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Parson's Porch & Book Publishing is a book publishing company with a double focus.  We focus on the needs of creative writers who need a professional publisher to get their work to market, & we also focus on the needs of others by sharing our profits with those who struggle to meet their basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and safety.

May This Dream Come True

I have had vivid dreams all of my life. Most of them have been silly and close to bizarre, while many are instructive and life-enriching. Last night's dream was simply divine. 

In my dream, I was walking around my childhood community visiting some of the people who had contributed to my life in one way or another. To my great disappointment, I could not find anyone at home. The Keiths, the Fousts, the Meadows, and the Minges were nowhere to be found. No one was at home.

After I left the Meadows, I looked down the road and saw the Minges leaving from their driveway - all seven of them packed in one car.  Gone. Disappointed, I walked back to my grandmother's house, sat down under a Maple tree and cried.

Once I stopped crying, I decided to go into my grandmother's house to look around. To my surprise, everyone I had wanted to visit was there to see me. It was delightful. 

One by one, each of us embraced one another and told each other what each meant to the other. Hugs and kisses, laughter and tears, jabs and jokes abounded. I remember hugging Katherine Foust, Louise Rucker, and Helen Minge. I fell in love again with Lisa Smelcher, Naina Keith, and Pam Minge. A number of us struck up a ball game in the front yard while Leo Keith coached us on how to bat, field and throw. 

My dream ended with all of us sitting around a large table loaded with food and drink. We sang the Doxology led by Jinky Foust and Joe Yarnell with Mickey Maples playing the organ.

I woke up, but I didn't stop dreaming that one day this dream will come true. . . again! 

Walking on Church Street

In 2010, I quit my job to begin my practice. I had worked for 33 years at difference places doing the same thing: making money. 

I was 17 when I was paid by a church to do a job. 33 years later, I quit. Today my practice is public and private. Publicly, I am a publisher. Privately, I am a pastor.

My public practice is as a publisher of books. I have published almost 450 books for over 200 authors. I earn enough money to support my family and my private practice.

My private practice is as a pastor whose congregation is homeless. I serve approximately 100 people who do not have a roof and are in need of food, clothing, shelter and safety. 

While I earn money as a publisher, I give money to my private practice by supporting my congregation. Each day I see them and eat with them. Each day I weave two questions into my conversations with them: "How are you doing?" and "What do you need?"

"How are you doing?" is a spiritual question. I listen, and I respond. "What do you need?" is a practical question. I listen and I respond.

When they answer those two questions, I know what I am supposed to do. I pray, then I do.

I pray privately, I do privately.

The difference between my congregation today and my congregations in the past is my congregation today does not know I am a pastor, and they don't pay me. I dress in the same kind of clothes I have bought them, and I eat the same food they eat. To them, I'm only their friend. To me, they are the crucified ones.

So, if anyone sees me walking with someone on Church Street, sitting with someone in the Park, or eating with someone at the Kitchen, my purpose is one thing: I'm a crucified one showing another crucified one where to find the Crucified One.

May all your weeks be holy.

 

 

Drenched

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I have kept company with Jesus for almost 50 years.

As a young boy, I decided to see if what my Baptist parents had taught was true. At the close of the service, during the singing of a hymn, I made my way down to the preacher and told him I wanted to be saved and baptized. Everyone present was happy, and to celebrate, my father, mother, brother and I went to a new place called Burger King on Clinton Highway in Knoxville. We wanted to try their new hamburger called a Whopper. A couple of weeks later, I was baptized by immersion by the preacher at Ball Camp Baptist Church. I was saved and baptized!

After 50 years of being saved and baptized, I have come to some conclusions about what I did that day long ago.

I was saved from my sins. Although I am fully aware that I am capable of doing all sorts of sinful things as "sinful" is traditionally been defined, I have never felt that I was a once a sinner condemned to hell if I hadn't been saved and baptized.

When I was seven, I didn't have that much of an imagination to think about all those things I was supposed to be ashamed of, much less doing them. I just wanted to love God for loving me. I was saved from the useless activity, doctrine, and social climbing that many people think has to be done in order to please God. I was saved from the understanding of God that I had to earn God's love!! The gift of my salvation was my understanding that God loved me, now what?

