Jay's Journal

November 26, 2007
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a wonderful and memorable holiday. I got to go to my folks in Brownsville, Texas for the big event. We got there on the Wednesday before and it was balmy enough to swim in their pool and walk about in shorts and sandals! But, old man winter came in at the last minute, to insure that all was wintry and seasonal. The temp dropped over 50 degrees overnight; gratifying, I'm sure, to my in-laws from Scotland, who left snow behind in Aberdeen. Ah, but the warmth that came from family, friends and lots of feasting...so delightful! We had our fill of tamales, pumpkin pie, and all kinds of goodies...not to mention the deep joy of re-connecting with folks too long absent from each other. Let's resolve to make every day a day of thanksgiving. Let's count our many blessings, as the old hymn reminds us, and give thanks to God for all the gifts and delights of life lived in such bounteous fullness. Amen!, Jay

October 29, 2007
This last Sunday, we celebrated our 120th anniversary of the people called Methodist in Shiner. We had an awesome Sunday! Don Kaspar, local business owner and pillar of the church and community, dressed up like an 19th century circuit rider and rode up the hill to the church on his horse "Blackie" (really, I have no idea if that's his horse's name; I'm just using poetic license). It was so cool! He really looked the part, and sounded it also, as he greeted long gone past members who were pioneers in our church and community; thanking them for their faithfulness and commitment to Christ. Then, it was off to worship, with over 100 souls in attendance, to hear our Bishop Joel Martinez preach and to listen to Delise Koone sing, with Irene Cerny playing the piano. It was a blessed and awesome service! Naturally, being good Methodists, after church we ate and ate and ate, and then ate some more....fried chicken, kolaches, cakes and pies; all the trimmings and treats to go along with a spiritually nourishing day. I hope you get to spend some time today, recalling your own spiritual journey and remembering who started you out and how you got where you are. Celebrate the gift of faith and praise God for the blessing of life and love! God bless you, Jay

October 15, 2007
We're getting ready to have a big hoo-rah at our church on October 28th. It's our 120th anniversary of the Methodist presence in Shiner! We got started in 1887 and are still going strong! We are going to have our Bishop, Joel Martinez from San Antonio, bring the sermon on this exciting day, but he's just one of many exciting moments. It will start with a Circuit Rider from the past making an appearance, riding in from a dim, dusty past to greet the saints who have survived and thrived to this present enthusiastic congregation. After a greeting, affirmation and challenge, we'll begin worship with special music and preaching. Afterwards, we'll have a covered dish luncheon in our Activity Center, where each guest will get a special Anniversary Coffee Mug to remember the special day. And, if Joe Strauss's health holds out, we'll have his special, iconic accordion and band playing some good old polkas to entertain us! It should be wonderful! You're all invited so come on out, Sunday October 28th at 10:30 a.m. and join in the festivities! God bless you, Jay

October 2, 2007
We had a wonderful time at the 1st (but not last) Methodist Open House with the Red Ravens! We had wanted to host an event for our community of Shiner; open the doors of our church and show 'em what's up with all these Methodists...so-o-o-o with a little bit of creativity and a little bit of curiosity and a lot of craziness, we came up with a free dance featuring the Red Ravens, and it was a blast! We had folks from as far away as Victoria coming to dance to the tunes of this immensely popular band; couples of all ages, stages, shapes and sizes were jumpin' and stompin' to the beat of the polkas. No alkyhol, no fistfights, cussin' or fussin'...just a good time had by all. Thank you, God, for a good time and for reminding us that, whatever else is going on in the world and in spite of our problems...we can still rejoice and be glad in the presence of the Lord! For those of you who missed it, our 2nd Annual Holy Hoe-down will be next September, so put it on your calendar! Until then, God bless you, Jay

