What Others Say

Thank you for writing the article in Saturday's edition of New Castle News. It was very good and very interesting. You bring it all to light, making everything very simple and easy to understand. - Kathy L. - New Castle, Pennsylvania

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

What Does God Want?


When I listen to myself pray, and when I listen to others pray, it seems that most of what we say to God revolves around what we want.  Sometimes our lists are heart-rending.  We desire healing from a deadly disease, comfort from the loss of someone we love, a job and a paycheck. More often, our prayers are day-to-day: a passing grade on the exam, strength to get through another day at work, safe travel.  Sometimes they are trivial:  a victory on the football field, our favorite team in the playoffs.  Most of our prayers are filled with the things that we want God to do for us.

 But sometimes I wonder, what does God want?

 Maybe he wants a great cathedral constructed in His honor, a building that rises out of the concrete and towers over the city with majestic spires and stained glass windows. Perhaps he wants a more modern structure that resembles the headquarters of a major corporation or a shopping mall. Something designed to make a statement to the world that God is important.

 Maybe He wants music. Perhaps God wants classical music like Ode to Joy, or Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.  Or, maybe he prefers contemporary music: amplifiers, electric guitars, drums, drums and more drums.  Maybe God prefers Blue Grass or Country.  Who knows?  I sometimes wonder what we will sing in Heaven.

 Maybe God likes His own sounds: thunder in the heavens, the whisper of wind in the wings of a bird, echoes in a canyon, a babbling brook or the powerful rush of Niagara Falls.

 The Bible gives some pretty good clues about what God wants. 

 In Isaiah’s day, God made it clear that He was fed up with efforts to impress Him with religious behavior. He said, “When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts?

Bring your worthless offerings no longer. … Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.  Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson,
they will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:12-18).

 When I think about how I feel as a parent, this makes perfect sense.  I am happiest as a parent when my children are together, when I hear them laughing, when they enjoy one another and go out of their way to help each other.  Of course, I want them to love me.  But somehow I feel like they love me best when they are loving each other.

 Many people assume that God measures our love for Him by how religious we become.  But John set us straight when he wrote, “One who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”  (1 John 4:20).

 The bottom line is this:  God wants us to get along with each other.  He wants people to be kind to each other, to do good things and help each other. Jesus said,  “If you love me you will keep my commandments.  … This is my commandment.  That you love one another, just as I have loved you.”  (John 14:15; 15:12).

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Jesus Communities During Covid

We have been dodging the Caronavirus for more than six months.  In the early days, when we first came to grips with the pandemic sweeping our world, we literally shut down our cities and our neighborhoods.  At first, we hunkered in our houses refusing to venture outside except for the bare necessities.  Some stood in line for toilet paper.  Our brave grocery store staff continued to work, stocking shelves, cheerfully shuttling grocery orders to the parking lots where they loaded food into the trunk of our car.  Drive-through and fast-food restaurants remained open with masks and gloves.  Other “essential services” kept us afloat. Churches closed their doors and learned to stream on Facebook and the Web.  We zoomed in until we were zoomed out.

 For the last month or more, we have been cautiously re-opening and re-connecting.  Restaurants have learned how to isolate and distance their tables.  Wait staff have learned how to “smile through a mask.”  Outside dining has been expanded into sidewalks and streets.  Shops are re-opening. Masked students are re-entering classrooms.  We are even starting to move about the country, albeit cautiously and slowly.

 Churches have started to re-convene, attempting to refrain from impulsive hugs and handshakes that are integral to Christian fellowship.  Some, who have the option, are choosing to meet inside, scattered six feet apart among empty chairs and open pews.  Others are meeting in the open air as long as weather permits.

 Since my wife and I are in the high-risk group, we have chosen the open-air option for worship, taking advantage of the opportunity to visit different churches that are meeting in open space.  We take our folding chairs, look for shade, or open an umbrella against the sun’s rays and find a space at least six feet apart from other families.  I have found my heart warmed by these “Jesus communities,” as I like to call them, gathering in parks, parking lots and open spaces for worship.  I love to see small children running barefoot through the grass; families gathered in the shade where children play on blankets while their parents sing songs of praise and the preacher preaches.

 It reminds me of the first century when Jesus walked in Galilee and people sought him in the open fields, when churches sprang up without buildings and places to meet.  Surely God is up to something through all the global suffering, heartache and struggle in 2020.  Surely, He wants to draw us to Himself for comfort, encouragement, healing and a reminder that we are all his children.  We were all created in His image and His greatest desire is that we love one another regardless of our racial, cultural or national differences. 

 As the Scripture says, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward one another that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you” (Romans 15:5-7).

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Labor Day 2020

This weekend is Labor Day.  The scorching heat of summer has broken. The air is light with the first hint of fall.  The lakes are still warm enough to ski and the fishing is good. As usual, friends and family will gather in parks for volleyball, football and frisbees while hamburgers sizzle on the grill. 

But the pandemic has changed things.  School classrooms and hallways that normally burst with energy at this time of year host students nervously muted with masks. Some schools remain empty and closed.  Early mornings that normally echo with the thud and smack of football practice  and the distant rhythm of marching bands remain eerily silent.  In many places “Friday night lights” are dark.  Stadiums should be packed with fans cheering their teams on to the World Series and kick off for the NFL.  But this year they remain empty.   

