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Read the book.

One night on a television talent show, three judges sat at a desk facing the stage watching different people perform. Everyone who appeared on stage that evening hoped to do well and advance and have a chance to win the big prize of one million dollars.

The theater was packed and the show was broadcast on a major network. This night would give each performer fifteen minutes of fame. It was a chance to shine and move on or to be voted out and be sent home.

The judges were seasoned professionals in their fields. Bart Simmons was a Grammy Award winning singer, Melba Roberts was a dancer and the toughest judge, Simon Howard, a television producer and creator of the talent show all sat silently, not impressed with the talent that they had seen up to that moment. The performers
had to impress these judges because they could make or break contestants hopes and dreams.

Bart was not impressed with the performances he had seen. Most of the performers had been voted down. During a break he shared his thoughts with the other judges.

“I haven’t seen one contestant who stands out.” Bart said. “They have the right look, but something is missing.”

“They might look good on stage, none of them have been very good.” Melba added.

“Well, there’s one more performer. Let’s see if this person has any talent.” Simon said.

The last contestant was seventeen year old Michael Duggan. Michael had watched the other performers and was nervous as his time drew near. His Grandfather Paul was with him and noticed his grandson’s nervousness.

“Mike, why be nervous? You’ll do fine, just relax.”

“Grandpa, I don’t know. They’ll think that I’m a nerd. What if they laugh at me and tell me that I don’t have the right look? Maybe I shouldn’t go on.”

“Son, you’re going on stage and you’ll be great. It doesn’t matter how you look on the outside or what you’ve been through. Show ‘em what you got on the inside and let your talent shine.”

When Michael stepped on stage, Bart and Melba rolled their eyes. Bart leaned over to Melba and whispered in her ear.

“Melba, a nerd just stepped on stage. Get ready to hit the buzzer.”

Melba laughed. Simon heard what they said and he did not comment.

“Michael, tell us about yourself.” Simon said.

“Well,” Michael said. “I come from a broken home and my parents won’t have anything to do with me because of my orientation. If it wasn’t for my grandfather whose with me tonight, I would have been homeless. He heard my singing and encouraged my to try out for the show. I love to sing. It’s given me comfort and helps me to feel good about myself.”

“What are you going to do?” Melba asked.

“I’m going to sing a song my late grandmother taught me. When I sing it I think about her and it gives grandpa and me peace.”

Michael started to sing, his strong tenor voice filled the auditorium. The audience sat spellbound as he sang the hymn, Ava Marie.

“Ave Maria, gratia, plena Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus.
Et benedictus fructus ventris tu Iesus.
Santa Maria, Mater Dei,
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc,
Et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.”

He then sang it in English.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women.
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners.
Now and in the hour of our death. Amen.”

When he finished, the audience stood and cheered. The judges looked at each other. It had been the best performance of the evening.

Simon was moved by the performance. He looked at the other judges and shared his thoughts.

“I was taught that we should never judge a book by it’s cover. We should take the time to read the whole book from cover to cover. In the book, we’ll find rich treasures. Tonight, we’ve read the book and we’ve found a treasure.”

M.D. Carter 05/23/2018

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Punching holes in the darkness

In nineteenth century St. Louis Missouri, young Carl Sihler was looking out of his bedroom into the darkness of the St. Louis streets.
He watched a man lighting the gas street lamps. The man would climb a ladder, light a gas lamp and then move on to the next lamp until the bright light broke through the darkness.

Carl’s father Ferdinand and the family pastor, Rev. Walther entered the room and saw Carl staring out the window.

“Carl, what are you looking at?” Ferdinand asked.

“Papa, I’m watching a man punch holes in the darkness.”

Ferdinand laughed.

“Pastor Walther, children say the funniest things.”

Pastor Walther thought about what Carl had said. Carl didn’t know that he had said something profound.

“Brother Ferdinand,” Rev Walther responded, “Carl has said something that is so true.
He said that he was “watching a man punch holes in the darkness.” Think about it, that’s the task of every Christian.”

“What do you mean?” Ferdinand asked.

“The world is filled with darkness. Task of the Church is to ‘punch holes’ in that darkness with the message of the Gospel so that the light of Christ can shine forth. It is the Gospel that dispels the darkness of sin and unbelief and brings the light of Christ’s grace and love.”

Ferdinand thought about what Rev. Walther had said.

“So Christians should be punching holes in the darkness by sharing and living the Gospel so that the light of Christ shines in the world.”

“That’s right Brother Ferdinand. The Gospel messages gives light to the world.”

