Friday, July 31, 2015

Shirley's License Plate

Shirley is a member here at New Calvary Baptist Church.  She has a neat license plate on the front of her car.  It shares this simple and vital message:  "Rejoice Always".

If there is one thing we Christians should be doing, it is rejoicing.  There ought to be an ongoing celebration taking place in our hearts.  Regardless of our circumstances, we have an abundance of blessings that should fill us with gladness.

Regardless of who you are and where you are, remember to rejoice!

Rejoice because we have a full pardon!  We sinners have been forgiven.  Our slates have been wiped clean.  This is because our wrongdoings have been paid for by our Lord.

Rejoice because we have a loyal Friend!  Our Lord is with us 24/7.  All day, every day.  No matter what, He is by our side.

Rejoice because we have a bright future!  Heaven awaits us.  Our Lord is preparing our eternal home, and it will be perfect.  The problems we deal with down here will no longer affect us up there.

Paul was so right when he wrote these words in Philippians 4:4 - "Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!"

Shirley's license plate offers us all a good dose of wisdom.  You and I have plenty of reasons to celebrate in our hearts, day in and day out.  And nothing will ever change that.  

Yep, you can rejoice right now!  Blessings from Heaven have been sent your way.  So be glad and feel good about how fortunate you really are.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Wisdom From Father Owens In Cathy's Kitchen

Father Owens is the Rector of The Church of The Cross in Bluffton, South Carolina.  He is a well-respected minister who has served our Lord for many years.  And he has a fine family that I have known for quite a while.
Earlier in his life, he was the Headmaster at Thomas Sumter Academy, which is where I went to school.  I was there from the fourth grade through my senior year.  I observed him from a distance and I had numerous one-on-one conversations with him during my T.S.A. days.
Let me tell you about something Father Owens taught me...
In my junior year (1987-'88), I was considering graduating early so I could skip my senior year and go off to college early.  In my mind, it was time to go ahead and move on to the next chapter of life.  And I was really excited about it.
Father Owens heard about this.  So one day he got me out of chemistry class and drove me to Cathy's Kitchen, which was a great diner behind Shaw Air Force Base.  I was nervous and did not know how that conversation would go.  We sat down in a booth and he looked at me.  Then he said calmly, "Richardson, I hear you are thinking about graduating early."  I told him that I was indeed considering it and I told him why.  He listened patiently, heard me out, and then did something I will remember until the day I die.  Father Owens reached inside his coat pocket, pulled out a pen, and began writing on his paper place mat.  Then he turned the place mat around where I could read what he had written.  There I saw these three words:  "Why the rush?".
I sat there in silence for a moment.
To be honest, I don't remember many specifics of how the conversation went after that.  But basically Father Owens was encouraging me to slow up, go through my senior year, and then head off to college.  He did not think my plan of graduating early was the best thing for me to do.
At first, I did not agree with him.  I was convinced it was time for me to go.  But eventually I came to realize he was right.  I did need to stay at Thomas Sumter another year and experience more of high school.  And I'm glad I did stay.  My senior year was a great one for me. 
"Why the rush?"
Father Owens was challenging me to think about timing.  Although he was supportive of my ultimate goals, he understood some things that I did not.  He knew I needed to grow up and mature some.  He knew it would be to my advantage to have a senior year of high school.  And he knew I was not ready yet to launch out into the world.  As I look back on it, I am so thankful for his wisdom.  Father Owens was right. 
We can have big dreams and noble goals in life.  But if our timing is wrong, we can make a real mess of things.  That's why it's always best to slow up and do things on God's schedule rather than get in too much of a rush and launch out too early. 
God sees things we don't see and knows things we don't know.  And God knows when we're truly ready to take the next step in life's journey.  The best thing we can do is trust His timetable and move forward when He calls us to do so.
Maybe you're considering a major step in your life right now.  It might excite you and make a lot of sense in your mind.  Before you take whatever step it is that you're considering, just stop for a moment and ask yourself this question:  "Why the rush?"  Pray and seek the Lord's timing before you make your move.  And if you find God telling you to slow up and wait a little, do what He says.  God has His reasons.  Trust Him and give it time.  In the long run, you'll be more than glad you did.
As I look back on that experience, I'm glad I waited.  It was the right thing for me to do.  And maybe, just maybe, you should slow up some too. 
Thanks, Father Owens, for your wisdom.  You were right.  And I will always be grateful to you for it. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 VBS At New Calvary

