Dreams are fulfilled via the ladder from heaven to earth, Canales says

by MARY LEE TALBOT on JULY 19, 2017  The Chautauqua Daily

The story of Jacob is one of the favorites of the Rev. Isaac J. Canales, Week Four’s chaplain-in-residence. In the text for the 9:15 a.m. Wednesday morning worship service, Genesis 28:10-16, Jacob was a fugitive from his brother Esau. He arrived at Bethel and laid his head on a rock and had a dream of angels going up and down a ladder from heaven to earth and back again.

Canales’ sermon title was “Nothing But A Dream.”

“This passage reminds me of difficult times, like when I was in the hospital, barely conscious, on dialysis for two and a half years,” Canales said. “My only comfort was seeing my wife praying or sleeping at my side,” he said.

There was a ladder for him: Jesus Christ, his lord and savior, who took his needs up to God.

When he was young, Canales had been jailed seven times on drug charges. One night, high on LSD and heroin, with a gun in his hand, he contemplated suicide. But a ladder came down to his heart and “my hope in Jesus Christ made me one with the ineffable. Today I am a man, alive, with a new kidney and a new life, and I thank God for it.”

In 1997, Canales was preaching at a men’s revival in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. There were 78,000 men there, and after he had given the altar call, about 10,000 came forward to make a commitment to faith in Jesus Christ or renew their faith.

About a year later, one of the men who had given his life to Christ that day came to see Canales. The man’s name was Richard, and at the time of the revival he was going through a divorce and lost everything. He arrived at Canales’ door and asked if he could bring his dog in.

“I have never even let my own dogs in my office,” Canales said, but Richard convinced him the dog was almost human.

Richard asked him, “What is your dream?” Canales told him it was for the congregation to own its own building and property. They had moved seven times and had a lease on the building they were in. Richard asked if they would like to own that building, and Canales said they did not have the $6.5 million.

“I own this building,” Richard said, and he wanted to help them make their dream come true. He gave them a down payment of $1.5 million to purchase it from him.

“I saw the ladder come down from heaven,” Canales said.

The church also inherited a 33,000-square-foot warehouse that was in bad condition. All the young staff at the church were athletes, and they wanted to make it into a gym.

A local man, Charles Hefner, was a professional boxing coach and he was training a promising fighter, Ephraim, in his garage. Hefner’s wife attended Canales’ church and asked if they could use the warehouse to train. They brought a heavy weight bag to the almost empty warehouse and used it to take Ephraim to the national Golden Gloves tournament in 2005.

“This was the first step on the ladder for them,” Canales said. “Ephraim won the 119-lb. bantamweight gold medal, another step on the ladder.”

At the competition was Prentice, who had played for the Detroit Tigers. He stopped by to see the warehouse one day.

“Is this your gym?” he asked.

Canales told him it was God’s gym, not Gold’s Gym, and then he shared the dream the congregation had for it, that kids on the street could grow mentally, physically, academically and spiritually.

When Prentice left, he asked Canales if he would meet with Prentice’s friend Michael. Sure, Canales said.

Michael arrived and Canales once again shared the dream of a safe place for kids, to give them the dream of education, decency, respectability and civility that their brothers, fathers, uncles and grandfathers did not have.

At the back of the warehouse, Barry, who played for the Los Angeles Angels, was using the batting cage for practice. Prentice made a bet with Michael that if he hit the first pitch, Michael would give a generous donation. Prentice did not hit a thing.

Then they bet Barry that if he could hit every pitch, Michael would still give a generous donation. For three minutes Barry hit every ball, and Michael wrote a check for $1,000. Michael then asked Canales how much it would take to turn it into a real boxing center.

“I told him $1.2 million; I had no real idea, it was an unscientific estimate,” Canales said. “But I knew God could help us take the next step.

Michael was Michael King, co-owner of King World Productions, which syndicated “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Jeopardy” and bought “Wheel of Fortune” from Merv Griffin. For eight years, he helped Mission Ebenezer Family Church realize its dream.

