Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Best Friend

Kathryn Jones Swearingen is my best friend. We met in the summer of 1988 in a drivers Ed classroom. The odds of this occurring really are slim but with a providential God it is not. See Kathryn went to a private school and I went to public school. Just like my sister, my parents paid for us to take drivers Ed classes in a private class rather than through the public school system. Back then the school program had a poor record of adequately training teenagers to drive and pass the NC State drivers exam. Because of my parents choice and her parents choice we met. That was the beginning of our friendship. During the past 25 years we have shared so many experiences, both good and bad, and through it all our friendship has grown stronger and deeper. When I think of our friendship I remember things that Kathryn has said and done. During the early years of our friendship she shared with me that anyone who did not take the time to get to know me, they were missing out on a great friendship. I knew then that our friendship meant as much to her as it did to me. In 2002 she was my guest at the Campbell Divinity School Graduate dinner. Her going with me was a huge affirmation that I was on the right track. Making the decision to go to Graduate school was always a scary thing even up until the final semester. Her presence was such and encouragement. She did something else at the dinner that I will never forget, she thanked the school for being their for me and being a place that I enjoyed attending. Her words that night helped me see God in a bigger way. In 2011 she and her then fiancĂ©, Blake Swearingen, came to my ordination service. When we met in 1988 I could have never imagined May 15, 2011 but having her there on that special day was once again affirming of my life choices and the importance of our friendship to each other. But in November of 2011 she said something that took me right back to that day she said I was a very special person. She shared with me over dinner that Blake and her wanted me to officiate their wedding. Why does this mean so much? All of these things mean so much because we do not share a common faith, but none the less my friendship with her has brought me to two realizations:

  1. God's love extends to all, regardless of where they are in their journey on earth
  2. Kathryn is the closest thing to God I have here on earth.
Kathryn accepts me for who I am, loves me without condition and has always been a faithful friend. These are all the things God is to me.

God loves and accepts me just the way I am and works through my uniqueness to proclaim the Gospel, they same is for you. God loves me and us with out condition. I know this because God, my creator, chose to come down to earth, walk in human flesh and die on the cross for me and you. He did this for ALL of us. Lastly, God has never left my side and never abandoned me. In this life I have had people and institutions fail me, we all have but God, the God of creation is faithful always, to all of us.

Who I am as a person and as a minister is greatly influenced by Kathryn being in my life and I do not believe it is any accident that we met. When I think about our friendship I wonder if God teaches me to love and see creation as he does or if Kathryn, and who she is points me to God, to see God in a fuller way. I think it is a bit of both.

Within my belief system I see God, the creator of everything, as a relational God. God chooses to work in concert and cooperation with us. Through relationships we engage in the work of God whether we know it or not. We do so because we are living by example. Jesus' ministry was ALL about relationships. When we develop relationships we are living by example, God's example. Through us working with others we see God in a bigger and fuller way and those we have relationships with point us back to God. All in all we become better people, caring people, compassionate people.

Just as Kathryn is my best friend, God is my best friend.

Some pictures from over the past 25 years (including the wedding on October 18, 2013):

A friends wedding

Alive After Five

Beach Trip

Pink Floyd Concert

The Wedding

Monday, October 21, 2013

My 2nd Jump!

On Sunday, October 20 @ 8 am I went to make my 2nd tandem jump. Click here to read about the first one. What I did not know was there would be a video to share. On Friday, October 18 I officiated the wedding of my best Friend, Kathryn Jones and her fiancé, Blake Swearingen. Kathryn's gift to me was paying for a video to be made of my jump so here it is. But please stay tuned for a post later this week on "Best Friends"

I am definitely a jump junkie now and plan to take the classes next year and learn to jump solo.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sex Trade 101: Part 2

Today's post focus's on the children who are victims of the sex trade around the world. The most important thing I believe you should know is that the UN considers any girl or boy under the age of 18 engaged (even “willingly”) in prostitution is technically a trafficked victim since the international community deems a minor not old enough to make the choice to sell themselves for sex.

It is also important to know that many adults who are in the prostitution business were in it before they became a legal adult in the eyes of  American law. So while we may view their situation differently than minor children we can see them as victims who are in need of rescue. Read the image below and learn some statistics of the sex trade right here in America.

Sex Trade Facts
  • Human rights investigations have discovered that minors can be typically sold an average of 10-15 times a day, 6 days a week, totaling between 9,360 and 14,040 sex acts a year. The girls received none of the money.   (Source: Shared Hope International)
  • According to the California Child Welfare Council, kids as young as 10 are being peddled for sex every day in Los Angeles County ... the average life expectancy of children who enter the sex trade is seven years. This means, on average, a child forced into prostitution at age 12 will be dead by 19.            (Information collected from the Daily Breeze)         

If you have not joined one of the Investigative Teams supported by The Exodus Road please consider. Click here to read more about the program and how you can help make rescues possible. When rescues are made from funds from The Exodus road they are either:

  • an actual trafficking situation (ex. raid with police of a locked brothel) or
  • sexual abuse to an underage victim (ex. pedophile abuse).

Thank you for following my blog and learning more about Modern Day Slavery. Together we can end this.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Starving Jesus

The Sheep and the Goats

Matthew 25:31 - 46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

When it comes to Jesus' directions to us as his followers this passage is just as direct as his command that we love out neighbor. Truly, if we love our neighbor we will help them when they are in need.

I have to be honest with you and acknowledge my bias because I have never been able to understand why a person or a people would not feed those who are hungry, help those who need housing, care for those who are sick and love and offer compassion to those who are in prison. I just don't get it. What does it take for us to ignore the needs of our fellow man? When we do we are undoubtedly the Levi or the Priest, for surely we are not being the Good Samaritan when we ignore and walk on the other side of the road when we see someone in need.

Besides the direct command in this verse to care for those in need Jesus shows us where we can find him. If you want to be about the business of sharing God's love then you need to go where Jesus is.

Today we can find Jesus with people who are without a job or underemployed. Today we can find Jesus with people who have no home. Jesus is with those who are on government assistance and also with people who are sick whether in the hospital or not. Jesus is with the many children and families who are victims of Human trafficking and with the person who is undocumented. Jesus is with people who are currently vilified by those in government and American citizens.

Putting politics aside, those of us who claim a belief in Jesus Christ need to not only be with the people Jesus is with but also advocating for support that they so desperately need. When we sit comfortably in our homes and enjoy the blessings God has given us and not be a blessing to others we will be the ones that God turns away from as this passage in Matthew states. I think that we who follow Christ forget that we will still stand before God, when die or when Jesus returns, and account for our lives.

Do you want God to know you as the one who served the "least of these" or one who ignored them? Many people fall on hard times, I have myself, but that last thing we need to do is vilify those who are in need of our help or the governments help.

I hear many people talk about how we need to get back to the Christian principles that this country was founded on. If people really mean that then we need to embrace Matthew 25:31-46 and make sure that we as a country feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, welcome the undocumented person, ensure care for those who are sick and show compassion to those who are in prison.

If that is what people mean then I welcome it.

If you want to test your knowledge on Hunger in America click on this LINK
You can also see current statistics people who live in food insecure homes.

To see what CBF churches and Field Personnel are doing to combat hunger in America click on this link and read blogs submitted by people who are reaching people by feeding them.