M.D. Carter 5/18/2018

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Addicted to Jesus

It was a Sunday afternoon, Jerry Phillips stood nervously in front of his parent’s home. The last time he had been home did not turn out well. He had been high on drugs and drunk. This lead to a confrontation with his father and his brother. His parents put him out and told him not return until he was clean and sober. He had returned clean and sober but he was not sure if his parents would welcome him home. Jerry hoped that they would, he had something to ask them.

He closed his eyes and said a silent prayer asking God to give strength. This wasn’t going to be an easy visit. After taking a deep breath, Jerry walked up to the door and rang the bell. Soon he heard someone walking to the door. The door opened and it was his Mother, Martha. Martha was surprised to see Jerry.

“Jerry, what a surprise. What do you want this time? The last time you were here you almost had a fight with your brother. Jerry, I don’t want any trouble.”

“Ma, I’m sorry about that. I promise, there won’t be any trouble. I’ve got something to tell the family then I’ll be gone.”

Martha motioned Jerry to follow her to the dining room. When they entered the dining room the family was sitting around the dinner table. He had not seen them in a long time, his father John, brother Frank and his wife Sue and his grandfather, Jack.

Everyone was talking when they entered but when they saw Jerry they became silent. Their stares made Jerry feel as if he was about to be cut to pieces by razors. He could sense their frustration and disappointment.

After a long period of silence, Jerry’s father spoke up. There was anger in his voice.

“What do you want? You only come by here when you’re in trouble or trying to get money for your addictions or for those fast women you fool around with. If that’s what you want, get out!”

Jerry was hurt by his father’s words, but he understood the anger. He had misused his family. He wanted his father to know that he was there for a different reason.

“Pop, I am sorry that I put the family through all of that. I came by to tell you that things are different. I do want something from the family and it isn’t money.”

Some members of the family were skeptical. Jerry had a history of substance abuse and he had hurt the family many times. They figured that he had not really changed.

Each time he had claimed that he had changed he always relapsed. Why would this time be any different? As far as they were concerned he was lying to them.

Frank was unsure. He looked at his brother with disgust.

“Don’t let him fool you. He’s an addict and I bet that he’s high on something. Come on Jerry, admit it, you’re high!”

Jerry stood erect and looked directly at his brother.

“Yes Frank! I am an addict, I’m addicted to Jesus!”

Frank didn’t believe him. He still thought that Jerry was not being truthful.

“Yeah, right. Jerry, I bet that you were in jail, that’s why we haven’t heard from you for a long time. I also bet that you got ‘jailhouse religion.’ It won’t last, you’ll go back to your old ways.”

Jerry had expected this reaction and it disappointed him. He couldn’t blame his brother for doubting him. He had played this game before. He wanted to convince them that this time it was real.

He explained that he had been in jail for drugs. This last time in jail was a wake up call for him. He was tired of being sick and tired. The life of drinking and drugs had ruined his life. While he was in jail one of his best friends had died of an overdose. Jerry said that he realized that if he did not make a serious change, he would also be locked up for a very long time or dead.

While in jail Jerry joined an A.A. support group and he had to acknowledge that he had a problem he could not overcome on his own. He had to turn his will and life over to the care of God.

When he got to the fifth step which encourages members to admit to God and to others their wrongs, he sought out the chaplain. The chaplain helped him to look to Jesus for grace and forgiveness and the chaplain encouraged him to continue with
A.A. and to find a spiritual home. He also encouraged Jerry to work with his sponsor
and to work the eighth step, make a list of those who had been hurt by his addiction and the ninth step, to make amends with those who have been hurt.

When he had finished his family sat silently.

“I don’t expect you to believe me. I want you to know what I’ve said is real.”

After he said this he broke down in tears.

“I’ve taken up your time. I’m here to ask your forgiveness. Last night I spent many hours on my knees asking God’s forgiveness. I know that I’ve hurt and disappointed you. I can’t take back what I’ve done but I can and will to make amends with you. I
need your prayers, I’m still and addict and I can relapse. Your prayers and support will help me to stay strong.”

Jerry’s grandfather stood up and walked to him and hugged him. Grandpa Jim turned and spoke to the family.

“I have been praying for this for many years. If Jerry is gonna make it he’ll need our love, forgiveness and support. It won’t be easy for him. It took guts for him to come here. Whatever it takes we gotta help him through, and we can’t let him give up.

I have something to tell you, something I’ve rarely shared with anyone. I was a lot like Jerry when I was young. I did my share of drinking and almost everything. After I hit rock bottom I got into A.A. and the church. They both helped me, it was tough but Jesus brought me through. If you won’t stand with Jerry, I’ll stand with him. I’m an addict too. I’m addicted to Jesus. He restored my life and he can do the same for Jerry.