We had Vacation Bible School here at New Calvary Baptist Church, July 19-23.  What an awesome time it was!!  Kids and adults alike really enjoyed themselves.
I was blown away at how a team of workers united their efforts and decorated our building.  They pulled out all the stops and did a fantastic job.  It had an "off the path", jungle sort of feel to it.  And it looked great.
The kids learned new songs, heard important Bible stories, ate delicious snacks, made cool crafts, and played fun games.  In their recreation time, we had a dunking booth for them and a bouncy house.  Their attitudes were positive and they remained upbeat all week.
Not to be outdone, the adults had their own VBS fun.  My dad, Wade Richardson, taught a class for them at the same time the kids were engaged in their activities.  Dad told me he enjoyed studying God's Word and spending time with the adults.
We had a contest between the boys and girls.  Each night we took up an offering.  At the end of the week, whichever group raised the most money got to hit me in the face with a pie. 
All the money raised was for Tracy's Camp.  It's a Christian camp that is not far at all from our town of Sumter.  And it's a cool place!
Well, it turned out that the boys and girls tied.  They gave the exact same amount.  So, on the last night, I did not get a pie to my face.  I got two of them!  One girl and one boy got me good.  Needless to say, we all shared a laugh over it.
Let me brag on New Calvary Baptist Church for just a moment:  These people come together and work hard!  They are enthusiastic, diligent, and a total pleasure to be around.  It was inspiring watching them put on such a first class vbs for this community.  And I can't wait to do many, many more of these with them in the years to come.
God is good.  He blessed this ministry.  This church family and I give Him thanks and credit for it being such a tremendous success!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Oxygen Tank

I saw something recently at the gym that inspired me.

An elderly lady walked slowly inside.  And she pulled an oxygen tank behind her.  Slowly, but surely, she lifted her weights and completed her workout.

Yesterday I approached her and introduced myself.  Then I thanked her for being an inspiration and setting an example for the rest of us.  It was a brief talk, but I was honored to meet her.

The oxygen tank is something I will always remember.  It represented the challenge she faces.  But it also served as a backdrop for her determination.

Life hurts some times.  Difficulties and adversities can kick us square in the teeth.  But strong people carry on, dig deep, push through, and live anyway.

Are you hurting?  Decide now that it won't defeat you.  Resolve in your mind and heart that with God's strength you will persevere and keep doing the right things even when it's painful.

Don't quit!  You're better than that.  Pick your chin up, pull your shoulders back, put a smile on your face, march out into this world, and keep giving your best.  Even if you have to pull an oxygen tank behind you.  That's what winners do. And that's what really inspires others.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Online Posting Vs. Real Living

I ran into a family friend recently.  We hugged and caught up on the latest.  Then she looked at me and said this:  "I see your stuff online and it looks great.  But are things really going well behind the scenes?"

Wow!  What a question.  I had never been asked that before.

Then she explained what she meant.  People can post happy, positive things online all day long.  But some times what people put on the internet looks a lot happier and better than their everyday life really is.  Plenty of folks can do this without even realizing it.  Others can do this intentionally, with the desire to look good in the eyes of the public.

I'm glad she asked that question.  It said a lot about how deep she thinks.  And it got me thinking about online posting vs. real living.

Know that every person you see online has peaks and valleys along the way.  Nobody's life is perfect.  Mine sure isn't.  And neither is yours.  Every life has some sunshine, and every life has some rain.  That's just reality.

Think about it...

A married couple can post online a picture of themselves hugging and smiling.  And that's great!  But it's possible that same couple had a big disagreement after the picture was snapped. 

A child holds up a trophy he won and a picture of him is posted online by his parents.  And that's great!  But it's possible this same child was disrespectful to his parents and sent to his room that same afternoon. 

I could go on and on.  But I think you get my point.  We're just talking about reality here.  I'm not trying to be a downer at all; however, I am wanting us all to remember that even the best of lives has its sour moments.

So what difference should this knowledge make in our lives?  Well...

[1]  Remember that people who post things online are normal human beings just like you.  They have strengths and weaknesses.  They have ups and downs.  They have awesome days and rotten days.  And just like your life is imperfect, so is theirs.  Never assume they have it all together just because they post happy thoughts and cool pictures. 

[2]  Refuse to compare your life to that of someone who posts things online.  That'll drive you nuts.  It's hard to enjoy your own life when you're competing with other people.  Besides, they are just showing you a picture that took one second to snap.  You're not seeing pictures of the other 23 hours and 59 seconds of that day.  Most people are smart enough NOT to air out online everything in their lives.  And they shouldn't!  That wouldn't be a healthy thing to do at all.

[3]  The way to get to know people as they truly are is through real, face-to-face relationships.  We can look at stuff people put on the internet all day and all night, but that alone does not enable us to really know the totality of who they are inside and out.  Interpersonal relationships are always way better than online peaks into each other's lives.

I'm all for technology.  Obviously I use it for posting my thoughts on this blog.  And I like doing it.

But may you and I remember this:  What people post online is just a tiny snippet of their lives.  And there is much more to them than what we see through the tiny technological window they have opened.  They are real people, just like you.  Pray for them.  Have realistic expectations of them.  And don't compare yourself to them. 

At the end of the day, we're all just ordinary people who have flaws and need God's grace.  And we all are works in progress.  Let's keep this in mind when we see each other online.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Time At Avon Park Middle School

During the 2013-14 school year, I was a full-time substitute teacher at Avon Park Middle School in Avon Park, Florida.  It was my only year doing that kind of work.  But it was also a fantastic experience for me! 

Here are some lessons I learned while there...

Listen to people who know more and have more experience.  I was a rookie.  This was new to me.  Fortunately, I was able to learn from a couple of good ladies!  For part of the first semester, I worked with Ms. Davis.  Then, for part of the second semester, I was paired up with Ms. Girofalo.  Both of these women were skilled, likeable, and helpful.  Also, they were top-notch educators who knew exactly what they were doing.  Fortunately for me, both of them helped me learn more about working with middle school kids. 

We can go through life thinking we know it all and never taking advice from other people.  Or we can be humble and listen to those who know more and have experience.  May we all welcome guidance and instruction from people who know more than us.   

Realize that all people want to be treated with kindness and respect.  My first semester, I worked with 8th grade language arts.  These students excelled academically and were at the top of their class.  My second semester, I worked with another great group of kids.  These boys and girls had some special needs and faced a few challenges in life.  They were fun to be around and very thankful for what others did for them.  I enjoyed both semesters and I had a ball with both groups of kids.

Even though I was working with two different groups, I realized they all had something in common:  Every one of them wanted to be treated with kindness and respect.  They longed to know that they mattered to someone and that their life was worth something.  That was the common thread that ran through both groups of kids.

We can go through life being harsh, rude, and condescending to people.  Or we can be a breath of fresh air in their lives by treating them right.  A good rule to live by is this:  Treat other people the way we would want them to treat us.  Regardless of who we are dealing with, let's bless them and make their day a little better.

Learn your strengths and focus on them.  I loved Avon Park Middle School.  The faculty and staff were awesome.  And the kids were amazing.  But I learned after a while that I was just not middle school teacher material.  But that was ok.  I needed to understand that.  I remember the exact moment it happened:  I was working with the 8th grade language arts kids one day and we were going over their homework.  I was using a teacher's answer key to help me give them the right answers.  A boy in class told me something he had written on his homework, I looked at the answer key, and told him the correct answer was something different from what he had put down.  He looked at me and asked, "Can you tell me why I'm wrong?"  And before I could answer, he said in front of the whole class, "Come on man, teach us something!"  I thought to myself, "I wish I could, kid.  I really wish I could."  See, I knew how to write.  But I did not know how to teach them to write.  That moment confirmed in my mind that I needed to be doing something I was more equipped to do.

So what did I do?  A few months later, I got back into pastoral ministry.  God opened up a church for me to serve, and I returned to doing what I loved the most.  And I was thrilled to be back doing what I was called in life to do.

Avon Park Middle School taught me to get back into pastoral ministry.  It showed me that I needed to be using what God had invested in me.  And it motivated me to do a much better job of it the second time around.

Learn who you are.  Identify your strengths.  And serve in the role that is best suited for you.  Don't try to be something you're not.  God made you the way you are for a reason.  So just accept it and go with it.  Life gets better when this happens.

Thank you, Avon Park Middle School.  You all were beyond great to me.  And you gave me an awesome few months to learn, grow, evaluate my life, and prepare for my next chapter.

I will always be thankful for my time at that fine school!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Connecting With Our Community

This past weekend, we at New Calvary Baptist Church took a step forward in connecting with our community.  It was a productive effort.  And we sure enjoyed doing it!

On Saturday morning, a group of us met at the church.  Our group consisted of children, teenagers, and adults of varying ages.  We divided into teams and walked around the neighborhood surrounding New Calvary.  Each team knocked on doors, introduced themselves, handed out our flyers, and invited people to church.  

It was an awesome experience!

I met Stefan.  He was a 20-something African American guy who was playing basketball in his back yard.  Stefan appeared to be a fantastic athlete.  It turned out he goes to church with his mother in Columbia every Sunday.  He told me about his life and his goals.  I told him a little bit about the church and me, and told him if he ever needed a local church for anything, we are here for him.  It was a great talk!

Then I met Mother Franklin.  She invited one of my daughters and me into her home.  It turned out she is a strong Christian lady who worked in the local hospital for years and she volunteers as a chaplain for a local prison.  It was thrilling to hear her talk about going behind those bars and sharing the love of Jesus with young men who are struggling.  Yep, that was a great talk too!

I could go on and on.  Other folks I met were just as friendly and receptive to us as Stefan and Mother Franlin were.  And I enjoyed every moment of it.

Why do I tell you this?

Well, I guess because God reminded me of something recently:  Churches have a responsibility to reach out to those close to where God planted them.  Sometimes, if we're not careful, we can overlook and neglect our neighbors that reside in the shadows of our steeples.  May we be certain to never let that happen!

I want the folks in our church's neighborhood to know that Jesus loves them, and we love them too!  And I want them to know that our doors are open to them, no matter who they are, where they've been, or what they've done.  It seems to me that this is a big part of what the church is to be about.

I realize there are many different ways to reach out.  Some churches host block parties.  Some do mailers.  And all that is fine.  I suppose that the method of connecting with the community is not nearly as important as the fact that a genuine effort is being made.

May all of us churches reach out to our neighbors.  The people who live within a stone's throw of our houses of worship also need Jesus!  So let's do our part to build bridges with them.  Eternity hangs in the balance, and this is what our Lord has called us to do.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

What He Won't Do

A buddy of mine and I were working the other day on some projects.  While I was out running some errands, he sent me a text.  Then I responded.  This is how it looked on my phone...
For a moment I was trying to figure out what he was going to do to me that the Lord will never do.  Then he sent me this two word text.  I thought it was great, as you can see in my response:
My buddy was through for the day, so it was time for him to leave work.  That's what he was talking about.  And being a Christian guy himself, he picked a cool way to let me know.

He's right.  The Lord will never leave you.  And He will never leave me.

Friends may come and go.  Some folks just might desert us one day without any reason.  It happens, unfortunately. 

