THE MOST POWERFUL WORD IN THE UNIVERSE!

Question Of The Day And Every Day: WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL WORD IN THE WORLD? How would you answer this question? Before you give your answer (oops, some of you already have), think in terms of impact. The power of words is undeniable. The course of nations has been altered by words. Families and individuals have been changed by words. Though collections of words have impacted people, families, nations, and cultures–there is a single word that is (in my humble opinion) that has the greatest impact of all.

Words have both a positive and a negative impact. They build up or they tear down. And it doesn’t take a plethora of words. There is a single word that will either obliterate or revolutionize a life, family, community, nation, culture–and even the world. So, what say ye? Do you know that word? Would you like to know what that word is? Really? Are you sure and for certain? Answer me–do you want to know the single most powerful word in the universe? Think you know it already? By the way, it only has 2 letters; no more and no less. Well. . .let’s see if you do.

IF is the single most powerful word that we can utter. What??? You just disagreed with me? Oh well, that’s ok–you can be wrong. Think about this word. IF describes outcomes–more specifically–different outcomes. IF is the sum of what could have been–or–what will be. IF is the cry from the ruins of a life broken, crushed, and annihilated by the wrong choices. IF expresses regret and remorse. IF is the sound of fading hope. IF is the ashes of dreams. That’s one way that IF is the most powerful word in the world.

But there is another side to IF that is diametrically different. IF can change your future into the best life possible. IF offers renewed hope and new dreams. IF will change the entire course of your life. IF will restore far more than life as it happens has ever taken away from you. IF is all about the only life you were ever created for–it’s the life worth fighting for IF that’s what you want. Here–let me show you the most powerful part of the most powerful word called IF:

  • IF my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
  • Even IF my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close. (Psalm 27:10)
  • But if you live in life-union with me and IF my words live powerfully within you—then you can ask whatever you desire and it will be done. (John 15:7)
  • IF we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. (Daniel 3:17)
  • (And one of my personal favorites:) But IF we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Hopefully, you can now see that IF is the most powerful word in the universe. And it’s all in how you use that word. Listen carefully to how YOU are using this word. Use it in the proper way, it changes everything. Use it in the wrong way, it changes everything.

OH, LORD! IT’S MONDAY! IMBALANCED

Here in the south, we have a saying for some folks that goes like this: “They are about 2 bubbles off plumb.” It means they are off-balanced, leaning to one side. If something, or someone, is imbalanced they are subject to falling–it’s only inevitable. Of all the infirmities infecting our culture, living an imbalanced life ranks in the Top 10–Nay! Make that the Top 5.

Balance is another way of saying Perspective. Imbalance is another way of saying the lack of proper perspective. I’ve said before that everyone has a perspective (Thank you, Andy Andrews). The issue is where do we find our perspective? Think about the news. If all one watches is what CNN or One America News only says, well–you get the point. And it’s not just in our source of the daily news where we need perspective.

Life as a whole needs a Balanced Perspective. We need work–but we also need recreation. We need cheerleaders who encourage us on–but we also need true friends who will hold us at arm’s length and tell us when we’re wrong (it’s great when that is the same person!). We need someone who can help us see what’s right in front of us–but we also need someone who can see way down the road. We need goals to drive us forward–but we also need to be light, silly, and humorous.

But where can we find such a Balanced Perspective? It’s not so elusive as some would have us believe. It’s found in The Bible and the world’s foremost authority on the Bible–The Holy Spirit. Solomon gives some insight into what happens with God’s Word and God’s presence to guide us to the Balanced Life. We call his journal Ecclesiastes. And in Chapter 7, Verse 18 we find these words:

It’s best to stay in touch with both sides of an issue. A person who fears God deals responsibly with all of reality, not just a piece of it.

(The Message)

You can’t take life totally frivolous, and you can’t take life with only seriousness. When Imbalance marks our life journey, it’s a burden, a pain, and like Solomon once said, “it’s chasing after the wind”. Just as making a post or wall plumb takes some effort–so does it take effort to develop Balance in our life. Learn how to laugh at yourself. And if you just can’t do it–call me and I’ll do it for you!

When we walk with The Spirit and learn the strength that comes through living a Balanced life, then we can say: Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?

I SUPPOSE I COULD EAT LIVER AND ONIONS NOW.

Thought I might give up an update on this latest unplanned journey with the COVID-19. So far I haven’t had the respiratory distress that many of my friends have had–and that’s a good, very good thing. But I do have that persistent sore throat and my body feels like–well do you remember the movie Men In Black (the first one)?

