Pastor’s Ponderings

What My Father Taught Me About God

I wish I could recall a conversation my Father and I held about God. Unfortunately, we never had any one-on-one about God. However, I did learn a thing or two from my Dad.

Saturday mornings were hair-cutting days. My Dad would cut Rev. Redmond, our landlord’s hair, and there would be lively discussions on many topics, including politics and religion. My Father enjoyed making statements that would rile up the Rev.  One day, the story was about Jonah and the whale. Dad’s version had Jonah as a Negro, who was strong enough to fight a whale. The whale swallowed Jonah. Jonah swallowed the whale. Eventually, the whale wins the fight, tossing Jonah on the shore, and Jonah goes to Ninevah as God commanded. That was the day I realized my Father knew scripture.

In preparation for work, he shaved, splashed on Old Spice, and put on his silver crucifix. He always wore a suit jacket and tie to his employment as a night watchman. On the job, he would change to coveralls. The essentials taken with him were a briefcase, a brown paper bag that concealed a handgun, and enough lunch to share with his friend Jeff, who worked the same job but had a different shift.

My Father didn’t model praying, but one day, he was called on the carpet for not returning thanks for a meal. It was during one of my Aunt Girlee’s visits to our home. We sat down to eat, and no prayer was initiated, and Auntie snapped at her brother, reminding him he knew better. He then gave thanks for the meal.

A neighbor lady told my Father that she was praying for him. He nodded his head and kept walking. He said, “I wonder why she needed to tell me she was praying for me. If you are going to pray for me, just pray. You don’t have to tell me.”

My Dad was a counselor to many of the young people in the family. They found him easy to talk to and a man of wisdom. When my cousin Leonard returned from Vietnam, he was messed up mentally. He came to visit my Father. They talked privately for hours. Years later, my cousin told me how talking with his Uncle Jessie changed his life. My Dad inspired him to keep on living.

Just before my Dad died, he was in the hospital bed at the VA Hospital. I sensed in my spirit that this would be the last time I saw him. He was at peace about dying. I held his dry, ashy feet, trying to warm them up for him. We both said I love you with words and our eyes. He died the following morning.

I have spent years recalling my experiences with Dad and the stories I have heard from others. As a result, I have learned much about God through my Father. Firstly, talk is cheap, and one must walk the walk. Secondly, many people have been hurt by the church. To reach the lost, we must meet people where they are. Thirdly, loving, like God loves, is more about actions and less about words. Lastly, it is much easier to swallow “God Talk” when we clothe it in drama and or humor. In the words of Jesus, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” – Matthew 10:16


Remembering Mother

As Mother’s Day approaches, I am thinking about my Mother. Thoughts of her make me smile. She loved dressing up. She was stylish in every decade of her life.  She loved her 3-inch heels. They were multipurpose, serving as an accessory as well as a weapon. She was known to throw a shoe that could round a corner and find its target. Getting my mother to give up her stilettos was a battle. Mom had experienced a few strokes and there was one that affected her gait. The physical therapist recommended she wear flats. My mother said no. She could not walk in flats. She said her high heels would help her to regain her balance. She lost that battle. However, a compromise was made as she settled into wearing a 2-inch pump.

One of the things I admired most about my mother was her ability to never meet a stranger.  She could talk to anyone, about anything. She was accepting of people that others found difficult to be around. Her treating people with kindness and respect resulted in favor being shown to her in many ways. I remember Mr. Benson. He was a strange man. He was often alone, talking to himself. It seemed as though there may have been something going on mentally with him.

One day my mother had a car trouble, just a few blocks from home. Mr. Benson saw her and came along and fixed the problem.

I remember when my mother welcomed Jehovah’s Witnesses into her home for Bible Study. They thought they were converting her. She was simply enjoying talking about God. Then one day the conversation was about the spirit and humans not having a soul. They had gone too far. She asked them to leave and they were never allowed back.

There are many things I admire about my Mom, such as her love for life, welcoming of strangers, sense of humor, and sassy attitude. But one thing I saw, that bothered me. I thought she was too passive. She seemed to be a pushover with some people.  But as I have gotten older and reflect on her life, I realize I was wrong.  She sacrificed her wants for the needs of others. She chose battles wisely. She compromised to keep peace in her life and home.

We thank God for mothers, fathers, and elders who have modeled for us God’s love, kindness, and wisdom.