“God comes to you in times of need; you are not alone,” Canales said. “As long as it is his will and call, God will get involved in your life. Who says angels need wings? Sometimes Bowery Boys or Barrio Boyzz get a chance for a better life. Michael King became a ladder between Earth and God.”

Many high-profile companies and people got involved to get the gym going. Everlast Corporation provided equipment. Trainers from the Seattle Seahawks came and installed the cardio equipment, and Canales’ son later became a coach for them. Sugar Ray Leonard served as a referee for the kids’ boxing matches.

King had murals of famous boxers painted on the inside of the gym with sayings from each of them. Muhammad Ali’s saying is “If you even dreamed you could beat me, you better apologize.” But Canales likes best the one that reads “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

“When we come to God, faced with difficult circumstances, and have nothing but a dream, God will send angels down Jacob’s ladder to let you know you are never alone,” Canales concluded.

The Rev. John Morgan presided. Andrew Lechner, from Biloxi, Mississippi, read the Scripture. He is a political science major at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. He is a second generation Chautauqua Scholar, following in his mother’s footsteps. Growing up and hearing stories of IOKDS and Chautauqua Institution inspired him to undertake this journey. Andrew is the recipient of the Ocean Springs Circle Scholarship. The Motet Choir sang “Come, You People, Rise and Sing,” by Kenneth Dake. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, directed the choir. The Robert D. Campbell Memorial Chaplaincy and the Lois Raynow Department of Religion Fund provide support for this week’s services.


Amazing Grace: Settling a troubled soul – AILEEN LAWRIMORE*  

July 4, 2017 – www.Baptistnewsglobal.com

When I stepped onto her hall, I could see her slippered feet just outside the door frame of her room. In her wheelchair, she rocked heel to toe, toe to heel, back and forth and back again.

“Hey, there,” I said, crouching to her height and attempting to push her chair back so I could get into the room. (Imagine a 5’4” duck wearing jeans and a tie-dye T-shirt pushing a wheelchair backwards; you get the picture.) I managed it, then pulled a stool right up next to her chair so I could speak directly in her ear. Nonagenarian ears aren’t especially known for their acuity, you know.

She does not know me; when I began my job at her church, she was already at the point of needing care. I do know her, though — at least vicariously. Her heart is woven into the fabric of our church. I’ve heard stories that told about her love for her church family, her heart for missions, her love of worship. “Such a sweet person,” they all say. “Such a tender soul.”

That day though, she was all out of sorts. She reached for me, her brow furrowed, her gaze unfocused and skittish. In a frantic, high-pitched tone, she began explaining the reasons for her angst. Sadly, her mind had played havoc with her reality again, leaving her agitated by imagined evils. Yet regardless of the validity of her concerns, the fear she was experiencing was undeniable. She begged me to do something to right the wrongs she had described.

“I promise I’ll check on that in just a minute,” I told her, kissing her cheek and stroking her arm. “But before I do that, let’s sing a song, OK?” When she refused, saying we didn’t have enough time and that she was just too upset, I started singing anyway, hoping she would join me.

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound ….”

That’s all it took. Recognition dawned and she began singing along, her memory as sharp as ever.

It reminded me of when I sang those words with my own Grandmama. We sang it in church, Grandmama all dressed up in her pink polyester suit, me with my ’80s hair teased to perfection. We sang it years later too, when she lived with my parents, her favorite pink suit now several sizes too large. By then, Grandmama had lost track of the decades, but she knew “I once was lost, but now I’m found.”

I remembered singing it to my tiny daughter when I was a young mother. We’d be awake, just the two of us in the wee hours of the morning, when fear would cease me. How could I possibly be worthy of this gift I hold in my arms? The song sang itself: “Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound! That saves a wretch like me.” It became her lullaby. And mine.

There in the nursing home that day, we sang all the verses, then moved on to Jesus Loves Me and other familiar favorites. Once between hymns, she squeezed my hand and, exuding absolute joy, said, “Oh honey, I love this!”

