What Others Say

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

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Spring 2022

 The grass finally has a tinge of green. The birds are migrating.  Geese are flying overhead; a robin perched on the fence with his proud red breast; sparrows are scoping out the bird house, preparing to build their nest; red wing blackbirds have returned to the marsh.  It is time for my spring column.

 Two years ago I wrote about Fred and Ethel, the robins who built their nest in the tree outside our front window. Maybe that was Fred on the back fence this morning.  We still have the nest.  Last year I wrote about two sparrows who surveyed the scene and built their nest in our birdhouse out back,  Maybe they are the same ones planning to move back in.

 The Aspen is heavy with buds, anticipating warmer days. Winter is gone, leaving behind its final shrouds of snow.  People are out: walking their dogs, riding their bikes, hiking the hills. Like bears from their hibernation, we are emerging from winter to greet the day.

 All who have lived in similar latitudes have experienced what we feel, from before recorded history, dating back to the earliest civilizations who left behind fragments of their existence.  We, too, are part of nature, filling our lungs with fresh and fragrant air; sensing the sun that warms our skin. We feel the energy.  Our spirits rise to meet the season and the day.

 There are those who live in tropical climates, and those who live at the polar extremes, where the seasons never change. But, for most of us, our lives are tuned to the seasons. Each season has its purpose and its beauty, but none has the magic of Spring, when the dead and dormant landscape clothes itself with green, when flower burst from their bulbs, when bees and humming birds return to seek their nectar.

 It is, I think, God’s reminder to us to never give up. Dark and cold winter days can seem like an eternity, but they always give way to another Spring and another Summer.  Babies will be born, playgrounds will be filled with children’s laughter.  Again we will hear the crack of the bat on the ball! 

 This is the reason Jesus used an image of Spring to foretell his return.  Jesus said, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree.  As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so when you see all these things you will know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell  you this generation shall not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my Word shall not pass away,”  (Matthew 24:32-35).

 A better day, a brighter day, a new day is coming, a day that transcends the evil and oppression and injustice of these days, beyond war and pestilence, disease and death. Winter cannot keep its icy grip. Spring will come, life and resurrection will prevail when He returns.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Beyond the Noise

 Our world is filled with noise: the whine of tires on the interstate, the roar of eighteen-wheelers;  the constant chatter of televisions in the background, talk show hosts over-talking each other, voices escalating in pitch and volume; politicians screaming insults and accusations.   

 Even the quiet interior of my car has been invaded by a GPS that seems to be constantly recalculating and instructing me to make a U turn.   Once, when my grandkids were riding with me, I switched her language settings from English to German, Russian, Spanish and Arabic just so we could hear what it is like to be corrected in different languages. The grandkids loved it.

 Libraries are still pretty quiet. No one wants to mess with a stern librarian. Beaches and parks are quiet, unless someone pulls up nearby with a boom box.  

Silence can make us nervous.  We like to surround ourselves with sound.  It somehow comforts us, relieves us from thinking our own thoughts or, worst of all, being alone. But maybe we are missing something.  Maybe there is something in the silence of solitude that we have lost in our streaming, screaming and crowded world.

 Before Jesus launched his public ministry he spent 40 days in the wilderness.  There were no radios, televisions, iPods or iPhones.  He was completely alone in the silence.  I have been there, stood on the edge of the wilderness where he wandered alone for 40 days. It is a stark and silent place.  It prepared Him for the days when He must deal with the crush of the crowd with little time to eat or sleep.

 When John preached near the Jordan River, thousands came to hear him.  The hillsides were covered with people listening to his messages.  People lined up to be baptized for repentance.  But before his remarkable public preaching, John also spent years in the wilderness listening to God. 

 Our lack of silence and solitude threatens to make us shallow, only able to repeat the slogans and jingles of the latest commercials.  Our minds repeat the lyrics of the latest pop songs.  If we would have depth of character, if we would think new thoughts, if we would hear the voice of God, we need time alone, time away from all the noise.  Time to think new thoughts and time to pray.

 C.S. Lewis wrote, “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” 

 The Bible says,  “’Come now, and let us reason together.’ Says the Lord,” (Isaiah 1:18). “Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10). Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”  (Isaiah 40:30-31).

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Ukraine: War and Suffering

 We have to admire the courage of the Ukrainians who continue to thwart the advances of the Russian invasion. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, civilians and soldiers alike rally to defend their homes and their country. But their struggle is not without devastating personal loss. 

 Our hearts are heavy for Ukraine as we witness the pain suffered by the innocent who are crushed beneath the iron wheels of war.  One of the most painful and heart-rending scenes in the Ukraine was the image of a pregnant woman who had been admitted to the maternity ward in Mariupol for the birth of her baby.  When the hospital was hit by Russian artillery her pelvis was crushed and her hip detached. Medics rushed her to another hospital where doctors worked frantically to save her life and that of her baby.  They both died.

 In his frenzied attempts to save the woman and her baby, the doctor never had a chance to ask her name. Her grieving father and husband were able to claim her body before it was consigned to one of the mass graves for the many who have died during the attacks. Though the doctor did not know her name, she is known to our Heavenly Father, as is her baby.  God has said, “Before I formed  you in the womb, I knew you,” (Jeremiah 1:5).

