Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Do You Give Because You Have To Or Because You Want To?

My Text today is from: Matthew 22:15-21.  Join me as I read it.

The tax inspector brought Mr Gudgeon in for his tax assessment interview: "I’m going to say to you what I say to every taxpayer who sits in that chair: you should realize that it’s a privilege to live in this country and you should pay your taxes with a smile." "Thank goodness," said a visibly relieved Bob, "I thought you were going to ask me for money."  This particular passage from Matthew is unusual in that we are told immediately that the encounter is a plot to trick Our Lord.  The Romans, contrary I think to popular belief these days were not an invading army in Judea. They had been invited into the country to make peace. They decided to stay and it is now a province. Certain parts of the Jewish leadership believed they needed the Romans and should pay taxes and go about their business. Others thought that the Romans could not be tolerated. They were idolaters, and brought their images with them, and they were gentiles and were polluting the holy land by even being there.  So the Pharisees went to Jesus to trap him. They asked him a yes or no question: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? If he says yes, they think then that the people will desert him. If he says no, they think they can get him in trouble with the Romans. That’s why the Roman followers of Herod are there also: it is an unholy alliance between two extremes of Jesus’ opposition. But the response is more than a simple yes or no answer. The response is far more complex and more theological: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s."

This is a difficult answer because it leaves open the question what is Caesar’s and what is God’s? You can’t trust Caesar to tell you what’s Caesar’s. Because Caesar’s answer is always the same: more.   Jesus has been portrayed in recent times as a political subversive and a counter-cultural icon: the first century Che Guevara. In fact, a couple of years ago an advertising campaign to get people across the threshold of a church for Easter showed a picture of Christ modeled upon that of Che, as seen on a thousand Student’s T-Shirts in the sixties. Christ was indeed subversive, radical and counter cultural. But he was not rebellious. The law was authoritative for Christ, and he came not to wipe away a letter of it, but he taught that the letter of the law and its spirit can be quite different: that was indeed subversive, radical and counter-cultural and remains a challenge to us today. We are challenged by this reading to reject the letter of the law and to go with the Spirit.  But which things are Caesar’s and which things are God’s? We can’t let Caesar decide. So how do you determine what things are God’s?

The film Jerry Maguire brought us an immortal phrase which can be applied to greed and avarice the world over: “Show me the money”. In fact “Show me the money” is what Christ says also, but to make an entirely different point.  How do you determine what is God’s? There are some very clear differences:

• Caesar makes it very easy for you to know what you owe.

• Caesar says pay but God says give.

• Caesar says pay or be sorry. God says give and you’ll be glad.

• The call to pay says "you owe."

  • The call to give says "you have an opportunity."

There are not many of us send off our payment to the IRS and say, Whooo "Yes, I feel good about that." We usually say a lot of other things that aren’t repeatable from the pulpit. The call to give is a call to grow, not only in terms of commitment, but in the goodness of your own soul that you are able to do it. It is partly gratitude to God for all he gives us and it is also partly a sense of wanting to be the kind of people who are so free from selfishness and greed that we can give more than most people think is reasonable; so free from addiction to wealth that we can give beyond what most people think is appropriate.

This building isn’t going to just fall away, although I note that despite the very hard work of many in the congregation, raising the money for our essential work proves difficult. The mission of this Church is not going to die, and its investment in youth projects and other forms of outreach are not just ‘nice-to-haves’ but are essential not only for the future, but for the now.  The challenging future of this church, its design and its purpose within this community is not something that we can simply put our heads the sand about and leave to a later generation, for if we fail to act decisively now, there will be no more future generations and the glory of worship will be lost in this area for ever.

