For Mother’s Day I got a small Echo Dot from Amazon with a lady inside named Alexa. Alexa is smart. She knows the answer to every factual question.
After opening my gifts, Ken, Kevin and I spent quality time meeting our newest family member.
“Alexa, how much does an Irish Greyhound weigh?”
The Echo’s blue and green light swirled around the top.
“Thirteen pounds,” answered Alexa.
“Alexa, how fast can an Irish Greyhound run?”
“What is today’s temperature?”
“In Canton, GA the temperature is currently 84 degrees.”
I liked Alexa until we started talking about family names.
“Alexa, what does ‘Kenneth’ mean?”
“‘Kenneth’ means ‘handsome'”.
“What does ‘Godfrey’ mean?”
“‘Godfrey’ means ‘God’s peace.'”
“What does ‘Kevin’ mean?”
“Kind, gentle, handsome.”
Then, “Alexa, what does ‘Sandra’ mean?”
All my life I thought ‘Sandra’ meant ‘helper of mankind.’ In college I had helped Ken through math. At church I had helped children, youth, and adults with anthems. At Chrismas I had helped my sisters with family dinners…..
But Alexa distressed me when she added, “In England ‘Sandra’ means ‘an unheeded prophetess’.”
“An unheeded prophetess?”
I thought about that for two days.
“An unheeded prophetess.”
“What does that mean?” I asked Ken over turkey sandwiches and chips. “‘An unheeded prophetess?'”
Ken laughed, but I didn’t think it was funny. He swallowed his smile and tried to help. “Well, it means you have truth to share, but people don’t listen.”
“That’s really mean,” I pouted. “Why don’t they listen?”
“Well, maybe you come on too strong. Or maybe you need more preparation. Or maybe they’re not ready to hear what you have to say.”
What does your name mean?
What does your name mean? Just ask Alexa.
So, I looked up the prophetess Miriam….
“Then Miriam… took a timbrel in her hand and all the women followed her with timbrel and dancing.
Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the Lord for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and rider he has hurled into the sea.
The Lord reigns for ever and ever.'”
Ex. 15: 20-21 and 18 NIV.
Seemed like Miriam got heeded.
I waited another day and asked again, “Ken, what do you think an unheeded prophetess does?”
And Ken said, “We are going to have to get rid of Alexa.”
And I agreed. I don’t like her, too, but two weeks later she’s still here.
“Alexa, what does ‘Jenny Kim’ mean?”
“Sorry, I’m not sure.”
“Well,” I told Alexa,, Wilkipedia says Jenny Kim is “… a South Korean model and beauty pageant title holder, so it must mean ‘beautiful’.”
“Anyway, Alexa, what does ‘Elizabeth’ mean?”
“Consecrated to God….”
“Okay, Alexa, what does Jonathan mean?”
“Jonathan means a red, late, ripening apple, primarily eaten raw….”
“A-ha! I know that’s wrong,” I told Alexa. ” Jonathan means, ‘God has given.'” And today God has given me laughter–a dash of kindness, and music for the soul.
PS. What does Alexa mean? “My name comes from the Library of Alexandria which stored the knowledge of the ancient world.”
When I was a 16-year-old in 1960, my father, who operated a service station, made it possible for me to own a 1953, navy-blue, four-door Ford. I was the first among my peers to have landed their own set of wheels, and that made me a popular person.
The Collector’s Car Network, Inc. (US)
One Sunday afternoon my best friend Randy and I went cruising around town, and it came time to take him home. On the way to his house, we cruised along a long straight road, then down a hill. At the bottom there was a built-up railroad track. As we descended, Randy said, “I dare you to jump the railroad track!” I could not let the dare go unchallenged. Smoke boiled out the back as we gained momentum. When we hit the railroad track, the car went airborne. All we could see was blue sky out the front window. As the car hit the ground the suspension collapsed, and sparks flew out from under the car. I was so proud of myself. What a jump! I was even laughing.
