Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happy 27th Anniversary to the Green eyed Girl that still lights my Life

27 years ago today, Ms. Deborah Ann McKinney came to a Church in DeKalb IL dressed a pretty as a Picture and just a few hours later said "I do" when asked if she would take your's truly as Her Husband. That was truly one of the greatest days of my Life. While that story of longevity in a relationship may astound a few, the fact is that we have been Friends for well over 35 years and amazingly, we still like to spend time with each other and get along extremely well in doing so.

I usually chuckle at fairy-tale romances because they usually are absent of the reality of Life but 27 years and counting after that day, I'm pretty convinced that "Ken and Debbie" or "Debbie and Ken" are names that will be forever linked and as long as God tarries with this Earth I'm fairly certain that we will be a story that is told. Than again, maybe not but if not, it should be. ;<)

When we were dating I introduced Debbie to my Grandpa Henry. He took one look at her and then looked at me and said in His Arkansas drawl, "Where'd you find that ole Blind Girl?" When I objected that she wasn't blind he said, "she has to be to be dating You!" While to this day, Debbie takes offence to the "ole" part of that story, I really couldn't be offended because I really did feel that way. In fact, I pretty much put her through torture because of my insecurities. She was and is a Beautiful Woman and I was, well, I sure never felt the way that she seemed to see me but blind or not, I sure am glad that she did.

We have been through much in our 27 years together. Some incredibly great things and some things that probably would have torn other relationships apart but we have remained rock solid, grounded in Christ and blessed beyond measure!

Debbie has been a part of my greatest strengths and accomplishments and also connected to some of my biggest regrets. I regret not taking her to her Senior Prom, even she did ask me. LOL We lived far apart at the time and well, I was just stupid to be plain about it. I regret not dancing with her on our Wedding day, even though it probably would have raised a few eyebrows in our religion but Thank God, I am well over that kind of junk today and I'll dance with her any chance that I get. (even though my true rythem is sitting on a Drum throne)

I've always loved the way she looks at me. From back when she was a very Young Girl watching me play Drums all the way till yesterday when after being up all night at work and then spending an additonal 5 hours at the Church digging trenches and soaking up water out of carpeting, I could tell by her concerned looked that I looked the way that I felt. Something about the way she sees me inspires me to be better than I am.

Some may say, why post something like this for all the World to see? Who are you trying to convince? It's true that I don't need to. One look between us says more than most conversations do between others. Debbie will know beyond a doubt how I feel about her and why I feel that way and I would never have to say a word to prove it. So why? As arrogant as it may sound to some, I believe the relationships of this World needs to see role models of people that have made it beyond the pitfalls that have doomed other relationships. I believe in a world, where even in the Church, one out of two marriages end up in Divorce, Young Couples need to see that it is possible to succeed in Marriage despite the odds. I have a Son, Nephews and Great-Nieces that need to see what love likes like in action and not just in story books.

Make no mistake about it, we are certainly not a Fairy tale and I can't promise that if you model us, you will be divorce free. I don't look down on people that have had their hopes and dreams crushed in Marriage. I feel for them. I attempt to minister to them and to convey that God does still love them in spite of what some religious minded people may say. But the fact of the matter is that it has taken work on both of our parts to get where we are, (more on Debbie's part than mine) and work that stems from commitment. Commitment to each other and to God. And it really doesn't hurt that I married my best Friend!

Deb, you are more beautiful to me today than ever and I can't wait to see what the next 27 brings. Happy Anniversary!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Reflecting on the past, looking to the Future

Here we sit at the dawn of another New Year. It turned out that the Mayan Calendar maker was just doing his job all the way to the end which is something that is hopefully said of all of us. After an extremely busy last few months I have had the opportunity to do something rare this week, which is to relax. (I'm really liking it) I'm not a black-eyed pea and turnip green fan but I do have some Pinto Beans and a meaty Ham bone in the pressure cooker and the smell is making me smile. (may it be that way in a day or so)

2012 was a very interesting year for me. One that was satisfying in many good ways and a dreadful one in many others.The number of Funerals that I either conducted or attended during the Calendar year topped more that 15 and among them some very dear and close Friends and Relatives. I've NEVER had a year like this in that regard and I really do not think it is about my aging, it just seemed to never end, even up until yesterday when I received news that a Young Man that I have know all of his life, died from a sudden Heart attack at the age of 40. In the terms of loss, I am more than happy to say good-bye to 2012.