All of this makes Labor Day even more significant.  The laborers and minimum wage workers are the heroes. They are the ones who are carrying us through this dark valley. On this weekend, we celebrate those who have kept our grocery stores open with shelves stocked, those who deliver our drive-through and carry-out orders along with restaurant staff who prepare and serve us at distanced tables.  We honor the postal workers who deliver our packages and mail, the first responders and hospital staff who care for the sick.  Most of the time we fawn over celebrities.  But on this day, the common worker takes the stage. And, in 2020 we recognize their essential importance.

On Labor Day I think of my father, a blue collar worker who started out trimming grass around telephone poles and worked thirty-five years for Bell Telephone before his death at age 53.  His example of honesty, generosity and hard work inspired me.  I think of Jesus, who chose to spend most of his adult life working in a simple carpenter’s shop in Nazareth.  Jesus elevated the role of laborers and craftsmen for eternity.

This year many are being forced to take jobs that are not their first choice.  Some who trained and studied for years to launch a professional career are accepting jobs that differ from their dreams.  It is important that whatever job we find that we give our best.  The Bible says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24).

Many Americans are discovering, after decades dominated by greed and materialism, that the value of labor is never truly measured in monetary return.  The way we choose to invest the labor of our minds, our hands, our hearts and our energy will produce fulfillment when the object is not our own self gratification but the service of others. Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant … just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28).

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Good Morning!

 In various languages and cultures all over the world, we greet each other every morning with a simple but profound greeting: Guten morgen. buenos dias, bon dia, buongiorno. selamat pagi. dobroe utro.“Good morning!” It is best spoken with eye contact and a smile.  This year it is often muffled behind a mask. But, in this of all years, it is even more important, a social “contract” we must not lose.

It is a way of acknowledging our common existence and bestowing upon others our best wishes for their welfare. We share the greeting on the beach, in the park, on busy city streets, in the workplace and the home. I have exchanged this familiar greeting with others in Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Russia, Indonesia, Guatemala, Colombia, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt and Brazil.

One morning I strolled along the seawall in Galveston at sunrise and was greeted by others who were walking, jogging or simply watching the sun rise. They were old and young, men and women, white, brown and black. Their simple “good morning” seemed to say, “I recognize your humanity, that you exist and you are here. Although I do not know you and will likely never see you again, we occupy together this passing moment in time when the sun is rising over the sea.”

We shared the sun’s red glow among the gray clouds and the rippled red reflection on the waves that lapped against the sand where sea gulls waddled on spindly stick legs. We filled our lungs with the cool morning air, awake and alive to a new day and greeted one another, “Good morning.”

All creation celebrates the dawning of a new day. The birds, it seems, do it best. I have often watched their mystic ritual at the dawn of day. They seem to be surprised every morning, as if they wondered if the sun would rise again. When it does, they are delirious with joy. In the forests, a single bird chirps the first signal of the graying dawn, awakening another, and another, until by the time the flaming ball of fire rises in the east they have joined their songs in a chorus of celebration.

It is much the same way with God who greets us at sunrise, a moment when God seems to make eye contact with us and smile, affirming His pleasure in having created us and having given us life. That is why David says, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Ps 5:3). “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.(Ps. 90:14). And again, “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” (Ps 143:8).

Good Morning!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Stories That Save Us

When our children were growing up, we read to them.  All children, it seems, love books. Of course they love video games, iPhones and iPads, but there is something about turning pages and touching pictures in a book. How else can you “pat the bunny?”  Our children memorized many of the stories long before they could read: Goodnight Moon, Little Engine That Could, Snowy Day, Corduroy, Bible Stories for Little Eyes. If I went “off story” and made up my own lines, they knew it. And corrected me.

When we put our granddaughters to bed, who are 9 and 7, they always want us to tell them a story of when we were growing up.  Stories are the stuff of life.  The best stories are told outside on summer evenings while fireflies flicker in the gathering dusk.  Children listen to adults who reminisce with laughter and tears. When my wife and her sister get together, they stay up through most of the night retelling stories of their youth. Sometimes we find them there in the morning where they fell asleep.


We inherited storytelling from our ancestors. Pioneers forging their way west told stories when they gathered around campfires. Old men related stories on the porch where they swayed in rocking chairs and whittled shapeless sticks. Whole families told stories when they gathered in the summer shade to shell peas. These story telling moments shaped their lives and future generations.  

In the last century Hollywood became our primary source for stories. But sometimes Hollywood and history got things mixed up. A few years ago we visited Philadelphia and encountered a group of high school students who were gazing at Independence Hall.  One of them pointed to the clock tower and exclaimed to another, “Look!  That’s where they hid the map!” 

Even Hollywood has been shut down by the pandemic.  Movie sets and movie crews are idle.  The re-runs on Netflix are getting a bit boring and some families are rediscovering the magic of telling stories.   

With many churches forced to rely on streaming and almost all having suspended children’s classes, parents have an opportunity to step into the gap, to read books and tell stories to their children. Imagine the power of reciting and reading once again the stories about Adam and Eve, Cain and Able, Noah and the flood, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Joseph, Moses and the Exodus, Ruth and Boaz, David, Elijah, Jonah and Jesus’ life, death and resurrection?

Much of the anxiety and despair that has afflicted our nation may be due to our neglect of the stories of our heritage that give us value and meaning.  The Bible says, “I will utter hidden things, things from of old— things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. ... so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands” (Psalm 78:2-7).

