What Others Say

Every time I read one of your columns, I am always touched and moved in some way. Your heart and spirit come through clearly in your words. It's an oasis of comfort and serenity in a time when everything is so chaotic and unsettling.
- M Gardner, Deputy Managing Editor, Galveston Daily News

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Marriage

 Last week Prince Philip died at age 99 after 73 years of marriage to Elizabeth.  They met when she was 13 and he was a dashing young naval cadet. They married 8 years later, 5 years before she unexpectedly ascended to the throne as queen.  Their marriage has been an enduring love story for almost three-quarters of a century.  

 Few marriages are as well known as Elizabeth and Philip.  But, in spite of all the odds against it, more than half of all those who make their vows at the altar remain married to one another throughout their lives.

 Alexander and Jeanette Toczko met when they were eight years old in 1927 and fell in love.  Thirteen years later they married each other.  75 years after they said their vows, they knew they were dying.

 Alexander played golf into his nineties and remained active until he broke his hip.  Their children knew how much they wanted to be together and had their beds placed side-by-side in their home.  On June 17, 2015, Alexander died in his wife’s arms.  His wife hugged him and said, “See this is what you wanted.  You died in my arms, and I love you. I love you. Wait for me. I’ll be there soon.”  In less than 24 hours Jeanette joined her husband. They were buried on June 29, 2015 in San Diego, California.

 I understand a little of how Alexander and Jeanette felt about each other.  My wife and I celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2018.   I married her when she was 19 and I was an older and wiser 22.  In a little church in Freeport, Texas we said our vows and promised to love and cherish each other until death. A few years ago, I wrote a poem in which I tried to capture my feelings:

Where did she come from?

This woman who walked into my life

When I was young,

Who joined her life to mine,

And all the time

My life was joined to hers.

Who bore my children,

Who raised them and taught them

By her example, how to love

By loving me.

 

How did this happen

That she became more than my lover

And my friend;

That she became my very soul?

Marriage is God’s wonderful gift to the human race.  He bestowed it in the garden when He saw that Adam was lonely.  God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, took from his side a rib, and fashioned the first bride.  When he saw her, Adam said, ““This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”  That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:21-24).

God gave us marriage as a mysterious bond and endowed us with the awesome power to pro-create.  “Be fruitful and multiply,” God said. (Genesis 1:28).  And so we did.  It is the one command we have been pretty good at.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

O My Soul

 Most of our conversation, it seems, revolves around our bodies and money: how we look, how to stay healthy, how to remain young, how to become wealthy.  We spent 2020 hunkered down, masked up and isolated just to stay alive.  

 Concern for our bodies drives a large segment of our economy.  United States health care expense passed $3.81 trillion in 2019.  Most of this, of course, was corrective surgery and treatment, but elective cosmetic surgery totals more than 13 billion dollars.  This includes liposuction, breast augmentation and hair removal. The fitness industry with its books, talk-shows and exercise facilities is enormous. In 2014 fitness center revenues in the U.S. exceeded $24 billion.

 I can understand this.  Since my body is the only one I have, I want to take care of it.  Of course, I guess there are limits to which I want to do this. I love Blue Bell ice cream and I like to sit in the stands snacking on a hot dog while I watch healthier people compete on the field. 

 I can also understand our interest in money.  We all have to pay our bills, and most of us have ambitions to own our home, drive a nicer car, send our kids to college and enjoy vacations.       

But what happened to the concept of the soul?  We seldom hear the word mentioned, including in our churches.  Jesus taught that, as important as our bodies may be, nothing is as important as our soul. 

Regarding the body in comparison to the soul, He said, “Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”   With respect to money, Jesus said, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”  

Horatio G. Spafford,  a wealthy lawyer in the 1860s, seemed to live a charmed life enjoying both health and wealth. But, in 1870, he lost his son to scarlet fever.  When his wife’s health began to fail, he decided to move his family to Europe. Delayed by his commitments at work, he sent his wife and four daughters ahead. On November 22, 1873, their ship sank at sea. Only his wife survived.  Returning to the spot where the ship sank, Horatio Spafford stood looking over the swelling seas where his daughters drowned and wrote these words:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

Horatio and Anna Spafford spent the rest of their lives caring for homeless children, the poor and oppressed.

We are more than our bodies and more than our money.  Our “soul” is who we really are, whether rich or poor, healthy or sick.  Our soul is shaped by acts of kindness, honesty, virtue, generosity and faith. The destiny of every nation and every generation is ultimately determined by the soul of its people. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

We Beheld His Glory

Different people did different things to cope with Covid. I wrote a book. We Beheld His Glory, A Novel will be launched this week on Amazon.com, free as an eBook April 1-5. It was a great way to spend the days huddled at home during the pandemic.

