Easter – When God Fulfilled His Greatest Promise

Thanks for visiting our web-site. We also invite you to view our newest web-site – Ray of Hope Ministries On-Line Bible Study. click here www.rohmbible.wordpress.com
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In 2006, eight years ago, I retired and Joan and I move to a nearby retirement development called Leisuretowne. As we prepared to move we went through all our stuff to see what we should take with us and what we could give away or throw away. That in itself seemed to be an overwhelming project. However, one way I made it easier was to assign every three categories of stuff.

The first category was practical, functional, utilitarian stuff we used regularly to maintain a household. Anything from pots and pans to basic furniture. It was obvious that such stuff had to go with us.

The second category was stuff that had been packed up and moved from one home to another over the years, but rarely, if ever, used. Some of it was still boxed up from the last move, eight years before. Actually,some of it came from our first small apartment, over 40 years and five homes ago, since we were married. We saved this stuff because “it might come in handy some day”.

That stuff we threw away or gave away, depending on what it was and its condition. One such item was the electric meat slicer, which did nothing but take up space. We gave that away to someone who could really use it. Another example was the electric typewriter that Joan used in her younger days, but hadn’t used for many years. However, that item and a few others, came with us. That stuff that came with us is for the most part still in those boxes just taking up space. Maybe I’ll say something more about that in a future blog.

Anyway, the third category is stuff which doesn’t fit into either of the other two categories. It’s not stuff needed to maintain the household and not stuff to be thrown away. It’s stuff that has meaning to us. Some of it was and still is in use and some of it is still in boxes and needs to be reviewed and acted upon. This stuff consists of photos, books, letters, souvenirs, etc. It’s stuff that reminds us and can be used to tell others of all we have been through in our married life, our separate lives before that, and even of the lives of our ancestors and close friends.

It’s the kind of stuff that reminds us that we have been through good times and bad times. It reminds us of our families and friends who God provided to help us experience good times and get us through bad times. It reminds us of God who promised to make all things, good and bad, ultimately work for our good. It’s the kind of stuff that reminds us that God has kept and keeps his promises.

None of that stuff will be needed to maintain our home. None of it will be thrown away. However, some of it some of it has been and will be passed on to our son and daughter, friends, and others, with the hope that it will remind them and their descendants (and maybe their friends) that God keeps his promises. But for now, we will hold on to and treasure that stuff, gradually organizing it all, so that it is easily accessible, reminding us that God always keeps his promises.

So why do I mention all this ? Because soon it will be Easter. Which reminds us of how God kept the greatest of all promises – the resurrection of Jesus. The promise that, as the song say,  “Because He (Jesus) Lives, We Can Face Tomorrow”, is being fulfilled every day, in the good times and the bad times. When the news from around the world and close to home is so bad that it seems there is no good news. When it looks like all is hopeless. Some of our stuff helps remind us that because Jesus lived, died, and lives in our lives today through his Holy Spirit, we can expect that there will be good news in the midst of bad news. We can expect that if when our hopes are in agreement with God’s good promises, plans and purposes for us ( individually and collectively), they will be fulfilled, in God’s time and God’s way.

Grace and peace,  Ray

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Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.

May God be with you,

Patty Perez and Ray Gough

Posted in Easter, Faith, God, God's Promises, God's Will, Good News, Hope, Inspiration, Life Style, Our Stuff, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Are You Living a Life Of Love?

Thanks for visiting our web-site. We also invite you to view our newest web-site – Ray of Hope Ministries On-Line Bible Study. click here www.rohmbible.wordpress.com
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Here we are in the season which the Christian church calls Lent. Every year at this time I am reminded how, when I was growing up in Jersey City in the 1940s and 50s, it always bothered me that my friends, who were mostly Catholic and Jewish, got excused from school (or were allowed to come in late) for all kinds of religious holidays, but Protestants like me, weren’t excused. We could have been excused from school, like the others, if we brought a note from church. The problem was that Protestant churches didn’t celebrate many religious  seasons and holidays, so they weren’t about to be issuing notes for us.