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Growing Old With Buddy

I recently stumbled across an old prayer:  “Lord, help me to be the man my dog thinks I am.” Anyone who has a dog will understand that prayer.  It took almost a year for me to convince my wife I should have a dog.  We had dogs when we were raising the kids, but they weren’t my dog.  They belonged to the kids and the family.  After the kids grew up, I decided I wanted my own dog, and she finally gave in, as long as I promised to take care of him. She grew to love him as much as I do and makes sure he is cared for.

 My dog’s name is Buddy, a tri-color corgi who has been with me most of his life.  We adopted him twelve years ago from Corgi rescue.  He had been picked up off the streets, skinny, sick and lost.  We bonded.  He wants to be wherever I am and go wherever I go.  I usually get up about 5:30 in the morning, brew a cup of coffee and go outside on our deck to watch the sunrise, meditate and pray.  Buddy goes with me. He sits nearby, sniffs the air and thinks his “dog” thoughts.

 After breakfast Buddy goes to my office, finds his spot under my desk, and starts the day’s work, napping while I write.  If I go downstairs to watch a ball game (now that they are playing baseball again), Buddy stands at the top of the stairs and waits to be invited.  If I don’t invite him, he eventually comes anyway.

 We used to go on long walks every day, usually two miles.  We have had several routes which he marked on trees, fire hydrants and bushes. He always checked for “pee-mail” left by other dogs.  About a year ago, Buddy developed arthritis in his right front leg.  Walks of a half-mile or more leave him limping.  Sometimes he cannot put weight on the leg for a day or more. So, we don’t take walks any more.  Still, the vet says he is a “healthy geriatric.”  My grandchildren who are 9,7and 3 calculated his age in “dog years” and informed me that he is now 90 years old.  By that measure, I told them, I must be 490.

 Buddy apparently thinks a lot of me, even when I don’t think much of myself. When I return from a trip, he is beside himself. He whimpers, dances and barks like a puppy, overjoyed to see me.  When I am in a foul mood, he isn’t.  He just waits for me to feel better.  Once, when I was overcome with grief, he jumped into my lap to comfort me.

 Across the years Buddy has taught me many lessons.  Patience, forgiveness, trust, acceptance.  Now he is teaching me how to grow old. Buddy never complains, has no regrets, wakes up happy to greet the morning.

I am reminded of God’s promise.  “Listen to me …  you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born.  Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.  I  have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and rescue you” (Isaiah 46:3-5).   “Bless the Lord O my soul … who satisfies your years with good things so that your youth is renewed as the eagle”  (Psalm 103:1-5).

Bill Tinsley's children's book about Buddy is available on Amazon.  Click the image to the right. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Risk Tolerance

Investors talk about “risk” and “risk tolerance.”  A few years ago, even the most conservative of investors could expect to receive a return of 5% percent, or more, by simply placing their money in CDs or savings accounts.  But times have changed.  Those kinds of risk free investments have disappeared. Savings Accounts usually earn fractions of a percent.  Certificates of Deposit do little better.      

Those who want to invest for the future, including retirement funds, are left with higher risk options.  But for many of us, risk leaves our stomachs queasy.  Our introduction to 2020 has been gut wrenching.  The Dow Jones industrial average recorded its worst ever loss in March, with many economists predicting the “greatest depression” in history.  But a massive $3 trillion infusion of money by the government created an immediate rebound.  The stock market, since that time, seems disconnected from the economic indicators.

Stocks, investments and economics have always confused me. I have never been able to figure it out.  I guess that is why I find Jesus’ story in Luke 19 confusing.  He told of a wealthy owner who left his servants in charge of his money while he was gone.  To each he gave the same amount.  Let’s say he gave each $1,000.  When he returned one servant had invested and multiplied the $1,000 into $10,000.  Another had invested and multiplied it into $5,000.  But the third was afraid of losing the $1,000.  Maybe he wrapped it in some newspaper and hid it under his mattress. 

The wealthy owner commended the first two, but he was furious with the third.  “You should have at least put it in the bank so it could earn interest,” he said.  He then took the $1,000 from the last one and gave it to the one who had $10,000.  He said, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” (Luke 19:11-27).

As with all of Jesus’ stories, there are many applications to be made and much to learn. Of course, I don’t think Jesus was all that concerned about money. After all, when he died all he had were the clothes on his back. But he clearly understood how the world works. And he clearly understood how life works.

So, what was his point?  It seems to me that Jesus wants his followers to learn to take risk for the Kingdom’s sake. Whenever we grow fearful and withdraw into ourselves, we shrivel up. What little we have is taken away from us. I have watched people do this.  I have even seen churches do this, pinching pennies and worried that they will not make budget.  But when we lay it all on the line, when we give our lives away for others, we experience pleasure and joy unspeakable.  This is why he said, “Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, shaken together and running over.”  And, again, “He that will save his life shall lose it, but he who will lose his life for my sake and the gospel shall find it.” 

Jesus’ early followers clearly understood this.  There is no evidence that any of them became wealthy. But there is abundant evidence that they were willing to risk everything to serve God and help others.

