Thursday, November 5, 2009

Never Shoot an Iguana

In her book Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen has a section called "From an Immigrant's Notebook", which is a collection of inimitable vignettes.

In one of the stories she tells of shooting an Iguana in the hope of making something from its beautiful skin. She describes the big lizard as having such colorful skin as to appear like a pane cut from an old church window. A strange thing happened when she shot the Iguana, which created for her a memory that she never forgot. As she was walking up toward the dead lizard, it faded, grew pale and all the color died out as in one long sigh. It was the life of the Iguana that radiated all of the glow and splendor, and now that the flame of life was put out, the beauty and soul of the Iguana was also gone.

She wrote a brief commentary on her memory of the experience. Ever since that time when she 'shot an Iguana,' the memory came back to haunt her each time she tried to capture some part of nature's beauty and take it for her private use. She recalled a line from the hero of a book she read as a child: "I have conquered them all, but I am standing amongst graves." She concluded: "For the sake of your own eyes and heart, never shoot an Iguana."

This pensive little story spoke volumes to me. I recalled the many sad experiences that I have had in trying to snatch natural beauty from its living source so that I could have it for myself. I remembered crushed butterflies, dead fireflies in a jar, cut flowers, dead song birds (killed with a slingshot) which could no longer sing, and treasured relationships killed by possessiveness.

Perhaps we have all, at some time in our lives, tried to capture for our own private use something of beauty which really did not belong exclusively to us, only to discover that it slowly (or quickly) died in our selfish grasp. Maybe it was more than a cut flower found dead the next day or a crushed butterfly. Perhaps you have smothered a person in the process of trying to possess them for yourself in a way in which one human being can never belong to another. Perhaps it was a child you did not allow to grow up because you loved them just like they were - dependent. It could be a husband or wife or an employee whose beauty, usefulness, and love died when you held them too close.

Possessiveness is a dangerous characteristic. The desire to take for ourselves that which does not rightly belong to us is the source of so much human suffering. It is the cause of destructiveness at so many levels. It is a primary ingredient of wars. It is most destructive when it is exercised in the small kingdom of the family. A powerful, possessive and controlling parent or spouse can wreak havoc in a family and cause emotional problems in individuals that infect subsequent generations.

In his novel, "The Sleeping Doll," Jeffery Deaver has one of his characters explain why she ran away from home and joined a cult when she was a teenager. "When I was growing up they (parents) were very authoritarian. I had to do everything the way they insisted. How I made my room, what I wore, what I was taking in school, what my grades were going to be. I got spanked until I was fourteen and I think he only stopped because my mother told my father it wasn't a good idea with a girl that age....They claimed it was because they loved me, and so on. But they were just control freaks. They were trying to turn me into a little doll for them to dress up and play with."

This is a story I have heard, in one form or another, hundreds of times. It often comes from young women who left home as soon as they could escape a possessive, controlling and/or abusive situation. Ironically, these women often subconsciously decide to marry a controlling husband and/or join a church or some other group with a controlling leader. They do so without realizing how, or understanding why, they are putting themselves right back into a possessive, controlling and potentially abusive situation. Thus the debilitating impediment moves from one generation to the next, leaving the landscape littered with victims.

Beware of over-weening possessiveness at any level. It is often expressed under the guise of love. Many insecure young women who are starved for love and attention misread possessiveness for love and learn one or two children too late that they have made a terrible mistake. When you kill the spirit of a person with over-weening possessiveness and control, the beauty of the person and the relationship is lost.

In a 'cut flower' civilization such as our own, where we are tempted to separate beauty from its source for fear it will fly away, or for fear someone else will take it, we would be wise to remember Isak Dinesen's experience.

Hold beauty and your beloved with a loose hand. Do not shoot the Iguana.

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Saints Day

COMMUNITY........ All Saints DayAffirmation:   We need our ancestors, guides, and fellow travelers in this work of the Spirit.....a Community of Faith ……………………MARK 12:28-34Many think of religion, with all its Commandments, as a burdensome straitjacket.  This may have been true, in some sense, of the Judaism in Jesus' day, and it is sometimes true today among people who claim to belong to God. Jesus wanted to correct this false understanding of True Faith.  He summed up the numerous Jewish Laws in two simple but profound Commandments:  Love God totally and love others as much as we love ourself.  If these two thoughts rule our heart and mind, we will be well along the Path of Spiritual Transformation.   (The Life Recovery Bible)

 REFLECTION:  Circle of Faith.

If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors.  All of them are alive in this moment.  Each is present in your body.  You are the continuation of each of these people.  (Thich Nhat Hanh)

 The spiritual practice of love builds community, as do kindness and gratitude and prayer.

 Community is created and renewed when individuals act in love and serve each other.

 Prayer is the rippling tide of love which flows secretly from God into the soul and draws it mightily back to its source.  (Mechthild of Magdeburg)


"Life is like a bottle of wine. Some are content to just read the label. Some drink the wine."  (Tony DeMello)

Which are we?  Do we participate fully in life and share God's love with others? Are we inebriated with Redemption?

The challenge is to stop reading the labels----or labeling one another----and to drink deeply of each experience, each day, and each one's stories.  This affords us the opportunity to see each of those with whom we are in relationship as a lifeline to the deeper mysteries of life where all are connected.

God draws us together to embrace eternal possibilities that God has in store for us:   a place where all are welcome and all find a home.  Each day offers us a new beginning to set our feet as pilgrims on the path to find again this place.  It is the Spirit of God, the very breath of God that leads us to this place.

The path depends more on Enlivening the Web of Connection that will allow the Everlasting Source to sustain Itself and us, the way blood circulates through the body.   ("Making Connections" Joseph Nassal, Fall, 2009)

As Jesus' disciples, our love of others needs to be not just within the community of disciples but outward to all humanity.  This embrace of our human family leads to greater knowledge and acceptance of ourselves.  As Jesus instructs this embrace of the family calls for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. To do this authentically, we need to set aside or transcend our own selfish interests and delusions of self-importance.

The command to "love your neighbor as yourself" is a very simple concept. One does not need a degree in philosophy or theology to realize that if all of us would follow it consistently, virtually all violence, war, racial prejudice, and political and economic injustice would disappear from our planet overnight.  The perfection of God's reign would just that suddenly appear in our midst.  The concept may be simple enough, but the headlines in our daily papers and our nightly newscasts make it obvious we humans "don't get it."

To love is "to will the good of another."  The definition implies that we need to make the effort to actively seek the good of the other as the circumstances dictate.  It is not enough simply to think nice thoughts or have warm feelings toward another. (James 2:15-16)   Nor is it enough to "will the good of another" only when it is convenient or does not involve any sacrifice of personal interests.  Jesus taught that "no one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friend." (John 15:13)

 Dear God, help us to see our true Spiritual condition. The key is Your first commandment. And we do know it.  All our good works, all our prayers, all our righteous words can mask a barren love-relationship with You.  We know to love You with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength.  Help us to love with all that is in us. Help us then to love others the way that Jesus taught. Come, Holy Spirit, renew our willingness to participate in life this very day. Thank You, Three-in-One God.  Amen.

 "By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  (John 13:35) …Jim Savage


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When to Ask for Help, By Dr. Jim Savage

How far do you go, or how long do you wait before you ask for help?

My sense of direction when driving leaves something to be desired. I even have difficulty finding places where I have been before if I have not been there in the last six months. I hate to stop and ask for directions. I have spent much time 'wandering' rather than getting where I wanted to go because of my pride.

Last year my children gave me a GPS for my birthday. Thank God for that unseen satellite in the sky which beams directions to my GPS, which talks to me, telling me in advance on which street I should turn. I punch in the specific address of my destination and proceed with great confidence without having to stop and ask.

One of my esteemed colleagues in the ministry is retired Baptist minister, Dr. Gerry Gunnells, erstwhile pastor of Spring Hill Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. Several years ago he wrote a column about a notice posted in a textile mill. The notice read: 'If your thread gets tangled, call the foreman'. "If you have ever seen the complicated operation of one of these giant carpet mills," said Dr. Gunnells, "you can understand the wisdom of the notice." To wait too long to call for help is to court catastrophe.

Since we usually feel that most of our lost conditions and tangled situations are of our own making, we tend to keep struggling unproductively on our own so that no one will see our failure. If we felt that the problem had been caused by someone else, or even by forces over which we had no control, we would be less apprehensive about calling for help. The wish to protect our 'image,' the illusion of 'independence,' as well as other unspoken reasons, keep us from making a legitimate request for help. It makes little difference who or what caused the tangled threads; it is imperative to call for help before the situation spreads beyond your own life and begins to entangle the lives of other people in your tapestry of relationships. The truth of the matter is most of the people who can help us care little who or what caused the tangle. It is the loss of our image of adequacy that makes us reticent to ask for help.

Where do you go for help? Go to those who have reason (by training and experience) to know how to help you. It is always good for us to be willing to 'call upon the Lord' for help, as long as we remember that more often than not God sends help to people through people. It is okay to pray when you are lost on the way somewhere, if you will remember to stop at the nearest gasoline station and ask for the information for which you have prayed. Many people think God operates like the Lone Ranger, sans Tonto. Not so. Angels come in the form of strange people, strange ways, and at strange times in answer to our prayers.