Then, I focused my eyes back on the road and to my shock, my father stood about 100 yards away in the road, waving me down. My parents had been riding around, too, had some car trouble and pulled over. They had watched me do this dumb stunt. Suddenly Randy said, “Look, there’s my mother.” Randy’s mom had stopped to help my parents, and she had also witnessed me doing this dumb stunt. As I pulled the car to the side of the road, I was no longer proud or laughing. I felt about an inch tall.
Randy said, “You are in big trouble.”
Randy’s mother reached us first. She opened the passenger side of the car. She shook a pointed finger at me and said, “Kenneth Godfrey, that was the most stupid stunt I have ever seen anyone do. Suppose a train had been coming. You could have been killed and killed my son, too. I am not going to let my son ride with you again.” As she helped Randy out of the car I wanted to say, “He was the one who dared me.” But I kept my mouth shut.
By this time my father reached me. I thought he was going to chew me out good, but he just stood at my window and didn’t say a word. I finally got up enough courage to look at him, and I could see on his face an expression of hurt and disappointment. He never said a word. He just reached through the window, turned the motor off, pulled the key out of the ignition and stood there looking at the key. He walked away shaking his head in disappointment. I was grounded. I figured I was going to be an old man before I would ever be allowed to drive again. For the next two weeks, my mother drove me anywhere I needed to go.
It took some time but I was forgiven, and their trust was restored. In my heart, I never wanted to disappoint them again.
What a transforming experience–to do such a stupid stunt and have your dad and mom and your best friend’s mom watch. As I thought about this experience, a more profound revelation came to me. My Heavenly Father sees every dumb, stupid stunt I do. He sees every action. He knows every thought. There is nothing about us that he doesn’t know, and yet he loves us enough to chastise, forgive, and restore us.
Aaron Burden Photographer
Psalm 139 proclaims:
1O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
3You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
4Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.
5You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
8If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
Janko Ferlic on unsplash.com
Through the years the song “His Eye is on the Sparrow” has spoken to me, particularly the third verse.
Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
I discovered at an early age that I was afraid of heights. As a child, on the Clegg side of my family, my uncles liked to catch little fellows running around, toss them into the air and catch them. Everyone seemed to enjoy those screams and giggles, children as well as adults. However, one day, when my uncle attempted to throw me into the air, I wiggled like a wet fish and screamed like a stuck pig. From then on they left me alone.
I hid my fear of heights by avoiding high places until Sandra and I married. We honeymooned in Panama City, Florida. One afternoon as we rode beside the beautiful white beaches, Sandra saw a sky lift. “Let’s stop and take a ride,” she said. “It will be fun!”
I swallowed real hard when I looked at the height. I really didn’t want to do this, but I also didn’t want Sandra to know the guy she married was afraid of anything. Love makes you do some dumb things.
So, we stopped, and I bravely bought two tickets. As we stood in line I could feel my heart pounding with fear. I watched as this little bucket came swinging down from heaven on this tiny cable.
Godfrey, I thought, you have got to be out of your mind to get into that little thing.
The bucket stopped in front of us. The attendant opened the door, and Sandra jumped in. I reluctantly took the seat opposite her. The attendant closed the door, and we went swinging into space.
Sandra was hanging over the side saying, “Look. It is so beautiful. You can almost see Mexico from here.”
But I was not looking. I had latched on to a post in the middle and was holding on for dear life. When Sandra realized I was not responding and saw me latched to the post, she asked, “What are you doing? Is something wrong?”
I said, “I have a confession to make. I am afraid of heights.”
She didn’t laugh for she saw the genuine fear in my eyes. I will never forget the words of comfort and strength she spoke. “There is nothing to be afraid of. God is with us, and if God is with us there is really nothing fear.”
Somehow those words dug into my spirit. I felt a calmness overcome my fear so that I could enjoy the ride–maybe a little. I was sure thankful, however, when my feet touched the ground.
Sandra never mentioned this incident again, but it really bothered me. I became aware that the fear of heights was not my only fear.
There are literally hundreds of phobias that confront us daily. According to Steve M. Nash, http://www.selfhelpcollective.com/top-10-fears.html, the top ten fears are: flying, public speaking, heights, the dark, intimacy, death, failure, rejection, spiders, and commitment.
Travis Gergen Photographer
As I researched the scripture, I discovered that one of Jesus’ major ministries was dealing with fears. He was constantly telling his followers, “Fear not.”
