Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Reason I Believe

There are a lot of reasons I could give credit for the fact that I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I was fortunate enough to be born into a Christian family. My mother taught me to pray as a child.  I went to church with my mother and father and Mema Cameron growing up.  I also attended Bible School at several churches.  I was involved with the youth group at Barbecue Presbyterian Church.  There were people all around me that supported the fact that I was committed to church even as a young man.  But although all of these reasons were influences, none of them are the reason for my faith.

The story of Jesus Christ is personally the greatest historical recount that I know.  Jesus was born both in controversy and celebration.  A king wanted him dead even as a baby but the wise men knew he was the Savior. He was aware of his relationship to the world even as a child.  Most of the years of Jesus are undocumented and we aren’t sure of all of the facts during that part of his life.  Of course, we know the last short time of his life and how he died.  Through the Bible and understanding of God’s word, we know why he died…..for you and for me, so that we can spend eternity with him if we accept him as our Lord and Savior. 

It breaks my heart to think about what he went through.  For someone to do good their whole life, to help others, to heal the sick, share wisdom, help the destitute and teach people around him to do good and be kind to others is truly a blessing.  Then for that person to be accused of blasphemy, mocked, ridiculed, publicly humiliated, found guilty, beaten, tortured, and executed simply because people in power were afraid of him is heartbreaking.  To think that Jesus endured all of that to save the very people doing it, and all of us, is extremely humbling to me.  Although the Bible and all of the significant stories that shaped Christianity gives us a lot of answers, and a guide to follow, it is not the reason for my faith.

There are a number of influences in my life that have encouraged my spiritual growth. The real reason for my faith is something that has always been within me.  As a child, I could feel the presence of God.  My mother would warn me that if I did certain things, I would make Jesus cry.  Even as a child, I NEVER wanted to make Jesus cry!  I don’t just feel drawn to God during critical or challenging times.  I am drawn to God when things seem to be going great.  But I will admit, during my lowest points in life, when I have felt helpless and could not see light at the end of the tunnel, I could feel the presence of God like I cannot explain.  It wasn’t wishful thinking or unrealistic hope.  Whenever I’ve been faced with difficult circumstances, I have felt peace that everything would be alright.  I have never felt forsaken by God at any time in my life.  I have been hurt, and regretted that I did not have better answers, but I did not feel like God had left me. 

A year ago, my family was supporting my Mother as she battled cancer.  The situation was difficult, it was grueling for her physically and emotionally.  I know there were time when she did not feel like she could go on.  But I personally believe what helped her through was so many people praying for her. A year later, the cancer is gone and she is feeling much better.  During that time, I always felt like God was with us. There are many of our friends and family battling difficult circumstances this year.  I would encourage all of you to keep Lacy O’Quinn, Drew Blalock, Brandy Currin Thomas, and Gabe Langdon’s family in your thoughts and prayers this Christmas.  All of these families are dealing with difficult circumstances and the least we can do is love, support, and pray for them.

        I am not sure why I can feel the presence of God as strong as I can sometimes.  However, I am grateful that I can.  I believe that it’s one of the reasons that I love Christmas so much.  I believe in the story of Jesus Christ with all of my heart.  I hope all of you have time to spend with family, friends, and love ones during Christmas.  Take the time to tell your friends and family just how much they mean to you.  You just never know what circumstances may exist before next Christmas. 

             May God bless all of you and I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Dorothy was Right


      When I was a little boy I thought my father was incapable of crying.  I also thought that Uncle Boyd was born without tear ducts.  But during an economic downturn in the early 80’s, Deddy decided that we were going to move to Louisiana so he could work on an oil rig.  Of course, this was a hard transition considering our family had always lived around each other.  The night before we left, Uncle Boyd and Aunt Gail came to the house one last time to say “goodbye.”  When they were leaving, Deddy and Uncle Boyd started crying like children.  Two people that I thought could easily kill a grizzly bear with only their hands, were so upset that they were actually crying.  It is a memory that has never left me.

      In the last several months, we have all watched a political process filled with a lot more acrimony and hostility than unity and inspiration.  It is hard for me to believe the dissention that I have watched between people, in person and on Facebook.  I believe this election has caused friction between friends more than any in other previous years.  Personally, I think its ignorant when someone seems to forget that in a democracy, EVERYONE is entitled to their own opinion, whether you agree with them or not. I think I speak for a lot of Americans when I say that I’m truly glad that it’s over.  But I still believe that the malicious hostility that we have watched over the last year is not really a representation of most Americans.

     I have always been proud to be from rural North Carolina.  We still have a great sense of community.  People care about one another, we watch out for each other and we support our friends and family when they are going through hard times.  A few weeks ago, I participated in a charity event for two children battling leukemia and it was quite humbling. You can check out Drew and Lacy's Event by clicking this link. Hundreds of volunteers put in a tremendous amount of time and effort to make the event a success.  They sold thousands of plates, the silent auction was a great success, and the raffle did terrific.   Everyone was committed to helping Drew, Lacy, and their respective families.  At the end of the day, each family spoke about how grateful they were, how much they appreciated the incredible dedication of the volunteers, and how thankful they were for their community.  Lacy’s father, David O’Quinn, and I have been friends since high school.  He started out by saying that he was going to try hard not to get emotional but he certainly was not making any promises.  I was sitting only a few feet away from him when he was talking and when he said that, I stared at the floor the rest of the time he spoke because I was overwhelmed.  The most significant attribute of each family was how grateful they all were.  Both families have been through a lot, but they both have hope, optimism, and faith that Lacy and Drew will get through this and enjoy a life filled with love and support.  As you looked around a room filled with hundreds of people, you saw love, respect, humility, and appreciation for one another. 

     A year ago, Mama was going through her own battle with cancer.  What a difference a year makes.  She has had some lingering issues with her back,  but we are truly grateful for how far she has come and the fact that she is cancer free.  There are no words to express how grateful you are for family, friends, and prayer during times of great stress.  We were discussing the fundraiser for Drew and Lacy and she told me how she has been praying for both of them.  She said that no child should ever have to endure something like cancer.  I could not agree with her more, but I also regret that anyone has to endure any tremendous illness. 

     In a world that is changing more rapidly than we can hardly keep up with, sometimes we forget just how blessed we are to live in America and have opportunity and abundance all around us.  We take for granted that we have a warm, comfortable home to live in, running water, electricity, an excessive supply of food, and more than we need of everything.  We have the freedom to make our own choices.  We truly are a blessed nation. 

     I am grateful that I was raised in an area that has a sense of community even now.  At the charity event for Drew and Lacy, I saw thousands of people participate that day.  But it wasn’t strangers, it was family, friends, neighbors and people that genuinely care about each other.   I will never forget how much I missed home when we lived in Louisiana.  I miss home even when I’m traveling. Dorothy was right, there’s just no place like home. 

     I hope that all of you have a Happy Thanksgiving.  I hope that all of you have the opportunity to be with family, friends, and loved ones.  This is truly the time of year to appreciate all that we have to be grateful for.  May God Bless all of you this Thanksgiving.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Happy Halloween!

In honor of Halloween, I thought it would be interesting to share a few ghost stories that pertain to my own family.

When Mama was pregnant with me, my Great Grandpa Cameron was extremely excited.  He was certain I would be a boy and he could not wait.  Unfortunately, he had a massive heart attack and died in October before I was born in December.  One night, not long after I was born, Mama woke up and went to check on me and make sure I was OK.  When she walked into my room, she saw her Grandfather Cameron standing there with a woman just looking at me.  She said she was not scared at all and she did not interrupt.  The next day she was telling the story and of course it was met with lots of laughter and jokes!  A few days later, she was talking to Mema Brafford about her Grandfather and the lady she did not recognize.  Mema began to ask her questions about the lady.  She asked Mama, “Well, do you remember what she had on?”   Mama replied, “Yes” and described in detail what she had on.  Mema Brafford immediately recognized the outfit.  It was what my Great Grandma Brafford was wearing when she was buried!!  This was years before Mama and Deddy ever started dating and she did not attend the funeral.  Ironically, my Great Grandpa Cameron and my Great Grandma Brafford had actually been very good friends before they both passed away. 

Another story pertains to Mema Brafford.  She had 8 brothers and sisters.  She is the only one left and the last brother that passed away, died 17 years ago!  Years ago, her brother Herman had cancer and was really having a difficult time the last few weeks of his life.  Mema went to stay with him most nights.  One night she woke up during the night and saw her father and one of her sisters walk down the hall into Herman’s room.  She said the room lit up like the sun was in the room.  Just a few minutes later, she saw her mother and another sister walking down the hall and also went into the room.  She was mortified and was not sure what to do so she just stayed on the couch and didn’t move!!  A while later, the light went out and she didn’t know what in the world to think.  The next day she did not say and word to Herman but he mentioned it to her.  “Mama, Deddy, Prudie, and Sadie came to see me last night, and they said they’ll be back to get me soon.”  Mema really didn’t want to talk about it and gave Herman a vague response.  However, he explained to her, “they told me that they will come in the form of a white dove, and they’ll guide me home.”   Well, Mema didn’t know what to think so the only two people she told was Mama and Deddy and they kept it to themselves.  Just a few days later, Herman passed away.  His funeral was held at Bridges and Cameron in Sanford.   The family left the funeral home and drove to Gulf where he was buried.  After the funeral, the family gathered at Mema and Papa Brafford’s house and were just sitting around talking.  One of the family members chimed in and said....   “The strangest thing happened today when we left the funeral home, as we pulled out onto the road, a WHITE DOVE got between our car and the hearse and flew back and forth all the way to Gulf. When we got to the grave yard, it just flew off.”   Obviously, Mema’s story was not near as crazy as she thought it was.

