Memories of Minneapolis

Memories of Minneapolis are still vibrant for me even though it was 26 years ago that I lived there while attending Bible College. It was there that I worked part-time as a janitor for Billy Graham’s World Headquarters. It was there that I met Billy Graham, and that I prayed for him and his crusades as I cleaned his office area.

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It was also there that I met Bill Bright the founder of Campus Crusade a college ministry. The night I met him was the night Jesus impressed upon me to join my current home church where the Lord has led me to the ministry I have now.

I still remember the Megastorm snow of October 1991 when it snowed for four days a total of 28 inches of snow and shoveling several times. It was only three weeks later that a 14 inch snow came.

Even though Minneapolis represents hardship in my memories, because it was while a student there that I first began to experience severe effects of chronic illness, those years I lived there impacted me in many ways. My experiences there led me to the ministry I have today.

I left Minneapolis in April 1994 to return to my home city because I was too sick to continue my studies. At the time I thought I was perhaps returning to my home city to die.

Now as I watch the news coming out of Minneapolis I am so saddened. I am saddened and enraged by the callous officers killing an unarmed innocent man. I am also saddened by the riots, looting, and destruction happening there in response.

All I can do is pray from afar for peace in Minneapolis, write posts in my blog, and share posts in social media. My voice is a small one, but I hope to add it to the chorus of people outraged by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers.

Praying for Minneapolis while also realizing the truth of what Dr, Martin Luther King Jr said-“A Riot is the language of the unheard” which he followed by asking the rhetorical question- “What is it that America has not heard?”

What we have not heard, really heard, is that racism still exists and our African American neighbors, friends, co-workers face it in subtle ways and overt ways all of the time.

Praying for Minneapolis. Please join me. Thank you for reading. God Bless

Story Time- My Best Friend in 7th Grade

“Hate cannot drive out hate. Only Love Can Do That.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Normally my Thursday Story Time posts are humorous, but my heart is heavy after watching the video of a man being murdered by police officers in Minnesota. Yes I said murdered because the man was already down on the ground, in handcuffs, and could not do anything. The officers could have placed him in the car and gone to the station but persisted in callous abuse of a helpless human being. The officers standing by were equally guilty for not intervening. I hope all of them are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law under 1st Degree Murder charges.

It sickens me to know that my friends who are African American worry about their sons going out for simple things like going to the store. It causes me to think about Lorenzo my best friend in 7th grade.

“We Must Learn to Live Together As Brothers Or Perish Together As Fools.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

My first realization of how hideously ugly racism is happened when I was 12 years old. My paternal grandfather was a racist. I was not aware of it when I was a little kid but something happened that opened my eyes.

When I was 12 years old and in 7th grade, my best friend at school was Lorenzo. As a 12 year old I had my best friend on my street, another best friend in Boy Scouts, but at school it was Lorenzo. Our lockers were next to each other the whole school year. We shared treats with each other. I visited his home a few times where his grandmother had cookies ready and waiting for us. Lorenzo and I laughed a lot as most boys do when they are 12. Lorenzo also happened to be the only African American kid in the school.

That was not an issue for me until one day I was in my grandfather’s car as he was driving. He pointed out the African Americans and used the N word saying there is one. It bothered me so I told him, “grandpa my best friend is black.” He never gave me a birthday present again. In his mind I was the black sheep of the family. I had defied him and his racism.

Racism is a terrible sin against God and our fellow human beings. It is saying to God that some people are inferior which is an insult to our Creator who loves all people equally. There is beauty in diversity of people. God in his artistry created us different, but we are all beautiful to him.

To put it bluntly, Jesus would not be welcome by a racist because he would have had an olive complexion while on earth along with probably black hair. I say that because he was born to a Mediterranean Jewish woman.

There is no room for racism in the Christian faith.

Lorenzo moved away after 7th grade. I never saw him again but have never forgotten him and pray for him when he comes to mind. I wonder how he is doing. I am so thankful he was my best friend in 7th grade.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Jesus Understands Sorrow

Sorrow is a word we do not hear used much. It runs much deeper than simply feeling sad. Sorrow is defined as- “a feeling of deep distress caused by loss, disappointment, or other misfortune suffered by oneself or other” -online dictionary.

