Others Who Shared

I spent a lot of my time in New York at Nino’s Bar and Gill on Canal Street about seven or eight blocks from ground zero. Nino Vendome, along with his mother and his general manager Nick Pascull realized on September 12, 2001 that there life and the life of their business had forever changed. His successful mostly and night place for people in the World Trade Center district to stop for a great diner before going home was now void of a customer base. With the thousands of people who once filled the district as workers in the various offices throughout the area gone and everything in shamble a decision had to be made. The three got their hearts and heads together and decided that they would serve those who were serving others. So on September 13 they opened as a 24 hour a day restaurant buffet to feed the firefighters, police officer and hundreds of other workers now occupied with recover and clean up of ground zero. Bearing all the cost, Nino Vendome opened the doors to his establishment for free meal for all who were serving in the area. Tyson Chicken heard about the plan and joined in as did Coca-Cola, with 3,000 cans of coke per day, to assist in the expense of the operation. At a cost of more than $80,000 a week Mr. Vendome realized he could not sustain the program alone and changed his business plan from a for profit restaurant that was use to serving about 150 meals a day to a non profit service to rescue workers now serving sometimes as many as 5,000 meals a day. Nino, with the help of those who joined the cause, continued this until the clean up was complete and with the final haul away of the ruined WTC he closed the doors to his restaurant.

For more than six months those who worked at ground zero and those who assisted them ate free. The dress code for the restaurant was simple, the uniform of service from firefighter to steel worker you were welcomed. Good Morning America and the Tonight Show visited the project, hundred of workers like me simply became part of a table and listened more than we talked to those who were hurting. Some night’s families would gather to share their tears and fears; sometimes only silence filled the place as workers ate and rested their hurting bodies and hearts. It was there that a firefighter told me that he was wearing his buddies on his back; in the form of the dust that covered him. Mr. Vendome will never know the contribution he made until someday in glory hundreds come to hug and thank him.

Ivan

Published in: on October 31, 2013 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Good People – Bad Things

They won’t be afraid of bad news; their hearts are steady because they trust the Lord.

Psalm 112:7

Can you handle bad things or do you have to blame someone or something?  Now for certain some bad things happen because of what we do and what others do. I eat the wrong food knowing I can’t handle it and wham…  Spend more money that we know we can afford, go too fast, drink and drive.  Those are easy. But sometimes bad things happen and no one and nothing is to blame. We want to blame something for the misfortunate but there is nothing to blame. I have known people who have left the church, got mad at God and pouted for the rest of their lives because of a tragedy in their life. A business failure, sickness, the early death of someone dear, all of these bring us to our knees and our heart hurts and we long for an answer and hopefully that answer will include someone whom we can blame and thus carry a grudge against them for the years yet to come. I remember two brother who each blamed the other for a tragedy in their family, they spent the rest of their lives hating the other, even going to the extent to change the way they spelt their last names so that they might each curse the other and his family. I wish I knew the answer, in my own life I have struggled with this question, but not even the years and old age has brought an answer to me, my only peace is held in the faith which I have that God does know and He does hurt with me. Now since our hearts are steady in our trust of the Lord and we know that He is God and God is always good then we must wait and be certain in our hearts that someday in His presence we will know. No one in this world can know or understand all of the events of providence. So we wait until then and we simply say ‘Lord, I know you and I trust you. I will not be afraid.’

Ivan

Published in: on October 30, 2013 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday Night Judges

 

I watched as the home team gathered for the final huddle in the middle of the field and listen as the coach thanked them for a game well played. In spite of a number of errors they had snuck out a six point victory. As they left the field they had to go through the line of Friday Night ‘Once Greets’, they were always there, ready to tell everyone how they would have played the game and how when they played they had a great team. Go to any high school in the country and you will see the line of ‘Once Greats’; now and then they are a real asset to the team but often they are just overweight, out of shape men who have never allowed themselves to look into the mirror of life and see things as they really where and are.

The one that I recognized as being the best player the school had ever produced stood near the end of the line and made sure he shook each off coming player’s hand and said a word to them.

Number 14 came by and he said, “Thanks son for a hard fought victory, thanks and hang in there.” After the team had run the tunnel of ‘Once Greats’ the man standing next to him, who if he had played, I could never remember anything he did, said: are you crazy number 14 almost cost us the game, he missed two great passes and fumbled the ball to end a scoring drive.” “I know that,” he replied, “but I also know about his home life, the troubles his family is going through, and how few times anyone has every said, ‘Thanks” to him. Then he turned to the critic and said, “Bill, this is a game it was never meant to be the center of our lives, but it is a great place to show a kid you believe in him and that he is worthy.”

If I had a son of playing age I would want him to play for that, “Still Great, Once Great.”

Ivan

Published in: on October 29, 2013 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Just A Shoe Box

One of the great events for our church in November is the shoe boxes for children program in which we share.  We sent some 175 boxes last year and expect to do the same this year as our people respond to the opportunity to share Christmas with others.

