What Others Say

I look forward to your Reflections to make me smile, laugh, remember and reflect on God’s grace and mercy as I move throughout my day. - Aliya G.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Journey

I grew up in a small town in north-central Texas.  Our family never traveled far.  I sometimes tell people that my first visit to a foreign country was across the Red River into Oklahoma. But when I was eighteen, I started a journey that has taken me to places I never imagined: the Opera House in Sydney Harbor, the coast of New Zealand, fishing for piranha on the Amazon, volcanoes in Guatemala, the lighthouse at Banda Aceh, Indonesia, the pyramids of Egypt, Mozart’s home in Salzburg, the Docu Zentrum in Nuremberg, the Pantheon in Rome, Lennin’s Tomb and the Kremlin in Moscow.

Something about the human spirit is drawn to the journey.  Maybe that is why On the Road Again remains one of Willie Nelson’s most popular songs. We are mesmerized by the expeditions of Marco Polo, Columbus, Magellan, Lewis and Clark, Lindbergh, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. We are drawn to the imaginary journeys of Hobbits seeking Mount Doom and Star Trek’s quest to go where no man has gone before.  Journeys, both real and imagined, change the world and they change us.

God chooses to reveal himself through our journeys.  Redemption starts with God’s call to Abraham to leave his father’s country and go to places he had never seen.  Moses’ journey out of Egypt produced the Ten Commandments which provide the basis for all moral understanding.  No journey was ever more life changing than the journey Jesus started when he left Nazareth and gathered twelve men to follow him.  Their travels on foot through the regions of Galilee, Judea and Samaria changed the world.  The stories of their encounters with the lame, the blind, the rich, the poor, prostitutes and priests provide us the framework for understanding God and ourselves.

We are all on a journey.  The journeys we choose, where we go, how we get there and who goes with us will shape us and change us for the better or the worse.  Sometimes our journeys lead us to distant places, sometimes close to home. The most important decisions about any journey is how we trust in God and how we treat others along the way.

We like to think we will all arrive at the same destination no matter what we believe, what we do or how we live.  But the fact of the matter is that different roads lead to different places.  Jesus said “broad is the way and wide is the gate that leads to destruction and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)   He alone knows the way that leads to life and He continually invites us to join the journey that leads us there. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Electing a President - Choosing a Future

When I listen to the insults and accusations on both sides of the Presidential election, I want to throw my hands up in despair.  I find myself wishing for an earlier era when politicians were more civil and sane, when the world was stable and people were in agreement.   

I thought, “If we could only return to the days of our founding fathers!”  I did a little research about those days and was surprised.  Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams and Aaron Burr to become our third President in 1800. But, he was not popular. And the campaign looked a lot like today.

If Jefferson were elected, one newspaper warned, "Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes."  Aaron Burr leaked a private letter from Alexander Hamilton that accused Adams of having “great and intrinsic defects in his character.”  Jefferson referred to Adams as a “blind, bald, crippled toothless man who is a hideous hermaphroditic character with neither the force and fitness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

When the votes were counted, Jefferson and Burr were tied in the Electoral College with 73 votes each.  Adams received 65. The tie between Jefferson and Burr threw the election to the U.S. House of Representatives.  After 35 ballots, Alexander Hamilton persuaded some of Burr’s backers to shift their votes and Jefferson was elected.  Aaron Burr later killed Hamilton in a duel.

Jefferson went on to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase that extended the U.S. territory from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. Congress tried to block the purchase, but the vote failed 57-59. 

In 1860 Lincoln was elected President with 40% of the popular vote. He was referred to as an “idiot, yahoo, the original gorilla.” Abolitionists abhorred him, calling him “timid, vacillating, and inefficient.”  One Ohio Republican claimed Lincoln “is universally an admitted failure, has no will, no courage, no executive capacity.”  Southern states were so incensed by his election that they seceded from the Union. The nation was thrown into Civil War.

Today millions visit the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials to pay their respects and remember two of our greatest Presidents.   

The past often appears more peaceful and purposeful than the present. We know the outcome. It is “today” that confuses us.  We must exercise faith and freedom of choice in the present without knowing what will happen.  On November 8 we must choose the next President. But every day we must make choices that shape our lives and the lives of those around us.

We are like those who stood before Joshua at Shechem.  After reminding them of God’s repeated providence for their fathers, Joshua challenged them: ‘Choose you this day whom you shall serve. ... As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15).

Monday, October 3, 2016

Overcoming evil with good

We finally saw the movie, “Sully.”  We intended to see it when it first came out, but the birth of our grandson was more important and we put it off a couple weeks. 

Like everyone else, we remembered the event.  On takeoff from La Guardia airport on January 15, 2009, US Airways flight 1549 lost both engines after hitting a flock of birds.  The pilot, Chelsey Sullenberger, executed an astonishing water landing on the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers. 

We were anxious to see the story on the big screen.  It was as moving as we thought it might be, perhaps more so. We both wept.

