Pass the Baton, Tell the Story

A couple of nights each week, I serve as an on-call chaplain at a local hospital.  It is a great team to be a part of.  We work with some wonderful nurses, doctors and other staff and we get to meet and minister to some very special people.  My shift always begins with receiving a report from the on-duty chaplain at the time.  Before their shift ends, they inform me of all the important situations and critical information that I need to know.  At the end of my shift, I give a similar report to the next chaplain on duty.  I think of it as being a “hand-off” or a “passing of a baton” to the next person on duty.   After I gave my report this morning, I was reminded of the “passing of the baton” that David speaks of in Psalm 145.  In verses 3 and 4 David writes,

Psalm 145:3 Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable. 4 One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.

Throughout the psalm David talks about the greatness of the Lord.  David praises the Lord for His goodness, His graciousness, His righteousness and His mercy.  And throughout the psalm, David says that he will tell others about the Lord’s greatness.  He will speak of all the good things the Lord has done.  And David says that all who know the Lord will share a similar testimony.  They will give a report to the next generation of the goodness, the grace, the righteousness and the mercy of God because these are important and critical things that others need to hear.

The Lord truly is great and worthy to be praised.  He loves us and offers us forgiveness of our sins.  He offers us salvation through His Son Jesus Christ.  He offers us peace in the eye of the storm, strength in the midst of our struggles and wisdom in times of uncertainty.  He wants to meet our deepest needs.  That’s my report for today.  I would love to share more details with you or answer any questions you may have.  Feel free to send me a direct message.  May God bless you and the ones you love.

Posted in Being Blessed, Christianity, Church, encouraging others, faith, forgiveness, God, God is worthy, God's Grace, ministry work, sharing, Sharing the Word, witnessing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons I Have Learned from My Dogs

Our household isn’t as full now as it has been over the years.  Although the kids and grandkids live pretty close by, most days it’s just the wife and me in the house.  And the dogs.  I’ve had more time to hang out with the dogs the last month or so, and they have taught me or reminded me of some very good lessons.  Here are just a few.

 

  1. It’s okay to experience and express joy. My dogs get so excited when it’s time to eat or time to go for a walk.  When they see me headed to get the dog treats or if I grab their leashes, they start prancing and dancing and wagging their tails.  They get so excited about something which many of us would consider simple, everyday things.  Maybe all of us should do a better job of appreciating and finding joy in “simple, every day things.”  Experiencing and expressing joy is a good thing.

 

  1. Don’t worry all the time. As I just said, my dogs get excited every time they see me grab their leashes.  They figure they are about to get out of the house and go on a walk.  They look forward to tracking some squirrels, barking at cats and sniffing some trees.  They expect the best of things.  Now, it should be noted that sometimes when I grab their leashes, we do not go on a walk.  Instead, we end up going to the veterinarian’s office.  My dogs don’t care for that.   But that only happens about 1 out of 100 times that I grab the leashes; maybe less.  What I saying is that my dogs don’t let the 1 out of 100 chance that we might be going to the vet cause them to run every time I grab the leash.  They don’t let some “worst case scenario” rule their decisions and ruin their day.  If they did, they would miss out on a lot of good walks and good times of tracking squirrels, barking at cats and sniffing some trees.  If you worry all the time, you will miss out on some good times.  Don’t worry so much.

 

  1. Take care of your pack. Just because my dogs don’t worry all the time doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned about the well-being of everyone in their pack…which includes me and other family members.  If they hear some unusual noise, they will check it out.  If something doesn’t seem just right, they will alert the others.  If they see something, they will say something.  Both of the dogs we have right now, can be a little timid and scared of new or different or loud things.  I have one dog that hides on the couch and one that hides behind the couch when the vacuum cleaner comes out!  But as timid and as scared as they can be, they would take on lions and tigers and bears if another member of the pack was threatened.  That’s a good quality.  We should take care of our pack, even when it’s scary, even when it’s hard, even when it’s difficult and dangerous.  Take care of your pack.

 

  1. Be a good listener. Part of taking care of your pack involves being a good listener.  My dogs are excellent listeners.  If I have a bad day, if I have a problem that I am trying to work through, if I’m feeling down or even if I am feeling great and just want to tell somebody how wonderful things are going, my dogs are excellent listeners.  They will let me share, they will let me vent, they will let me complain, they will let me share whatever is on my mind.  They are great listeners.  They won’t try to fix my problems, they won’t make any judgments or suggestions, they won’t try to burst my bubble about some good news I am sharing, they will just listen.  I like that.  I think too many times most of us don’t spend enough time listening.  We need to be more discerning about what other people need.  Many times, in fact, most times people don’t want or need us to “fix” their problems.  They simply want and need to be heard.  Be a good listener.