When Deddy was sick, several odd things happened.  He was walking around the day before he died and that itself was certainly something to be grateful for.  However, he was feeble and a lot of times when he would get up, one of us would grab him by the arm and help him up.  One day I was in the bedroom with him and we were just watching TV.  He decided he wanted to get up and I grabbed his right arm.  Without even batting an eye, he reached out with his left arm and said, “Harold, help me up” and he kind of grinned like Harold needed to get with the program.  You remember the Mema Brafford’s brother I mentioned that died 17 years ago?  He died 3 months before Deddy did.  His name was Harold.

The last several weeks Deddy was living he had good days and he had bad days.  One day was particularly bad and he wasn’t even talking a whole lot.  There were a number of us sitting in the room with him and I was leaning against the wall.  I thought he motioned for me to sit down on the end of the bed, so I did.  He immediately said in a really raspy voice, “No, not you!” and he gave me a look like “could you be a little bit more considerate?”  Travis spoke up and said,  “ROBBIE, he wasn’t talking to you!!”  I immediately sprang up from the bed like I was on a trampoline!  Have I mentioned that I am scared of ghosts, whether I can see them or not?!  Well, I AM!!!   After I stood up, he motioned for whoever he could see to sit down and he was content.  

Happy Halloween everybody!!!!  I hope all the kids get lots of candy and have a great time! Be careful and stay safe!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Three Things Will Carry On Forever

     There are not a lot of things in this world that I hate, but I do hate cancer. It is the one thing in this world that I hate the most. I would include how I really feel, but I do not want to scare some of the people that may read this article. It has no friends, it does nothing good for anyone, and only causes pain and suffering for millions of people every day, all the time, nonstop. One of the best speeches that I’ve ever heard was by Jim Valvano. I think all of us that heard him make his last speech at the ESPYS will always remember him saying, “Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.”

     I was talking with one of Deddy’s doctors at Johns Hopkins many years ago and we were discussing the conspiracy that there actually may be a cure for cancer but there is so much money involved with treating it, that the government will not allow the cure to be utilized. He was adamant that if he was aware of a cure, he would tell the world with great enthusiasm. He said that there would always be another disease for the medical profession to work on. We discussed the challenges with fighting cancer and that the problem is, unlike a virus, it is a mutation of cells. With a virus, you can put it in a petri dish and constantly search for medical ingredients to combat the virus. He indicated to me that the medical community is sure that certain habits make people more at risk for cancer. However, he felt like we will eventually discover that a combination of things we use every day, likely make us more prone to develop cancer.

     I don’t know one person that has not been affected by cancer. My Papa Cameron died from it. My father died from it. My Mema Brafford had 7 of her 8 brothers and sisters to die from cancer. When I look back on my childhood, it honestly seems to me that one of her brothers or sisters were dying my whole life until they were all gone. My mother had a tough battle with it, but she is doing better every day. I’ve watched many family friends battle and pass away from this horrible disease.

     Even though this is a dreaded disease, I don’t want to relent to the sadness that it causes. So let’s move forward. Cancer is one of the diseases that actually brings us closer together. With tragedy, there is often unity. When Deddy was sick, the support we received was incredible. It was the same way when Mama was going through treatment, surgery, and recovery. The calls, the cards, the emails, the notes of encouragement were overwhelming. I even talked to my own family a lot more. When you are going through a challenging situation, it’s a blessing to know people are praying for you every day. Nobody needs to fight this disease alone.