I don’t know what the other Protestant churches did in terms of celebrating Lent, but in the church I attended I never even heard of or celebrated Lent (or for that matter – Advent, Epiphany, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, or Pentecost. The only religious holidays I ever heard of or got off from school were Christmas and Easter. And everybody got those days off, because the schools were closed for winter and spring breaks. I don’t know why my church and most other Protestant churches ignored all those other religious holidays. I suppose they didn’t want to be accused of acting “too Catholic”.

Anyway, in terms of days off from school, there was a distinct disadvantage to being a Protestant. On the other hand, there was also an advantage. I don’t know what the Jewish kids had to do when they got off on all or part of their religious holidays, but the Catholic kids, especially during Lent, had to go to confession every week. They had to perform acts of repentance for the sins they confessed about. And they had to give up something for Lent.  Usually they gave up candy or gum. But the good news for us Protestants was that, while we didn’t get the days off, we didn’t have to go to confession. We didn’t have to confess or repent. More than that, we could have our candy and gum, without feeling guilty. In other words, we could just go on doing what we always did.

We could and did go on living as though Jesus never made that final journey to Jerusalem. As though He never was denied and betrayed by those who claimed to be his closest supporters.  As though He never was tortured and executed on the cross. As though there was no connection between Jesus and us.

Back in those days, the idea that I would some day be a pastor, leading in the celebrating of all kinds of religious holidays and seasons, never crossed my mind. Me, a pastor? What a ridiculous idea. But as the years went by, it turned out that it wasn’t such a ridiculous idea. In fact, it became a reality. And the time came, 25 years ago, at the age of 49, that I assumed the responsibility of leading the people of the churches I served in celebrating all those religious holidays.

I came to understand that whatever else Lent is, it is a time to stop and ask myself and those in the congregations I served: “Are we, individually and collectively, living as though we are really connected with Jesus? Not just saying we believe all kinds of religious doctrine about Jesus, but living according to His example and direction? Are we living our God-given lives by loving God and every other human being, as Jesus taught and did? Are we forgiving those who are doing hurtful and harmful things to us, as Jesus did when He asked God to forgive those who were torturing and executing Him, even as He spoke those  words from the cross?”

It wasn’t until I became a Methodist in my mid 20s that I began to understand that one thing that all religious holidays, regardless of what the religion happens to be, and regardless of what each one celebrates, were and are times to stop and seriously engage in prayer, meditation, and reflection on how we are living our God-given lives. We really ought to be doing that every day. But we get busy with the things we have to do, or believe we have to do. So we need to stop and make and take some designated times to intentionally be in touch with God. To the extent that we do that, we will over a period of time, which can mean a day, a month, or years, hear from God, because whether we like it or not, whether we realize it or not, God always has something to say to us. And the basic theme of what God has to say to us can be summed up in one word – LOVE.

The basic question God is always asking, is not “what do you believe?”, but “are you living a life of love?”  If your answer is yes, then the next question is “how are you doing that (give some examples)”? If your answer is no, then the next question might be “Why not”? My experience has been that God isn’t just interested in having a discussion with me on how I’m living my God-given life. What God wants is for me to discern what He wants to do with my life in order for it to be a life of love. God wants me to say yes to whatever that is. And then to have faith that my HOPE for a life of love will be fulfilled, since that is the kind of life God desires for me and everyone else to live. I try to be in contact with God  every day, but even though I’m retired and have all the time in the world, I still have to make and take time for this. That’s what I’m doing during this season of Lent.

Grace and peace,  Ray

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Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.

