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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Same Kind of Different As Me

Same Kind of Different As Me opens in movie theaters this week on October 20.  I first stumbled across the story in 2010 when my son-in-law suggested it to me.  The book had been out since 2005, a true story that bridges the social and racial divisions of our day.

Maybe I was drawn to the book because Ron Hall spent his childhood summers on a farm near my boyhood home of Corsicana Texas. His descriptions of Corsicana resonated with my memories growing up on Collin Street, one of the signature brick streets that reflect the glory days when the city boasted more millionaires per capita than any other town in Texas. Maybe I was drawn to the book because Ron and Denver intersect in the slums of Fort Worth east of downtown where my wife started her teaching career forty years ago.

Same Kind of Different As Me is actually two stories. One, the story of an illiterate black man named Denver who was raised in the cotton fields of Louisiana and ended up homeless on the streets of Fort Worth. The other, an upwardly mobile white man named Ron Hall who graduated from TCU and made a fortune in the art world. They each tell their story, and the remarkable intersection of their journeys.

But the true stories of Ron Hall and Denver Moore are not the main stories in the book. They represent other stories: the story of our country and its culture. Ron represents those who rise from middle class with professional opportunities that can lead to great wealth. He also represents the dangers of that path that include temptations for greed, materialism, shallow and broken relationships. Denver represents the alarmingly huge segment of our population that falls between the cracks, victims of prejudice, oppression, injustice and neglect. He also represents the dangers of that downward spiral that includes temptations of bitterness, anger, isolation and despair.

The greatest story underlying and connecting all of these is God’s story. Ron’s wife, Deborah is the entry point for His work, one person who was open, willing and obedient. She became the catalyst for connecting these two broken men from different ends of the social spectrum.

In a day when many look to government to heal our wounds and solve our social problems, Same Kind of Different As Me serves as a reminder that the real solution to our personal and social problems lies within us. It is often buried beneath our own prejudices and fears, but it can be unlocked and released with the keys of acceptance, trust, faith and love, all the things Jesus demonstrated and talked about.

God wants to use each of us, whatever our race, whatever our circumstance, whatever our background to make a difference in the world. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Life's Seasons

Two weeks ago we visited Rocky Mountain National Park.  The elk were everywhere. Their bugle echoed through the hills.  Peaceful cows grazed in the meadows under the watchful eye of the antlered-bull that gathered them for mating season.  Through winter and summer they disappear into the vast forests, but, in the fall, when the Aspen tinge the mountain slopes with yellow, they appear, bold and fearless. They have been doing this for thousands of years, long before humans wandered these valleys.

All of nature is synchronized with the seasons.  The geese fill the skies with wind singing in their wings.  Monarch butterflies migrate from Canada to Mexico. The maple, oak and sumac fire the hills with crimson and gold preparing the way for vast white blankets of snow.  

Our concrete, plastic and glass world attempts to insulate us from nature’s rhythms.  So do our drugs. They deaden our souls and our senses.  We are more alive when we connect with the rhythms God has built into his creation. The changing seasons seek to awaken us, to remind us that the same creative power that painted the mountains and designed the migrations of the birds also created us.   

All of life is lived in seasons, from birth to death. Each is made for celebration, for life and learning and loving: playful childhood, visionary youth, responsible adulthood, reflective old age.  The seasons of life fill our souls with songs of faith, love, hope, joy and sorrow. We all experience seasons of health and seasons of illness, seasons of plenty and seasons of lack, seasons of pain and seasons of joy. 

Ecclesiasts puts it best:  “There is a time for everything,  and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes  3:1-8).


In all of our seasons we can celebrate God’s presence as our Creator and sustainer, the savior of our soul. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Forever Friends

We spent last week near Vail, Colorado with another couple. The mountains were ablaze with golden Aspen, a great place for reflection in our “golden” years.  We were young when we first met.  My wife and the other two were fresh from high school graduations in Texas and Kentucky.  I was older and wiser by two years. 

After we married, we gathered in each other’s apartments as penniless newly-weds and played games, affordable and unforgettable entertainment. Our paths parted when we started our families. Identical twin girls for them, three children stretched over 13 years for us.  We stayed in touch at a distance.

Fifty years later, our children are grown.  They are advancing in their careers and raising our grandchildren.  We have completed most of our journey, in good health and full of memories, hoping to remain useful and finish well.

We are thrilled to make new friends for whom we are grateful, but we shared our youth with these friends when we were trying to figure out our own identity and had little idea of the direction our paths would take. We have other friends from our childhoods and our careers whom we love.  Some drifted away.  Some died. But this couple stuck.  Nothing can reproduce the treasure we have found. 
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And now that we have re-converged in the late years of our journey we are overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s goodness and grace.  We are more content than we were in our youth. We are still ambitious to do good and to bless others, but we know we are blessed beyond measure in ways we could have never imagined. Only God could do such a thing.

Friendship gives us a glimpse of the relationship God desires for each of us.  As Proverbs says, “There is a friend that stays closer than a brother.”  (Proverbs 18:24).

After three years walking the hills of Galilee and Judea, Jesus explained his relationship with the twelve in these terms:   “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:13-15).


No matter who we are or where we came from; no matter our race, gender or age, God desires to be our friend. He desires to lead us on our journey, from beginning to end.  An old hymn perhaps expresses it best, “I’ve found a Friend, oh, such a Friend!   He loved me ere I knew Him; He drew me with the cords of love,   and thus He bound me to Him. And round my heart still closely twine, those ties which naught can sever. For I am His, and He is mine, forever and forever.”