Now what? I was baptized. Baptism was my profession to God and the world that day that I was going to live the way Jesus taught me to live: the way I was made by God to live.

I knew that God was all in. Now, I was all in!! All God ever wanted from me was David of Ball Camp.

When I emerged from the water, there was not a dry place anywhere on my body or in my soul, and I haven't been dry since! Still drenched in the Goodness of God!

We need more Christians

Pastor Jeremiah Steepek (pictured above) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to his newly assigned church where he was to be introduced as the head pastor that morning. 

He walked around this larger church for about 30 minutes while it was filling with people for Sunday morning service... only 3 people said hello to him. 

He asked people for change to buy food... NOT ONE person gave him change. They turned away or said that they didn’t have any change… even though they had more than enough change for the coffee donation bucket.

He went into the sanctuary where he sat down in the front of the church. Shortly thereafter two ushers approached him and asked that he move to the back of the sanctuary. 

He obeyed, and as he walked to the back row, he quietly said hello with a warm smile to the people also sitting in the sanctuary. The greeting returned was stares and dirty looks. He felt that uncomfortable feeling of people looking down on him and judging him. 

As he sat in the back of the church, the service began. He listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders walked to the front alter... they were excited to introduce the new pastor. They were advised that the new pastor would be sitting with the congregation.

The only elder who was in on this experiment announced, "We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek!”

The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up… he began walking down the aisle. 

The clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him as he walked the altar. The elder who knew what was going on handed the microphone to the new Pastor. 

While holding the microphone, the Pastor looked down as he paused for a moment.

Then he looked up and quietly recited, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me’… he paused as he looked over the congregation.

The Pastor continued, “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Members were shocked, some began to cry… many heads were bowed in shame.

He continued by stating, “Today I see a gathering of people, but I do not see a church that represents the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The world has more than enough people. We need more Christian disciples. 

My question to you this morning, when will YOU decide to become a disciple?” He then dismissed the service.

Far too many people do NOT understand that being a Christian is so much more than something you claim... It’s something you live by… it's compassion... it’s something you kindly share with others.

William "Brother Doo" Smith

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I was 11 years old when I first met a black boy.  We had moved from Knoxville. where there were no black children in our school, to Loudon.  On the first day of 7th grade in my new school, I had to go to the cafeteria with the other children who rode a bus.  The only place to sit was in the back corner where most, maybe all, of the black boys were.  I marked my seat, and as I sat down, I heard a voice saying, "Are you new here?  My name is William Smith.  Most people call me Brother Doo."  He then introduced me to Jim Brown, Chuckie "Thin Man" Johnson and Carl "Boo Boo" Hawkins.  This quartet of black boys were my first friends in my new school. 

During our high school years, the principle would call me to the office when a local farmer needed hay haulers.  My black buddies were the first I would ask.  Not only did their work ethic match mine, I knew that they needed some extra money to make their lives normal like many of our other friends in school. We worked hours in the fields of local farmers laughing, sweating, razzing each other while we were paid $5.00 per hour.

What I remember most about these boys was their soulfulness.  We were kin to each other.  We were brothers from another mother and father, but were more alike than we were different.  It was not until I was an adult that I realized why I bonded with them - they were poor like me, but we didn't know it. Poverty was our heritage.  Not having enough was our common kin. We were raised on Pinto Beans, Collard greens and fried Potatoes.  Our clothes, while clean, were not new, but hand-me-downs.  

Although we don't regularly see each other today, I still count them as many of my best friends.  When I see them a football games or reunions, we enjoy an immediate bond that began that day over forty years ago. All of us are doing well today.  Each have a steady job: one is a pediatrician in the D. C. area, one went on to play football at Clemson and the Washington Redskins for a while, and the others have meaningful jobs and are raising their grand children today.

On this Martin Luther King Day, I am grateful that Brother Doo did not judge me because of the color of my skin, but showed me the content of his heart when he first said, "Are you new here?  My name is William Smith.  My friend's call me Brother Doo!"

Can't Have it Both Ways

I can only speak for myself, but keeping rules has not been my strong suit.  In fact, my heart hurts when I start to become rulebound.  

Fundamentalism says, "Keep the rules, and God will love you. Break the rules, God will get you!!"  If that is the case, God has it in for me.  I will never be able to please him by keeping the rules.