While all of the losses affected me, the most profound one was of my dear Friend of more than 35 years, Pastor Neil Smith. Neil and I were sounding boards to each other.We had attended Junior High School together and stayed relatively close from then on. He would become one of my favorite Evangelist to bring in as a Pastor and probably the greatest thing was that we "got" each other. (not everybody gets me LOL) He was up here in July and we celebrated our 50th birthdays together. Neil's passing came just after Thanksgiving and in all honesty, it has had a profound affect on me. I openly wept as I received the news, my heart breaking at the realization that I would never again pick up the phone and hear, "Hey Ken, it's Neil." I'm one that generally dislikes the telephone in the first place but I always enjoyed chewing the fat with my Friend to the point that my arm would fall asleep and my ear would get numb. Again, to be honest, I am still processing the grief because we were so close in age but at the same time I realize that there is a void to fill in the kingdom and I want to do my part. Neil's life always challenged me to step up and I am finding his death to be much the same. Please pray for the entire Family of my dear, Friend.

2012, however, wasn't all bad. Professionally, Spiritually and in regard to the Indian Trail Church that I Pastor, we experienced some wonderful blessings and increase and I believe that the past year will serve as a spring board for what God has in store. I feel in my spirit the urgency to call out the Church as a whole to live repentant lives because I feel that God is getting ready to pour out in a way that we have never experienced before and we must be ready. While that fact is good news, I also feel that it will come at a cost. Our society is spiraling downward and our moral values are bankrupt. At every level it seems that this Nation is thumbing its collective nose at God and "be not deceived, God is not mocked." You might say to yourself, how can you say both things? It is because I believe that at the same time that we are surrounded by great darkness, we have incredible opportunity to let the light of Jesus Christ shine but we must be ready and recognize things for what they are. The Bible speaks of "fields, white unto harvest" and while that sounds shiny and pretty, the realization is that the darkness of increasing evil is in fact, a harvest field that is ripe for the taking. Sin has, does and always will separate us from God. I even believe that it separates Believers from the plans that God has made for them. So in 2013 I URGE You to go after God in ways that you never have before. Let recognition, repentance and forgiveness of our sin dwell with us each day and may it draw Men toward a God that longs to bless them in the middle of surrounding darkness.

My wish for all of you is for you to begin to understand the incredible fulness of God's love for you and the unsearchable riches that He has in store and that you become willing to pay the price for that to occur. May this be our finest year and may this be God's greatest hour. God bless you all is my prayer.

I'm not a big fan of resolutions as they usually represent us just beating our gums together but I do have a few things that I am going to list that I will attempt to do this year in an effort to be accountable to do it.

1. I am going to begin to write a Book. This has been something on my heart for a few years now and something that I have continually put off. The title will be "Lessons learned on the Run." I ask you to pray with me about it.

2. I am going to seek out a Missions trip to make, whether it is this year or next, I want the target to be selected this year.

3. I again resolve to give God more than my excuses in 2013. I wasn't perfect at it in 2012 but I was improved and I believe that is all that He is asking.

God bless you ALL

Monday, December 31, 2012

Confessions of a "Classic" Preacher in a Modern World

Before you determine arrogance in the Subject title, please allow me an opportunity to explain. I have been told by some well meaning and some not-so well meaning people throughout the years that my "style" of preaching is outdated. Regardless of their respective intents, what they are basically saying is that my style is "old fashioned." Of course I am one that refuses to leave a negative a negative so I simply choose to think of it in terms of something I can relate to. All of my life I have had an affinity for Cars. Old, new, used, it really doesn't matter, I just love Cars. I especially love OLD Cars. But unlike many things that age, we usually do not call Cars "old" but rather "Antiques" or "Classics." Guess which one I chose to describe my old fashioned preaching???? LOL

Preaching to me is not a vocation. It is not a job, a performance or a chance to enhance my social status. It is not part of a "self-help" demonstration so that people might feel better about themselves for the coming week. Preaching by actual definition is to speak, "thus says the Lord." I take that very literally and attempt to comply with it explicitly. Some may even find arrogance in that but I assure you that it is a very sobering, humbling and sometimes even a frightening belief. No, I do not believe that EVERY word that I utter in a Pulpit is directly from God but I do believe that every sermon point, every thought conveyed and every heart that is quickened, (made alive) is directly from the throne of grace. The fact that God chose mere humans, such as myself, to still speak to His people is a mystery to me and I've not had a day that I have ever felt "worthy" of such an honor but I learned a long time ago that grace has nothing to do with our worth and if we will make ourselves a vessel in His Hands, He will pour through us.

