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A few years ago, while living in Baton Rouge, I vowed to become a friend to the poor and homeless. You see there was this man who often stood on a narrow median on the College Street exit, coming from the I-10 East. Occasionally, I would stop at the red-light with traffic backing up (stopping in backed-up traffic in BR is a given day in and day out) and drop money in whatever container he was using that day.

One late afternoon on a cold, drizzling afternoon in Winter, I took the exit. There he was, with his “I will work for food” sign in his hands and using his wet hat to receive whatever people were sharing. As I sat there at the light and watched as he made his way toward me, it suddenly occurred to me, jolted me really–who in their right mind would stand in the cold, drizzling rain begging for their livelihood in this manner? Then it occurred to me, he may have absolutely had a sound mind, but a growling stomach (add whatever you wish here). It was then I took a vow-I WILL CONTRIBUTE TO THE NEEDS OF PANHANDLERS, TO THE POOR.

I can even now hear the grumbles now-“you don’t know what they are going to do with the money; why don’t those ‘lazys’ get a job” etc. etc. I, myself, have said these things and others like it.

I don’t know why “they” do and say and advertise on card board. I do believe the poor teach us more about ourselves, our thoughts and our motives. I do believe they teach us more in our 20-30 second encounters than we can comprehend. They beg and we begin all these grumblings in our mind or we begin conversations about should I give or not, how will my gift be used, maybe he or she is a….

You know it’s a very troubling and disconcerting dilemma when questions begin to out-weigh doing the right thing ( See the 9th chapter of the Gospel of John).

Isn’t it interesting how we can
take such amazing times for celebrating that something good has happened or is about to happen and turns it into an oppressive theology where–a person still stands with a cardboard sign as we do what we think are our justifiable mind games on why we really shouldn’t go give.

I choose to give (not as faithfully or as often as I should). I choose to be a friend of the poor (Father, forgive me when I do look away and treat persons as non-entities).

And I ask you my brothers and sisters to forgive me for what I have done or not done by begging theological questions instead of giving to the beggar.




Growing up I was always in, around and living in the country.  As I got older and began to intermingle with folks I was (and am still) amazed at how little some folks have experienced living out in the country, such that when the stars come out at night the stars sparkle like diamonds, or when walking into a cow pasture the smell of hay and manure are likable smells and there is something tender about feeding newborn calves on the bottle.  If you can’t relate to such, don’t feel bad, many folks can’t relate nor do they care to.

Which brings me to DONKEY!  For some, DONKEY is mostly the character out of the “Shrek” movie series.  He had a great country drawl (what else would expect of an animal who resides in the country),  made some funny comments, got caught a few times in making errors in judgment, thus the word…. Well, you get the point. If not, just ask! Lol.

I have had a couple experiences with DONKEY, a real donkey.  The two I remember most happened when I served a couple of small churches as a student pastor.  Then it was called the Athens-Cross Roads United Methodist Churches in Claiborne Parish.

My mother told me that at mid-night on Christmas Eve all donkeys kneel in honor of the birth of Christ.  So, one cold, frosty Christmas Eve night we drove out on the road between Hwy 80-E and the road that leads to Athens, LA.  We parked on an area that drives into a pasture, and we waited to see if indeed the donkeys would kneel at mid-night.  Lo and behold!  They were kneeling!  True story!  Of course, later I surmised that donkeys probably kneel-down every night regardless of the time simply to rest and sleep.

In some ways I feel a little foolish about that experience, except for the fact my mother and I sat in the car together, both smoking a Viceroy cigarette, and shared what we both thought was a Holy Night.  It didn’t matter, of course, if the donkeys knelt or not.  What really got us out that night was the fact that we knew how special the night was–it was the night of our dear Savior’s birth.

In that same community where I served the Athens-Cross Roads United Methodist Churches, I had some really young and “wild  bucks” in the church. [Here you can supplement “wild bucks” to young men.]  They were great guys, and God only knows all the shenanigans they pulled.  However, every Sunday morning they were in church, and always had a good time “picking on the preacher.”

There was a little make-do rodeo corral out east of Athens, and on Friday and Saturday nights they had what was called a “showdeo,” a much simpler form of a rodeo.  There would a few broncos ridden, a few barrel races, etc. Nothing big! Lots of fun!

