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, May 31, 2022

Uvalde: Violence and Suffering

 We are reeling, again, stunned once more from the senseless murders of 19 fourth grade children and their two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. We have seen their faces and recalled their names. We have watched the videos of their family and friends embraced in grief, weeping.  And, as a nation, this week we mourn with them as they bury their dead. 

 Like everyone else, I am disturbed.  I am reminded of the killings at Sutherland Springs 5 years ago. The pastor’s 14 year old daughter dying on the floor, the Associate Pastor, Brian Holcombe, struck down as he stood up to preach, a 1 year old baby, 14 children, a 77 year old and others, massacred in a matter of minutes.  It is not like we have not been here before. We have witnessed this scene too many times,

 I have been disturbed and grieved over a lifetime of senseless violence. The first I remember was a sniper atop the University of Texas tower in 1966, killing 13.  Others stand out: the gunman that opened fire at First Baptist Daingerfield, Texas in 1980 and left 5 dead, including a 7 year old girl; The Oklahoma City bombing; West Paducah KY High School; Columbine High School; the Amish school in Pennsylvania; the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, CO; Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut;   the gay nightclub shooting in Orlando. These are just the horrific events that I remember. There are others alongside senseless killings every day reported in local news across the country.

 Like everyone else, it leaves me reeling with questions.  Why does God allow innocent people to die?  Why does evil and violence strike at such random and senseless moments?  How can people be so deranged and cruel?  I wish there were no guns, no violence, no killing, and no war. I wish there were no deranged people.

 The best insight I find is in the symbol that dominates the landscape at Uvalde: crosses erected at Robb Elementary; crosses in the churches and the cemeteries. To remove all violence from our world, God would have to remove our human capacity for good and evil.  Instead, God chooses the Cross. The Cross is the ultimate expression of innocent suffering and torture. When Jesus endured the Cross, He took the sins of our violent world upon Himself.

 The Cross is not an afterthought.  It is not a footnote.  The Cross on which Jesus died is the focal point of history. It is the place where God’s love meets our agony, our grief and confusion in a violent world.  He took our violence upon Himself and conquered it in the resurrection. 

 According to the theologian N.T Wright, the day Jesus was crucified is “the day the revolution began.”  This is the reason crosses are raised above the rooftops, erected on hillsides, planted as grave markers and worn around our necks.  Violence will not prevail. Evil will be conquered. The revolution has begun. Another Kingdom is coming. (Romans 8:31-39).

Monday, May 23, 2022

Memorial Day

Next Monday we will fly our flag outside our house to honor Memorial Day. It is a tradition my wife brought into our marriage from her father who served in the Pacific during World War II. All across our country the stars and stripes will unfurl in the breeze, lifting and dropping, whipping and snapping above the roof tops of schools, factories and government buildings. It will fly over parks, parades and cemeteries. Millions will stand to their feet in stadiums across America and sing of the broad stripes and bright stars reflected by bombs bursting in the night.

Forty-seven years after Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that became our national anthem, the star-spangled banner hung in ominous stillness above Fort Sumter. For the next four years, bearing the stars of the states that rose against it, surrounded by the sound of screaming men and thundering horses, it led the way into man-made storms of grapeshot and cannon fire. Almost a century later it was planted on the black sands of Iwo Jima where young Marines gave their lives to lift its blood-stained cloth above their heads. The flag still marks Tranquility Base where the Eagle landed, and Neil Armstrong took a giant leap for mankind. Most of us have stood at the graveside of flag draped coffins and many mothers have held the crisply folded flag to their breast, solemnly handed to them by white gloved soldiers.

This Memorial Day the flag reminds us that America is still an experiment. Two and a half centuries is a very short time and our nation is still relatively young. Lincoln’s prophetic words at Gettysburg still ring true. We are a new nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Our generation, like every other generation must rise to the test to prove whether “that nation, or any other nation so dedicated and so conceived can long endure.” Every Memorial Day we are called to a new resolve that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Memorial Day helps us remember the men and women who gave their lives on the battlefield. But the most important battles to be fought for the future of our nation will not be with missiles and guns. The most important battles will be fought in the hearts of men and women. The preservation of our nation, its hopes, dreams and ideals, depends on the character of its people and their leaders. Honesty, integrity, compassion, generosity, goodness and faith are the elements that will determine the future freedom of our nation.  

