Friday, July 25, 2014

Gratitude in All Things

As I look at the date of my last blog post and realize it has only been just over a week since Dad's sudden decline, I shake my head. He had been so remarkable--his statements, prayers, and attitudes expressed could fill a book. In fact, my brother's book is called ONLY GOD. Some of his staff members who have been hearing about Dad's journey have laughingly told Dwight his next book should be titled ONLY JIM. :-)

There's a reason Dad is like this, facing the hardest days in his journey. He takes the words of Paul very seriously that followers of Jesus Christ should cultivate a spirit of gratitude in all things. When Dad was in deep days of grief after my mother, his wife of more than 50 years, had left him for heaven, he didn't like the grip that sadness had on him. So he made himself a "gratitude list" that he has read every single morning before he even prays, just to get his head focused in the right direction, Here it is:


1) I praise God for His mercy in forgiving me of my sins.
2) I praise God for making me a new creation; all things have become new.
3) I praise God for the home in which I was raised--parents who loved God, a Christian home.
4) I praise God for being raised in a Christian church.
5) I praise God for being born an American.
6) I praise God for Christian friends who prayed for me.
7) I praise God for the wife he gave me to raise our children.
8) I praise God that Marie died a faithful Christian.
9) I praise God for the assurance that she is with Jesus.
10) I praise God for my brothers and sisters, who serve God.
11) I praise God for the good health he has given me over 93 years.
12) I praise  God for my family--all Christian.
13) I praise God for his continued presence all day.
14) I praise God for the ability to stay for so long alone in my own home--what a blessing!
15) I praise God for his faithful guidance.

James L. Mason

I don't know what your situation is, but maybe you need to try Dad's method for lifting your heart. Get started. "I praise God that..." Praise unlocks the prison cell of your soul.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Wine Has Run Out...

Dad called me this morning, his voice telling me something had happened before his words got it all together. I asked what was wrong, and he answered, "My wine has run out. My cup is empty." Then he told me that he was being taken to the hospital from the nursing home where he is a resident. I prayed with him and told him I would meet him there.

I had a full day going, and needed to manage few things  before I left, so the ambulance beat me there. He was already wired up to the monitors in the emergency room when I arrived, chatting with the nurse while she made notes. She had evidently been there for a little while, because he had already found out they shared faith in Christ. He was rejoicing at what a great life she had ahead of her. When she was finished and she left with smiles and mutual "God bless you's" exchanged, I sat by the bed and enfolded Dad's hand in mine.

"Daddy, tell me about your wine being gone, your cup being empty." I am sure my tone conveyed my concern, and he immediately filled me in.

"Oh, it's true, honey. My wine has run out. My cup is empty. I am old and weak, I have no resources, no idea of how to help myself, and no ability to do anything even if I knew something to do. If I'm going to have any wine again, Jesus will have to do it."

If you aren't familiar with the life and ministry of Jesus, you may not know that he was referring to the wedding Jesus attended (recorded in John 2) where the host ran out of wine in the middle of the reception, a humiliation in those days. He and his wife were helpless to remedy the situation until Jesus stepped in. He took mere water--clear, ordinary water--and turned it into the finest wine. It was the first miracle Jesus did in his life on earth.

My heart was aching, because I knew what Dad said was true. And, frankly, I don't know if Jesus is going to do a miracle here. Dad is 93, and has had a very full life. But Dad took me to school. He spoke again, almost thinking aloud. "But having my wine run out is not a bad thing, honey. It's actually a great opportunity to truly trust Jesus. You see, as long as I have the ability to do something for myself, to rescue myself, or meet my own needs, it is hard for me to know if I really trust Jesus or not. When I am completely helpless, I find out how much I will trust him to do what he knows is best. I said to Jesus today, 'Jesus, I am empty. I have nothing left. My wine is all gone. I know you can do a miracle and give me more, but you don't have to. I would like to live a little longer, because I have things I would like to do yet. But you know more and better than me. So I will trust you and accept with thanksgiving whatever you do.' I trust him, Brenda. I really do."

His room was full of peace and joy and the Holy Spirit. My sister-in-law Cathy stayed with him after I had to return to work for an appointment. She reported that he told the "water to wine" story to his doctor, as the doctor listened intently.

Witnessing his intimacy with Jesus is...well, my cup runneth over.

Friday, July 11, 2014


So what makes a woman/pastor/non-athlete/fairly casual sports fan feel so emotional about LeBron coming home? Why did I cry when I heard his announcement? Bear with me, and I will tell you. It's a lot more than basketball.