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During this time of global pandemic, there is a lot of sorrow being experienced. There has been loss of life, loss of jobs, disappointments such as canceled graduation ceremonies, weddings, and much misfortune.

Jesus understands sorrow. He experienced it the night before he was crucified. He knew what was about to happen, so he went to pray. In Matthew 26 we read:

“Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Jesus felt great sorrow. His agony and distress was so much that he sweat drops of blood. But he endured it because of his love for us.

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Jesus also defeated death through his resurrection. He understands our sorrows and struggles. Because of that, he is our sympathetic High Priest as Hebrews 4 says:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Dear reader, we can come to Jesus in prayer and give him our sorrow knowing he understands. We can come to him just the way we are and be honest with our thoughts and feelings. We can find grace to help us.

That is so comforting to me during this time of global pandemic.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- Miracles by Alisa Turner

The one who made the blind to see
Is moving here in front me
Moving here in front of me
The one who made the deaf to hear
Is silencing my every fear
Silencing my every fear

Jesus works in our lives to make us whole in him. He takes broken lives and make them whole. He heals the broken hearted.

He invites us to give him our worries. He invites us to give him our problems.

The same Jesus who healed the blind and deaf wants to work in our lives. He still works miracles.

During this time of a global pandemic and financial hardship, Jesus is still the God of miracles. He is alive on his throne in heaven. Let’s look to him,

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Others Watch How We Handle Hardship

A conversation last night reminded me of something that has been a theme in my life. Since I devoted my life to Jesus in July 1989, it has not been an easy road. There have been difficult times, chronic illnesses diagnosed, times of financial hardship and more.

2 Corinthians chapter 1 has been a theme for my life- Blessed be the God of comfort who comforts us……. so that we in turn my comfort others.

The verse in the image relates to Paul’s suffering and how it blesses others.

Last night I had a Zoom chat with a friend in Brazil. I shared with my friend about what happened in March when I lost three weeks of income because of the shutdown but also how God helped me. I also shared with my friend about my autoimmune flare this week. My friend’s reaction was, “You have all of that happening and you still teach us the bible on Sunday morning. You are a model for me for following Jesus.”

I was not expecting that comment at all. All I could say was thank you. No one had ever said that to me at least in person or video chat.

Other people watch how we handle hardship. They watch how we treat other people. They watch what we do.

This is something I wish more Christians would stop and take in at this time. Our focus should be on showing the love of Jesus at this time, trusting him in this crisis, and helping others not feeding into conspiracy theories or arguments.

Let’s be the church and show the love of Jesus.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Story Time- Getting Tested Yesterday

I have been experiencing an autoimmune flare up this past week. Out of an abundance of caution, my doctor had me get tested for COVID-19 to make sure it isn’t the cause. I highly doubt it is, but I went for testing yesterday anyway.

My imagination can get a bit carried away at times. As I watched nurses in hazmat suits walking from car to car to give the test, I began imagining I had just returned from outer space and needed to get tested for alien contamination.

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Then I began imagine that they were looking for alien clones living among us.

The longer I waited in my car during the drive thru testing, the more I entertained myself with possibilities such as perhaps the Zombie Apocalypse had happened, so everyone had to be screened.

As active as my imagination is, I can’t really begin to comprehend what heaven will be like. We don’t know much about it. We know there are none of the sorrows of this life. We know it has a beauty far above what we have experienced here. We have brief descriptions such as this one in Revelation 21:

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it”

So join me in trying to envision heaven in the presence of Jesus while listening to this song.

A Bright Moment At This Time

A bright moment happened Sunday in the midst of everything that is going on at this time. It was the climax of her season on American Idol.

It began with a nervous young woman from Harlem trying out. She was raised by her grandmother because her mother is in prison. Her grandmother is a devoted Christian and so is Sam.

Sam made it through to Hollywood week. People watched as she gained confidence. She made it to the final seven, the final five and then the top two. The votes were in and she won. Her first words in reaction were- “Thank you Jesus.” Words shared from a sincere heart.

The show surprised Sam by having Lauren Daigle call her and ask her to sing You Say together. They recorded from different places because of the virus, but this young woman from Harlem, who made money by singing for change on the subways, had a moment to shine with one of her favorite artists.