September 17, 2007
As I went for my walk this morning, to my delight and surprise, I could feel what our back porch thermometer was reading: 68 degrees! Man, it was nice! It surely felt like Fall had fell. You know, I love to walk, but as I get on in years, I find that the heat is just so stifling, robbing me of any enjoyment went it comes to taking even a simple stroll; let alone a good, brisk walk. I mean, when it's 88+ at 9 pm or at 7 a.m. and 90% humidity, it just seems like a lot of work! But today was a delight; energizing and enervating...as well as pure-dee enjoyable. I think of all the walking Jesus did in his ministry; I know that much of what he taught and offered was bound to have been inspired by the walks he took. Just to walk to, and through, Samaria, for instance, was a theological statement...ie- God loves everyone and we are all one together. Other examples come to mind; the road to Jericho was the setting for one of his most powerful parables, The Good Samaritan. I like to think that I get some inspiration, also, on my little jaunts around town. So, if you're able, and the weather stays so delightful, why not follow your nose and let the Spirit lead you out and about, discovering the enchantment of this beautiful event called life? As Simon and Garfunkel sing, "Slow down, you move too fast; you've got to make the morning last!" You'll be glad you did! God bless you, Jay

September 11, 2007
Like everyone else in America, I find myself thinking back 6 years ago on that Tuesday morning that changed our lives so dramaticly. Ann and I had just returned the previous day from a medical mission trip to Honduras. We were still hung over from a week in the Caribbean jungles and I was dragging around, trying to get ready to return to work. Ann came in with an odd note in her voice as she told me that she had just seen a report that a plane had hit one of the Trade Center Towers in New York, and that somehow, it didn't seem accidental. As the horrifying events of the day unfolded, I just couldn't seem to focus clearly or think straight. I was in a state of denial, even though I was seeing and hearing what everyone else was. I thank God that we had the grace to keep on living! In Methodist theology, we refer to God's prevenient grace as his love coming to us when we aren't even aware of it. That was certainly happening on Sept 11, 2001. And it continues to happen. God's love for us is unrelenting, unending and unshakeable. It continues to shape, mold, guide, direct and protect and provide for us; often, we are totally unaware of it. On this day, especially, let us give God thanks for his loving grace and mercy. And let us intentionally think to be aware of His love in our lives; today and every day. God Bless you, and God Bless America! Jay

September 4, 2007
Did you toil and labor on Labor Day? Or were you blessed enough to have a long week-end and relax? Actually, I had a little of both! I definitely had some relaxing moments, but I also did a little yard work, necessary but really not my idea of fun. We got to go to the Shiner Catholic Picnic, which is always good for a few cold beverages, hot and tasty hamburgers, and fast and furious auctioneering. There was a quilt, made by Janie Cimrhanzl (I think) that featured the labels of the assorted Shiner beverages; truly a one of a kind, unique and creative masterpiece that went for $3,000 plus! I was told that the event usually makes over $100,00 for the use of the church's school; I can believe it, what with all the goodies and treats that are sold. Even though it rained, yet again, that didn't seem to diminish the crowds or a response to purchase something delightful. It was a great week-end in so many ways. There's something pivotal about Labor Day. It marks the end of summer vacations, everyone's back at work the next day, back at school and getting ready for Fall...I even saw Halloween candy for sale at the local H.E.B.! So, as we get back to the "grind", let's not let it really be a grind and remember how blest we are to be alive, happy, healthy and able to produce labor that blesses our own lives as well as others. Have a great week! God bless you, Jay

August 27, 2007
I hope folks can make it to beautiful, downtown Shiner on Saturday night, Sept 29th! We're having a whoop-te-do, barn burnin' shin-dig at FUMC; we're calling it "Meet The Methodists" and it's gonna be a lollapalooza. The month of September has always been looked upon as an open-house kind of month, where UM churches try a little harder to reach out into the community and become better neighbors. Here in Shiner, with our German/Czech heritage, we thought we could reach out in a way that honors our neighborhood. We're having a free dance with the fabulous Red Ravens Polka Band providing the music! We have a big activity center that's just the place for such a venue and we'll provide snacks, chips and dips, and sodas (you'll have to visit our famous brewery another time!) and the good, good vibrations. So, as Bob Wills once sang, "Stay all night, stay a little longer, dance all night, dance a little longer, take off your boots and throw 'em in the corner, don't see why you can't stay a little longer!" Come check us out and see how the Methodists do it! Call 361-594-3830 for more details. God bless you, and remember that David himself used to dance before the Lord...if he'd had the Red Ravens playing he might've kicked his heels up a little higher! See ya at the dance, Jay