During this coronavirus year we should all wear masks, wash our hands,  practice social distancing and continue to live our lives with courage and joyful service to others.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

When We Are Wounded

We bought a rocking horse for our son on his first birthday. It was simple and sturdy, made of unfinished wood.  That was 42 years ago.  Over the years it continued to hold its head high, but the tail drooped between its legs.  I am sure we intended to paint it someday, but that day never came.  Instead, our son decorated it with crayons, pens and markers.  We passed it down to his little sister, born eight years later, and then to our grandchildren.  They covered it with scratches and scribbles, dents and dings.

The little rocking horse had little value.  But it became priceless to us because of the scratches, dents, dings and scribbled drawings left behind by our children and grandchildren.  We treasured it because of its scars.

Life is much like that.  We start out youthful and unblemished, unmarred by the world. But, over time, we become scarred with age.   Cuts, abrasions and burns leave their marks on our bodies. And, at a deeper level, the setbacks and disappointments, the sorrows of separation and loss add up.  We find ourselves scarred and wounded. Perhaps at no time has this been more obvious than this year of the pandemic and social unrest.

But, like our little wooden horse, those scars make us all the more precious in our Father’s eyes.  

Imagine how precious the scars that Jesus endured appear to the Father.  The nail prints in His hands, the sword riven side and the lashings upon His back are the marks of his sacrifice and love.  Isaiah says, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5). And, again Peter says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24).

Few have suffered as many hardships as the Apostle Paul.  Of these he wrote, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, ... I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. ... But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 11:24-27, 12:9-10).

Our undeserved wounds and innocent scars make us precious in the sight of God. Just as Peter wrote, “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God” (1 Peter 2:20).

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Bearing Fruit in a Pandemic World

I grew up in central Texas with huge pecan trees that shaded our house in summer.   When the leaves fell in fall they left behind bare branches bearing thousands of pecans.  It was my job to climb to the top-most branches and shake loose a hail storm of pecans that covered the ground.  My mother’s pecan pies were sought after at family gatherings.

A persimmon tree grew outside out kitchen window.  The tree house I built among its branches became my favorite hiding place where I discovered the magic of books that transported me through time and space.  In fall the persimmons ripened into delicious redish-orange fruit. But a bite or two of green ones ruined their taste for life.   My mouth still puckers when I think about it.  

We had pear trees in the back yard whose branches sagged in summer with the weight of golden fruit.  As kids, we munched on pears plucked from low-lying limbs, juice dribbling down our chins.

In my adult years we moved to Minnesota. I was introduced to Minnesota sweet corn, corn is so sweet that Garrison Keillor wrote a hymn about it.  Nothing compares to Minnesota field-ripened sweet corn roasted and slathered with butter. In the fall we picked strawberries in the fields and plucked honey crisp apples from the trees. 

Just as we take pleasure in delicious fruit of summer, so God takes pleasure when we bear good fruit in our lives. Like the garden, the field and the orchard, we can live fruitful lives even in an upside down pandemic world.

Jesus said,  Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16-20). “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. … For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:33).

In Galatians, Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit that nourish and sustain us: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:19-23).

Peter wrote, “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 render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8).

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Honesty and Authenticity

I stepped up to the counter and handed the cashier my twenty-dollar bill.  She glanced at me, lifted the bill up to the light, squinted and examined it, then laid it on the counter. She whipped out what looked like a felt tip marker and marked it. After a long second, she placed it in the cash register and gave me my change.  It seemed simple enough. But it made me wonder. 

What made her think my twenty might be fake?  Did I look dishonest?  I reminded myself that it was standard procedure.  She had been taught to check every twenty because you never know who might pass a counterfeit.  You can’t recognize honesty or dishonesty by a person’s looks, with or without a mask.  

Wouldn’t it be nice if it was just as easy to discern fake people as it is to recognize a fake twenty?  What if we could hold people up to a light, squint and examine them for watermarks, or just swipe them with a pen and watch for discoloration?

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.

Sometimes the people we trust the most disappoint us. That was the case with Richard Nixon. After winning the presidency by a landslide vote, the Watergate investigations revealed a man far different than the public image. One of our great difficulties today is the widespread doubt that no politician can be trusted. They seem more intent on vilifying their opponents and promoting their own agenda than engaging in sincere dialogue.

We all know that no one is perfect.  We are all human.  We are all sinners and we all make mistakes. We are not looking for perfection.  But we are desperate for authenticity and honesty. We are desperate for authentic parents, teachers, employers, employees, preachers and politicians.

Jesus ranked authenticity among the highest of virtues. His harshest words were leveled at those who pretended to be what they were not. Speaking to people of his day, Jesus said, “You're like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it's all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you're saints, but beneath the skin you're total frauds.” (Mt. 23:27-28, The Message).  He warned his disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1).

What really gets scary and complicated is to examine ourselves. Am I authentic?  Is there any hypocrisy in me?  Are we being open, honest and authentic with one another? Someday, of course, there will be a test. God will hold each of us up to the light. He will examine us for authenticity. Are we people of authentic faith living honest and authentic lives?

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Beyond the Coronavirus Fog

New beginnings are always exciting: weddings with candles and flowers, beautiful bridesmaids, handsome groomsmen, laughter, toasts and dancing; the birth of a baby wrapped in blankets, showered with gifts; graduations with speeches about dreams and possibilities; a new job; a new home.  Starting anew stirs our imagination. 

New beginnings are filled with excitement, optimism, and hope as well as fear, doubt and worry.  Weddings are fun, but making a marriage is hard work.  Babies are cute, but raising a child is challenging. Graduation marks a significant achievement, but finding a job and advancing in a chosen career can be daunting.