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Faith In A Violent World

Why is there so much violence in the world?   Why does North Korea continue to fire missiles and threaten the world with nuclear war?  Why do terrorists continue to kill innocent men, women and children?  Why does war continue in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq?  Why do earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis strike?

My grandfather fought in the “War to End All Wars” from 1914 to 1918.  But twenty years later the world was engulfed in another global conflict and the “War to End All Wars” became known, and largely forgotten, as World War I.  Since WWII America has been at war in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and several others lesser known places.

James explained violence this way: “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.” (James 4:1-2).

Jesus was under no illusion regarding our circumstances. He said, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. (Matthew 24:6-7).  “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good courage, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

It is difficult to imagine the violence and cruelty of the first century.  Crucifixion was common under Roman rule. More than 2,000 Jews were crucified and displayed on Galilean roads about the time Jesus was born following a revolt led by Judas ben Hezekiah. As far as we know every one of the Apostles, except John, was martyred.  In spite of this, they lived their lives with hope, joy and peace.

Often persecuted and suffering for his faith in Christ, the Apostle Paul gave us this instruction: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

It is easy to give in to the relentless stream of negative news: wars, violence, abuse and natural disasters.  Many see dark clouds gathering on the horizon with little hope for the future. But faith can withstand the most dismal circumstances.


For every act of violence we can find a thousand acts of kindness. The overwhelming floods in Texas,  Florida and Puerto Rico unleashed a greater flood of human kindness, courage and sacrifice.  The same can be said for every terrorist attack and every war. God is present.  Goodness will triumph. He will not leave us nor abandon us.  The righteous will not be forsaken.  Nothing can destroy the life of the spirit in Christ Jesus. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

What Is Prayer?

Prayer is often our last resort, the final step in a hopeless situation.  We refer to it with such phrases as “he doesn’t have a prayer,” or “there is nothing left to do but pray.”  But it is perhaps the most important aspect of our human condition.

We share many attributes with the animal kingdom including instincts for hunger, reproduction and survival. Other animals provide care and nurture for their young. Some construct elaborate shelters whether nests, caves, holes or houses. Many have complex social systems.  But no other creature has the capacity to communicate with the Creator and to pray. Only man is endowed with that gift.

I have never met anyone who complained that they prayed too much. But I have known many who wish they had prayed more.  In our most desperate circumstances and in our finest moments, we cry out to God in prayer.  The greatest gift we can bestow upon another human being is to pray earnestly for them.

Some understand prayer as a psychological exercise merely benefiting the one who prays. But Scripture affirms that there is more at work when we pray than we imagine.

Jesus prayed.  In fact, He rose early in the morning before sunrise and sought solitary places where He could spend time alone in prayer. Occasionally he prayed all night.  He taught us to pray, not as a public display to impress others, but in secret where “your father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6).  He taught us to pray constantly with discipline and determination. His prayer life was so powerful that his disciples asked him to teach them to pray. 

Prayer is not a matter of reciting particular words or repeating religious rituals. God looks on the heart.  He hears the person who is convicted of guilt and feels unworthy to lift his eyes to heaven. And God hears those who humbly seek to do His will, “The effective prayer of a righteous man,” the Bible says, “can accomplish much.”  (James 5:16)

The mystery and the miracle of prayer resides not in us, but in the One who created us and founded the vast universe that we have only begun to explore.  We are not cogs in an accidental machine that grinds its way toward extinction. We are created in the image of God and our very nature hungers for His presence.  He has endowed us with personality, intelligence and freedom.  He desires our company. He listens and He invites us to pray.


“Ask,” Jesus said, “and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you [who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”  (Matthew 7:7-11). 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Power of Encouragement

The length of every football field is 100 yards. Every pitcher’s rubber is sixty feet six inches from home plate. The bases are ninety feet apart. Every basketball hoop is ten feet high and every free throw line is fifteen feet from the backboard.  Every tennis court is 78 feet long. The service line is 21 feet from the net. But when the game is played, all things are not equal.  One athlete is playing before the home crowd and the other isn’t.  The cheers that fill the stadium make a difference. We have all seen it, the power of encouragement.  It is what sports calls the “home field advantage.” 

We also know the ravages of discouragement.  Discouragement can paralyze and make it impossible to act. It can steal our confidence and throw us into a deadly downward spiral.  We see it in athletes on the golf course, tennis court. We see it in the faces of the losing team in the waning moments of the game. Great athletes have the ability to resist discouragement and retain their focus.  But all of us are vulnerable to the voices of discouragement from within and from without. 

The Adversary whispers into our ear words of discouragement and doubt.  But God’s voice is always the voice of encouragement. God is our constant encourager.  He believes in us.  He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5).  When a broken hearted father received the devastating news that his daughter was dead, Jesus said, “Stop fearing, only believe!” He then proceeded to the man’s home and, in the privacy of their bedroom, gently raised his daughter to life.  (Mark 5:36).  

Heather Herschap was born with cerebral palsy.  She is confined to a wheel chair with limited use of one arm.  I first met her in 2004 after she had completed a college degree in psychology and was working on a Masters in Divinity. 

She says the turning point in her life came when she arrived on campus as a freshman and was alone in the dorm for the first time. Her body became hopelessly stuck between the bed and the wall, and, with her paralysis, she could not work herself free. After hours of crying out for help to no avail she heard a voice, clear and audible, “Don’t give up.”  That experience led her to faith in Christ.

A few year later, aware that her prayers were focused on her own problems, she began to pray for others and God whispered in her ear, “India.”  India became her passion.  Her eyes sparkle, her face lights up and her body stiffens in excitement when she speaks of India. She has been to India three times counseling outcasts like herself who are handicapped, encouraging them and giving them hope.


