What Others Say

"Thank you for the words of wisdom in today’s Abilene Reporter News. In the midst of wars violence and pandemics, you words were so soft spoken and calming."

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Faith in a Violent World

 The rapid collapse of the Afghan government and swift rise of Taliban control has sent chills throughout the world. We are haunted by the desperation written on thousands of Afghan faces huddled at the Kabul airport seeking escape. Our hearts and our prayers go out to them.

 Why is the world so broken? Why does violence stalk every generation? Why does this continue?

 My grandfather fought in France during the First World War.  But twenty years later the world was engulfed in another global conflict and the “War to End All Wars” was largely forgotten.  Since WWII America has been at war in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and several other lesser known places.

 James explained violence this way: “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.” (James 4:1-2).

 Jesus was under no illusion regarding our circumstances. He said, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. (Matthew 24:6-7).  “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good courage, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

 It is difficult to imagine the violence and cruelty of the first century.  Crucifixion was common under Roman rule. More than 2,000 Jews were crucified and displayed on Galilean roads about the time Jesus was born following a revolt led by Judas ben Hezekiah. As far as we know every one of the Apostles, except John, was martyred.  In spite of this, they lived their lives with hope, joy and peace.

 Often persecuted and suffering for his faith in Christ, the Apostle Paul gave us this instruction: “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people,”  (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).)

 It is easy to give in to the relentless stream of negative news: wars, violence, abuse and natural disasters.  Many see dark clouds gathered on the horizon with little hope for the future. But faith can withstand the most dismal circumstances.

 For every act of violence, we can find a thousand acts of kindness. Every overwhelming flood unleashes a greater flood of human kindness, courage and sacrifice.  The same can be said for every terrorist attack and every war. God is present.  Goodness will triumph. He will not leave us nor abandon us.  The righteous will not be forsaken.  Nothing can destroy the life of the spirit in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Buddy the Floppy Ear Corgi

 Those who read this column regularly are familiar with Buddy, our tri-color corgi.  We adopted Buddy in 2009 and, across the years I have written numerous columns about all the things Buddy has taught me.     

 He was picked up starving off the streets of Fort Worth by animal control and given to Corgi Rescue.  When we first met him he was skinny and sick.  But we instantly knew he was right for us.   Buddy and I bonded. He told me his story and I wrote it down in a book for my grandchildren, Buddy the Floppy Ear Corgi. (It’s free this week as an eBook on Amazon). He went with me everywhere and helped put life in perspective.

 Across the years we had pets, mostly mutts and strays that wandered into our lives.  They helped us raise our kids.  Each was different.  “Punkin” was our first. I brought her home on Christmas Day for our three-year-old son.  I was too busy to give her much attention, but the children loved her.  She grew old and blind.

 After Punkin we adopted a cat. Rascal was a gray-and-white kitten our boys picked up off the street.  He was part of our family for fifteen years and made the move with us from Texas to Minnesota.  We picked up a puppy from a Minnesota farm and named him Max.  We thought he would be a small dog, but in six months, he was bigger than our daughter, had eaten all the furniture and dug up the back yard.  We offered him to a good home.   One interested lady tried to take his picture and he ate her camera.  Fortunately, a young couple with a farm adopted him.  We threw in his crate, dog food and anything else we could think of.  We last saw them chasing him down the street. 

 So we went back to cats.  My wife and daughter found a cute black and white kitten that our son named “Fido.”  Our daughter loved Fido.  But, Fido was apparently insulted by our move back to Texas and ran away.  When our daughter left for college we found ourselves in an empty nest, the kids grown and the dogs and cats gone. It was peaceful.  I guess a little too peaceful.   After awhile I realized I missed having a dog. 

 Then, about the time I started writing these columns, we found Buddy.  He was a pup, maybe one year old. He is now what the vet calls a “healthy geriatric.”  Across the years he taught me to live in the moment; to celebrate each day as a gift.  So often I spend time reminiscing or regretting the past and dreaming or worrying about the future.  But Buddy takes each day as it comes.  Of course, it is good to cherish memories and learn from the past.  And it is good to dream and plan.  That is part of what defines us in God’s image.  But I am prone to miss the moment.  Jesus said, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself …” ( Mt 6:34).   “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps. 118:24).