May God be with you,

Patty Perez and Ray Gough

Posted in Discernment, Faith, God, God's Will, Hope, Jersey City, Lent, Life Style, Listening, Love, Prayer, Spirituality, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

How To Make The Right Moral Decisions

Thanks for visiting our web-site. We also invite you to view our newest web-site – Ray of Hope Ministries On-Line Bible Study. click here www.rohmbible.wordpress.com
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The following post is written by my friend and partner in ministry (including this web-site), Patty Perez. The theme of this web-site is HOPE. We believe, based on the experience of ourselves and others, that when your hope is in accordance with God’s will, then you can count on it that God will fulfill your hope, in His time and His way. In this post, I hear Patty speaking about how we can be assured that God will fulfill our hopes about making the right moral decisions as we go through life.

Ray

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What is morally right, wrong, or indifferent? In today’s global society this question could have many answers. For me in particular, I see the world changing its perspective from what used to be easy to deal with moral issues, to today’s globally challenging issues. With different cultures, religions, and age groups all trying to take a stance, it can at times be difficult to decide what is morally right or wrong. Fortunately for me, I rely on one thing to help me face each day’s moral dilemmas.

This one thing is actually quite simple. It consists of four letters in an acronym that reminds me to ask a simple, yet convicting question, “What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD?)”. As a Christian I believe that Jesus was and is God in human form. It is through these letters that I am reminded to heavily rely on God for answers to all my moral dilemmas. I believe that using God to address and answer all moral dilemmas is the best way to live your life. Because the Lord (God) requires us to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8), we can be sure his guidance is the best way for all persons equally. This should not be seen as a way of carrying out religious ritual, but rather as a way of life. Asking yourself  WWJD before answering any moral dilemma is asking God to give you the mind of Christ (Jesus) and not simply your own mind.

One must see the bigger picture about what is right and wrong, with a sense of reasoning and not just feeling. The world offers various perspectives that are generated from individuals who are not always of the same mind-set. One’s culture, upbringing, religion, and physical ability to empathize all have a bearing on how we respond to moral dilemmas, it is critical to not rely only on our own understanding. We ultimately need to rely on the understanding of God. When we ask ourselves What Would Jesus Do?, we are asking God to give us the mind of Christ (Jesus) so that we can know how to make the decisions God desires from us.

After all, it is the world that calls for justice and requires us to act justly to all people, creatures, and beings. Yet the world also allows society to dictate what is right or wrong. This can and does sometimes result in people being persuaded to do such things as torture and kill at the urging of  human authority figures. Relying on the minds of human authority figures alone unfortunately shapes our world-view and often guides us to see the wrong perspective. It is because of this injustice, we as a society need to rely on God, who ultimately requires all people to act justly in all their daily activities. By asking to have the mind of Christ we are asking God to govern our choices. With God governing our choices we can be sure to face our moral dilemmas with the assurance and wisdom needed to help us make the right decisions. With God as our guide, we rely on His set of standards and His virtues.

To act justly is one of God’s standards. Another is to love mercy. Since “love” is a verb, this means we are to take action and be compassionate to all human beings, regardless iof their religion, race, national origin, social or financial status, or anything else that can separate us from each other. We will never live in a world of total agreement about morality or other issues. There will always be some state of disagreement because of mistaken facts or our natural conditions and religious beliefs. This should be more reason why we need to rely on the mind of Christ to help guide our way in a sincere effort to love others as ourselves. In doing so, we can be compassionate to the entire world.

God also requires us to walk humbly with Him daily. When we do this we can be assured that we are never far from His guidance. Through prayer, Bible study, and worship we can gain a closer relationship with God, and will then be better able to hear His guidance and wisdom on how to deal with all moral issues. Although religion might have rules and guidelines created by society, God’s ultimate ruling is equally loving and just for all human beings, since all have been created in His image. God loves the world unconditionally and therefore has the best judgement in and for all things.

Therefore, when faced with moral dilemmas, instead relying simply on your own mind as to deciding how to respond, one should ask God for the mind of Christ (What Would Jesus Do?), expecting that God will answer – in His time and His way.  This is the sure way to approach any situation. By letting God govern our minds, we can be sure that we will be able to love others as ourselves. It is the best way to live your life.

