In an earlier post I mentioned my great-grandfather, Papa Sibley, and the influence he had on my Aunt Jean. She wrote of him: “My grandfather, John Coleman Sibley, whom we lovingly called Papa, died when I was only 11 years of age, but he has had the greatest spiritual impact on my life of anyone I have ever known. He was a devoted Christian, and was loved and respected by all those who knew him.” What a legacy.

I don’t know a lot about Papa Sibley. He was a “junior.” His father, John Coleman senior, kept a diary during the Civil War, which I first read when I was about 11 years old. John senior was married to Lizzie. They had 2 little girls when John went off to war. Ella was about 4 or 5, and Mattie was newborn in 1861. Ella died in 1864 while John was away from home. John junior was born in 1865. Five years later, in 1870, John senior died. In, 1874, Lizzie died, leaving 13 year old Mattie and 9 year old John orphaned. I was thinking about this recently and wondered who raised them? Who had a godly influence on them that could have attributed to Papa Sibley being the godly man Aunt Jean described?

According to the 1880 census they were then living with Matilda Sibley. It took a little digging to figure out who Matilda was. My ancestry research didn’t show a Matilda Sibley. I finally found her. It was Lizzie’s mother. Lizzie’s maiden name was Stoker. Matilda Dendy’s first husband was Matthew Stoker. He died sometime prior to 1849, and in 1849, she married William Sibley, uncle to John Coleman senior. So, she and her daughter both wound up married to Sibleys and sharing the same last name. So, what about Matilda?

This was a time when it was not uncommon for someone to be widowed, to remarry, sometimes more than once. It was very common to have several children, particularly if a second, or third spouse was younger. Families of 5 to even 12 or 15 children were not altogether unusual.

Matilda and Matthew Stoker just had the one daughter, Nancy Elizabeth (Lizzie), before Matthew died.  Matilda’s marriage to William was his third. He had several children from his previous marriages. William and Matilda just had one daughter, Amanda, born in 1850. I know little of the intervening years. William was a preacher and one of the founders of Toro Baptist Church outside of Florien, LA.  Their daughter Amanda died in 1860. William died in 1861, a few months after the war began. A couple of his children from his second marriage were in their mid-teens, and likely lived with Matilda until they grew up. Then when her daughter Lizzie died, she took in her grandchildren.

I know from his diary and some other preserved writings that John and Lizzie were both Christians. For me, it speaks to the legacy of Matilda, in particular, who took these youngsters, and raised them, and apparently gave them the foundation that turned 9 year old orphaned John into a devoted Christian whom Aunt Jean said “had the greatest spiritual impact on my life of anyone I have ever known.”

Now for someone to say this about someone other than his or her parents is no insult to them. She also talked about how her daddy sang hymns, and about how her parents, and other grandparents, her sister (my mom), and others influenced her spiritual growth and development. There was just something special there between her and Papa, and he was there sharing the right things at the right time. He took the time to talk to this small, frail, blind and crippled child, that most adults didn’t have or take the time to spend.

And, when I was a little boy, early elementary age, Aunt Jean came to live with us after my grandmother died. Aunt Jean often took the time to talk with me, to tell me stories about her childhood, to read to me from her Braille Bible, and teach me about prayer and faith in God. And you know what, Aunt Jean had the greatest spiritual impact on my life of anyone I have ever known.

So, Thank You, Lord, for Matilda (1818-1892) and the legacy she passed on to her grandson, John (1865-1936). Thank You that he grew up to love You, and passed that on to Jean Ellzey (1924-1994), and to me. You really love me, Lord. And, I love You, too. Grant that I may pass that on in the same way in just one life.

However many I may touch, God grant that I may pass on a legacy of Your love to one willing heart. Click To Tweet


Real Slavery – Real Freedom

Our nation is bleeding out. An old wound, which was yet in the process of healing, has been torn open over the past eight years. We need healing, and it doesn’t seem to be forthcoming. It could come sooner if we, as Christians, would focus on the Gospel and not on sociopolitical agenda.  Somehow, we have it in our heads that if we address socially relevant issues head on and try to change our culture that we are helping people.  Yet the point of Gospel is the Good News that God has sent His Son, Jesus, to make a way for men to be reconciled to God. Only then, will our hearts be changed, and only then will the way we treat and interact with one another be changed. Only then will our culture be changed.