M.D. Carter 05/13/2018

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Praise to Jesus

Praise you, O’ Jesus, Lord most high.
Who came to suffer and to die.
True God born of a humble Virgin.
Spotless victim crucified for our sin.

Praise you who was raised from the dead.
Who in power, crushed the devil’s head.
You ascended to the eternal courts of glory.
We proclaim to the world your sacred story.

Jesus, joy of the faithful and source of salvation.
From you comes peace and justification.
Savior, you are praised by all of creation.
Receive our thanks and our adoration.

Jesus, freedom of all imprisoned by sin.
By your grace the weary soul is renewed again.
Jesus, comfort of those who weep bitter tears.
Peace of those burdened by fears.

Jesus,blessed Savior, have mercy!
Lead us from this vale of tears to eternity.
Blessed are you, our God and King.
In holy joy, we rejoice and sing.

Holy Jesus, our joy and everlasting salvation,
We sing endless songs of adoration.
With the sacred assembly in heaven above,
We praise you for your amazing love.

M.D.C 05/6/18

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Purpose in life

On a late Thursday evening, members of a substance abuse support group were gathered in a meeting room at a church. During the meeting members shared stories of joys and struggles as they worked to maintain sobriety.

Everyone had something to share expect one member who had remained quiet. The leader of the group noticed that Neil was quiet and looked downcast.

“Neil, we haven’t heard from you this evening. Is there anything you’d like to share with the group?”

Neil thought about remaining quiet but he decided to speak.

“I wasn’t going to speak but I figured that talking would help. I’ve been clean and sober for a year and it hasn’t been easy. Thank God I haven’t relapsed. Still, I am scared. I don’t know what to do with my life now. I don’t feel that my life has any purpose or meaning. When I was still using, my only purpose was to to get money so I could get stoned. Now what?
I don’t know what my purpose is!”

After the meeting, Neil was gathering his belongings and about to leave when someone tapped him on his left shoulder. He turned around and saw an older man standing behind him.

“Oh, hello Ben.”

“Hello Neil. Say Neil, do you have sometime for a cup of coffee at the shop next door? I’d like to talk with you.”

“Sure Ben. I’m in no hurry to go home.”

After they had gotten their coffees and sat down at a table, Neil waited to find out what Ben had to say to him.

“Neil, I was at the meeting tonight. I wanted to ask you what you meant when you said that your life has no purpose.”

“Ben, since I stopped using booze and drugs, I’m not sure what to do. My old man always said that I’d never amount to anything. Maybe he’s right. I don’t feel like my life matters.

“You’ve been sober a year? No relapses?”

“Yeah, a whole year. Had a chance to drink and use but I didn’t.”

“Think about it Neil. That’s quite an accomplishment. I’ve seen people come to the support group and only stay sober a month. Don’t believe what your old man said and don’t write yourself off. You have a purpose. That purpose is to stay clean and sober. Continue to seek God’s help, work the twelve steps and with your sponsor. This has to be your purpose. Remember, you’re still an addict and you can relapse.”

“Ben, that’s what I’ve tried to do. I still want to find out is there more that I could be doing.”

“Neil, what training do you have?”

“I was a lawyer and I also volunteered at a free legal clinic until the addictions took over.”

“Have you thought about getting back into the legal profession? You could be of service and help others.”

“My law license is still good. I guess it’s something to think about.”

“You’re darned right it is! You do have a purpose in life, everyone does. God gives all of us a purpose. That purpose is to use our talents, get outside of ourselves and to be of service.”

“New I see what you mean. I still have much to give and my purpose is to stay sober and to be of service.”

“Neil, you’ve it got it. You have been given a gift, a new lease on life. Don’t take your recovery for granted or think that no good will come from it. Neil, celebrate your recovery! Chasing after money for booze and drugs was never a real purpose. Your real purpose is to discover your gifts, develop your gifts and to be of service.”

Neil felt better after his talk with Ben. He realized that the drugs and alcohol had kept him from seeing the real purposes in life. He needed to celebrate his recovery and thank God for the second chance to use his gifts and make a positive difference in the world,

He left the coffee shop after his time with Ben a renewed man. Neil was determined to continue with his recovery program and to reclaim and use his talents.

Neil smiled. It was a beautiful night and he was at peace. “My life is beautiful because it has purpose and meaning.” He said to himself.