I never was a hater when he left. I really disliked the way he did it, felt a young man was surrounded by influencers who gave him poor advice (not necessarily about "the decision", but about the way to handle it), and felt grief for him when so many people who had been fans not only acted despicably towards him, but towards his family. He had a right to play where he wanted to play, and make the decision he wanted to make.

I LOVE that he is coming home. I love even more that HE considers it coming home. I DOUBLE-TRIPLE-QUADRUPLE LOVE the way he is doing it. I completely identify with several things he said in his announcement:

"People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming."
In it's own way, that is what it is like to be a pastor's child, spouse, or a pastor. The love and support people give you is such a gift. But it is also overwhelming. If you ever do anything that isn't what they would do, you can be so harshly rejected and criticized, it takes your breath away. There aren't words to adequately explain how much it hurts to be treated badly when YOU still love them.

"But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball."

Oh, yeah, LeBron. Hope is my big word. On my Bible it is engraved, "Speak Hope". A huge HOPE sign hangs in my office, and multiple signs declaring hope all over my house. My life is dedicated to bringing hope and inspiration in Jesus' name. I consider it a down day if I haven't been able to lift anyone. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is so much bigger than being pastor at Cornerstone Church. I feel as called at Wal Mart or Target or the ball field as I do in my pulpit. This is MY place. The place God gave me to make a difference.

" I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now."

Ah. Growth and humility. We never see enough of it. I personally have grown so much in the last 4 years, 10 years, 20 years. I am SO glad most people have been willing to let me grow with new realizations and not hold me to what I knew and didn't know back in the day.

"If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently, but I’d still have left. Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today."
This and other statements attest to the same thing I can say. There are a few things I have done in life I would do differently if I could get a re-do. But they taught me. I haven't wasted my tears or pain. I admire that HE hasn't, and is quick to give gratitude and applause to those who helped him grow.

"To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned -- seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?"
Family before career. Giving and receiving forgiveness. No grudges. Oh, man. That's good stuff.

"I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from."
Oh, I love that word "calling." God has given each one of us gifts, and a person will never be more blessed than the moment he/she not only KNOWS what the gift is, but what is the CALLING that goes with it. What were you sent here to do?? I agree with LeBron--his presence here will make such a difference. MY presence here makes such a difference. Everyone who is living out their calling has that same thrill. Funny--this morning before this had even happened, I wrote a blog about how much I love this town Akron. God has CALLED me here. No other place has the appeal of the place where you know your presence makes a difference. I am thrilled FOR LeBron and BY LeBron that he knows this.

"In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home."
Oh, yeah---I get that. I struggle, My church struggles, My community is in a struggle right now. But I am in it up to my eyeballs, loving the challenge, and glad for the opportunity. This is my home.

WELCOME HOME, LeBron. I am praying for you, that your presence and leadership will make even more of a difference than you dream.

Loving my hometown!

I guess you could say I am a well-traveled person. Amber waves of grain and purple mountain's majesty, from sea to shining sea, in this nation have made my heart beat fast. I have been privileged too visit many other countries, make fascinating discoveries and have memorable adventures. I was born in Lexington, Ky., spent toddler days in Wilmore, Ky. , was heartbroken when my father's calling took us away from Caldwell and Noble County, Ohio. The beautiful rural people and rolling hills combined for an amazing childhood. I soon learned to love Zanesville, Ohio, though. It was where I graduated from high school, grew in my faith with wonderful mentors, developed lifelong friendships, and even was married in the church where I was raised. I lived in Circleville, Ohio where I completed college, solidified God's call on my life. I met my incredible husband there, and share the most amazing memories, laugh-till-your-sides-hurt moments, remembering our crazy friends and even more ridiculous escapades in C-town. Our first years of marriage were beautiful in our little pink trailer as we attended seminary. We were gifted to pastor in Cincinnati in the hey-dey of  the Cincinnati Reds and got many autographs from the greats--Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Sparky Anderson, George Foster. I felt  my tears would never stop when we were informed we had received a new pastoral  assignment, and would be leaving the century-plus parsonage and our little flock and the dynamic city for Akron, Ohio.

Akron, Ohio???? No. Not there. I left heel marks all the way up the state when we moved from the south to the northeast. Now we have been here  36 years. It has long ago become my home. I am grateful to have raised our children here and now see our grandchildren calling it home. The caring, giving people here have become our forever friends. My life purpose has found fulfillment here.  Akron has survived the fall of the economy and  the struggles of a changing city . It has been able to hang  on to and honor its history, and build a beautiful and promising today. The downtown  is more  beautiful every day.

I  love my hometown. Proud to be an Akronite, an Ak-rowdy, a Zip.... You name it.  I love this place.