Andrew Neel Photographer
Although I haven’t counted, I’m told the words “Fear not” appears 365 times in the Bible, one for every day of the year. I especially love the words in Isaiah 43:1-3 KJV.
Fear not; for I have redeemed thee.
I have called thee by thy name;
thou art mine.
When thou passest through the waters,
I will be with thee;
and through the rivers,
they shall not overflow three;
when thou walkest through the fire,
thou shall not be burned;
neither shall the flame kindle upon three.
For I am the Lord thy God,
the Holy One of Israel,
Aaron Burden Photographer
The Hymn “How Firm a Foundation” has also become a cornerstone of my faith.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not harm thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
The soul that on Jesus still leans for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
See Isaiah 43 and Hebrews 13
Ben White Photography
God’s Holy Word and the words Sandra spoke that day gave me the foundation for overcoming fear in life. “There is nothing to be afraid of; God is with us…”
Sandra and I were married on June 7, 1970, and two weeks later we were appointed to the Freeman Circuit in Newnan, Georgia. The parsonage at Freeman was in bad need of repair, and the people were apologetic about the condition of the parsonage. They told us that they were in the process of remodeling a two-story home beside the church in Whitesburg. The new parsonage would be ready in August.
True to their word we moved into the newly renovated parsonage in August. As we moved in that day I noticed we kept going over a railroad track near the parsonage but didn’t think anything of it.
That evening after moving in we were exhausted, and after dinner we went into the lovely living room and sat down on the couch. Sandra cuddled up next to me and in a few minutes, we were sound asleep. Suddenly we were both awakened by a roaring in the room. We opened our eyes and saw the furniture dancing around on the floor. Even the pictures on the wall were shaking.
Sandra asked, “What is happening?”
I exclaimed, “I think it is an earthquake. Let’s get out of here!”
I grabbed Sandra’s hand, and we went running out the front door, across the porch, down the step, into the front yard. We turned around expecting to see the house collapse behind us.
Suddenly our attention was drawn to this monster of a train with 5 engines trucking across our side yard–bells ringing, whistles blowing. We stood there in shock watching and feeling the hot breeze of the trail as it passed by. We stood there, dazed until the trail was gone and the quiet sound of the summer night returned. I looked at Sandra and said, “We have a big problem. How are we going to survive this? Lord, help us?”
Photography from unsplash Don Ross
I discovered early in the ministry that God is bigger than any problem we can encounter, and he gives us the ability to overcome.
A few months later, Sandra’s sister and her husband came to visit and stayed overnight. The next morning, they came down to breakfast all bleary-eyed asking, “How do you two get any sleep around here?”
I asked, “What do you mean, get any sleep?”
He said, “I mean the three trains that came through our bed room last night and moved our bed from one side of the room to the other.”
Smiling, Sandra and I looked at each other and assured him. “I guess we have overcome. We don’t’ ever hear them anymore. They don’t bother us.”
I know this is a minor problem compared to the greater problems God helps us overcome.
Photography by Alex Klopic at unsplash.com
I am reminded of the life of Fanny Crosby, who was accidently blinded when she was 6 weeks old. How was she going to survive this? Early in her life she turned to God for the solution. When she was 15, she entered the New York Intuition for the Blind. She was such an excellent student, she became a teacher. During this time in her life, she developed a passion for writing poetry and song and would eventually write over 6000 hymns in her lifetime, praising God.
In the United Methodist Hymnal, we have “Rescue the Perishing,” “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” “Jesus Keep Me near the Cross,” “Blessed Assurance,” “I Am Thine, O Lord”, and my favorite. “To God Be the Glory.”
Photography by Ales Krivec–unsplash.com
In the last verse of “To God Be the Glory” you will hear victory from someone who was blind.
Ken Godfrey Retiring from 47 years in ministry, June 2017
Morning Service, June 11, 2017
Holly Springs United Methodist Church
Roasting Preacher Ken
By Sandra GOdfrey
There is a time to laugh and a time to cry. And we are gathered here today to commiserate, I mean commemorate, the last 47 years of Kenneth Godfrey’s ministry.