August 20, 2007
Well, everyone in my immediate circle of family and friends is keeping a weather-eye upon Hurricane Dean, who is currently threatening the Yucatan coastline and apparently headed towards Tampico. My folks live in Brownsville, somewhat north of Tampico by a few hundred miles and should be safe; but growing up with hurricanes we've learned not to take them for granted. We have all kinds of computer generated models for analysis and prediction and feel fairly confident about forecasts projections about when and where the storm will hit. And yet...there's something about not taking Mother Nature for granted, and I recall the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 29: "The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of Glory thunders, the Lord upon many waters..." In other words, weather is a powerful manifestation of the might and majesty of our God; we do well to respect it and prepare for spectacular displays of raw power. So...we wait and watch; and pray that all will be spared the destruction that can occur when the forces of nature are unleashed upon unprotected populations. As the Psalmist concludes, "May the Lord give strength to his people, may the Lord bless his people with peace!" Amen to that, my friends. Stay safe and secure from the storms of life. God bless you, Jay

August 13, 2007
I just got back from Miami, Florida where I got to visit with my 27 year old son, John. He's been living in Miami, actually Coral Gables, for a couple of years now and has a very exciting life. I get to see him a couple of times a year, it seems; sometimes he comes home to Shiner or sometimes I get to travel out his way. However it happens, it's always wonderful to hook up with my beloved son! I can imagine God feels much the same way about us, his children. However it gets to happen, He's bound to be thrilled when he gets to have that sweet reunion time with us. I know how much I love just being with John; we don't have to talk or do much of anything...just being together is really all I want. It is cool, though, when we get to really communicating and he tells me about his life, work, play etc. Or when he asks my opinion or advice about something. Surely our Heavenly Father feels much the same way when we take time for him in prayer, devotion, study, worship or just hanging out with him. I came back so refreshed and renewed from my time with John; I'm going to make a determined effort to spend that kind of quality time with my Heavenly Father, also. Let's give it a try, shall we? Let's renew and revitalize the most meaningful relationship we'll ever have! Have a great week. God bless you, Jay

August 6, 2007
We're winding up the summer vacation at the Brown's household; first off, I'm heading to Florida to see my son, John who lives in Miami. It's always good to visit with him, though he's a live wire! He does real estate by day and plays music by night; he definately lives too fast a pace for this old geezer! Meanwhile, my wife, Ann, is off to see Shelley, our daughter at UT, Austin who has been on a 4,000 mile journey this summer from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska! Shelley left Austin on June 10th and will arrive in Anchorage on August 10th; she's bicycled with 40 other students approximately 70-80 miles a day to raise monay and awareness for cancer research. So Ann is going to greet her and the rest of the team in Anchorage this coming Friday. And, Tom, our 16 year old is pretty much on his own for a few days while the rest of us are scattered over the continent. It will certainly feel good to get back together, get back into a normal(?) routine and just live life one day at a time here in beautiful, downtown Shiner. Thank you God, for life experiences. Thank you for this beautiful gift of family, friends and an awesome world to live in. God bless you! Jay

July 23, 2007
I just recently returned from a 4 day Spiritual Retreat with a group of young men, ranging in age from 18 to 20 years old. The event is called a Chrysalis "Flight" and has to do with the spiritual formation of young folks who are ready to transition into adulthood and who are interested in deepening their spiritual lives in Christ. I must say that I have much hope and faith in the future of our world, judging from the caliber of the attendees! These guys are awesome! They demonstrated a depth and a maturity that I certainly didn't have at that age (in fact, I'm not too sure I have it now!). They were just regular, ordinary guys...who are living out their lives in a way that is anything but regular or ordinary. How absolutely amazing it was to see the quality of spiritual life being demonstrated by these guys. When I was at that age, I went to church and various church functions...but that was all compartmentalized in my life; it was sort of the flip side of the Las Vegas commercial...whatever happened in church or Sunday school or youth group stayed there. It didn't carry over into my everyday life. These guys are different. You get the sense that they act the same way whether they are at a rock concert, or playing football, or hanging out at the mall...their light and love for Christ shines through. God bless you, men of the Chrysalis Flight! May you help transform our world as you have helped to transform me. May we all let our light shine and advance the cause of Christ. Amen