There are days in preaching where everything goes just as it seemingly should. I've even had a few rare occasions where in  preaching, I waxed rather eloquently. There are also days where (not so rare) I am beating myself up before the "amen" is even said. But again the Father reminds me that if it were in any way about my ability, He probably would not have chose me. So I approach him as confidently as I can in my humanness and ask Him for the strength and ability that only comes through and from Him.

As a "vocation" preaching is a funny one to be sure. When you think you have arrived, you find that you have much to learn. When you think you will never "get it" God usually uses you in astounding ways. But then again, God's Word teaches us that He wants the broken and contrite and through such He reveals His own glory.

My preaching usually is loud, physically full of energy and direct. (what some call old-fashioned) Some Old timers call that "anointed" but I have found just as much anointing in the times when I am more quiet. If a physically spirited and loud performance is "required" then it goes more toward my ability and God will never have a part of that. Remember that true preaching is declaring "thus saith the Lord" and if we have truly heard from Him, the anointing is in that fact alone and nothing else. I've been told by many that my preaching reminds them of my "Daddy." While I smile and receive it as a compliment, (btw, I've been told by a few that I'm nothing like my Daddy LOL) that sentiment is something that I have never strove for or even desired to achieve. I do think I am like Dad in the sense that we both want the true Father to be recognized in our preaching. Sometimes I hit that mark, sometimes I fail but God loves me and uses me through it all.

So I can hear some of the skeptical saying, "Why preach that way, if this is the way you feel?" The answer is actually a simple one. Because of my Humanness. Let's put it this way for understandings sake. Let's say you live in a Kingdom and the King has given you a message that is eternal in its power and essential to life in its delivery and he has chosen you to deliver it. Would you just walk up to people in a mundane and monotone manner? Just maybe you would but I can't. I pour every bit of my heart and my soul into the delivery of the message, knowing that it does have eternal implications and I can honestly say that more time than not, when I am done, I have nothing left to give. I have poured my heart and my soul into it and if that is Old fashioned then maybe, just maybe we need more of it. Don't get me wrong. I am not helping God with my veracity. I am not increasing His anointing by the level of my voice. The fact is that it is usually frustration with my humanness and my lack of ability to convey the urgency in which He has spoken to me and on more days than not, He takes the inability and blesses it abundantly and I walk out humbled before Him.

Another reason that I am considered Old-fashioned is the insulting thinking and belief in our Society today that our attention span is generally limited to 22 minutes. I usually give my people MUCH more credit than that!! LOL No, I do not get paid by the hour either. I have some people that take great joy in timing me. Truth is that usually makes me preach longer. ;<) But I would like for you to think about it the terms of what I have written. God has delivered a message to His people through a flawed instrument of humanness and YOU have something better to do or somewhere YOU need to be, before it is over. That thinking may lend itself to the reason that I get loud???

What I am about to say will seem strange in the culture in which we live. A culture in which "Church" has become a competitive market and we are bending over backwards to appease the ears of men that are far from God just to put Butts in a pew or chair. I've even been told by a few that convicting preaching will never "draw a crowd." As a result I've seen and heard "called" Men of God basically prostitute themselves for the sake of popularity and while you may feel that is harsh, it doesn't even begin to describe the level of sickness that I feel in my spirit for it. So what is this strange thing that I am about to say? I'm glad you asked! I pray EVERY day for God to pour the values of conviction and repentance upon our Churches today. Values that will awaken us to the clarion call of the gospel. Values that will cause us to desire to hear what "thus saith the Lord" and cause nothing else to be more important. Values that will cause Men to see how far they are from God and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. True repentance will draw Men to God. It always has and it always will and that my Friends is "CLASSIC."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Weighing in on the Election

I have refrained from blogging about the election for some time now because I've essentially been observing what is going on on all sides. I have found myself amused, angered, saddened and at times confused by the arguments of some and the behavior of all. I don't make myself out to be any more than I am but the fact that you read here makes you, at the least, curious of my views and opinions and I only feel it is fair and right to share them.