M. Carter 05/3/2018

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You’ll make it through

Life’s journey has both joys and sorrows.
After the dark days, comes bright tomorrows.
None of us passes through without some scars.
Through the pain, God causes us to shine like stars.
Trust in him for he cares for you.
Have faith, you’ll make it through.

Perhaps you’ve had bumps along the way.
Have faith to meet the challenges of each day.
Grow strong through the struggles you face.
Rely upon God’s never ending grace.
Trust in him for he cares for you.
Have faith, you’ll make it through.

Maybe you’ve doubted God in times of strife,
And you’ve how he’s working in your life.
Remember that you are in the palm of his hand.
He’ll give you the courage to endure and stand.
Trust in him for he cares for you.
Have faith, you’ll make it through.

Press on, over every mountain and hill.
Through prayer, always seek God’s will.
When you’re depressed and feel alone,
Remember that God cares for his own.
God declares; “I will take care of you.
Have no fear. I shall bring you through.”

M. Carter 4/20/2018

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Run by God’s grace

Each of us has challenges to face.
All of us must run life’s race.
The paths we travel can be deary.
Many soon become weak and weary,
Never give up running the race.
Press on and go forth by God’s grace.

Setbacks will come and be hard to bear.
Struggles bring upon many worry and care.
Some wonder when the struggles will end.
When will they have peace and joy again.
Don’t allow setbacks to slow you in the race.
Rise above the setbacks and press on in grace.

Struggles can be blessings in disguise.
God places lessons before our eyes.
Through every struggle, always have faith and trust.
God is faithful, He will never leave nor abandon us.
He will supply the strength for the race.
God will bring us through by the power of his grace.

M.D.C 4/15/2018

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We are Easter people.

We are Easter people. Hallelujah is our song.
Blending our voices with the heavenly throng.

We are redeemed people. The blood has made us free.
Jesus has crushed the devil and won the victory.

We are blessed people. People of faith and celebration.
Thanking the Lord for the gift of salvation.

We are missionary people. People with a message to proclaim.
Lifting up before the world, the Savior’s name.

We are pilgrim people. Marching onward to a better place.
To join with the sacred assembly and behold the Savior’s face.

Michael Carter 2018

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The Passion of Christ

Narrator

Lucifer had entered Judas and corrupted his heart.
Judas decided it was time for him to depart.
What Jesus said to him, the others had not heard.
He quietly left the room, not uttering a word.
They went to the garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus went further. The disciples rested by a tree.
In the garden, Jesus walked alone the rest of the way.
Then he fell to the ground. In sorrow. He began to pray.

Jesus

Father, if it is your well, take this bitter cup away.

Narrator

Jesus looked to the sky.

Jesus

Not my will. Father, your will be done.
I shall obey. I am your Son

Narrator

The Father sent an angel to strengthen his Son.
To give him the strength to accomplish what must be done.
As he prayed, sweat like drops of blood trickled down his face.
He rose from prayer, ready to complete the mission of grace.
Jesus was ready to offer himself to set all people free.
He returned to the disciples who were waiting near a tree.
The disciples were sleepy and could not open their eyes.
Jesus urged them to awake up and to arise.
In the distance, he heard noise and saw a flickering light.
The disciples rose and heard voices shouting in the night.
Judas arrived with guards armed with might and power.
Jesus stood firm, prepared for this hour.
He stood firm as the crowd drew near.
Peter grabbed a sword, swing it, he cut off a man’s ear.
Jesus stepped forward and began to speak.

Jesus

Who do you seek?

Narrator

Judas walked to Jesus and kissed him. The betrayal was done.

Judas

He is the one.

Guard

Are you Jesus?

Narrator

After he asked this, the crowd gathered around.

Jesus

I AM.

Narrator

After Jesus answered, the guards fell to the ground.

Jesus

Why do you seek me now? Why not when I taught each day?

Narrator

They would not answer. Jesus was bound and led away.
He was sent to the High Priest and then he was put on trial.
Jesus endured the false trial and the sting of Peter’s denial.
That night and early morning he had neither slept nor eaten.
He was chained, mocked, spat upon and beaten.
The leaders believed that Jesus should die.
They brought in false witnesses to testify.
The witnesses did not agree about what they had seen and heard.
During the false testimonies, Jesus said not a word.

High Priest

Are you the Christ? The Son of the Blessed One?

Jesus

I AM the Christ. God’s own Son.
You will see the Son of Man.
Seated in glory at the Father’s right hand.

Narrator

The High Priest tore his robes.

High Priest

He has blasphemed! He should die!

Narrator

The guards blindfolded Jesus and struck him in the face.

Guards

Who hit you? Testify!