When it was time for me to go, I promised to come again and to bring a hymnal next time. She smiled, content, and said, “God bless you, honey.”

“We’ve no less days, to sing God’s praise, than when we first begun.”

*Aileen Lawrimore is pastor to children and youth at First Baptist Church of Weaverville, NC. 


An Apostolic Care Act – Bill Leonard* – Baptist News Global

Bill LeonardFirst a confession: As a result of recent healthcare debates, Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress got me to listen to Jesus in a way I’ve not listened before. And apparently I’m not alone.

On June 9, representatives of some 34 diverse religious groups signed onto a letter urging senators not to cut Medicaid as a lifeline to those with health needs. (Medicaid funds 64 percent of nursing care patients and 54 percent of childbirths in the U.S.)  The document declares: “Access to affordable, quality health care should not and cannot be a privilege; it is a requirement rooted in faith to protect the life and dignity of every person.” Signers include NETWORK, a Catholic justice lobby; the Islamic Society of North America; the Union of Reformed Judaism; and denominations such as the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Presbyterian Church USA and the National Council of Churches. (No Baptist communions are listed.)

I’ve long been haunted by the 10th chapters of Matthew and Luke, passages in which Jesus sends out his first apostolic reps, the Twelve (Matthew) and the Seventy (Luke). They are lessons in gospel minimalism, the first inkling of how Jesus understood and enacted his witness in the world, trusting those folks to help take the Story on the road. Teaching new generations of seminarians compelled me to consider the calling Jesus extended, the message he instructed them (and us) to declare, and the messengers’ inevitable vulnerability.

In classes and ordination services, I’ve warned would-be ministers that the “sent ones” are vulnerable from the start. Jesus advises: “Don’t take purse, shoes, a change of clothes, or an ATM card [postmodern update]. Depend on God’s Beloved Community to sustain you.” He even throws in: “And when you are arrested.” Not if, but when. That alone should scare a bit of the persistent hell out of us. I even got the part about their message: “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven [God’s New Day] has come near.’”

But after years of making a big deal out of Matthew/Luke 10, I mostly missed the depth of the passage, the first element of Jesus’ commissioning. “He gave them authority,” Matthew writes, “over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and cure every disease and every sickness.” Going out, they are to “cure the sick, raise the dead [?], cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” Jesus demands that they confront human suffering as readily as they declare God’s good news!

Holy Obamacare! Two thousand years later, our nation confronts questions over caring for those who need healing from “preexisting conditions,” require cleansing from years of chronic pain — physical, mental, spiritual — and those whose demons of alcohol, opioids, or arrogance need to be cast out. No, we can’t raise the dead, but can we keep folks from dying too soon, or get them to hospice so they can die with dignity?

We still don’t know what our government will do about the Affordable Care Act, but we do know that from the very beginning Jesus mandated an Apostolic Care Act of all who would follow him, who would work for and with people who are suffering, overlooked, and underserved. Whatever else, the Jesus Story has both physical and spiritual implications.

National health care conversations and controversies force us to reexamine our own churchly mission and ministry. What if health care legislation becomes so draconian and human need so great that churches have to initiate or expand community clinics, not because Obamacare is repealed, but because Jesus requires it? Even that won’t be enough. A friend reports being in a meeting where someone declared that if churches would only do their duty, health insurance wouldn’t be necessary. To which my friend responded: “When you start doing surgery in the fellowship hall, call me.”

Some Christian communities are responding with their own initiatives. Medi-share is a Christian based program that asks participants to select the monthly amount they wish to contribute, and, if they do not need it themselves, to contribute it toward the care of others persons in the system. The needs of participants are published online and contributions to their health care are funded to them directly from Medi-share. I don’t know how effective this is, but it illustrates a faith-based alternative.

My own hesitancy to claim Jesus’ first-century healing admonitions inured me to the depth of his concern for persons’ physical well-being and its continuing imperative. He won’t let any of us off the hook. At the end of Matthew 10 Jesus sweeps us up with a minimal mandate for all disciples: We may be unable to hit the road for the kingdom, heal the sick, cleanse lepers, cast out demons, or get arrested for the gospel’s sake. But we can all give “a cup of cold water to one of these little ones” in the church and the world.