 God is not absent in these moments. He is very present and will make His presence known.  For this reason, He sent His Son to embrace the injustice, pain and suffering that is all too present in this world. This is why He shed His blood and this is why he died on the Cross.  And, this is why God raised Him from the grave. In this world suffering, pain, agony and death often seem to have the last word. But He has overcome the world and has replaced these words with righteousness, resurrection, life and peace.

 The Psalmist wrote, “O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.  Make us glad according to the days Thou hast afflicted us, and the years we have seen evil.  Let thy work appear to Thy servants, and Thy majesty to their children.” 

 We must continue to pray that this war will end, that the Russian army will withdraw, that life will be preserved and communities restored.  We must pray, as Jesus taught us to pray, that His kingdom will come and His will might be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

At the Start of Day

 A friend recently asked me what discipline I found most helpful to live a productive life.  It caused me to think.  My schedule is not rigidly regimented and never has been.  I have always had to make choices about how I would spend my time.  But, as I reflected, it seemed clear to me that there is one discipline that has made more difference than any other: rising early for meditation, prayer ands devotion.

 How we start the day has a lot to do with how we live it and how we end it. In fact, the way we start each day may change the entire trajectory of our life

 This was not always true for me. In my youth I tended to jump out of bed and rush off to some pressing business or activity without taking time to be quiet, to find a focus on God, to memorize and ponder Scripture and to pray.  But at some point, thirty or more years ago, I made a decision to get up early, often before sunrise, to spend time alone with God.

 Of course, there have been days I could not do this: illness, an early morning flight, children and grandchildren up before dawn requiring care. But most days, I have protected this time. I don’t always feel God’s presence in these moments. There are days when I feel I am all alone, reading Scripture, meditating and praying, as if God isn’t around. There are other times He seems to whisper in my ear. During the dry times I find it necessary to persevere, not to give up.  He will make His presence known in due time, and it is not all about how I feel at the moment. Sometimes I might be like Nathanael who had no idea Jesus was watching when he sat beneath the fig tree, (John 1:48).

 Jesus was well known for this habit.  “And in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and prayed, (Mark 1:35). At first, his disciples could not understand it. They went in search of Him. (Mark 1:36).

 The Psalms emphasize the importance of this early morning hour: “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days,” (Psalm 90:14). “I will awaken the dawn! I will give thanks to You, Lord, among the peoples, and I will sing praises to You among the nations. For Your mercy is great above the heavens, and Your truth reaches to the skies,” (Psalm 108:2-4).

 C.S. Lewis wrote, “The real problem of the Christian life comes where people usually do not look for it.  It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.  And the first 's each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.”

Bill's book, Upon This Rock is free March 8-12 as an eBook on Amazon.  click the imate to the right, or go to tinsleycenter.com. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Ukraine Connections

 Last week our world was rocked by the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, a sovereign Democratic nation that has resisted Russia’s attempts to pull it into its orbit. When I was pastor of an English speaking church in Nuremburg, Germany, we often had visitors from the Ukraine. Since I started writing this column, I have received more than 2,000 online views in the Ukraine.  

 Though the Ukraine is haf a world away, our connections are strong.  Over 1 million Americans have Ukrainian descent. According to The Ukrainians in America, the first Ukrainian immigrant arrived in Jamestown in 1607 along with Captain John Smith.  

 I was moved this week by a post by one of my young friends, Ryan Russell, Associate Pastor for College & Missions at First Baptist Waco, Texas.  He and his wife, Raechel married in 2015 and adopted a new-born son last year whose mother is Ukrainian. With Ryan and Rachael’s permission, here is what he wrote:

“Our adopted son Griffin is half-Ukranian.  His biological grandparents likely still live there today. It’s unlikely I’ll ever know them, and yet I care for them deeply. They’ve made our world possible. They may be strangers, but it hurts to think they could be in danger. We’ll never know.

 “Lately, Griffin has been getting lonely on car rides across town. A rear facing car seat means staring into the unknown. Talking helps, but I’ve found the best thing I can do is to stretch back and offer a finger for him to hold. “Hey bud, I got you. I’m here.

 “Silly as it may sound, I’ve begun to imagine these lonely cries as the vicarious cries of his people. Also staring into the darkness, they sorely need a finger to grasp onto. Yet halfway across the globe, it is easy to feel powerless in the face of evil, easy to give into despair.

 “Writing in the early third century, Origen, an early church father, once said: ‘One saint who prays is much more powerful than countless sinners who wage war.’

 “I find this to be an outrageously audacious claim: that there is a power in the world stronger than violence, and it will have the last word. Further, this power is made available here and now when we pray. Prayer seems passive and soft, and yet for those with eyes to see, is the true power that runs the world.

 “So every night for the foreseeable future, I’ll get on my knees in the dark near his crib, and do what I can to unleash more of this power into the world. I’d invite you to do the same. As we pray, we know God has not forgotten Ukraine. The darker the night grows, the louder his voice resounds: “I got you. I’m here.”

  David wrote in the Psalms, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and faithful in all He does.

The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.  He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them.” (Psalm 145:17-19).