I love the story of a man who was in a flood zone during a hurricane. The sheriff's department sent a car to take him to higher ground. He refused to offer saying that he was a religious man and that God had promised to take care of him. The rising water was ankle deep in his living room when a boat came by and offered to take him to safety. He declined the help on the grounds that God had promised to take care of him. The rising water finally forced him to climb on the roof of his house. The rescue squad sent a helicopter and offered to take him to safety. Once again he refused help because God had promised to take care of him. The man was swept away in the flood and drowned.

The scene changes. The man arrives in heaven and demands to speak with God. He tells God how disappointed he is that after such a life of faith and trust that God did not take care of him. God said: "I sent a car, a boat, and a helicopter to rescue you and you refused my help".

More often than not angels come in human form.

If your thread gets tangled, or the water is rising, or if you get lost on the way, ask for help. You would be surprised how many people there are in the world who not only can help, but who want to help.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Things You Can’t Change and Things You Can

AN ENCOURAGING WORD written for October 1, 2009, by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

We live in a frustrating world where there are nagging problems we cannot change - certainly not in the short term - maybe not in a lifetime - maybe never. Nothing frustrates us more than nagging personal problems. Frustration leads to resentment - and resentment to anger. Chronically angry people do strange and uncreative things to themselves and others, none of which resolves or even lessens the nagging problems.

There are problems in life that are beyond our power to fix. These are almost always problems outside ourselves. We have all worked on age-old social problems we wanted to fix only to discover that in spite of our best efforts, solutions would not likely take place in our lifetime, and maybe never.

There are problems in and between people we know and love that are beyond our power to fix. Sometimes there are problems in members of our immediate family that are beyond our power to fix no matter how hard we work and pray.

I have an old friend who, when he writes me, ends every letter with a well-known Latin idiom: "Amor vincit omni" - love conquers all. It is a lovely and hopeful thought, but its practical application has notable exceptions. Christians tend to extol the virtues of love as the immediate and final cure for everything. It pains me to tell you that this is not true, certainly not in the simplistic way in which we usually think and speak of love. Nothing is the cure for everything.

The only nagging problems we have the power to fix are our personal problems. Even then, there is no 'silver bullet'. If we have deep-seated unresolved anger, frustration, hatred or any other negative feeling that is burning us, it lies within our power to do something about it. No one else can do it for us. It will take intentional effort, or prayer or counseling or all of the above, but it is within our power.

As I write this column, I have just come from a meeting where I listened to one of my heroes speak, Col. Glenn Frazier. He is a World War II veteran and a survivor of the Bataan Death March. His suffering in that experience was beyond words. He hated the Japanese. Col. Frazier said that his hatred of the enemy was a useful, if not an essential attitude as a soldier at war. But, when the war was over and the enemy was defeated, the hatred did not go away. It intensified and became generalized. He hated Japanese automobiles, electronics and everything made in Japan. He came to hate people who bought anything made in Japan. The war was over, but not for Col. Frazier. In his heart there was no peace treaty. Twenty-five years of hatred rewarded him with nightmares every night. He dreaded going to sleep and finally could not sleep. His pastor counseled him that forgiveness was the only solution. He did not see how this was possible. But, after 25 years of suffering after the war, he decided he had to do something, and forgiveness was about the only thing he had not tried. So, with the tools of his faith and help of God he set out to forgive the Japanese. The process took two and one-half years. Probably the most difficult thing he ever did, but he did it. He finally threw down that weapon that was so useful to him as a soldier at war, but which was so self-destructive for him as a civilian in peace time. He said that after the process of forgiveness was complete, he has never had another nightmare!

In James Lee Burke's novel, A Stained White Radiance, there is an interesting and insightful encounter between Detective Dave Robicheaux and his AA sponsor, Tee Neg, an uneducated Cajun who could barely read and write. Before Tee Neg bought a bar and poolroom, he was a pipeline and an oil-field roughneck. Three fingers on his right hand were snipped off by a drilling chain.

It is obvious to Tee Neg that Robicheaux is chronically worried and frustrated, so he decides to do some 'Cajun counseling'. This is what he said:

"You're studying this case all the time. You t'ink that's it, but it ain't. You bothered by the way t'ings are, the way we got trouble with the colored peoples all the time, you bothered 'cause it ain't like it used to be. You want sout' Lou'sana to be like it used to be. You want sout' Lou'sana to be like it was when you and me and yo' daddy went all day and went everywhere and never spoke one word of English. You walk away when you hear white people talking bad about them Negro, like that bad feeling ain't in their hearts. But you keep pretend it's like it used to be, Dave, that these bad t'ings ain't in white people's hearts, then you gonna be walking away the rest of yo' life.

"I had seven years sobriety, me. Then I started studying on them fingers I left on that drill pipe. I'd get up with it in the morning, just like you wake up with an ugly, mean woman. I'd drag it around with me all day. I'd look at them pink stumps till they'd start throbbing. Then I went fishing one afternoon, went into a colored man's bait store to buy some shiners, told that man I was gonna catch me a hunnerd fish befo' the sun get behind them willow tree. Then I told him I changed my mind, just give me a quart of whiskey and don't bother about no shiners. I got drunk five years. Then I spent one in the penitentiary. Get mad about what you can't change and maybe you'll get to do just what Tee Neg done".

Do you understand that?! (Email for Dr. Butts: )

Monday, August 31, 2009

Why People Give

Why People Give

This is the time of year when churches are in the process of planning their projected budget. This essential procedure lacks exactitude, but when done correctly and published to the membership everyone gets a birds-eye view of the scope of the mission of the church.

The next step taken by most churches is to conduct a campaign for pledges to that budget. Many ministers and church leaders do not look forward to this annual task. We are reluctant to ask people to give, even to so worthy a project as the church. For the most part I have always found this exercise to be potentially spiritually enriching. I believe most people want to give to causes which represent the betterment of society in general and individuals in particular.

There are at least 3 essential ingredients to a stewardship campaign with integrity. The first is a clear understanding of the sacred nature of the cause for which money is being raised. This is God’s money. It is to be used only for promoting the Gospel and helping people. These are two things to which Jesus called his followers when he was here in the flesh. "Go ye unto all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15). After a laundry list of ways we are called to minister to the poor and oppressed, Jesus said: "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren (and sisters) you did it unto me" (Matthew 25:40). Having established the holy nature of the effort we go to step two.

People tend to give generously when they know their leaders are giving generously. I recall a phrase from a stewardship campaign many years ago which I find to be true: "Financial influence runs downhill." No minister or church leader should ask others to do something they are not doing. One of my friends was asked by a local church to direct the annual stewardship campaign. Early on he was told that the pastor of the church had never pledged, and had no record of giving. He went to the pastor and asked if this was true. After some stuttering and fancy footwork the pastor admitted this to be true, but said he gave to other undocumented causes. My friend said to him: "You will either make a pledge worthy of your means right now or I will pack my bags and go home. I will not ask people to do something their pastor is not doing."

The third important element: "Do not be afraid to ask people to give." When the cause is beyond our own interest – when it is for the highest purpose, be bold.

Robert Macauley, founder of AmeriCares Foundation, a humanitarian group that provides relief efforts at home and around the world, recalled an experience he and Mother Teresa had on an airplane flying to Mexico. As box dinners were being passed out, Mother Teresa asked how much the airline would donate to her charity if she returned her dinner. When she found out, she soon had everyone, including the crew, returning their dinners.
But it didn’t stop there. When the plane arrived at its destination, Mother Teresa asked the crew if she could have the dinners to donate to the poor. And, when the airline provided the dinners, she asked to borrow one of their maintenance trucks to deliver them.

If your cause is just and you can speak with the moral authority of one who has already set an example, boldness is appropriate.

AN ENCOURAGING WORD for September 27, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Tyranny of Absolute Certainty

AN ENCOURAGING WORD written for August 20, 2009, by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

The Tyranny of Absolute Certainty

What we see and understand in and about life so often fails to correspond with what others see and understand. For those for whom unanimity of understanding is essential to emotional security and mental comfort, this universal fact is a source of considerable frustration and anxiety.

In the opening chapter of his classic book, The Immense Journey, anthropologist and naturalist, Loren Eiseley, offers an insightful caveat concerning his view of reality which he gives in the remainder of his book. He says: "On the world island we are all castaways, so that what is seen by one may often be dark, obscure (or hidden) to another". (Eiseley, Loren. "The Immense Journey". Vintage Books, 1959. 14)

There are so many things which conspire to keep us from seeing things alike. Our views are conditioned by our experiences, our ignorance (or education), our prejudices, and our deep (and often unconscious) personal needs. 

How futile it is for us to expect others to share our perceptions of reality with uniform exactitude. We may learn from each other, but we will never be alike. Those who nurture serious expectations of uniformity are doomed to disappointment; and those who are obsessed by expectations of uniformity are the budding tyrants of our time who would extinguish the human mind, which is the primary light by which God has traditionally rescued us from darkness and ignorance, chaos and fear.