 The book is based on the Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Since it is a novel, I could let my imagination run free.  What was it like for Peter, Andrew, James and John when they first met Jesus after John the Baptist baptized him? (John 1). John was baptizing just north of the Dead Sea.  Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen who lived in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee, several days’ journey to the north.  How did they get there?  How did they find Jesus?  What was it like?

 I have studied, preached, taught and pondered the stories in the Gospels all my life. My mother first told the stories to me when I was a toddler.  I heard them in Sunday School and at church growing up. I was called to preach and became pastor of a church when I was 19.  55 years later, I am still mesmerized by “The Story.”  The story of Jesus has shaped my life and my world view.  It has shaped me.

 When I was a youth, we would sing old hymns that I have never forgotten.  “Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word, tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.”  “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best are hungering and thirsting, to hear it like the rest.”  I have never grown tired of the story. I still love to think about it and to tell it.

 So, I started thinking, imagining, and writing.  One year and 26 chapters later, it was a book. 

 Next Sunday the world will again celebrate the resurrection.  It is the high moment of the year for everyone who believes and follows Jesus.  The Gospel writers devote most of their writing to this final week in Jesus’ life: more than a third of Mark, one-fourth of Matthew and Luke and over on-half of John.  And they leave us with many questions. How did the 12 misunderstand Jesus so completely prior to the resurrection? What happened on the Sabbath after Jesus was buried and what did they do? How do we reconcile the records of the resurrection? How and when did the disciples return to Galilee?

 I have enjoyed thinking about the three-year journey with Jesus, including some of the dynamics among the 12, John’s friendship with Jesus’ mother, as well as the questions above.  I have tried to capture my thoughts through imagination in the form of a novel.

 We Beheld His Glory was released on Amazon.com on March 15.  I hope you will download a free copy as an eBook April 1-5 and receive it as an Easter gift.

 Bill Tinsley’s book, We Beheld His Glory is available at Amazon.com, free eBook April 1-5.  Visit www.tinsleycenter.com

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

No Respecter of Persons

 We adopted Buddy, our tri-color corgi, 11 years ago. He spent time wandering the streets as a stray and endured the indignities of animal control before he found us. They called him “Tex.”  But he soon made it clear that his name was “Buddy.”  You can read his story in the children’s book, Buddy the Floppy Ear Corgi.

 When I go for a walk without Buddy, I am invisible. Few people notice me or speak.  But when Buddy takes me for a walk, we are celebrities.  Children stop what they are doing and run to us, asking if they can pet him.  Some adults do the same. We have gone for walks on beaches in Texas, in neighborhoods and parks in Minnesota, Montana and Colorado.

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

 A few years ago Buddy helped us “adopted” a group of international students at Baylor who met in our home for Bible studies. They were from Indonesia, South Africa, Zambia, China and the Czeck Republic.  They loved Buddy, took him for walks and kept him when we were away. Buddy loved them. They became our “children” and, although they have earned graduate degrees and scattered to ends of the earth, we remain in touch. Our world that is beset by prejudice, suspicion, hatred and violence needs to learn the lessons Buddy has been teaching

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

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

 Every person we meet, however they look, wherever they are from, is special in the eyes of God, made in His image, a person for whom God has declared and demonstrated His love. (John 3:16).

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

How Big Is God

 In 2009 I bought a 1977 VW Bug.  Every fender was dented and it had no bumpers. Peeling paint fluttered in the wind.  It was on its last legs.  Its next stop, if not with me, would probably be the junk yard.  It might have been melted down for scrap metal and recycled as a Porsche. Who knows?

 But when I drove it, in spite of its rattles, it appealed to me. It was kind of like the Love Bug, Herby, begging for another chance.  So, I bought it on a nostalgic impulse and towed it home.  When I hooked it to my truck and pulled away from the house where I found it, the wife of its previous owner stood on the porch and applauded. She was happy to see it go, an eyesore removed from her driveway.  When I showed it to one of my friends, he asked if I found it at the bottom of a lake.  My wife is understanding and allows me these little follies, but made it clear I had to clean it up.

 I took it to a body shop where they took one look at it and said, “We don’t do that kind of work.”  But they pointed me to someone who did body work in his backyard and had experience with old VWs.  He walked around my bug, examined it carefully and announced, “I’m not afraid of it.”  That sealed the deal.  We painted it silver and named it Bullet.  I drove Bullet for 8 years, until we moved to Colorado and it refused to pass the emissions test. Old VW bugs are hard to kill.   

 The same year my VW bug was manufactured, NASA launched Voyagers 1 and 2 to explore the solar system and interstellar space.  Traveling at 39,000 mph it took 34 years for Voyager 1 to reach the edge of our solar system.  Although they have reached speeds fifty times faster than the fastest fighter jet, it will take them 70,000 years to reach the closest star. 