I think we wept because it portrayed the true story of people who care about each other.  Not only the heroism of Sullenberger, but the crew who put the passengers’ safety before their own, the passengers themselves who helped one another, the air traffic controllers and the New York emergency responders who rescued all 155 people from the sinking air craft in 24 minutes.

God is constantly preparing each of us for His purposes.  Sullenberger was prepared for this moment by all the events that went before, including his most devastating tragedy.  In 1995 his father committed suicide.  Sullenberger said of this event, ““I was angry, hurt and devastated,” he said about his father’s death in 1995. “It was very difficult. But, it gave me a better sense of the fleeting nature of life and led me to want to preserve life at all costs. That was with me that day.”

It reminded me that for every terrorist, for every psychopath that opens fire or plants a bomb, there are thousands of good people who put their life on the line to save the lives of others.  We have seen this repeatedly.  We watched hundreds of emergency personnel and every-day citizens leap to the rescue of others on September 11, 2001.  We witnessed it in the theater in Colorado when young men shielded young women with their own bodies and a girl refused to run in order to save her friend’s life.  The reports of heroism in the midst of disaster are endless.  

The story reminded me that this is what made our nation great.  Our heritage is not based on survival of the fittest, putting others down for our own success or survival.  Our heritage is based on the teachings of Jesus:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  “In that you do it for the least of these you have done it to me.”  “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.” 

The story reminded me that this is why God has not given up on the human race.  Humans can be incredibly selfish, self-serving, violent and mean. But they can also be incredibly good. We have infinite potential for good, to love our fellow man, to sacrifice for the lives of others.  God gives us the opportunity to “overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) 

Monday, September 26, 2016


It is one of the tiniest words:  two letters, one syllable.  But it is filled with enormous consequence and limitless potential. “If.” 

Rudyard Kipling caught the limitless potential of “if” in his poem:

If you can keep your head when all about you
 Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
  But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
  Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
  And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: ...

You probably know the rest of the poem.  Most of us memorized it in school. 

We are at one of those “if” moments in our nation as we consider the election of a President for the next four years.  The racial prejudice and unrest spilling into our streets challenge us with “if.”

James A. Michener commented on the power of this little word in his classic novel, Centennial.  He wrote, “If is a word of infinite intellectual significance, for it indicates actions not yet completed but with the possibility of alternate outcomes.”

We face “if” moments every day of our life.  Last week I met a stranger at a Brat Fest in Estes Park, Colorado.  We struck up a conversation about faith.  He told me his father died when he was 15 and he spent many years mad at God.  He wasted his life with drugs, alcohol and sex until 2003 when he gave his life to Christ.  Faith set him free from his addictions.

The word “if” implies we are no longer prisoners to previous patterns.  We have options. Jesus said, “If the son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36).

Every day we measure the consequences of “if.”   If a certain thing happens, then “this” will occur.  But, if something else takes place, then “that” will occur.  If I choose this path or this action, then “this” will be my destination and the result.  A thousand times in the smallest moments, we measure the consequence of “if.”  And, occasionally, we are faced with choices that will determine our destiny.  

The Bible challenges us with this tiny but powerful word: 

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  (2 Chronicles, 7:14)

“But if you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.  When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him.  For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath.” (Deuteronomy 4:29-31).

Monday, September 19, 2016


Today I held Eli for the first time.  Eli is my grandson, born September 16 to our daughter Allison and son-in-law Noah.  A Harvest Moon baby!

I have experienced the birth of my three children.  It took five years for our second son to be born, and eight more years before our daughter.

I have witnessed the birth of five grandchildren before Eli.  With each one the miracle and mystery becomes more astounding. How does this happen? From a few microscopic cells, from the union of a man and a woman who find each other, in nine short months, a human being is born.   

As I watched my daughter cradling her newborn son, I thought about her birth. She was born the year I turned 40. My wife was 37.  We had two sons, ages thirteen and eight.  We had not expected any more children.  On our first visit to the doctor, he asked if we wanted to terminate the pregnancy. 

We sat dumbfounded by his question.  We looked at each other for a moment and said, “No.”  This was not a pregnancy. This was our child.  We wanted this child.  We would do nothing to risk her full and complete health. We changed doctors.  

Eight months later, Allison was born, as perfect a daughter a father could ever wish to hold.  I rocked her to sleep every night and sang songs to her about Jesus until she finally told me she thought she was too old to be rocked any more. Those were treasured moments when I celebrated God’s gift of our daughter. Moments when I often reflected on the doctor’s question.

Years later I started writing poetry and wrote a poem about the daughter God gave us:

You came into my life unexpected,
unrequested, unplanned and unknown,
bursting the bands of my being,
redefining and rewriting
the schemata of my soul.

You appeared to me:
a formless faded phantom on a screen,
echoes of flesh, a beating heart,
tiny fetal foot reflected in the womb
of your mother.

We wanted you, longed for you,
waited for you, prayed for you,
prepared for you:
a room, built with my own hands,
a yellow crib and mobile,
fluffy toys and dolls,
to greet you when you came ...

