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.