July 16, 2007
I was awakened Saturday night by what sounded like the start of WWIII...there was thunder and lightning, booms and crashes, rattling and raining and just generally all you-know-what breaking loose! I couldn't believe it, but we were in the middle of yet another thunder storm. It has been, easily, 20 years or more since I've experienced a summer like this. It seems like in Texas that, if we're lucky, we might have a wet spring, maybe a wet May or part of June...but a severe dry spell for all of July and most of August (except, naturally when the obligatory cloudburst occurs on 4th of July, to mess up our plans!). I mean, July is always bone dry, dusty and depressing. But, so far, we keep having rain! We got an inch and a half Saturday night (my secretary in Moulton got close to 4!)with more expected this week. What's up? Someone call Al Gore and tell him we get it; he can call off the waterworks. It just goes to remind me truly how little influence we have over our environment. We try at our house to live "green"; we use one of those old-fashioned, engine-less roller mowers for the back yard, have a compost heap, recycle our papers, have a little garden and eat locally grown produce, feed the birds and protect all living things. But, the rain falls on the just and the unjust! Our efforts to protect and honor the environment give us a sense of well-being, but I'm not sure we're actually doing anything beneficial. I just know that some days it's hot, some days it's not and wet or dry, God's still in charge. Suits me! Let's just enjoy each day we've been given and treasure each moment of life. As a song from the 70's reminds me, "I just want to celebrate...another day of living!" Ain't it the truth! God bless you, Jay

July 9, 2007
My wife Ann, who's a 4th grade Science teacher, is always getting opportunities to take little trips and/or expeditions with an aim towards enriching her teaching skills. She's been to Ft Davis and the McDonald Observatory and is heading to Galveston this week to a marine biology workshop. Sometimes, I am fortunate enough to accompany her and we get to "ooh" and "ahh" over various phenomena that make up our world. Last week-end, we went to Matagorda and the Inter-coastal Waterway on the Texas A&M "floating school" experience. The vessel, "Karma" and crew, take on about 15 people and let us do hands-on research, examining soil make-up and marine life. It was a blast! The highlight for me was discovering a 4-5 ft long alligator swimming across and along the channel and shore of the Inter-coastal! He was oblivious to our boat and just cruising along on his own steam, looking for an easy snack, perhaps. We also saw a Roseate Spoonbill and several Tri-colored Herons (deep, almost royal blue necks), along with various shore-birds. It was truly a joyous, open-eyed meditation for me. I hope that you, too, will get to experience some of God's creation this week. Having earth, water and sky all come together is such a powerful connection for me. I am reminded to just "be still and know God", as the psalmist says. It's surely easy to do that on our wild and beautiful Texas coast! God bless you, Jay

July 2, 2007
Today is a wet Monday morning! I woke up in the middle of the night to the not-so-distant rumble of thunder and flash of lightning. Throughout the night and into the morning, we've had fairly steady rain. Not the heavy deluge kind that has caused such damage to other parts of Texas, but just good, steady, life giving, drought-busting kind of rain that replenishes soil and soul. I don't ever recall a summer that has been so easy and green! We've had the occasional sun-baked day, high humidity that can easily sap a person's strength and will, but here it is July and we're still getting regular rain and mild days. I don't know quite what to make of it; is this due to climatic change, global warming, etc? If so, as for me and my house, bring it on! I'm not kidding; it has just been an awesome summer and spring. I suppose that it will end soon enough and we'll be back to those scorchers that are so familiar to Texas...but for right now, I just say thank you, God for "the gentle rain that falleth". Have a great and safe 4th of July and let's all give God thanks, from whom all blessings flow. God bless you, Jay

June 25, 2007
I hope everyone is well and enjoying the summer so far; our family has just returned from a week in "Bah-stan", where we visited "Hahvahd" and ate some great clam "chow-dah" and paid homage to Samuel Adams, the patriot and, er, businessman. We had such a blast, enjoying a much needed sabbath rest and exploring our early American heritage. We walked all over the city, rode the trains, buses and ferries; took in an evening at the Pops (where they closed the concert with, naturally, the "Stars and Stripes Forever"), and just generally got a renewed appreciation of what it means to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave! Of course, there's no place like home; so here we are back in beautiful, downtown Shiner and back in the saddle again. We'll celebrate the 4th this Sunday in church with some special music and patriotic themes ("Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere..."), so why not check us out? We'd love to welcome you, and by then, I'm sure to have lost all traces of my Yankee accent! God bless you, Jay

June 18, 2007
Happy Father's Day to everyone out there! I hope everyone enjoyed Dad's special day and gave thanks to God for our parents' love that brought us into this world and for our Heavenly Father's love that sustains us. I'm down here in the magic Rio Grande Valley visiting my 81 yr old Dad, grateful he's still alive and well and for all the loving values he's given me all the years of my life. Thanks for everything, Dad...I love you very much. God bless everyone! Jay

June 11, 2007
I just got back from our Annual Conference in Corpus Christi; an annual meeting of all the pastors and laity from the confines of our Annual Conference from places like Austin to Victoria to CC to Brownsville to Del Rio to Kerrville to San Antonio and all points within! We plan, hear preaching and praise, discuss budgets, set pastoral appointments and get motivated for another year of service. I was re-appointed for another year in beautiful, downtown Shiner! It's truly a delight to be here; the people in the church and community are just wonderful. I have time to visit the shut-ins, hospitals and nursing facilities; get to be out and about in the community; enjoy the lifestyle that can only be found in small town living and, really most important for me...I have time to spend with God. Each day, I find more and more opportunities to pray, study and just rest in God's presence...getting in touch with that part of God's nature that is only found in intentional contemplation. The day opens from one delight to another, with the pealing of the church bells of St Cyril and Methodius at 6 a.m., to the occasional toot of the trains going by on their runs, the songs of the various birds (which are a birders delight!) and the sights, sounds and smells of life in the country. St Francis and Brother Lawrence ain't got nothin' on me! Abundance is not about a paycheck; I feel like the richest man on earth here in Shiner. Thank you God for life here on earth, and with family and friends in the "cleanest little city in Texas"...not to mention the little brewery, also! God bless you, Jay PS- should you ever want to reply or comment to any of my musings or just want to get together for a cool beverage or explore the mysteries of the universe, my personal e-mail address is jcafe1@yahoo.com. Jay

June 4, 2007
I drove from Cedar Park, just outside of Austin's city limits to Lampasas last Saturday, travelling down some country lanes that wandered and meandered for 70 miles through the rolling hill country. Though I was glad to just have a Saturday morning drive, and needed no real excuse to just enjoy the beauty of the landscape of Texas, our Texas...I was part of a group of well-wishers who were sending off my step-daughter Shelley and 40 of her friends. They left Austin, on their bikes, to pedal 4,000 miles to Anchorage, Alaska, riding about 70-80 miles a day until they reach their goal on August 10th this summer. Their purpose is to raise money and awareness for cancer research; almost all the riders have been directly affected by cancer's effects. In Shelley's case, her Mom, my wife Ann, is a breast cancer survivor. Throughout Ann's surgery, treatment and chemo, Shelley has been actively and passionately involved in Ann's recovery. When she told us about her decision to participate in Texas 4,000 (and what that would mean, physically, emotionally, and financially), we supported her...but frankly, were just incredulous that she would really attempt it, let alone actually go through with it. But she has trained and ridden over 1,000 miles in preparation, raised close to $5,000 in contributions for research and last Saturday was moving on, mile by mile to her goal in Alaska! God grant that all of us, at some time in our lives, become so passionate about a cause that we are motivated to act in such a sacrificial way. Talk, frankly, is so cheap; requiring little effort or time or expense. Not all us can (or should!) to jump on a bike and head off to the hills on some great cause...but each of us is surely called to step up and champion an issue that would help make life on earth more equitable or just. Let us heed the call of God, a voice challenging us to leave the comfort zones of routine life and follow Him wherever His Spirit is leading us. Happy Trails! Jay