And you came,
revealing my arrogant ignorance,
that I could think my world complete;
that I could live if you were not;
that life could be without you;
that life could be again in your going.

You pose the question in my mind,
with your smile, your girlish giggle,
the stroking of your cat,
the tears upon your cheek,
the weight of your slumbering body
at rest in mine, curled up in the arms
of a big blue chair:
“What is there I know not that I have not
and could not live without?”

So, today I held Eli, my daughter’s son, and reflected on God’s miracle, His goodness and His grace. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

What Does God Want?

When I listen to myself pray, and when I listen to others pray, it seems that most of what we say to God revolves around what we want.  Sometimes our lists are heart-rending: healing from a deadly disease, comfort from the loss of someone we love, rescue for a marriage on the rocks.  More often,   they are day-to-day: a passing grade on the exam, strength to get through another day at work, safe travel.  Sometimes they are trivial:  a victory on the football field, our favorite team in the playoffs.  Sometimes the list is long.  Sometimes it is repetitive. But most of our prayers are filled with the things that we want God to do for us.

I wonder, what does God want?

Maybe he wants a great cathedral constructed in His honor, a building that rises out of the concrete and towers over the city with majestic spires and stained glass windows. Perhaps he wants a more modern structure that resembles the headquarters of a major corporation or a shopping mall. Something designed to make a statement to the world that God is important and you better not forget it.

Maybe He wants music. Perhaps God wants classical music like Ode to Joy, or Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, or Handel’s Messiah with its Hallelujah Chorus.  Or, maybe he prefers contemporary music: amplifiers, electric guitars, drums, drums and more drums. Perhaps He wants dancing including African and Native American chants.  Maybe God prefers Blue Grass or Country.  Who knows?  I sometimes wonder what we will sing in Heaven,

Maybe God likes His own sounds: thunder in the heavens, the whisper of wind in the wings of a bird, echoes in a canyon, a babbling brook or the powerful rush of Niagara Falls.

The Bible gives some pretty good clues about what God wants. 

In Isaiah’s day, God made it clear that He was fed up with efforts to impress Him with religious behavior. He said, “When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer. … Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.  Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:12-18).

When I think about how I feel as a parent, this makes perfect sense.  I am happiest as a parent when my children are together, when I hear them laughing, when they enjoy one another and go out of their way to help each other.  Of course, I want them to love me.  But somehow I feel like they love me best when they are loving each other.

Many people assume that God measures our love for Him by how religious we become.  But John set us straight when he wrote, “One who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”  (1 John 4:20).

The bottom line is this:  God wants us to get along with each other.  He wants people to be kind to each other, to do good things and help each other. Jesus said,  “If you love me you will keep my commandments.  … This is my commandment.  That you love one another, just as I have loved you.”  (John 14:15;15:12).

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Growing Old

I will soon be 70.  It comes as a bit of a shock.  I never thought about getting old, and I always assumed that people in their 70s were “really old.”  But I might have to reconsider.

I still have three months, so I am trying to resist all those who are pushing me toward my septuagenarian birthday.  Friends and family, it seems, want to remind me that I will soon be 70. But I think I would like to enjoy three more months of being in my 60s.

The candidates for President are my age.  Donald Trump was born the same year I was.  Hillary is only 68.  So, my generation is still making headlines, even if they are the “most unpopular” headlines in presidential history.

But the vultures are starting to circle.  I regularly receive mail from the Neptune Society. They are trying to convince me of a better way to depart this earth. They offer cremation services: “whether you need help for today or want to plan for tomorrow.”  I don’t think I want help dying today, and how do you plan for tomorrow when your ashes are sitting in a jar?   This week I received a letter from the Senior Information Department marked “Important Document Enclosed.” The envelope was stamped with red capital letters: “SECOND NOTICE TIME SENSITIVE.”  So, I opened it. The letter inside offered an insurance policy that would pay for 100% of my funeral expenses. I guess they think this is a very time sensitive subject.

Sometimes the younger generation remind me of my aging condition. They don’t seem to think I can operate a computer, an iPhone or an electronic keypad at the checkout counter.  They start offering instructions without my asking.  They seem to forget that my generation developed the PC, launched the internet and invented the iPhone.  

I tried looking for a Scripture that would encourage me and make me feel better.  I found Psalms 90:10, “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years. Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away.” There we are again.  The time I am allotted on earth is 70 years and, if I am lucky, I could make 80.  But my mother lived to be 89. So there.  I have lots of time left, even though 20% of my high school graduating class are already deceased.

I like Psalm 37:25, “I once was young and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or His seed begging bread.”  I can identify with this statement.  God has been abundantly faithful throughout my life.  He has blessed us with wonderful children and grandchildren who love God and trust Christ. He has filled our lives with young adults from many nations who have adopted us and invited us into their journey.

I remember with gratitude those who were older when I was young. They believed in me and encouraged me. They led me to faith in Christ. I remember their wisdom and their counsel. I miss them.  Hopefully, in my remaining years, God will allow me to do the same for the young who follow.