We cannot predict our future.  Not all newlyweds who leave the marriage altar showered with petals and birdseed will experience a life-long relationship of love and fulfillment.  Not all babies will grow to health and maturity.  Not all graduates will find positions for which they prepared.  But, we are all called to something new, something significant.

God always calls us forward into new beginnings.  He beckons us to leave the old and familiar to follow Him on a journey of discovery into places we have never been.  He encourages us to calm our fears and exchange our doubts for faith.  He challenges us to trust in Him for a better future and a better day. Even in this Caronavirus fog, God is calling us preparing a future and a hope.

When God called Abraham, He called him from his familiar home to follow Him into a strange land.  God said, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you; and I will make you a great nation and I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:1-2).   Abraham’s step of faith to follow God into a new beginning changed history.

To Isaiah, God said, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isa. 43:18-19).   Paul wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone. The new has come.” 2 Cor. 5:17).

The 2020 pandemic has thrown the world into confusion.  Families, careers and whole economies have been upended.  But, on the other side, is a new beginning. If we will persevere and be patient, we will find a new day dawning with possibilities and opportunities.  God has promised.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Fourth

This Saturday we celebrate the Fourth, a uniquely American holiday. No other nation has a holiday quite like it. No other nation on earth has aspired to a higher and simpler ideal. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Eighty-seven years afterward, on July 4, 1863, Lee’s Confederate army withdrew in defeat from Gettysburg. On that same day, Vicksburg fell to Grant, two pivotal battles that decided the preservation of the Union and the abolition of slavery.

On July 4, 1884, France presented the Statue of Liberty to the United States.

In many ways the history of our nation has been written by our efforts to live up to the Declaration of freedom and equality for all. We are currently engage in perhaps our greatest struggle to rise to the ideals of our nation since the Civil Rights movement.

We have learned that ultimate freedom can never be achieved though legislation and government alone, as important as those are. Ultimate freedom must be achieved in each human heart. Every one of us must fight a personal war with our own sin nature that seeks to make us captive and steal our freedom. We see everyday in the lives of our politicians, sports heroes and celebrities the consequences of losing that battle in the secret places of the heart. Greed, corruption and prejudice remain the greatest obstacles to freedom and equality.

The pervasiveness of sin is perhaps the best documented reality in our world. The media is filled with daily accounts of its presence and the horrendous consequences it can create.

Two thousand years ago another document was drafted. It was not voted upon by representatives and did not found any government. But those words spoken long ago hold the secret to the ideals that we have embraced. Jesus said, “I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin … If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

God sent His Son into the world not merely to pay the penalty for our sin so that we might enter Heaven, He sent Him in order that He might overcome sin’s grip on our lives and set us free. The Apostle Paul had once been enslaved to ambition, anger and prejudice. He started his early career arresting the innocent and locking them up. But he found a better way. He confessed, “The good that I would do, I don’t. And that that I don’t want to do is exactly what I end up doing … Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24).

This Fourth, as we celebrate the freedom envisioned by our nation’s founders, may we experience true freedom that is found through faith in the One who laid down his life for all people of every nation and every generation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

What Are You Worried About?

The world gives us plenty to worry about. 

Many worry about Covid-19. Following efforts to re-open, more than half of the States report increased Caronavirus cases. Last week my wife and I ventured back to a restaurant wearing our masks and seated in an isolated booth. We attended our first church service since March, again wearing a mask and sitting apart from our friends. The U.S. continues to lead the world with more than 2.3 million confirmed cases and 120,000 deaths. 

Students worry about their educations.  Colleges, universities and schools remain undecided about whether they can open their campuses, and to what degree. Many are preparing to continue online-education in the fall.   

Some worry about their jobs.  Stimulus checks have been spent and, over 20 million Americans remain unemployed. While job opportunities are improving, millions worry about their income after unemployment checks run out.

Some worry about the stock market.  Although it has made a dramatic recovery since its collapse in mid-March, the economy remains uncertain and a second wave of Covid-19 could trigger another dramatic downturn.

Some worry about the social upheaval and unrest that has swept across our country with demonstrations for racial equality in cities large and small.  Racial icons of the past are being pulled down. The Confederate flag has been banned from NASCAR.  The commissioner of the NFL has apologized to those who took a knee to protest police brutality.   

The list goes on.  There are lots of things to worry about.  Some big. Some small.

Worry can be a good thing.  Like physical pain, worry can serve as a signal that we need to take action for ourselves and the welfare of others. But worry can also debilitate. All of us experience circumstances beyond our control.  In such cases, worry can rob us of sleep, steal our energy and cripple our creativity.

Jesus clearly wanted us to live our lives free from debilitating worry.

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34).

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Liberty and Justice for All

I don’t remember when I learned the pledge of allegiance to the American flag.  I guess it was sometime before I learned to read or write, probably when I first entered school.  I grew up reciting the pledge at school assemblies, cub scouts, Vacation Bible School and on many other occasions.  We all said it in unison, hands over our hearts our eyes focused on the stars and stripes.  “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands; one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” When I first learned those words, there were 48 stars on the flag.  By the time I entered high school, there were 50.

When I first recited the pledge I did not know the word “indivisible” or how to pronounce it.  Like many children, I thought it was an “invisible” nation.  At church I learned that our nation was “under God.”  This was reinforced by the inscriptions on our currency that declared, “In God we trust.” 