ON one particular night I was introduced to DONKEY. He was a white donkey, really small and seemed quite the gentle sort. In fact, I had seen him run into a chute,  grown men getting on him and then the chute would open and off the donkey and cowboy would go.  I watched this a few times, and then I told one of the young bucks, “Buzzie” Buckner, if he would pay the $3 for me to ride him, I would do it.  However, there was one request I made–put a bridal on him for me to hold on to.  “Buzzie’s” reply was, “Okay, preacher. We’ll take care of you!”  And they did take care of me.

They ran the little white donkey into the chute.  I got down in the shoot, wrapped my legs underneath the little fellow, and said, “Okay, put a bridal on him.”  The next thing I heard was, “Okay boys, let him go!” Out of the shoot I came riding atop of a little white donkey having only his mane to use for a bridal.  He didn’t buck, but what he did do was take off like a full-speed ahead quarter horse. Eventually I ended up under him where he stomped me in the back.  They said there were some alarming expletives that I used. Of course, I didn’t remember that because I seeing stars for a few moments!


You never know what a donkey may cause a person to do–go out on a cold, Christmas Eve night to see if he kneels or try to ride one.  For after all, how much harm could one little white donkey do?!  I mean really!

Last Sunday morning my wife and I attended worship at First United Methodist Church, Lake Charles, and heard the Chancel Choir presentation of “The Magnificat” by John Rutter.  It is a beautiful and masterful piece of music which centers on the Song of Mary, the expectant Mother of Jesus, in which she proclaims after receiving word of Who she would birth (Luke 1: 46-55):

My soul glorifies the Lord, *
my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness; *
henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
The Almighty works marvels for me. *
Holy his name!
His mercy is from age to age, *
on those who fear him.
He puts forth his arm in strength *
and scatters the proud-hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones *
and raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things, *
sends the rich away empty.
He protects Israel, his servant, *
remembering his mercy,
the mercy promised to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his sons for ever.

Following the presentation of “The Magnificant” I was talking to one of the church members and he said,  “That young girl [Mary] had no idea what she was getting into when she rode the donkey to Bethlehem to give birth to Jesus.”

He is right, you know!

This Christmas Eve, let’s remember that Mary, the holy Mother of God, had her own experience on Christmas Eve of riding on a donkey led by Joseph to a manger in Bethlehem. On another day this Christ Child who will be fully God and fully man will ride a donkey into the City of Jerusalem.




I don’t know what it was like when you were growing up, but at my house, when you came to visit, my mother didn’t take you to the den. In fact, I can’t remember any of the houses my mother and me lived in that had a den (which is clearly unimaginable to many, I know).  When a person knocked on our screen door, they would generally yell through the screen–“Addys?!” (that was my momma’s name). Momma would yell back in true Southern fashion, “Y’all come on in!” And in they would come and sit where we all sat when we were visiting–at the kitchen table. Fresh coffee was always available,  and there was never a lack of laughter!  If you happened to be at our house at meal time, there was always a place at the table for you.

What got me thinking about this was something I read about the other day.  A month or so ago, my daughter, Whitney, introduced me to “Humans of New York” on Facebook.  So many of the stories I read there are stories of tragedy and sorrow and some are how folks have overcome great human tragedies and challenges.  Miraculously and thankfully some find a means for them to be joyfully grounded in life and moving on in their journeys.

On January 2, 2015, “Humans of New York” featured a picture of a guy sitting on a side-walk with his back against the wall.  The guy says:

“I’d been doing nothing but drinking for months on end, so I was getting pretty despondent. Then one day, a guy walked by with a hand truck, and dropped off two big boxes of books for anyone to take. I decided to set up a bookstand. I got a folding table, and three milk cartons, and set up right across the street. Pretty soon, more people were bringing me books, and I would sell them for $1 apiece. I had a pretty cool selection. I even had books from the 1800’s. But I sold them all for just $1. I called my business The Book Worm. I had a logo and everything—a little worm with reading glasses. I didn’t make much money. Just enough for food and some drinks, but it increased my self-esteem 10,000 percent. I never thought I’d be running my own business. I was drinking less and everything. But somebody took my folding table, so I’m out of business until I can find a new one. It sounds kind of ridiculous, but the whole business hinges on a folding table.”