     Our own community has several children and friends battling cancer right now. But we are all praying. You can see on Facebook how people are rallying around these families. During times like this, you often see the best attributes in people. That is one of the best characteristics of the area we live in. As the world continues to grow, we are fortunate to live in an area that still has a sense of community. You cannot imagine until it happens to you, how much encouragement it gives a family to feel the support of their community. It’s both humbling and overwhelming. We have two children in this area that are battling cancer right now, Drew Blalock and Lacy O'Quinn. I would encourage all of you to click on the link to their Facebook page and please keep their fundraiser in mind.  Prayers for Lacy and Drew

     Today marks 16 years since Deddy passed away. I’ve honestly never gotten over his passing and I don’t believe I ever will. I know he’s in a better place. I know he is healed. But I still regret that he was not able to live a little longer. A few more ball games to watch, a few more westerns, a few more rounds of golf, and a lot more advice. Cancer gradually did take away his physical abilities. But it did not touch his mind, it did not touch his heart, and it did not touch his soul. And those are the three things that will carry on forever.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Crosses That We Bear

The Bible is very clear that God was often very stern as the world began to evolve. The Lord thought that the world had become too wicked in their ways so he instructed Noah to build an Arc to save his family, but destroyed everyone else. He also became angry about the evil that had spread throughout Sodom and Gomorrah, so he destroyed them too. He guided Moses to free the Hebrew slaves and at the same time, destroyed Egypt with plagues and the Red Sea. Although we have an instruction book in the Bible, and life is much better when we abide by the laws and rules God has established, humanity has failed God time and time again.

The Roman Empire dismissed God and still conquered much of the world. God could have once again destroyed the world, brought plagues, annihilated cities or done anything else he thought was justified. But, he didn’t. Instead, God decided to save us all by sending his only son to save this world. I don’t understand why it had to happen like that, but it’s not for us to know exactly why. At the same time, God does not owe us an explanation. The only thing humanity needs to do is be grateful.

The story of Jesus is without a doubt, the most incredible story to ever occur. He was born to a poor couple in a barn with only a few “wise men” realizing his significance. We only know about a few years of his life at all. During the last few years of his life, Jesus gathered a group of disciples, peacefully spread the word of God, healed countless people, performed numerous miracles and taught people to forgive others.

We all see people going through trials and tribulations in life. As my Mother dealt with cancer the last 6 months, it was easy to see just how quick life can change. I have watched her suffer through chemo, radiation, depression, and two surgeries. It’s been emotionally and psychologically draining for our whole family as her circumstances changed sometimes by the hour. But you know what we all feel? Grateful. I cannot thank God enough for the blessings he has given my Mother.

As I walked around the hospital almost every day, I saw patients and family members that I felt certain did not have the optimistic prognosis that Mama had. My heart and my prayers constantly went out for people as I walked around. Our family was bombarded with words of encouragement, emails, phone calls, cards and promises of prayers. I accidentally called a customer one night and hung up when I realized his number was dialing. Mama had just went into her second surgery because her feeding tube had become loose. The man called me back and he knew I was upset because I could barely talk. He prayed for me and my family right then and there and encouraged me to leave everything in the Lord’s hands because God knew the needs of my mother.

Another great friend of mine named Stephon Goode, who went to Carolina with me, came to see Mama at the hospital. Stephon is a great guy and he is also a Pastor at Union Grove Baptist Church. He visited with us for a while, said a prayer with us, gave me a hug and told me to keep in touch. The next day, his brother was in a terrible car accident and was in critical condition. Another reminder that you just never know when a family may have challenges to endure. His brother is rehabilitating and they are optimistic that he will make a full recovery.

This world is plagued with problems. There are wars all over the world, acrimony at every turn, and dissension constantly between people. As I travel across America, I see some rough places. It astonishes me when I go through areas where so many buildings are abandoned and destroyed, trash is all over the streets, and it seems that nobody could care less. If the world has ever been deserving of an intervention by God, it’s now.

But Jesus has saved us all. Jesus gave us the promise that we can obtain salvation. Without him, we would all be doomed. His time here on earth was much like ours. He experienced every type of emotion a person can have. He saw our flaws and how misguided human beings can be. Regardless, he was still committed to saving us. Even as people yelled “Crucify him,” Jesus still wanted to save them. He anguished in the garden in Gethsamane but was still willing to do the will of God no matter what. He was mocked, brutally beaten, and nailed to a cross. A crown of thorns was placed on his head for further ridicule. Then he was stationed high on a hill so the world could watch him die. For all of this, Jesus still said “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do”. All the power of the universe at his disposal, and yet he suffered through to save us all.

We all have our own crosses to bear. However, I am convinced that no matter how heavy your cross is, someone else has a cross even heavier. On this Easter Sunday, keep in mind that no matter how heavy your cross may feel, it will never be as heavy as the cross Jesus carried. What should be humbling to all of us is that Jesus did not carry a cross for himself, but he carried it so that OUR sins could be forgiven and we could have salvation. For that, we should all be truly grateful.