What Others Say

I am 96, live alone and appreciate every day.
Enjoy your column. God is good
Joe S.
League City, TX

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)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Rescued


For the last two weeks the World Cup has been upstaged by a 12 boy soccer team trapped along with their coach in a cave in Thailand.   The situation was desperate.  A 2.5 mile labyrinth largely submerged under flood waters separated them from freedom.  It looked hopeless.

But a multinational task force united by courage and determination succeeded in saving them all, each one led through dark waters by their guides.  One Thai Navy Seal lost his life setting up the complicated system of oxygen tanks to enable their rescue.

On Tuesday, July 10, the last of the boys and their coach were brought to safety.  The entire world celebrated.

It was a refreshing and heroic story in a world where human life often appears cheap. It served as a reminder of the precious value of every individual.  Like those boys trapped in a cave, every person of every nationality is important, every man, every woman, rich and poor, of every race, every refugee in every country, every life is precious.

It echoed the teachings of Jesus in which He repeatedly urged us to treasure everyone with whom we come in contact.  In the story of the Good Samaritan He instructed us to be neighbor to others by going out of our way, to put ourselves at risk, to bind up their wounds and care for their recovery. (Luke 10:25-37).

This is the way God sees us.  He loves us, each and every one. He searches for us to rescue us.  Like a shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep that are safely home to seek for the one that is lost, God searches for us and celebrates when we are found.  (Luke 15:1-7).

Like these courageous men who put their own lives on the line for these boys, God put His own son’s life on the line for us.  Even more so, God sent His son to rescue us trapped in a world dominated by evil, knowing His Son must suffer and die that we might be rescued.  

As the Bible says, “My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.  (1 John 4:7-10 The Message).

In a world increasingly sown with suspicion and distrust, where racial and economic divisions are rearing their ugly heads, we have all been lifted by the demonstrations of love, sacrifice, determination and joy in Thailand where twelve boys, one-by-one have been rescued by courageous men from many countries working together.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Trees - Marvel of the Universe


I have always been struck by the beauty of trees: majestic pecans, towering oaks and whispering pines of Texas, the blue spruce,  crab apple and maple of Minnesota, the cottonwood and quaking aspen of Colorado.

Trees are majestic, mysterious and essential to our existence on earth.  They sprout from tiny seeds that can be held in the hand.  They send their roots deep beneath the earth and extend their limbs to the sky as if in prayer, transforming soil and light into substance.  They bear the snow of winter and explode with blossoms in spring. They whisper in a gentle breeze and howl when the storm whips their branches.  Their life-giving leaves filter the air to produce the oxygen that we breathe. 

They give shelter to the birds that build their nests, perch among their leaves and sing their songs.  Forests form the homes and habitat for wildlife. For thousands of years the trees have provided the wood with which we build our homes, fashion our furniture, warm ourselves in winter and produce the paper to preserve our written records.  They feed both man and beast with their nuts and fruit.

Trees remind us of those who have gone before, those who planted them and those who lived among them. We sit in their shade in summer as our mothers and fathers sat in an earlier day.

The oldest trees date back more than two millennia. The “Arbol del Tul,” a Montezuma Cypress in Mexico has the widest trunk on earth and may be 3,000 years old.  Some of the olive trees in Gethsemane are at least 900 years old and likely descended from the very trees that shadowed Jesus when he prayed.

The “Cotton Tree” in Sierre Leone marks the place where freed slaves gathered beneath its branches to give thanks for their freedom in 1792.  “General Sherman,” the Giant Sequoia, one of the largest trees on earth is believed to be between 2,300 and 2,700 years old. The 500 year old “Treaty Oak” in Austin, Texas was once the sacred meeting place for Comanche and Tonkawa Indians. Stephen F. Austin met with them beneath its branches to form the first peace treaty for his colony.

The redemptive story of the Bible begins and ends with trees.  It starts with the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” in Genesis and ends with the “Tree of Life” in Revelation.  Psalm 96 proclaims, “Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord, for He is coming!”

In the fullness of time God chose a tree in the form of the Cross to accomplish our redemption. The Bible says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles.” (Galatians 3:13-14).

Trees remind us of God’s goodness and grace by which he created the beauty of the earth and redeemed us for his glory.