Taste buds–I have none! I can’t even taste my coffee! But thank God, this elixir of life still works even though I can’t taste it. And thus, the topic of this afternoon’s musings: Liver And Onions! Every year Debbie and I have been together we’ve practiced the Lenten discipline of giving up something. And every year I offer to give up liver and onions. And Debbie tells me the same thing!

Since I have no sense of taste, I could try liver and onions. But I’m not! If I did not like liver and onions before I lost my taste buds, I will not eat them in a box. I will not eat them with a fox. I will not eat them in a car. I will not eat them in a bar! The memory of their taste is enough to keep me from doing it now though I know I couldn’t taste it. What’s all this babbling have to do with The Kingdom?

I am so glad you asked. The sense of taste is perhaps the most personal of all senses. Seeing, hearing, and touching doesn’t give the effect of tasting. Even the sense of smell comes up short. Tasting is taking it all inward. This is why David wrote this in Psalm 34 Verse 8–“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” David doesn’t say look, see, hear, or touch–it’s TASTE!

Sometimes it looks like or feels like God isn’t so good. Sometimes life absolutely stinks! Sometimes we hear people saying that God isn’t good if He allows bad things to happen. I could agree with that. My sister died 5 months ago and my Dad died last week. This week I have COVID. And even though I’ve lost my sense of taste–I remember how wonderful the taste of God’s goodness to me when I take my refuge is in Him. I don’t have to “taste” it right now to know it’s true–because I’ve already experienced the goodness of God.

WELL, HERE I GO AGAIN!

What a ride this week has been. And now I am adding to my ride COVID-19. Yesterday my throat was sore and my sinuses became an issue. And, I had been exposed. So off to the local state health department, call them when I arrived in the parking lot–then wait. Wait until the nurse arrived. Wait until it was #4’s turn (that’s me). Wait for the delivery of the results. And so it is–Positive!

This wasn’t on my planned itinerary for the rest of the week. I was so looking forward to preaching again–it’s one of my coping devices. It’s something about God’s Word that just lifts me up. I just started a new series called Bones–from Ezekiel’s experience in The Valley Of Dry Bones! But alas, not this week. Instead, I am experiencing what many have gone through and are going through and more will face. I have a sore throat; sinuses running like a politician for an office, loss of taste, yucky feeling, but no problems breathing–yet. Oh, one more thing.

Quarantine! At a time in my life when I need others around me–well, just forget that. And I am learning even more in this newest journey. I am cut off from others–but I am not cut off from God’s Presence through The Holy Spirit. The people I want be around are praying for me, and God is moving through those prayers. My primary care office is ready to get me the infusion therapy if needed. God’s presence and His provisions–so I guess I’m not really quarantined. I simply need to adjust my expectations and rest–rest in His provisions for me. In fact, one of the funeral directors who is a friend of mine, and worked with Dad, called and gave me some advice from his recent experience with COVID. Therefore I conclude, that Quarantine is a state of mind–and I am never quarantined from faith, hope, and love.

HOW CAN I SAY IT?

How can I say it–what is in both my mind and heart? Where are the words? I’ve been called a lot of things in my life–some of which cannot be posted on this blog. But one thing I remember being called was a “wordsmith”. My Papa Burbank was a blacksmith and Dad told me the amazing things he could do as a blacksmith. But right now, I think I could do better as a blacksmith than a wordsmith at this moment–and I don’t know a thing about being a smithy!

Finding words to say or print usually come fairly easy. But right now, it ain’t so easy! I mean–how can I express all the–call it gratitude, thankfulness, appreciation, beholden–none of these words come close to how I am feeling right now for the outpouring of love, compassion, sympathy, empathy, and kindness shown to me and my family as we grieve the loss of our family patriarch. Even the above slideshow of images for such synonyms doesn’t scratch the surface of how I feel towards each of you.

Searching for and finding the right words is supposed to be the hallmark of a preacher worth their weight in salt. Still, all of the above words do not reveal how I feel towards each of you. I’ve searched every thesaurus in the Wacky World Web–and all of them combined still misses the mark. So, I am left with a word that I believe falls short of what I long to express to each of you. It’s a word that is often casually thrown out there without much emotion. But until some other wordsmith can come up with another word–here it is: Thanks! A simple word, but I say it because of the profound impact each of you has made on me and my family these past few days! Maybe someday when I see you on the other side–I will have the perfect word to tell you how I feel about you. But until that day, know that I am grateful to each of you.