Part of the problem is that we don’t understand history. Maybe the fault is with our schools who, 30 or 40 years ago, began trying to teach a more “honest” history – and began emphasizing the negative aspects of our nation’s past in general, and the failings of historical figures specifically. In the process, as we developed a more “real” social consciousness, the good aspects of our national history were swallowed up in the blackness of our failings. We were so busy casting stones that we didn’t realize we were pummeling our nation into oblivion. That’s the way it usually goes when we focus on someone else’s sin. We try to get the speck of sawdust out of their eye and don’t realize we’re smacking them upside the head with the 2×4 sticking out of our own eye, and everyone walks away bloody, bruised and blinded.

I’ve found several books recently that are histories of individual counties where some of my ancestors lived. The three I’ve read so far were written in the early 1900’s by Civil War veterans – one from Pennsylvania, one from Louisiana, and one from Mississippi. Their perspectives on the Civil War obviously vary. One of the confederate veterans surprised me a little by stating unequivocally that the nation went to war over the issue of slavery. From his perspective, the constitution gave the states the right to have slavery, and to secede. The north was destroying the constitution by ignoring it and forcing the south to abandon the practice. He pointed out the irony that the south had outlawed the importation of new slaves in the early 1800’s, but Northern slave traders continued to bring new slaves in from Africa and sell them in the slave markets into the 1840’s. He also pointed out the number of times northern states, especially Massachusetts, had threatened to exercise their constitutional right to secede from the Union over one issue or another, but when the south did, they went to war. He said the south fought for their constitutional rights, but that having gone through that and seen the end to slavery, they would fight again rather than go back to that institution.

One of the things that struck me the most in all three books, is the acceptance that once the war was over, it was over. The country was reunited. The men who fought on both sides went back to being committed, loyal citizens of the United States. Yes, there was still some anger, suffering, struggling (especially through the “Reconstruction Era”), but they began the process of restoring and renewing our land. Their fathers and forefathers were the founders of the nation, veterans of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Some of them, and their sons went on to become veterans of the Spanish-American War. The government eventually recognized Confederate soldiers as being American veterans and gave them veteran pensions and authorized veteran markers for their graves.

Obviously, in terms of race relations, there is still much to be done. If anything, in recent years we’ve seen reversals and increased division. It is way past time for us to promote healing in our nation. However, social action has had limited success. I was about to suggest messages for black preachers and white preachers, but 1) I’m not going to buy into the division, and 2) though there might be subtle nuances, the message is essentially the same for all of us.

Preacher, you have an opportunity right now to truly bring healing. It isn’t by tearing down monuments and renaming parks. Nor is it by fighting against that. Change will come by prayer and by proclamation of the Gospel. Paul’s example was to preach Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23).

What does that mean? It isn’t just “Jesus died for your sins.” The way you become a Christian is the way you live as a Christian (Gal. 2:6). It means ‘By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption’ (1 Cor. 1:30). It means ‘By grace you have been saved through faith;… it is the gift of God, lest any man should boast’ (Eph. 2:8). It means ‘you have been [made of no effect apart from] Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace‘ (Gal. 5:4).That doesn’t mean fallen from salvation. It means you stopped living by the heavenly, eternal grace that saved you and subjected yourself to worldly, temporal laws and notions of morality. As a result, you are of no effect as a Christian.