"God loves a cheerful giver.” Says the Scripture. He also accepts from a miserable one as well.  When Caesar says pay, it doesn’t matter what kind of people we want to be... we pay. But when God says give, we have to make a decision. It’s hard. It requires thought and feeling. But that offering is one made willingly and a willing offering is one which will reap much reward, not just in this earthly life as we build the Kingdom on Earth, but hereafter, where the gift will be much more bounteous.  Jesus taught them by saying "Show me the money for the tax." And then he held that coin up to them and said "Whose picture is this?" Caesar’s.  "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God, the things that are God’s."   What has God’s picture on it? What carries God’s likeness? You.   You are that offering. Make it work.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Heartland Weddings

Heartland Weddings      -     By: Jennifer Johnson, Cathy Liggett

About The Book:  Come home to America’s heartland where love is worth a second look. Forced to reevaluate her womanizing boss since he became a Christian, Megan McKinney discovers that forgiving has nothing to do with forgetting and everything to do with love. Megan O’Donnell is a take-charge single mom of a handicapped child. When she’s paired with a cocky superstar pitcher at a sporting event for special needs kids, she dislikes him on sight. Until she loves him.
About The Author(s):  Jennifer Johnson tells us, "I have aspirations to be Wonder Woman, but find high heeled boots uncomfortable. However, I appreciate that she values truth and that she doesn't know a bad hair day.  I have the heart of a writer and am blessed to be able to write both professionally and recreationally. I reside in the southern United States with my awesome family. They're okay with me not being Wonder Woman, as long as I take a break from the fictitious worlds I create and join them for supper."  Cathy Liggett says, "Coney Island was never at the top of my list when I was a kid (scaredy cat!). My favorite places were the library, the card shop and hardware stores. As my husband will tell you, it's a good thing that books were my first love. I'm a lot better at fixing up characters in stories than anything that involves a hammer and nails or even super glue. Besides writing, I enjoy impromptu visits from our two grown kids and doing the empty-nester thing with my one true love. We're also enjoying the latest addition to our family, a Boxer mix named Chaz.  Please visit me at I'd love to hear from you." 
My Thoughts On This Book:  As a huge fan of Christian romance fiction I have to say that this book was amazing.  I felt as if I was right in the middle of both of the stories and could not put it down once I started reading.  The second novellas storyline had a handicapped child in the mix and as a grandmother of two handicapped grandchildren the characters  made the story even more heartwarming and definitely touched a heart string for me.  I would recommend this book for anyone.  Loved It!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley Publicity Group and Barbour Publishing as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Do You Really Know Me?

I was sitting here thinking about all my blogging buddies and I got to well do I really know you?  How well do you really know me?  At a workshop on Safety today one of the questions the EMA director and Sheriff asked was how well do we know our students?  How well do we know each other.  I have not been at Wadley a full year yet and I can honestly say....I don't know much about either of them.  So as I was sitting here...I thought about this little activity I do with my students on the first day of class.  It really helps me get to know the kids...and I hope it will help me get to know you.  If you will...comment at least one thing I should know about you. 
Five things you would know if you really knew me…..

If you really knew me, you would know that I have opened for George Jones as part of Still Magnolias.

If you really knew me, you would know that I am an avid traveler and have been to 48 of the 50 states.  (I am missing Vermont and Alaska.
If you really knew me, you would know that when I grow up I want to be a published author.

If you really knew me, you would know that I am a United Methodist pastor and married to one.

If you really knew me, you would know that my daughter is a missionary in Moldova.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Let's Fall by Julia Bettencourt

While looking for a fall devotion I came upon a wonderful one called, Let's Fall! by Julia Bettencourt.  You know “Fall is such a great season. I love it mostly because of that puff of coldness I feel at the first sign of its approaching. After a long summer that crisp air that comes in the fall just feels so good and invigorates you. I know my spiritual life is always in need of some invigorating too. I want my life to be full of the invigorating power of Christ.”  How can we keep that power continually at our fingertips.

F-     Fellowship With Christ (and With Other Christians).  There's nothing like a strong devotional life to help me to be spurred on to be what I should be for Christ. Fellowshipping with Him in prayer, reading and knowing His Word, and keeping my life from sin is imperative if I want His power on my life.  "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."    Romans 6:12,13  "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee."    Psalm 119:11  Having a relationship with other Christians around me will also encourage me in my walk with the Lord.  "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."    Colossians 3:16

A-    Abiding in Christ.  I know if I want that invigorating power of Christ, I need to continually be obeying His Word and keeping His commandments. I need to constantly be in tune with Christ and abiding in Him.  "And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us." 1 John 3:24

L-    Leaning on Christ.  The more I lean on Christ, the more I find that His power and strength are mine. Leaning on Christ gives me a boost as I live the Christian life.  "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."    Psalm 46:1

L-    Living for Christ.  Someone that lives for Christ can have such a powerful life. Being an idle Christian will never get us anywhere. Living for Christ requires motion. If I'm active for Christ it will help me to have the full power of Christ on my life.   "Serve the LORD with gladness..."  Psalm 100:2

Conclusion:  I think that having the power of Christ on my life just boils down to doing what I know I need to do as a Christian and fully surrendering to the Lord in each aspect of being. I need to be daily walking with the Lord in order to have His crisp and invigorating power breezing through in my life.

