Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Nobody Can Do It Alone

In August I attended a Congregational Health seminar that was so informative, interesting and uplifting that I want to share some of it with you.

The pervasive theme of the seminar was "You can't do it alone" - "it" being everything from work to worship. (This WAS a church-centered seminar, ya know). It made me think of when I was taking the training course, and the Debbie Duke said, "You will need a team for your health ministry. Even Jesus didn't do it alone. He had disciples."

But the repeating scripture reference was Mark 2:1-12, the story of Jesus healing the paralytic. One of the points of this story is that the paralyzed man couldn't come to Jesus alone. It required the work, ingenuity and faith of four of his friends.

So we were asked this question, and I ask you now: Do you have four friends who will "carry" you if and when you can't move? If you are "paralyzed" by loss of a job, death of a loved one, or other life-shattering event? Think about it. Are there four people in your life who will come get your children and care for them indefinitely when you have to go across the country to care for your mother? Four people who, when you need help moving, simply ask, "What time do you want me there?" Four people who will offer to pay your power and water bills when you're out of work and at the end of your savings? Four people who will stay at your bedside when you're sick and helpless? Four people who will give you their spare room when you lose your house? Four people who will "carry" you simply because they love you?

I asked the hard questions first, just to get you thinking. The easy question, of course, is: Do you have four friends who will carry you spiritually when you're paralyzed by fear, loss, helplessness, depression or sorrow? Four people who will pray for or with you when you're unsure where your next meal is coming from? Four people who will give you a list of doctors who specialize in your malady? Four people who will call a plumber for you when your toilet is clogged? Four people who will bring a covered dish when you lose a loved one?

I'm not a Bible scholar, as you well know by now, but I think this story probably has profound and concrete lessons for us, beyond the obvious and stated spiritual lesson that Jesus forgives us of our sins because of faith. In Mark's story, the infirm man was apparently paralyzed in all ways - physically, spiritually, emotionally. He couldn't move, AND and he didn't want to. "Y'all just go on without me," he probably moaned to his friends. "I don't want to be a burden."

In the story, the friends did not say, "Well, Don't worry. We will all pray for you, because we see you are helpless to help yourself." They did not go get him a pair of crutches and tell him, "We will help you get up on them, and you can follow us to where Jesus is teaching." They did not say, "You just lie there. We know you can't move. We will report back to you this evening, and tell you what Jesus said."

What they DID do was find a stretcher, heave him up onto it, physically tote him through the streets, up and down the hills, and through the (possibly) jeering crowds. Then, finding that it was impossible to get the man up to where Jesus was teaching, they found ropes, climbed up on the roof, heaved the paralytic strapped to the stretcher up onto the roof, dug a huge hole in the roof, and lowered him gently through the hole they dug, to a spot right in front of Jesus. As one speaker put it, "It was a real commitment to dig into some stranger's roof and make a man-sized hole in it. If they are wrong, they will be the biggest laughingstocks in town, and small towns have long memories. If Jesus disapproves of this at all, their paralyzed friend would be a helpless human pinata swinging in the living room of a stranger."

But none of that stopped them. Faith.  THAT is the kind of FRIENDSHIP I'm talking about. Are there four of those on your contact list? I know I have two, aside from family. That's a start.

But here's the REALLY most important question, and maybe the hardest: Are there four people who, if they were "paralyzed" you would, without question or hesitation, "carry" them? Are there four people you know and love enough to faithfully and quietly pay their power bill, do their laundry when their washer breaks down, feed their children and do their dishes, store their books, buy groceries for them, or let them live in your spare room? Thankfully, in the Bible story, it was because of the friends' faith, not the paralytic's, that Jesus granted forgiveness and healing.

Are YOU a friend with unfailing faith? Somebody needs you to be. Nobody can do it alone.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

National Veterans Day History

National Veterans Day began in Birmingham, Alabama on November 11, 1947. Many people born and raised here don't know that, so I'm going to give you a brief history of NVD so you are aware of one of the WONDERFUL events that Birmingham enjoys.

President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day for November 11, 1919. It was to honor and remember the brave warriors of WWI. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect.

President Calvin Coolidge later  made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday: "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'." In Birmingham, every November 11, the World Peace luncheon is held, in honor of the original intent.

In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. Weeks led a delegation to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who supported the idea of National Veterans Day. Weeks led the first national celebration in 1947 in Alabama and annually until his death in 1985. 

On May 26, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill establishing November 11 as a holiday into law. It had been eight and a half years since Weeks held his first Armistice Day celebration for all veterans in Birmingham.

Congress amended the bill on June 1, 1954, replacing "Armistice" with "Veterans," and it has been known as Veterans Day since.

In 1982, President Reagan honored Raymond Weeks at the White House, with the Presidential Citizenship Medal for being the driving force behind the national holiday. Elizabeth Dole, who prepared the briefing for President Reagan, determined Weeks as the "Father of Veterans Day."

Birmingham's Veterans Day parade is still the largest in the world. In Linn Park, at the northwest corner, is a memorial honoring Raymond Weeks, the founder of National Veterans Day, and every November 10, at 4:30p.m. there is a ceremonial wreath-laying at the Weeks Memorial. 

As an interesting sidenote, some people use an apostrophe in "Veterans", and it is acceptable to write "Veteran's" or "Veterans' ", but officially there is no apostrophe. It is not a day that belongs to veterans; It is a day for honoring all veterans.