May 29, 2007
May 28 was a really special day for me; I turned 55 (like Sammy Hagar, I am resigned to the fact I just can't drive...),it was Memorial Day, a day in which we got to honor those who have given their very lives that we might have life, and...the Spurs won in Utah! What a day! You know, I holler a lot about getting old and how slow I'm getting, etc...but I'm really just kidding. I know just how deeply and awesomely I've been blessed; I wouldn't change one day or one moment of my life for anything or anyone else's. Yes, I regret any pain I may have cause someone by my actions or behavior...but I realize that all of us are doing the best we can with what is available to us at the time. I think of when Robert Horry got ejected in Game 1 after he fouled Amare Stoudemyer; Robert knew better, he over-reacted, he wouldn't normally intend to hurt anyone...but he did. All of us are capable of exhibiting really crummy behavior, of showing our dark side when things aren't going so well (sometimes, the dark side comes out when things are at their best... ask King David). Thank God, we have God-given opportunities for forgiveness and redemption. let us make the most of these moments as we live each day fully alive, experiencing the best that life in Christ has to offer! God bless you and have a wonderful week!, Jay

May 21, 2007
Yesterday was Senior Recognition Day for the graduating High Seniors of our church. It was a delightful day; full of pride, nostalgia and promise for the future. My wife, Ann, put together a power point presentation of pictures of the kids from infancy to present, with music from Green Day's "I Hope You Had The Time Of Your Life" as background...it was awesome and very touching. I couldn't help but think of my own graduation, eons ago, when I was graduating and had absolutely no clue where I was headed or what I was going to do. Whatever dim view I had of a future, it certainly wasn't of ordained ministry! But I believe that God has a plan and purpose for all of us, and when we allow ourselves to be guided by his Holy Spirit, the most incredible and marvelous things can occur. Today I live in Shiner, of all places, a little town that is deep in the heart of Texas...a town I'd never even heard of at age 18. I have a family, a career and calling, a life that is far and away from anything I could have possibly imagined (and I have a big imagination!). Thank you God, for guidance and direction, and for this gift of life that is so precious and wonderful. Help us all to live it deeply, fully, with much awareness and appreciation. Bless all the graduates and their families...and remind us all that the opportunities for learning are never over; in fact, we've only just begun! God bless you, Jay

May 14, 2007
I hope that everyone had a happy and holy Mother's Day celebration this past week-end. I was able to spend some time with my Mom and Dad in Brownsville; it was really a quality experience and I was truly blessed by it, as I hope my folks were, too. I realize that Mother's Day can be turned into a highly manipulative, sentimental and emotional experience, full of schmaltzy and superficial feelings...but it can also be a day in which we truly honor God by honoring the one who sustained us in a womb and carried us to birth. My Mom is just a human being, trying her best to be who she is created to be...and aren't we all? All of us are imperfect and, I have certainly contributed plenty of turmoil and turbulence to family and community, rejecting or ignoring the opportunities I have had to respond to the love that brought me into this world. So, I forgive and, thank God!, am forgiven and take each day and moment as a free gift to experience grace and mercy, beauty and joy. Thank you, Father God, for my Mom and Dad; they have been and still are, great teachers for me. May we all continue to give thanks for life and especially for the ones who helped create it! God bless you, Jay