Every day we need encouragement.  And every day we encounter people who need to be encouraged: the clerk in the Walmart checkout line, the waitress working two jobs to feed her kids, the aging aunt confined by her infirmity to a nursing home, children struggling with the stress of school.  Perhaps the most spiritual thing you can do today is to encourage someone.  It might be the most important thing you ever do.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Generations

History is like an expedition, like Lewis and Clark searching for the Northwest Passage.  Each generation helps chart the journey with its twists and turns, and each picks up where the other left off.

Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he drafted the Declaration of Independence with the help of John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. 50 years later he and John Adams died on the anniversary of the Fourth.  Their death marked the end of the generation we know as the “founding fathers.” 

I remember as a child when the last veteran of the Civil War died. Albert Woolson was a drummer boy in Company C of the First Minnesota.  He died in 1956.  At present we are witnessing the departure of what Tom Brokaw called the “greatest generation,” those who lived through World War II.  Five years before I was born my mother was on a picnic with my father when President Roosevelt interrupted their 1940s music to report the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  She died six years ago.  My uncle commanded a tank in the battle of Nuremberg in April 1945.  He died four years ago.

Some of us can recall where we were when John F. Kennedy was shot on the streets of Dallas, when Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed and Robert Kennedy was gunned down in Los Angeles.  Vietnam and Watergate evoke vivid memories. But the young only know these events as history. Those who are seniors in high school were infants on 9/11/2001.  They have grown up in a post 9-11 world learning about the Twin Towers attack through stories, video and books. One generation passes while another joins the journey.

Every generation is connected to the generations that went before. But, like an expedition, every generation must find its own way, and each generation must find its own faith. A few years ago I reflected on what I wanted to accomplish with my remaining years.  One of those things was to encourage the younger generation to do greater things than I ever imagined.  I am pleased to see that happening in many places.  More people are coming to Christ every day than at any time in history, especially in South America, Africa and Asia.  I am finding many in their twenties and thirties who are passionate about going to the ends of the earth and living transformed lives for Christ.

When God looks on humanity, he sees generations.  Following Noah’s flood, God had us in mind when he said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations.”  Moses’ success depended on how well he encouraged Joshua, the leader of the next generation that would enter the Promised Land. David sang, “Remember His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.”  


The world has never been a safe place. Expeditions are dangerous. We face huge obstacles and challenges, but the potential is limitless. As our generations overlap, we have opportunity to build upon the foundations of faith that others have laid and to create a better world for our children, our grandchildren and those who will follow. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Hurricane Harvey Reveals Our Better Angels

The entire nation has been galvanized by the reports of Hurricane Harvey, an unexpected disaster of unprecedented proportions.  The fourth largest city in the United States drowning under an endless deluge of rain that buried neighborhoods, streets and thoroughfares under water. 

But greater than the torrential downpour that drove families to their attics and rooftops was the outpouring of sacrifice by thousands seeking to help.  An entire “navy” of volunteer boats immediately came to the aid of those in greatest danger.  The Galveston Daily News posted phone numbers for owners of flat-bottomed boats to call in order to volunteer.  Boats normally outfitted for fishing in the marshes that surround the island wandered the flooded streets of the greater Houston area searching for stranded neighbors.

Police, Firefighters and others worked around the clock, many of them hampered by the flood waters that threatened their headquarters.  They were not enough.  The greatest aid in the immediate threat were volunteers, often uncoordinated and spontaneous.  Neighbors helping neighbors without regard to race, ethnicity or faith.

On Sunday, the Houston news station KHOU was evacuated due to flooding, but their reporter, Brandi Smith, continued her reporting on site at Beltway 8 and the Hardy toll road.  She saw an 18 wheeler trapped in flood waters on the service road, flagged down a sheriff’s truck and helped rescue the driver.

Raul Njobi, begging for help, shouted to a group of volunteers launching their flat-bottom boat into the flood waters.  His sister was trapped in a Ford Fiesta not far away.  Just before her cell phone died she reported water was seeping into the car. Without hesitation they headed in the direction Mr. Njobi indicated searching for his sister.

 Across the nation Disaster Relief units scrambled to send volunteers to the coastal regions of Texas knowing the recovery will be long term.

In spite of the devastation to the Texas coast, especially the Coastal Bend where Harvey made landfall, there was something hopeful.  In the end it is not the depth of the floodwaters that will define us, but the depth of human kindness.

For months we have been bombarded by reports of terrorism, racism, hatred, anger and violence, (usually perpetrated by a few individuals).  The hurricane that hovered over Houston and sent the swollen creeks, rivers and bayous into record flood levels, brought to the surface the sacrifice that best characterizes our human spirit.

Down deep we remember the lessons Jesus taught about the Good Samaritan: to put ourselves at risk to care for strangers in need, to carry them to safety, to provide food and shelter, to bind up their wounds and to care for their recovery. (Luke 10:30-37).  Perhaps it has taken Hurricane Harvey to remind us what truly makes a nation great:  “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbors as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39).

Monday, August 21, 2017

Lessons from Buddy: God is no respecter of persons

At least once a year I write a column about my dog, Buddy, a tri-color Corgi.  Buddy found me eight years ago.  He had to spend some time wandering the streets as a stray and endure the indignities of animal control and Corgi rescue to do it. But he succeeded.  They called him “Tex.”  But he soon made it clear that his name was “Buddy.” 

When I go for a walk without Buddy, I am invisible. Few people notice me or speak.  But when Buddy takes me for a walk, we are celebrities.  Children stop what they are doing and run to us, asking if they can pet him.  Some adults do the same.