Liberalism says, "God loves you.  There is nothing which separates you from God's love. not even breaking the rules!!"

For me, liberalism best describes the gospel as I have experienced it.  It frees me to choose to live how God wants me to live.  I acknowledge that what God has done for me, he is doing in all people at all times.

Fundamentalism is limited to keeping the rules.  Just how many rules do you have to keep before God loves you? How good do I have to be?  

When keeping the rules becomes our basis for living instead of our relationship with God, we will eventually turn on each other.  If I don't keep the rules as well as you do, then I am less than you, and therefore, I am not as godly as you.  There is no such thing as self-redemption.  All our righteous (from Mother Teresa to Adolf Hitler) is filthy rags.  I cannot redeem myself, nor can you.

So, if you want a life filled with rage, judgmentalism, competition and self-loathing follow the rules.  If you want a life filled with peace, contentment, love and compassion, follow the way of Jesus.  You can' t have it both ways.  I know.  I've tried both.

A Naked Baby in a Mucky Manger

After all the vitriol of who’s got it right, it still comes down to this: a naked baby in a mucky stall.

The manger teaches us that the gospel is bottom-up good news.  A naked baby, one from the lowest, helpless, poorest segments of society, was the Lamb of God!!  There is no other gospel.

The top-down approach which had been the popular approach since Moses was shown for what it was – inadequate.  While it looked good in its robes, synagogues and Temple, they were still naked sinners.  Clothed, warm, rich and secure people rarely make saviors.  Many just don't get it.  

While we think the more we do, the more we have, and the more we know will make us presentable to God, we are hopeless.  God uses our naked self – who we are without our fine clothes, big houses, large cars and bloviated opinions, beliefs and bigotry. These are of no consequence to how God perceives us. 

Let’s be a naked baby in the mucky stall and let God use us as God will – anything more is silly.  Once you get it – you can’t un-get it.

What are you getting from Christmas (5 of 5)

It's an impressive list: Freedom from performance, bondage, exile, and darkness.  What more could anyone expect from the manger of God?  Only one thing: Freedom to enjoy Christ as King.

God knew that to free us from things was not enough.  It is the freedom to one thing that makes all the difference in the world - Freedom to live in God's kingdom.  We don't have to live His way, but we are free to if we want too.  The Lord's Prayer says all we need to know about God's Kingdom: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  The invitation to live in God's Kingdom is to enjoy His present both now and forever.   

The power of God's present is powerful - transformative - freeing.  So, my prayer is that you will not focus on the commercially driven definition of Christmas which presses us toward more noise, hurry and crowds, but you will draw from Christmas the freedom to experience Christ as King.

O' come let us adore Him!! Christ the King!!!

What are you getting from Christmas? (4 of 5)

Have you ever experienced total darkness?  One kind of darkness is the absence of light.  Once I turned the lights out in the fellowship hall of my church, and walked across the room in total darkness when I squarely hit the post which held up the building.  Guess who won?  For a moment, I thought I had been killed - then the pain hit, my knees buckled, and I came to moments later.

The other kind of darkness has nothing to do with light, it is when you see something for the first time which has always been there. It happened to me just the other - I was driving down a road I have driven down hundreds of times, and there it was, a house I had never seen before.  

No matter which kind of darkness you have experienced, light is the answer.  Along with freedom from sin, bondage and exile, Jesus birth reminds us of the freedom from darkness.  He is the light of the world.

Learning lessons we already know is a startling as hitting a pole in the middle of a room, or seeing a house for the very first after years of travelling down the some old road.  A new vision, insight, or direction is from God through Jesus.  There are two ways to access this gift: 1) turn the light on or 2) open your eyes.

The hymn says it this way: "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderfull face, and the things of earth will grow strangley did in the light of his glory and grace.

What are you getting from Christmas? (3 of 5)

When we focus on what we are getting for Christmas, we don't get anything from Christmas.  Jesus birth allows us to get 5 things from Christmas.  Beginning with freedom from performance and freedom from oppression, now we can add freedom from exile which  Jesus gives us from Christmas.

Exile is the primal feeling that we are not at home or we are out of place.  It the feeling when the man said, "Where am I? and How did I get here?" 

