

David was not convinced and told the pastor he would give God one week to put in an appearance in David’s life.

“It’s now been 12 years,” he said.

He qualified for college, which was paid for by Compassion International, and now holds an honors degree in business leadership from Pan Africa Christian University in Nairobi. It felt like a movie, David said.

“Compassion gave me that opportunity,” he said.

David stays in contact with Aaron Mitchell, the boy of 8 who, with his family’s help, sponsored David through Compassion International. The final projection in David’s presentation showed Aaron with his family, all of whom are white.

“This is my sponsor family,” David said. “People say we look alike.”

CONCERT BENEFITS ABILENE HOPE HAVEN

 

 

DAVID PHELPS BENEFIT CONCERT
WHAT: David Phelps, an award-winning singer, will present a benefit concert for Abilene Hope Haven
WHEN: 7 p.m. Nov. 18
WHERE: Abilene Convention Center, 1100 N. Sixth St.
TICKETS: $25, $35, and $75 (VIP, includes hors d’oeuvres  and an opportunity to meet Phelps; www.abilenehopehaven.org/

By Loretta Fulton

Three months into his new job as executive director of Abilene Hope Haven, John Cooper had the rug pulled out from under him.

A federal grant that provided 70 percent of the funding for the nonprofit that provides shelter and a path to security for the homeless. Cooper and members of the board of directors got on their knees and prayed for guidance.

“We just believed God wasn’t done with Hope Haven,” Cooper said at the Sept. 27 meeting of the Abilene Association of Congregations.

JohnCooper

John Cooper

He had reason to believe. When Cooper was 15, he experienced homelessness himself, staying for a short while in a shelter. When he turned 16, his grandparents  took him in and provided a stable home. They took him to church for the first time in his life.

He understands the plight of people living at Hope Haven.

“It was only by the grace of God that I was able to escape some of those circumstances myself,” he said.

A benefit concert for Hope Haven will be held Nov. 18 at the Abilene Convention Center, featuring vocal artist David Phelps. Tickets range from $25 to $75 and may be purchased online at www.abilenehopehaven.org

Those top-end tickets include hors d’oeuvres and the opportunity to meet Phelps. Only 100 of those tickets are available, and they are popular.

“Those are going faster than the others,” Cooper said.

Proceeds will help pay for all the services provided by Abilene Hope Haven. The agency operates a 21-bed temporary housing unit on Treadaway Boulevard called Bridge 2 Home and an assistance program called Hope Housing Services.

HHS provides housing identification, financial assistance, and case management, with tailored supportive services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

The Bridge 2 Home shelter has undergone a radical change since Cooper arrived, not only in physical appearance but also in atmosphere with an emphasis on “radical hospitality.”

From his own background, Cooper knows how important atmosphere can be in a shelter. So, it’s not just a rhetorical question when he asks, “How would I want to be treated?”

The shelter has new light-colored paint with wall decorations and literal “welcome” mats. Dr. Stephen Baldridge, director of the social work program and an assistant professor of social work at Abilene Christian University, and his family live in the shelter.

Having the director living in the shelter with his family has changed the dynamic of Bridge 2 Home, Cooper said, and sent a message:

“You are our brothers and our sister,” he said, “that’s really how we’re trying to treat them.”

Cooper included a pleas in his talk. He noted that donations from churches accounts for only a small percentage of giving. Only one Bible class donates consistently.

“We’re trying to grow that awareness,” he said.