We are never in greater danger of error than when we are absolutely certain that we are absolutely right. The most destructive and inhumane times in history have been those in which some person or group of persons have been so absolutely sure they were absolutely right that they used the power at their disposal to impose their views of reality on all who were under their domain. Some of the most unpleasant people I have ever met have been people who were absolutely sure they were absolutely right, and whose mission in life was to impose their views on everyone else by whatever means necessary.

To be a little uncertain, or at least only moderately sure, is to be human - and humane. The encouraging word for today is that you do not have to be absolutely sure in order to be right. 

It is quite possible to have strong convictions and still be open to those with countervailing strong convictions. Our understanding of reality changes as we grow older, and hopefully, wiser. My children ask me questions to which I sometimes have to reply: "You should have asked me that question thirty years ago when I knew the answer!" I suspect that all of you who are over thirty-nine have had same or similar experiences. 

The people with whom Jesus had his most serious problems were those who had no doubt whatsoever that they were absolutely right. In order to prove their point and eliminate any doubt about how wrong he was, they killed him. 

Think about that the next time you are absolutely sure that you are absolutely right.

(You may email Dr. Butts at )

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Teach Us To Pray, by Dr. Jim Savage

"Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known." (Jer 33:3)

The utmost earnestness should be employed in seeking Salvation in the use of appointed means; yet it is to be sought only as the Gift of the Son of man.

Constant exercise of faith in Christ is the most important and difficult part of the Obedience required from us as sinners seeking Salvation. When by His Grace we are enabled to Live a Life of Faith in the Son of God, holy tempers follow, and acceptable services may be done. God, even His Father, who gave their fathers that food from heaven to support their natural lives, now gave them the True Bread for the Salvation of their souls. Coming to Jesus, and believing in Him, signify the same. Christ shows that He is the True Bread; He is to the soul what bread is to the body, He nourishes and supports the Spiritual Life. He is the Bread of God. Bread which the Father gives, which He has made to be the food of our souls. Bread nourishes only by the powers of a living body; but Christ is Himself Living Bread and nourishes by His own Power. The Doctrine of Christ Crucified is now as strengthening and comforting to a believer as ever it was. He is the Bread which came down from heaven. This shows the Divinity of Christ's person and His Authority; also, the Divine origin of all the Good which flows to us through Him. May we with understanding and earnestness say, Lord, evermore give us this Bread. (Matthew Henry)

"We receive God's Grace and it has nothing to do with merit. The beauty and the paradox of Grace is God does not demand that we EARN His blessings. The Grace and Love of God transcends our human ability to understand. But even without understanding, we are Called to Accept that Gift of Grace, freely given, and rejoice.

There is great Mystery. But what we need to Know and Believe is that there is great Power. Things happen when we pray that do not happen if we don't pray.

Prayer is one of the Ways we link ourselves with God; we put ourselves in the channel of God's moving Power; and we participate with God in ministry to All." (Maxie Dunnam)

REFLECTION: Practice a Life of Prayer:

The psalmist pleads his earnestness, and the Mercy of God, as reasons why his prayer should be heard.

Our poverty and wretchedness, when felt, powerfully plead in our behalf at the Throne of Grace. The best self-preservation is to Commit ourselves to God's Keeping. I am one whom Thou favorest, hast set apart for Thyself, and made partaker of Sanctifying Grace. It is a great encouragement to prayer to feel that we have received the Converting Grace of God, have learned to Trust in Him, and to be His servants. We may expect comfort from God when we keep up our Communion with God. God's Goodness appears in two things, in giving and forgiving. Whatever others do, let us call upon God and Commit ours case to Him; we shall not seek in vain. (Psalm 86, Matthew Henry)


Grace is the Gift of unlimited blessings that I receive without any requirements or stipulations being placed on me. There is no term I must meet and there is nothing I can do to earn or lose the unconditional Love of my Creator.

Grace is always present and blessing me. Mercy and Goodwill are mine Now and Always.

The Gift of Grace proclaims that I am of unquestionable value to my Creator; the generosity of God inspires me to give back in return.

Yet the Reality is I am Always Blessed with more than I give.

Thank You, Gracious God. Thank You, Christ Jesus. Thank You, Holy Spirit. Amen.

"Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy....You are my God, be gracious to me, O Lord, for to You I cry all day long....Hear my prayer, O Lord." (Ps 86:1, 3, 6)

"Keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of Your people, and direct their hearts toward You." (1 Chron 29:18)

Monday, August 10, 2009


(Fearlessly daring; bold; unrestrained by convention)

"David danced before the Lord with all his might......."


Lord, give me a cheerful disposition, not only to benefit myself but also to bless others. I know that a good attitude can be a great influence for You. Help my Joy spread to all those I meet. Amen.

2 Samuel 6:12-19:

It became evident that happy was the man who had the Ark near him. Christ is indeed a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence to those that are disobedient; but to those that Believe He is a Corner-stone, Elect, Precious. (1 Peter 2:6-8)

Let us be religious. Is the Ark a blessing to others' houses? We may have it, and the blessing of it, without fetching it away from our neighbors. David, at first setting out, offered sacrifices to God. We are likely to speed in our enterprises when we begin with God and give diligence to seek Peace with Him. And we are so unworthy, and our services are so defiled, that all our Joy in God must be connected with Repentance and Faith in the Redeemer's atoning blood. David attended with high expressions of Joy. We ought to serve God with our whole body and soul and with every endowment and power we possess. (Matthew Henry, 1662-1714)

"Remarkable things happened when the early church prayed. The fourth chapter of the Book of Acts records just one of those Audacious Prayers and the nearly unbelievable events that followed a time of very Bold Prayer.....

The results of the apostles' Prayer was evident to those within the church and astounded observers from afar, who were then drawn to this contagious and Joyful community.

May our Prayers be as Audacious and God's Response in our midst as dramatic and Transforming." (Rueben P. Job)

CONTEMPLATION: Stillness and Praying....Personal Rhythm:

Some never experience the Peace of Contemplation because they try to Pray in distractions. Most people realize that it is difficult to hear God's whisper over blaring noises. Our noise is on the inside. Our minds grind in an endless conversation---commenting, regretting, expecting, worrying, resenting. Because of these distractions our encounters with God remain shallow and tentative. Some of the early Desert Fathers called this the ceaseless "murmuring" of our minds. An early abba likened the mind to a tree full of chattering monkeys.

Through a rhythm of quieting and "stilling," of systematic Preparation for Prayer, we can Attune ourselve to the Mystery within us. Contemplation begins with the quieting of one's whole lifestyle and being.

Discipline of Inner Stillness:

1. Prepare yourself. Be comfortable; Be alone; Slow down.

2. Be Aware. Observe feelings; Relax.

3. Breathe. Take four long breaths. These can help you distance yourself from the world. (Sr. Kathryn Hermes, 2001)

(4. Enjoy the Presence of God.)

"This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Ps 118:24)

Enjoy the blessings of this day.

"Be glad of Life, because it gives you the chance to Love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars; to think often of your friends, and every day of Christ; and to spend as much time as you can, with body and with spirit, in God's out-of-doors.

These are the little Guideposts on the footpath to Peace." (Henry van Dyke)

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Disciples are Expectant.

The Way early disciples lived mystified people around them because the disciples seemed to live in another world. The Principles that guided them clearly differed from those that guided others. They Practiced a Way of Life both beautiful and mysterious. Their Lives made sense only if one Knew that they were Living by the Power and Guidance of God. Their Lives were governed by the Reign of God and not by the press of politics or the call of culture. They were Different Because they Chose to Live their Lives in Obedience to and in the Presence of God. (Reuben P. Job, A Guide To Prayer For All Who Seek God, Upper Room, 2003)

The people sought the Spiritual food of Christ's Word, and then He took care that they should not want bodily food. If Christ and His disciples put up with mean things, surely we may.

And this miracle shows that Christ came into the world, not only to Restore, but to Preserve and Nourish Spiritual Life; in Him there is enough for All that come. None are sent away from Christ but those who come to Him full of themselves.

No difficulties can hinder Christ's appearance for His people when the set time is come.

Let the disciples have their Master with them, and All Is Well. It is for want of rightly understanding Christ's former works that we view His present works as if there never were the like before.

It is sad to think how much more most care about their bodies than about their souls. (Mark 6:30-34, 53-56, Matthew Henry)

"Regardless of how we define Christ's separation from the world, one fact is clear: He did not separate Himself from human beings and their needs. Nor did He limit His concern to the Spiritual part of man's personality." (Edwin W. Lutzer, 1941-)

REFLECTION: Wherever we are, God Is, and All Is Well.

THE LIGHT OF GOD SURROUNDS US. Wherever we may be in the world, we give thanks that God's Light is shining on our Pathways.

THE LOVE OF GOD ENFOLDS US. We are never alone. Enfolded in the Love of God, we receive the deep, abiding comfort of our Creator.

THE POWER OF GOD PROTECTS US. God is the One Power and Presence in the universe, ever with us and blessing us.

THE PRESENCE OF GOD WATCHES OVER US. We are eternally One with God and one another.


(This prayer was put in Bibles for troops in WWII and also taken to the moon when astronauts landed there in 1969)

"Do not fear for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

Father God, give us Jesus' wisdom, Jesus' heart, Jesus' determination to minister to All. He had compassion on All. Thank You, Gracious God, for Christ Jesus. Lord, today minister to our churches wherever they are, to Your disciples wherever they might be this day. Help us to live in this world but not be a part of this world, Now striving to Live Your Way. May we have the compassion and generosity toward All that You showed us. Thank You for coming to show us the Way Home to the Father through You. Come, Holy Spirit, guide us this day in the Jesus Way. Thank You for the assurance of Such Love! Amen.

"When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the Harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His field." (Matthew 9:36-38) In Christ, Jim

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

“Hollow Praise” by Dr. James H. Savage

Has someone ever given you a compliment, and later said something about you behind your back that was not so pleasant? Why do we humans do this? Would it not be easier to simply never offer the compliment to the other person if we are not serious about our words? How does it make you feel about the other person when you find out through the rumor mill that unkind things have been spoken? I wonder how Jesus felt on Palm Sunday as he rode into Jerusalem.

The New Testament shares through the four gospels that Jesus began to be less and less popular as Passover came closer and closer. Jesus was talking about His death more as each month passed by. Jesus’ disciples seem to become more nervous as they journey closer to Jerusalem, and as they speak more about death.

When Jesus and the disciples reach Bethpage, they settle down near an olive grove. Some of these olive trees today date back for many centuries. We often call this place that is still in existence “the mount of olives.” It is located on a hillside directly across from the hillside gate where Jesus would enter on the next Sunday. Jesus spent much time in prayer and thought as he prepared himself for the entry into Jerusalem. A great number of people were still following Jesus, and many inside the city had heard about Him. Jesus must have been famous by the time Sunday had come, for the crowds were lining the streets. They were praising Jesus, and proclaimed: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Why were they waving palm branches, and calling Jesus “the Son of David?” They did this because they expected Jesus to overthrow the Romans, lead a rebellion of Zealots, and establish a new nation of Israel. Jesus heard their shouts of praise, and already knew He would disappoint them greatly since His purpose was very different.

I personally think Jesus appreciated the support, and shouts of praise. But Jesus would also have concern in His heart for the souls of the same people who would turn their backs on Him in just a few days. Everyone loves a person in power like a king or a president. But no one likes a servant who dies on a cross for the spiritual salvation of the world.

Things did not change for the followers of Jesus until The Day of Pentecost. Even the event of Easter did not provide the power and courage that was needed. Palm Sunday reminds me that our praises to God might be hollow shouts of praise until we receive the power and courage we need through the Holy Spirit. In my daily relationships, Palm Sunday reminds me to offer true and genuine encouragement to family, friends, and church members alike. My prayer is that each of us will be filled with God’s Spirit this year, and offer our praises to God, and our encouragement to our fellow Christians along the way. I pray that our praise to God and our encouragement to others will never become words that are nothing more than “Hollow Praise.” God grants the Spirit to all who ask. God offers us the opportunity to offer heartfelt praise this year! Praise God!

It is interesting that all four of the traditional gospel writers include the story of what we call “Palm Sunday.” Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all share this great story, but here is Matthew’s account:
“When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethpage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; and they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the palm trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” May the God of all palms and praises touch your heart and bring comfort to your soul this spring. May the God who led Jesus to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, be with you and give you comfort, and strength for each day: and may the God of peace bring peace to all souls that struggle.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009



Many things present themselves as diversions, many things offer themselves as remedies, but the soul finds that the Lord alone can heal. The Holy Ghost gives to poor souls a fresh sense of their deep necessity, to stir them up in earnest applications, by the prayer of Faith, by crying to God. And as they love their souls, as they are concerned for the Glory of the Lord, they are not to be wanting in this duty....... Then let us up and be doing; it must be done, and it is attended with safety. We are to humble ourselves before God, as guilty in His sight. Let us acknowledge our sinfulness; we cannot justify ourselves or plead not guilty.

Jesus Christ is the great Ransom; He is ever an Advocate for us and through Him we Hope to obtain forgiveness. (Matthew Henry,1662-1714)

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I Hope....." (Psalm 130:5)


In his journal, John Wesley describes hearing a choir at Saint Paul's Cathedral singing this Psalm on May 24, 1738, just hours before he felt his "heart strangely warmed" at Aldersgate Street. This is a Psalm of Hope, a plea for God to hear; an expression of Hope for God's forgiveness. The Psalmist repeatedly asserts Hope that God will Save. (The Wesley Study Bible, 2009)


The powers of this world do not want to see their authority and control usurped by another, even if that other is God.

To preach a Message and Practice a Life of Authentic Discipleship will make us uncomfortable and make others anxious and sometimes hostile. We are not above the struggle of what it means to Follow Jesus. The complex issues of Life do not lend themselves to easy answers. It is not easy to Know with certainty the Path we are to Follow. ("A Wesleyan spiritual Reader" by Rueben P. Job, Upper Room Guide To Prayer For All Who Seek God)


Wonder expands our thinking, deepens our insight, attunes our hearing. We begin to ask, Why? and How? and What if?

Out of that quest comes Discovery: all of our inventions and creations and musings and pushing for knowledge---our drive to conquer challenges, to search out mysteries. It should lead somewhere, prod us to think a bigger thought that moves on to nobler or more expansive actions. Visions and insights that Open us to Wonder should be enjoyed and meditated on and pondered through the years until we not only Understand their Meaning, but find ourselves shaped by them.

A Sense of Wonder exposes the world as more than flat and static and still.

We become able to See its dynamic qualities, to See inside and through and past the obvious. Wonder recognizes and enjoys the beauty of Creation and the quality of Created Things.

When we develop the Sense of Wonder we gain insight into Purposes and Meanings behind events and gain the desire to Seek out Wisdom from the Powers beyond our own.

We're able to Understand that this Life isn't all there is.

There's a time and space and order in another Realm.

Those of us who have come to Know this have to Share the Love discovered! The Holy Spirit is truly Guiding the Way if only we Wait and Seek with our whole heart and mind and soul.

Dear God, lead us in new directions this very day is our prayer. Surprise us with insights that never end! May we Share the Love we've found. Thank You, Father God. Amen.

Monday, August 3, 2009


".....The righteous are as Bold as a lion." (Proverbs 28:1)

True Prayer begins with God who moves our spirit, as the Gospel song tells us, to seek Him seeking us.

To believe that we who Pray take the initiative is a conceit born of pride! The impulse to Pray always begins with God. We may either choose to Obey or ignore that impulse, but the impulse itself always begins with God. Through our Prayers He reveals that His Will is wholly Love, and that our response to that Will must be Love as well. Even our Love for God draws its Energy from the Source of Love itself, which is God...........

This yielding may begin hesitatingly, reluctantly, and with apprehension, but over time these misgivings must give way to the Joy of that New Awareness that comes of Spiritual Rebirth. (Russell M. Hart, "Crossing the Border")


Wesley calls Prayer the "proper test of our desires, nothing being fit to have a place in our desires which is not fit to have a place in our Prayers." (Sermon 26) He says we Pray "not for a passive, as for an active conformity to the Will of God." Testing desires and being conformed to God's Will do not happen in passive pleasantries of Prayer. It takes us beyond a "sweet hour of Prayer" into a Profound Awareness of God's Goodness and painful confession of our sin until we hear the often disturbing and always challenging Word of God for our world. (The Wesley Study Bible, 2009)


We need to find an "out-of-the-way" place in our own backyard or by a lake or at a park to "rest awhile." When we are stretched in so many different directions we still need time by ourselves to get our Life together.

Most of us only spend time at these rest stops once or twice a year during the period we have marked on our calendars: Vacation.

When that time arrives and we hit the road to get away from it all, sometimes we maintain the pace we keep during the rest of the year. When we return we often seem more tired than when we left. But every now and then during this sacred space of leisure----whether we put our feet as we gaze at majestic mountains in the early morning mist or soothe our thirsty feet in a cool stream; or put our feet under the table in the company of Friends----we may find ourselves whispering, "Ah, the Good Life."

The challenge comes in keeping that whisper Alive in our hearts when the rubber meets the road again and we find ourselves rushing off to our next appointment. The challenge is to find these holy places of rest in the midst of the hectic pace of everyday Life. The challenge is to take a few mini-vacations each day to refresh the spirit and restore the soul. (Joseph Nassal, "Rest Stops for the Soul")

2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

"My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorn. I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorn. I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my Cross, but I have never thought of my Cross as itself a present Glory. Thou Divine Love, whose human path has been perfected through sufferings, teach me the Glory of my Cross, teach me the value of my thorn." "George Matheson, 1842-1906)

Dear God, we Know to Trust You with our sufferings. Help us to understand Your great compassion, even when You choose to let us remain broken. Teach us through our weaknesses to lean on Your Strength. Give us Grace as You keep us humble, so that Christ's Power may rest on us. Forgive us, Lord, when we forget Your Gift of how to Pray, and Your example of Love. Come, Holy Spirit, purify our hearts with Holy Fire this day. Teach us is our Prayer always. Thank You, Gracious God. Thank You, Christ Jesus. Thank You, Holy Spirit! Amen.

"But He gives us more Grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives Grace to the humble.' " (James 4:6, Prov 3:34)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tell What You have Seen, By Dr. Jim Savage


"He wants you to become a Living Force for All mankind, Lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant Lights as you stand beside Christ, the Great Light, bathed in the Glory of Him who is The Light." (St. Gregory Nazianzen)

The language of God is specifically tailored to each person who encounters Him.

The apostle Thomas was missing when Jesus appeared to the apostles. He claimed that he wouldn't believe Jesus was risen until he put his hands into the wounds of the Savior. To Thomas, a man struggling with faith, Jesus spoke a very "physical" language: "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believe." (Jn 20:27) Jesus offered His body to Thomas so that he could touch His wounds and Know that it was He.

To Mary Magdalene, on the other hand, Jesus said, "Do not hold Me for I have not yet ascended to the Father." (Jn 20:17) Mary was not struggling with faith, she was shaken by Love. She did not need to touch in order to confirm her faith. Love had led her beyond doubt. To one in Love, Jesus instead gave a Mission: "Go to my brethren and say to them...." (Jn 20:17)

Many whom Jesus healed, forgave, or called in the Gospels were sent to tell someone else what had been done for them. The Samaritan woman is one who went off to gather her whole town to hear Jesus. Those people saw for themselves, then moved on to develop their own stories of Relationship to this Teacher at the well.

The world waits for the story of what you have seen. Your contemplative Living, your Journeys through Prayer, the Crosses you have carried and Shared, the nights you have passed through, God's Self-revelation to you----someone is waiting to hear.

Your story will be the language by which others will learn how to sit in God's Presence, Listen, and speak to Him.

Jesus Knew where He had come from, why He was here, and what He was supposed to accomplish. He came down from heaven not to do His own will, but the will of the Father. That determination controlled every decision He made.

As a result, He was not distracted with trivia. He was never in a hurry, for He Knew His Father would not give a task without the time to do it. Christ was not driven by crises, feeling He must heal everyone in Israel. He could say, "It is finished," even when many people were still bound by demons and twisted by disease. What mattered ultimately was not the number of people healed or fed, but whether the Father's will was being done. His clearly defined goals simplified His decisions." (Erwin W. Lutzer, 1941-)

AFFIRMATION: Awareness: Gratefulness: JOY IN LIVING:

Gratitude brightens any day. We can be on a personal Mission to brighten the world with appreciation to God.

Coming from our hearts, we put our Love into words of appreciation for family, friends, All....even those who pass through our day only briefly.

We can say silent thank-yous to Spirit throughout the day for Blessings and Opportunities. With each acknowledgement, we grow in Awareness of God as our Source of Love.

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift!" (2 Cor 9:15)

"Do not fear, God is with you. Be serene, joyful, happy. Carry serenity, joy, and a smile everywhere, especially where smiles re missing because God's Grace is missing." (Venerable Mother Thecla)

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24) In Christ, Jim

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Call to Confession, by Dr. Jim Savage


As Believers it is our privilege to Share the Good News. It is our responsibility after we have met Jesus. He IS our Life and we want others to Know this great Gift of Love.


In a way, the disciples leaving Jerusalem and walking to Emmaus were experiencing may of our misperceptions about God. They had expected a Messiah who would accomplish things their way, on their timetable, to their satisfaction. And instead, He had been killed. That was it. Their time had been wasted. Their hopes had been dashed.

Then a man caught up with them and accompanied them to their home. He was interested in their feelings about the situation. He kept them talking, while they revealed to Him their fears, their disappointment, and ultimately the Love that lay beneath their pain.

In a sense, they were walking away from their commitment to discipleship because Jesus hadn't performed correctly...or the way they had expected.......

Jesus put Himself totally at their disposal for as long as they desired His Presence. He taught and didn't rebuke. He listened and spoke as long as it took to ignite Anew the Fire in their hearts. He revealed Himself in the breaking of the bread. By the time He disappeared from their midst, their commitment had been Rekindled. They ran, not walked, back to Jerusalem.

Lord Jesus, You speak to us and our world changes. You say, "Be still!" and all of creation listens. All recognize Your voice. This same voice spoke everything into Being with the dawning of time. You are Lord over All and give Peace to All who take the time to be still and listen for Your voice today. Peace You leave with us. Thank You, Christ Jesus. Amen.

"Be Still My Soul" (1752, Katharina von Schlegel)

Be still my soul! Thy God doth undertake To guide the future as He has the past.

Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;

All now Mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still my soul! The waves and winds still Know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

AFFIRMATION: Feeling Peace in the Moment:

I take a few moments throughout the day to rest from all activities---from thinking and talking, looking and doing----and become still.

I let go of any expectations of what I should feel or do. The less I focus on myself and my surroundings, the more at Peace I am.

I maintain Awareness of the Present Moment. There are no concerns to distract me, no disruptions to my time alone with God.

I rest in the Silence and let Serenity wash over me.

The Peace I experience in the quiet of this Sacred Time brings respite and Renewal to my soul. I am in the Flow of God's Love.

Thank You, Father God. Thank You, Christ Jesus. Thank You, Holy Spirit. Amen.

"The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you Peace." (Numbers 6:26)

"For He is the Living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end. He rescues and He saves; He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth." (Daniel 6:26-27)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Somebody Touched Me (Pt 3) The Conclusion

I do not know what it is that makes us reach out in desperation, any more than I know what makes us withdraw in fear. I only know that we stand in constant need of each other, and without each other, we die a little each day.

How do we come to have this need to touch and be touched? I do not know what it is, I only know that it is. Jesus was many things to many people. He was a person so varied that all attempts to describe him in the human dimension fall far short of an adequate explanation. Thus we have come to call him the God-man, or the Son of God. Whatever else may be said of Jesus, it must be said that he was deeply sensitive to the needs of people. And he knew how to reach out and touch those who needed him. It little mattered to him that they were young or old, Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, man or woman, sick or well. He reached out and touched them and they lived. Since we are pledged to follow this God-man, Jesus, should we not go and do likewise?

That is the kind of sensitivity that we, too, must develop for those we serve, and for one another. This is what church is all about. If we miss this meaning of the Gospel, how poor and empty and ineffective our lives and our life together will be!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Somebody Touched Me (Pt 2) The Sermon

I am sure this story has many things to say to us, but today, let us see what it has to say to us about what it means to touch somebody, or to be touched. Touching is surrounded by mant taboos in our society. On Sunday mornings I stand at the door of the church and greet the members of the congregation by touching them. But, how I touch each of them is carefully regulated by an unwritten, but well known, law of decorum. How I greet the congregation under that unwritten law of decorum depends on their age, sex, social standing, and their relationship to me as a person. Those who are under six, I may pick them up and kiss them. If they are female and over sixteen, I don't do that. The adult males I will greet by touching their hands, or elbow, or perhaps even their shoulder, but no more lest people think odd of it. Those who are over sixty and related to me, I may embrace them -- carefully -- if they are not too sophisticated. And, on and on, the unwritten code of decorum goes. You know the rules better than I do because I do not always abide by the rules. The most common form of greeting by touch is the handshake, which is a form of greeting that became common in the 18th Century. It was also used in ancient Rome as a pledge of honor. Some say that the handshake was the earliest form of greeting by primitive people. The open extended right hand was intended to show that two people who were meeting had no weapon. It meant: "I come in peace. I mean to bring you no harm; see, my weapon hand is empty." (You could be in trouble by trusting this system if you happen to have a left-handed enemy.)

What does it mean to touch -- or to be touched? It means love. Perhaps that is why we are so cautious about touching. Perhaps this is why we have hedged it about with so many rules and regulations. It is an expression of intimacy that says: "I am open and vulnerable to you. I need you and want to be needed by you." One has to trust and love in order to do that. When I look around and see all of the wounded and isolated people no one has touched for a long time, and who have touched no one for a long time, it makes me very sad. When no one touched us, we may be greatly admired and highly respected, but equally deeply rejected as a person. We need to be touched in order to be reassured that we are loved. The need to be touched is built into the human nervous system. Slice into life at any age or stage and you will find the need to be touched expressing itself in a wide variety of ways. The need is there when we are born, and it continues until we die. For instaance, the clinical history of what happens to little children in hospitals who are seldom touched by human hands is tragic.

When my children were young they came to me in the evenings when I came home to touch and be touched. They wanted to sit in the chair with me -- but they became too old and I got too wide for that. Sometimes I brushed the children aside and asked to be left alone because I was tired and weary of people Do you know what they would do when I did that? (You mothers know!) They turned quickly to their mother, or to each other, or to the dog; and they would sit closeto each other or touch by fighting intensely or loving the dog inordinately; not only to fulfill the normal human need to touch, but to compensate for having just been rejected by their father. If we live in a world where somebody touches us, we can survive many jostles and rebuffs in life.

Age does not subdue the need to be touched. We sometimes forget that elderly people need to be touched too. In fact, the need is often intensified in old age because of deprivation. Have you ever stopped in the hall way of a nursing home to speak and shake hands with people sitting there in their wheel chairs? When you are ready to break off the conversation and be on your way many of these patients will not release your hand. They want you to stay. They love to be touched. Nobody has more beautifully or more classically depicted this need in the elderly than Donna Swanson in her free verse poem, "Minnie Remembers." I never read it but what I see my mother and grandmother, and a thousand elderly people I have known in my ministry through the years Listen.


My hands are old.

I've never said that out loud before, but they are.

I was so proud of them once.

They were soft, like the velvet smoothness of a firm, ripe peach.

Now the softness is like worn-out sheets or withered leaves.

When did these slender, graceful hands become gnarled and shrunken?

When, God?

They lie here in my lap as naked reminders of the rest of this

old body that has served me too well -- if not too long.

How long has it been since someone touched me?

Twenty years?

Twenty years I've been a widow.

Respected. Smiled at. But never touched.

Never held close to another body.

Never held so close and warm that loneliness was blotted out.

I remember the first boy who ever kissed me.

We were both so new at that.

The taste of young lips and popcorn, the feeling deep

inside of mysteries to come.

I remember Hank and the babies.

How can I remember them but together?

Out of the fumbling, awkward attempts of new lovers came

the babies.

And as they grew, so did our love.

And, God, Hank didn't seem to care if my body thickened

and faded a little.

He still loved it, and touched it.

And we didn't mind if we were no longer 'beautiful.'.

And the children, they hugged me a lot.

Oh, God, I'm lonely.

Why didn't we raise the kids to be silly and affectionate,

as well as dignified and proper?

You see, they do their duty.

They drive up in their fine cars.

They come to my room to pay their respects.

They chatter brightly and reminisce.

But they don't touch me.

They call me 'Mom' or 'Mother' or 'Grandma.'

Never Minnie.

My mother called me Minnie.

And my friends called me Minnie.

Hank called me Minnie, too.

But they're gone.

And so is Minnie.

Only Grandma is here.

And, God! She's lonely!"

Somebody touches me and life takes on meaning; nobody touches me and I am enveloped by a pervading sense of loneliness that is beyond words.

The human touch is so basic that it has been called "The Mother of the Senses." In a world filled with stress and strain, we reach out to our loved ones for comfort, but if by reason of indifference or preoccupation they fail to respond, we begin to look for some meaningful substitute for intimacy. We feel pain when nobody touches us, and we subconsciously begin to cast about for some surrogate, though less meaningful, experience to compensate for what we need, but do not have. Perhaps the most common substitute for the human touch is pets -- dogs and cats. I have noticed that many nursing homes now have inhouse animals for the patients to pet--to touch.

Desmond Morris, in his book, "Intimate Behavior," reminds us that in the United States we spend billions of dollars annually on more than a hundred million dogs and cats. Blocked in our human contacts by cultural restrictions, we redirect our intimacy to a love substitute -- pets. If those closest to us cannot supply us with what we need, and it is too dangerous to seek intimacy with strangers, we make tracks to the nearest pet shop, where for a small sum we purchase ourselves a bit of animal intimacy. Pets are innocent. They ask no questions, and they cause no questions. But these additional, or substitute, sources of intimacy are, at best, poor replacements for the human touch. I am not suggesting that we ban pets, because I doubt that the absence of pets would remedy the fears and inhibitions that compose an iron curtain around our lives. For instance, I doubt if the ubiquitous elderly lady in every community, who has forty-nine cats, were to suddenly discover that all of those cats had disappeared, that she would take to stroking the postman when he comes by. When the need to touch or to be touched is blocked, for whatever reason, we nearly always find some substitute. Late-life love affairs are not at all uncommon in assisted living and nursing homes.

How often do you suppose people go to the hairdresser, the barbershop, the shoe-shine parlor, or to the doctor, or to a masseur or a masseuse just to be touched in a socially acceptable way. What does it mean when somebody touches us -- or fails to touch us?

Many years ago I did a sermon on "Touch" in a South Alabama County Seat town church. One of the school teacher members stopped at the door and waited to tell me her own poignant story of the need to be touched. She taught first grade in a section of town where many of the children came from homes where emotional deprivation was common. She said that she had always tried to compensate for what these children lacked in whatever way she could; and for years she had stood at the door each afternoon and touched each child as they left school. Of late, some of the boys had been playing games with her by ducking their heads and running out so she could not touch them. But, she said, the interesting thing was what they would do when they were successful in evading her touch. They would stop and back up so she could touch them. Going or coming, we need to be touched by someone who cares who we are and what happens to us.

The meaning of touch is deeply ingrained in the history and practice of the Christian Church. Paul wrote Timothy: "I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you THROUGH THE LAYING ON OF MY HANDS . . . " In ordination I was made a minister by the imposition of the Bishop's hands on my head. The authority to preach and to administer the sacraments was given by touch. Likewise, candidates for church membership are confirmed by the "laying on of hands." Both authority and grace are given by touch -- "The laying on of hands."

Leprosy in these modern times is rare. I doubt that any of you have ever seen a leper. Yet, there are many who live and die in the same isolation as a leper, because they play it safe. They do not let their feelings show and people get the signal that they are "untouchable." Nobody touches us and we die deep down inside -- a little bit every day. You brush elbows every day (but do not touch lives) with people who are entombed in an emotional cocoon from which they will never be set free until somebody touches them -- until somebody cares. Love cannot live at arm's length. There never has been an adequate substitute for the outstretched hand -- the outstretched heart. You cannot heal the hurts of the human heart from across the street any more than you can set a broken arm, or remove an appendix, or deliver a baby from across the street. Redemption for us all awaits that critical moment when the word becomes flesh -- when love reaches across the barriers and the taboos, and somebody touches us. None of us will ever amount to anything until we know that somebody cares, until we reach out in the dark and find somebody there. Somebody touches me and I live -- nobody touches me and I die.

There are two experiences from my personal background that have both haunted and guided me for more than half century, They are not experiences easily shared except with those who are on the same wave length with me. I will risk sharing them with you today.

When I was a student at Northwestern University in the mid-fifties, I served a little Swedish Methodist Church on the southside of Chicago. One of the most senseless murders that took place in Chicago while I was there happened near my little church on 111th Street South. The whole event started with a little boy named Jimmy, who was born to two parents who did not want him. And it did not take Jimmy long to find it out. Jimmy never knew what it was like to be hugged and held close. By the time he entered the first grade, he had become so unmanageable that his school teachers were afraid of him. Nobody decent ever had anything to do with Jimmy. He never belonged to the Scouts; he never went to Sunday School. He had never seen the inside of a church except the two times that he broke in the church.

As a teenager, his deep sense of loneliness, isolation and frustration began to manifest itself in antisocial behavior that got him into many scrapes with the law. Being unable to find any meaningful relationships with the nice people in the community, he applied for membership in one of the southside gangs -- the young "untouchables." They accepted his membership. They even let him buy the gang jacket with the emblem on the back, but they would not let him wear it, until he could prove himself to be as tough as they were. Sometime later Jimmy was with a carload of the boys as they drove down the street when they saw a sixteen year old boy waiting at the bus stop. They had never seen the boy before. Jimmy said, "Stop the car; he is mine." He bounded out of the car with a claw hammer in his hand and beat the boy to the pavement. The boy died on the way to the hospital. Jimmy jumped back in the car and they sped off. They let him put on the gang jacket right then and there, and he enjoyed wearing it for three hours, until the police picked him up. He went through a series of hearings, and finally came to trial for first degree murder. During the trial Jimmy's father was called to testify. He had to walk past the defense table on the way to the witness stand. Jimmy was sitting there surrounded by his court appointed attorneys. As his father passed by, Jimmy spontaneously stood up and reached out to touch him, -- his father drew back in revulsion and fear.

There were no photographers there, but a courtroom artist caught the scene in a line drawing which appeared on the front page of every newspaper in Chicagoland the next morning. It was a picture with no caption, for it needed none. It was a graphic, one-frame story of Jimmy's life -- forever reaching out, but never touching or being touched. Nobody touches me and I die.

The other experience comes of that same time frame, while I was doing an internship at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. It is an experience that was highly personal and mystifying. Each chaplain intern was assigned three or four wards. One of my ward assignments was to the Female Cancer Ward. It was a large open ward of about 100 beds in two rows, with an aisle down the middle. It was late one afternoon that I went back to visit a patient in the cancer ward who was to go to surgery the next day. I really did not want to go. I was tired, and it always drained me emotionally to visit that ward. But I had promised to see this patient before she went to surgery. As I pushed through the doors into the open ward, I noticed that there was a patient in bed #34 who was crying, flailing her arms, and rubbing her body.

From the moment I walked in all the patients began to look at me as if to say: "Chaplain, stop and help that woman." Nobody said anything, they just looked. Have you ever had anyone "look" you into doing something?