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Going The Extra Mile

 I went to Walmart the other day.  Something I do as a part of the middle-class ritual.  Sometimes I visit other stores with fewer choices and higher prices just to avoid crowds. But Walmart has most the things I need and I can wear my sweat pants and no one notices.   

While at Walmart, I thought I would pick up a few items for my diet.  I am trying to lose weight again. Three peaches, two bags of frozen vegetables and a box of rice. I didn’t think these staples would get me through a pre-season football game, but maybe, if I eat enough vegetables and rice, it will keep me out of trouble.

 I was clearly under the express limit of twenty items, so I went to the express check out and got in line.  I stood behind a young Hispanic woman who was obviously pregnant and had a small child on her hip.  She started emptying her cart onto the counter. In all she had well over forty items, including a few cases of coke and a large sack of potatoes. She piled up the counter not once, but twice.

I smiled and was patient.  The cashier was apologetic that she did not see the woman’s cart before she unloaded it.  Several customers behind me rolled their eyes, groaned, and asked if the girl couldn’t read.  I waited, smiled, bought my items and did not complain. “Maybe she made a mistake and got in the wrong line,” I thought.  Anyway, we ought to give a break to a young woman with a child on her hip and a baby in her womb. She is trying to feed and take care of her family.  I am just trying to stay on a diet. I was feeling rather good about myself for not complaining or rolling my eyes. 

 After I got home, I started thinking.  Why didn’t I offer to help the young woman?  I could have lifted the potatoes and cases of coke. I could have helped her with her basket. Maybe I could have offered to pay for her grocery bill.  Was it enough to simply smile and not complain?  I could imagine Jesus saying, “Don’t be so smug. If I had been there, I would have helped the girl.” 

 “Okay, Lord,” I said.  “I am listening.” But sometimes ‘going the second mile’ is hard to do.  Not so much because I don’t want to do it, but because I simply miss the opportunities.”

 Jesus gave us the concept of “going the extra mile” in his Sermon on the Mount.  “Whoever compels you to go with him one mile, go with him two,” (Matthew 5:41). He also gave us the clearest example of “going the extra mile” when he told us the story of the Good Samaritan, (Luke 10:30-37).   

 Every day we have opportunities to “go the extra mile.” To do something unexpectedly nice for someone.  They occur when we are going about our daily lives, at work, at school, shopping, wherever we go, whatever we do. We just need to open our eyes and see others the way Jesus sees them.  Sometimes it is the little things that change the world.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Dealing with Depression

 Naomi Osaka made international news when she withdrew from the French Open and opted not to play at Wimbledon due to her struggles with depression.  This past week Simone Biles, the world’s most gifted gymnast, catapulted into the spotlight by withdrawing from competition at the Olympics due to mental health issues. Simone Biles wrote, “The outpouring of love and support I have received has made me realize I am more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.” 

 If you are suffering from feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness or despair, you are not alone. Depression is widespread.  It afflicts the wealthy, the famous, and the talented: writers, artists, musicians and athletes as well as the unknown and obscure.  In 2020 the U.S. Census Bureau reported that more than a third of U.S. citizens show signs of clinical depression and anxiety.  Our battle with Covid has caused this number to grow.

 No book in the Bible is filled more with adoration, praise and prayer than the book of Psalms, most of them attributed to King David.  There is a strange stream in the midst of these songs written by the musician who, in his youth, soothed King Saul with his skill on the lyre.  We see it in Psalm 42, a Psalm that starts out with a beautiful imagery for worship, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants after you, O God,” (Psalm 42:1). Followed by another recurrent theme, “Why are you in despair O my soul, and why have you become disturbed within me?” (Psalm 42:5).

 Can it be that the young shepherd who slew Goliath and became the beloved King of Israel could have suffered from depression?

 When I have felt the dark clouds of depression gathering above my head I have learned several important things.  First, do something.  Sitting and brooding only throws the mind into a deeper spiral of despair. More than that, do something good for someone else. It doesn’t matter who or what or how small. Find someone you can help in some way, whether within your family, among your friends or a total stranger. Meditate on the Scripture, especially the Palms.  They will encourage your trust in God, even when times are difficult. And remember that moments of depression will pass.  God will see you through.

  In his famous letter to Fanny McCollough, Abraham Lincoln wrote, “You cannot now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say.”

 In the midst of his own mental anguish David repeatedly affirmed, “Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence,” (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5).