I believe that this is and will be one of the most pivotal elections in our Nations history. I would dare say that after this election, America will either return to the more godly values of our past or slide further off of the slippery slope that we have positioned ourselves on.

At the onset, let me be clear, I am not, nor have I ever been a fan of this President. The only joy that I have taken from it is the fact that America looked past its racial history for once and elected a person of color to the office of POTUS but to be honest, I'm extremely disappointed that it was this Man that benefited from it.

I realize that in this Nation we are all free to voice our opinions, (at least at this present time) and that our opinions do not have to align. We are different and that is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. I am not one of those that say, "I don't see how a Christian can vote for ____________" To be honest, I'm not at all happy with Democrats or Republicans but also, to be honest, the reality is that one of those parties will sit the next POTUS. I may wonder how moral people can vote for an immoral man but the fact is that we are not electing a Pope, or the Leader of a Denomination. We are electing the Leader of a Country and in that fact, I believe we should vote on the conscious of our heart and the content of the character of the Man, not the Man that is the character.

I will not be voting for Obama based upon those reasons. It has nothing to do with Birther issues. While I do not believe he was born in this Country, at this point, what difference does it make? If we find him guilty do we get the past 4 years back? What's done is done. It has nothing to do with his race. In fact, that would be the only reason why I would consider voting for him. It has everything to do with the way he has led or as I believe, misled this Country over the past 4 years. I'm sick of being apologized for. I'm sick of the attempts to bring us into a socialist form of government. I'm sick of the fact that he has undermined religious freedoms in ways that we will not realize for many years but the fact is that one day, if God tarries, we will.

So what is my/our choice? The only other legitimate choice is Mitt Romney. While I'm not a big fan, I do face facts and the fact is that either Obama or Romney will occupy the White House in 2013. I get amused at people that worry that he is Mormon. Hey people, it's either a Mormon or a Muslim, face the facts. They get worried that he might wear "mormon underwear" in the Oval Office. Again, facing facts, Bill Clinton did enough without underwear in the Oval Office to make that a moot point. ;<) Oh yeah, Romney flip-flops on issues! You mean like Obama did concerning gay marriage when he sensed one position would give him more votes?? Oh yeah, I forgot, Romney ships US jobs Overseas. Never mind that it was a Democratic program called NAFTA that made it advantageous to do so.

Personally, I will be voting for Mitt and will be doing so, essentially for 3 reasons. 1. He is not a "Chicago" politician. 2. He is a Business Man that has the ability to Lead and 3. He is not Obama   I don't know that he will draw us closer to God as a Nation but I feel like Obama and the Democratic party as a whole is attempting to lead us away from God. The last I checked, the blessings of God upon a Nation were dependent upon the prayers of His people and regardless of who wins, WE SHOULD PRAY. When I heard the Democratic convention shout "no" 3 different times at the attempt to put "God" and "Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel" back into their platform, it pretty well sealed the deal for me that unless there is widespread repentance in that party, I will never vote for it again.

Yes, I realize that there are "other" Candidates. No doubt, some decent and even honorable men but men without a snowballs chance of winning and in my opinion, a vote cast for them or a vote not cast at all, is a vote for the status quo. While you may feel better about it, you will still end up with Obama. If you are OK with that, I don't judge you. I might think you are nuts but that would be something we have in common.

At the end of the day people, VOTE! Vote your heart, vote your conscious and make your vote count. And before, during and after you vote, pray for our Nation. A key reminder to remember is that God's Word teaches us that no one is ever placed into political power without God placing him there. The question is will He give us what we deserve or what we yearn for? The answer is in showing up and voting.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I'm part of the 100%

In the past year or so I have looked in a mixture of amusement and confusion at the "Occupy ________" movements that seem to pop up nearly everywhere these days. It is amusing because it is quite apparent that a sense of entitlement has replaced the leave of their senses. It is confusing because the abandonment of common sense has devalued the education that their Parents are probably helping to pay for.

Of course it is hard to blame the kids because they are only mimicking what they are seeing and hearing in our society today. The fact of the matter is that President Obama was elected on the false premise that the rich can be made to share what they have gained. Yes, it was disguised in wording called "hope" and "change" but make no mistake, the ideology was from a "make them pay" point of view.

The simple truth is that we are a broken society that for the most part has forgotten or ignored God. This Country was built, (and yes, we did build it, Mr. President) with God as the focal point of our existence. The fight for religious freedom was never meant to be about an abandonment of religion but rather the cherishing and nurturing of it. With our focal point as God, we did amazing things in shot periods of time, relatively.  If you will do a true study of American history you will find that the "separation of Church and State" was never intended to keep God out of government but in fact, was to keep government out of the Church and a great price was paid for that freedom. Now, some apologize if our beliefs make others uncomfortable and we worship at the Altar of political correctness and much like the single parent homes that seem to be building in droves, our Country is paying the price of abandoning our Father.

Some may say that my opinion is the way it is because I don't know what it means to be poor. Excuse me for a moment while I chortle. Both of my Grand-Fathers at various points in their lives worked as Sharecroppers in the Cotton fields of Arkansas. They came from poor, humble beginnings, believing that no one owed them anything but that with a faith in God, hard work and rugged determination they could actually build a Life for their families---AND THEY DID. In fact, their generation has been dubbed, "the greatest generation" and it is because the values of a belief in God, hard work and that no one owed them anything had been passed down to them from their Parents.

I recently heard of a couple that had married young and then went to their Parents and asked how Mom and Dad were going to "help them out in their marriage." I also overheard a conversation recently about someone buying a Home and in the conversation they actually said, "we won't make any payments and plan to live there for the two plus years that it will take to foreclose and save all of that money to buy another House. I think those mentalities say a lot about our society. I would have married Debbie much sooner than I did if I could have afforded to but I was raised with old school values and was determined that if I couldn't afford to buy a table, I sure couldn't bring anything to it. My determination was that I wouldn't marry until I could provide in such a manner that she would not have to work. Yes, I caved but Man, she is gorgeous! ;<)

Yes, we live in a Country where we are promised Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness but no where do I read a promise that we will necessarily catch it. 100 percent of us that live in these borders are promised that pursuit but we seem to have lost the meaning of pursuit and foolishly believe that it will just come to us.

The height of the foolishness is in believing that we should all have the same. The share the wealth mentality. Why do I say it is foolish? Because Christ, Himself, said that we would always have the poor among us and in case you missed it, there is a mighty powerful promise attached to it. Look it up.

Stop depending upon things like luck, gambling and lotteries to change your fate. Stop hoping for change and start living for today and working for tomorrow. Stop waiting for someone to magically come along and pay all of your bills and learn to live withing your means as you trust God. Opportunity does knock but I'm afraid we have become to lazy to open the door.

But the total truth of the matter makes me uncomfortable because I have come to realize that the blame doesn't lie at the doorstep of the government or the Wall Street wizards or even the kids who are acting out what they have been taught. The blame lies at the feet of MY generation as we have given our children much of the things that they should have been taught to work for.

There is nothing wrong with wanting a better Life for your children. It has been the mantra of Parents for forever and a day. It was the hope and desire of the "greatest generation" as well. The difference is that we no longer show our children how it is done, we just give it to them. The results speak for themselves. I for one, repent and invite you to join me. 

I feel like we are Nation that has lost its moral compass and in fact, we are. It's time that we return to our roots. It's time that we return to God. It's time that we restore our values and determination. I hope we wake up in time.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Calling all Dad's

Tomorrow we honor Fathers. It sure is nice that we take a day for it at least once a year. Yeah, that is a bit sarcastic but with fair reason. You see, I believe that Fatherhood in the way that God intended it has been under attack for-----well, as far as we are concerned, since the garden of Eden.

You are probably asking what I mean at this point and since I possibly have your interest, let me further explain. The goal of the Enemy of our souls, since the beginning of time has been to destroy the Family because doing so, also destroys the fabric of the Church. When God created Adam, He gave him dominion over the Earth and all that was in it. That dominion was destroyed at the point of original sin which many will bristle occurred because of Eve. But the text is very clear, no matter which version of the Bible you read, that Adam was present at the time that Eve was tempted and did nothing to stop it and ended up blaming Eve and even God, Himself. Why? Because he had lost face in the sight of His Wife and His Creator and he simply did not know how to handle it.