Colossians 4:5-6 tells us, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

God bless you. 

Pastor Candy


LET’S TALK ABOUT EASTER

What’s the buzz about Easter?  Haven’t you heard? Jesus is alive!  This is a monumental event, a beacon of hope and joy.  Jesus, after his crucifixion and burial, triumphantly rose from the dead. It’s a testament to the power of God’s love and mercy. In times of despair, God often presents us with new beginnings. Allow me to share a personal journey from hopelessness to gratitude.

It started with a phone call from a stranger. We agreed that the call was a mistake. But then, in talking, we decided to have a face-to-face visit. That led to a promise to visit her church. The church was much further than I would choose to drive for Sunday worship, but it was just one visit. I felt obligated to go. I gave my word. I took the drive. 

The service was uplifting, and the preaching was inspiring. The associate minister delivered a powerful message that day. As the service neared its end, the minister quoted Romans 10:9-10, a verse that resonated deeply within me. “…if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For one believes with the heart, and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and is saved.” It was as if a light had been switched on at that moment.  This was the missing piece, the key to my faith. 

I heard this message during a season when I was having a crisis of faith.  I had a relationship with Jesus that began when I was a little girl.  I practically lived in the church all of my life.  Yet, I had been struggling with the certainty of knowing that I was saved.  In my mind, evidence of salvation would be the Holy Spirit taking control of my body and sending me up and down the aisles in a praise dance of some sort.  There were occasions where I felt emotional during a message in the preaching or singing, but nothing that would make me let go of my composure and cut loose in the church.  Because I never had the assurance of my salvation, I did not believe I was saved. 

This particular day, I finally understood. Salvation was not based on a feeling, being slain in the spirit, or even speaking in tongues. It was all about believing in Jesus Christ and accepting that he died for me. 

It was not a coincidence that I received a phone call from a stranger who heard something in my voice and insisted that I visit her church. It was the grace of God at work.

Some people don’t know Jesus, doubt God’s existence, or lack a relationship with God. They could be our parents, children, siblings, neighbors, or friends. In the depths of their being, there is a longing to be connected with God and called His child. Whether they can articulate that or not. Easter is for them.  Easter is for those who have lost their way.  They have spiraled into hopelessness and taken up residence there.  Easter is for people who remember when they were lost and are thankful to be found.

Church, let’s share the good news.  People need to hear the Easter story.  Somebody needs a new beginning.  God is counting on you and me to be a witness to SOMEBODY about the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus is alive!  He is risen!  Hallelujah!


Lifters Needed

Lifters play important roles in our society.  In many households, the lifters are those able-bodied people who can manage toting boxes, haul groceries, move furniture, or climb a ladder to change a lightbulb. If you are an elder who lives alone, you appreciate those visits from younger people who will lend a helping hand. The skills of lifters have prevented many falls and injuries.

Here at the Clifton lifters are called on often.  Recently, the heating and air system has required Clifton to hold worship services in the Fellowship Hall. The Fellowship Hall is also used for meetings, dinners, and other events. With each occasion, furniture is moved. We thank God for the lifters who ensure things are set up for each event.

God’s Kingdom work needs lifters.  Not just to move furnishings but to teach, preach, assist, encourage, and witness. With the Holy Spirit’s help, Lifters use their God-given gifts to lift Jesus.  We need heavy lifters. Those who can handle complicated situations. Some people are rough around the edges, and if we are talking little people, it means being willing to get messy.  The lifting required is not as much physical strength as love and dedication. 

Jesus says he will take on the bulk of the lifting. If God’s people praise his name, speak his name, serve in his name, and intercede in his name, lives will be changed. In this world that offers many options, obtaining an authentic relationship with Christ is often overlooked.  Lifters can bring Jesus to hearts and minds as the best option for a life of love, peace, and joy.

The Kingdom’s work can be accomplished if every Christian steps forward, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and empower. People, young and old, will come to experience and know Jesus.

It is easy to think someone else will do this heavy lifting.  But why not you? Why not me?  The cries for hope today are a call for all hands on deck.  There are people seeking hope. The children of God know what it is like to seek hope. We have been lost and found. God brought us through.  Why not tell someone God is the answer to their situation?  Even better, why not show them?

Lifters. That is what our society needs. Lifters, who will do the kingdom work so that Jesus becomes the name of every heart and home.

In John 12:32, Jesus said, And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

Blessings,

Pastor Candy