The show was stripped of all of its glitter and performances in front of audiences. The contestants performed from home. In the end, the words- “Thank you Jesus” were cried out from a beautiful heart, a beautiful smile, a beautiful young woman who loves Jesus.

It was a bright shiny moment for me to watch.

What bright moments gave you a smile recently?

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month- Depression

What is a person to do when their own body is affecting their mental health? That was my dilemma a few years ago. Due to living with three chronic illnesses for a long time, I began having panic attacks and also experiencing depression. I am not talking about temporarily feeling sad. I am talking about feeling numb, staying in bed, losing all interest in things that normally captivate me, and losing all hope even though I know Jesus.

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I had the bottle of medication my doctor prescribed for me. It had been sitting on my desk at home for six months. My depression was getting worse. Finally, in June 2017 I watched a movie-Brain On Fire. It is based on a true story of a woman with a rare autoimmune problem that affected her brain and left her catatonic. Watching that movie helped me accept that my situation was physiological. It is an excellent movie to watch.

The problem? There is stigma in some churches about medication for mental health issues and about mental health issues in general. I will never forget starting the medication and feeling better within a week. That can vary for individuals, so please don’t expect the same. It might be sooner or longer.

I will also never forget sending an email to the pastor of my church who oversaw missions. I let him know the situation and that if he needed me to resign my missions ministry, I would do so. He responding with, “Let’s talk about it at church.” I emailed because I thought he would tell me I needed to resign and then I would just fade away and go elsewhere.

BUT- when I saw him, the first thing he said was, “Matt it is medical. You will not resign.” Huge burden lifted off my shoulders.

I read an excellent post about being a friend for someone with depression. Alathia of shared a wonderful post 7 Things You Can Do For Your Friends With Depression. I think they are good tips for whatever a friend struggles with as well.

My hope is that by sharing my experience it can help a little with lessening the unnecessary stigma regarding mental health issues. If we think about it, the brain is a physical organ in the body. It is the most complex of the organs, so there is more to learn. But why stigmatize someone with mental health issues? We would not do that for someone who has other illnesses.

If you suffer with depression, one thing that I want to make clear is that Jesus understands you. He loves you. I say that not as a cliche. I say that as someone who has experienced that love when I was in the depths of the worst of my depression.

I am sharing a song that helped me so much in those dark days.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- Not Even Now by Alisa Turner

Though sometimes the future seems uncertain
Though sometimes we’re faced with the unknown
Nothing’s gonna strip You of Your power
Nothing’s gonna shake You from Your throne

We are all faced with the unknown at this time. Truth is that we always are, but it is so much more a reality at this time.

I love the lyrics to Alisa Turner’s song Not Even Now. Jesus has all power. Nothing is going to strip him of his power and no one can shake him from his throne.

When the world seems to have gotten crazy around us, Jesus is still on his throne in heaven. He is still in control. Focusing on Jesus and not our circumstances can help us not give in to despair.

It is also important to remember the reason Jesus gave for us to come to him after he proclaimed all power has been given to him In Matthew 11 we read:

“for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Saturday- Signs of Life

It has been a few months of staying at home, shutdowns, wondering when life might begin the return. It is interesting how simple things of a few months ago mean so much now.

After enjoying time with fellow bloggers in a blogger chat, I went to my favorite Organic/Natural Foods Store. I actually saw one of the deli workers I used to tell my jokes to. I told her a joke and we talked for a few minutes. Such a simple little thing as telling a joke and chatting with someone has a different meaning now. It is LIFE again.

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I stopped at the coffee shop next to that store to get a coffee. I didn’t need the coffee but a chance to talk with people in person is golden these days. BONUS- I saw the young woman I want to be my assistant for my morning class in the fall. I had lost track of her, but now that the coffee shop is open for to go orders, I was able to see her. I let her know I had not forgotten about her and still want her to be my assistant.

On my way home, I stopped at a market close to me. I saw a few workers I used to tell jokes to and, yes, I told each of them a joke.

My pastor messaged me back about meeting on Zoom. I will be working on a mini project of putting into writing what I have done in my Sunday morning group each year. We go through John in the bible. I will present to him and he will give me feedback.

Signs of life yesterday were a blessing. My morning class is on break for a few weeks, so I want to get back to writing my book.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.