Instead of preaching social justice, ask your people, “Is slavery wrong? Is it evil? Is it an atrocity? Is it morally reprehensible that it was part of our nation’s history? Yes! But that was the past. In the present, in the here and now, if slavery is so evil, then why are you allowing yourselves to become slaves to sin? Why do you allow sin to dominate you? You want to show that you are better than someone else? Well, you’re not! We are all equal in Christ. The very fact that you think you are better than someone else proves that you are not. You want to be better than someone else? Well, quit it. Christianity isn’t about that. Die to yourself, love God, trust God! Give thanks to God. Let Jesus Christ come in and be at home in your heart. Let Him change you from within. When you honor and glorify Jesus by allowing Him to be your very life, when He is revealed to all as being your life and affects they way you live and love your fellow man in general and your Christian brothers (whatever their race) in particular, then you will be revealed with Him in glory! Not by exalting yourself, but by exalting Christ and becoming like Him will you gain the respect and esteem of all men.”

When Christ is revealed as being your life, then you will be revealed with Him in glory. Click To Tweet

And how do you do that? Romans 1 ends with a long list of sins. But that list begins with a very significant insight. It talks about men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. It says that even though God made Himself known, “they did not honor Him as God or give thanks.” The King James says, “they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful.” That is the beginning point of sin. And the reverse is also true – if you want victory over sin, the starting place is learning to give thanks – extreme thanks – not just for good things, not even just for good things in the midst of bad things. Rather, it is giving thanks always, for all things. For the Father has given all things to the Son, and He will use all things to mold us into the image of the Son. That’s what dying to self is all about. That is the “crucified life.” It is learning to totally trust our totally trustworthy God.

Giving thanks to God is the starting point for victory over bitterness and sin. Click To Tweet

If we think we are better than someone else because of our race or for any other reason, we need to realize we have no worth apart from our relationship with Jesus Christ. Hebrews 12:14-16 says, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of [fall short of] the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” Christian! Are you selling your spiritual birthright, the experience of the heavenly here on earth, the eternal in the here and now, for a morsel of temporal “meat”? Are you feeding bitterness by arguing over monuments, and parks, and the dead institution of slavery when our nation is defiled by spiritual death, enslaved by sin? The Bible does not deal directly with the issue of slavery because the real issue is the hearts of men and their eternal relationship with God. Make a real change there and it will have an impact on the “real” world.

You change the world by changing men's hearts. Click To Tweet


Shaken – with a Purpose

He changes:

    Because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it.

True wickedness is settling for and embracing the temporal instead of the eternal. Let me rephrase that.
True wickedness is settling for and embracing earthy, earthly, temporary things when the God who IS, and is a Rewarder, offers us the eternal, offers us Himself.

True wickedness is not – sexual perversion, divorce, abuse, pornography, violence, war, murder, rape, drug abuse, prostitution, molestation, theft, adultery, greed, gossip, envy,….
These things are wrong. They are evil. They are immoral. Not because society or culture says so. Rather, they result from wickedness. They come from the evil, shallow hearts of men and women who do not give thanks (Romans 1:21) because they do not truly believe that He IS – that He is eternal, creator, holy, magnificent, loving, kind – and a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Those evils result from true wickedness – embracing the temporal instead of the eternal.

So, the outer man, the earthly, temporal man, decays (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). The afflictions of this life are intended to show us the vanity of life under the sun (see Ecclesiates) – the temporal – so we will embrace life in the Son – the eternal. Everything we hold on to, everything we settle for, everything we embrace that is temporal eventually will be shaken so that nothing remains except that which is truly worth holding on to the – the eternal. The goal being that we can with gratitude offer an acceptable – whole-hearted, totally yielded, totally trusting, totally resting in Him and His faithfulness – service to God (Hebrews 12:26).

So we go through life and our rivers become a wilderness. Our springs dry up and become thirsty ground. Our fruitful land becomes a waste land. The soap bubbles in which we take such great delight pop into nothingness. Life under the sun just doesn’t seem to hold any meaning, any joy, any true fulfillment.

Quit holding on to things that don’t last, and fall into the Father’s arms, and be held. He truly loves you. Seek Him, and He will be found by you – He will reward your seeking. You long for meaning, for purpose, for peace, for comfort, for joy, for wealth? Don’t settle for the emptiness of soap bubbles, for the whispiness of cotton candy, for life under the sun. Embrace life by giving thanks to the Father and focusing on the Eternal. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.