My daddy was good at it! I could be out in the backyard playing in the Chinaberry tree, and my sister would come and call: "Tommy, come to dinner", and I never heard it. My mother would call out: "Tom Lane, come to dinner", and I'd say, "Just a minute." My father could push open the back door and just look at me, and I would drop from the tree like a rock.

Well, the patients were trying to "look me" into stopping to help this woman. But I was tired, and I didn't want to get involved. Not only that, but we had an understanding with the Roman Catholics that we would not visit any Roman Catholics and they would not visit any protestants. (It was a sorry understanding.) Not wanting to stop anyway, I reasoned to myself: "For all that I know she may be a Roman Catholic," so I walked right on by. But, when I got to the end of the ward I discovered that my patient had been taken to radiation therapy, and I had to walk all the way back the length of that ward with all those patients looking at me, as if they were saying: "Do you mean to say that you're not going to stop and help that woman?" So, when I got even with her bed, I turned and walked up beside her and said: "I'm the chaplain. How are things going with you?" She paid no more attention to me than if I had not even been there. I repeated the introduction several times. It was becoming embarrassing . She continued to cry and rub her stomach.

The next thing that I did was not a conscious act on my part, but since I could not communicate with her verbally, instinctively, I tried to communicate with her physically. When she slowed down one of her arms, I reached out and touched her hand. The moment I touched her, she grabbed my hand and held it to her stomach. To say that this startled me is a mild expression of my momentary feeling. She held my hand to her stomach for a few seconds, which seemed like an eternity to me. She became still and quiet, and I began to hear whispers from the beds nearest by: "Look at that man of God. He has healed that woman."

This really frightened me, for whatever had happened, I, least of all, understood it. For the first time in my life I began to understand why Jesus said: "Don't tell anybody." In a matter of less than a minute the woman was fast asleep. The moment she relaxed her grip on my hand, I slipped my hand from under hers and took my leave. As I went out through the big swinging doors, I discovered that the ward clerk had been watching through the big window. She stopped me and said: "Chaplain, what did you do to that woman?" I said: "I don't know; who is she?" She said: "She came in about eighteen hours ago, and she has been crying and fighting us the whole time. I said: "Who is she?" The ward clerk said: "Oh, that is Mrs. Rodregius. She is Puerto Rican. She speaks no English and we speak no Spanish, and we have not been able to communicate with her, or get her quiet until you came in. What did you do to her?" I said, "I don't know," and I still don't know. I only know that in my own bungling way, not knowing what else to do, I reached out and touched her, and something redemptive happened, at least for the moment. Somebody touches me, and I live -- nobody touches me and I die. (By the way, it took several weeks for me to quell my unwanted reputation in that ward as a faith healer.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Somebody Touched Me (Pt 1), by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts

A sermon preached by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Minister Emeritus at First United Methodist Church in Monroeville, Alabama on July 26, 2009.

Scripture: Matthew 8:1-4

Introduction, Explanation of Scripture, and Summary Statement

In the ancient world into which Jesus was born, the most dreaded of all diseases was leprosy. It was to that day and age somewhat like aids is regarded today. It was dreaded more than death itself. Leprosy not only had severe physical consequences, it also had social and economic consequences. The worst thing about leprosy was that the leper became an absolute and a complete outcast. They banded together and foraged the countryside for sustenance; and they clung to one another for some semblance of meaningful human relationships. They were required to wear distinctive clothing so they could be easily identified; and when they approached a town, they were required by law to put their hand (or a cloth) over their mouth and cry out the warning: "Unclean -- Unclean."

Even as late as the Middle Ages, when leprosy was diagnosed, the priest would don his stole and crucifix, bring the leper into the church, and there, read the burial service over the leper. . A leper was considered as good as dead, and lived out the eight or nine years that it took the disease to run its course in lonely isolation and complete segregation. No one dared come near a leper for fear of contracting the horrible disease; and a leper dared not come near others on pain of the penalty of the law.

The three Synoptic Gospels each tell an identical story about the healing of a leper in the early part of Jesus' ministry. Listen to the account from the Gospel of St. Matthew. For some reason not known to us, the leper ignored the ancient law that forbade him to approach a well person unannounced. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and said: "Lord, I know that you can heal me if you want to." And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched the man and said: "I so will; be well again." And the man's leprosy was healed immediately.

Jesus then gave the man two directives, the first of which was that he should say nothing to anyone about what had happened. The second directive was that the man should go and show himself to the priest, have the cure certified, and then make the offering commanded by Moses. The Jewish nation was not a democracy, but a theocracy, where matters of church and state were one. The priest had duties that we would consider civil duties. He was the local health officer. It was the priest who diagnosed and declared a person to be a leper, and only the priest could certify a cure and restore the leper to friends and family. Jesus could heal , but only the priest could certify the cure.

I cannot resist the temptation to point out the implications of this second directive. For several years now we have been passing through an era of anti-institutionalism. There are those iconoclasts who think we would have better education without schools; better families without marriage; more justice without courts and a purer faith without the institutional church. And, often this anti-institutionalism has been promoted in the good name of Jesus and on the authority of the Bible. The iconoclast forgets not only the lessons of history, but also the facts of the faith. While it is true that the institutional church tried to destroy Jesus, Jesus never tried to destroy the church. How often, as here upon this occasion, Jesus pointed people back to the institutional framework of the church. Jesus could heal him, but the man needed more than relief from the burden of leprosy. He needed the saving, and nurturing fellowship of the congregation. He needed the familiar forms -- the tangible framework of the faith that could give him strength for other storms of life that were to come. How often we have seen the lines by which we learn from the past -- our roots -- broken by thoughtless persons who think because faith is intangible that it needs no visible expression -- no organized framework of support. Those who break the idols, destroy the institutions, demythologize and explain the mysteries, do no service to faith. Faith is not strengthened by destroying the vessels in which it is received. You can't get a drink of water in a rainstorm. Water must be organized in order to be useable. The institutional church, our myths and our mysteries, are vessels in which we organize and serve the water of life. "Go show yourself to the priest, offer the gift that Moses commanded, get a certificate of your cure." Go back to church.

To the first generation church the essence of the story was the miracle of the healing of an incurable disease. It was told and retold, and finally recorded to further document the divine nature of Jesus as the authentic Son of God -- to wit, he could cure an incurable disease. I do not wish to minimize the miraculous nature of this event. It is obvious; but as important and miraculous in the episode as the healing of the leper is the touching of the leper. He reached out his hand and touched him. Defying all tradition and training; defying all known laws of sanitation, contagion and propriety; Jesus physically touched the man.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Reflection: The Wonder of Love

By Dr. Jim Savage

True Love isn't blind. It Sees everything----the faults, the irritations, the sins----and offers no excuses. Yet in time it reconciles and tries hard to kill the lingering resentments and every wish to humiliate, to hurt, to pay back. ( It's the reason Hallmark and Dayspring provide a line of "I'm sorry" cards.)

True Love enjoys the best, forgives the worst.

Love can be generated. The Pursuit of Love----giving it, receiving it-----makes a Wonder of any Life. Love has a math all its own: the more we expend, the more it multiplies. Love Can Be Regenerated.

"Love is an exotic; it is not a plant that will flourish naturally in human soil, it must be watered from above." (Charles H. Spurgeon)

It is impossible to Love without first being loved. Love is a Communicable Trait.

God's Cosmic Generosity is poured into our world every day. His Love is Alive, Bountiful, throbbing with Creativity.

He unties knotted things and ties up things dangling loose. His Love holds all things together, sustains the universe. It's not a scarce Resource or a rare commodity, but only the eyes of Wonder recognize it.

Without God, there would be no Love.

Those who claim they Know Love without God's help, without a whit of acknowledging Him, have never had their Love tested in a completely godless world. He's there for them, whether they Know it or not.

Those who Know God through their Spiritual Senses, through the Sense of Wonder, say He is Lovable, the most winsome, charismatic Being in the universe. His Love vibrates with Electric Intensity. But nobody could Love God, unless He first Loved us, because we could never Know Him, unless He Allowed Himself to be Known.

To receive an Invitation of Friendship with God is to be Fully Awakened, to come Alive in the Spirit, to Know Love's Alpha and Omega.

"Praise be to the Lord, for He showed His Wonderful Love to me......" (Psalm 31:21)

"Blessed be the Lord, for He has wondrously shown His steadfast Love to me...." (Psalm 31:21)

"When I look at Your heavens, the Work of Your fingers...what are human beings that You are mindful of them.......O Lord, our Sovereign, how Majestic is Your Name in All the earth!" (Psalm 8:3, 9)

"I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. And what I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the Grace of God, I shall do." (Edward Everett Hale, 1822-1909)

Monday, July 20, 2009

WESLEYAN CORE TERM: Faith of a Servant

Dr. Jim Savage

John Wesley talked about the Faith of a Servant of God in contrast to the Faith of a child of God. Faithful Servants Know their Duty and perform it the best of their ability. Just so, Christians who have the Faith of a Servant Know what God requires and do their best to Obey. Wesley knew that people with only the Faith of a Servant are not certain of their status before God, and they have not felt Assurance of God's Love for them. They could experience doubt and fear as a result. Wesley believed that people could have more than a Relationship with God based simply on Obedience. While he came to Understand that the Faith of a Servant should not be disregarded but rather recognized as an Important Initial Response to God, Wesley also kept encouraging Christians to Seek a higher degree of Faith, which would bring Assurance and thus remove doubt and fear. (The Wesley Study Bible, 2009)

God often sends Good Words and does Great Things by the weak and foolish things of the world.

