What Others Say

Just a note to thank you for your wonderful weekly columns in the Galveston Paper.
To open a newspaper and see references to God, Scriptures, Kindness, Peace, Loving one another is what our whole world needs now more than ever. -John D. Galveston, Texas

Monday, May 30, 2016

Rescued

Every year I write at least one column about my dog, Buddy, a tri-color Pembroke Corgi who found his way into our home seven years ago.   Animal Control picked him up off the streets of Fort Worth, skinny and sick.  They called Corgi Rescue and Corgi Rescue called us.  

When we met Buddy it was love at first sight. We adopted him, kennel cough and all. He was little more than a year old, I think.  Now he is approaching middle age in dog years. He is not as fast as he once was and he carries a little more weight in his mid-section.

Buddy has a way of teaching me things about God if I take the time to listen and watch and reflect on our relationship.  Shortly after we adopted him, he told me his story: how he got lost on the streets of Fort Worth, was befriended by Barney the Bloodhound and ended up in “dog jail” when the “dog police” caught up with them.  I wrote it down for my grandchildren and published it as an e-book on Amazon, Buddy the Floppy Ear Corgi. 

Buddy likes to go fishing in my flat bottom boat.  The front of the boat is his.  He stands in the front and sniffs the wind to locate the fish.  He is good at it. At least he thinks he is.  Corgis think they are good at anything.

Once he leaned too far and sniffed too hard and fell in the lake. Corgis aren’t built for water. Their stubby legs don’t give much traction for swimming. He coughed, sputtered, went under and splashed for all he was worth until I grabbed him and hauled him back into the boat, soaked and shivering.

It reminded me of Peter’s experience when he leapt from the fishing boat to meet Jesus on the Sea of Galilee.  I expect Peter was a better swimmer than Buddy, but there he was splashing and floundering around in the sea, helpless. Until Jesus reached out, lifted him up and hauled him back into the boat.

God has done that for me many times. Across the years I have fallen out of the boat financially, unable to sleep at night, worried about how to make ends meet.  I have sunk over my head in work, overwhelmed by responsibilities and challenges.  I have found myself drowning in grief with the loss of someone I love.. 

Every time I have fallen into waters over my head, He has pulled me up and hauled me back into the boat. He is strong enough to save me and He will not let me drown when circumstances threaten to overwhelm me. 


Jesus said, “In the world you have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33).  “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:8). 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Remembering our Past - Finding A Path Forward

Next week, like millions of other Americans, we will fly our flag outside our house to honor Memorial Day.  It is a tradition my wife brought into our marriage from her father who served in the Pacific during World War II.  All across our country the stars and stripes will unfurl in the breeze, lifting and dropping, whipping and snapping above the roof tops of schools, factories and government buildings; above parks, parades  and cemeteries.  Millions will stand to their feet in stadiums, hands over hearts, and sing of the broad stripes and bright stars reflected by bombs bursting through the night. 

Forty eight years after Fort McHenry, this flag hung in ominous stillness above Fort Sumter.  During the Civil War it led the way into man-made storms of grape-shot and cannon fire to the sound of screaming men and thundering horses.   Almost a century later it was raised above the black sands of Iwo Jima where young Marines gave their lives to lift its blood stained cloth above their heads and let it fly on the enemy hill. The same flag still stands on Tranquility Base where the Eagle landed and Neil Armstrong took one giant leap for mankind. We have all stood at the graveside of flag draped coffins and many have held the crisply folded flag to their breast, solemnly handed to them by white gloved soldiers.

This Memorial Day the flag reminds us that we are still an experiment.  Two and a quarter centuries is a very short time and our nation is still relatively young.  Lincoln’s prophetic words at Gettysburg still ring true. We are a new nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  Our generation, like every other generation must rise to the test to prove whether “that nation, or any other nation so dedicated and so conceived can long endure.” 

Every Memorial Day we are called to a new resolve that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Across the years our nation has fought and won battles and wars on virtually every continent.  Memorial Day helps us remember young men and women who gave their lives in obedience on those battle fields.  But the most important battles to be fought for the future of our nation will not be with missiles and guns. 

The most important battles to be fought will be found in the hearts of men and women.  The preservation of our nation, its hopes, dreams and ideals, depends on the character of its people and their leaders.  Honesty, integrity, compassion, generosity and goodness are the elements that will determine the ultimate outcome of the battles and wars that have been fought in our nation’s past.


In Proverbs, the Bible says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Prov. 14:34)  Isaiah says, “Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; my chosen one in whom my soul delights.  I have put My Spirit upon Him; He shall bring forth justice to the nations. (Isa. 42:1).  

Monday, May 16, 2016

Exoplanets: Other Worlds

Exoplanets.  It is a new word for me, but scientists are beside themselves.  Apparently the term has been around a long time, just not in my vocabulary. Exoplanets are planets that orbit a star other than our sun.  On May 10 The Kepler Space Telescope verified 1,284 new exoplanets bringing the total to approximately 3200. 
                                
Every star is expected to have at least one planet.  With 200 billion stars in the Milky Way the number is, well, astronomical!  But what scientists are really excited about are earth-like planets, those that orbit in the “habitable” zone of sun-like stars, the so- called “Goldilocks zone.”  21 of Kepler’s planets fit this category and there could be 11 billion habitable Earth-like planets in our galaxy alone! 

Elen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA Headquarters in Washington said, “This gives us hope that somewhere out there we can eventually discover another Earth.”   Just imagine, there could be other planets filled with beauty: oceans with waves breaking upon the shore, trees and forests, rivers and snow-capped mountains, clouds drifting across the sky, birds and beasts and living things.