Before the Exile of the children of Israel, when they were deported to Babylon, there understanding was that they had to be where God was - mainly in the Temple in Jerusalem.  They sang, "How can we sing to God when he is not here - not here in godless Babylon."

After decades of Exile, they had a tremendous paradigm shift.  No longer did they have to find God to be with Him, God was with them - wherever, whenever and however!  Imagine that!!  That is a huge shift in seeing how God operates.  With the naming of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, God put a punctuation for us to remember.  The baby was to be called Emmanuel - God with us!!  That name, Emmanuel, hearkens back to another time God revealed his name to Moses - I am who I am.  That verb name is the "to be" verb "is."

What does God call himself?  Now!!  His name is Now!  The only place that we experience God is now!! God is present now!  

So, when you feel that gnawing feeling of "homesickness,"  you are probably wallowing in the regret of the past or the anxiety of the future, when God is dispensing peace now.  Stop.  Slow down. Shut up. God is in you as you.   

What are you getting from Christmas (2 of 5)

When we focus on what we are getting for Christmas, we don't get anything from Christmas.  Jesus birth allows us to get 5 things from Christmas.

Beginning with freedom from performance, we can also add freedom from oppression.  Bondage is another word for oppression.  The picture of bondage is no matter how hard you try to love God, there is always something oppressive that weighs you down to convince you to conclude "what's the use?"  Jesus gives us another definition for "what" in what the use? 

God sent Jesus into the world at its worst.  Politically, Caesar was Lord,  Herod was reigning with corruption, and Pilate couldn't have cared less.  It was Pharoah all over again - but worse.

It was the worst of times!!  But look!!  Look what God did then.  His purpose invaded the world in the flesh. When we thought it was no use, look what God did!! Above all else, through Jesus he gave us a model of how to live above the oppression of the world.  God gave us a new what!! Freedom.

It is essential for us to remember that Christmas means that governements are on His shoulder!  He is Lord.  If God did that then - what do you think he is up to now.  Freedom.

 

What are your getting from Christmas? (1 of 5)

When we focus on what we are getting for Christmas, we don't get anything from Christmas.  Jesus birth allows us to get 5 things from Christmas.

The first, and most obvious thing, we get from Christmas is freedom from performance.  We need to realize that this gift was a great paradigm shift then and now.  From our most heinous sin to our grandest success, neither effects our status with God.  Jesus birth confirms his love for us.  God's love is. Period.

Later in Jesus's life he pointed to the Temple - the performance place, and said, in three days I will destroy that Temple - I will make it unnecessary for a relationship with God.

At another time, he said, if you have faith, a simple relationship with God, you can cast that Temple mountain into the sea!!

Freedom from performance.  Slow down.  Don't hurry.  Stop.  Rest in the Lord.  God loves you.  That's not only enough from Christmas, it is everything.

Publish, Buy and Give

Today is the first day of December, the first day of the week, the first day of Advent, and the first day of the rest of your life.  There.  I think I have cover them all.

Most of all, the day represents the beginning of the 10th year of Parson's Porch & Company.  What began as a simple idea has now become profoundly important to dozens of families across the years.  We have taken our resources--- money, talents and the calling of proclaiming good news -- to people who are in trouble because of poor choices and bad luck.  You will notice the pictures of many of the folks who have made the company successfull - givers and receivers.

Five years ago, we began a publishing company which pay the overhead for the company.  We are proud to say - all, 100%, of all donations go to the ones who are in trouble.  All expense are paid by publishing books.  

He is what you can do for us.  It's Simple.  First, publish your next book with us.  Now is the time to do it. Don't put it off.  Send us a ready-to-publish manuscript and we'll do the rest.  

Second, buy a book from us.  We have over 200 titles conveniently available on our website, hosted by Amazon.  Click on the Bookstore tab, and you are good to buy.

 

Third, give a donation to us.  We will take any amount.  We accept cash, checks, and credits cards through PayPal.  Remember, all you gifts go to one or more of the people you see on the sides of this site.

Thanks for making our job successful as we help people with their troubles.

Parson's Porch & Book Publishing is a book publishing company with a double focus.  We focus on the needs of creative writers who need a professional publisher to get their work to market, & we also focus on the needs of others by sharing our profits with those who struggle to meet their basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and safety.