Nov 28, 2019

A Thanksgiving Psalm

Psalm 100 The Message (MSG)

1-2 On your feet now—applaud God!
    Bring a gift of laughter,
    sing yourselves into His presence.

Know this: God is God, and God, God.
    He made us; we didn’t make Him.
    We’re his people, His well-tended sheep.

Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
    Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
    Thank him. Worship Him.

For God is sheer beauty,
    all-generous in love,
    loyal always and ever.

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

Nov 21, 2019

“What’s With The Two Cents?”

Cathy called out to me from the utility room.

I was in the adjacent family room and hadn’t heard what she said so I asked her to repeat the question.

Cathy repeated her question; “What’s with the two cents?”

I came into the utility room and realized she was asking about the coins on top of the dryer.

She continued in her investigation; “It seems as though every load of laundry has coins in it; do you pick up pennies?”

I told her that it is just one of my (many) quirks. “Whenever I see coins on the ground, I pick them up”; I told her and added, “It’s not because I am hoping to get one hundred and have a dollar.”

I put my hand in the pockets of the jeans that I was wearing and found two cents. My mind started to wander…

The phrase "My two cents" and its longer version "put my two cents in" is oftentimes used to preface a tentative statement of one’s opinion. To offer my two cents is to offer up my opinion; sometimes before it is ever asked.

Another phrase; “a penny for your thoughts” is used when the other person is asking for what I am thinking and perhaps is asking for my opinion.

Giving my two cents may not seem like a lot and yet it can leave an impact; especially when our opinion has been really thought through.

I’ve been pondering this phrase because, although often my opinion is asked from others, it really may be MY opinion; not necessarily godly wisdom.

I’ve been pondering this phrase because although I have a history of having an opinion about everything, I am working on NOT giving it out just because I have an opinion.

And this includes times when others will ask me; “What do you think about…?”

I’m working on SayING the Good; NOT giving out my two cents but only words that will help and impart grace to the hearers.

Do you, too, struggle sometimes with giving your two cents? Here is what I am working on, perhaps it will help you.

Speak to Build Others Up
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)

Speak Without Complaining/Arguing
Do all things without complaining and disputing (Philippians 2:14)

Don’t Speak Too Much
And a fool’s voice is known by his many words (Ecclesiastes 5:3b)

Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions, so their conclusions will be wicked madness; they chatter on and on. (Ecclesiastes 10:13-14a)

Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. (Proverbs 10:19)

Speak Without Gossiping
gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence. (Proverbs 11:13)

A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends. (Proverbs 16:28)

Speak Without Criticizing Others
Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. (James 4:11)

Speak At the Highest Level of Your Faith
And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak (2 Corinthians 4:13)

Sounds simple; right? Well it’s not and it will take some time to make the change. Remember it took you this long to get to this place in your life and it may take time to get to a new way of speaking…

But if you continue to work at it, you will get there.

So have grace with yourself as you start this new journey of only saying the good. You and those around you will be changed for the better.

 “Keep your stick on the ice; I’m pulling for you!” -Red Green

Nov 14, 2019

"What This Church Needs is a Good 5-cent Cigar."

[ kuh-myoo-ni-tee ]
a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists

The plan was pretty simple: Sell a successful restaurant (and the adjacent property that housed twenty tenants of a variety of businesses) to an investor who would tear down the properties and build a senior high rise that would overlook the Mississippi River.

In an effort to accommodate the sale, the twenty businesses that occupied the site were given notice that they would need to vacate and relocate elsewhere.

The tenants responded by securing new locations, packing up, and re-establishing their businesses in new locations with the hopes that their loyal patrons would follow them.

Within a few months all of the businesses found new locations and started once again to establish roots. Notices were sent out and patrons such as Cathy and I continued to support their favorite business by following them over to their new locations.

Or I should say most clients followed the businesses to their new location.

One of the businesses that needed to relocate was a cigar and pipe tobacconist store. Over the past forty years it has been recognized as one of the premier spots for aficionados and provided its patrons with a space both indoors and outside to satisfy their passion for enjoying cigars and pipe tobacco.
In the past, I have stopped in the shop to look through their ever-growing pile of cigar boxes to see if any of them would meet my need for manufacturing my next cigar box guitar.

I should note that although I tend to prefer to use antiques cigar boxes to build my cigar box guitars, the shop was a great place to search for a box that would inspire me. I also liked the sense of community that I observed and the hospitality shown to me, even though I was only (occasionally) purchasing a used cigar box.

In time, the shop relocated to another city, but they left behind a bunch of displaced patrons who continued to gather in the evenings to sit outside of the (closed) shop to smoke their cigars and pipes like they had for many years. Almost every week for the past eighteen months I would see this group of patrons sitting outside in the evenings no matter what month of the year it was.

Just this week, while driving past the site in the evening, I saw a group of them gathered as though the shop had never moved.

Now, I'm relatively certain that these patrons still purchase their tobacco from the shop in the new location which is only ten minutes away. But their need to gather seems to far outweigh the fact that the temperatures are dropping as the season is transitioning into winter (as they did last winter when these people sat outside).

