What Others Say

am writing you this on behalf of my Mother, She is 88 years old and almost completely home-bound now. She sits at home every day and watches a lot of news on TV and says she finds it very discouraging and depressing. She says that she really needed this devotion you wrote in the Sunday, Sept 7, column in the Lufkin Daily News and wanted you to know it was excellent, timely and relevant. She cut it out and reads it over and over.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Master Potter


A few miles north of Waco, Texas on the east banks of the Brazos River sits the Homestead Heritage, an agrarian Christian community committed to preserving nineteenth century craftsmanship.  The community offers shops where visitors can observe “artistry-in-action” complete with a pottery barn, blacksmith forge, grist mill and a carpentry shop.  George and Laura Bush commissioned the Homestead to construct and furnish their house at the Crawford Ranch.

When we visited the pottery shop, I marveled at the talent of those who worked there. The artists applied water and shaped the clay spinning on the potter’s wheel in front of them. With nimble fingers and just the right amount of pressure, they brought the clay to life and shaped it into the form they desired.

Pottery is an ancient art.  For thousands of years the trade was passed down from generation to generation in cultures around the world.  Communities developed around clay deposits in India, China and the Middle East.  Archeologists continue to excavate pottery from the earliest sites of civilization.

Jeremiah must have marveled, as I did, when he visited a potter’s house in ancient Jerusalem.  When he watched the clay spin upon the wheel, he saw the potter’s ability to change the shape of the clay in an instant.  He sensed God speaking to him, “Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand.” (Jeremiah 18:6). 

Isaiah made a similar observation. “Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay?
That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?” (Isaiah 29:16).

God has made each of us unique.  We are, each and every one of us, special in His sight.  He never abandons us or gives up on us.  Like the clay, we continue to be molded in His hands.   With every pressure, whether success or failure, joy or sorrow. God is fashioning us for His purposes so that we can reflect His glory, bless others and be filled with joy. He wants us to love ourselves and one another just the way He made us.

This is what Paul meant when he said, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love the Lord, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28).  All things work together for good when we realize the Master Potter is shaping us for His purposes on the earth.

“For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me,  Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

Monday, November 11, 2019

Little Acts of Kindness


Sully Sullenberger, the captain who skillfully landed US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, has become a household name.  After striking a flock of geese that disabled the engines, Sullenberger flew the plane like a giant glider and landed safely on the Hudson River saving the lives of 155 people on board.  For thirty years Sullenberger flew airplanes in an uneventful career.  This one act made him a national hero.

Most don’t remember the heroic act of a French tourist who plunged into the river to save a two-year-old child. When Julien Duret saw Bridget Sheridan slip through the guard rail and fall into the East River, he did not hesitate.  He immediately jumped into the river to save her. Later, amid all the commotion, he took a taxi and disappeared without waiting to be thanked. Like most heroes, he did not consider himself heroic.

 Few of us will be given such significant opportunities to perform heroic feats that make the news.  And even if the heroic opportunity were given to us, we might miss it. 

Celebrated heroic actions make a difference.  They burst upon us like a torrential downpour that sweeps us off our feet. But it is the little known acts of kindness that often make the greatest difference.  They are like the raindrops that pool into fresh water lakes and nourish the earth.  

Jesus recognized the importance of heroic and sacrificial actions.  He said, “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friend.”  Of course, this is what He did when He went to the cross and laid his life down for us. But He also taught the importance of little acts of kindness.  In fact, it might very well be that the little acts of kindness we choose to do every day have a far greater impact in transforming the world than a few famous acts of heroism.

All of us have opportunity every day to perform little acts of kindness.  We all have opportunity to let someone else in line before us, to hold a door open for a stranger, to speak a kind and encouraging word to the cashier who wearily scans countless items at the checkout counter.  We can all be kind to a waitress who works for a minimum wage to support her child, or a student working nights to pay for college. 

A friend recently recounted his visit to Arby’s.  Completing a cell phone call, he watched from his car as a large woman frantically searched the back seat of her car. He asked if there was a problem. She told him she had a roll of quarters she was going to use to buy lunch, but she could not find them.  He pulled out a $10 bill and asked, “Will this help?”  She refused.  He insisted.  Inside he stood behind the rattled woman as she thanked him profusely.  She said, “God sent you, you know.”   When the cashier delivered his order she said, “The manager was watching and he went ahead and gave you a free sandwich.” 

Little acts of kindness add up. All put together, they can change the world. Jesus said, “In that you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).

Monday, November 4, 2019

When I'm 64


Paul McCartney wrote the song, “When I’m 64” at the age of 16 and later recorded it in 1966.  I have listened to it most of my life. I remember reciting the lyrics in my youth, thinking of the inconceivably ancient age of sixty-four. I assumed by then I would be in a nursing home or dead. “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?” Well, I blew past 64 years ago and, strangely, I don’t feel old or anywhere near incapacitated.

Every year I spend several days with some of my childhood friends. Several of us were in first grade together in1953 and graduated high school together in 1965, one year before McCartney recorded his song.  We have the photos to prove it. While we don’t feel old, and still think of ourselves as we once were in our youth, others apparently think we are old. When we went out to a restaurant together for dinner, the owner took pity on us and gave us a free dessert.

But, I realize something when I am with my childhood friends. I realize we are all still on the journey. We started this journey together as children in post-World War II. We were the first baby boomers. We didn’t know what that meant. We just knew there were lots of us. We have journeyed through the Sixties, Viet Nam, Flower Power, the Moon landing, Watergate, Floppy Disks, the World Wide Web, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Desert Storm, the Dot Com Bust, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Great Recession.

Our individual journeys have taken different turns and twists. A couple entered the military graduating from West Point and the Air Force Academy, one became a physician, two entered business, one became an educator, one became an Episcopal priest, another a Baptist minister.  We have different political, economic and religious opinions. But we are still together on the journey.

It reminds me of the words Jesus first spoke to his followers. “Come and follow me.” God always invites us to a journey. His invitation is to all of us and His invitation is life-long. The journey never stops. It has valleys and mountaintops. It leads through sorrow and celebration. It encompasses wonder, worship and war. It includes pain, poverty and prosperity.

Now that I am past 64, the age our generation has sung about since we were young, I am grateful for the journey. I am grateful for the companions God has given me to travel with.  And I am grateful for Jesus who invited me to follow Him when I was young and still leads me when I am old.

“You 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” (Isaiah 46:3-4).