OH, LORD! IT’S MONDAY! GRIEF

Today I am intimately familiar with this Monday Spirit. This evening we will gather at the Funeral Home where Dad once worked–scratch that–where he shared the love of Christ with so many people. It just so happened he was on their payroll while he was doing that! He helped so many friends and strangers cope with their loss. And now, many of those same people will be there–for us!

Grief is two sides–good and harmful. The good side of Grief is that it gives us the opportunity to remember the love that was experienced. Grief is our way to cleanse our hearts and minds of all the emotions that comes with the death of someone close to us. Think of Grief as a purge–unloading all of that pain. And we have to unload that pain; otherwise it will eat us alive.

Grief also has a harmful side. The deadly side of Grief is when we fail to work through it. Grief isn’t designed nor meant to be a permanent state of life. And when we treat it as though it is permanent–well, Monday and every other day becomes a burden and we miss out on the joy of life. Grief is a part of living–but it’s not all there is to life. Sometimes people want to know why that person was allowed to die. Looking for reasons why prevents Grief from it’s good purpose. Looking for the why will lead you to either a false hope, or worse, it will make you blame God.

Grief has it’s own process. It’s not the same process for every person. And don’t allow anyone to tell you otherwise. Grief isn’t meant to be experienced alone–we need help to navigate the treacherous waters. I’ve been both comforted and amazed at the stories being told now on social media about Dad. Many I knew–many others I am hearing for the first time. I have been comforted by words of wisdom by the Sages in my life. And I have been comforted, strengthened, and held by the hands of my Heavenly Dad! So I can trust the process of Grief to bring me through this season–and it is only a season when we have Him to guide us through.

When we trust God to use our Grief as a process and not a destination, then we can say: “Good! Lord, It’s Monday! What shall we do together?” And here’s the song that The Spirit sent to me this morning in my Worship time!

WHAT NOW?

Ever noticed what comes up when you start to make a post on Facebook?? It’s “What’s On Your Mind”. What’s on my mind this morning is a mish-mash of a lot of stuff. If I had a hot tub, that’s exactly where I would be this morning. But I don’t have one so I settled on an “as hot as I could stand it” tub bath. And it was there I regained some of my missing perspective. And I owe it all to Joel White. I know, how weird is that?

You have to know Joel. He’s my brother from my other set of parents. Joel teaches math–so he’s all about the details. Furthermore, Joel has a very weak filter when to comes to thinking before he speaks. For Joel, thinking and talking are synonymous terms. Yesterday Joel gave me some sound advice filled with wisdom–even stranger, right?! (Just kidding Joel!) Joel told me to NOT think down the road; simply live and accept each moment as it happens.

This morning I woke up thinking ahead–too far ahead–of what needs to be done. So, I’m doing what Joel told me–and it has given back to me what I needed most in this moment–perspective. I’ve remembered all your words of care, compassion, and encouragement. Last night I got a call from a cousin that I haven’t talked to in years. A friend of Daddy’s, another pastor–Ray Lathem–also called last night. I’ve tried to read all of the tributes to Dad on Facebook. All of this put together has helped me focus on Dad’s legacy–and it’s a great one!

So starting this morning–I will live in each moment, one at a time, as they happen. But unlike some of my promises in the past that I broke–this promise I must keep–I WANT to keep. So pray for me that I maintain this course, as Dad taught me by his example. The dam holding back my emotions hasn’t broken–yet–but it’s cracked–and I know what’s coming. But I have Dad’s legacy–your prayers–and The Father’s love, the promises of Jesus, and the strength of the Holy Spirit. These will get me through–of this I am confident.

THE JOURNEY JOURNAL, DAY 53: THE FINAL ENTRY

Yesterday, Friday 14 January 2022 marked the end of this Journey and this Journal. I intended to write this late yesterday afternoon–but I was exhausted. At 1:11 a.m. CST, Dad breathed his last breath on earth and breathed his first breath in eternity. Wednesday had been a fairly good day compared to the day before. Thursday wasn’t so good. Around 11:30 p.m. his breathing was distressed–and we called Hospice. The nurse arrived and confirmed our suspicions–his prayer of going home was about to be answered. And at 1:11 a.m., his prayer and mine were answered. As he was taking those final breaths I realized it was my sister Jacque’s birthday. Jacque died in August, and I told him, “It’s OK, go ahead, we will be OK, and tell Jacque Happy Birthday in person.” Just moments later he stopped breathing and a few more moments later, his physical heart stopped beating. But that new Heart Jesus gave him so many years ago never missed a beat!