God be with you,  Patty

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Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.

May God be with you,

Patty Perez and Ray Gough

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

God Can’t Please All Of Us All The Time, But We Can All Try To Please God All the Time

Thanks for visiting our web-site. We also invite you to view our newest web-site – Ray of Hope Ministries On-Line Bible Study. click here www.rohmbible.wordpress.com

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I believe that in previous posts I have mentioned that I don’t like snow. It’s got to be cold to snow, and I don’t like cold weather. Snow turns into ice and that makes it difficult to walk and drive. It costs money to buy ice-melt and pay for snow removal. A long time ago I decided that I really don’t want snow. What I want is warm, sunny weather, all the time. Some rain now and then is also okay with me.

Of course, what I want concerning the weather doesn’t really matter. I realize that God has a purpose for the weather. I believe that when God created the universe he also created laws of nature, including weather patterns which were necessary to support life on Earth. I also don’t believe that God is always micro-managing the weather he has created, but he does make some adjustments from time to time, as in “climate change”. I don’t understand how this all works.  However, I do believe that, when it comes to weather, God’s purpose isn’t to please me or anyone else. In fact, God can’t please all of us all the time. After all, right now, in the midst of a snowy winter, there are people who are happy to see it snow, and people like me, who would be happy to never again see even one  snowflake in their neighborhood. Obviously, God can’t please everyone all the time. So I accept that, like it or not, the weather will be what what it to be.

I think it’s that way with the church too. When I served as a pastor sometimes someone would tell me that this or that person or family wasn’t happy with the church because they didn’t like the worship service or the way somebody ran a committee meeting, or they didn’t like the pastor (me) or some other church member, or things weren’t the way they used to be, or things were too much like they used to be.

Frequently, a person telling me about all these complaints would add, “well, you can’t please everyone”. Which is true. Then I would remember that, just as God’s purpose for the weather is not to please people, neither is God’s purpose for the church to please its people. Not even the pastor. So what is God’s purpose for the church? I believe God’s purpose for the church is for it to be a people who join together to please God. To praise, give thanks to, and glorify God. To make God in Christ (Jesus) known to the world. To proclaim Christ as Lord and Savior for the purpose of making disciples, who will in turn carry out that responsibility.

In this still new year, the weather reporters are predicting more snow. I don’t like that, but there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s all in God’s hands. I hope for warm, sunny weather. I believe that God will fulfill that hope, but in his time and his way, because it is also God’s will. And God fulfills faith based hopes. I accept that I’ll have to patiently wait a while for the warm, sunny weather. In the meantime, I believe what God wants me to be doing is to renew my focus on discerning how I can please God in my current and future status as a retired pastor who is still and always part of the church. I invite you to join me in beginning or continuing that endeavor. My experience has been that while God’s purpose is not to please me, I can be and have been pleased with what God has done and is doing with, for, and through me. I believe God desires that we all be open to having that experience. God can’t please all of us all the time, but we can all try to please God all the time.

Grace and peace,  Ray

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Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.

May God be with you,

Patty Perez and Ray Gough

Posted in Discernment, Faith, God, God's Will, Good News, Hope, Inspiration, Life Style, nature, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Winter | 1 Comment

Navigating the Potholes of Life

Thanks for visiting our web-site. We also invite you to view our newest web-site – Ray of Hope Ministries On-Line Bible Study. click here www.rohmbible.wordpress.com

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Today we present a guest blog written by The Rev. Glenn K. Miller, pastor of Vincentown United Methodist Church in Southampton, NJ., the church which we attend, and where Ray served as pastor during 1998-2006. Originally written for our church newsletter, Pastor Glenn offers a message of hope in the midst of a bad situation, based on his own personal experience.