I was proud to live in a country that provided “liberty and justice for all.” It wasn’t until later that I realized that promise wasn’t true for everyone.  I attended Robert E. Lee elementary my first six years of school in a small Texas town.  When we recited the pledge of allegiance the Confederate general was staring down at us from his picture on the wall.  He looked proud astride his horse Traveler. But there was a sadness in his eyes.  There were no black students in our school, nor did any attend the others elementary schools named for Texas heroes: Sam Houston, Jim Bowie, William B. Travis and James Fannin.  All the black students attended Lincoln elementary on the East side of town where black families lived.  I did not know any of them. There were many liberties, I learned, that my black contemporaries did not enjoy: drinking fountains, swimming pools, restroom facilities, colleges and universities, employment opportunities.

I lived through the Civil Rights movement and, as a young pastor, worked to integrate our churches and overcome prejudice. But we continued to fall short of our national pledge.  The killing of George Floyd has catapulted our nation to a new threshold. We pray that recent events will lead to a better day when the reality of our world might reflect our pledge of allegiance:  “liberty and justice for all.” 

Seeking justice and equality is at the center of God’s heart. David writes, “The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love” (Ps 33:5). Isaiah says, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isa. 1:17).

“Thus has the Lord of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another’” (Zechariah 7:9-10).

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

A Prayer Perspective

Perhaps you have heard the story of the church that was incensed because a local bar opened across the street.  Knowing nothing else to do, the church members mounted a prayer campaign to rid themselves of this blight on the neighborhood.  They prayed that God would intervene to remove the bar. 

A thunderous storm soon swept across the town and a streak of lightning lit up the sky, striking the bar. The building burst into flames and burned to the ground.  The owner of the bar sued the church for the destruction of his property as a result of their prayers. The church defended itself claiming that the lightning strike was an accidental act of nature.  The judge sat perplexed in front of the plaintiff and defendant.  “It appears,” he said, “that I have a bar owner who believes in prayer and a church that doesn’t.”

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln pondered the issue of prayer. Both the north and the south were religious. Both believed they were right and both prayed for victory.  After his death, the following note was found in his papers: “The will of God prevails — In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be wrong. God cannot be for, and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is somewhat different from the purpose of either party.” 

It is widely reported that during the civil war Lincoln met with a group of ministers at a prayer breakfast who tried to encourage him. They told the president that they had prayed that “God would be on our side.”  Lincoln corrected them saying, “No, gentlemen, let us pray that we are on God’s side.”

How do we pray and what do we pray for?  The Bible is clear that we should let our needs be known to God, that nothing is too great or too small for prayer.  We must be careful, however, that our prayers are not merely extensions of our own self-interest and desires.  And we must not allow prayer to degenerate into a tug of war to get God to line up on our side against the interests and desires of others.

When Jesus gave us the model prayer, he taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Everything else in the prayer flows from this and is secondary to this.  But Jesus went a step further.  He not only gave us a model prayer to guide our words, he demonstrated how to pray when he faced death on the cross and  prayed, “Father, not my will but thine be done.” 

Prayer works best when it brings us into alignment with God and his purposes on the earth, purposes that often are at odds with our own.  When we pray this way we will love our enemies, do good for those who abuse us and give ourselves generously for others.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Our Moral Drift and the Way Back

Five years ago I wrote about Sandra Bland, a 28-year old black woman who changed lanes in Waller County, Texas to allow an approaching patrol car to pass.  Instead of passing, the patrolman pulled her over for failure to signal a lane change. The video of her arrest was haunting.  Sandra was understandably upset.  How many times have we all changed lanes without giving a signal? She was simply moving over to let the policeman by.  It seemed like such a trivial stop.

 She showed her irritation.  The officer was insulted and grew angry, demanding she put out her cigarette. She refused.  He threatened to “light her up” with his Taser, forced her from her car, manhandled her off to the side of the road, wrestled her to the ground, handcuffed her and carted her off to jail. Three days later, unable to post bond, Sandra Bland was found dead in her jail cell, victim of an apparent suicide.  A graduate of Prairie View A&M, she had been a part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

 The video was disturbing because of the injustice of it all, similar to the video of George Floyd.  Both videos are disturbing because of repeated incidents of police brutality against black persons.  They are disturbing because they represents our cultural drift from the values that make life work.  Our politicians hurl insults at one another, calling names, seldom restrained by the truth.  People scream at one another in movies and dramas, releasing unrestrained anger.  We laugh at the snide remarks of comedians. The principles of courtesy, respect, patience, honesty and forgiveness seem to be slipping away.  

 Have we slipped our Christian moorings?  Are we adrift in a sea of uncertainty that has no true North, no compass? Are the darker impulses of prejudice, fear and hatred leading us off a cliff?
 We turned to science and technology believing they would pave the way to a brighter future.  And, while science and technology have given us a higher standard of living with conveniences our forefathers never dreamed, they cannot provide the values necessary for living with each other.

 They are found in the words of Jesus:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  “Be merciful as your father is merciful.”  “Give and it shall be given to you, good measure, pressed down and running over.”  They are found in the Lord’s Prayer.

 The stones for our pathway forward are found in the fruits of the Spirit that overcome the flesh: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, ...  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:19-23).

 I was appalled when the President used federal officers to disperse peaceful protestors so he could have a photo op in front of St John’s Episcopal Church holding a Bible. The Bible and the church must never be used as political props. 