He changes:

  • And there He makes the hungry to dwell

Is your life being shaken? Are you feeling like you’re in a wilderness? How can I pray for you today?

Oh, the bliss of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled. Click To Tweet

click to retweet, and send me a direct message on my Facebook page with your email or Kindle email address, or sign up for e-mail on my blog, and I’ll send you a digital copy of Jean Ellzey’s book – In Him There Is No Darkness. Jean was born blind and crippled. She was my aunt. Her autobiography is inspiring as she tells of the loneliness of a child who cannot see, who cannot run and play with others, and how she chose God as her best friend, for life.


Image from 4freephotos.com

An Invitation

How to be joyful, without faking it.

Come join me on a journey into joy. We are supposed to have joy as Christians, right? How do you find joy in a world like we have seen this month? The death of two black men at the hands of police officers and the media jumping on it without knowing whether or not the shootings were “justified.” Then the sniper attack on police in Dallas resulting in five dead officers and others wounded. Then a terrorist attack in Nice, France leaving over 80 dead. Finally, a failed attempted coup in Turkey.

And that’s the world stage! Then, there’s where we live. Friends dealing with cancer, marital problems, divorce, financial struggles, pressures at work and home.

Sounds pretty grim. And we’re supposed to be joyful?




In my welcome to this blog, I shared an experience that set me on this journey many years ago. And it is a journey. I first wrote “Extreme Thanks” in 1991, under the title “He Is a Rewarder.” I’ve tried to come up with an elevator speech to answer the question, “What’s it about?”  I’m still working on it. I’m open to ideas.

It’s about learning to give thanks always for all things. Hmmm. What’s that tell you? Needs a little fleshing out.

Well, giving thanks is a form of praying, and it’s a part of prayer. So, the book is kind of about praying. Giving thanks is also a way of telling God that you trust Him in a given situation to work that situation for your good and His glory. So, it’s about trust and faith. Giving thanks helps us let go of our fears and learn to be joyful, to find God’s strength for our trials. It helps us be joyful even through our trials. So, it’s about finding joy. It’s all of that, and more.

It really is a journey. And the journey continues as I grow and learn.

Here’s the thing…

I’m not a “professional” Christian. I don’t get paid for it. I have pastored, been a music and youth minister, but that was a long time ago. As a lay-person, I’ve led worship, led home church and cell church groups. For my entire adult life, since college, I have worked full-time at “real world” jobs. There have been times through the years that I have been more successful at living out and applying the lessons I’ve learned and written about than others. Now I’m at a place where I really need to just live it, to the extreme, to the maximum. It is my heart’s deep desire to just walk in the joy of the Lord, and I know that is wrapped up in joyfully giving thanks always for all things to a God who is faithful to work all things for my good, and His glory.

The Invitation

I submit that God’s love is relentless. His tenderness toward us is relentless. In response, our faith and our expression of faith through thanksgiving should be relentless. The result will be a relentless joy. God's love, relentless. God's tenderness, relentless. Our response - relentless faith and thanksgiving. The result, relentless joy. Click To Tweet

So, I invite you to walk with me on this journey. Learn with me. Grow with me. And, while we’re at it, you can help me develop my blog and my book into something relevant, meaningful, and helpful – especially helpful.

Prayer Map – Interceding with Psalm 107

“Father, she is dwelling in darkness and in the shadow of death – so surrounded by this temporal, dying world and the lies of the enemy that she cannot see. As a result, she’s a prisoner in misery and chains – bound by lies, confusion, hurt, sadness, and a lot of anger. It’s mostly the result of rebelling against Your words and having spurned Your counsel. From there, You have allowed her heart to be humble with labor – struggle, strife, and wearisome effort. And all her best efforts don’t bring her the peace and comfort for which she longs. She stumbled under the load, and there was none to help. Her friends are all pretty much in the same condition. They can “feel your pain,” offer some companionship, but no real help.