May 7, 2007
Life in Shiner has been so lovely and beautiful lately, but it hasn't been a lot of fun...for me, at least! The birds are singing, we've had plenty of good rain, the wildflowers are still blooming, God is in heaven and all is right with the world...but my back is killing me! Man, what a bummer! You know, spring has sprung, the birds are chirping outside my window, the temperature is extremely clement; it's chamber of commerce kind of days. But do I appreciate it? I do not. All I can seem to dwell on is this miserable pain in my lower back. I've tried pain meds, massage, hot compresses, much prayer (though, I admit they have taken on the tone of "why hast thou forsaken me?"...not a lot of faith, patience or understanding...just fix me, quick!) Nevertheless, as my soul mate Job used to say, I know that my redeemer liveth. But I'm not real big on suffering much beyond the nature of a paper cut or the occasional stubbed toe. Yes, I know, truly, that there are many in the world who are extremely worse off than I am, that I should be grateful it's not worse, etc...but, dang it, my back hurts and I just feel crummy. Perhaps today will be better; perhaps my trip to the chiropractor will prove fruitful...perhaps it will just go away! I hear Jesus saying take up your bed and walk; so far, thank God, I can walk ok (just slow, crablike and shuffling like I'm 110 years old), it just hurts when I do it. So I will, with God's help, continue to persevere and wait on the Lord. Pray for my family and friends (you might can imagine that I'm not particularly fun to be around, right now). God grant us all the healing that we need to live this wonderful life that we've been given. Help us accept the times when life doesn't seem particularly joyful. And grant us faith to trust that all will be well. God bless you, Jay

April 30, 2007
In John's Gospel, Jesus is asked quite pointedly by the Pharisees, "Are you the Messiah or not; tell us plainly!" Jesus replies, "I have told you, plainly, but you haven't listened...but my sheep (followers) have listened, they hear and follow and will not perish but have eternal life." I love this passage because it speaks to my situation so often. I, too, have wanted a "clear" sign, a burning bush kind of experience that, once and for all says, "you're on the right track, all is well, God's on your side, no one and no thing can ever harm you"...I want this kind of assurance, because quite frankly, it seems that there are plenty of things out there that can and have hurt me! I thought I was doing God's will, etc and yet, in the middle of my efforts there would be intense opposition from people or circumstances. Where was God then? Where was Christ? I thought I was "listening", I thought I was "following" but any encouraging words from Jesus were strangely silent. At least, so it seemed. I know now, of course, that Jesus was there all along, encouraging and supporting and protecting me...but the din of battle and my focus on the fracas was precluding any awareness of Christ's supportive presence. Today, and every day, it is helpful for me to "be still and know God" as the day begins to unfold. It helps ensure that I listen to Christ and not the voices of the world, ego or insanity. When I am quiet and resting in God's love, I truly experience what Jesus has been saying all along...I am safe, loved, protected and provided for. May we all hear this truth today! God bless you, Jay

April 23, 2007
Last Friday evening, my wife, Ann and I gathered with several couples at a local Mexican food restaurant for some good food and to listen to some great Mariachi music. It was such a blast! I grew up in South Texas and have about a 500 word vocabulary in Spanish; the culture is near and dear to me and very much a part of my life. So when we heard that a Mariachi group would be playing nearby, we made a special effort to join our friends for an evening of musical merriment. We certainly weren't disappointed; the food was great, the beverages were cold y la musica muy caliente! When the group started into "Jalisco", it was time to let it all out...which I was happily able to do! I let out a "grito" that could've been heard in, well, Jalisco...and it was the signal to get the party started; which we did! When Jesus appears to the disciples the 3rd time after his crucifixion, he offers them a meal of fish on the beach. I'm struck by the similarities of that meal with the sacrament of Holy Communion; which leads me to think that every meal is (or can be) a type of sacrament. Jesus has also said, "where two or more or gathered in my name, I am there also". We felt his presence at the restaurant the other night. Yes, I'm sure that there were those who saw only a rowdy bunch of folks, singing off-key rather poorly... but we were in the presence of something (and Someone) very holy. Bonds of friendship and fellowship were being forged; new relationships were being born and the Kingdom of Christ was, I dare say, being advanced a little farther. May God grant us all such a joyful meal! God bless you, Jay