My observation is that the need for community is stronger than we may realize and in many respects is part of the answer to what ails us.

For many years, some pastors and churches have thought that the reason that people didn't attend was due to a lack of interest. I disagree and submit that perhaps the visitors didn't return because they didn't find what they were really looking for; community.

In fact, when the church was established, the members gathered “daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart…” (Acts 2:46)

The problem is, the church doesn’t have a corner on the market for community.

Community is found in many other venues besides the church such as bars, beer leagues (bowling, softball, hockey, etc.), hunting clubs, coffee shops, support groups, barn raising, sewing bees, potluck dinners, sporting events, and many other venues. It can even be found in dark places such as sharing a needle for drugs or sultry affections under a bridge. 

These patrons of the (former) cigar shop found each other and a place to gather and they appear to have no plans on leaving until the bulldozers raze the buildings and they are forced to find a new place to gather.

If the church would capitalize on this, I know of at least ten people who would relocate on their property.

No, I'm not suggesting that churches build a smoking lounge.

I'm merely suggesting that if community is what attracts people to gather, then that might be part of the formula to keep them in church.

Then, and only then will the main message (the Gospel) be heard by individuals in which relational equity has been established through meeting their need for community.

Perhaps it is time to get back to our roots and once again be the church in which others can find gladness and simplicity of heart through community.

Tommy O's Guitars can be found on Facebook

Nov 7, 2019

Gimme A Break

I saw someone’s post about their dad on his birthday. It said something to the effect of: ‘I could never ask or dream up a better dad. You are an incredible dad…’

At first glance, I wish that I could say that this was true for my life; perhaps I wouldn’t have had some of the quirks that I do.

But that wasn’t my story. My story is that I had a dad (and mom) who in spite his (and her) best efforts left fingerprints all over my life like a person attempting to clean a crystal chandelier.

My life has been seasons of struggle, depression, woundedness, isolation, and loneliness. I’m messy.

If you get too close my walls sometimes come up in an attempt to hold you at bay. Over the years I have struggled with control, anger, humor, sarcasm and other forms of self-protection.

While working at a treatment center, my staff walked me through a twelve-step program for people who grew up without hugs. I think that they were in cahoots with Cathy’s family who LOVE to hug!

But, as I have grown older and had children of my own, I’ve come to not only appreciate what my parents went through to raise me; but I also came to honor and respect them.

Simply put, they did the best they could and as my mom said one time; “You boys married outside your league so I would say that you have it pretty good!” And she was right.

So, as the song says and as all parents’ hearts cry out; “Gimme a break, gimme a break…”

The two of them sacrificed so much of their time, emotions, sleep, finances, and physical health to provide for all of us children over our lifetimes. 

As my children now have children of their own, I’ve come to realize that my parents did more than their best. Parenting is hard work and it is a marathon for that we all need a break.

In spite of my parents’ flaws, weakness, and inabilities, they did a really good job raising us ten children who at times made their job hard and showed them no respect.

I look back and realize that in many areas, I had been provided for better than many who come from "perfect" homes had. My dad worked hard so that we were NEVER in debt. Sometimes this meant working on his days off to pick up extra money as he sacrificed to provide for his family; always thinking of other people above himself.

The house was kept spotless, both inside and out. The lawn was lush and green and was cut meticulously three times a week. We had fruit trees and gorgeous flower gardens.

My mom did her part by staying home and dealing with ten children; especially with us four boys who were all just over one year a part and frequently gave her reasons to be mad at us.

There was always enough food for everyone. And we didn’t just eat, we ate very well! My mom was thrifty and would look for deals so that we could eat steak and roasts like kings several nights of the week.

She made homemade meals cooked over several hours that were NEVER thrown together last minute. She also made sure that EVERY year at the start of school we were dressed in the latest fashion. She also did laundry every day so that we always looked our best.

In spite of their own struggles and the obstacles that have come their way, they never quit on their own marriage, leaving a legacy of hope that marriages can be renewed and don't have to end in divorce. They passed on their wisdom and prayed Cathy and I through turbulent times in our marriage. 

My parents, as I look back, went WAY above and beyond in everything they did, all the time. And the best thing that my parents did was give their lives to Jesus and then prayed us children into the kingdom!

I couldn't do what I do to prepare couples for marriage if not for the godly influence of my parents in my life.

I wouldn't even be a minister, let alone be right with God if not for their prayers!

Everyone they meet is blessed by them, because they both love helping people. I, and so many people who have met them, am so blessed by my mom and dad.

No, I didn’t grow up with this man’s dad or mom; I grew up with mine and I wouldn't want to change places with him because they made me who I am today. I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without them in my life. 

As I write this, I can honestly say that I had it pretty good; no, actually I had it really good! I love them both and I am SO PROUD to call them my dad and mom. They both did an incredible job as parents and I am so blessed by the Lord be connected to them!

So, on behalf of all parents far and wide, gimme a break, gimme a break. And as my dad, who loves chocolate would add; “Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat Bar!”