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, February 23, 2021

Reboot

 I bought my first computer in 1982, a Commodore 64.  It used a 340k floppy disc and operated with machine language.  After typing in the machine code, the little floppy started to whirr ... and whirr ... and whirr a little more.  It whirred so long that I could get a cup of coffee or make a sandwich.  When it finally loaded the program it worked great.  With each program, I started the process all over again, something they called “booting up.”

 I think the term came from the farm.  You didn’t want to track that barnyard stuff into the house, so when you went inside, you took your boots off.  And, when you wanted to go to work, you put your boots back on.  So, for the little PC, we put our boots on, or “booted up” the program if we wanted to go to work or play.

 Today I use a laptop. I usually leave it in sleep mode so it wakes right up and we get going whenever I want. I get my cup of coffee before I turn it on.  I like leaving my “boots” on with my laptop. But sooner or later, it begins to creep along. It has too much going on in its PC memory, too many programs trying to run at once. Too much “barnyard stuff” tracked in and making it stink. There is nothing to do but “reboot” it.  So, I turn it off and let it reload the operating system.  After the “reboot,” we are good to go and back up to speed.

 We are a lot like my computer.  We fly from one task to another, filling our lives with frenzied activity, trying to constantly multi-task between family, business, community and personal obligations. We are no longer efficient. We do nothing well.  Sometimes we need to “reboot.” 

 This is why God gave us the Sabbath.  It is the fourth of the ten “Big Ones.”  And, as Jesus pointed out, it was given to us by God because we need it.  “Man was not made for the Sabbath,” Jesus said. “The Sabbath was made for man.” 

 If we want to live full, meaningful, productive and effective lives, we need time for worship and rest.  We need to “reboot” physically, emotionally and spiritually.  We are made in such a way that we have to power down if we want to power up.  This means turning off the TV, disconnecting from social media and taking a deep breath. We need to listen to the laughter of children, to birds singing, the wind in the trees, waves lapping on the shore. We need to listen to God.  Meditations in the Bible and fellowship with other believers help me most.

 We need to take the Apostle Paul’s advice: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things,” (Philippians 4:8).

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

When God Seems Far Away

 There are times when God seems very near.  We feel his forgiveness, acceptance, comfort and peace.  Our hearts are filled with joy and songs of praise for His goodness and beauty. But what about the times when God seems far away?

 King David sometimes felt this way.  Repeatedly he asked, “Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?” (Ps 42:5, 11; 42:5).  “O Lord, why do you reject my soul? Why do you hide your face from me?” (Ps 88:14).  After confronting the prophets of Baal, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life … he went a day’s journey into the wilderness … and prayed that he might die.  ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life, I am no better than my ancestors.’” (1 Kings 19:3).

 Going through times when we feel God is far away is a normal human experience. The prophets felt it.  God even allowed his own Son to experience it. At the moment He paid the penalty for our sins,  He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). So, when those times come, what are we to do?

 When we feel God is far away, we are often filled with worry, uncertainty, doubt and despair.  But this will not last.  We will yet feel His presence again and praise Him. Our feeling that God is distant is temporary. This is what sustained King David in his dark times. In every case, he declared, “Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him.”  

 We must rely on God’s promises and not on our feelings. Even when we don’t feel His presence, He is near. Repeatedly God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6,8; Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5).  Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).  David wrote, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day.”  (Ps. 139:7-12).                                                                                                                

We must continue to do everything that is right and good in His sight.  One of Jesus’ favorite parables was the story of a wealthy landowner who left for a long trip.  In his absence, some of his servants decided he wasn’t coming back and began to abuse his property, doing things they knew the landowner would never condone.  But the landowner returned, and when he did, there was a reckoning.  The real evidence of our faith is not what we do when we feel His presence and know He is near. The real evidence of our faith is what we do when we feel God is far away. He will return.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Valentines

 Next Sunday is February 14, Valentine’s Day, a traditional day when we express our love to those who mean the most to us: heart-shaped boxes of candy, cards, flowers, a candlelight dinner.  

 While Valentine’s Day is not found in the Bible, love is.  And the Bible has some incredible things to say about love.  To husbands, the Bible says, “Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her, cleansing her by the washing of water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives” (Ephesians 5:25-28). 

 To wives, the Bible says, “Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands. … each wife is to honor her husband” (Ephesians 5:22-24, 33 The Message.)

 My wife and I have celebrated 52 anniversaries. I still remember how she looked on our wedding day, a 19-year-old bride in a beautiful lace wedding dress.  I can still see the tear in her eye when her wedding veil was removed.  For more than half a century we have learned to love each other.

 Of course, love is far greater than romance. According to recent studies only 52% of the US population over 18 are married.  Almost half of the US adult population are single, including widows, widowers, those never married and those who are divorced.  Regardless of our marital status, everyone needs to love and be loved. 

 The Apostle Paul gave us the best definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13. He wrote, “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails,” (I Corinthians 13:4-8).

 When God sent his valentine, it came in the shape of a cross and cost him the life of his Son.  “By this the love of God was revealed in us, that God has sent His only Son into the world so that we may live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another,” (1 John 4:9-11).

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Pandemic Heroes: Teachers

 I like teachers. They are among my favorite people.  They work long hours, up early preparing for classes, on their feet most of the day, grading papers and writing lesson plans late into the night, often spending their own money to help their students. Add to this the extracurricular activities: sports events, performances, contests, parties and dances.  They are almost always underpaid and too often underappreciated.

 My wife is a retired public-school teacher who poured her life into kindergarten, elementary and high school students.  Her last assignment was a drop out prevention program for pregnant and parenting teens.  Her goals were to help them have a healthy birth, learn to be good parents, stay in school, earn a degree and have a future. She loved her students and helped them achieve a 98% graduation rate.

 Teachers are our pandemic heroes.  Many have made the drastic adjustments to teach remotely using zoom, facetime and social media.  Others have borne the risk of exposure in order to teach classes in person.  According to a CBS news report last September, a 34-year-old special ed teacher, AshLee de Marinis died in Missouri after contracting Covid-19 and spending 3 weeks in the hospital. A 28-year-old teacher in South Carolina, Demi Bannister, was diagnosed on Friday and died on Monday. 

 No one knows how many teachers have lost their lives to Covid, though the American Federation of Teachers reports at least 530.  According to a January 29 NY Times report, “Educators lost to the coronavirus in recent weeks include a married couple who taught at public schools in Grand Prairie, Texas, and died within hours of each other; an art teacher in Fayetteville, N.C., whose students left her personal messages on a memorial outside the school; and Bobby Hulse, a 76-year-old principal in Arkansas, who died on Wednesday after contracting the virus. “Hulse was known for his love of basketball, his bright shirts and ties and for affectionately calling everyone ‘chief.’”J

 All of us can remember one or more teachers who made a difference in our lives, someone who took the time to encourage us, tutor us, help us get past the hurdles and find the open doors to our future.   

 Jesus was the master teacher.  Matthew says that “He went throughout Galilee teaching in they synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.    the crowds were amazed at his teaching,” (Matthew 4:23, 7:28). His stories, like the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan have inspired, instructed and shaped generations. He taught by example. He demonstrated love, compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance never seen before or since.  And, at the fulness of time, he gave his own life a ransom for many.

 I look forward to the day when we are able to look at the pandemic in our rearview mirror.  But for now, we need to encourage one another, especially our teachers. We need to cheer them on and pray for them as they pour their lives into the hearts and minds of our children and youth. I am hoping that our educators will be moved to the front of the line to receive the Covid vaccine soon.