You see, birthed within the heart of every Man is a desire to be respected. It is a God given desire. We were made to be Rulers and Leaders and we thrive on the respect that should come from that. Yes, I agree that respect still needs to be earned but it also needs to be given freely at appropriate time. In the Bible Men are told repeatedly to "love their Wives" but not once does it say for Wives to "love their Husbands." Why is that? Because Men and Women are designed to respond and desire things in different ways. Women are more emotional and respond to acts that demonstrate our emotions toward them. (yes, I do realize that I am generalizing) They can spend days weeks and even Months figuring out what color that they want to paint a room. Men just want the paint and want you to be impressed by how quickly they get the room painted or by quality way in which they paint it. Women spend time preparing meals with extra touches. Presentation is important, colors and variety are the order of the day. Men just want to know when it's ready and maybe be respected for "bringing the bacon" home in the first place.

Don't believe me? Why were Westerns so popular back in the early days of TV? Because the story's of the Frontier days were something that Men respected. Things were black and white, cut and dried. The more difficult the adversity the more we respected them. Now days the Sports Stars have replaced our Cowboys as the Heroes of the day, (and how sad is that) and when Someone hits one out of the Park or catches or throws the Touchdown pass or wins the game, we react. The high five, chest bump, knuckle bump, or even the slap on the Butt are signs of respect for what others do that represent who we are or want to be.

But wait, I started out saying that Fatherhood is under attack? What on earth am I talking about? Well, let's continue with the TV theme. Name me one modern day sitcom that shows Dad's in a positive light. Practically every one will depict the Dad as a bungling moron that barely knows to come in out of the rain. Have you come up with one yet? I haven't. So let's back up a few Generations to the early days of TV. Anyone remember a show called "Father knows best?" How about "Leave it to Beaver" or "My three Sons." Shows that depicted Dad's in a positive light and showed respect to Fatherhood and even manhood. I know, I know, you are probably saying lighten up because today's Shows are comedy's and shouldn't be taken seriously but to be honest, there were some pretty good laughs in the few shows I mentioned and they didn't come at the expense of being a Man.

Fatherhood is a tough thing. When you think you have it figured out, you are completely lost. When you feel like you fail you will probably be surprised to find that you haven't. The demands of the times we live in are tough. Traditional roles that seem to be continually redefined leave Men feeling hopeless and even worse, helpless but we usually have too much pride to talk about it so we bottle our frustrations up and withdraw. The Women that thrive on displays of Love misinterpret the withdrawing and as a result they end up not feeling loved and the result many times, ends up being a divorce, simply because we don't understand what each other thrives on.

The Bible gives pretty clear direction on how to handle the Husband/ Wife relationship and if we return to it, we return to healthy relationships. (btw- God's definition of marriage has never and will never change) Men are told to treat their Wives "as the weaker vessel." Guys, it is important to note that they are never actually called the weaker vessel but are to be treated as such. What does that mean? Handle them with extra love and extra care in the same manner as you would a delicate piece of glass. Simply put, TREAT THEM SPECIAL! Show your love for them at every opportunity and never miss a chance to tell them how much you love them. Women are told to "submit" to their Husbands and man, do we Men like that but when you dig into the meanings of the original Greek, it's not at all what we have made it. It is all about RESPECT. In fact, the imagery of the two are quite like this. As Men we are to place our Wives on Pedestal's, showing our love and care at every opportunity and Ladies, the proper response to such treatment as odd as it sounds, is to bow in honor. If you have that imagery in your head the you realize that you end up at the same level.

I was fortunate to have and still have a great example of what it means to be a Man, a Husband, a Father and a man of God in my Father. He was never perfect but he exemplified what manhood was and to this day I have an utmost respect for who he is. When I see what he has been through and still going through and still see the integrity and honor shining through I have thankfulness for having a bar set before me. We almost lost him with his first heart attack at age 35 and I often wondered if he would be around for the milestones of my Life but he took every set back and fought back and even a Motorcycle accident at age 65 couldn't take him out. Today, at age 71, he is still setting the bar and I'm still climbing.

So Dad's, let me be among the first to say to you, Happy Fathers Dad! I honor you all and respect who and what you are. Keep climbing, the view is worth it. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Carmen would

This past week I lost a dear, long time Friend. Her name was Carmen B. Algarin. I believe the "B" stood for Brunilda but most of her family called her "Bruni", many called her "Mama and I generally called her Carmen Jr.

