What Others Say

I have read your columns many times, have saved the ones that "speak" to me and reread them....... I just want to thank you for your inspired writing, illuminating faith and the day to day that focuses on God and His Son....
- Carol C.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Buddy's Lesson - Living for Today

A few years ago we adopted a dog.  Well, I guess “I” adopted a dog. My wife finally gave in.  But he won her over and now he is “our” dog.   He has traveled thousands of miles with us and introduced us to people of all ages, races and places who love dogs. This week he moved with us to Colorado. 

Across the years we had pets, mostly mutts and strays that wandered into our lives.  They helped us raise our kids.  Each was different.  “Punkin” was our first. I brought her home for Christmas.  I was too busy to give her much attention, but the boys loved her.  She grew old, blind and died before our daughter was born the year I turned 40.

Rascal was a stray gray-and-white kitten our boys picked up off the street.  He was part of our family for fifteen years and made the move with us from Texas to Minnesota.  

We picked up a puppy we named Max from a Minnesota farm.  We thought he would be a small dog, but in six months, he was bigger than our daughter, had eaten all the furniture and dug up the back yard.  We offered him to a good home.   One interested lady tried to take his picture and he ate her camera.  Finally a young couple with a farm adopted him.  We threw in his crate, dog food and anything else we could think of.  We last saw them chasing him down the street. 

So we went back to cats.  My wife and daughter found a cute black and white kitten that our son named “Fido.”  Our daughter loved Fido.  But, Fido was apparently insulted by our move back to Texas and ran away.  When our daughter left for college we found ourselves in an empty nest, the kids grown and the dogs and cats gone. It was peaceful.  I guess a little too peaceful.   After awhile I realized I missed having a dog. 

We found Buddy, a tri-color Pembroke Corgi. He was picked up starving off the streets of Fort Worth by Corgi Rescue.  When we first met him he was skinny and sick.  But we knew he was right for us.   Buddy and I have bonded.  He goes with me just about everywhere I go.  He is helping me put my life in perspective and teaching me some things about God.



Buddy is teaching me to live in the moment; to celebrate each day as a gift.  So often I spend time reminiscing or regretting the past and dreaming or worrying about the future.  But Buddy takes each day as it comes.  Of course it is good to cherish memories and learn from the past.  And it is good to dream and plan.  That is part of what defines us in God’s image.  But I am prone to miss the moment.  Jesus said, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself …” ( Mt 6:34).   “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps. 118:24). 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Encountering Angels Unaware

Last week we drove my old pickup from Colorado to Texas.  My daughter learned to drive on the truck when she was 16.  She is now grown, married, and the mother of 3 children.  It has hauled and towed “stuff” to and from Minnesota, Montana, Colorado, South Dakota and Georgia.  We are still using it, 155,000 miles and going strong, or so we thought.

We stopped in Amarillo at a truck stop for the usual: gas, snacks and a bathroom.  When we hopped back in the truck, it wouldn’t start. The battery was strong and the starter spun the engine, but it would not fire.

So, there we were. Stranded at a fuel pump 450 miles from home on a Saturday morning. I tried to call an auto shop.  Most are closed on Saturday, and those that are open are already busy. Our insurance agreed to send a tow truck.  But where should we have them tow us? How long before we could get it fixed?  Where would we stay?

My wife did what men won’t do. She went to other travelers, especially those who looked like they had seen the underside of a hood, and asked for help.  I sat in the driver seat, helpless and confused.  Then Rafael showed up, young, bright-eyed and smiling.

Rafael did not speak English. I don’t speak Spanish, except for a few words and phrases that I usually mispronounce. But sign language works where words fall short.  He motioned.  I opened the hood and cranked on the engine. Nothing.  He took an empty water bottle and went around the gas pumps siphoning off the left over gas in each one and tried to prime the engine through the air intake.  He then climbed under the truck and banged on the gas tank, trying to shake the fuel pump into action. Still nothing.

He then opened the fuse box under the hood, pushed and prodded on the relays and fuses.  I turned the key and the engine sprang into life.  Apparently the fuel pump relay had vibrated loose. After a helpless hour and a half, we were back on the road again. I tried to pay Rafael, but he would accept nothing. I tried to thank him with my best Spanish.  He was just happy to help. I mentioned “Jesus Cristo” and he beamed.

I don’t know where Rafael came from. I don’t know where he went.  He drove away in a big truck towing a fifth wheel RV.  Rafael might not qualify as an angel according to the Bible. But he was an angel to us.  It seemed, somehow, God sent him at just the right time. 

Angels show up throughout the Bible. Our technological and scientific Western world dismisses them.  The book of Hebrews says, “ Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2).  

I wish we could have shown hospitality to Rafael.  Instead, we were the strangers in need, and he helped us. It seemed as if he were God’s messenger, or “mechanic,” at just the right time in just the right place. Just when we might think that our world is sliding into selfishness, violence and corruption, an angel shows up. 

I hope somewhere, someplace, sometime we might qualify as God’s “angel” to somebody else, especially someone who doesn’t look like us, dress like us or speak our language.  

Monday, May 8, 2017

Honoring Our Mothers

This week husbands, sons and daughters will elbow their way to the greeting card displays in search of the perfect card to celebrate Mothers Day.  Florists will put on extra staff to handle the demand. Restaurants brace for business.

Countries around the world set aside a special day for mothers. It is celebrated on the second Sunday in May in the U.S. Canada, New Zealand, Australia, India, Brazil, Germany, Ethiopia and the Philippines. Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mothers Day an official holiday starting on May 8, 1914. Still other nations honor mothers on different dates.

Regardless of our nationality, ethnicity or gender, we were each carried in our mother’s womb, given birth through her labor and, in almost all cases, nursed and nourished to life by her care.  

No office and no position wields greater power and influence over the future of humanity than the influence of a mother.  The memories and lessons given in infancy at a mother’s hand surpass every other classroom and instruction.  The faith of a mother inspires and instructs more effectively than any pulpit or pen.

We see it in history, and we see it in the Bible.

In a log cabin in Kentucky, Nancy Hanks Lincoln recognized the early gifts in her child.  She not only taught him to read, but instructed him in the principles that would shape his life.  Without Nancy, and Sarah, who became Lincoln’s step mother after Nancy died, it is unlikely that Abraham Lincoln would have ever surfaced to lead our nation in its greatest hour of crisis.

If it were not for Moses’ mother, the world would have never known the great law-giver who led Israel from captivity and gave us the Ten Commandments.  It was she who hid him in the reeds at the river to save his infant life and it was she who cared for him in Pharaoh’s court. 

How many mothers have petitioned God for the birth of a child, as Hannah prayed in the presence of Eli, the prophet?  Without her prayer, Samuel would not have been born, and would not have been present to anoint David, the king of Israel.

In the fullness of time, in an obscure  Galilean village, another young woman  lifted up her eyes to heaven and sang, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His handmaiden; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For He that is mighty has done to me great things, and holy is His name.” (Luke 1:46-49).  Without Mary we would never have known Jesus, and the world would remain lost in its sins without a Savior.

Paul referred to the importance of a mother’s faith when he wrote to his young protégé, Timothy: “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.”  (2 Timothy 1:5). 


This Mother’s Day we honor all our mothers who have shaped us and made a better world.  It also stands as a challenge to all those young women who give birth to the next generation and shape the future of the world to come. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Did Jesus Do Dishes?

Did Jesus do dishes?  The very question sounds sacrilegious.  That might be the point.  Sometimes our “religion” prism causes us to miss the real miracle about Jesus.  The whole idea of “religion” tends to confine our thinking to “church” related activities and theological conversations.  To most people, Jesus never enters day-to-day conversation because to do so is to introduce “religion,” and daily life is uncomfortable with religion.