Grace and peace,  Patty and Ray

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I walked out of the house this morning and my windshield was coveredwith snow. I’m tired of cleaning off my windshield. I’m ready for Spring. And there is another effect of the weather that is really starting to get on my nerves – potholes. They’re just everywhere. Sometimes you can see them and sometimes you can’t. The one good thing about potholes you can see is that if you see them far enough in advance you can navigate around them. But sometimes you just don’t see the potholes. Maybe it’s dark. Maybe you’re moving too fast. Or maybe you’re just not watching the road. And if you fail to notice a pothole and you hit it, you can do some serious damage to your car. Watch out for those potholes.

I was driving home from the Cancer Treartment Center in Cherry Hill one day and was trying to avoid the potholes in Church Road, to name jut one of several roads bedecked with potholes. As I was swerving around the obstacles, I began to think how much the experience parallels our journey through life. There are times when our lives seem to be going smoothly, with everything in place and then, BOOM, a pothole; something to make us swerve off the path, something that leaves marks and sometimes damages behind.

For the last couple of weeks in our Bible study on Monday mornings, we studied a couple of chapters in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. At first, the church was a growing church, faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But Corinth was a commercial center back in those days and people from various countries would pass through. With these visitors came their religious beliefs and customs, and the Christians in Corinth would fine themselves incorporating elements from these other religions with their customs and practices. They would be moving along so well, and then BOOM, a pothole.

And Paul’s ministry in itself was no smooth journey. He would be spending time in one city and BOOM, a pothole. He would be thrown into prison or beaten. He would be preaching the Gospel in one town and his followers would get word of an attempt to be made on his life. They would secretly  and hurriedly get him out of the city. BOOM, a pothole.

Have you ever encountered potholes in your life? Have you ever found potholes in your relationship with Jesus Christ?

I’ve recently encountered a pothole of my own. A pothole that takes me to Cherry Hill at 1:20 p.m. five days a week for radiation treatments. Now I can deal with this pothole in a number of different ways. I can moan and groan about the inconvenience or I can navigate the pothole the best I can and do my best to incur as little damage as possible.

My new catch phrase is driving my wife crazy.I tell her “it is what it is”. I have just decided to put it in God’s hands and let God take care of it.

We all have potholes, in our lives, and in our walk with Jesus Christ.There are thoes rough spots we encounter as we try to be faithful to the life to which the Lord calls us.  Sometimes those rough spots, those potholes, can knock us off course. Sometimes we hit those potholes really hard and cause damage. But God can repair that damage. God can help us navigate around those potholes, those rough spots.

The Apostle Paul encontered pothole after pothole, but because of his encounter with the living Christ, he overcame the rough spots and just kept moving., with the help of the risen Lord.

I know there have been rough spots in your journey. I know ther have been rough spots that try to knock you off course. Just keep on the road. The road that Christ has traveled before you. That won’t take the potholes aways, but it will help you to get over or around them,.

Yours in Christ, Navigating the Potholes, Pastor Glenn

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Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.

May God be with you,

Patty Perez and Ray Gough

Posted in Bad News, Bible, Faith, God, Good News, Hope, Illness, Inspiration, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Winter | Leave a comment

In the Midst of Bad News, God is Good

Thanks for visiting our web-site. We also invite you to view our newest web-site – Ray of Hope Ministries On-Line Bible Study. click here www.rohmbible.wordpress.com

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From time to time, usually in the midst of winter, I haver written about how much I don’t like winter. Specifically, I don’t like it when it snows. I don’t  like when it’s cold. I don’t like when I can’t see and feel the sunshine. I’ve been experiencing all of these things I don’t like about winter for the past month (January). It seems to me that it’s one of the worst winters (in my opinion) we’ve had in this part of  New Jersey for a good number of years.

Thinking about winters past, I was reminded of one wintry weather incident that took place in the winter 11 years ago. Joan and I arranged to attend an evangelism conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It seemed like this would be a good way to accomplish two things. One was to learn some things that I could apply to my work as a pastor. The other was to get away from the cold weather and spend a few days in the warm and sunny south. This was the right time and the right place for just such an event.