But God stays with His people.  He is faithful and loyal.  He always sticks around and He never checks out. 

On our best days, He is with us.

And on our worst days, He is with us.

Check out these words from Deuteronomy 31:6 - "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified ... for the Lord your God goes with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you."  There it is!  God sticks with His children.

Then there are these words of Jesus in Matthew 28:20 - "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  That ought to make you stand and cheer!  Jesus, who is the Son of God and Savior of humanity, will forever remain with you and me.

Find comfort in knowing, child of God, that you are never alone.  The Lord is with you.  Now and forever.  And nothing will change that.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Disarmed And Defeated

In 1 Chronicles 11:23, Benaiah battled against a huge Egyptian.  By "huge", I mean he was 7 1/2 feet tall.  During the battle, Benaiah grabbed the Egptain's massive spear from his hands and killed him with it.  That's pretty impressive!  He disarmed his enemy.  Then he defeated him.

Someone has actually used Legos to illustrate what this may have looked like.  I thought this was pretty cool.  So here goes.

This is Benaiah attacking the Egyptain...
And this is Benaiah killing the Egyptain with his own spear...
As I read this story, it makes me think of what Jesus does to Satan.

[1]  With His cross, Jesus has disarmed Chief Enemy Number One.

In Colossians 2:15, we read where "having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."  Of course this "them" has to do with Satan and demons.  Then, in Hebrews 2:14 we read "by His death, He might break the power of him who holds the power of death - - that is, the devil."  I like that!  At Calvary, Jesus broke the power Satan once had.

Satan used to have the weapon of guilt.  He could harass people by reminding them of their sin and failures.  But because of the cross, our sins are forgiven and wiped away.  Guilt and shame over our past no longer have power over our lives.  So that weapon can no longer be used against us.

Satan used to have the weapon of eternal torment.  He could keep people in the pit of Hell with him for all of eternity in an agonizing state.  But because of the cross and the forgiveness of sins, we do not have to pay for our sins in Hell.  We can instead enjoy the eternal pleasures of Paradise.  So that weapon can no longer be used against us.

Disarmed.  That's what Satan is, thanks to Jesus!  The Enemy no longer has a weapon to use against us.

Sure, Satan can irritate us.  But that's about it.  He has been weakened by the cross of Jesus.

[2]  But wait!  It gets better.  One day, the Enemy will be ultimately defeated.

The day will come when Satan will be eternally thrown into his eternal destination of suffering with no chance of ever escaping.  Revelation 20:10 is where John writes about a vision he had concerning this future event.  He explains, "And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever."  

Isn't that great to know?!  Just as Benaiah disarmed and defeated the Egyptain, Jesus also disarms and defeats Satan.  Having a connection with Jesus allows us reap the benefits of this awesome victory!!  We get to enjoy the eternal results of this tremendous win.

We don't have to fear our greatest Enemy.  I'm glad of that.  Because Jesus wins, so do we!

Friday, July 10, 2015

1 Problem. 2 Different Reactions.

A few hours ago,  I was in the Charlotte Airport.  My parents have been out of the country for two weeks and a day, so I was there to pick them up when their plane landed.  I was really glad to see Dad and Mom.

They had a problem.  Their luggage did not make it back to Charlotte.  So they were missing two suitcases.

I watched them talk with an airline employee about it.  My parents stayed calm and cool.  They were patient and understanding.  The airline employee found out where their bags were and assured them the bags would be delivered to them tomorrow.  The whole time they talked, Dad and Mom handled the matter with a lot of class.

Then another man began talking with an airline employee about the same problem.  His luggage did not make the flight either.  Unlike my parents, he was visibly agitated, very impatient, and not calm at all.  Even his body language was full of anger and hostility.  I could tell he was becoming unhinged.

There was only one problem.  But there were two different reactions.  One was calm.  The other was chaotic.

This reminded me of something I've learned in life :  We can not always control what problems come our way.  But we can control how we react to our problems.  The choice is ours to make.