Buddy never seems to meet a stranger.  He doesn’t care what people look like, what color their skin, what kind of tattoos they might have. They can be gay, straight, male, female, old or young, rich or poor, educated or disabled.  He loves them all and they all seem to love him. And they all seem to feel better after they pet him.

It’s a lesson I am still working on, a lesson Buddy is still trying to teach me.  It is a lesson Jesus taught and one that Peter struggled to learn.  Jesus intentionally led his followers through Samaria, a region Jews refused to visit, and introduced them to a woman who had five husbands and was living with a man who was not her husband. He incensed his hometown authorities when he pointed out that God used Elisha to heal a Syrian rather than a Jew.  He embraced lepers who were outcast from their families. He healed the sick, the blind and the lame.  He dined with despised tax collectors. This was not the journey Peter and his companions expected. 

It was only later when the Holy Spirit led him to enter the home of a Roman Centurion that Peter seemed to understand.  Upon entering the home, Peter said, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.” (Acts 10).

Last week I stopped to get a haircut. A young woman in her 30s cut my hair. She had piercings in her nose, tongue and chin and tattoos covering her arms. We struck up a conversation. She has three little girls, 11, 7 and 5 who live with her ex-mother-in-law. She miscarried a baby boy. A few years ago, she “came out of the closet.”  I asked her what this meant and she told me she is gay. She said people thought she wanted to abandon her children, but this was not the case. She was simply tired of being depressed and suicidal. She is committed to caring for her children as much as the courts will allow her.  I told her I hoped she found a church that loved her. She said she always loved going to church but she was afraid of being judged.


I think Buddy would love this young mother and she would love him.  I am sure God loves her.  I wonder, after Charlottesville, when we will ever learn the lesson God built into Buddy, the lessons Jesus taught when He was here.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Water of Life

Perhaps somewhere out there some extraterrestrials are listening to Jimmy Carter’s greetings and Chuck Berry singing, Johnny Be Good on the recordings launched into space aboard Voyager in 1977. Voyager has left the solar system and is in interstellar space.  Or, maybe someday we will pick up alien radio messages like Jodie Foster in Contact. But, so far, the evidence indicates that life in the universe is precious.  Quite possibly, we are it. Although I have to agree that it makes sense there should be life somewhere out there.  Surely in God’s economy He would not create this vast expanse of universe and only create life on our small pebble.

Scientists are searching for water again.  Not on earth, but in far-flung places in our solar system and the universe.  In their search for life on other planets they know that water is the key.  Where there is water, there could be life. They have ruled out Mars. No water there.  Perhaps once upon a time, but the water is gone, and with it, the prospects of life.  But they have found water on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.  Even though the average temperature, on a good day is 270 degrees below zero. They think there is an entire ocean of water beneath the surface.  How the space probe Cassini can determine this, I have no idea. 

Whenever scientists search for life in the universe they search first for water.  Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA said, “NASA science activities have provided a wave of amazing findings related to water in recent years that inspire us to continue investigating our origins and the fascinating possibilities of other worlds, and life, in the universe.” Water is the essence of life as we know it. Without it, life cannot exist.

Most of us think little about water. We are more focused on beverages that tease our taste and promise a lift.  We take water for granted.  But water is the essential element for life. Most scientists agree that humans can live up to eight weeks without food as long as they have water.  But living without water is another story. Some people could live for a week without water.  In some cases only two or three days.

Jesus knew this when He spoke about water.  He said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

As important as water is to the existence of life and to our own physical well-being, there is another element even more important to the life of our soul.  Millions who have access to food, shelter, water and wealth are dying every day for lack of the spiritual water of faith that can nourish their soul. 


“Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you,
…  ‘For I will pour out water on]the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring  and My blessing on your descendants;
  and they will spring up ]among the grass like poplars by streams of water.’

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Intersections

We have all seen the evidence: shattered glass on the pavement, cars with smashed fenders and bent bumpers pulled over to the side of the road, passengers standing around wringing their hands, sometimes in tears, red and blue lights flashing in the night.

State Farm recently released its list of the top 10 most dangerous intersections in the United States.  The most dangerous is in Florida, just north of Miami. Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa, OK each had two intersections on the list.  Frisco, TX, Metairie, LA and Sacramento, CA each had one.  Each year the Federal Highway Administration reports approximately 2.5 million accidents at intersections. 40% of all traffic accidents occur at intersections and almost 1,000 people a year die in these accidents. Intersections are dangerous.

As in driving so in life.  We all must go through intersections that raise the level of risk. They are moments built into life that challenge our best judgement and call on our best resources.  Many families will encounter one of those intersections in the next few weeks:  College.  For the freshman leaving home it can be a dramatic confluence of emotion: excitement, freedom and fear.  You can find them walking among the imposing buildings on campus, sometimes accompanied with anxious parents, sometimes alone, gazing at the pillared buildings wondering how they will find their way.

Parents will return home to suddenly silent houses. Stereos no longer echo from the upstairs bedroom. Meals are no longer gulped down in a rush to get the kids off to school and make the next practice session or performance. Schedules are disturbingly simple.

We encounter other intersections when we choose a career, find a partner for life and give birth to our children.  We encounter them when our preschoolers start first grade, when they reach puberty and struggle to grow up.  Promotions, layoffs, career changes, moves to a new house in a new city, aging and old age.  Life is filled with intersections.

We do best at these moments when we trust in God.  He knows the “traffic patterns.”  He has been there.  He knows the outcome.  He is willing to take us by the hand or “take the wheel” and guide us through to the other side.

He led Abraham to a foreign land he had never seen and multiplied his descendants like the sands of the sea.  He guided Isaac in search of a wife and blessed Jacob in a similar quest. He led Moses through the wilderness. He guided Mary and Joseph to Egypt and back after the birth of Jesus.  In every generation, God has been a comfort and a guide to those who trust Him.


“In your loving kindness you have led the people whom you have redeemed; in your strength you have guided them to your Holy habitation.” (Exodus 15:13).  “For you are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake you will lead me and guide me.” (Psalm 31:3).  “And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (Isaiah 58:11). 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Kingdom Citizens - The Child Within

When we think of people who are religious, many conjure up images of old men with long gray beards, black capes and stooped shoulders. Some think of ascetic monks living in the desert.  Others picture nuns robed in their habits whispering prayers as they finger their rosaries. 

Jesus changed all our presumptions about what it means to be “religious” when he took a little child, stood him in front of his disciples and said, “Except you become as a little child, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-2). When he wanted to forge an image in the mind of his followers Jesus chose a child. Why would he do this?

Jesus left the answer to that question up to us.  We can all speculate about the lesson he wanted to teach by choosing a child.  Here are a few characteristics that stand out to me when I think about children and the reason he chose a child to illustrate the nature God looks for in Kingdom people. 

Children live in the moment.  They are not worried about the future.  They are not burdened with guilt about the past. Watch children playing on a playground.  They have little awareness of time. They wear no watches.

Children become friends fast. Most children have not learned to be hesitant and shy.    They greet one another as if they have already met.  “Want to play?”  And the game is on.

Children laugh. I love listening to children on the school playground and in the park. Anywhere children gather, the air is filled with laughter.  It is their nature to laugh.

Children do not know prejudice.  I’m not sure when we learn racial and cultural prejudice, but young children have not learned this lesson.  They readily accept each other as equals regardless of skin color or clothing.  If they notice a difference between them, they ask about it.  And, once the difference is recognized they shrug their shoulders and move on.

Children trust.  When their father extends his arms and encourages them to jump they fling their bodies into open space fully confident they will be caught. 

Children are awed by God’s creation.   They are mesmerized by grasshoppers, caterpillars, butterflies and flowers. They stop and take time to watch an ant wrestle a crumb of bread across the ground.  They notice the spots on a lady bug.

Children have great imaginations. Give a child a sandbox, a stick, or a can and they can construct unbelievable creations. I watched children recently playing in the sand.  They were digging a hole.  When I asked what it was, they looked at me with a puzzled look, as if I was the only one who did not recognize the obvious.  They patiently explained that it was a grasshopper sanctuary.


This list isn’t complete.  You can add others, I am sure.  Somewhere within us all is buried the child we once were.  Perhaps if we could re-connect with the child-like simplicity within us, we might take our first steps toward becoming Kingdom citizens as Jesus described it.  

Monday, July 24, 2017

Senior Citizen

Someone, somewhere said, “Growing old isn’t for sissies!”

At age 79, Thomas Jefferson lamented to his friend John Adams, “It is at most but the life of a cabbage, surely not worth a wish. when all our faculties have left, or are leaving us, one by one, sight, hearing, memory, every avenue of pleasing sensation is closed, and debility and mal-aise left in their places, when the friends of our youth are all gone, and a generation is risen around us whom we know not,” (Monticello, June 1, 1822). 

I am now a “senior citizen.” How did this happen?  I never intended to become one. I spent my life busy about making a living, raising kids, pursuing career goals, trying to serve God and others and, suddenly, I wake up and I am a “senior citizen.”

This was never my goal.  I never looked down the corridors of time and wished that someday I could become a senior citizen. It happened without my knowing.  I was assigned the title without my consent.

Part of it is my own fault.  I have sold out my pride for a few cents and asked for a “senior coffee,” a “senior menu,” or a “senior discount.”  Do I have no shame?

The first indicator was a card in the mail from AARP.  I did not ask for this.  It just came, about the time I turned 50.  And now I receive advertisements from the Neptune Society encouraging me to think about cremation. I don’t want to think about having my body burned, stuffed in a jar or  thrown to the wind.  I want to think about living.

 Little things remind me I am aging.  When I enter my birth year for a plane ticket on the computer, I have to page down four times to find the year.  When I check out at Walmart, the cashier calls me “Sweetie.”  When I go to the barber the floor is littered with white hair clippings.

We discipline ourselves in our youth in order to live a longer life. But, when we live long, we discover that it leads to “old age.”  What is this?  I want my youth back.  I want to run and feel the exhilaration of running; to get out of bed without aching, to fly up the stairs two at a time, and to run down them without a thought and without a limp.  I want to eat whatever I want without gaining weight.

But, if we are successful and live long lives, old age will come.

The Bible affirms God’s love for us as we age.

“You who have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb;
even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you” (Isaiah 46:3-4)

In every stage of life we pass through troubled times, challenges, setbacks, fears and anxieties. Pursuing an education, finding a job, getting married, having children, making ends meet, disappointments, layoffs, injury and disease. Memory tends to erase the difficulties of the past, but the journey has never been easy. 


In every stage of life, including the last one, God is sufficient and His love never ends.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Reunion

 It is that time of year when families gather for the annual reunion: aunts, uncles and cousins, some twice removed.  They find familiar faces that frame the memories of their youth and tell stories passed down through the years, embellished with each cycle of telling.  “Do you remember when …?”  Laughter fills the air before the story can be told. Everyone in the circle has either heard it or told it countless times. 

Others hang back along the fringe, looking puzzled, trying to figure out who these people are and how they might be related to them. These are the young with their boyfriends and girlfriends and the new “in-laws.”  Sometimes they seek each other out to share a common amnesia regarding the inside jokes and familiar references to names not present.

The reunion has a strange mix of sorrow and laughter. Significant people are missing.  Voices that once echoed at the tables of past reunions are silent.  The same people who gather for the reunion gathered and wept at the funerals for those who no longer come.  Their memories are like the deep colors that form the background for vivid paintings or the rich bass tones of the cello and the French horn that enrich the orchestra.  These sorrows are offset by giggling children who appear like bright colors that dance on the canvass, whose laughter picks up future melodies like the flute.

We somehow have confidence that Heaven is about reunions. We all look forward to seeing those we loved and those who loved us when we get to Heaven. Somehow, this earthly reunion helps us look forward to that day.  We don’t know exactly how it will happen or how God could manage all the intertwined family relationships when we get to Heaven, but, somehow, family reunions portend the Heavenly event.  When I was a child we sang, “Will the circle be unbroken?”  It was a way to ask the question together and look forward to something more perfect that God has planned for us.


Jesus did not shy away from using this image to help us look forward to a more perfect day.  He said, “In my Father’s House are many mansions.  If it were not so, I would have told you.  I go and prepare a place for you that where I am, there you may be also.”  The book of Hebrews uses this metaphor to spur us on to better living: “Seeing that we are surrounded by so great a host of witnesses, let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the originator and the finisher of the race.”  It seems to me that God takes pleasure in our reunions, just as He takes pleasure in reuniting Himself with us through His Son.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

When Suicide Strikes

Four years ago Rick Warren’s son, Matthew ended his life with a self-inflicted gunshot.  Rick Warren is author of one of the bestselling books of all time, The Purpose Driven Life, with more than twenty-million copies sold world-wide.  Rick and his wife, Kay, have been open about their grief and the long struggle with their son’s mental illness that led up to his suicide. Warren’s church described Matthew as “an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many. Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts.”

Virtually every family has been touched, directly or indirectly, by suicide and its painful aftermath. According to the World Health Organization, almost one million people die of suicide world-wide each year, a rate of 16 per 100,000, up 60% over the last 45 years. It is among the top three causes of death for those ages 15-44 and the leading cause of death for those ages 10-24. More teenagers and young adults die by suicide each year than by AIDS, birth defects, heart disease, cancer and influenza combined. Placed in historic context, we may well be experiencing a global suicide epidemic.

Researches have dubbed Montana, Alaska, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Colorado the suicide belt because of their high rates of suicide. Suicide’s social stigma coupled with fear, embarrassment, grief and spiritual misunderstanding may contribute to our inability to address helpful solutions. But, increasingly, churches are seeking ways to help people who wrestle with this deadly emotional illness.

 Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, lost his 32-year-old daughter to suicide in 2009. His book, Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide, was published in 2013.  He writes, “Did you ever wonder where God was when you sat up at night asking questions that had no solvable answers? Did you ever doubt His love and goodness? Did you feel abandoned by Him? Deserted? Alone?

“I understand if you did. I understand if you still do. Suicide is not a situation that lends itself to casual conversations with God. It hurts. And more than that, it seems as though He could have prevented it all if He'd wanted to. At those times when the loss seems the most impossible to bear, at times when you can't believe what your child is doing or has done to themselves, it can feel like God is nowhere this side of heaven to offer all that comfort His Word so confidently promises.

“But I can tell you by the testimony of Scripture, He is strong enough to weather our hot accusations against Him, patient enough to withstand our desire to seek distance from Him (though such a thing is, of course, theologically impossible), and compassionate enough to feel emotion at the deep, hollow anguish that can often stand between us and our tottering faith.”


Whenever we feel despair, we can trust that there is yet hope and a future. The Psalmist writes, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. ... Deep calls to deep at the sound of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have rolled over me. The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night.” (Psalm 42).  

Monday, July 3, 2017

Spiritual Myopia

Myopia. I learned the word when I was 10 years old. The optometrist checked my eyes and told my parents that I was nearsighted. I didn’t know I was nearsighted. I thought everyone saw everything the way I saw it. Trees were green blobs, the landscape blurred into blotches of pink, green, brown and blue, much like a Monet painting.  My first pair of glasses changed my world. I discovered leaves on trees. I could see people’s faces inside their cars. I could read the blackboard from the back of the room.

I had wondered how other kids could catch and hit a baseball. I never saw the ball until it was on top of me. I could see some vague arm motion in the distance and then, wham! The ball was in my face.  As a teenager I became the cleanup hitter on the All Stars, and could catch a fly ball over my shoulder.  I heard the coach say, “I always knew if he could see it he could catch it.”

Myopia is not only physical. It is spiritual. We are all born spiritually nearsighted. Like my childhood years, we think we see things clearly, but we don’t. We are unaware of what we don’t see. The only person who ever had perfect vision was Jesus. That is why He said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness but shall  have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

When the prophet Elisha and his servant were surrounded by the enemy at Dothan, the servant was gripped with fear. But Elisha told him, “Do not fear. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” When God opened the servant’s eyes, he saw that “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6) When we are gripped with fear and despair we need God to open our eyes so we can see clearly. “If God be for us,” Paul said, “who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Jesus once met a blind man in the village of Bethsaida. Jesus laid His hands upon him and asked him, “Do you see anything?” The man responded, “I see people; they look like trees walking around. Once more,” the Bible says, “Jesus put His hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened … and he saw everything clearly.” (Mark 8:22-25) Many of us are like that blind man. We may be religious. We may attend church. But we need a “second touch” from God so that we can see clearly.