Today we sit down with the Funeral Director to make those final arrangements. This will be easy because Dad took care of the major decisions a long time ago. Monday night we will greet friends and share compassion and so many memories at the Funeral Home which, by the way, he worked at for many years after his retirement. Tuesday afternoon we will gather in the sanctuary that he literally helped to build and together celebrate one of the most powerful men who ever lived. He never made the national news, but the power of his influence still rings out in our family and in this community.

My brother from another set of parents who were always our neighbor said something that gave me perspective. Joel White told me, “Can you imagine how many people who are in heaven because of him, met him and greeted him there?” And Joel’s thought gave me a moment of great joy–and I know it did for Dad. And in this, my final entry for this particular Journal is: The End Of One Journey Marks The Beginning Of The Next Journey!

For Dad, his journey of missing his wife, two daughters, family, and friends is over. And the face he longed to see most of all–Jesus–is right there before him. And now he’s on a new journey of life with The Father! Our Journey is now about the final steps–working through our grief while celebrating his marvelous life. This Journey includes preparing for Dad’s Celebration Service, grieving together, and all the other things that go with settling Dad’s affairs, and final wishes. And I am confident that because God was with all of us in THIS Journey, He will faithfully be with us in this NEXT Journey–and in all the Journeys yet to be made. We will make it because of the faithful presence of The Holy Spirit–and the legacy that Dad gave us as his parting gift.

THE MORNING AFTER

Well, it seems that another National Championship wasn’t in the cards for The Crimson Tide. And the morning after? Here’s what I noticed. The Sun still rose. There was no Zombie apocalypse. The mountains didn’t collapse. There is no anarchy in the streets. My family and friends are still around. We have winter weather here in Alabama (which is still subject to change). Wall Street didn’t crash. The electrical grid didn’t fail. In short, life goes on. As I knew it would when I went to bed last night at 11:00 p.m. CST.

This is the nature of life on this orb called Earth. But serious things can happen to us and around us that may cause us to ask that question: “How can I go forward? How can I face The Morning After?” It may be the loss of income; the diagnosis of cancer; coming face to face with dementia in a loved one; your vehicle dies and leaves you without transportation; your spouse leaves; a family member dies; a close friend betrays you; you give in to temptation and the guilt is eating you alive. Or any of a countless number of things that leave us feeling crushed, guilty, disappointed, doubtful, hurting, or confused.

The Morning After can, I said CAN, result in the loss of peace, joy, purpose, and hope. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, there is another way to face The Morning After. Regardless of what caused it, or how we feel The Morning After, we have a choice in how we deal with it. If it is some sin you committed, choose 1 John 1:9–“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” If it’s feelings of abandonment by God, choose Psalm 23:4–“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” If it is doubt, then choose Philippians 5:6–“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Every “The Morning After”, God has a promise for you. In His Promises are the means and the strength to get through to that other side. The causes do not define the outcomes for us. The outcomes are chosen by us. Make sure that your choice is to run back to God, and cling to Him as if your life depends on Him. Because it does!

OH LORD, IT’S MONDAY! iT’S A WON’T OR WANT DAY!

Resistance to change seems to be an inherited trait among the human species. Not all change is good–but when God brings about change–it is always good. The results of those God-initiated changes create within us one of two responses: Won’t or Want! Ain’t the English language–well–confusing. Two words that sound exactly the same–but their meanings are polar opposites. We can desire the changes God is doing–or we can refuse to be a part of the changes God is doing.

Not desiring–or WON’T–what God is doing compounds the feelings of dread, angst, despair, and all their cousins make every day a pain to the point that we become someone other than who God created us to be. But if we desire–that is, WANT–what God is doing, it makes every day an adventure–challenging adventures sometimes–but an adventure nonetheless. Though we may “like” who we are at the moment–God sees much more. And to bring that out, God initiates changes to bring out who He sees.

When God initiates change, the purpose is always to make us whole, stronger, and to transform us in His Image. To change how you feel about this week–change how you feel about the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Every moment possesses the opportunity to be more like Jesus. Open yourself up, and say to The Father: “Dad, I WANT the change that You see is necessary for me to be who I am created to be.”

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians chapter 3, verses 17-18, “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” And when we WANT that change rather than WON’T, then we can say, “Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?”