C. S. Lewis posed this possibility in his science fiction novel, Out of the Silent Planet.  But Lewis went a step further. He proposed that these “habitable” planets in the universe were different in one respect. They were planets without sin.  Only on Earth, he suggested did sin exist and, as a result, it had become the “silent planet” cut off from all the rest of creation.  It is an interesting proposition.

Imagine again, a planet like the earth filled with life, including human life, where sin does not exist.  A planet like our own where there is no corruption, where no one lies, or steals, no deceit, no suspicion, no fear. A place where there is no violence. Everyone looks out for the welfare of others.  Love rules.

We may never know if there are other planets like our earth. The closest star with a possible habitable planet is about 14 light years away. Most are more than 40 light years.  Even if we could achieve the speed of light, this is not exactly commuting distance.

But the Bible assures us there is such a place as we have imagined, not in our galaxy or in our sphere of time and space.  It exists in another dimension, eis aionos, or “into the age,” as Jesus said. “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there you may be also.”  (John 14:2-3)

Revelation describes this place “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 

Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:4-8).

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Raising Children

Nothing is as challenging as being a parent.  Children have no on-off button.  They cannot be put in the closet like clothes, turned off and parked like cars or placed in a kennel for the night like pets.  They are on a constant quest, poking, prodding, pushing, pulling and climbing.  When our children were little, as soon as they got in the car they looked for buttons to push and knobs to twist.  When I turned on the key the blinkers blinked, windshield wipers wiped and the radio blared, vibrating the windows and rendering me momentarily deaf. The same was true for our bedroom and kitchen.

They grew up to be responsible adults.  But the path wasn’t easy.  Every passage brought new challenges: the first day of school, a move from familiar neighborhoods to a new city, puberty, a driver’s license, dating, computer games, technology and today, social media.  Parenting requires a constant learning curve that never stops, even after children are grown and on their own.  Relationships constantly change and adjust. As a parent, you are always entering new and unfamiliar territory.

I found across the years that there is no “fix it” book for parenting, no “cure-all,” “read this,” or “do this” simple solution.  Every child is different and every parenting situation has its unique challenges.  But there are some essential tools that make the difference: patience, consistency, authenticity, trust, love, faith and a listening ear.  Most of us don’t come naturally equipped with these essential tools to be successful parents.  Most of us have to learn them and acquire them while we are on the job. And all of us have room for improvement.

Years ago I visited in the home of a young mother who was caring for several pre-school children. I was amazed at her patience and attention with the children and commented on it.  She responded by telling me that this had not always been the case.  Before she trusted Christ, she said, she had no patience with children, but after she gave her heart to Christ, He gave her a gift of patience, not only for her own children, but for others.

The Bible says that John came to introduce Jesus to the world by turning the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to righteousness.  Every generation has to struggle against the natural desires of the flesh that result in envy, jealousy, resentment, anger and self indulgence. These attitudes destroy the family.

When we put our trust and faith in Jesus Christ He gives us a new heart.  He produces in us the fruits of the Spirit that equip us to be the parents and people that we long to be:  “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.”  All of these, the Bible says, are the fruit of the Spirit. 


When our hearts are right with God so that we are producing these fruits, we will be good parents.  Then we will be able to fulfill the Scripture’s instruction, “Do not exasperate your children, instead, bring them up in the teaching and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4).

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Selling Our Soul for Entertainment

Last week Will Farrell withdrew from playing Ronald Reagan in a dark comedy that portrays the former president lapsing into dementia in his second term. In the movie, President Reagan is duped by an intern to think he is “an actor in a movie.”  The script has received an enthusiastic response on the Black List, a catalogue of unproduced scripts, and was praised in Hollywood circles.  Farrell’s decision was apparently influenced by the outcry from Reagan’s family.

For those who experience the disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s are no laughing matter. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are arguably the most painful and debilitating diseases anyone can face.  President Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, said, ‘"I watched as fear invaded my father’s eyes -- this man who was never afraid of anything. I heard his voice tremble as he stood in the living room and said, 'I don’t know where I am.' I watched helplessly as he reached for memories, for words, that were suddenly out of reach and moving farther away. For ten long years he drifted -- past the memories that marked his life, past all that was familiar ... and mercifully, finally past the fear.”

As we age, we all experience the loss of health and strength.  But, perhaps most of all, we fear the loss of memory and cognitive function.  We all have friends who are fighting this terrible disease and many of us have watched families thoughtfully, faithfully and tenderly care for those they love as they slowly slip away. 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three senior adults will die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

The proposed Reagan movie is another indication that we are in danger of selling our soul for entertainment. We are sacrificing human decency and respect for the latest laugh or another buck in the bank.  We may be on the brink of becoming a demented society, not as the result of a disease like dementia or Alzheimer’s, but by being seduced to seek our own gratification at the expense of others.

Many have watched with disbelief as a reality TV star stands on the verge of claiming the Republication nomination for President.  Reality TV is bleeding over into the real world and distorting our perception of real problems and real solutions. In our entertainment crazy world, we are on the brink of sacrificing sound and reasoned judgement.

It is increasingly evident that we need a moral and spiritual renewal.  We need the kind of renewal that causes us to treat others with decency and respect. As Paul wrote, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. ... Give preference to one another in honor.” (Romans 12:9-10). “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7).  


We need to reclaim the aspirations of Solomon: “To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; to give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.”  (Proverbs 1:2-4).