The good news was that the event was excellent. It gave me good and helpful insight, inspiration, and information, Which I was able to apply in the church I served. But then there was the bad news. On the way south we found ourselves in the midst of a snowstorm. Beside that, instead of the warm sunshine at Myrtle Beach, we found the same, cold, dark, and dreary weather we thought we had left behind in New Jersey. I wondered if God might possibly not have understood that the whole point of having an evangelism event in mid-winter in the south, was to get away from the cold and snow and get some warm sun.

Then God reminded me of that story in the Bible where Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea (really just a big lake) of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-27). I remembered how his disciples , who were afraid they would perish in the storm, asked “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him.” The point being that if Jesus,who is God in Christ, can control the weather, then certainly he must be in control of everything and everyone else in creation (his creation).

With this insight, this winter I’m trying to look at the weather, especially the kind of weather I don’t like, as a way of reminding me that God is in control, not just of the weather, but of all of his creation, including you and me. I am also reminded that God loves you and me – and I am assured that no matter what the weather – or anything else that’s going on  – that because of God’s power and love, everything is ultimately going to to be okay in the end.

Returning to the current winter, I find myself constantly saying, “I hope it doesn’t snow tomorrow. I hope it gets just a little warmer.” Sometimes those hopes are fulfilled. Sometimes not. So why is that? I’m reminded of what one of my seminary professors would say whenever we asked questions like that. He would say, “Ask him (God) when you get there” (there being heaven).  I’ll do that someday. In the meantime it looks like I will just hold on to my have faith that no matter what happens, whether I like it or not, somehow God is involved. I don’t mean that God causes bad things to happen, but for some reason God sometimes lets them happen. Sometimes I can see a reason why he lets bad things (as I see them) happen. One reason is that one thing God can’t do is please everybody at the same time. Because what is bad news for one person can be good news for another. For example, a few days ago, right after another snow storm (bad news for me), I received an e-mail from a friend who recently had surgery. She was recovering at home but her husband was away on a business trip. So in the midst of my cursing the snow I read here comment,  “I appreciated the snow storm which kept the kids home too.” I also heard some people on the news report telling how much they enjoyed and looked forward to the snow (Good news for all of those people).

When it comes to the weather, I look at it this way. When God created the universe he also established “laws of nature”, including weather patterns, which are needed for the earth to continue to work as God intended. However, from time to time God finds it necessary to make some adjustments to these patterns. I’m not sure, but I believe this might be why we have global warming in these times. And I have to believe that sometimes God does directly cause certain weather events to take place. Why? I don’t know. I’ll ask when I get there.

Until then, this is what I do know. If my hopes about anything (including weather) are in accordance with God’s will, plan, and purpose, then God will fulfill those hopes, in God’s time and God’s way. That means I have to discern God’s will, plan, and purpose. If I don’t do that, then my hopes are likely to just be wishful thinking.

I also know, based on my experience, that there is always good news in the midst of bad news. If you look for it, you will find it. If I can’t find any good news at the moment I know that God will assure, again in God’s time and God’s way, that something good will take place. My own example is this. About thirty years ago I experienced what I still think of as the worst time of my life. I was fired from my job and spent over a year unemployed. When that happened, I didn’t believe that God had anything to do with that, except that he let it happen to me. Today I know that God was directly involved in that. I even believe he caused me to experience that terrible time. However, today I am also thankful that God either caused it or let it happen. Because God used it to open up a whole new purpose for my life. Today, having experienced good news and bad news, I can say without a doubt, “God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good”.

The weather reports for this week are predicting more cold weather and maybe some more snow. To me that’s still bad news. I will again complain about the weather. But the good news is that God knows better than I do, how to apply the laws of nature for the long-term well-being of this earth that we all call home call home.