 One scientist put the size of the universe in perspective.  If our sun were the size of a grain of salt, he said, the orbit of the earth would be one inch in diameter.  And the closest star would be four miles away.

 When we look into the night sky it is filled with stars, seemingly close together.  But, in fact they are very, very far away.  There are four hundred billion stars in our galaxy alone and scientists estimate billions of galaxies in the universe.  If the cosmic universe is this big, how big is God?

 Shortly before Jesus was crucified, he prayed, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”  (John 17:24). The word for “world” in this statement is not the Greek word, “ges” from which we derive our words “geology, geography and geothermal.” It is the word “cosmos” indicating the “cosmic universe.”  When we think about the expanse of the cosmic universe, we get a small glimpse of His glory, and quickly realize that our finite minds are far too small to comprehend His majestic greatness. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Useful


When I was growing up my father would occasionally put his hand on my shoulder, grin at me with his deep dimpled smile and say, “You’re as handy as a pocket on a shirt.” 

 My father never went to college.  He spent his career with Southwestern Bell, who sent him to tech school where he learned electronics and tracked the latest technology of his day, from vacuum tubes to transistors.  He died of cancer of the bone marrow when he was 53, just as fiber optics and the microchip were being developed and years before the internet and cell phones.   He was a blue -collar worker who grew up in the 1930s and married my mother in 1941. 

 In his world, few things were as useful as a “pocket on a shirt.”  He carried his pens in his shirt pocket and a pack of Camel cigarettes, which was common for his generation.  When he told me that I was handy as a “pocket on a shirt,” he was giving me a high compliment for being useful.

 Over the years I have learned the value of that compliment.  Few things are as important in life as being useful.  We all want to know that our lives matter, that we count. 

 Even King David worried about becoming useless in his old age.  After all of his accomplishments, he turned his eyes to heaven and made this plea: “But don’t turn me out to pasture when I’m old or put me on the shelf when I can’t pull my weight,” (Psalm 71:9, The Message).

 One of Paul’s greatest desires was to live life in such a way that he was considered useful to others. To this end, he compared himself to an athlete who endures the rigors necessary for victory.  Therefore I run in such a way as not to run aimlessly; I box in such a way, as to avoid hitting air;  but I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified,” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).

 Peter gave us the prescription for living a useful life regardless of our profession or circumstances.  “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they do not make you useless nor unproductive in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8).

 A useful and productive life is not determined by our length of days on the earth, or the extent of our fame and fortune.  Each of us can live a useful and fruitful life when we pursue the qualities outlined by Peter with the discipline described by the Apostle Paul. If we do this, some day we will see the smiling face of God and hear his words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” (Matthew 25:21). 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Bread of Life

 Bread has become a delicacy.  When my wife sends me to the store for a loaf of bread I stand dumbfounded in front of the shelves.  Which bread to buy?  There’s white bread, whole wheat bread, gluten free 7 grain bread, garlic bread, rye bread, and a dozen others.  Then there are bagels: plain bagels, blueberry bagels and everything bagels.  And what about donuts?  I think donuts are included in the bread family.  Okay, I choose donuts.

 From ancient times “bread” has represented the staple of life.  Even today, in all its various forms, bread is still the most widely consumed food in the world.

 Scholars have found evidence that people started baking bread 30,000 year ago. But the first breads were “flat.”  They lacked leaven. It is the leaven that makes it rise, light and fluffy and sweet. Historians believe that the Egyptians were the first to develop leavened bread, somewhere around 1000 years before the great pyramids were built.  The most famous “unleavened” bread was the Passover bread, cooked up in a hurry by the Israelites to escape Egypt. 

 In 1917 Otto Rohwedder invented the first bread-slicing machine. He set the standard for all other inventors who searched for an idea that would be“better than sliced bread.”  In spite of Rohwedder’s invention, there is nothing quite like pulling apart a fresh steaming loaf of bread and adding butter.  

 Jesus referred to bread to help us understand who He was.  “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst.” John 6:35).  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word ...”  Through Jesus Christ, God nourishes our soul and satisfies our innermost emotional, personal and spiritual needs, a nourishment more important than the nourishment of our bodies.

 Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” He reminded us that we need nourishment each and every day.  Just as God provides for us daily the nourishment that is necessary for our bodies, He will provide for us each and every day the nourishment that is necessary to replenish our soul. 

 When Moses led Israel in the wilderness, God provided bread every morning so that “he who gathered much had no excess and he who gathered little had no lack.”(Exodus 16:18).  They could not store and keep the bread. It had to be eaten when God gave it.

 Like the Israelites in the wilderness, our relationship with God is daily and constant.  We cannot put our faith in a religious box to be taken out occasionally.  Just as our bodies need bread in order to live, our souls need a daily and constant conversation with God, the bread and substance of life.