 Faith that fosters forgiveness and respect for all people of all races is essential to our survival

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Eyes Have It

We have entered a new era unfamiliar to us all.  We are greeted by family, friends and strangers wearing masks everywhere we go.  Some masks are like my own, a dull and unremarkable: black, white or gray. Others, like my wife’s, are bright and cheerful.  Her mask is decorated with little birds.  The designs and decorations are unlimited.  But all of them have one thing in common.  They hide our faces.  We cannot determine if someone is smiling, frowning, sneering or simply dead-pan.  We cannot read lips.  A significant percentage of our normal public face-to-face communication has been stolen. 

My wife and I were watching an old black-and-white Gary Cooper movie the other night.  When the villain suddenly pulled up his bandana to mask his face we were struck with how familiar he looked. Once upon a time, meeting a masked stranger on the street might create shivers of suspicion and fear. But, today, it is normal, expected, even required.

But one facial feature remains:  the eyes.  Even with masks, the eyes communicate. They seldom, if ever, lie.  They portray innocence, beauty and wonder; the sparkle of imagination, compassion and love.  They can also convey anger, fear, suspicion, even deceit.  Our music recognizes this fact:  The Eagles’ Lyin’ Eyes,  Willie Nelson’s Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain, Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, and the Beatle’s Close Your Eyes and I’ll Kiss You, to name a few.

Our eyes are the window of the soul. Whatever we choose to see, to read, to watch on TV or the internet floods our soul with images that enlighten, inspire, encourage or corrupt.  Perhaps that is what Jesus meant when He said, “The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eye is healthy your whole body is full of light.”  The eyes not only fill the soul, they also reflect the soul.  Our secret thoughts, the things within our heart are often reflected in our eyes. 

One of the great treasures of the human experience is to find favor in the eyes of another, as when a groom lifts the veil and looks on the face of his bride.  Or when a mother beholds the face of her newborn child. The eyes can bestow unimaginable and unforgettable blessings.  With the eyes we can bless, and we can be blessed by another.  

Most important of all is how we are seen by God.  The Bible says, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). “The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God” (Psalm 14:2).   And again, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). 

The Bible tells of a young man who came to Jesus wanting to go to heaven.  In response “Jesus looked on him and loved him” (Mark 10). Unfortunately, the young man turned away and missed his opportunity because he loved wealth more than he loved God.  I have always loved the old song, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in his wonderful face, and things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”  What are we choosing to see with our eyes?  Whose eyes do we seek?

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Class of 2020

Every May, when trees splash green lawns with shade and wildflowers fill the air with fragrance, we celebrate one of the significant rites of passage for each generation.  Normally young men and young women robe themselves in their school colors and don mortar-board-caps with dangling tassels to accept diplomas signifying their educational achievement.  But this year isn’t normal.  Not for the class of 2020. 

Some are watching commencement speeches online in the same way they completed their course assignments with their teachers and professors.  Some will dress for photos taken in their living rooms with family, or outside with their school building in the background.  Family and friends will do their best to make it special. But it is not the same.  The pressing crowd of friends with whom they once played on playgrounds, with whom they studied, competed, worked and grew to adulthood, will be missing. They will not stand shoulder-to-shoulder, searching the crowd to locate parents who search for them.  They will not walk the stage when their name is called and they will not pose together for a class picture.

I feel a sense of grief for the class of 2020.  The coronavirus pandemic has stolen something precious from them that will be difficult to replace.  Rites of passage are important.  But even if the pandemic restrictions take away the pomp and the circumstance of the moment, it cannot steal away the love and admiration we feel for these graduates. I hope in some small way, the words of this weekly column can add to the affirmation for this special Class of 2020.

My best friend’s granddaughter is a member of this class, one of the brightest young women I have known. When she was seven-years-old and entering second grade, I said to her, “You are very smart. But it is important as you grow up to be wise.” I asked, “Do you know the difference between being smart and being wise?” Without hesitation she said, “Sure, smart is knowing that 3 + 3 equals 6. Wise is doing the right thing.”  This month she graduates from high school with the Class of 2020, a very wise young woman with full scholarships to college.  I want to shout congratulations to Gillian and to the entire Class of 2020!

Many high schools and colleges are hoping to carry out graduation exercises later this summer.  I hope they can, although most expect it will still have social distancing restrictions.  Whether they do or not, my hopes are high that these youth will lead the world forward to a better day.  There is so much that needs to be accomplished in social justice, equal opportunity, environmental stewardship, global cooperation, and mutual respect among all peoples.

I am reminded of Paul’s instruction to his young friend Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12).   And Jeremiah’s prophecy, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Children and the Secret of the Kingdom

Children are found on every continent in every culture. Without them the human race would be doomed to extinction.  They fill the air with laughter, like the sound of water gurgling in a happy brook. Their capacity for imagination and happiness is almost boundless. 

They make friends of complete strangers.  In a matter of minutes they are playmates making up imaginary games. They are as happy and excited to kick a half-deflated soccer ball in a back alley as any player in a World Cup stadium. They see the world with wide-eyed wonder, and they are blind to color, race or social standing. Even the Carona crisis cannot stifle their spirit. 

We are born reflecting the eternal light that enlightens every man. (John 1:9).  But, somewhere along the way, the light dims. The carefree joy of childhood is lost. 