Indeed, in behalf of the “little ones,” we may even need to get prophetic. In Prophecy without Contempt, Cathleen Kaveny says that prophets provide a “kind of moral chemotherapy … a brutal but necessary response to aggressive forms of moral malignancy.” Should legislators link healthcare cuts with tax breaks for the rich, some prophet might remind them that Original Sin is a preexisting condition.

*Dr. Bill Leonard spoke at the Hamrick Lectures at First Baptist Church of Charleston. He speaks with a clear voice.

Ordinary Grace – Jo Turner

The Daily Cup
 Jun 21, 2017 08:54 pm

According to the Church calendar, we are in the season known as Ordinary Time. The 28 weeks are marked by … well, not much. No angels and wise men, empty tomb, tongues of flame, no ascending Messiah. It’s not called ordinary because it’s boring, however. The name actually comes from the root word “ordinal;” we are counting the weeks following Pentecost, all the way to Advent.

I’m more than comfortable with it just being plain old ordinary, though. It’s Holy Spirit season, when we are reminded that God is with us exactly where we are, not just in mountaintop experiences. I don’t know about you, but I don’t live a life of banners and fanfares, and life certainly is not always a celebration. Loving those enriching holy days as we do, we now have the opportunity to be Spirit-fed in our everyday living. Particularly here in Washington, we are often braced for the next dramatic turn of events. We may miss the gift of uneventful days to recharge in every way, including spiritually.

I left my office early today. Not in the best if moods, I was struggling, so I came home and scrubbed my kitchen floor. And I mean down-on-hands-and-knees scrubbing. In the silence of an empty house, applying myself to a simple task that humans have done for thousands of years, I started to feel at peace. As often happens, a bit of music started playing in my head as I worked.

From Bernstein’s Mass:
Sing God a simple song:
Lauda, Laudē
Make it up as you go along:
Lauda, Laudē
Sing like you like to sing.
God loves all simple things,
For God is the simplest of all,
For God is the simplest of all.

Whether we are scrubbing floors or sipping morning coffee or waiting for sleep at night, we can be quietly vulnerable to the workings of the Spirit. God longs to be in relationship with us, it is indeed that simple. Ordinary Time is a gift. Let us always keep an empty chair at our soul’s kitchen table for the heavenly guest. Our ordinary lives can be transformed.

A Cup of Cold Water* – Week One Devotional for Say Something Nice Sunday

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Matthew 10:42 (NIV)

There is a member of our congregation who calls me regularly to share a great quotation or an especially meaningful devotional. She has taken the time to do this for years. She knows that I collect quotations. It is always a welcome call and seems to come just when I need it most.

Another church member calls almost every day to see how our day has gone and to see if we need anything. What a blessing. A third member calls just to inquire how things are going. We share our stories with one another because we are dealing with very similar circumstances and our calls strengthen one another.

The wife of a close friend is a fantastic baker. Two or three times a month her husband will bring us a loaf of her home baked bread or cinnamon rolls. Not only do these fill our kitchen with a heavenly aroma, but her thoughtfulness fills our hearts with gratitude. Of course, she has removed the calories.

These are blessing freely given and I am grateful for these expressions of Christian love, thoughtfulness and caring. I have chosen gratitude as my theme for the year. I held it over from last year. It reminds me that we are not alone and that we accomplish absolutely nothing without the help and support of others. I am convinced that God brings people into our lives when we most need them. They are gifts.

There is a wonderful Catholic/Episcopal benediction that says, “We leave as the church to go with love to serve God and one another.” It is a great reminder that we do not leave church, we leave as the church to love and to serve.


Dear God, thank you for Christian friends who share your love with those around them. Help me to be grateful and to follow their examples. Amen

*These were published as an insert in the First Baptist Church of Charleston Builder June 4, 2017.

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