April 16, 2007
Yesterday afternoon, we went to a friend's home out in the country, in the middle of a beautiful rolling countryside, oak motts and lush grasses adorned with colorful wildflowers. It was the closest place to heaven on earth that I've experienced in a long time! It was late afternoon and the sun was still shining warmly, but what breeze there was felt so cool and dry that it was just a sheer delight to simply just sit and experience the late Spring that we in Texas almost never have. Often, by this time, we're hot (90 degrees, mas o menos...), humid and sticky...or should I say, icky...but yesterday was just Chamber of Commerce weather. Good friends, gathered around good food, rejoicing in the good fortunes and good life that we have been graced with; it really doesn't get any better than this! The psalmist tells us to "be still and know God". Yesterday was one of those God-filled moments that just kept spilling over into one another...I'm sure that somewhere, someone was doing something to someone else that was disrupting the harmony and peace that God offers us on this beautiful planet. But for one glorious afternoon outside of Shiner, Texas...all was right with my world. God grant you and all of us such a day today and every day! God bless you, Jay

April 8, 2007
"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark..." thus begins John's Gospel account of the first Easter morning, Jesus' resurrection. Many denominations celebrate Easter with an early morning Sunrise service, and Shiner FUMC is no exception. This Easter Sunday, Mother Nature (or the Holy Spirit!) played a little trick on us here in South Texas; a late (very!) Canadian cold front came through two days before, plummeting the temperatures into the 30's, with 10-20 mph winds. It was cold...and dark...and very hard for this pastor to leave the comfort of a warm, cozy bed. I thought possibly 10-12 hardy souls might actually brave the elements and arrive to celebrate Easter in the early moments of the new day, but if no one at all showed I would certainly understand! To my astonishment, 45 wide awake, enthusiastic and celebrative parishioners arrived to worship the Risen Christ! Now, again, I know why I'm there...it's my job, task, calling, etc...but why are they here? Don't they know how early it is? Aren't they cold? Don't they all have warm beds and hot coffee pots brewing? Apparently, they all did...but also apparently, they couldn't wait to get to church! For them, it's not just another program, or event or activity. They really believe that Christ arose, that it matters and they are excited and grateful. How about that? Maybe there's hope for this wicked old world after all. Christ is alive, it's really true, people (some, at least) get it and are responding to it. Thanks be to God! May we all get the Easter message of life, hope and love...and may our light shine away the darkness of the bitterness and cold of death. Christ is alive...and so are we! God bless you, Jay

April 2, 2007
Easter is about resurrection; Jesus' in particular and, because of his, ours as well. To celebrate Easter and not to have experienced resurrection in our own lives is hardly a ringing endorsement of the Christian faith. In my own life, I've certainly experienced re-birth spiritually, if not outright resurrection. But this week-end, I saw nothing less than resurrection in the life of my 81 year old Dad! He's been suffering from the results of a stroke, depression and some dementia. I've watched a vibrant, energetic, young-at-heart, passionate man become old, slow, listless, confused and apathetic; existing, but hardly alive. This Palm Sunday, he turned 81 and he and my mom came up from Brownsville to go to church with us and to celebrate his birthday. I could hardly believe it! It truly can only be called resurrection! It's like I've got my Dad back. I know part of it's that his meds are taking effect, but there's something else that, for me, just has to be the power of God's Holy Spirit at work, healing and restoring. He was dressed up, came to church, laughed, visited, interacted and was just his old self; wow! My prayer for everyone is that the power of healing and resurrection that I experienced this week-end can be experienced by everyone this Easter. May you have a happy, blessed and holy holiday! God bless you, Jay

March 28, 2007
I remember when innocence (for me) was lost in my hometown. I'm sure that we, like every community, had our share of tragedies, crime, etc but I remember the sick feeling of sadness and sorrow when we had our "first" murder. We knew that things like this happened in the "big' cities in faraway places to people we didn't really know. Now it had happened to us, by people we knew, to people we knew...people we worked with, played with and worshipped with.
The young man who did it confessed and was condemned to die. Before it was all over, he would die at the hands of the state of texas and both his parents would die of literal heart-break.
What struck me was that through it all, through all the horror and shame and loss, was that his parents never stopped loving him. It literally killed them that he had committed this crime...but he was still their son.
God loves us the same way. Never forget that regardless of what we do, wherever we have been, whatever shame and reproach we may have brought upon ourselves there is One who will never forsake us or reject us. That One is God, our Father, who with Jesus as our Redeemer and the Holy Spirit as our Sustainer loves us all ways. Know this and be comforted and assured. God bless you! Jay

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