As soon as I finished reading the post, I felt this voice swelling up inside of me that roared, “GET THAT MAN A TABLE!”

Very quickly one of the respondents to this Humans of New York post wrote:  “Don’t worry, he got a new table. I think the table was an interesting detail not because someone eventually took it, but because he created such a big change in his life with something so materially insignificant.”

Having read this, my mind immediately went to the kitchen table at my mother’s house–a place where people were welcomed.  How void our home would have been if the table had gone missing!  What would any of our homes be like without the kitchen table?!

My wife and I attended church on the 1st Sunday of 2015 (01/04).  During the worship service we were invited along with all present to come to the Table, the Lord’s Table.  There was a place at the Table for everyone, which is one of the high-marks for those who attend a worship service in a United Methodist Church (UMC).  The TABLE is not a UMC table.  It is an “open” TABLE for all who desire to partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sin.

In our liturgy in the UMC the communion ritual for the consecration of the elements begins with these words:  “And when he [Jesus] was at the table, he took bread…he took the cup.

I still hear that voice swelling up inside of me–GET THAT MAN A TABLE!  I hear a voice inside of me that beckons, “Y’all come on in!”  I hear the voice of Jesus saying to me, to you, to all,  “Take! Eat! Take! Drink!”

May there always be an open place at our tables in this New Year. May we all find our welcome place at the Lord’s Table. May such fellowship at the Table increase the self-esteem of all at least 10.000 percent.

Get that Man a Table!

It was my first (and perhaps my last) white-water rafting experience of my life.  Before entering the raft with my fellow white-water rafters and shoving off from shore, there were several instructions shared with us. These were important instructions!  These were instructions applicable at some point during our tumultuous trip down river.

One of the first instructions I remember was–should your raft turn over and you find yourself in the water, do not fight the water! Relax, let your life-presever buoy you along.  Thank God for that instruction!  We had barely reached our first rapid when, you guessed it–over we went into that stirring, troubled, tumultuous water that resembled a washing machine on a heavy duty cycle!  To my knowledge, of all those in our raft,  there was only one remaining in the raft when it rolled.

Thrashing violently in the water,  feeling like the last human to be brought to the bottom of this gigantic “washing machine tub,” I remembered: relax, surrender, let the life-preserver buoy you.  I did and it did–I was immediately buoyed by my life-vest! The water was no less colder, no less “wash tubby,” no less swift and no less treacherous along the way.  Upon safely reaching our destination, which seemed like 40 days and 40 nights, I felt like I had been on a survival course and had not been warned, “If you decide to take on this mission you may have a near death experience!” OMG!

Most people I know have had experiences like this at some point in their lives, experiences my mother described as “winger washing machine” experiences. In case you do not know, there is a difference between a washing machine and a wringer washing machine. A washing machine has a agitator that agitates the water, but a wringer washing machine has not only an agitator it also has a mechanism attached to the top of the washing machine that you pass your clothes through two rollers to squish the water out of them. Wringer washing machine experiences wash you out, wring you out and leave you feeling weak as a new-born calf. Truth is, “IF crises made appointments, none of us would schedule them.” Someone has said, “The difference between a problem and a crisis is–a problem can be solved, you have to live through a crisis.” How true!

Which brings me to a thought I have been contemplating, something I think most people contemplate when faced with some cantankerous wringer washing machine crisis-RESIGNATION OR RELINQUISHMENT!

I must confess to you there have been times when, before I get to either resignation or relinquishment, my bull-headed, cantankerous side rears it’s head. You see, I’ve never been one who liked to surrender. Sometimes that has been a good thing, but mostly, it’s taught me a lesson, a lesson I hoped I’ve finally learned. When I do find myself blinded by my bull-headedness–HUMILIATION always waits in the wings.  Ugh!!

Truthfully, no one one is immune from such non-surrendering behavior. However, with age and growing wisdom, that is not where any of us have to stay.  There are times to surrender.  There are times when we need to rein in the self-will run riot.  There are times, as an old  Kenny Roger’s song says,  “You’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run….”   There are times to pray The Serenity Prayer and really act on what we have prayed: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.”