Those who knew Jesus, who met him, heard him, saw him, ate with him and walked with him were struck by his humanity.  He was real, but, as some say, “not real religious.”  He went to the synagogues and spoke there, but it was the religious people who had difficulty with him.  He ate with tax collectors, visited with prostitutes and befriended lepers, violated religious laws by healing the sick and allowing his disciples to harvest grain on the Sabbath.

Jesus’ divinity was there for all to see:  he made the blind see, caused the deaf to hear, lifted the lame to walk and raised the dead.  Even the wind and the sea obeyed him.  But, as important as all those things were, especially to the individuals who experienced it, he elevated the mundane to the miraculous.

John described him like this:  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1) The Word became flesh and lived among us and we saw his glory, glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). The writer of Hebrews wrote:  “For we have not a high priest who is not touched with our infirmities but was tempted in all ways like as we are, yet without sin.” 

The Bible never says that Jesus did the dishes.  It does say that he washed feet. Which, it seems to me, required a great deal more humility than washing dishes.  I expect dishes were prized possessions in most homes of Galilee. They weren’t cheap.  You could not pick up dishes at the local Walmart or the Dollar store.  They were all hand crafted and often passed down from generation to generation.  Most homes likely had little more than the bare essentials when it came to dishes. They did not pile up in the sink waiting for someone to unload the dishwasher.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus helped his mother out, or even lent a hand to Martha in the kitchen at Bethany, and washed dishes.

I always think my wife will be most impressed when I buy her flowers.  She does appreciate them and she likes them. But what she really seems to like is the times that I do the dishes.  It may be that the most spiritual thing you may do today is to do the dishes.  It could be a God thing.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Thy Kingdom Come

Last week Dyen returned from her home in Indonesia where she spent four months as an intern with the United Nations working with refugees.  Next month she will graduate with a Master’s degree in Social Work from Baylor University.   She is a remarkable Christian, always bubbling with life, energy and happiness.  She spent the night with us upon her arrival.  The next morning we visited over breakfast on our patio.

I usually spend the early mornings in devotion and prayer in my back yard.  The sun slowly rises, flickering through the sycamore leaves until it clears the trees and floods the yard with light.  Most of my prayers are for personal things, the day-to-day things most of us are concerned about.  I pray for friends who are battling cancer, a friend recovering from an accident and for my four-year-old granddaughter who fell and broke her pinky finger.  I give thanks to God for his answers, continually amazed at how often He seems to listen and how often He seems to answer.

But this morning we visited with Dyen.

I asked her about her work with the refugees.  Her face grew clouded with sadness.  She told us of a child who watched her mother die, a boy who returned home to find his house destroyed and his family dead, a little girl who lifted her skirt to show the bullet wounds she had suffered.  None of the children in the refugee camp have parents. Most of the girls have been raped.

She told how she had struggled as a Christian to counsel these, trying to give hope and encouragement to innocent children victimized by war, oppression, vengeance and violence. I suddenly felt my prayer life to be rather small.  Dyen’s burdened voice brought us close to the cruel stories easily dismissed as so much “news.” 

I was reminded of what Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”  What would that look like?  I suppose it would look like Jesus’ response to John when John asked if He was the Messiah.  Jesus said, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Luke 7:22).

 I am beginning to pray more for these distant places and these victims.  I am praying more for our own nation.  I am praying that God will turn the tide of violence, anger, hatred, resentment, prejudice and vengeance.  The world seems increasingly dangerous.  If His Kingdom were to come on earth, all of this would be swept away, replaced with kindness, gentleness, thoughtfulness, forgiveness and love.

We cannot control national events. But we can make a difference in the place where we are. Like Dyen seeking to comfort refugees in Indonesia. We can bring the Kingdom near where we live and wherever we go, like Jesus did when He walked through the hills of Galilee.