Yesterday as I was telling about our Christmas Shoe Box ministry it occurred to me that there might be people who would like to be a part of this blessing but did not know how to go about it, or did not have the funds for a shoebox of gifts; so I told the radio audience that anyone who would like to have a part in this ministry could just call our number and leave their name and we would have a shoe box prepared and put their name on it all at our expense, we just wanted them to have a part of this beautiful opportunity.

Among those who called was a dear lady who said that her funds were so limited, and her ability to get out had long passed that she had no way of being a part of this ministry but she would like a box sent with her name in it. She was in tears as she spoke and seemed embarrassed that she could not share in the expense. I was so blessed as I listened to her request, tears ran down my face that someone would be able to take money from our mission fund, purchases the gifts, pack the box and include her name as the giver. We had several calls but I wish we had even more for what a joy it is to do something for others and to be able to do it twice, once as we include her name, and again as we send it to a waiting child somewhere in our world.  Maybe you know someone who would like to be a part of this; we would consider it an honor to include a box in their name.  No money, God has been good to us, the opportunity is ours and the joy is ours we would just like to be able to honor others. I have watched children open these boxes, they are a blessing, and God uses this simple gift to bless so many boys and girls and families around our world. Thanks for your prayers.

Ivan

Published in: on October 27, 2013 at 10:04 pm  Comments (1)  

In Memory of Mike Casey

I was saddened and depressed when I heard a couple of weeks ago of the home going of Mike Casey, with whom I worked for a number of years in the ministry of the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home. Mike and his wife, Diana, raised a wonderful personal family of two sons and a daughter as they served as parents to too many to count of children who came to us hurting, lonely, confused, and neglected. Mike had a very special touch as he moved among those children and touched each of them in a loving God giving way. I am sure that the children who lived in their home would all come to share in the service of memorial that will be shared this Sunday afternoon if they were able. He was a man of few words; he mowed a lot of grass, taxied a lot of kids, and attended a thousand ball games in those days at the home. I still laugh when I remember the time he got our zero turn lawn mower wrapped around a swing set and after everyone on the campus tried to get it loose we finally gave up and moved the swing set. It wasn’t funny when they were digging it free but it was hilarious after we had time to remember it. As Mike had touched the lives of his children and the many placed in his care he had also allowed the Lord to touch him so that when that moment toward which we all journey came he could feel his Father’s touch and follow Him to his home.  Thanks Mike for your years of service, gift of time, and most of all the contribution of yourself to the needs and hurts of others. You are loved by those who knew you and honor by all whom you served.

Ivan N. Raley

Published in: on October 25, 2013 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

I Still Remember

 

Then Joseph asked them about their well-being, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive? Genesis 43:27

Can you feel the heart of Joseph? After all these years his greatest interest was – Is Dad still alive? After this he left the room so that he could weep. All the years and all the pain and still the heart of Joseph wanted to know about his father.

I understand Joseph’s heart. Twenty-six years ago my Dad went to be with mother in glory and I still remember him so clearly.

I remember how he smiled with his eyes, how he looked and how I felt when he lifted the veil from his mother’s body and kissed her gently before they closed the casket. I remember the touch of his hands on my head when he prayed for me at my ordination as a minister. I remember hearing him pray at Calvary in Jackson. I remember his asking me to go with him back to the room where mother was the night they came and told us that she was gone. He was like a child, he just wanted to weep. I remember his telling me the night before he died that he had seen mother. After twenty-six years I still remember and believe that I understand better why God wanted us to call Him, ‘Our Father.’ It is a wonderful bond.

Ivan

Published in: on October 24, 2013 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Dark Night on a Swinging Bridge

From A Swinging Bridge

The Director of our Baptist Missionaries in Belize dropped me off near the Belmopan River crossing a little after ten at night.  We had enjoyed a nice dinner and good memories as he explained what my duties would be when I returned in January to relieve him while he and his wife were on medical leave in the United States. I was excited about the opportunity to work for our International Mission Board in Belize and be able to meet the more than 200 people who would be coming for weekly mission trips during my stay as well as teaching the local pastors and helping to fill the pulpits in the local national churches.

I was currently staying at the Belmopan Boys School across the river from the capitol city on the edge of the rain forest so I had about two miles to walk in order to get to my room. Now I know that it gets dark in America, but in Belize it gets Dark, Dark. There are no lights to invade the blanket that God spreads over the sky at night so the brilliance of His sky comes alive and you see stars that you have never seen in all your life.

I started across the swinging bridge that crossed the Belmopan River and when I got to the middle I just stopped and gazed at God’s sky. I was going back to resign from my church in Franklin, make plans for my marriage to Carole, and pack for the journey back to Belize and a world that would be new to me in so many ways. I knelt there in the darkness of that night with only the light of God’s nighttime shinning on me and asked Him to direct my steps, to affirm the direction I believed He was leading and to bless the new day that was before me. I finished my prayer, looked into the sky dotted with the stars placed there by the hand of God and felt the assurance that from the middle of that swinging bridge across the Belmopan River I was in the center of His will just as the stars which lit the sky, and had been placed there by His hand were.