This reminds us of Christ, the Good Shepherd, who not only ventured, but laid down His Life for His sheep. Our Experience ought to encourage us to Trust in God and be Bold in the Way of Duty.

Faith, Prayer, Truth, and Righteousness; the Whole Armor of God, and the mind that was in Christ, are equally needful for All the Servants of the Lord, whatever may be their Work. (1 Samuel 17:32-49, Matthew Henry)

Monday, July 13, 2009

How Much Do You Know? By Dr. Jim Savage

On some days and at some places in our journey, the demands of life seem overwhelming. We cannot be or know or do or give what seems to be expected of us. The source of demand does not seem to take into consideration our limited resources of energy, knowledge, or money. And, unless we get some relief by a lessening of expectation or a rearrangement of our own priorities, we may withdraw, give up or break down. More often than not, the problem lies more in our perception than in the essential reality of things.

During a national census, a census-taker knocked on the door of a cabin in the remote hills of Tennessee. An old woman with a quizzical look on her face and an oversized dip of snuff in her mouth came to the door. The young census-taker proceeded to explain why he was there. "Every ten years the government tries to find out how many people there are in the United States", he said. After staring at the ground for a moment, trying to take in what had been said, the old lady said to the young census-taker: "Lordy, honey, I shore do wish I could hep ye, but I don't have no idee how many they is".

Life does not always expect of us what we think it expects. The people who are dependent on us do not always expect of us as much as we assume they expect. The problem of feeling overwhelmed lies more often in our own perspective.

We do not know how to work the new math our children bring home from school and often we cannot offer specific answers to their deep and searching questions about life. Sometimes we feel guilty, or at least inadequate, when we do not know or cannot do what is asked of us. Our role is not to do everything, but to do everything we can. Like the lady in the hills of Tennessee, we cannot count all the people in the United States, but we can account for ourselves.

The people who lived best before us were not people who knew all of the answers; they were people who could survive creatively with unanswered questions. Carl Jung once wrote: "The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown". The most important tool we have for negotiating the things in life that are too large to understand is faith. Faith is not so much a solution as it is a coping mechanism. It is a device for withstanding more than for understanding.

The encouraging word for today is that you do not have to know or to do everything in order to be an adequate human being.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Strangers to Ourselves, by Dr. Jim Savage

One of the most important aspects of growing up is learning to take charge of and responsibility for one's own life. The complete dependence with which we begin life as infants must slowly and surely be replaced by independence. While no one ever gains complete independence - by our very nature we are not complete within ourselves - a healthy independence is essential to maturity.

Sometimes people are threatened by the healthy growing independence of people they may wish to keep dependent, and thus under their control. It is not unusual to see a subtle (and sometimes not too subtle) battle develop along these lines between parent and child or husband and wife. But taking control of one's own life is a natural process. Some of the most profound parenting mistakes I have seen have to do with parents not knowing when to keep control of a child and when to turn loose. There is no set formula you may follow. Only parents who are sensitively and lovingly involved in the maturation of their children will know when.

I have seen many marriages 'go south' and end up in divorce because of the strange and unrealistic behavior of a controlling mate. The quest for power in a marriage is a very bad sign. It is almost axiomatic that the person with the most power loves least. Any time someone exercises control over another person by manipulation, fear, or any other means, they should not be surprised when the oppressed person someday makes a declaration of independence and leaves.

In his book, "The Mask Behind the Mask", Peter Evans, biographer of Peter Sellers, says that Sellers played so many roles that he sometimes was not sure of his own identity. Approached by a fan who asked him, "Are you Peter Sellers?", Evans said Sellers answered briskly, "Not today", and walked on.

There are some people who act as if they were visitors or strangers in their own lives. Instead of attempting to map out the direction of their lives, they seem to be along just for the ride.

Take charge of your life, for you are really not able to give your life to anyone or anything until you first possess it. Teach your children (slowly) how to achieve meaningful independence. It will be a gift of great value to them as long as they live. It will mean far more than any material bequest you may leave them in your will. We will not be with our children forever. We begin to influence them before we realize it, and we finish before we want to. While we all hope to be missed when we are gone, we do not wish our final absence to leave those we love paralyzed.

We will always be dependent to some degree and in some matters, but we achieve our highest potential as we learn to take charge of our own lives. And it goes without saying that we are responsible for all of that of which we take charge.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What Would You Have Me Do Now, by Dr. Jim Savage

One of my dear friends and valued colleagues was the late Dr. Rodney Wilmoth. I can still see the twinkle in his eye as he told the story about a man-servant of a Duke and Duchess in Europe many years ago. The following conversation took place between the man-servant and the Duchess.

"James, how long have you been with us?"

"About 30 years", he replied.

"According to my records", said the Duchess, "you were employed to look after the dog".

"Yes, ma'am", James replied.

"James, that dog died 27 years ago!"

"Yes, ma'am", he said. "What would you like to have me do now?"

I spent 48 years in a profession in which one of the prominent expectations was to help everybody find something to do. While I am not sure that this expectation is completely legitimate, the fact that clergy spend so much time and effort at this has legitimized the expectation to the extent that most people think it comes straight out of the Bible. There are times in which the process becomes a kind of game of 'hide and seek'. There is a category of people in every church and community who, when they are asked to do something, will decline, but who leave you with the impression that if you were a proper leader, you would be able to 'guess' what they would like to do. This is great sport with some people, but it will frustrate any who have accepted this 'hide and seek' process as a legitimate expectation of leadership.

One of the most thrilling experiences of a church or community leader is to have people ask for what they want. There is, however, a sense in which there is something everyone can do without having to ask or be asked. Any person who genuinely wants to do something positive for the church, the community, the country, or for some individual person, can easily find many things begging to be done. They are usually things that are so simple anyone can do them, and so important that if they are left undone we will all be the poorer.

Smile at some lonely stranger. Speak to someone you do not know. Pick up a piece of trash. Find a person dining alone in a restaurant and when you leave pay for their meal and leave before they know who you are. Use your imagination and the list becomes endless. Then you will never have to ask the Duchess, the pastor, or anyone what to do next. The world is a better place when we practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Weeping With One Eye, by Dr. Jim Savage

Sometimes we are smitten by a phrase that conjures up remarkable mental images. There are phrases that drip with emotion and meaning and which beg to be repeated, dissected and discussed. They come from strange places and strange people, and they stir up strange feelings. One such phrases for me was: "Weeping With One Eye".

The late Dr. Scott Peck of The Road Less Traveled fame (who said he did not remember where he heard it) tossed this phrase into a small circle of people, toyed with it philosophically for a few minutes and then left it with us.

It has been like a cocklebur in my mind since that time.

My first impression was: "What a way to describe somebody who just half cares - somebody who is good enough not to ignore the pain of others, but not good enough or not strong enough to enter fully into that pain". There is no way to take away the suffering of others without entering into it. People who really care not only cry, they also get their hands dirty and they spend money.

Deep in the Old Testament there is a piece of writing called Lamentations. It is traditionally thought to have been written by Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. It is a funeral song written about the destruction of Jerusalem. In 587 BC, the Babylonian army destroyed the city of Jerusalem. They deported all the able-bodied people to Babylonia where they remained in exile for almost fifty years. Surveying the obvious tragedy of the situation, Jeremiah cries out: "Is this nothing to you, all you who pass by?" (Lam. 1:12) There are times in which the sorrow and tragedy in us or around us is so obvious that we become distressed when others do not see and feel it as we do. I do not know what touches you to turn your tears to anger. It may be senseless ethnic cleansing, the wars of religious hatred, starvation in a world of plenty, destructive ignorance, or the homeless people who sleep in the doorways of churches and businesses. There does come a time to act in the tradition of Jeremiah - to quit crying long enough to grab the world by the coattails and scream in the ears of the indifferent masses: "Is this nothing to you, all you who pass by?" If you care you cannot remain dry-eyed and silent.

In the slums of Calcutta, India, thousands live on the streets. If they own a ragged blanket to spread over the place where they sleep, they feel lucky. Early each morning trucks come by to pick up the bodies of those who die in the night. Babies are born on the sidewalk and left in cardboard boxes. In the midst of this abject poverty and unspeakable suffering a tiny little woman who, until her recent death, could be seen moving among the sick, homeless and hungry, giving help wherever and however she could. She was an Albanian nun lovingly called Mother Teresa. She walked among these homeless, hurting people. She bent low to touch them, whispering a word of comfort and encouragement to them. She lifted the dying in her arms to hold them as they died. She was not afraid of them. She wept and worked and walked and begged for them. She is a proper model for what to do when weeping, even with both eyes, is not enough. There is so much in this world to cry and care about!

It has been said and it is true: "People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care".