Which brings us to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Richard Foster in his book, Prayer:  Finding the Heart’s True Home, has helped me as much as anyone to understand the difference between resignation and relinquishmnet. In his book he writes:

“…the Prayer of Relinquishment is Christian prayer and not fatalism. We do not resign ourselves to fate. Catherine Marshal writes (from her book,Beyond our Selves, p. 94) ‘Resignation is barren of faith in the love of God…. Resignation lies down quietly in the dust of the universe from which God seems to have fled, and the door of Hope swings shut’.”(p.50)

I can only imagine the anguish in Jesus’ heart as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is unfathomable the depth of emotions he felt! What we do know he was not resigned to his fate. No, what he did was relinquish his will to his Father. Again, Foster:

“Here we have the perfect flowing into the will of the Father. ‘Your will be done’ was Jesus’ consuming concern. To applaud the will of God is not difficult…until it comes at cross-purposes with our will. Then the lines are drawn, the debate begins, and the self-deception takes over. But in the school of Gethsemane we learn that ‘my will, my way, my good” must yield to higher authority.” (p. 50

So, when those wringer washing machine experiences come our way (and they will come our way), may we be reminded there is one who buoys us more than a life-vest. Foster writes: “The Prayer of Relinquishment is a bone fide letting go, but it is a release with Hope.” (p.52)

Thanks for sitting a spell with me!  Before you go, would you like a cup of coffee?

Well, they are certainly stacking up. Before these, there were all of the catalogs and sales flyers stacking up.  They haven’t stopped, but there are fewer and fewer every day, but now another stack has begun— layers and layers of them ! I’m talking about Top Lists: TOP TEN LISTS, TOP TWENTY LISTS.  Tops Lists for the Worst and Best: in dress, in songs, in stories of victory or defeat, in movies, in actors/actresses.  I even found The Top 10 Top 10 Lists of 2012.

One list that stands out in my mind as this year comes to a close is The Top 26 List: 20 Children:  Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Aveille, Benjamin and Allison.  6 Adults:  Rachel, Dawn, Anne, Lauren, Mary, and Victoria.

Recently when I saw the movie, The Hobbit, there is a scene in which Gandolf the Wizard speaks a word about the great depth of loss and tragedy that has come to the Dwarves upon the loss their homeland.  Gandalf says,  “Our deaths were beyond the count of grief!”

As we (that’s you and me) sit a spell on Sinner’s Row, let’s end 2012 with confession and with new resolve:

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed by what we have done, and what we have left undone.  (from The Book of Common Prayer)


Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart.  We have failed to be an obedient church.  We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy.  Forgive us, we pray.  Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. (from The United Methodist Hymnal)

Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God’s love for us. In the name of Christ, you [and I] are forgiven!


Confession:  I’m new to this blogging thing.  Confession:  I am a sinner.  And as Forest Gump said, “And that’s all I’m gonna say about that!” (For now at least)


I don’t recall where I was when “sinner’s row” popped into my head, but I know it resonated deep within me.  Perhaps it resonated with me because if there is any place I belong it is on sinner’s row. Perhaps you do too, but you make that decision!  For those who choose not to sit–God Bless!  For those who do choose to sit–God Bless!

Anyway, if you feel comfortable, come sit a spell. We’re not going to sit and swap sinner’s tales, even though 16th century Martin Luther said, “Be a sinner and sin boldly….” Oh and remember  St. Paul?         He confessed that he was the  “chief of sinners.”  And we?  Well, we all have our own and enough sins to go around!

So, here is what I propose we do (today, at least) as we sit on Sinner’s Row, let’s listen deeply to what W.H. Auden has written about the Three Wise Men (I know! I know! It’s not Epiphany):

“At least we know for certain that we are three old sinners,
That this journey is much too long, that we want our dinners,
          and miss our wives, our books, our dogs,

But have only the vaguest idea of why we are what we are.
To discover how to be human now
          is the reason we follow the star.”

— W.H. Auden, “For the Time Being, a Christmas Oratorio”

Oh, by the way,  Martin Luther not only said, “Sin boldly.”  He also said, “…Believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly!”

Welcome to Sinner’s Row!  Come sit a spell!

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