So, how's your F-A-L-L?”

God Bless, Karen

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Mason Jar

About The  Book: What if your old college roommate called, raving about a book someone sent her, calling it the most beautiful book she's ever read? "But," she said, "it's about you." The author is your college ex. In The Mason Jar, Clayton Fincannon is a Tennessee farm boy raised at the feet of his grandfather. He and his grandfather leave letters for each other in a Mason jar on his grandfather's desk---letters of counsel and affirmation. When Clayton attends college in Southern California, he meets and falls in love with a dark debutante from Colorado. However, when an unmentioned past resurrects in her life and she leaves, Clayton is left with unanswered questions.  Clayton goes on to serve as a missionary in Africa, while he and his grandfather continue their tradition of writing  letters. When Clayton returns home five years later to bury his grandfather, he searches for answers pertaining to the loss of the young woman he once loved. Little does Clayton know, the answers await him in the broken Mason jar.  A story about a girl who vanished, a former love who wrote a book about her, and a reunion they never imagined.  Written for the bruised and broken, The Mason Jar is an inspirational romance that brings hope to people who have experienced disappointment in life due to separation from loved ones. With a redemptive ending that encourages us to love again and written in the fresh, romantic tones of Nicholas Sparks, The Mason Jar interweaves the imagery of Thoreau with the adventures and climatic family struggles common to Dances with Wolves, A River Runs Through It, and Legends of the Fall.   Purchase a copy:
About The Author: James Russell Lingerfelt is the author of The Mason Jar and writes articles for The Huffington Post. James connects with readers at his blog, Love Story from the Male Perspective, and divides his time between Southern California and his family's ranch in Alabama.  Find James online: website, Facebook, Twitter
My Thoughts On The Book:  I am an avid Nicholas Sparks fan and felt this book ranked right up there.  The story and characters grabbed me from the first words.  I loved the relationship with Clayton and his grandfather.  I was touched by relationship between Eden and Clayton....then and now.  I could not put this book down from the moment I picked it up.  I found myself running the gauntlet of emotions.  There were moments when I wanted to cry for the main characters and other moments when I wanted to wring their necks.  This is an inspiring must read.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse, as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Just Some Special Panties

After my grandmother (dad's mom) died my widowed aunt sort of became the grandmother figure of the family.  She was childless and the oldest of the siblings so it seemed pretty natural for this to happen.  My parents and I rarely came to Alabama for Christmas, but there was this one year we decided to make the trek during my school vacation.  I was so excited to get to spend time with my family.  Christmas morning we all gathered in the living room and opened gifts.  I had rarely gotten gifts from this side of the family so I was really looking forward to this event.  I saved up my allowance and bought my aunt a rose pen from Burdines in Florida.  I just knew she would love it!  She opened her gifts first and did not make a real big deal about what she got.  It hurt my feelings so see my rose pen just laid on the floor at her feet with a minimal thank you.  I mean....I bought this with my own money.....she could have at least acted like she was thrilled with it....but she did not.  After her came the grandchildren, by age.  My cousins Sherry and Gary opened some amazing gifts....a leather gun case and a beautiful pink suit from Froshins.  I was giddy with anticipation.  What would my gift be I wondered.  I did not think it would ever be my turn.  My cousin, Judy, was a month older than me and she finally went....then it was my turn.  We opened our presents at the same time....and once I tore all the paper and ribbons from the package....there it was.....this was the gift I had been patiently waiting to open.....I looked down and two big tears fell from my eyes...right on the gift.  There in my box....sat three pairs of Days of the Week panties.  Three pairs!  Last time I looked....there was a minimum of seven days in a week.  I looked at Judy's box....and there was the other four.  She at least ranked four.  I only got three.  I stood up....looked my aunt dead in the face....and handed Judy my three pairs of panties.  My aunt asked me why I did that and I told her that at least one of us would have a whole gift.  My dad was shocked at me.  He took my hand, lead me into the guest bedroom, and gave me the first and only spanking he would ever give me in my life.  I was crushed.  To add insult to injury I had to return to the living room where everyone knew what happened.....and apologize.  From that moment on I hated Alabama at Christmas time.  I wanted to stay where I was loved.  My aunt and I would be estranged because of those silly panties until I was a teenager.  I never owned Days of the Week least a complete set...and never wanted to.  When my girls were young they wanted was all I could do to lay down money so they could have them.  Isn't it amazing what we hold fast to in the memories department.  This took place over 50 years ago....and it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.....Let It Go!  So let me ask you all....have you ever had anything like this happen to you?  Please share with me so I don't feel like the only person on earth warped off the frame over some stinking panties!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Team Jones in Moldova Update

