Lawrence Jones & St. Francis/TWT for 10/10/17

Let’s look at this prayer attributed to St. Francis another way this week. Have you ever noticed what the very first plea of Francis was in that prayer? “Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” Above injury, discord, doubt, despair, darkness and sadness. Hatred was the first plea to help address. I don’t think that was by chance. Do you?

When you look at it at the core, hatred unaddressed can prevent all else from being addressed at all. There’s a true story about a black preacher, who just over 100 years ago, who was about to be lynched by a group of whites primarily because he was teaching blacks to read in my home state of Mississippi. He was even foolish enough to think that a better educated population could provide a better work force. He was trying to raise money to buy books so that he could teach our brothers and sisters of color to read in the Piney Woods area of the state.

Such hatred….and fear for what being able to read could do for a group of disenfranchised…..brought a mob to slide a noose around his neck and place him on a stool. He begged them to grant his final wish to simply listen to what he had to say. He would rest his fate with God and in their hands if they would but let him speak. So, they did. When he was done the mob took the rope from around his neck, unbound his hands from behind his back and set him free. In his hands…..bound only moments earlier…..was a hand full of cash collected among the mob and given to him so that he might buy some books for the “colored people” and even build a school for them. So it was for Dr. Lawrence C. Jones that Piney Woods School was eventually founded in 1909.

How many times in your life has the grace of love slipped into your heart to wind up changing your mind? How many times has fear turned to hatred and bored a hole into the very core of your being? There are some things in life that are so big, so complex we simply can’t handle them. We just can’t seam to “fix it” ourselves. Lawrence had to give his goal up to God amidst a mob determined to stop him from his goal; to drop him dead, literally. What kind of faith must that have taken?

I don’t know that Lawrence Jones ever knew the words of the St. Francis Prayer. We do know Francis never knew Lawrence. After all, 700+ years separated them in time. But, I wonder. How many times in the 20th & 21st Century, indeed throughout history, has unabridged love changed the course of human events? It’s not the course of history where love has the greatest impact en mass. I believe it’s in the course of history that love has made the biggest impact in those singular events in our lives that, collectively and uniquely, changed the heart of men and women. As it did the world changed.

Sometimes the world changes in the remote places like Piney Woods. In this case, a man speaking in truth and love prevailed. Let’s give this prayer another try when we are faced with the most impossible, most unfortunate set of circumstances. I’m going to have faith you’ll google the prayer for yourselves. Read, mark and inwardly digest. As you do, your days will begin to change in subtle ways.

Tending the vineyard,
Tom Welch

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Just a little Francis/TUESDAY WITH TOM for 10.3.17 … on Wednesday, 10.4


“Lord, make me an instrument of your Peace. Where there is doubt let me sow faith, where there is injury, pardon: where there is despair, hope; where there is discord let me sow union; where there is darkness, light and where there is sadness, joy. Oh Devine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”
–Prayer of St. Francis

With the mass murder in Las Vegas just a couple of days ago I simply chose to wait an extra day to be quiet and wait until today to talk with you about this most recent mass murder. Today is the day many in the church remember St. Francis of Assisi. The prayer above is attributed to him. It was given to me as a 4th grader by the priest/headmaster at my school in Dallas. It’s been on my lips nearly every morning since then.

The weapon this week of mass destruction has a name. No, it’s not guns, dirty bombs or genocide. It’s more pure than any of those. The weapon of mass destruction over the generations is found in one single word, “evil.” No legislation will ever change pure evil. Evil entered the man called Hitler. Evil entered the shooter in Las Vegas. 59 paid the ultimate price for his evil. Hundreds were injured by it. Millions were impacted by it….nothing more than evil.

St. Francis has something to say about all of this. He has something to say about how we can help the wrongs in life. Christ showed Francis the way, the truth and the light. It inspired Francis to put to words the face of Christ in nearly every circumstance in life through this prayer. These words can change the world. So, dear reader, my prayer for you is that you get and give just a pinch of Francis in every day.
Tending the vineyard,
Tom Welch

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Knock, knock. Anybody home?/TWT for 9.26.17

“Ask, and God will give to you. Search and you will find. Knock and the door will open for you.” -Matthew 7:7

How do you spend your free time? What do you think about the most? On what do you spend your money? We don’t know how John received the message of Jesus in the words from Matthew. We do know he wasn’t a man of means and we have some idea of how he spent some of his time. Maybe it wasn’t that Jesus had been silent to John as much as it was John had been listening for the wrong answers. How many times is Jesus knocking, but the soul was not open to hear? Maybe. Perhaps John was searching for answers to earthly matters while Jesus was speaking to those things eternal. Let’s look at those three questions again; only this time look at them through the eyes of Christ. If we do I imagine the perspective will change.

I know the more frequently I bring the little matters in my life to Christ somehow I wind up with more answers to those prayers than I could have possibly hoped. I believe when we do that, we become what Christ intended for us; that is to be in constant relationship, in friendship, with Him. When we do that do you think our world will change for Him, toward Him? I think it will provide more blessings than we had hoped. It takes persistence and patience. A contemporary theologian, Jack Riemer, put it like this: “Therefore we pray to You, Oh God for strength, determination and willpower; to do instead of just pray, to become instead of merely wish. Amen.”

If we can do that I believe when He knocks we will always be at home…..with Him.

Tending the vineyard,
Tom Welch

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It’s Not “Show & Tell”/Tuesday with Tom for 9.19.17


“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”
-1 Peter 4: 10-11(NIV)

A few weeks back I listened to someone trying to decide what to do with a situation. I find myself getting placed in more and more encounters of those seeking answers to circumstances of all sorts. It kind of cracks me up since so often I find myself looking for answers. What is resonating in my soul from above is the word “steward.”

Stewardship is not a possession. It’s an active verb. We are to be doing something with it, not collecting it for show in a glass case like it was a piece Waterford crystal. In a time when social media drives so many emotions and superficial things what it clearly misses is offering meaningful relationships. I wonder if just being available to listen, and in reply asking the questions God would want us to ask, isn’t one of the best forms of stewardship we can share. I think to be most effective in that is routinely spending time with His people and in His word.

It’s not the “show and tell” which drives this social media society that people truly crave in life. I think they are hungry for something much more, much deeper. It’s the “listen and share” that truly counts these days. That takes time and commitment. To click “like” and “share” alone won’t cut it.

Tending the vineyard,
Tom Welch

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Kingdom Ready/TWT for 9.5.17

When will the Kingdom of God begin?” asked the Pharisees. “The Kingdom of God isn’t ushered in with visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘It has begun here in this place or there in that part of the country.’ For the Kingdom of God is within you.” –Luke 17:20-21

Oh, please. You mean to tell me His Kingdom is with ME? Horrors! Truth is, it is within each of us. Later in this chapter from Luke and part of the next one Jesus speaks of faith being the way we grow in Him.

Many times we want the Kingdom of God to begin right here and now. We’ve grown tired, weary and dismayed by current events. I have found in faithfulness we are building a better self and in turn building a better Kingdom within. That kingdom within us impacts the world around us. As we allow the Kingdom to be nurtured within us we may not act like the leper earlier in this chapter jumping for joy from the healing power of Jesus, but I believe we are changed none-the-less.

As we grow in our faithfulness to Him, His faithfulness in us becomes so beautifully evident. Take a listen and give thanks for the kingdom within you.

Tending the vineyard,

Tom Welch

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Stone Cold Family Matter/TWT for 8.29.17

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
–Ezekiel 11:19-21(NIV)

Well, it finally happened. One of the statues of a family ancestor of ours was removed from an open area on a college campus to be relegated to another less conspicuous location. It’s been coming for a few years now. The powder keg was the mass murder in that South Carolina church a couple of years ago. With the news about this latest removal of cold stone one of my cousins said: “Well, at least he’s in a safe place now.”
You know, I think we all attach an image of something to encompass and define our distaste or disdain for an issue. What’s sad about one city after another becoming violent over cold pieces of stone? It’s the stone cold heart of a person that makes it happen. They/we don’t give God a chance to change our hearts. We just rub out the pain ourselves, literally taking it out of mind by making it out of sight. It doesn’t work. We are kidding ourselves if we think it will. My prayer through all of this is that God would touch our “hearts of stone” and turn them toward Him. I don’t know about you, but I would not like being remembered for a small, four-year chapter in my lifetime of public service. I know John Reagan wouldn’t.
Images are what we make of them. When I look at just one segment of a story and think “How horrid. The site of you disgusts me” I sell myself and the story short. Pieces of cold stone being taken away in hopes of righting a wrong (just one segment of a lifetime) won’t change the heart. The stone cold matter to it all is that until the family of God allows God to do His work in turning our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh we will always see “vile images and detestable idols.”
So dear reader, how many times must we forgive the wrong we see? Not seven times seven, but seventy times seven. When we’ve been able to do that I think we will find that “family of God matters” those areas of distaste and disdain will have vanished, thanks be to God.

Tending the vineyard,
Tom Welch

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Fed & Starve/TWT for 8.8.17

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you.” -Ephesians 1:17-18(NIV)

I’ve recently heard from different people their anxiety over events/circumstances in their lives. I find it interesting how many fret over the same things regardless of their age; what they are going to do with their life now, how they are supposed to cope with things, their hopes and dreams and where God fits in to it all. These good souls are constantly searching in their relationship with Christ, others and their world. In my case here, their ages range 35+ years from the youngest to the oldest. I admire their seeking and hope I can grow myself from their own searches. I pray we all do.

The words from this chapter make me think about feeding the spirit within from the Spirit above. I think when we do that we starve the fear in our lives. So dear reader, as you and I search we should also remember these words from Paul “…ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

Fed by one so we can starve the other.

Tending the vineyard,
Tom Welch

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