Narrator

Jesus said not a word after he was struck in the face.
He endured taunts, humiliation and disgrace.
When the trial ended, it was very late.
The leaders had Jesus bound and went to Pilate.

Pilate

Why have you brought this man to me? What has he done?

High Priest

He has broken our laws and claims to be God’s Son.

Narrator

Pilate instructed them to deal with it. They refused.

Pilate

You can’t deal with him? Tell me why.

High Priest

He claims to be a king. We can’t execute him. He should die.

Narrator

Pilate spoke with Jesus and learned he was from Galilee.

Pilate

This man is a subject of Herod. He is now in the city.

Narrator

Jesus was sent to King Herod. He was delighted to meet Jesus.

Herod

Jesus, now I finally meet you.
Give me a sign. Show me what you can do.

Narrator

Jesus did give him a sign. Herod sent him away.
He was returned to Pilate that day.
Pilate spoke with Jesus and did not find him guilty.
He decided that he would set Jesus free.
Pilate brought Jesus and a murderer before the crowd.

Pilate

Which one these men should live or die?

Narrator

The crowd demanded that the murder be set free.

Pilate

What do you want me to do with Jesus?

Crowd

Crucify!

Narrator

Earlier crowds hailed him King in one breath.
This crowd gathered called for his death.
Pilate washed his hands and signed the decree.
Jesus was condemned and a murderer set free.

The soldiers took Jesus to a place where he was stripped.
He was mocked, spat upon and brutally whipped.
Jesus was beaten until his flesh tore and bled.
A purple robe placed on him and a crown of thorns on his head.
He was forced to bear his cross to the execution place.
Jesus went on to suffer and die for the sins of the human race.

Jesus went like a lamb to the slaughter for you and me.
By his wounds from sin’s power we are made free.
He walked on and soon began to stumble.
Jesus bore it all. He did not complain nor grumble.
He could not bear the weight of the cross any longer.
The cross was placed on another man because he was stronger.

Jesus made it up from the city to the place on high.
He went up to Golgotha, the place where he would die.
There he was nailed to the cross. With each blow was pain.
The Savior suffered for our richest gain.
Then he was lifted up high.
Crowds came to watch him suffer and die.

Narrator

Along with Jesus were two thieves on the right and left.
The crowds waited for Jesus to heave his last breath.
A sign was nailed above Jesus head.
“The king of the Jews” is what it read.
The leaders came and watched the sight.
When they saw Jesus on the cross, they were filled with delight.
Lucifer also watched and he was filled with wicked glee.
He believed that he had won a great victory.

Leaders

You claimed to be the Messiah, the holy One.
Come down from the cross if you’re God’s Son.

Jesus

Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.

Crowd

If you’re the Christ, Come down and we’ll believe in you.

1st Thief

If you’re the Christ, save us and yourself!

Second thief

Don’t you fear God? For our deeds, this is is a just price.
I believe that this man is the promised Christ.
Jesus, when you enter your Kingdom, remember me.

Jesus

Truly I tell you, today you’ll be with me in paradise.

Narrator

Jesus felt pain and agony as he hung on the tree.

Jesus

My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?

Narrator

Jesus endured the punishment for sin in our place.
The Father withdrew his hand and turned away his face.
Jesus then fulfilled the Scriptures.

Jesus
It is finished!

Narrator

These were the last words that Jesus cried.
He gave up his spirit, bowed his head and died.

Darkness covered the land, lighting flashed across the sky.
These events frightened those who watched him die.
The temple veil was ripped in two. The separation was done.
Reconciliation was accomplished through God’s Son.

A spear was thrust into his side. Out gushed water and blood.
From the Savior’s pierced side came a healing flood.
The body was taken down by those whom he gave gladness.
In that hour, their hearts were heavy with sadness.

Jesus, who was born of a humble Virgin’s womb.
Was laid by his friends in a borrowed garden tomb.
Lucifer was delighted when Jesus died on the tree.
He danced and was full of glee.

From the poem; “THE TRIUMPH OF THE CHRIST.” Michael Carter, 1997-2018 Due out soon.

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Christ, our Savior.

Christ our Savior, keep us in your protection and love.
Shower down upon us, rich blessings from heaven above.
Jesus, keep us under the protection of your holy venerable cross.
Under your divine protection, we’ll suffer neither pain nor loss.
Guard us against the assaults of the devil and save us from all harm.
Support us by the strength of your mighty arms.
Count us worthy to praise you whom we adore.
We praise you together with the Father and Spirit forevermore.

-Based on a Armenian Orthodox dismissal.

M.D.C. 3/20/18

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