So, Lord, grant her the desperation and the grace, the insight and the courage, to cry out to You in her trouble, for You have declared that You are a rewarder of those who seek You – so I know that when she calls out to You and seeks You as her answer, You will be found – You will reward her search.  Abba, she will find that You have saved her out of her distress. Bring her out of darkness and the shadow of death. Break her bands apart.

Give her vision to see Your lovingkindness, and let her give thanks to You for it, and for all Your wonders to the sons of men! Let her see that You have shattered gates of bronze and cut asunder bars of iron, not only freeing her from her prison, but also destroying the defenses of the enemy so that she might run through the territory that the enemy has sought to claim and in victory reclaim it in You, in Your power and strength, and to the praise of the glory of Your grace.” – based on Psalm 107:10-16

Psalm 107 is an incredible road map for intercession. In about 5 paragraphs dealing with a variety of crises, David shows how those situations ensnare us, bring us to the point of seeing our need and spiritual emptiness, and crying out to God for help. He declares the faithfulness of God to deliver those who cry out to Him and urges them to give thanks for God’s faithful deliverance.

Paul understood the concept and the extreme value of giving thanks, pointing out in Romans 1 that it was a lack of thankfulness that contributed to men become foolish in their speculations, harden their hearts and become wise fools embracing their own explanations of the nature of the world and worshiping creation instead of the creator.

I have been through enough in my lifetime to know with certainty that God uses our life situations to help us learn to let go of the temporal and embrace the Eternal. And I have found that giving thanks is perhaps the ultimate expression of trusting that God is faithfully working in my life, using each situation.

Giving thanks is perhaps the ultimate expression of trusting that God is faithfully working in every situation in my life Click To Tweet

Is there someone for whom you are interceding? Maybe there is someone for whom you want to pray, but are not sure how? Take a look at Psalm 107. Maybe you’ll find the words to pray, right in God’s own written word.

Thankful for a Voice

My good friend, Dennis Jernigan, is a psalmist. He writes praise and worship songs. He prefers to think of himself as a song receiver. And that seems accurate – his songs are from the Lord, and they touch hearts and lives and are meaningful songs of worship not just for Dennis but for others as well. As a worship leader, Dennis mainly seems to just sing from his heart and worship the Lord. He doesn’t direct or control the worship experience, he just worships and invites you to do the same. He embraces the Father and it’s easy to join him in song and do the same.


Trish and I went to a “Night of Praise” led by Dennis this past Friday night in Oklahoma City. This, by the way, is a monthly event. You can see the schedule for these and other events dennisjernigan.com. The next three will be at Emmaus Baptist Church in south Oklahoma City.

My voice is weaker than it was before I had cancer. It is not as resonant as it once was. It tires more easily. I don’t have the same range I used to. It feels strained with prolonged use, especially if I sing loud or shout. There were several times Friday evening I just wanted to shout out praises to God. We have attended churches in the past where that was totally acceptable behavior. And, it is at Dennis’ Nights of Praise. However, since my bout with cancer six years ago, shouting does not work well for me. My voice is weaker than it was before. Mainly as a side affect of seven weeks of radiation, the tissues and muscles in my throat lack the elasticity they used to have. A shout usually comes out okay, a little less volume, and a little less resonance, but then it kind of catches and my throat feels almost shredded and abused and it takes a minute or two to recover.

You know what? I have a voice. I had throat cancer, and I have a voice. I can still sing praises to my Lord. I can still worship. I can talk. I can pray. I can talk to my family, my wife, my friends. I not only survived cancer, I came through throat cancer still able to talk and sing and pray. Satan was not allowed to silence me. I am blessed.

Father God, thank You for healing. It is not about me, or how well I sing, or how pretty my voice is, or even whether or not I can shout (much less how loud). It is about You! I do not have to yield in silence while creation praises God. I can join in and honor You with my praises. Lord, I humbly thank you. I joyfully thank you. I enthusiastically thank you!