You see, I was her Pastor for the majority of nine years and in the time before her, I was her Mother's Pastor and her name was Carmen Milagros. (please excuse if mis-spelled) Carmen Sr. was in the Church when I arrived and shortly after or at about the same time that I arrived, Carmen Jr. started coming to Church. I watched amazed as I witnessed her faith in Christ grow. It wasn't long until she was telling everyone that would listen and even those who wouldn't about the Narragansett Church of God and it wasn't long before the rest of her family, (including her husband Sammy who became one of my closets Friends as well), started coming to Church. it was one of those families that Pastor's love to see walk through the door because they just kept coming in.

If the doors to the Church were open, Carmen was usually there. Prayer meetings on a Thursday morning, she was there. Revival services during the week, she was there and if she didn't get a ride, she would walk. SHE LOVED HER CHURCH and fortunately for me, she loved her Pastor as well. When the Church needed cleaning, she would show up each week and faithfully clean "God's house." She never expected anything in return, never wanted it announced or broadcast in any way. She simply served and in serving She served the Lord.

I was at her side on the day her Mother died. Sammy, myself and a few more volunteers had just finished a hard days work in the Church basement where we were remodeling and laying new ceramic tile on the floor. Sammy headed home while we finished some clean up and it was just a few moments that the phone rang and Sammy said, "Pastor, Carmen's Mom has died and we need you to be here. It's bad!" In the background I could here Carmen crying out in grief in a way that I have seldom heard it. Sammy was a Vietnam vet. He had been there and done that in many scenario's but seeing his Wife in such grief was tearing away at him. I walked in the door of their beautiful home just a few moments later and Carmen was still losing it in a bad way. I walked up to her and said, "Carmen, I know you are sad but you need to remember that this is what Mom lived for and what she worked for! She is home with Jesus." While the grief would naturally continue, those words seemed to bring comfort and as Sammy would later say, "She came back to her senses!"

I was there the day that Sammy would breathe his last breath just a year or so later. Victoriously finishing a long bout with Cancer. I held his hand as he saw the face of God for the first time. This time I think that Carmen held up better than I did but I put on a brave face for the family and would wait and cry like a baby over the loss of my Friend at another time. I even did well through Carmen's Memorial service until they put a a picture of Sammy and the floods came again. We had all spent many wonderful days together in many scenarios and we walked through the valley of the Shadow together drawing strength from one another.

I received the news that Carmen had come down with Cancer just a few months back. While the prognosis did not sound to good, I knew I had time to go see her and had planned to do just that. But the Lord in his ways that we don't often understand decided that this precious Saint of God needed to come home. Home to God the Father, Home to Christ the Son, Home to the Holy Ghost, Home to Mama and home to Sammy and we lost her just last week.

I cried when I received the news. I had one of those moments where I foolishly wanted to be mad at God. After all that she had been through, after all the service and dedication, after all of the grief and loss, surely God, she would be one that you would heal. It was at that moment that the Father replayed in my memory that day that Carmen's Mom died and I heard my own words saying. "this is what she lived for, this is what she worked for!" And I was comforted by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Her memorial was this past Saturday and it marked the first time that I would return to the Church that I had Shepherded for nearly a decade. The current Pastor and my Friend, Rev. Gerron Ayento did a superbly marvelous job of conducting the Service and giving honor to my lost Friend and her family. As I was sitting there, even in the grief, I felt good. Good that the Building looked as wonderful as it did. Good that along with the many familiar faces that it was so good to see, there were many new faces. Good that a Church that I love is still going strong! But then again, why not? With people like Carmen there, it is no surprise.

Then my heart shifted toward the fact that she will no longer be there. Who will be as faithful? Who will be as serving? Who will be the Mentor that she was? Who will be the peace maker that she was so many times described as? Then the bigger question arose. Why did she do it? Actually, that one is easy. She loved her God. She loved her Church. She loved her family and she loved serving the Lord.

What about you and your Church and your service to God? Are you one that can be counted on? Are you one that people will call when they need a prayer warrior? Are you one that will be a peacemaker and show the love of Christ at all times. Are you one that will say "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord?" Are you one that even on your worst day, people will see your joy that simply cannot be hidden? Carmen would!