 

  1. Listen to your body. Speaking of listening, listen to your body.  Naps are good.  My dogs love to nap.  In fact, one of them was telling me the other day that if he doesn’t get 20 hours of sleep a day then he knows he is in for a ruff time.  Okay, that was bad.  But my dogs do love to nap.  And they will nap when they are tired; it does not matter what else is going on, they will find a spot on the couch and go to sleep.  And if we are on a walk and they are starting to get a little hot, they will take a break under the first shade tree we come to.  It’s good to walk and exercise, but don’t overdo it.  My dogs do a good job of listening to their bodies.  They eat when they’re hungry, sleep when they’re tired and rest when they’re weary.  That is a good lesson for all of us.  Listen to your body.

 

There are more lessons, but five seems like a good stopping place for now.  Besides, it’s time to take the dogs around the block.  I can hear them prancing already!  May you and your family, have a wonderful day.

 

Posted in Being Blessed, Being Thankful, faith, God Loves Me, God loves you, good advice, I am blessed, joy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Should I Do Now?

I was asking someone the other day how they were doing during this time of “sheltering in place.”  They said that they and their family and friends were healthy physically and managing okay financially.  While they did not have any major complaints, they did admit that they were bored.  They said they were all caught up on their housework, yard work and other chores and now they just didn’t know what to do.

I am sure that my friend is not alone in feeling bored and “wanting something to do.”  I have found that the best way to find out what to do is to first focus on how to be.  One of my favorite passages on how to be is found in Ephesians chapter 4.  In the first verse of that chapter Paul tells the Church they should be mindful of what they do.  Walk in a manner worthy of the calling God has placed on their lives.  That chapter closes with Paul reminding the church that the things we should do flow from who we should be.  In Ephesians 4:32 Paul says:

Eph 4:32  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

That is a great way to be.  Kind.  Tender-hearted.  Forgiving one another.  Offering the same grace, the same goodness and the same love that we have received.  Want to know what to do today?  Start off with how to be today.  Be kind to one another, be tender-hearted and forgiving one another.  If you start with “how to be” you will know what to do.

Posted in Be kind tenderhearted, Being Blessed, Choose to be happy, Christianity, Church, doing the right thing, Ephesians 4:32, faith, God loves you, God will lead you, God's Grace, God's Love | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sheltering in Place

I am pretty sure that I am not the only one experiencing just a little bit of cabin fever what with the “sheltering in place” we have been doing.  And I understand and I agree with the reasoning behind it.  Staying home equates to saving lives.  I was joking with someone the other day and said, “I feel like I’m stuck in that Groundhog’s Day movie but I haven’t learned to play the piano yet.”  Later on, I got to thinking about that movie and how Bill Murray’s character started off the movie feeling stuck and wanting to get out of his situation.  After a while, he changed his tune and started learning some new things and making a difference.  And while that was just a goofy movie, there are some lessons we can learn from it.  Who will we be, what will we be, how will we be when it’s over?  We get to decide that each and every day.

Maybe you won’t be able to play the piano, but what other new things will you learn by the time we get back to the “new normal?”  What new skills will you have developed?  What old skills will you have polished and improved upon?

What relationships will you have improved?  Who can you call, who can you reconnect with, who can you reach out to during this time?  What difference can you make between now and the time the “sheltering in place” is over?  This movie will end.  Let’s give it a good, happy, inspirational ending.  I know that we can.  Because who will we be, what will we be, how will we be when it’s over is up to each of us, every single day.  Hang in there…and keep practicing.   #Philippians4:13

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I Went to Heaven

He is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  Happy Easter!  What a wonderful and glorious day it is as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior!  This week I have been writing a song to capture some of my gratitude for Christ giving His life to me.  I am still working on it, but here is what I have so far.  It is called, “I Went to Heaven.”

“I Went to Heaven”

I dreamed I died and went to Heaven
And the angels were surprised
They scratched their heads and did a double take,
And some even rolled their eyes.

I heard St. Peter shouting
“The gate must be broke again!”
Yes, there was a lot of commotion,
When they saw me walkin’ in!

I said, “I know that you’re all thinking’
There must be something wrong.
I never was an angel
And I surely don’t belong!”

But Jesus gave His life to save me,
He forgave me of all those things!
It’s only by the Grace of Jesus
That I have earned my wings!

Jesus cleansed me and redeemed me,
He washed away my sin!
I’m only here in Heaven
Because Jesus let me in!

Yes, I dreamed I died and went to Heaven
And the angels were surprised
They scratched their heads and did a double take,
And some even rolled their eyes.

I heard St. Peter shouting
“The gate must be broke again!”
Yes, there was a lot of commotion,
When they saw me walkin’ in!

