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Thank You, Jimmy
Thank You, Jimmy

Shannon L. Newsome • May 26, 2019

It was the first time in my life that I knew there was such a thing as death. 


My first encounter with death was not because of the loss of a grandparent, a parent, or a sibling, although I have experienced all of those losses in years since. It was, instead, as I remember it, because of the left-hand bottom corner of the front page of the Winston-Salem Journal, the newspaper that was delivered daily to my home when I was growing up.


I don't really know exactly when I first noticed, but at some point, almost fifty years ago, I read a list of names in that small section (that unfortunately grew over time) and asked my parents about it.


"Those are the names of local boys who recently died in Vietnam."


I honestly believe that was my first introduction to the reality of death.


Over the years, I have visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, or as it is sometimes referred to, "The Wall," on several occasions. Each time was moving, but I will never forget the emotions of my very first time. 


It was the summer of 1986, less than two years after the memorial was completed and maybe a month after the death of my sister. My parents believed it was important that they take my other two sisters and me out of town on a trip. Not the best of ideas, but it's hard to fault them... and this really isn't about my family.


I can still remember arriving at "The Wall" with my parents, and my father almost immediately going to the book to try to find the particular panel of a certain name. I almost asked who he was looking for, but then I remembered. 


Jimmy Westmoreland.


I never knew Jimmy. I'm not even sure my father ever knew Jimmy, but we began going to church with his mother and father and brother not too long after Jimmy's death. 


As I browsed the internet earlier this afternoon, I discovered that Jimmy... rather, PFC Jimmy Roger Westmoreland with the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army died on April 8, 1969, less than three months after his tour began.


Some fellow soldiers who served with him have left personal comments on the "virtual wall" through the years. One described him as a "quiet, baby-faced kid." Another wrote, "I remember the first time I saw you, I thought to myself, 'This guy should be in Junior High instead of Vietnam, but I see we were both about the same age."


Jimmy was 20 years old.


On that day with my parents, seventeen years later, as they found Jimmy's name on the wall, they wept... not because of their relationship with him, because again, I'm not sure they even knew him. Looking back all these years later, I believe that their tears flowed out of an unsolicited bond with his parents and a common grief for a lost child.


I read a statistic recently that really struck me. During World War II, 12% of our population served in the Armed Forces. However today, less than 1% of our current population is serving or has ever served in our military. 


Gala True, of the Department of Veteran Affairs says, "That small figure influences the way the general public thinks about the cost of conflict."


To be clear, this is not a pro-war post. That issue can be debated in other circles at other times by people far more qualified to do so than me.


But it is a pro-honor post.


The Apostle Paul wrote... 


"Give everyone what you owe him... if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." (Romans 13:7 NIV84)


Tomorrow is Memorial Day, the most solemn of American holidays... a day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice while defending our nation.


It is a day to remember Jimmy, and the more than 1.1 million other men and women who have given their lives for those who, in most-part, they didn't know either... for those who are still giving their lives for you and me.


Join me in giving to each of them what we owe them - our respect and honor. The reality is, we owe them so much more than we could ever repay.


Since that summer with my parents, with every subsequent visit that I have made to D.C., if I find myself near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I stop and look for Jimmy's name myself.


I never knew him, but I never want to forget him.


Thank you, Jimmy.

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Who Will Unpack Your Lunch?
Who Will Unpack Your Lunch?

G. Scott Patterson • May 16, 2019

The week before Mother’s Day, I took several ladies from our church to see the limited release Chonda Pierce movie, “Unashamed.” Chonda is a Christian Comedian and if you’ve never heard her, brace yourself for some unexpected comedy! And, men, it’s really not for you. I was able to go with our ladies because we had an extra ticket and I drove the van. 

 

As part of the movie, Chonda interviewed several Christian “in-the-news” people; former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, American Idol finalist and singer Danny Gokey, Michael Tait (lead singer for the Christian band Newsboys), fellow comedian Jeff Allen and the Benham brothers. Each had a story to tell of how their faith cost them something and how to live “unashamed” as Christians in an increasingly hostile world.

 

David and Jason Benham are successful real-estate brokers in the Charlotte area. They were all set to have a show on HGTV titled, “Flip It Forward” where they would remodel homes for people who could not afford to do so. They have never been shy about their Christian faith and HGTV knew all about it when they approached the brothers about a reality show. However, before the show even aired, protests arose about their “anti-gay” stance and pressure was put on HGTV and they pulled the plug. You can read the story from CNN if interested, but I just wanted to give you some background on who they were … that’s not what this blog is about.

 

As Chonda interviewed them, one of the brothers made an observation that really made an impact on me. They were talking about how faithful their mom had been, packing their lunch each day … and not just with PBJs, but she would make whole meals (Salisbury Steak, mashed potatoes, etc.) for them! 

 

And then he transitioned to the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. He said (and that’s why I gave you all that background – I wanted the Benham brothers to get the credit), “So out of those 5,000+ people, don’t you think there were other children there? But this boy’s mom packed him a lunch!”

 

[To be fair and honest, we don’t know anything more about the story than what is in the Gospels – Matthew 14:15-21, Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-15.  John uses the generic word for child/boy, and so we don’t know how young or old he was, though presumably younger than 13, the traditional age of Jewish manhood.  I’ve heard people assert that the one boy could not possibly have been the only one in that crowd with food, “just the only one willing to share.” We just don’t know, and I don’t care for any “guessing” that detracts from the miracle, which is clearly the point of all four Gospels. And, we don’t know that it was his mom who actually packed him a lunch that day, but someone did!]

 

David (or Jason) made two very good points:

 

1.     Be faithful, always, especially with the small stuff. “Moms,” he said, “don’t discount the small, everyday things you do. They are important; they matter.”

 

Because …

 

2.     You never know who might unpack that lunch. In the case of that little boy, it was Jesus. 

 

Again, (see above), we don’t know what truly happened, but imagine some Jewish mother sending little Johnny, er, Judah off for the day, “Don’t forget your lunch!” and little Judah saying, “Awww mom, do I have to?” “Yes!” Little did she know …  later that day, as the disciples scavenged for food, lo and behold, this boy had two fish and five loaves of bread because his mother packed him a lunch.

 

What small, seemingly mundane, routine, un-important thing might you do that God will, one day, unpack for someone else? 

 

It was a huge eye-opener for me. 

 

·  What word of encouragement might you give to someone at their most needed or impressionable time?

·  What phone call or card might you send to someone who is in desperate need at that moment for someone, anyone to care?

·  What if while simply doing your “job” (whether that is packing lunches for your family, flying an airplane from NYC when a birdstrike knocks out both engines over the Hudson, or tending sheep at night in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago), what if God needed you there, in that place, doing "that" job, for something big? What if that day you decided you were not important or the “job” wasn’t important? What a loss that would be.

 

I know Mother’s Day 2019 has passed (I don’t know why I/we write these blogs after the fact, but I didn’t have this idea before Mother’s Day, so here it is), but I just want to say “Thank You!” to all the “mother’s” (or single dads, primary care dad’s, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) who do the small things … regularly … well … with love and attention. Maybe you don’t get the thanks you would like to get as often as you deserve it, but keep doing it. You just never know who might unpack the lunch you make.

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Fire! Ready? Aim.
Fire! Ready? Aim.

Shannon L. Newsome • May 08, 2019

"How do you plead?"


Before you even start down that road in your mind, I'll go ahead and let you know - it was traffic court.


The year was 1988, I was living in Woodstock, GA, where I was serving at my first full-time ministry, and my car of choice was a real speed demon - a Hyundai Elantra. But speed was not the issue.


"How do you plead?"


In late 1987, I was driving through downtown Woodstock around 9 PM (so, I was probably "coming from church, officer") when the blue lights appeared in my rear-view mirror.


Quick side note: Is there any worse feeling... that gut-wrenching sight of the blue and/or red lights flooding the back seat of your car as you watch in your side mirror as the officer approaches your car? Hypothetically speaking, of course.


Actually, not so hypothetically.


"How do you plead?"


This particular night in Woodstock was, unfortunately, not the first time that I had the experience (I think the number is actually four, including one time when I was running on the side of the road... but that's a story for another time).


After getting my license and registration, taking them back to his vehicle, and making me wait for what seemed like an eternity while he determined that I was not "on the lam," he returned and proceeded to tell me that he had pulled me over for O.C.G.A. §40-6-49.


O.C.G.A. §40-6-49 states: "The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway."


What? Are you kidding me? I never follow too closely!


That's not true... at all. I am, shall we say, not the most patient of drivers. My family will very quickly tell you that many times they feel like they have a closer kinship with the passengers in the back seat of the car in front of us than they do with me.


However, when I am driving, I am still the picture of "reasonable and prudent."


Okay, that's not true either... and especially not thirty years ago.


So, after the officer explained to me my infraction, he handed me the ticket and said that I could either pay the fine or go to court.


I was twenty-three years old - that really should be enough explanation - and I felt like I really just needed the judge to hear me out so that he could understand my situation. (Even as I write that, I realize that I'm not all that different even today).


Which is how I ended up in traffic court a couple months later, being asked the question...


"How do you plead?"


I obviously answered, "Not guilty, your honor," to which came back his reply, with no hesitation, "Guilty. Next!"


What? Are you kidding me? I just sat in a smoke-filled room (remember, it was the 80's) for more than two hours with upwards of seventy to eighty other people, rehearsing clever arguments in my head. And now, after uttering only four words, I'm dismissed without even the opportunity to speak?


I really didn't know what to say. Thankfully I didn't say anything, but apparently, I didn't move away quickly enough either, because the judge looked at me and repeated, with emphasis, "Guilty. Next!"


The thoughts rolled through my mind: "What kind of back-woods justice is this? I mean, how can he sit there and make a judgment about me and my situation without ever even hearing a single word from me? He doesn't know me. What evidence does he even have, other than the report of a single police officer?"


Another quick side note: The above is not to in any way speak disparagingly of any police officer and especially the one who issued me the ticket. While I have not really thought too much about this over the last three decades, in writing about it today, and knowing that what I wrote just a few paragraphs earlier about my patience, or lack of it, while driving, is the truth, I know that the officer had it right.


was guilty.


But we've all been there, haven't we? I mean, even if you've never been to Woodstock, GA (or even have a clue where it's located), we have all been there. We have all made snap-judgments and decisions about an individual without giving them a chance to speak even a single word. And many times, those decisions are based on far less credible evidence than a police officer's word.


You know, regardless of which side of the political aisle you align with, I believe that most of us would admit that our media, at times, has been guilty of failing to do its due diligence on a story, ignoring the "facts" for the privilege of getting to tell the story first.


However, before we cast that stone, we probably need to look in the mirror first.


need to look in the mirror first.


Whether it is selecting a cashier at the grocery store (and usually my only criteria is, "Will he/she be faster?" My hours spent in line only serve to show how horrible my judgment is in that area) or any number of other mundane choices, we make judgments every single day.


That's to be expected. That's normal. That's life.


But, with the increasing number of users of social media over the last decade, almost everyone has, in some way, become a journalist and/or a critic. And while it is easy to point fingers at the "media" for their failings, all of us have or know someone who has suffered because of hasty words and hurtful judgments.


Whether we are the "author" (and trust me, you don't have to be on Facebook to author a judgment against someone. It only takes being willing to share the words with another person.), or we hear/read someone else's judgments and jump on the bandwagon with either the inability or indifference to actually separate fact from fiction, we are guilty.


"How do you plead?"


I am guilty.


So, here's my commitment to you (and for "you" to be "you," we really do have to have some sort of relationship, okay?)


Maybe I should rephrase that. Here is my commitment to you, my friends and family:


  1. I will believe the best about you.
  2. When other people assume the worst about you, I will come to your defense.
  3. If what I personally experience begins to erode my trust in you, I will come directly to you to talk about it.
  4. If/when you confront me about any such areas, I will tell you the truth.


The above ideas are not original - they are borrowed, some almost word for word, from Andy Stanley - but I like them so much, I want to try to make them a part of my own relationships moving forward. I feel like I have lived some of these out in the past, but maybe just as often, I've ignored some and possibly let down people who I care about. Moving forward, I want to be intentional... and consistent.


Because the truth is, even with all of my sin and faults (yours too, but we're talking about me), God chose to see me, in His Son, as holy and blameless.


"Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes." (Ephesians 1:4 NLT)


And although I know it's on a completely different level, I want to make a similar choice. I want to be the kind of person who, given both options, chooses to believe the good much quicker than I believe the bad. I want to give the benefit of the doubt.


I'm pretty sure I know exactly how that can happen... where that change can come from. 


It comes from following Jesus more (not too) closely!

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What Easter Means to Me: Homemade Cinnamon Donuts
What Easter Means to Me: Homemade Cinnamon Donuts

G. Scott Patterson • April 23, 2019

Now, of course, Easter means more to me than “just” homemade cinnamon donuts; a LOT more, but for the sake of an attempted catchy blog title to bait you to read, please indulge me (forgive the appetite inducing pun).


My paternal grandmother (henceforth “Granny”) was a wonderful country cook. She could take nothing and turn it into a delicious meal. One of the treats she would sometimes make were these homemade donuts that she would coat with cinnamon sugar. She fried them in a big ole iron skillet. She cut them into this shape – it was like two triangles back-to-back (I guess almost like a reverse “bow-tie” ◄►). For some reason, the memory of the shape stands out almost as much as the taste. They were delicious. I’ve had people send me recipes of how to make these, even offer to make them for me, but to be honest, I really don’t want any other than my Granny’s.


For several summers when I was teenager, I would spend a few weeks with my grandparents. They lived deep in the mountains of NC, a little town called, Robbinsville. It is almost at the very tip of western, NC (No, not Asheville or Boone ... further west and south, and a few decades behind the times).


When I was younger – pre-teen – we lived in Ohio – and I rarely got to see my grandparents. I didn’t have much of a relationship with them. Phone calls were “long-distance” and cost by the minute, so I would say “hi” every now and then, but that was it.


But when we moved back to NC, (and they moved from VA back to Robbinsville), I got to see them a little more often; they would even come to Charlotte to see us. And, when I was old enough, I would spend the summer with them.


I loved going to my Granny and Papaw’s. They owned the whole mountain! There were endless woods, a bear cave (or panther cave – I never had the guts to find out), a mountain stream … plenty of adventure for a young teen boy! I would go to “help” – mow their grass or do whatever, but Granny would not let me be out in the hot sun. She doted on me and spoiled me … and the homemade cinnamon donuts were just part of the treatment.


Sunday night suppers were very special. Churches were scarce in Robbinsville and for various reasons, we did not go to any of them. But for supper Sunday evening, Granny would make a “Sunday dinner,” the biggest meal of the week. But before we ate, Papaw would read from his Bible, pray, and we would all have communion. It was a very special and solemn time. I really enjoyed and admired watching my otherwise quiet, private, mountain-stoic grandfather act like my preacher-dad.


But they were not always like that. 


My Granny was born in 1913; Papaw in 1911. Both lived/grew up in that area of secluded NC mountains, but still, it was a different time. Although moonshining and drinking were part of the “charm” of Robbinsville, my Granny and Papaw did it to excess. They had quite the reputation … especially my Granny. She had a child out of wedlock before meeting my grandfather. Scandalous, to say the least. For these reasons – and some others – my Granny was not “welcomed” in any of those churches back then. (I’m sure things would have been different 40 years later … well, maybe not; Robbinsville remained pretty stagnate for decades.) In fact, it got so bad that my dad was ashamed of his own mother. (Yes, this is difficult for me to write. I feel like I am somewhat betraying my family by sharing these skeletons, but I want you to get a good picture of things.)


By the time I started spending summers with them, they had left behind most of their wanton ways. But the Sunday Night communion service? Well, here’s how that got started … and why I am telling you about my Granny’s delicious homemade donuts.


One day as I was getting off the bus from Jr. High (Middle School, they call it now), Granny and Papaw were getting into my dad’s car in our driveway. They had driven the 4 ½ hours from Robbinsville for, what seemed to me, a surprise visit. Dad called out to me that they were headed to the church; he was going to baptize them. I wish I had thought to go with them, but I didn’t. I was thirteen or fourteen at the time, and they were “in motion” anyway. It just didn’t dawn on me. Or maybe it was God’s Providence that I didn’t go so this story would play out. I have heard my dad tell it many times; perhaps if I had been there, Granny would not have said what she did.


They got to the church (I think dad knew ahead of time and had the baptistry water heated) and changed into robes. They stood in the water and my dad said what I had heard him say so many times … he talked about how sins are washed away at baptism (Acts 22:16).  As he was preparing to baptize my Granny(1), she stopped him and asked, “Gary, will ALL my sins be washed away?” My dad knew what she meant … he knew she was thinking back to her previous days of living however she wanted. He choked back the tears and said, “Yes, mamma, ALL your sins …” and he baptized her.


47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven ...” Luke 7:47a (ESV)


My Granny died a few years later, 1982. She suffered a long battle with emphysema and some other health complications; the result of years of smoking and her lifestyle.  But after that day, after she was born again, she was a new person. She was a forgiven person. She was a child of the King and an heiress to His promise. And I know, because of Easter – or better stated, because Jesus Christ died and rose again, defeating sin and death and hell itself – I KNOW I will see her again one day. She placed her hope and faith in the One – the ONLY ONE – who can make and keep that promise.


And so, I’ve placed my order: At the marriage feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9), I have requested my Granny’s homemade cinnamon donuts. (2)


1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

[..]

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 20–22, esv)


My Granny will be “made alive.” I will be “made alive.” All who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus will be “made alive.” And I would love for to you sample some of my Granny’s homemade cinnamon donuts when that day comes!


___________________________________________________________________


(1) The change was just as profound in my Papaw, but this story is about my Granny so, although he is included in everyway, his story is not the focus.


(2)   Please don’t get derailed if you have a “theological disagreement” about me making requests for Heaven. I don’t know if God is going to grant any of my requests for the next life - I've made several; I do know Heaven is going to be beyond amazing and I will love it with or without Granny’s homemade cinnamon donuts. But on this side of Heaven, not knowing what will be “allowed” as far as that goes, I am asking – and have asked on many occasions – to once again be treated to those wonderful puffs of fried dough … AND, with that new body I’m gonna get, I won’t have to worry at all about any negative health consequences.

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She Thinks You're Jewish
She Thinks You're Jewish

Shannon L. Newsome • April 19, 2019

"Here's a card."


I was sitting in the library stairwell with my then-girlfriend, looking at the envelope in her hand, wondering if I had missed an anniversary. She must have seen it in my face, because she said, "It's not from me. It's from Jane."


Jane was her best friend. Why in the world would Jane be giving me a card?


Only one way to find out. I opened the card.


I don't remember what the card looked like, or what it said on the outside, but I will never forget the words on the inside:


Happy Hanukkah!


I looked at her, puzzled. 


She said, "She thinks you're Jewish, but that you're in denial."


Oh.


Seven years later, I went with my then (and still) girlfriend (and wife) to meet her grandmother for the first time. This would actually be one of the few times I got to spend with her grandmother, as she died less than a year later, just weeks before our wedding.


Later in the car, I asked Kerri, "So, how do you think it went?"


"She thinks you're Jewish."


Oh.


Or maybe rather, "Oy vey!" (a Yiddish phrase expressing dismay or exasperation)


You know, I never grew up with a knowledge of having any Jewish heritage. My DNA results show "no connection" to the six European Jewish regions. (Then again, they also show "no connection" to the Native-American regions, even though my mother swears I am 1/16th Cherokee!)


So, who knows? I mean, anything is possible, especially since I know absolutely nothing about my father's heritage, since he was adopted.


I mean, it would certainly explain my love and appreciation for the Jewish culture, especially when those Jewish roots help me understand my own Christian faith in a deeper and more meaningful way.


So, here's my quick public service announcement. For those who may have never received a Happy Hanukkah! card themselves and so, you may just not know, the Jewish Passover begins tonight, at sundown. Tonight, all around the world, families will gather for the main Passover ritual, the seder - a festive meal that involves the re-telling of the Israelite exodus from Egypt through questions, stories, songs, and symbolic foods.


Our church family has been spoiled over the last few years to have a relationship with Aaron Abramson of Jews for JesusHe has led us in the seder meal three different times and shown us the links between the ancient Jewish festival of redemption and Jesus as our Lamb of God.


This past Sunday evening was one of those occasions, and Aaron led us in a song that, even though we've sung it at our last couple seder meals, I had forgotten about it... but haven't been able to get out of my mind since! It's the song, Dayenu, a fifteen-stanza melody that is sung during the meal after the retelling of the Exodus story.


The Hebrew word dayenu loosely means, "It would have been enough." 


While we didn't sing all fifteen verses, I have printed them at the bottom of this post for those who are interested. Essentially, the song is broken into three different sections, with the first five verses about the Israelite's release from Egypt, the second five about their time in the wilderness, and the third five about their spiritual life, giving thanks for the Sabbath, Mt. Sinai, the Torah, the land of Israel, and the Temple.


In each verse, there is thanksgiving to God for His kindness and mercy, ending with dayenu - "It would have been enough."


I like what Erica Brown writes about the song:


"It's rare to hear people say, when commenting on a blessing in their lives, 'It's enough.' When it comes to goodness, we are greedy. We want an abundance of happiness, and sometimes think of it as our due. But immediately after we tell of the Exodus from Egypt in the Hagaddah, we break into... song where we sing jubilantly and in unison, Dayenu - It is enough."


But in reality, it wasn't enough. I mean, that's why God sent His Son Jesus as the perfect Lamb of God, the once-and-for-all sacrifice that took away, forever, the sins of the world. 


"The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship... 11 Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. 12 But our High Priest offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time... 14 For that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy." (Hebrews 10:1, 11-12, 14 NLT)


Jesus is enough! 


But sadly, millions of people tonight and beyond will miss this eternity-changing truth.


So first, pray for the millions around the tables tonight, but don't you miss the truth. Don't miss the gratitude either! 


Erica Brown continues... 


"We don't realize how lucky we are until we speak our blessings in detail. Dayenu is not merely a reflection on Passover, but a template for true thanks."


As I was walking/running downtown this morning, I had this post on my mind when I hobbled past the store "Blessings by the Bushel." 


You know, I am certainly blessed, and I definitely, in my own life, have received blessings by the bushel. But my thought on this Good Friday morning was, "If I had a bushel basket and it only had one thing in it, if that one thing was Jesus, would that be enough?"


On this day when we remember His sacrifice, for us, may we offer up the prayer that let's God know just how thankful we are... and that Jesus is enough!


"If the only prayer you say in your life is 'Thank you,' that will suffice. (Meister Echkart, 13th century German theologian and philospher)


I hope you will join me today in praying that simple prayer.


"Thank you."



-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


  • If He had taken us out of Egypt and not made judgments on them; [it would have been] enough for us.
  • If He had made judgments on them and had not made [them] on their gods; [it would have been] enough for us.
  • If He had made [them] on their gods and had not killed their firstborn; [it would have been] enough for us.
  • If He had killed their firstborn and had not given us their money; [it would have been] enough for us.
  • If He had given us their money and had not split the Sea for us; [it would have been] enough for us.
  • If He had split the Sea for us and had not taken us through it on dry land; [it would have been] enough for us.
  • If He had taken us through it on dry land and had not pushed down our enemies in [the Sea]; [it would have been] enough for us.
  • If He had pushed down our enemies in [the Sea] and had not supplied our needs in the wilderness for forty years; [it would have been] enough for us.
  • If He had supplied our needs in the wilderness for forty years and had not fed us the manna; [it would have been] enough for us.
  • If He had fed us the manna and had not given us the Shabbat; [it would have been] enough for us.
  • If He had given us the Shabbat and had not brought us close to Mount Sinai; [it would have been] enough for us.
  • If He had brought us close to Mount Sinai and had not given us the Torah; [it would have been] enough for us.
  • If He had given us the Torah and had not brought us into the land of Israel; [it would have been] enough for us.
  • If He had brought us into the land of Israel and had not built us the ‘Chosen House’ [the Temple; it would have been] enough for us.


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Family ... and a Bonus
Family ... and a Bonus

G. Scott Patterson • April 10, 2019

I celebrated a birthday last weekend. Some people love celebrating their birthdays; they love to have others celebrate their birthdays with them. I, however, am not like that. I don’t hate or dread my birthday or even getting older, I just prefer things low-key. I like to stay home and do as little as possible. The quieter, the better for celebrating my birthday. When my boys were school age, I would make a point of eating lunch with them on my birthday. It was – and is – the best gift for me – spending time with my family.


This year was pretty good. My youngest son came home from college and my older son came over and we had a nice family dinner. Afterward, we watched a movie. A really good movie. Actually, a great movie.


Now, I don’t “recommend” movies because inevitably, there is something in them that should not be recommended. But with that disclaimer behind us, I will proceed.


On Friday night when the whole family was together, we watched, “The Greatest Showman.” (1)  I had seen it in the theater with my younger son, but my wife and older son had not yet seen it. It is a great movie (didn’t I say that already?). I don’t usually care for musicals (2), but this one really grabbed me. 


It is a biopic about P.T. Barnum and while I am certain they took some liberties telling the story of his life, they did deal with some good and some bad.


Hugh Jackman (a.k.a Wolverine) plays Barnum. (Oh, spoiler alert). Barnum is a showman, but he is also a humanitarian (or they portray him as such). He takes misfits from the shadows and gives them a voice, a purpose, and above all, a family. There is a very brief scene when Barnum (and his two young daughters) track down a “bearded lady” who has a gorgeous singing voice. She is trying to hide, trying not to be noticed but when Barnum throws back the curtain and sees her, he says, “You are unique … even … beautiful!” It is a moving scene for me because it shows that neither Barnum or his children are frightened or at all put out by her striking appearance. (She later sings This is Me, one of the big anthems of the movies, that has a great message! I am listening to it as I write.)


Although Barnum was a huckster and would do anything for a buck (it would seem – and the movie does allude to this as well), he is also portrayed as not being prejudice; as loving people for who they are. This is one of many inspiring themes of this movie.


The next evening, we watched Bohemian Rhapsody, another biopic, but this one about the 1970-1980’s rock band Queen’s front man, Freddie Mercury. For those of you unfamiliar, Freddie had an exquisite voice and stage presence, and also extraordinary creative musical vision and business acumen as the movie brings to light. Sadly, Freddie Mercury also lived the slogan of “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll” to its fullest and to his detriment. He contracted AIDS and died in 1991. 


Thankfully, this movie was rated PG-13 and kept to that standard. While not shying away from Freddie’s predilections, it did not glorify them or throw them up in the face of the viewers. In fact, if anything, the movie showed Freddie’s choices for what they were … destructive, unsatisfying, and just plain sad. Don’t get me wrong, BoRap (as we insiders call it) is a celebration of Queen’s meteoric rise to stardom and Freddie was an integral part of making that happen. If you grew up during that time and were a fan of Queen (as I was), it is a good movie to watch, great music. But in doing so, don’t miss that underlying message of tragedy. I doubt the producers, execs, etc. had in mind a “spiritual” message (but maybe, I don’t really know); at the end, Freddie does reconcile with his own father, finds a “relationship” that isn’t based upon using people (albeit, not a right relationship), and is restored to the rest of the band and his life-long friends that he had ostracized. 


As Queen is getting their start, they meet with a record label executive who asks what makes Queen any different from every other rock band. They reply, “We are family. But we are also misfits. We belong to all the misfits out there on the back row and they belong to us.”


Two very different movies about very different times, but both reminding us of the need to “belong,” the value and importance of family, even if the family bond has nothing to with blood but everything to do with shared experience.


These themes resonate with us – all of us, no matter who we are – because God created us to be “together.” He created us to be in a family. The Church is called the “family of God.” (Eph. 3:15). Jesus gathers around Himself twelve “mis-fits” of His own and shares the Passover meal with them (Luke 22:15), something reserved for families to do (Ex. 12:3-4). Family is important. 


But please allow me to take a sharp left turn, or something. Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12). I don’t mean to assign Christian virtue onto P.T. Barnum where it is not deserved or use Freddie Mercury as a foil, but please indulge my illustration. Barnum, at least as was depicted, treated others as he wanted to be treated. “My father was treated like dirt, I was treated like dirt,” but he did not treat others that way, even his critics and persecutors, and certainly not the “misfits” he brought out of the shadows. On the other hand, we see some of the people in Bohemian Rhapsody use and abuse others. Freddie says, “You know when you know you've gone rotten? Really rotten? Fruit flies. Dirty little fruit flies. Coming to feast on what's left.” It is an ugly depiction of what happens when we don’t obey Jesus.


It is an odd pairing; there is brokenness and there is hope. Even in these secular movies with no Christian virtues in mind (as far as I know), these truths are shown. We are all broken (sinful, the Bible would say), in need of both redemption (salvation) and belonging (family, the Church). And there is hope for us all: His name is Jesus.

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(1) In case you are curious, I got The Greatest Showman last year, but for my birthday this year, I got the Soundtrack – I have NEVER wanted a movie soundtrack before, but this one I fell in love with! I also got the BoRap Movie (I got the soundtrack to it for Christmas).

(2) For those of you at Reidsville, Shannon has never seen The Greatest Showman and I happen to know he LOVES musicals, especially musicals that Hugh Jackman stars and sings in. So I suggest you each buy him a copy.

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