Grace and peace, Ray Gough

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Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.

May God be with you,

Patty Perez and Ray Gough

Posted in Bad News, Bible, Discernment, Faith, God, Good News, Hope, Inspiration, Life Style, Love, nature, Uncategorized, Winter | Leave a comment

Hope Fulfilled -In God’s Way – In God’s Time

Thanks for visiting our web-site. We also invite you to view our newest web-site – Ray of Hope Ministries On-Line Bible Study. click here www.rohmbible.wordpress.com

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For the past two years I’ve been writing a book. A memoir. It’s not just the story of my life. It’s the story of how God has fulfilled many of my hopes over the years. Writing and publishing this book has been one of my hopes for about 15 years. Most of that time I  was so busy with other things, that I thought I’d never see that hope fulfilled. But the God-given inspiration was always there. I came to believe that this project was God’s will for me. Therefore it would be fulfilled. In God’s time and God’s way. Now the book has been written. Some editing still needs to be done, and it will soon be published in the form of an e-book on a newly established web-site. It will be available to all interested persons without charge. I will be announcing the details as soon as it is published.

So what does this have to do with today’s blog? I am sometimes inspired to relate what I write to something that is happening on or about the time of writing. I usually check the calendar to see if there are any important dates coming up. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial Day, etc. So I checked the calendar and noted that January 20 was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. You might recall that Dr.King told us that he had a dream – which I believe can also be called a hope. And while that hope hasn’t been totally fulfilled, it is in the process of being fulfilled, in God’s time and God’s way.

I also noted that in my memoir, I wrote a few pages about how God had fulfilled one of my hopes concerning the American civil rights movement, which was largely led by Dr. King. So I was inspired to adapt that small portion of my memoir in remembrance of Dr.King’s leadership, with the hope that it will also help assure readers of this blog that God really does fulfill faith-based hopes, as he did for me many times.

Here’s the excerpt from my memoir :

During 1974-82 I served as the Director of Public Relations for a non-profit organization  which operated a number of retirement homes in New Jersey. During those years there had been many successful efforts at racial integration in the USA. However, in some areas racial segregation was still alive and well. One of the observations that came to my attention was that our facilities were segregated. Not intentionally, of course. But the fact was, just as in many neighborhoods in our towns and in our churches, the resident population and staff of my organization  were all white. The elected members of the Board of Trustees of my organization were also all white. The exceptions were two Afro-Americans, who were District Superintendents of our United Methodist Conference,  who were not elected, but appointed by our Bishop. These two men were the first persons to strongly suggest that we needed to do something about this situation. I was assigned to meet with them and ask them to participate in developing a long range plan to bring about the changes which were needed.

As we proceeded I came to know and greatly respect them. They explained that the feeling in the black churches was that their people were not welcome in our facilities. Yes, we said all were welcome, but those were just words. So what could we do to change words into reality? Two things were suggested. One was that we needed to have Afro-American employees in proportion to the general public, including in the top level administrative positions. Also, we needed to have a presence visiting predominantly Afro-American churches and congregations as we did the white churches in our denomination. Finally, we needed elected Afro-American members on the Board of Trustees.

In cooperation with these two men I arranged a schedule of Sunday visits to all or predominatly  Afro-American churches. During these visits I would preach at the morning services and follow up with some informal time with those who wished to remain, including the pastor.   We also put together a plan called The Minority Administrative Internship Training Program. In this plan we selected a black person to spend a year in training to become a Certified Nursing Home Administrator. That person would live at and engage in hands on training at one or more of our facilities. There would be no cost to those going through the training. They would be paid a salary, since they would be working with us as they were in training. They would also be provided with free meals, room and board within our facilities. As the training period neared its end, the trainee would then be recommended as an administrative staff member to our own United Methodist facilities and others throughout the USA. We would also ask the churches to recommend minority persons to serve as elected members of  the Board of Trustees.