It is okay to pray for our immediate personal concerns.  After all, Jesus taught us to ask for “daily bread.”  But too often my prayers stop there.  They need to go beyond to the Kingdom issues that reside in the heart of God. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Love and Marriage

I like to watch young people falling in love and getting married.  I like to watch them strolling arm and arm, pushing a stroller, spreading a blanket on the beach and listening to the waves.  Love is always new.  For generations it has remained the fresh and vibrant theme of novels, movies, music and paintings.

We started hosting a Bible study in our home for International students almost four years ago.  Mulenga showed up alone.  His wife was unable to join him from Zambia because she did not have a visa. We prayed. The visa was granted. She came, and a year later their son was born on my birthday.

Xiuli arrived from China, a beautiful young woman in her thirties.  A year later she met Willis who joined us.  They were married in the Chinese Church on January 2, 2016.  In September she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.

Balkeum came from South Korea.  She met James a devout believer from my home town in Corsicana, TX who earned a Masters degree in South Korea. A few months later she showed up at the Bible study with an engagement ring on her finger. They were married in April 2016.  Last week I held their daughter, Charlotte, for the first time.

My son had to brand cattle on a Wyoming round-up to ask permission to marry his rodeo-father-in-law’s daughter.  His palms were sweating when he popped the question, not from the round up, but from nerves. 

My son-in-law went fishing with me to ask permission to marry my daughter.  His mind wasn’t on fishing. He then coaxed a friend into flying them in a private plane to a romantic spot where he gave her the ring.

It was almost fifty years ago that I met the girl who would become my wife. The days of our courtship and engagement are as vivid in my memory as they were when we lived them. The mystery and the miracle have not faded.  A few years ago, I wrote a poem, trying to capture the feeling:

He holds the eternal quarter-carat stone in his hand
Buried in his trembling palm,
Pausing to expose its fire sided sight to the light
Where it will be seen,
set in the golden circle of the ring
To be worn on her hand,
 half a century and a day
From this day when he first feels her finger
Slender and smooth, adorned with a diamond
Timidly given in hope of heaven.

There are many love stories in the Bible:  Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Ruth and Boaz, Joseph and Mary.  The story never grows old.  Few things are as beautiful as a young man and a young woman in love, giving birth to their children.  


“So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number. Fill the earth and subdue it.” Genesis 1:27-28.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Life's Most Important Question

I was twenty-nine years old when my father died of multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow.  He was fifty-three.  Only hours before his death, I spoke with him.  Our eyes met during that final visit, the same eye contact we had shared from my birth, though his eyes were growing gray.  I held his hand as he drew his last breath, and then, he was gone.  His body lay lifeless and unresponsive.

The morticians took his body from the hospital room where our family had waited through the night.  We visited the funeral home and chose a casket.  Shortly afterward other family and friends joined us to view his body lying still and quiet, dressed in his familiar suit, his hair combed.  I stood by the casket and stared at his face.  It was obvious another hand had combed his hair and another hand had tied his tie.  He seemed to be sleeping.

I imagined him drawing breath. Imagined him opening his eyes so that they sparkled once again, his lips parting in the familiar grin, the dimples reappearing in his cheeks.  But he didn’t move. We buried his body in the cemetery 41 years ago surrounded by friends who came to comfort us, many of whom are now buried nearby. 

I asked myself the question Job asked centuries ago, the question every man and woman must ultimately ask when they stand where I stood on that day, “If a man die, shall he live again?”(Job 14:14).

Job’s struggle with the question was not about theology or philosophy.  His struggle was like mine.  It was personal.  It is the struggle we all must face sooner or later when those whom we love die. 

After having pondered the question, Job foresaw the Easter event we celebrate this weekend.  He wrote, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27).

The world will ponder Job’s question this weekend when we gather in Christian churches around the world. When Jesus was raised from the dead, the answer to life’s most important question became clear.  Luke wrote, “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3).  Paul wrote, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).