Too often, and too soon the children will learn the lessons of prejudice and competition. They learn it from watching grown-ups around them. They learn it from pressure to perform in sports, pressures to live up to the expectation of adults who too often measure life by fame, fortune and winning at all costs.

Jesus treasured the innocence of childhood.  He once took a child and stood her in the midst of his grown-up disciples who were arguing among themselves about which one of them was the greatest.  Holding the child in his gentle hands, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2).

We all were children once, full of hopes and dreams with boundless imagination.  We are prone to lose the magic, exchanging laughter for worry, innocence for anger, expectation for resentment.  But somewhere, down deep inside, is the child we once were.

I have known adults living into their eighties whose eyes still twinkle with the joy of a child, whose faces are wrinkled with lines of laughter, who seem to wake up each morning with a child-like excitement for the next day’s adventure. We need not surrender to the bitterness of disappointment.  The wisdom of experience can serve as seasoning for the joy of childhood.

Regardless of our circumstances; in spite of our difficulties, set-backs and disappointments; Jesus invites us to enter the Kingdom as a little child, to be filled with a faith that expects to be surprised by glory.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Changing the Way We Live

A strange thing has happened in our neighborhood.  Two months ago we barely knew most of our neighbors.  We would recognize familiar vehicles leaving for work, shuttling kids to school. But when they returned they either disappeared into their garages or quickly ran inside not to re-emerge.  Their lives were centered elsewhere, with their co-workers, their teachers and friends. 

But then the Covid crisis hit. Schools and businesses were closed.  We were told to shelter in place, which meant “stay home.”  We became desperate for a friendly face and a familiar voice.  We introduced ourselves to one another on our neighborhood walks, keeping a respectful 6 foot distance. And our neighborhood began to change. 

Today young mothers go for walks together, pushing their strollers.  Parents and kids play baseball in the front yard.  A young couple across the street eats their dinner on the front porch, waving to passers-by and chatting with those who stop to talk.  Neighbors offer to pick up groceries for neighbors.  And bikes.  Bicycles are everywhere: children, teenagers, adults of all ages, small bikes, big bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, recumbent bikes, expensive bikes and bikes, like mine, that are over 20 years old.  Whole families: children, parents and grandparents ride bikes together. 

Churches are changing.  Instead of gathering in buildings to listen to a worship team and hear a preacher, families gather in their living rooms to stream their local church service and meet in small groups during the week through zoom.  Instead of shuffling their kids off to a Sunday school teacher, parents are opening the Bible and telling Bible stories to their children.  Church is no longer about a “performance” on Sunday morning.  It is increasingly about ministering in neighborhoods, helping those who are hurting; caring for those who are sick and dying; comforting those who grieve, finding ways to create community.

We are all anxious to get back to work and return to school, to see friends and co-workers, to shop without fear.  We look forward to eating out at our favorite restaurants with smiling wait staff.  We long for the day when we will again hear the laughter of children on the playgrounds and in the park, to stand in the bleachers and cheer our home team.  We can’t wait to return to our churches without masks or distance restrictions, to greet one another with hugs and handshakes.

But in the meantime, God may be teaching us something.  Under the Covid restrictions we are learning to relate more closely to our neighbors and our families, to be “church” in community.

The admonitions of Scripture give guidance: “Each one helps his neighbor and says to his brother, ‘Be strong!’ … Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:6, 10).

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Good and Evil in the Garden

Maybe our gardens will save us during this Caronavirus crisis.  Most of us are going crazy trying to “shelter in place.”  We are bored, lonely, sometimes irritable with those we love most who share our confined space.  But the garden offers a welcome release.  There is something therapeutic about digging in the dirt, sifting the soil with our fingers, planting seeds and seedlings that flourish in the sun,

When I lived in Minnesota, I always had a garden.  I guess it was “our” garden, my daughter and mine. She was seven when we moved to Minnesota. Every spring we would pick out what we would plant and, after I spaded up the earth, we would plant our garden together:  cilantro, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, cabbage.  One year we grew a pumpkin two feet in diameter.  We tried okra, but apparently it needs the searing heat of Texas.   Rhubarb didn’t require planting, it just volunteered itself every year.

I wasn’t a very good gardener. After the ground was turned and the garden planted, we pretty well left it alone, and it grew. That is what things do in Minnesota.  Long days of sunlight, pleasant summers and occasional rain. Things just grow.

But, the same conditions that cultivate vegetables also stimulate weeds.  By harvest we had a wonderful crop of both.  Our whole family would visit the garden like children on an Easter egg hunt.   Searching among the weeds we celebrated the discovery of tomatoes, squash, cabbages and a “great pumpkin,” hiding among the weeds. 

Jesus used a similar image to help us understand the mystery of good and evil in the world: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field?  Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.  The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered ‘because while you are pulling the weeds you may uproot the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest.  At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into the barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-29).

The world is kind of like our garden in Minnesota. Evil flourishes in the world, like the weeds.  It dominates the news and grabs the headlines. But hiding among the weeds are the vegetables, those things that are good, righteous, wholesome and healthy.  In every situation where it appears that evil will triumph, we find, hidden beneath the headlines, acts that are heroic and sacrificial, acts of forgiveness, kindness, goodness and faith.

Someday the harvest will come.  When John introduced Jesus, he said, “One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the straps on His sandals; ... His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  (Luke 3:16-17).