Archive for June 2017

What’s Behind Old Glory?

June 29, 2017

by Dr.. Steven J. Callis

Last week I had the privilege of attending our church’s global quadrennial conference held in Indianapolis.  With organized churches in 162 world areas, nearly 20,000 representatives gathered from around the world for times of worship, fellowship, and administrative decisions that will guide the denomination for the next four years.

            One of the highlights was the opening session which featured the march of flags.  It was awe-inspiring to watch as 162 national flags paraded up and down the aisles to a rousing anthem.  Every person in the auditorium swelled with as much pride for their country’s flag as you and I do for ours.  I am blessed to be part of a global church.

            The oldest national flag still in use has represented Denmark since 1478.  Its cross design has been used on the flags of many other countries. 

            The flag of the Netherlands is the oldest tri-color flag.  Its three colors of red, white, and blue trace back to the days of Charlemagne in the 9th century.

            Our American flag, also bearing the red, white, and blue, has been modified 26 times throughout its existence.  The current design was introduced in 1960, and it is the longest-used version of the American flag in our history. 

            The flag is more than a mere piece of cloth.  It is a symbol, and a symbol never shines its own light – it always points to a greater object beyond itself.  When we see our American flag, what we really envision is a nation of unity, freedom, courage, and strength. 

            When that flag is abused, then, it strikes at the heart of our emotions because of what it represents.  Our outrage is not about the flag itself; it can be replaced.  We are offended because we take it personally.  The perpetrators are denouncing our liberties and national pride.  Their intent may have more to do with making a political statement, but to us they scorn our very lives.  Whether it is by burning, or stomping, or refusing to honor it, we who pledge our allegiance to the symbol of our nation take offense.

            As we celebrate our nation on July 4, we not only celebrate our declaration of independence, but we also declare our unity, tenacity, and strength.  We too often demonstrate our ability (and freedom!) to focus on divisiveness.  However, the greater exhibition of courage and strength is found in creating unity.  It often requires more work, resourcefulness, and concession to agree than it does to divide.

            I recently saw a placard which read simply (in the context of marriage), “Unity over Preference.” If we could adopt that idea as a nation, life for us all would truly change.  Unfortunately, we are too headstrong promoting and fighting for our own personal agendas to even consider such an ideal.

            Nevertheless, you and I can do our part everyday.  Let’s give thanks for our blessings and privileges.  Let’s show our colors on July 4.  Let’s strive as one for the sake of our country.  Let’s pray for God to bless the USA.    

When Almost Clean is not Enough

June 9, 2017

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

Washing cars to raise money is an idea that has been around for many decades.  You have seen people, usually teenagers, holding hand painted signs and trying to capture the attention of passersby.  Somewhere near their location is another group busily soaping and rinsing cars, and occasionally soaking each other.

                Often the price for a car wash is largely emblazoned on the homemade sign, maybe $3 or $5.  Some organizations simply ask for a donation which, in my mind, easily could exceed the standard rate.  From time to time there may be an organization such as a church youth group advertising a “Free, No Gimmicks” car wash.  Thoughtful youth leaders are teaching their students to give back to the community, and this event serves as their community project or ministry event.

                I distinctly remember a car wash our church youth group held when I was a teen.  We gained permission to use the parking lot at Third National Bank on Murfreesboro Road in Nashville, Tennessee.  This busy 4-lane road was a great location, and the bank was situated on the corner of two busy streets.

                Our 40-voice youth choir was planning a tour through the southeast all the way to Florida and back, singing in local churches each night and enjoying a few day trips for fun and exercise.  I was among the younger of the team members, and this would be my first big tour and my first car wash fundraiser.

                Somewhat late in the day a nice, large conversion van pulled in for a wash.  It was comical to watch the older teens try to reach the roof of the vehicle with their soapy sponges.  There were several students surrounding this van in hopes to finish it quickly.  Once it was washed and dried, our youth leader came over to inform us that the driver was unhappy with the job that was done, and that we were to do the entire vehicle again.

                After a more careful going over, the driver complained again that there still remained a couple of spots that needed washing.  Dutifully striving to make the customer happy, I suspect that there were murmurings amongst us that were out of the earshot of the owner.  Once satisfied, he laid out the cash – – a twenty dollar bill, probably 5 times what we were charging other vehicles.

                Of course, we suddenly loved that big van and its generous owner.  That’s when our youth leader informed us that the driver had planned all along to create that scenario.  He was impressed by the attitude of the kids who did what they were asked to do, yet with no glaring looks or smirks at the owner throughout the task.

                That day we learned that even though most customers were stopping simply to support the youth group, they should be able to expect a job well done.  Further, we learned that our behavior reflected on the entire group, in fact the entire church, and ultimately Jesus himself.

                Well, it is car wash season.  I hope you will find it in your heart to support youth organizations whose causes are worthy of your generosity.  After all, don’t you deserve to be driving the streets of your town in a shiny, clean vehicle?!