How will we respond to adversity?  Let's follow the example my parents set.  We can stay calm, think it through, and remain pleasant to be around.  Choosing that approach is far superior to flying off the handle and saying things that we will later regret.

No matter what happens to you and me, we get to choose how we react.  Let's keep our cool and handle ourselves with class.  That enables us to think clearly and respond appropriately.  And it sets an example for others to follow.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Key Lime Pie And Self-Control

There I stood in the frozen section of Food Lion with a delicious looking Edwards Key Lime Pie staring back at me.  Memories flooded my mind of how much I enjoyed that for dessert in the past.  And I was strongly considering taking one home with me for a night time snack!

But I hesitated.  See, I'm getting healthy and losing weight.  My workouts are paying off.  And I'm feeling great.  As I stood there, I thought, "As good as that pie looks, and as much as I want it, I better pass."  Fortunately, I was able to tell myself "Not tonight" and walk away.  Was that easy?  No.  But it was the right thing for me to do at that moment.  And I'm glad I controlled my appetite.

I'm glad I had some success there at the Food Lion!  Along my life's journey, I've managed myself well at times, and not so well at other times.  Perhaps some of you can relate to that.

Self-control.  It's the ability to manage our desires and cravings rather than let them manage us.  And it's making ourselves do the right thing when we're feeling inclined to do the wrong thing.  

Proverbs 25:28 tells us "Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control".   Just as a city was protected from invasion by its walls back in the day, people are protected from self-inflicted harm by self-control.  And just as a city was destined for disaster when its walls were down, people are destined for disaster when their self-control is down.

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us one evidence God's spirit is working in us is the presence of self-control in our lives.  When we allow Him to fill us and influence us, He causes some awesome qualities (known as "fruit") to become a reality in our lives.  The ability to manage ourselves is one awesome proof that His Spirit is at work in our minds and hearts.

May we all grow in the area of self-control!  When it comes to time, food, sex, money, work, power, and anything else, let us seek God's help in keeping a tight grip on our desires.  We have to control ourselves if we want to live healthy, productive, God-honoring lives.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Yes, Dana White, We Do Have To Speak Publicly

Dana White is the UFC President.  Maybe you're wondering, "What is UFC?".  It is "Ultimate Fighting Championship".  A league of fighters who throw down big time!  Admittedly, I do not watch  this sport.  I don't have a problem with it or anything.  UFC is just not an interest of mine.

What does interest me, however, is what Dana White was recently quoted as saying about his fighters.  Apparently, some fighters have been thanking Jesus or just mentioning His name at events or to the media.  And for some reason, this did not settle well with Mr. White.  Here are his thoughts on it:    

"America doesn't want to hear your thoughts on Jesus.  Keep that stuff at home - religion, politics, all that stuff.  When you're fighting and being interviewed, they want to hear about the fight.  It's awesome that you love Jesus.  Love Jesus all you want.  You just don't have to do it publicly."

The issue I want to address is this:  Should Christians speak publicly about Jesus?  Is is fair to ask people of faith to zip their lips?

When a person experiences their sins being forgiven and their soul being saved, it's hard for him or her NOT to talk about Jesus.  After all, He has done something incredible and of eternal, spiritual significance.  A radical, life-changing experience like that is hard to keep on the down low.

Paul, in Romans 1:16, states, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes:  first to the Jew, then to the Gentile."  This awesome missionary is not embarrassed or shy about discussing Jesus and the gospel.  And why should he be?  After all, it is "the power that brings salvation to everyone who believes".  That's a mighty big deal.

Jesus Himself, in Matthew 10:32-33, states, "Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in Heaven.  But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven."  Those are some powerful words!  Jesus calls us to talk about Him to other people.  And He reminds us that our stance on this matter has eternal ramifications.

Finally, Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:2, states, "Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage -- with great patience and careful instruction."  Here we see a call to readiness to speak of Jesus whenever the right opportunity presents itself.  It's as if Paul is saying, "Ok, be ready at all times!"

Look, I don't know Dana White.  And I'm sure not judging or criticizing him.  But I will say this in response to him:  It's hard for us Christians to stop talking about Jesus.  Whether we are UFC fighters, farmers, stay-at-home moms, teachers, funeral directors, doctors, or whatever.  Our sins have been forgiven and our souls have been saved!  It's not easy to experience something so awesome as that and stay quiet about it.

Speak up, Christians!  Privately and publicly.  We have a story to tell.  And the world needs to hear the good news that Jesus saves.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Sam And The Pigeon

(My friend, Sam, and a pigeon at work.  July 2, 2015.)
I have a friend named Sam.
He's a great guy.
We work together at a funeral home.
Last night, we were finishing our work when we noticed a pigeon hanging around by the back door.
Sam drew close to the pigeon.
And even closer.
The pigeon seemed perfectly fine with Sam being right beside him.
Not once did the pigeon act bothered or fly away.
Sam and the pigeon shared a neat moment of closeness that really surprised both him and me.
I got home and thought about that experience.  It reminded me of closeness with God.  The simple truth is, we can draw as close to God as we want to, and He welcomes our presence.  James 4:8 reads, "Come near to God and He will come near to you."  God won't flinch or fly away if we get near Him.  Not at all!  If He does anything, He will move even closer to us. 
Draw close to God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  And get even closer to Him through prayer, scripture, and worship.  Spiritual intimacy with Him is yours if you want it.
It was neat watching Sam and the pigeon get close.  I'm glad I could snap a quick picture of it.  But it's even neater when we get close with God.  That nearness between Him and us is the greatest and most satisfying blessing of all.  It makes all the difference in our lives.
Get close with God today.  You'll be glad you did.  I guarantee it.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Odds And Ends - Edition 12

 I have not been able to blog much lately, and I have missed it.  New articles and devotionals are on the way, but I wanted to share a few quick thoughts "Odds And Ends" style today.  Here's the latest...

*  As a South Carolinian, I am blown away at how God has worked in and through the tragic shooting in a Charleston church a few weeks ago.  It has been encouraging to see our state come together and love on the good people of that church.

*  My family is doing really well.  Lara is enjoying her summer break from school, and the kids are too.  It's nice having them around the house for a few weeks before school cranks back up.  Spending extra time together has been a great thing.

*  I feel blessed to serve New Calvary as their pastor.  These are the happiest days of ministry that I have ever had.  Lara, the kids, and I love these people.  And we are very excited about the future with our church family.  I believe with all my heart that good days are ahead at New Calvary. 

*  On September 7 of this year, I will have served as their pastor for one year.  Wow!  Time sure flies.

*  We have our Vacation Bible School coming up July 19-23 here at New Calvary.  An army of volunteers is stepping up and making plans for one awesome week.  We're going to canvas our church's neighborhood and invite folks to join us for this.  It will be a great time of ministry.  And I'm excited about my dad teaching an adult VBS class too.
 (Us Richardsons with long-time friends, the Sieberhagens)

*  My long time friend, Dr. Tim Sieberhagen, will preach our Fall Revival Services September 27-30.  He is one of the finest preachers I know, and I'm beyond excited about him coming and sharing with us for those few days.  Tim is the pastor of Kittiwake Baptist Church in West Columbia, SC.

*  I've been  on a journey to physical wellness for a while now.  After joining a gym here in town and getting in a routine, I've made good progress.  So far I've lost 22 pounds, and I will lose 50 more.  My goal is to reach this mark by Christmas Day of this year.  When I reach it, I will tell you all about it.  In the mean time, I do ask for your prayers as I continue on this journey.  I can tell you this:  I physically feel better than I have since my college days twenty years ago.

*  God has sure been good to me.  I am mighty blessed and truly thankful.

That's all for today.  Lots of new blog posts are headed your way.  Thanks for checking out my online home.  Stop by again whenever you have a few moments.  My hope is you'll find something here that will encourage and help you.