I got up at 4 this morning to see the lunar eclipse and while I sat outside drinking my coffee I decided to catch up on facebook.  Kat had posted this earlier in the day and as I read her post I felt a sadness overtake me. When I was younger I remember some of the orphanage stories that I heard my parents tell and always felt fortunate not to live in one.  Yet, here it is 2014 and this is what they found when visiting the state orphanage in Moldova.  "It has been a week since our last entry friends. I apologize. It has been soo busy here. We have another group from the UK here. They are just lovely. We have had youth group, church, English class, Romanian class, and a visit to an orphanage. It has been a quite a tiring week:) But, we know who sustains us. The weather here in Moldova is still very fall like. It is crisp and breezy most days and chilly at night. Our apartment is very chilly at night. Apparently it is not common practice to turn heat on inside until November. So, we purchased a tiny space heater:) It cuts the chill a little bit. We have also added a blanket to our bed.  As I sit here trying to reflect on the last week to share with brain is a blur. So many moments occurred this week that took my breath, brought a smile, or broke my heart. I think this Monday stands out the most for me, though. We took our guests to Straseni (sounds like Strah shane) orphanage. This complex once "cared for" over 300 children. Now, there are over 100 there. Many of our girls and guys came from this orphanage. Some of the most precious people in my life grew up here and Monday was my first time to visit. I had heard about it-but seeing it first hand was so different.
Many of you have heard me speak about Liuba in the past. She is the girl with me on my cover photo on my facebook page. She is my dear. I adore this girl. Anyway, Liuba and two other precious Stella's House girls accompanied us on our visit to Straseni. All three of these girls had grown up there.  We entered through the gates and I was overwhelmed with how much this place reminded me of something out of a scary novel. There was no life there, just concrete buildings surrounded by trees that seemed to mourn the fact that they were there. Everything seemed concrete and gray...but then we stepped off the bus and were swarmed by this humming buzzing packs of kids who wanted to see the Strainii (foreigners). The group of about 40 kids that surrounded us consisted of children mostly 9-13. They were timid and yet curious all at the same time. They were longing for interactions with others but not quite sure how to approach us. Brian instantly made friends with a little chap named Vasille. His choclatey brown eyes lit up when Brian started using his Romanian skills to speak with him. Several kids came up and as we asked them (in Romanian) "what is your name?" They got creative:) Would you believe that Michael Jackson, Spiderman, Superman, IronMan, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Messi (futbol players) all live at Straseni?  After spending some time just visiting and talking with the kids outside, we stepped into the halls of the Straseni Orphanage School. My sweet, strong Liuba lead us on a tour. It was the saddest school I have ever been in and I was struggling to reconcile how that energetic group from outside was the same group that filled these cold classrooms. We walked from room to room and spoke to the children. The teachers rarely smiled at us or the students. When we walked into one of the classrooms, an 'afternoon" teacher walked through us and one of our girls visibily shrunk in size as this woman passed by. The girl's eyes went cloudy. She whispered to one of us that this teacher used to beat her regularly. Guys, it is probablly good that I was not made privvy to that until after we left that woman's room-I was ready to take of my jewelry and take it to the mats with that woman. I was filled with a righteous anger guys."  I don't know about you all....but it fills me with righteous anger, indignation, and disgust.