But Jesus cleansed me and redeemed me,
He washed away my sin!
I only got to Heaven
Because Jesus let me in!

Posted in Christianity, Church, Easter, faith, Forgiven, God's Grace, God's Mercy, salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Outside of the Frame?

I hope you are having a good day and I hope you know how much the Lord loves you!  I have taken part in more many video conferences and been on camera more in the last 2 weeks than I have in my whole life.  And I have been noticing the backgrounds that everyone has for their home office.  I see nice pictures on the wall, I see a simple bookshelf holding a few books with some really academic looking titles.   And what I see in the picture frame looks so perfect.  And I think, how much cleaning up and decorating did they have to do to make their home office look like that?  How do I know they have been working hard to present just the right picture?  I know because I’ve been working pretty hard at it.  I’ve been working on “framing up” a real nice picture for everyone else to see on these video chats.  I try to have a nice backdrop of my diplomas, my best guitar and a few nice wall hangings.

But, what’s outside the frame?  What is there, what’s present that we don’t want the rest of the world to see?  Let’s look.  You can’t see it in the frame of the video I just shot, but over in the corner, just out of view I’ve got a total gym and a pair of stinky basketball shoes that I wear when I do my cardio sessions.  I’ve also got a dog bed over there, one that I tripped once while video taping a sermon.  I’ve got hats and paper and envelopes over here on this old TV stand.  I’ve got a TV tray that holds the guitar tabs and chord sheets for some songs that I’ve been working on.  I have the coat hanger on the wall that I use to hold the camera when I am recording a sermon.  There is so much stuff going on just outside of the frame, just outside of the picture that we present to everybody else.

All of us have a picture that we want to present to the world.  We work hard to “frame” things just right because we are afraid that if we don’t then people may not like us, they may not want to hear from us or be around us.  We work so hard to present the right picture.

I said all that to say this.  The Lord knows all the stuff that is outside of the frame.  He knows about all the stuff you try to hide from everybody else.  He knows all about you.  He has every hair on your head numbered.  He knows about the clutter, He knows about the stinky tennis shoes that you don’t let anybody else see.  He knows about the dog beds you’ve tripped over.

He even knows about the darker things; He knows about your sin.  He knows about the things you have done that you shouldn’t have.  He knows about the things you should have done that you didn’t do.  He knows all about you and He LOVES YOU!  He wants to fellowship with you.  He wants to walk with you and talk with you.  He invites you into a lifesaving relationship with Him.  In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

Jesus knows that we need rest for our souls.  He knows that we need forgiveness for our sins.  He knows that we need help with the pains and problems we experience in this world.  He sees beyond the frame we show to others.  He knows all about us and He loves us and He wants to be our Savior.  I hope you know Him as your Savior.  If you would like to know more about what it means to know Christ as your Savior, send me your contact information in the comments.  I will be glad to discuss it with you and answer any questions you may have.

Thanks and may God bless you,

Pastor Phillip Stephens

Posted in Christianity, Corona, Draw close to God, faith, forgiveness, God loves you | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Gotta Fight Corona


For the last couple of days, that song “My Sharona” by the Knak has been running through my mind.  I mean it has almost been a constant “badda dadda bump bump – bump bump” melody running through my head.  So, I added some words to more closely fit current events. For those of you who are too young and who missed out on the music of the 80’s, I apologize.  For those of you who fondly remember 80’s music, I apologize even more profusely to you.

I Gotta Fight Corona – by the Knak, sorta, and me

Verse 1
Oooh I have to work from home, stay at home,
Is there enough TP to fight Corona?
Oooh I need to make a run, a grocery run,
Go to HEB and stand in line Corona!

Chorus
It’s never gonna stop, I need to shop, such a dirty line
But I really gotta shop, I need so much, for a clean behind
Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, woo!
I gotta fight Corona

Verse 2
Come a little closer, huh, will ya huh,
But only if you sanitize Corona
It’s such a big mystery, where’s TP?
I’ve searched every single grocery aisle Corona!

Chorus
It’s never gonna stop, I need to shop, it’s such a dirty line
But I really gotta shop, I need so much, for a clean behind
Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, woo!
I gotta fight Corona
I gotta fight Corona

Verse 3
When you gonna set me free, and sell TP?
Is it just a matter of time Corona?
Is there a real scarcity, of TP?
Or is it just a game in my mind, Corona

Chorus
It’s never gonna stop, I need to shop, its such a dirty line
But I really gotta shop, I need so much, for a clean behind
Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, woo!
Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, woo!
I gotta fight Corona
I gotta fight Corona
I gotta fight Corona
I gotta fight Corona!

Posted in Corona, hoarding, I Gotta Fight Corona, The Knak | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment