I know it is Advent/Christmas season, but it is also hunting season. That time of year when many people that I know are out looking for the trophy buck, or the rare duck to mount. As I see the holiday commercials, hunting and awaiting Christmas Day are about the same for a lot of people.
Will I get that trophy buck to display its head on my wall? Will I get that new vehicle, or play station whatever number? What trophy or shiny new thing will I be able to brag to my friends about?
I don’t get to hunt like I used to, but I remember and cherish those days. My kids would meet me almost in the drive way to see if I brought anything home, almost as exciting as Christmas morning when I did. Honestly, in that area of my life I never hunted for trophies, and I would brag about that. But, then I realized that in other areas I was a trophy hunter, and even bragging about not hunting for trophies was a trophy.
Ah, well we can all fool ourselves into thinking that the things we do aren’t for trophies. You know, those pats on the back, the gold stars they give churches, and certificates we hang on our walls. Tis the season for Christmas presents and trophy hunting.
My hope for me is that I always realize that I have already received the greatest gift I ever will, and that the only thing that I need to pursue is not a trophy at all, but an ever deepening friendship with God, who came at this season of the year to pursue us all and give to us this greatest gift.
Geaux Tigers, Barry
Published on Monday, December 21, 2020 @ 9:08 AM EDT
Have you ever given much thought to Jesus’ prayer with His disciples in John 17? One verse has really caught my attention lately. Verse 18: “Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them.”
I can’t really unpack this chapter in a short article, so I will state a couple of primary reasons that Jesus was sent into the world.
1) To show us what the Father is like.
2) To redeem the world.
3) Through this redemption we followers will show the world what God is like and help them to also become like Him.
Tough job, right? Let me ask, do we ever complain about whose fault it is that the world is in such a crazy mess today? People are hateful, selfish, arrogant, rude, just about everything opposite of what 1 Corinthians tells us what “love” is all about. So, I wonder, are we followers of Jesus doing our job? Are we going out into the world to show people what our God is like? Are we redeeming the world or being like the world instead?
In all honesty the “changing” of the world depends on how faithful Jesus’ followers are in living out His message. Before we get caught up in the blame game we see happen so often in the world, maybe we ought to read Jesus’ prayer again, and ask ourselves if we are living out who He has called us to be.
Geaux tigers, Barry
Published on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 @ 10:24 AM EDT
I come to you this week with a deep sadness and troubled spirit by the events that have unfolded over the senseless death of Mr. George Floyd. There seems to be a consistent theme of unwarranted violence against people of color in our society and in our world today. As one stated: “We recognize that sustained and systematic racism is a national and global crisis.”
In these protests, I see much anger, frustration, and pain which may be accentuated by the pandemic, but it is more deeply rooted in our inability to love one another as God has shown love to us. We often choose to love others from a distance and what we get in return is misunderstanding, marginalization and mayhem. Is it not only when we truly invest in relationship with others of a different color, creed or race, that we truly come to understand and value them?
I support the peaceful protest of those choosing to speak out. In the weekly video update, I shared what is written in Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV): Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
I must admit that I had a hard time looking past the looting and destruction of property. As always, it seems that even now those who need the most help and need to be listened to are being taken advantage of economically, politically and even socially.
Furthermore, while many police officers are trying to faithfully carry out their responsibilities, the violent act against George Floyd, which led to his death, is happening far too often. Certainly, this is not the kind of world we want to live in; filled with fear and suspicion. Surely there is a longing in our souls to seek peace and be people of love; people God has called us to be.
Is it not our call to stand for, kneel with, and speak out for the members of our Black community, all people of color, and those unable to fend for themselves? I cannot speak for you, but this week I have been doing a bit of self-reflection and I have asked God to forgive me when I have not been the person of love God has called me to be. I have asked for God to forgive me and help me make this world more like the kingdom we pray for every week in the Lord’s prayer; a kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven,” where all people have worth, value and dignity. Remember what is written in Revelation 7:9 (NIV): After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. I long for that kingdom to come, not only in the future but NOW!
Published on Thursday, June 11, 2020 @ 2:52 PM EDT
When I got home today, I heard about another incident involving a black man and a white police officer. There are a lot of different things being said, and there will be a lot more things said I am sure. No matter how you comment, there are going to be those that disagree or even misunderstand what you might be trying to say.
I just began re-reading a book by Leroy Barber titled Embrace: God’s Radical Shalom for a Divided World. In this book he recounts the tragic killing of eight people at the Emmanuel AME Church in South Carolina. He admits he was stunned as he heard family member after family member say “You took something very precious from me...but I forgive you, may God have mercy on your soul.” “You hurt a lot of people, but I forgive you. May God have mercy on you.” And from one woman, “I’m a work in progress and I acknowledge that I’m angry. We have no room for hate. I pray God on your soul.”
Jesus tells us to love our enemies. And even if we are unwilling to love our enemies, God’s love can still win our enemies and leave us...well, lost. Case in point is the story of Jonah. He hated the Ninevites. He wanted to see them destroyed, yet God provided them salvation, and well, we aren’t sure of how Jonah’s heart ended up. This is all I know, the book of Jonah and many other things in the Bible clearly show us that God’s love, mercy and grace have no boundaries.
As Barber puts it, “there is no such thing as a ‘Godforsaken’ place.” In our world of slogans, “black lives matter,” “Blue lives matter,” and then someone getting the group together to “#Alllivesmatter”. Well guess what? God said that a long time ago.
I don’t dare guess how this incident will turn out, but here is what I suggest: Don’t get caught up in the malicious bantering back and forth that is sure to happen. Instead pray God’s mercy on every soul. Admit you’re angry, but don’t allow room for hate – instead forgive. And pray, pray that the hard-hearted racists will come to Christ. Pray for the broken neighborhoods that turn out gangs. Pray that we don’t prejudge people because of our prejudice. And pray that when a hate crime is done, or an injustice committed, that we can know Christ and be like His followers from Emmanuel AME Church, and we can forgive and still offer the mercy of Jesus. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy...on ME. – Barry
Published on Thursday, June 4, 2020 @ 12:59 PM EDT
The quote, “I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future,” is attributed to Homer, yet many of us take our cue from similar words recorded in the Old Testament. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, wrote “For I know the plans I have for you...plans to give you a future and hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 paraphrased)
These words of assurance provide comfort and remind us WHO holds our hand as we take the next step along our separate journeys. When we trust God, though our futures may seem uncertain, God’s Truth proclaims that the outcome of each individual’s destiny is not uncertain!
By God’s grace I have had the privilege of sharing unforgettable memories with many of you over the past seven years. I will miss my First-Centenary Church family, and it is with my deepest gratitude that I say “thank you” for every moment we have shared. Together, surrounded by great clouds of witnesses, we’ve experienced the kind of joys and sorrows that will shape us for years to come.
As we continue during these trying times, I pray that our Lord’s presence will provide infinite ‘Balm for every Gilead’ you encounter. May you prayerfully enter each day ‘knowing who holds the future,’ and claiming God’s assurance as your mantra (more powerfully than before). I pray that you discern “Spiritual Sabbath” from “Spiritual Isolation,” while understanding that physical distancing has its place.
I will be retiring this year at Annual Conference. Please know that as I begin a new phase beyond First-Centenary, my ministry here will always be a time of special reflection and source of inspiration. You are forever loved and especially cherished!
Shalom and Amen – Dr. Linda I. McDaniel
Published on Thursday, May 28, 2020 @ 1:40 PM EDT