We are born with spiritual nearsightedness so that we only see things close up, our own self interests. As a result we are often filled with fear, doubt, anger, resentment and despair. When we turn from our sins and place our faith in Christ, He is able to touch us so that we see clearly and walk in the light. Only Christ can cure the spiritual myopia that afflicts us from birth and enable us to see the world as God sees it.

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Conscious Universe?

Recently NBC News published an article asking the question, “Is the Universe Conscious?” The article referred to a paper by Gregory Matloff, a physicist at the New York City College of Technology. Matloff is not alone.  Others who support the idea that the universe is conscious of itself include David Chalmers, a New York University philosopher and cognitive scientist, neuroscientist Chistof Koch of the Allen Institute for Brain Science and British physicist Sir Roger Penrose.

According to the article,  three decades ago Penrose theorized that “consciousness is rooted in the statistical rules of quantum physics as they apply in the microscopic spaces between neurons in the brain.”  Bernard Haisch, a German physicist, took this further in 2006, proposing that “quantum fields that permeate all of empty space produce and transmit consciousness.”  According to Koch, “ubiquitous consciousness is strongly tied to scientists’ current understanding of the neurological origins of the mind.”

If all of this confuses you, we are in the same boat.  I am not a scientist and doubt that I comprehend the ideas behind scientific debate regarding “consciousness of the universe.”

But I know that I am conscious. I know that family and friends are conscious of me and that we shape each other’s thoughts and actions.  I know that animals are conscious.  This must be the reason so many people love their dogs, cats and horses.  My dog knows me, recognizes me, and interacts with me. He expresses happiness, sadness, loneliness and love.  All of which, I assume, scientists could reduce to a Pavlovian theory.  But it seems real to me.

The Bible is clear that there is a greater consciousness in the universe that gives rise to our own.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,’ declares the Lord, ‘as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 58:8-9).

God is conscious of our every thought.  He knows every word before it is formed by our tongue. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

God’s greater consciousness is expressed not in logic but in love. “But God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8). “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10). It is this love that binds the entire universe together:  (Colossians 1:15-20).

Monday, June 19, 2017

Disciples in Disguise

A number of years ago I attended a conference at the Harley Davidson factory in Kansas City.  A number of pastors and church leaders assembled at the factory to spend a few days touring the facilities and visiting with the administrators.  Some of us were there because we had a lifelong love of motorcycles.  Most of us were there because we wanted to learn how the Harley Davidson leaders had transformed a nearly extinct motorcycle company into a model of success at the turn of the century.

The thing I remember most about the conference was a statement made by a young executive who spoke to the group.  He had just returned from Europe where he helped introduce the Buell sport bike.  He stepped to the microphone and introduced himself.  He said, “I am a disciple of Jesus Christ disguised as a Harley Davidson Executive.” 

Since that time I have discovered disciples disguised in many walks of life:  teachers, doctors, mechanics, students, professors, engineers, nurses, administrators, athletes, grocery clerks, farmers, businessmen, soldiers, homemakers, … the list is almost endless. 

Many people consider themselves to be Christians.  Far fewer think of themselves as disciples of Jesus Christ.  To be a Christian usually means we give assent to the Christian religion, that we are comfortable with occasionally attending church, and we know we are not Muslim, Buddhist or some other religion.  To be a disciple, however, raises the expectations to a whole new level.

Interestingly, Jesus never used the term Christian.  In fact the term is only found three times in the Bible, and twice it is used by non-believers.  Jesus chose to speak about disciples. He said, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27). “If you continue in my word then you are truly disciples of mine. (John 8:31). “By this shall all men know you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).  “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8).  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19).


So, what does a twenty-first century disciple look like?  They look a lot like those we find in the first century.  Those who followed Jesus then were fishermen, tax collectors, business men and business women, mothers and fathers. Today, they look like you and me.  They come from every nation and every race.  They can be found among the rich and poor, the educated and uneducated, the famous and obscure. Wherever you find fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ who have received God’s grace and love others as God has love them, you will find disciples in disguise. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

There's Nothing Like Being A Father

On Father’s Day 1999, Phil Mickelson and Payne Stewart stood on the final hole of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst.   Mickelson had a 25 foot birdie putt to tie for the lead. Stewart’s ball was 15 feet from the cup for par.

Mickelson’s birdie putt came to rest 6 inches from the hole.  Payne Stewart stood over his 15 foot putt with a w.w.j.d. (“What Would Jesus Do?) bracelet on his wrist, a gift from his son a few months earlier.  The putt broke to the right and dropped into the center of the cup making Stewart the 1999 US Open champion.

Mickelson had left his wife, Amy, at home expecting the birth of their daughter at any moment in order to compete.  He carried a pager in case she went into labor. Winner of 13 PGA tour events, he had never won a major. 

Payne Stewart joined the PGA tour a decade before, a charismatic playboy wearing knickers and a tam-o-shanter  hat. He burst on the scene with a swagger, chewing bubble gum, caustic and arrogant.  In 1989 he refused to shake hands with Tom Kite when he lost in a playoff for the Tour Championship.  But something happened to Payne Stewart in the mid-90s.  His golf game suffered. His best friend, Paul Azinger, struggled with cancer. When Stewart  came to faith in Jesus Christ through the influence of his children, his conduct and values changed.

One of the most memorable photos in sports history is the image of Payne Stewart taking Phil Mickelson’s face in his hands and looking intently into his eyes trying to encourage his competitor in defeat.  Knowing what Mickelson was going through at home, Stewart said. “Phil, there’s nothing like being a father!”  Amanda Mickelson was born the following day.

Four months later Payne Stewart was killed when his private jet crashed in a field near Mina, SD.  More than 3,000 people attended his funeral at First Baptist Church, Orlando, FL.  His wife, Tracey, spoke. ''When I met Payne, I thought he was the most beautiful man I had ever seen in my life,'' she said. ''After 18 years of marriage, he was still the most beautiful man I had ever seen, not because of the way he looked on the outside anymore, but because of what he was on the inside.'' Everyone at the funeral received a w.w.j.d. bracelet.

Phil Mickelson went on to win 42 events on the PGA tour including 5 majors: 3 Masters, the PGA and the British Open.  He has never won the US Open.  This week, with age cutting short his chances of winning the one event that has eluded him, Mickelson chose to miss the US Open in order to attend his daughter’s graduation at Pacific Ridge High School in Carlsbad, CA.  Amanda, now 18 and the school president, will deliver the valedictorian address.  Mickelson said it was not a hard decision. 

"It's a tournament that I want to win the most," Mickelson said. "The only way to win is if you play and have a chance. But this is one of those moments where you look back on life and you just don't want to miss it. I'll be really glad that I was there and present."

In the words of Payne Stewart, “There is nothing like being a father!”  w.w.j.d.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Replenish the Earth

Twenty-five years ago we took our children on one of those vacations-of-a-lifetime to Disneyland in Los Angeles.  We bought a used van for the summer and coaxed it across the desert to the west coast.  When we took the kids to the beach we were unable to see the surf on the horizon because of the greenish-yellow haze trapped against the shore.

For years I commuted to work in Dallas listening to reporters declaring orange and red alerts for air quality. At some point TV weather forecasters added reports on the day’s pollution index to the routine reports on temperature, rain and humidity. In the last two decades we have seen improvements.

The first photos of earth sent back by the Apollo crews in the 1970s dramatically impressed us that our tiny blue planet rotating in space is precious and fragile. The thin layer of air that surrounds us not only contains the oxygen essential to life, but protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, regulates earth’s temperature and distributes moisture on dry land. Three-fourths of the atmosphere lies within 6.5 miles of the earth’s surface.  Sixty-two miles up we leave earth’s atmosphere and enter outer space. We are dependent on an amazingly thin film of atmospheric gases to sustain life on our planet.

The Bible clearly predicts that the earth will “wax old like a garment.”  Our finite earth will wear out.  Of course, I also know that one day I will wear out. We are all mortal. None of us lives forever. But my own mortality doesn’t mean I should start smoking, drinking, indulging in high fat foods and refusing to exercise.  Instead, I am motivated to discipline my body so that I can experience greater health and longevity.  In the same way, we must learn to discipline ourselves regarding the creation that God has entrusted to our care.  In the very first chapter of the Bible, with His very first words to mankind, God instructs us to “be fruitful and multiple and replenish the earth.” (Genesis 1:22).

The reaction to President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement has been swift. While some celebrated and others demonstrated, many responded with their own resolves to protect our environment. Thirty states resolved to stay the course to pursue lower greenhouse gases. Individuals, businesses and local governments are making commitments to make a difference. Renewable energy has taken root and is growing

In their groundbreaking book, Abundance, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler dare us “to imagine a world of nine billion people with clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top tier medical care, and non-polluting, ubiquitous energy.”


I doubt that pollution will become intolerable in my life time, though it seems to already be so in Beijing, at least until the wind kicks up and blows it our way.  But I wonder about the world we are bequeathing to our children and grandchildren.  Will they continue to enjoy a pristine world with all its life-giving beauty and majesty? When God commanded us to “replenish the earth,” he placed the responsibility in our hands.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Teach Us to Pray

In the movie, Gravity, astronaut Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, has found her way aboard the Soyuz space craft.  The sole survivor of her mission, she is marooned in space without hope of survival.  Having lost radio contact with her command center, she scans the frequencies seeking someone with whom she might make contact.

The only person she is able to reach is an Eskimo in the remote tundra who speaks no English.  But the sound of his dogs and the crying of his baby touch her emotions.  She cries. And she cries out in desperation to him, “Say a prayer for me. Maybe I should say a prayer for myself.  But I have never prayed.  No one ever taught me.” 

How much does the character Ryan Stone represent the present generation?  The world seems to be spinning out of control. Evil is rampant.  Death is certain.  Will no one pray for us?  Will no one teach us to pray?

Centuries ago another generation felt the same way.  Jesus’ disciples approached him with the same desperation in their voice and asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  And He did.  Here is one thing Jesus taught us.

Prayer does not need to be a memorized formula.  There are no words that are better than any others to address God.  Prayer is a matter of the heart. Jesus told of two men who once prayed. One was very religious and knew all the right words. The other had made a wreck of his life. He was irreligious and broken hearted about his sin. The first prayed long and eloquent prayers that everyone could hear.  The second, feeling unworthy to lift his eyes to Heaven prayed, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.”  The prayer of the second man was the prayer God heard, Jesus said.

When we pray with a broken and contrite heart, God hears.

Chuck Colson, special counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969-1973, earned the reputation as Nixon’s “hatchet man.”  If there was anything cruel and dirty that needed doing, Colson could do it.  At the pinnacle of power, Colson was convicted for his Watergate crimes and sent to prison. His world crumbling around him, he sat alone in his parked car and cried out to God.  He didn’t know how to pray. He just knew he needed God to save him. 

God answered Colson’s prayers.  When he emerged from prison, he was a changed man.  God used him to launch Prison Fellowship and later, Prison Fellowship International.  He spent the rest of his life proclaiming the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ.


It is never too late to pray.  It is never too late to believe.  Our problems are never too many or too big for God. When we pray our Father who is in Heaven will hear our prayer and will reward us openly. (Matthew 6:5-8).

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.