As his wife, when I think back over the last 47 years, well, I think of– well–Jeff Foxworthy.
Let me illustrate. Like Ken, Jeff is also a United Methodist. He ministers to homeless men on Tuesday Mornings. And like Ken, Jeff apparently enjoys laughter. Jeff has made a name for himself by telling Redneck Jokes. I found these on the web.
“You might be a redneck ….
If you clean your fingernails with a stick…
If you keep a can of RAID sitting on the kitchen table…
If your mother has “AMMO” on her Christmas list…
And you might be a redneck….
If you sit at the breakfast table and stare at that can of orange juice for more than a minute because it says—Concentrate.”
Several years ago Jeff spoke for the North Georgia Annual Conference of the UMC. He entertained the crowd with similar humor. These have made the rounds, too.
“You might be a Methodist….
If you have been in the same church all your life, but have welcomed 27 new pastors.
If it takes you ten or more minutes to say goodbye after church.
If you think that tithing means wearing a tie every Sunday.
If you hear something funny during the sermon and smile as loudly as you can.
And, finally, when you watch a Star Wars movie and the actor says “May the Force be with you,” and you respond, “And also with you.” You might be a United Methodist.
So, from my humble observation of life, seeing the similarities between Ken and Jeff, I thought it good for us to do a parody of Jeff’s humor and dwell on some finer points of Ken’s 47 years of ministry. Hang with me here. We are going back to the archives.
You might be Preacher Ken….
If you are kin to everybody.
If you say “thank you” to everybody including Siri on the iphone and Alexa on Echo Dot
If you sign all of your text messages “Ken.” Period.
If you run over your iphone and tell your wife not to tell anybody, but somehow your son and daughter-in-law find out and get it fixed.
If your computer gets a glitch and you are pesky as a flea until your other daughter-in-law takes it home for repairs.
Now, let me stretch you. I looked for the hardest examples I could find.
You might be Preacher Ken…
If before dawn one morning you secretly dump black hair dye only the top of your head and scare your secretary and you little son. Whoa, Daddy!
You might be Preacher Ken….
If you attempt to bleach out your black hair dye and your hair turns bright red.
And if somebody at your new church asks was your nickname “Red” when you were a kid and you say, “No, why?”
You might be Preacher Ken…
If your sermon illustration is supposed to end with Niki, Niki, Niki, but instead you say Nicky, Nicky, Nicky.
If your church is struggling to raise donations for new hand bells, but in the bulletin you type that funds for the hand bells are currently being raided.
Or if you are the only male who regularly attends United Methodist Women.
Now let me illustrate.
If you never eat the last one of anything—raisin, blueberry, peanut, Cheerio, you might be Preacher Ken.
You might be Preacher Ken….
If you have a collection of 25 water bottles in your study with only one swig left in each one.
If you smoke six whole chickens every six weeks and when friends call you tell them that you are smokin’ chicken!
And if, according to your daughter-in-law from Korea, your grand kitty has nicknamed you Chicken Man!
You might be Preacher Ken…
If you help your wife clean house while dancing with a Swifer Mop to “I Wish They All Could Be California Girls,” by the Beach Boys.
If you once owned a car horn that played 50 Dukes of Hazzard-style songs….
If you ever took your sons spelunking to Ruby Falls and one called home begging, “Mom, please make Dad take the headlight off of his head….”
If you take your son’s old SS Camero out for a spin and everyone on 575 wants to race with you….
If you wear GA Bulldogs caps with the shiny authentic label intentionally left on the bill….
If your wife ever had to hire a lifeguard to holler SHARK to get you out of the ocean after dark…. You might be Preacher Ken.
Now let me bring this nonsense to a close. You might be Preacher Ken if you are going on to perfection….if you have fought a good fight, if you have kept the faith, if you have finished your course….Well, you are not dying, just –re-retiring.
But if your sermons were impeccable…if the bulletin was done on time…and if you were the kindest, funniest, sweetest preacher in the whole wild world….
You would indeed be Preacher Ken!
Photography by Kevin Godfrey, with Besty Godfrey
Special Music by Debbie Gregory, Jon and Jenny, Carter and Clara