That has been more than twenty years ago and it is glorious how God has directed those years. Most of the plans that I had such as spending the rest of my life in Belize were changed, but always God place me in yet another place where I could see His hand and know that I was following His plan. Thank you Lord for a dark night and the middle of a swinging bridge, and praise you Lord for your great care and loving guidance.

Ivan

Published in: on October 22, 2013 at 8:21 pm  Comments (1)  

A Doer

But be doers of the word and not hearers only.  James 1:22

All of us know that what we do speaks louder than what we say. James is very strong in his belief that people see much more than they hear.  He makes it very clear that while we are saved by the grace of God through Faith in His Son that it is very hard for people to see grace and faith in others. When I was in my navy uniform it was very easy for all who saw me to know that I was a member of the United States Navy; remember the uniform of a Christian is his actions.

I think James also has a very strong feeling that having received the Grace of God it should change our lives.  We should be different enough that others could see that difference.

He points out, through the leadership of the Holy Spirit that it is difficult for people to be moved by our faith when that faith has not changed us from the world.

One of the great sins of the church in today’s world is that we have not challenged our people to be different, not strange different, but good, kind, and loving different.

Let’s put our faith to work this weekend allowing others through our actions to see that we are not a hopeless people but rather a people of assurance and hope

Published in: on October 18, 2013 at 12:05 am  Comments (1)  

She Didn’t Come Home

The house mom said that he had been crying for a long time and she just did not know what to do. I went by the house and asked Wayne if he would go sit in the swing with me out in the front yard.  He did not want to but he did. I could see that he had been crying so I said, “Tell me Wayne, what has got you upset?” He said, “She didn’t come home”. “Who didn’t come home Wayne?” I asked “Mother,” he answered, “Daddy said she would come home but she didn’t and now it has been a long time and she still has not come home.” I was there now, I knew the problem. I talked to him about the bad dream he had and how he probably had it often. Always around his mother and her not coming home. He nodded, and I hugged him and we talked about a few good memories he had when his mother was at home and life was nice. I talked about how much his house parents loved him and how very sad we were that mother had not come home and dad had to bring him and his sisters to live with us. It wasn’t an answer, I understood that, but it helped him get it out and talk about all that was burning inside of him.  It is hard at eight to have a hurt so big inside that never goes away. You blame yourself, your dad, your brothers and sisters and even those of us at the children’s home. See when the hurt is so large sometime it just comes out even when we don’t want it to. Wayne was a good kid, he was very little trouble, but the dreams and hurts sometimes just overflowed out of him.  Maybe it would be anger, maybe fear, maybe like this morning tears.

Be careful when you judge other people, remember you can never know the giant that lives within, the hole that forms in their heart and the hurt that will not go away.  Wayne got better that day, but I knew there would be other days and other tall mountains and sharp curves.  All we could do was to hold him and assure him that we were going to be there, we would come back, because we would never leave.

Pray for the people who spend their lives holding the Wayne’s of this world, they are giant people and need our prayers.

Ivan

Published in: on October 17, 2013 at 12:05 am  Comments (2)  

My Church Loves Me

As many of you know October is Pastor Appreciation Month and a number of churches including First Baptist Byrdstown where I pastor do special things for their pastor. Well my church outdid themselves last Sunday; for almost two years now I have been looking for a double breasted black or navy suit, I call it my final suit and the one I will be buried in; however due to how few double breasted suits you can find and how much those that you discover cost I have not yet purchased one. I have made a real effort, shopping in Nashville, Washington, and Baltimore but with no luck in my price range or size.

Well Sunday morning after the broadcast the chairman of deacons, Jack Winningham, asked if he might say a few words, now a lesson I learned 60 years ago is that you let the chairman speak when he likes, no brainer. Jack went in the back and brought out this suit bag and said that the church was aware of my desire for a ‘burying suit’ and asked me to open it in front of the church family; I could hear my heart racing as I opened the package and saw the dark navy blue blazer, I held it up for all to see and he said that they could not find pants to go with it but since I would be in a casket the pants would not have to match, I was feeling great as he suggested that I hold it up so that all could see and in doing so I saw the back of the blazer, there was a zipper from top to bottom of the coat, just in case I gain or loose weight or get too stiff for them to put it on me the normal way; then of course the church family clapped and we all had a great laugh. Seems they found the coat in a ‘thrift store’ and one of our ladies had put in the zipper. See how much they love me, they want me to go in style, now in truth they may have to draw my arms up a bit to make it work, but who cares, I am not going to a fashion show.  It was a wonderful celebration.  By the way they did give me a check that did not have a zipper in it.  Thanks church family, you are great.

Ivan

Published in: on October 16, 2013 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment