What Others Say

I always enjoy your Saturday columns in the "Trib". The one today was particularly good, thank you for writing it.

Gary J. - MacGregor, TX

Monday, December 10, 2018

Our Fiftieth


Next week my wife and I will celebrate our 50th anniversary.  How did this happen?  Where did the years go?  I always thought people who reached their 50th were old.  Why aren’t we?

 December 21, 1968 we exchanged vows.  I lifted her veil, kissed her and we left the altar hand-in-hand to start a journey that has spanned half a century.  Apollo 8 launched the day we were married, the first manned flight to leave earth’s orbit.  Neither of us imagined the journey we started that day would take us “to the moon and back.”  Or so it seems.

We have embraced orphans in Brazil and fished for piranha on the Amazon; sipped coffee in the mountains of Guatemala and the coast of Colombia; stood at the pyramids in Egypt, the same structures that greeted Abraham and Sarah;  visited Sydney, Melbourne and Perth in Australia; stood on the rocky shore of New Zealand; watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace; viewed Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistene Chapel and visited St Peter’s Basilica; walked along the canals of Venice; stood on the mountains overlooking Salzburg; watched the striking of the clock in Prague; spent a summer in  Nuremburg and rode the trains across Bavaria;  visited Luther’s House in Wittenburg and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s home in Berlin; toured Lenin’s tomb in Moscow and the DMZ between North and South Korea;  stood on the shore where the tsunami hit Banda Ache, Indonesia.  We have walked where Jesus walked, along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

We grew up in Texas, spent 8 winters in Minnesota and now live in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. You can go a lot of places and see a lot of things in 50 years.

We have experienced sorrow and loss, the death of parents and loved ones. We have wept beside their caskets, said our goodbyes and comforted one another.  We have known discouragement and disappointment.  We have celebrated victory and accomplishment. We have wondered in awe at the miracle of children and grandchildren.  We have experienced God’s presence, seen His glory and worshipped in many languages.

God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah have become personal, charged with meaning and memory: “Go forth from your country and from your relatives and from your father’s house to the land which I shall show you … and I will bless you … and I will make you a blessing.” 

At our wedding  my college roommate sang Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Us.  It is still our song.
Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use Thy folds prepare.
We are Thine, Thou dost befriend us, be the Guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray.
Thou hast promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be;
Thou hast mercy to relieve us, grace to cleanse and pow’r to free.
Early let us seek Thy favor, early let us do Thy will;
Blessed Lord and only Savior, with Thy love our bosoms fill.

Our faith, our gratitude and our love for one another is far deeper than it was on that day we started our journey 50 years ago.  We know that old age will come, dying will come and our parting will come.  But we know better than we knew in our youth that His grace is sufficient.  His promise is true.  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Monday, December 3, 2018

A Legacy of Light: Georgy H.W. Bush


I first saw George H. W. Bush at a Fourth of July picnic in Lake Jackson, Texas, a slender young politician in his mid-40s running for congress.  He won the election and later served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Vice President with Ronald Reagan before being elected President of the United States.  His son, George W. and I are the same age.

I have always been impressed with George H.W. as a man of integrity, honesty, character, courage and faith.  He embodied the qualities that Tom Brokaw described as “the greatest generation.”  Not least in the legacy of President Bush was his devotion to his wife, Barbara and the support they shared in the death of their daughter, Robin.

 I saw the same qualities in my father, a blue-collar worker with Bell Telephone who was devoted to my mother, raised 3 sons and served as a deacon in his church. He died at 53 of cancer.

It is good for our nation that we will spend this next week remembering a leader with the qualities of George H.W. Bush.  A world awash with lies, accusations, falsehoods, greed, self-serving, prejudice, fear and faithlessness needs to be reminded of the higher standards that can sustain us.

Abraham Lincoln referred to “our better angels.”  President Bush referred to “a thousand points of light.”  At his 1989 inaugural he said, “I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding.”

President Bush later spearheaded the formation of the Points of Light Foundation that encourages volunteers to engage solutions for their communities.  According to their website, Point of Light has a global network of over 200 affiliates in 35 countries working with thousands of non-profits to mobilize volunteers world-wide.

Most of us will never be rich or famous.  All of us, regardless of our occupation or income, can make the world better.  Whether we are garbage collectors, janitors, cashiers, factory workers, salesmen, technicians, nurses, maids or executives, we will all leave a legacy.  Most of us will have children and grandchildren. We all have classmates, friends and co-workers. Every life counts. Every life makes a difference.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the room. So let your light shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14-16).

In a dark and desperate world, when increasingly it seems people practice dishonesty, deceit and immorality in the shadows of secrecy, perhaps we can heed the legacy of our former President and live in such a way that we turn the world from darkness to light.

As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth let us be reminded that “ In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:4).


Monday, November 26, 2018

Celebrating the Season

Thanksgiving and Black Friday have come and gone.  We have gathered with family, feasted on turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, fruit salad and pecan pie, watched a few football games, played with the kids and enjoyed the sweet slumber that only tryptophan can provide.  We survived Black Friday and celebrated a few bargains and did our part to fuel the American economy. 

Today we unpacked Christmas decorations.  When the children were growing up, we always celebrated with a live tree.  In Minnesota we climbed aboard a horse-drawn sleigh, bundled against the cold, our daughter holding a bunny in her lap as a hand-warmer, and personally picked out a tree from off the hillside.  We hauled it home, stood it in the living room, showered it with lights and ornaments.  But, a few years ago, we opted for an artificial tree.  It loses something in the fragrance and the romance of it all but it is easier.

My wife loves Christmas.  She starts watching Hallmark Christmas shows before Thanksgiving.  And, once the turkey has surrendered its life to our gratitude, she decorates for the season. 

I have to admit I enjoy seeing the old decorations taking their place throughout the house.  They are more than plaster, plastic, wood and glue.  They are charged with memories of Christmases past: the snowman knitted by my wife’s mother, the handmade ornaments when our children were small, others far to numerous to list.

Metropolitan cities and small towns light up the land with Christmas lights.  Neighborhoods are transformed.  Shopping centers echo with the sounds of silver bells and Christmas carols.  All of our decorations, along with The Nutcracker, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street make it a magical time of year.   I think God takes pleasure when we enjoy the Christmas celebrations.

Beneath and behind all our treasured holiday traditions lies the simple message that changes everything. “God became flesh and dwelt among us.”  We are not disconnected from the Creator.  In Jesus He chose to enter into our suffering, to show us a better way, to demonstrate His love, forgive our sins and give us eternal life.  When Jesus was born, everything changed! There is good reason to celebrate!

All of the Christmas busy-ness can muffle the deeper message of the season. The birth of Jesus was not an escape from the burdens and realities that we all face.  God became flesh to engage our humanity with all of our foibles, sufferings and sin.  He sent His Son to overcome prejudice, pride, resentment and hate.  He conquered the grave and  lifted us to new heights of hope, joy, love and life.

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9)

Bill Tinsley reflects on current events 

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Best Thanksgiving Ever


I glanced at the magazines on the rack, and there she was, Martha Stewart, promising the “Best Thanksgiving Ever.”  She was offering a perfect piece of pie while smiling a perfect smile with perfect teeth, wearing a perfect dress with perfect hair, surrounded by a perfect kitchen with an open window that looked out on a perfect garden.  Every wrinkle and excess pound had been photo-shopped away so that she looked decades younger than her actual age.

Unlike Martha, when we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner we show up with wrinkles, warts and all. We look our age. The kitchen is a mess with spilled flour on the cabinet and a sink full of dirty dishes. The food, of course, is great because my wife is a great cook: baked turkey, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, her famous dressing passed down from her mother, green beans, fruit salad, cranberry sauce, pumpkin and pecan pie.

But, it occurred to me, when I saw Martha Stewarts’s magazine cover, that Thanksgiving isn’t about the food or the perfect picture. Real Thanksgiving is about the heart. It is difficult for a heart that is not thankful every day to be truly thankful on Thanksgiving Day.

Which brings up a concern about Thanksgiving. This year our tradition of gathering around bountiful tables with family and friends seems more like a brief interruption to the more important business of shopping.  We can hardly push back from the table fast enough to hit the stores for Black Friday door busters that start on Thursday.

Apparently the earliest “Black Fridays” took place in Philadelphia in the 1950s when hordes of shoppers descended on local stores ahead of the Army/Navy football game. The national push started in the 1960s. It gained momentum and became a well-fixed tradition by the 21st century.  While most stores still remain closed on Thursday, others will throw open their doors on Thanksgiving.  Black Friday has become a 5 day marathon including Cyber Monday.

I am nostalgic for the traditional American Thanksgiving we knew when I was a child. All the stores were closed. Workers could spend the day with their families. No one had to shop for presents or send cards. All we had to do was enjoy getting together with those we love and be thankful.

Our forefathers knew nothing of this.  They hunted and harvested and cleaned and cooked, but they never stood in lines in front of glass doors waiting for the opening bell. They never rushed through aisles searching for treasures that were sure to disappear.  They never stood in check-out lines that stretched to the back of the store. Black Friday seems to symbolize our rush through life, our efforts to get the best deal, to be first in line. 

I hope this holiday season we cultivate a thankful heart and grateful spirit and take time to truly “be” with family and friends so that this is “the best Thanksgiving ever.” (Colossians 3:15)


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Veterans Day


Today we celebrate Veterans Day, a day to honor those who serve our country.  At precisely 11 AM a wreath was laid at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery. To previous generations, it was Armistice Day, commemorating the signing of the peace treaty between the Allies and Germany at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.  In 1954, following World War II, President Eisenhower changed the name to Veterans Day.

In 1918 it signified the end of the Great War, the “War To End All Wars.” My grandfather, L.E. Tinsley was deployed to France to fight during that war.  When I was a child he often referred to it as “the forgotten war.”  After WW II, no one seemed to remember the sacrifices of WW I.  More than 8.5 million were killed, including over 100,000 Americans.

It is a unique date to me for another reason. One hundred years ago, November 11, 1911, William James Waters Harper and Fleta Hamilton stood before a Baptist minister near Hillsboro, Texas and repeated their vows.  They had six children.  One of those children, their fourth child, was my mother.

Will Harper and his bride were “share croppers.”  They never owned any land and had few possessions. They rented the black land that they farmed and prayed that it would rain.  When it did, they harvested bumper crops of corn, maize and cotton and bought the things they needed and a few things they wanted.  When it didn’t, they went in debt and stretched what little they had as far as it would go.  They survived the Great Depression, two World Wars, raised a family and lived to see a man standing on the moon, (though they always doubted whether it was true).  They started their marriage farming with mules and depending on a rickety windmill to water their stock. My grandmother wrote a weekly column for the Itasca newspaper and served as mid-wife to the migrant workers who worked in their fields.

No other social unit transcends the centuries more than the family. No families are perfect, starting with Adam and Eve who suffered the tragic conflict between their sons. But the family has remained the essential unit for nurture, instruction, admonition and comfort. The Psalmist writes, “But He sets the needy securely on high away from affliction, and makes his families like a flock.” (Ps 107:41).

Those who knew and remember Will and Fleta Harper remember them for their faith. Christ was at the center of their home and local preachers were often at their table. Most of their children and many of their descendents have lived faithful lives in service to Christ.  They bequeathed to their family the great legacy the Apostle Paul cited when addressing his young student, 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).

11-11 reminds us of those who have gone before: the veterans who gave their lives for our freedoms and the little known men and women like my grandparents who bequeathed to us the treasures of family and faith.

Monday, November 5, 2018

What Are You Waiting For?


When I married my wife we repeated the customary wedding vows promising to cherish one another “in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth.” Perhaps we should have added an additional line. Something like. “I promise to wait for you.” Since we married we have waited for each other. We have waited at airports, train stations and bus stops. I have waited on her to put on last minute make-up and she has waited on me to put down my book or close my computer. When she gave birth to our children, I waited. When I had a motorcycle accident, she waited. In too many ways to enumerate or remember, we have waited on each other. If we added it all up it would be a huge chunk of our lives. And now, it makes me happy. She is worth waiting for.

When we had children, we waited. We waited for their birth. We waited for them when they got out of school. We waited late at night in dark parking lots for their buses to return. We waited for them in the car, the motor running, the clock ticking, knowing we were late to church. We stayed up waiting for them to come home from their first dates. And we waited for them to come home from college.

Waiting is a part of life. We choose to wait for those we love.

That is why God waits for us, because He loves us. Isaiah says, “Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you for the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.” (Isa 34:18). In Jeremiah, God says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jer. 1:5). God has waited an eternity for you.

We often miss God because we haven’t learned to wait on Him. We blast through busy schedules making quick decisions without taking time to connect with God’s better plan for us. The Psalmist said, “My soul waits in silence for God only. From Him is my salvation.” (Ps. 62:1) “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.” (Ps. 40:1) The prophet Micah said, “But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord. I will wait for the God of my salvation.” (Micah 7:7)

Waiting on God involves prayer and finding time to be quiet before Him. Sometimes it includes fasting. But waiting isn’t always about sitting still with our arms folded.

Jesus said, “Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened.” The secret is to remain open to God’s direction and to listen to His voice while we constantly seek and knock. David wrote, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” (Ps. 27:13-14 NASB).

Monday, October 29, 2018

Time and Eternity


Time.  It is the great mystery.  Past, present and future.  The past is beyond our grasp, as is the future.  We sense that somewhere out there the past exists as we lived it.  We are the same people that we were when we engaged in past circumstances, solved past problems, pursued past goals.  We can remember it, but we cannot relive it. Likewise, we believe that somewhere out there lies our future.  We can envision it, but we cannot yet experience it, and, we have learned that our envisioned future might turn out far different than we imagine. Only the present moment belongs to us.

Our modern measurement of time with nano-second precision has given us the illusion that we can control time and make it our servant, that we can stretch it and compress it. We pant through frenzied days of frantic activity trying to conquer the clock.  In almost every sport, whether football, basketball, soccer or track, we are competing against time, trying to manage the clock.  The team that can best utilize fractions of a second to put points on the board, emerges the winner.   Golf and tennis, competitions passed down to us from an era before the clock ruled, have been adjusted to fit our time-conscious culture by putting players “on the clock” to speed up play while adding sudden death play offs and tie breakers. Baseball remains “timeless” as reflected by the 18 inning World Series game four.
 
Centuries ago, without mechanical and electronic precision, men measured their lives by more natural cycles: seasons for planting, growing and harvesting; the moon, waxing and waning; days measured by the shifting shadows of the rising and setting sun.  Trans-ocean travel was dependent upon the wind and the currents in the sea. Time was less precise.  Time moved more slowly.  In some ways, life was lived closer to eternity.

When we touch God we reach beyond the boundaries of time into a realm that transcends our own. .  We are drawn into the “eternal.”  Even the word “eternal” is inadequate to convey the reality and ultimate dimensions of God.  The New Testament writers opted for the term eis aionion, literally “into the age” or “beyond the age.”  It could also be translated “beyond time.”  Everywhere we read the word “eternal” in the New Testament, it is the translation for this mysterious phrase, eis aionion.   God draws us beyond time into a dimension that cannot be measured by our mortal comprehension.

When God revealed Himself to Moses, he gave his name as “I AM,” a clear reference to His timeless being. When Jesus explained his identity, He said, “Before Abraham was, I am.”  Jesus said that those who believe in Him “will never die.”  Faith changes the game.  It suspends the clock, stretches the moment into eternity and compresses eternity into the moment.  When we come to faith in God through Jesus Christ, he lifts us out of our myopic mortal existence and pours eternity into our soul. He invites us to live eis aionion, into the age.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

When He Comes

Beyond confessions of faith, hymns and sermons, the Second Coming of Christ seems to make little difference.  We pursue our educations, work at our careers, raise our families, worry about retirement and prepare for the inevitable: death and taxes. In the meantime, the lives of believers and non-believers often show little marked difference other than church attendance.

But what if He comes today? What if He comes tomorrow? What if He came yesterday? No, I am not suggesting you missed the “rapture.” But, He did, in fact, come yesterday and He will, in fact, come today. Jesus comes to us everyday if we are looking for Him. He comes in small, imperceptible and unexpected ways. He comes in the interruptions that beg for our attention and threaten to derail our pre-planned agendas.

This is exactly what Jesus taught His disciples before His ascension into Heaven. Jesus said when He returns, “the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ … ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:31-46)

Once He came to me in the person of a young Hispanic employee at Wal-Mart who needed words of encouragement. He came in the form of a Chinese woman named Chiu who was fishing on a pier with her mentally handicapped daughter. Another time He came in the form of a teenage unwed mother who had given birth to a son who died a few days later. He came in the form of Sultan, Abdelmassa, Saud and Moath, Muslim students recently arrived from Kuwait. How many times have I missed Him and failed to recognize Him? I don't know. He comes every day in many ways and forms that we are likely to miss if we are too focused on our own agendas.

If we live our lives alert and ready to receive Him each and every day in the small encounters with the “least of these” we will become salt and light, as Jesus described it. In the process, we will be ready to receive Him in that day, when He appears like lightning from the east to west. We might even hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” 

Monday, October 15, 2018

First Man


Last weekend we slipped into one of the premier showings of First Man, the movie portraying Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon.  The movie takes us on board the X-15, Gemini and Apollo.  We feel that we are there, experiencing the sheer terror of it all, pushing the limits of technology to land a man on the moon. The movie is gripping, as is the history.

My wife and I married on December 21, 1968, the day Apollo 8 launched to carry the first men to orbit the moon.  They reached the moon 3 days later. On Christmas Eve, just before they disappeared to the other side of the moon and lost radio contact with the earth, Frank Borman and his crew read the Genesis account of creation.  (Genesis 1:1-10).  In the distance the earth appeared as a fragile planet on the moon’s horizon.

Six and ½ months later we sat in front of our black and white TV and watched Neil Armstrong leap from the last rung of the lunar lander’s ladder to take “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” 

James Irwin served as the commander and pilot for the lunar lander on Apollo 15.  He became the 8th astronaut to step foot on the moon.  After his return Irwin founded the High Flight Foundation as a non-denominational evangelical organization based in Colorado Springs.  He said, “Some people make light of it and ask how can a technical person, an astronaut, believe in the Bible.  I guess I also was a skeptic in my early days, but I have come to believe what the Bible says as being true.” 

The last man to walk on the moon was Gene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17 in December 1972.  Cernan described his experience. “I felt the world was just too beautiful to have happened by accident.  There has to be something bigger than you and bigger than me. … There has to be a Creator of the universe who stands above the religions that we ourselves create to govern ourselves.”

We don’t know much about Neil Armstrong’s faith.  Like every other aspect of his life, as portrayed in the movie, he was closely guarded.  But Thomas Friedman includes an account about Neil Armstrong’s visit to Jerusalem that is telling, if true.  According to Friedman, when Armstrong visited the Temple in Jerusalem he asked his guide if these were the very steps where Jesus stepped.  When his guide confirmed they were, Armstrong reportedly said, “I have to tell you, I am more excited stepping on these steps than I was stepping on the moon.” 

If Friedman’s account in his book, From Beirut to Jerusalem,  is true, Armstrong’s words reflect the greater miracle: not that man stepped foot on the moon, but that God stepped foot on earth in the person of His Son.   As John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw His glory, glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14).

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sunrise Season


I sat in the pre-dawn dark watching the gathering glow in the east.  A bird broke the stillness with a solitary song. Soon others joined him in the gathering light until they filled the air with a chorus of calls. It was as if the birds had waited through the long hours of darkness wondering if the sun would return, and, once it did, they were delirious with joy.

We sometimes feel that way, when the darkness closes in on us.  We sometimes wonder, as the birds seem to do, if the dawn of light and goodness will ever again dispel the darkness of violence and pain.

I have watched the sun rise over the snow-covered hills of Minnesota, painting the landscape with crimson and gold until ice-covered limbs sparkle like diamonds.  I have watched the sun stain the eastern horizon with purple and gray before penetrating the breaking clouds with shafts of gold. I have watched the day dawn over the mountains of Montana and Switzerland. I have seen it transform the sea into pink and purple waves in Hawaii.  I watched the sunrise on the first day of the new millennium, bursting above the horizon as a brilliant ball of light in a clear blue sky.

The sunrise is the perfect symbol for God’s intervention into our world.

When John the Baptist was born his father understood the importance of his son’s birth. For nine months Zechariah had reflected on the angel’s announcement to him that he would have a son in his old age. He had been mute throughout his wife’s pregnancy. But when John was born, his tongue was loosed and he burst into praise. He said, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79).

In every generation, those who have faith have seen the sunrise of God. Darkness cannot conquer it. Corrie Ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoffer saw it during the dark days of Hitler’s holocaust. Louis Zamparini discovered it after surviving the Japanese POW camps. Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall bore witness to it during the massacre at Columbine. The Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania gave testimony to it after their daughters were gunned down in a one-room school. Countless thousands have borne witness that light that refuses to be extinguished.

This is what John meant when he wrote, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:4-14).


Saturday, September 29, 2018

Respecting Women


Our nation was deeply moved last week as Christine Blasey Ford told her story before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Her sense of terror and vulnerability were palpable.  Milliions, both men and women, were moved to tears. She represented a symbol for women everywhere who feel powerless, helpless and, often, afraid. In every culture, in every time and place, this seems to be true. Perhaps there are exceptions, but they are rare.

Jesus rose above customs and traditions to demonstrate the worth and value of women.

When Jesus came to the well in Samaria, he remained alone while his disciples went into the nearby village searching for provisions.  A single woman approached.  She came at an odd hour, when other women would not be present. She was taken aback to find a man at the well.  Refusing to make eye contact, she hoped to avoid any interaction with this Jewish stranger.  She intended to fill her bucket quickly and be on her way. 

But Jesus would not let the moment pass.  He asked her for water.  She was shocked. “You, a Jew, would ask water from me, a Samaritan woman?”  Jesus engaged her more deeply.  This thoroughly confused the woman who challenged him with the Samaritan’s tradition of worshipping at Gerazim rather than Jerusalem.  Again His response stunned her.  He did not argue the point.  He did not put her down.  He said, “I tell you a time is coming when true worshippers will worship God neither in Jerusalem nor Gerazim but they will worship in spirit and in truth.”  He offered her living water from which she would never thirst.

When the disciples appeared they were shocked.  None of them dared say anything but their body language and the look in their eye betrayed their thoughts.  It was unheard of that a Jewish man would be found conversing with a Samaritan woman, especially alone.  (John 4).

Later, another woman was dragged to Jesus because she had been caught in the act of adultery.  Her accusers stood glaring, stones gripped in their hands, waiting for Jesus to condemn the woman. Instead, he bent over and wrote in the sand.   Whatever he wrote convicted all of her accusers.  The men who were ready to stone the woman were overcome with guilt.  One-by-one they dropped their stones and slowly drift away.  Then, taking her face in his hands and looking intently into her eyes he forgave her.  “Where are your accusers?”  He asked. She responded, “There are none.”  Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go your way and sin no more.”  (John 8).

Following His crucifixion Jesus chose to show Himself alive first to the women and only later to the men. They carried the news to the eleven who were huddled in a secret room.  The men dismissed the women’s report as idle gossip.  Only later, when Jesus appeared among them did they realize the truth of the women’s report the He was, indeed, risen.

The Apostle summed up the Scriptural position on gender when he wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  (Galatians 3:28).

Sunday, September 23, 2018

When Someone We Love Dies


Sooner or later we all ask the question, “If a man die, shall he live again?”  I was 29 when the question became personal.   I sat beside the grave where they would lower the body of my father.  A few days before I held his hand as he drew his last breath.  My mind was flooded with memories of his smiling face, his laughter, his hand upon my shoulder encouraging me.  He held me as an infant, steadied my first steps as a toddler, taught me to ride a bike, coached my Little League baseball team, took me water skiing and fishing and encouraged me as I entered the ministry.  And now his body lay still and unresponsive in the casket about to be lowered into the earth.

There have been others: my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, my wife’s brothers, my college roommate and, in 2011, my mother.  The longer we live the longer the list grows.  When we are young death comes as a shock, an unexpected intruder, a thief.  But the older we become the more we accept it and expect it.  But the question persists: “If a man die, shall he live again?”

It is one of the most important questions we can ask.  The answer to that question can either plunge us into despair and hopelessness, or it can elevate us to new purpose and expectation.  If there is life beyond the grave then life on this earth makes sense.  Sacrifice and suffering are worth it.  Doing what is right when it goes against our self-interest is worth it.

Job was among the first to ask the question, “If a man die shall he live again.”  And, in the midst of his suffering he found the answer:

“Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! That with an iron stylus and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another.” (Job 19:23-37).

It was this confidence in life beyond the grave that set apart the early followers of Christ.  It is this confidence that has set apart believers of all ages.  John wrote, “These things have I written that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13).  

Paul concluded: “But when this perishable will have put on [v]the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.  death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;  but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

Jesus said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no  man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”  (John 10:28-29).

Monday, September 17, 2018

Was Jesus Right?


Jesus is universally respected.  Even the followers of Islam claim him as a prophet.  And millions who have no use for the church still like Jesus.  But the question remains, “Was Jesus right?”  “Did he know what he was talking about?”

It is difficult to reconcile Islam’s claim that Jesus was a prophet with the clear statements that he made regarding himself: “He that has seen me has seen the Father.”  “I and the Father are One.”  “All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on Earth.”  “No one comes to the Father but by me.”  Jesus clearly claimed to be more than a mere prophet or a great teacher.

It is also difficult to reconcile the attitude and actions of professing Christians with Jesus’ words and instructions.  When I was eighteen, I worked in a warehouse that shipped products to stores where they would be sold.  I worked with older workers who, like me, worked for minimum wage.  Some of my co-workers, who were professing Christians, heard that I planned to become a “preacher.”  They tried to be nice and encouraging. They told me it was a good thing for me to become a preacher, but reminded me that those things “don’t work here.” 

I interpreted their comments to mean that they believed in Jesus but the teachings of Jesus were out of touch with the real world.  They were like many Christians I have encountered over the years.  Dallas Willard called them “vampire Christians.”  They want a little of Jesus’ blood, just enough to forgive their sins and assure they are going to heaven, but they don’t think Jesus knew what he was talking about when it comes to everyday life. 

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Clearly, he thought he knew what he was talking about, and he expected that anyone who placed their faith in him would do everything they could to obey him.  It was apparently inconceivable to Jesus that someone could think they loved him, and, at the same time, ignore or disobey his instructions. 

Either Jesus was the smartest person who ever lived and knew better than anyone else how life should be lived on this earth, or he was a delusional pretender who has misguided millions for more than two thousand years.  If Jesus’ instructions for living will not work in the courtroom, the schools, the factory and the family, neither will they work to get us to heaven. 

Our personal conclusion about whether we believe Jesus was right will not be reflected in what we profess about who he is, but in what we do when we are going about our day to day activities at work, at school and at home.  Are we bringing our lives into alignment with his life and teaching?  Do we act like Jesus acted?  Do we forgive like Jesus forgave?  Are we truthful and faithful like Jesus was truthful and faithful? Do we love like Jesus loved? 

Following Jesus’ instructions has nothing to do with earning our way to heaven.  It has every thing to do with loving Jesus and living a meaningful life. If you want to know what Jesus expects, you can find his instructions in Matthew chapters 5-7. 

Jesus told us how to know whether he was right or not.  He said, “If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32. Amplified Bible). 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Dealing with Rejection


Everyone has felt rejection.  For many it is first encountered on the playground.  Children choosing their friends or choosing teams until one remains, unchosen, unwanted, rejected.  We discover life can be like musical chairs.  When the music stops there is no place to sit.  All the included places are taken.

Sometimes it comes with our first applications for college. For a few, colleges and universities line up with scholarships and offers, but most must deal with rejection.  Most of us have known the uncertainty of a job search.  The series of rejections from interviews can be devastating to our ego.  Forced into a situation where self-confidence is essential, we become anything but.

Door-to-door salesmen are familiar with rejection.  It is part of the job.  So are politicians and would be writers.  How many ways can we be turned down and rejected?

Perhaps most devastating of all is a rejection by those who are close to us.  The rejection of a mother or father, son or daughter, or spouse. These can cause wounds that last a lifetime.

It might help to realize we have company. When we are rejected we are not alone.

When Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick, his work was turned down by multiple publishers. It was finally accepted by Bently & Son who asked, “Does it have to be a whale?”  Nevertheless they published the classic on the condition that Melville pay for the typesetting and plating himself.  When 25-year-old Hemmingway wrote The Sun also Rises one publisher responded, “I find your work both tedious and offensive.” 

Joseph was rejection by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt. Paul was rejected often, stoned and left for dead, driven from city to city and imprisoned.  Jesus’ own brothers refused to believe in Him and  His closest disciples abandoned Him.  He was “despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3).

But, when we experience rejection by family, friend or the world, we can rest knowing that there is One who will not abandon us.  “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.  Behold I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:15-16).

Jesus constantly included those who were rejected:  the Samaritan woman, Zacchaeus, the blind beggar, the woman caught in the act of adultery, lepers and the Gadarene demoniac.  Though others might reject you, Jesus will by no means turn you away.  If we come to Him in simple faith and confession, He will receive us.

We can say with the Apostle Paul, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.   (Ephesians 1:5-6)



Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Laughter


Laughter is not taught.  It is part of us from birth. Within a few months, long before they can talk, babies laugh.  It is contagious.  Adults join in, doubled over with the laughter and joy of a giggling baby. The laughter of children on a playground is a balm to the soul.

No other animal does this. It is a unique human trait that God built into our psyche and our soul.  We are not sure what triggers it.  We can seldom predict when it will hit, but we know it is contagious.  When others laugh, we laugh. Sometimes without any idea of what caused it in the first place.  

We like to be around others who laugh.  It is therapeutic. When I think of my father or my grandmother, I think of them laughing even though they have been gone for decades.  I know  my wife is talking to her sister on the phone by the way she laughs, even though they are a thousand miles apart.

We will pay huge sums for comedians and performers who can make us laugh.  Television sitcoms figured this out over a half century ago. Original laughter tracks used for early TV sitcoms are still employed to accentuate humor for contemporary characters. Many of us are still laughing with generations long gone. 

But the best laughter is spontaneous. Nothing is as exhilarating and lifting to my soul as the laughter of my grandchildren.  Our youngest are five, seven and two.  When they come running out the door leaping into my arms and laughing, whatever burdens I may have felt melt like snow in the sun and I am filled with laughter and joy.

When Sarah gave birth to Isaac she said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” (Genesis 21:6).

Victory and celebration bring laughter.  Just watch baseball, football and soccer teams who achieve their goals.   We have all joined in the laughter at weddings and graduations. 

Psalm 126 refers to the joy of those who celebrated their returned to Jerusalem after years of captivity: “When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream.  Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting.” (Ps. 126:1-2).

Perhaps you haven’t laughed in a while.  Perhaps you have been burdened with depression and loneliness.  Do not fear.  God will yet fill your heart with laughter.  Like Sarah, who gave birth in her old age, after enduring decades of ridicule and sorrow. Like the exiles of Jerusalem, who wept by the Euphrates River, far from their home.  God will yet restore laughter to your soul.  You will rejoice.

The Christian faith is a joyful faith, even in difficult and adverse circumstances. “Shout joyfully all the earth.  Serve the Lord with gladness. Come into His presence with joyful singing!” (Psalm 100).  “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning!”  (Psalm 30:5).
The references to joy are far too numerous to list.

Surely God takes pleasure in our laughter as mothers and fathers take pleasure in the laughter of their children. He wants to fill your heart with joy.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Death of Decency?


Like most Americans I have been reflecting on the life and legacy of John McCain since his death two days ago.  I have always admired the Senator, especially for his courage and heroism as a Vietnam POW.

I am reading his books, his own assessments regarding himself and his life:   his 1991 memoirs, Faith of My Fathers and then his recent book, written just before his death, The Restless Wave.  Both books are well written, engaging, inspiring and, in some cases, prophetic.

The first opens with words from the hymn, “Faith of Our Fathers.”  In the second he states,  “What God and good luck provide we must accept with gratitude. Our time is our time. It’s up to us to make the most of it, make it amount to more than the sum of our days.” 

What stands out in my mind regarding John McCain is his decency, his respect for other people, even his adversaries.  On Memorial Day 1993, he returned to Hanoi, the place where he had been imprisoned and tortured.  Over the next two years he gave leadership that resulted in normalized relations with Vietnam. Vietnam’s foreign minister said, “It was he who took the lead to significantly heal the wounds of war.”

I remember that moment during his 2008 campaign for the Presidency.  He was speaking in a high school near Minneapolis, taking questions from the audience.  A woman was handed the microphone.  She said, “I do not believe in, I can’t trust Obama.  I’ve read about him and he’s not a … he’s an Arab.” 

McCain quickly reached for the mike and corrected her. “No ma’am.” He said, “He’s a decent family man and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with.”  When others tried to label Obama as a terrorist and a Muslim, McCain stated, “He is a decent person and a person you don’t have to be scared of as President of the United States.” 

At Senator McCain’s request, Presidents Obama and George W. Bush are scheduled to speak at his funeral.

Even more than his legendary heroism as a POW for 5 years in Vietnam, McCain’s most important legacy might well be his commitment to decency, respect, honesty, integrity and humility, character qualities that can guide us to a better future.


These are the Christian qualities demonstrated by Jesus toward the poor, the outcast and His own accusers, including the very soldiers who crucified Him.  They are the qualities exhorted by the Apostle Paul who challenged believers “to be ready for every good deed; to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” (Titus 3:1-2). 

Monday, August 20, 2018

How We Conduct our Conversation


I have a habit of browsing the news.  It is perhaps an addiction or obsession.  I don’t seem to be able to stop.  I prefer written news articles, some in print, most online.  Television newscasts move too slowly, too many commercials and they tend to skim the surface.  Written news is usually more in depth, can be scanned much more quickly and is updated constantly online.

But lately I have questioned whether I should continue to indulge this habit.  Perhaps I should quit reading the news altogether, or at least take a break.  It is almost always depressing.  Everyone seems angry at somebody.  Everyone wants to blame somebody else for their difficulties.  Politicians, athletes, actors and actresses, celebrities of every stripe.  They call each other names and throw insults at one another.  The world has become vitriolic.

Of course there are exceptions. But the exceptions are often drowned out by the sheer noise of name calling and accusations.

Jesus had some rather severe warnings for conduct such as this.  He said, “Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good for nothing,’ shall be guilty before the Supreme Court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”  (Matthew 5:22).

But there is a better way.  Jesus demonstrated it by his life and in his death choosing to bless rather than to curse those who attacked him.    The Apostle Paul explained it like this:

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.  Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves that was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:3-5).

“Therefore laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor. … Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. … Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:25-32).

We can do little to change what public figures may say or what is reported in the news.  But we can change the conversation. At work, at home and school. When conversations become acerbic we can change the tone.  We can refuse to respond in kind.  We can reduce the rhetoric. “A soothing tongue is a tree of life.”  (Proverbs 15:4).

Monday, August 13, 2018

Dog and Cat Theology


Over the years our family has included both cats and dogs that helped us raise our kids.   They became our companions. Our cats seemed willing to allow us the privilege of living with them.  Our dogs seemed grateful for the privilege of living with us. They taught us the difference between dog theology and cat theology.  

It might sound strange, even sacrilegious to a few, but Bob Sjogren and Gerald Robison have developed whole seminars and books around “cat and dog theology.” (www.catndogtheology.com). Simply put, cats say, “You feed me, shelter me and care for me.  I must be god.”  Dogs say, “You feed me, shelter me and care for me.  You must be god.”  If you have ever had a cat and a dog you know what I mean.  Cat theology is me-centered.  “What can God do for me?” Dog theology is God centered. “What does God want me to do?” Here are a few things I am learning about “dog theology” from my dog, Buddy.

Buddy trusts me.  Whenever I get in my truck he jumps in and takes his place, ready to go.  He doesn’t know where we are going or what we are going to do. But he believes that if I am driving it is okay.  I need to be more like that with God.  I always want to know where we are going, when we are going to get there and what we are going to do once we arrive.  I need to jump in the truck with God and give him control of my life.

Buddy wants to be with me.  He doesn’t care if he is at the lake running, splashing and rolling in the mud, sitting in a chair next to me on the patio or in my study lying at my feet while I write.  He just wants to be where I am.   I need to spend time with God.  What made the early disciples different was the fact they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

Buddy follows me.  He even follows me from room to room in the house. Whenever we go for a walks on an empty beach, I let him off his leash and he runs free.  But he keeps an eye on me.  He has developed a radius of his own, about thirty yards from wherever I am.  Within that radius he feels comfortable sniffing washed up driftwood and marking sand dunes.  Occasionally he gets out of eyesight. But, when I call his name he comes running. Not real fast, but as fast as he can. After all he is a Corgi.    It reminds me of what Jesus said to His disciples, “Come, follow me!”  “My sheep know my voice.” 

Buddy waits for me. If I am writing, he lies down, rests his head on his paws, keeps one eye on me and waits.  If we are walking and I stop, he sits down with his tongue hanging out and waits.  If I go to the store, he waits in my truck until I return.  Buddy never complains about waiting on me.  He never gets in a hurry.  Maybe I should be more like that with respect to God and those I love.

Buddy has his own book, Buddy the Floppy Ear Corgi, on Amazon that tells how he was rescued off the streets and how he learned to love himself and others just the way God made them.  Since God has rescued me, I can love myself and others too, just the way He made us

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Class of 2022


In the next few weeks a wave of 17 and 18 year olds will enroll at our colleges and universities as freshmen.  They have grown up in a post 9/11 world, too young to remember the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that forever changed our world.  They were mere infants, or yet to be born when that fateful morning dawned.  

They are digital. Their earliest memories were formed with PCs and laptops. They have grown up with iPods, iPhones an iPads. Social Media is their world. The internet was here long before they were born.

In some ways their world is unique to any world that has gone before.  But in others, they will share in the same experience that shapes every generation.   Growing up, leaving behind all the old securities, the familiar routines, the shelter of home.  They will carry with them the excitement of launching out on their own, without parental restrictions and supervision.  And, at the same time, they will carry the anxieties and insecurities of being on their own, of being alone. They will pursue the hopes and dreams of a life they cannot predict.

Somewhere in a box, in a dark corner where we store such things, my Baylor slime cap still sleeps: the class of ‘69, “Ever faithful to the line.”  My wife’s is there too, the class of ’71.  They are soaked with memories:  Making new friends; finding our way; finding each other.  A half century has passed.  We celebrate our 50th anniversary this year.  We still get together with friends who shared those first college days.   We celebrate with them the memories of God’s goodness and His provision along the way. 

Like the crowds of 5,000 and 4,000 we have received bread from His hand when we did not know its source.  We have taken up 12 and 7 baskets full, running over, more than enough to meet our needs, blessed beyond our expectations. (And still we doubt?)  (Mark 8:18-21).

We have sent our own children off to college, two to Baylor. One to the University of Minnesota. I have stood in the silence of their empty room, grieved their going while celebrating their “growing up.”  For each of them, as for us, it was the beginning of a new journey.  One that never ends this side of Heaven.

This year our oldest granddaughter is among the incoming freshman class  at the University of Wyoming. We are excited for her, as is our son and daughter-in-law. We are thrilled and proud of the young woman she has become. At the same time, we know the emptiness she will leave behind, how she will be missed, and the challenges she will face. But we have learned, that in and through it all, God is faithful.

The incoming class of 2022 must hear again the voice of God as He spoke to young Abraham in a far and distant land, “Go forth from your country and from your relatives and from your father’s house to a land which I will show you … and I will bless you … and you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:1-2).

Monday, July 30, 2018

Re-dreaming the Dream



Fifty-five years ago, August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. took his place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and addressed a crowd of 250,000. His name is permanently linked with the Civil Rights movement. Boulevards, schools and institutions are named for him.  But Martin Luther King, Jr. was first and foremost a Baptist preacher and pastor.

His words that day, and the non-violent actions he adopted grew out of his faith.  When he announced, “I have a dream,” it was a dream that sprang from Scripture and the teachings of Jesus. Inspiring a generation to correct past wrongs, he exhorted, “in the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. …”

“I have a dream that one day my four little children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. … I have a dream that one day every valley will be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low.  The rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight.  And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. … With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

Dr. King’s words need to be heard again. The Bible is a dreamer’s book.  God is always inviting us to a new dream that transcends prejudice, suspicion and resentment.

Abraham’s story begins with a vision and a dream: to leave his home in Mesopotamia so that God can make him a blessing to the nations. (Genesis 12:1-3).  Jacob’s life is transformed in a dream at Bethel where he saw angels ascending and descending from Heaven.  God told him, “In you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 28:14).  Peter’s vision at Joppa changed his opinion regarding other ethnicities.  He said, “I certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is welcome to Him.” (Acts 10:34-35).   

Paul the Apostle was a devout Jew when he was young.  He had little use for Gentiles and was a zealous Pharisee.  But a vision of Christ changed all of that.  He later devoted his life to reaching people of all nations with the message of God’s love in Christ.  In a world and a time known for its prejudice, violence, slavery and sexual abuse he wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Prejudice, discrimination, resentment and violence are enemies that never die. Every generation must redream the dream and seek God’s vision to overcome these destructive forces.

Monday, July 23, 2018

While You Were Sleeping


I typically don’t think much about sleep. But when you fly through seven or more time zones in a single day, you think about it.  When everyone else is getting up, your body is begging to go to bed. When everyone else is settling down for a good night’s sleep, your body is wide awake and looking for something to do. It takes a few days, at least, to “reset the body clock.”

Sleep is an amazing thing.  We all require it, including the animals.  Even my dog sleeps.  I know, I have spent the night camping in a tent with him.  He snores. Sleep appears to be a requirement for all animal life, though it may vary in intensity and method.

Something mysterious and magical happens when we sleep.

Kenneth Cooper, the world-famous physician who set us on the path for aerobic health more than forty years ago, maintains that adequate sleep, like adequate exercise and diet, are essential to balanced health.  He states, “Most studies indicate that the average person needs somewhere between the traditional 7 and 8 hours a night. If you get much more sleep than that … you feel sluggish and fuzzy-headed during the day.  … if you get too little sleep .. you tend to feel like death warmed over.”

Sleep deprivation has been used as a means of interrogation and even torture.  In some cases, the inability to sleep has had catastrophic consequences.  Many think the popular actor, Heath Ledger’s  tragic death from a prescription drug overdose may have been caused by his ongoing battle with chronic insomnia.

Scientists have a pretty good idea of what goes on during sleep, but no one seems to know exactly how it happens. According to the Sleep Foundation, the body and the brain are repaired and nourished during the phases of non-rapid eye movement (NREM)  and rapid-eye-movement (REM). Somehow the body repairs its muscles, consolidates memory and releases hormones that regulate growth and appetite.

Even Jesus slept.  His twelve disciples found it incredible that he could sleep in the bow of the boat during a raging storm. Frantic with fear, they woke him.   Awakened from his sleep, Jesus asked, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”  He then rebuked the winds and the waves, and the place where they were became perfectly calm. His disciples were astonished and looking at one another asked, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the waves obey him?” (Matthew 8:23-27).

The need to sleep recognizes our mortality.  For seven to eight hours of every day, between a fourth and a third of every twenty-four hours, the world continues without us.  During that time, we are totally and completely dependent upon others and upon God for our existence and our well-being.  We are not the masters of our fate.

The Scripture states, “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:2)