The area that I was most involved in was the visits to the Afro- American pastors and their churches. I always felt good visiting these churches. My most memorable visit was to a church in Newark, NJ. I arrive about a half  hour early and found myself in the area where a Sunday School class for little kids was being held. The teacher didn’t seem surprised to see this white guy in the church. I asked her how to get to the sanctuary. She told me she would take me there, and added that there was plenty of  time. Would I sit in with the Sunday School class?  I was concerned about being late for the start of the service, but she really seemed to want me there.

Next she told the kids that since God sent me to the Sunday School class, he must want me to do some teaching. Now I had no idea what I was supposed to do. In any case, God assured that I would be able to say the right things. I don’t remember what was being taught, but I added some comments in support of what I had heard the teacher say to the kids. From that I transitioned to explaining why I came to the church. I tried to explain in a way a little child could understand, that I was going to preach a sermon and let the people of the church know that they were welcome to come and live and work at our presently all white facilities. Then the teacher told the kids, and through her, God was assuring me, that what I was doing at that and other churches was going to be successful. The day would come when black people would live, work, and hold important positions in our facilities. Then she took me to the sanctuary, where the service was already under way. She made sure I was seated next to the pastor, near the pulpit, and then left.

The pastor, who had invited me to preach, also didn’t seem to be surprised at the white guy sitting next to him. He just leaned over to me and asked who I was, which did surprise me. Quickly I realized he had forgotten that he had invited me to preach that morning, so I  quietly explained it to him. The service continued. He asked me to give the pastoral prayer. He didn’t introduce me by name, but just said “we have a guest that God has sent us, who is going to pray for us.” This was probably the first time I had offered a pastoral prayer at any church service, let alone in a setting which was so different to me (at the time, I was not a member of the clergy). But all went well. People were responding with joyful sounding “amens” all through the prayer.  Then I sat down, expecting that now the pastor would introduce me and ask me to preach the sermon. However, while he might have introduced me, he proceeded to preach the sermon. I realized I was not going to be preaching that morning. Finally, after the pastor’s sermon, he did invite me to say a few words about my purpose in coming. But I left feeling disappointed that I didn’t get to give my sermon and that I had really wasted almost three hours that morning traveling back and forth to and from that church.

Today, about 35 years later, I believe that I didn’t waste any time that day. What mattered was not my sermon. What mattered was my time with the Sunday School class, and my opportunity to pray for the people during the worship service. Over the years I have learned that in situations that go as this one did, it may well be that God wants to use me in a somewhat different way – his way.

To be honest, despite the hope that God had given me that day through the words of the Sunday School teacher, I didn’t see any evidence that our goal of racial integration was being fulfilled. I wasn’t so sure it would ever happen. However, a few years later, after I was no longer employed by the organization, I began to hear and see some positive news. Yes, Afro-Americans were beginning to become residents and employees of the facilities. The new Assistant Executive Director, second in command at the executive offices, who I came to know quite well, was Afro-Americana. During my last year with the organization the first Afro-American member lay person to be elected to serve on the Board of Trustees. Not too many more years later he was elected as the President of  The Board of Trustees, which was the governing body of the entire organization. Only a few of years ago, he resigned from that position, after 31 years of volunteer service with the organization.  The grand rotunda of one of the relatively new retirement homes was been named after him. When I think about all this, just as  when I think about the reality of an Afro-American being elected and re-elected as President of the USA, I am reminded – listen for God’s direction, do what he says to do, and leave it in his hands. If it is God’s ultimate will, it will be fulfilled – in God’s way and God’s time. Our time and effort will never be wasted.

Grace and peace, Ray Gough

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Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.

May God be with you,

Patty Perez and Ray Gough

Posted in Civil Rights, Discernment, Faith, God, Hope, Inspiration, Life Style, Listening, Martin Luther King.Jr. Day, Racial Integration, Uncategorized | 2 Comments