In Proverbs, the Bible says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Prov. 14:34) Isaiah says, “Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He shall bring forth justice to the nations. (Isa. 42:1).

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Battling Cancer

 Cancer is not new to our family.  My wife is a breast cancer survivor, as is her sister, who has been battling stage four cancer for the past eight years. Her cancer is spreading and she is about to start chemo again.  My father died of multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow, when he was 53.  He bestowed on me a life-long memory of courage, faith and grace.  I took him to visit his friends the week before he died.  He was too week to remain standing.  He greeted each with a cheerful smile and his natural good humor.  But I could see the sadness written in their faces when they witnessed the seriousness of his condition.

 My daughter-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago while our grandchildren were still at home.  Life becomes precious when we are faced with our mortality and the mortality of those we love. Knowing that thousands are traveling a similar journey, I wanted to share a couple of her journal entries.

 She wrote, “Today was a great day.  I woke up with no pain and I was able to spend the day with my kids.  My husband was able to go to work.  I ate more food with no sickness than I’ve had in over a week.  I had enough energy to attend a hilarious community play with the beautiful high school drama/English students and laughed until my chest hurt.  I stayed up late talking with my best friend about how blessed we are and how God answers prayers in ways we don’t even realize.  My children laughed and teased each other in ways that made us feel normal.  And I still have my hair.  Today was a great day!” 

 A few days later she wrote, “As I mourn the loss of my hair, an outward symbol of my health and femininity, I am reminded of my true identity in Christ.”  Psalm 139:13-15 “Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!

Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book[BT1] , you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

 I am proud of my daughter-in-law and grateful that her cancer is in remission. I am grateful to be surrounded by men and women who inspire me.  Every day in thousands of homes mothers and fathers, sons and daughters fight quiet and little-known battles of life and love. 

 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[?  …  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow.“ (Matthew 6:25-34)


Tuesday, May 10, 2022


 For the first time in three years family and friends can once again pack stadiums,  arenas and auditoriums to celebrate high school and college graduations.  Masks are off and the smiles are back, youthful faces grinning at each other, searching for family and friends in the crowd. Mothers and fathers anxiously searching for sons and daughters.

 Every graduate represents a unique story.  Most are young. Some represent the first graduates in their family. Some are focused, with jobs lined up and a clear career path before them. Some are still finding their way, not quite sure what they are going to do with the degree they earned. All, in one way or another, have managed to complete their degree during the difficult days of Covid.

 A few are like our son.  In 1992 he entered college as a freshman.  But, like many others, either he wasn’t ready for college or college wasn’t ready for him.  He lasted a few semesters, bouncing around to different universities before joining the Marine Corps.  Over the years, besides serving our nation as a US Marine, he developed a successful career in Information Technology.  He married and raised our three older grandchildren in a Christian home. He proved to be a wonderful husband and father and a Christian example in his community.  Today, he is 48 and this weekend, May 14 he will walk across the stage to receive his bachelor’s degree at the University of Wyoming where his daughter is a senior and his youngest is a freshman. He says he crammed his college degree into 30 years!  All our family will be there to watch him “walk” and to celebrate,  including his sister from Colorado and his brother from Minnesota.

Graduations inspire us because they not only celebrate a significant achievement, they celebrate new beginnings, new possibilities and opportunities.  Education offers to the young the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills that equip them for the future.  For those who are older, it offers the opportunity to re-tool, to start over, to pursue new dreams.

 God loves to lead us into new dreams and new discoveries.  In Isaiah He says, “From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you,” (Isaiah 48:6).   Nothing is as important for a new start on life as a spiritual transformation that connects us with God and places in our hearts the values that make life meaningful.  Proverbs says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7).  In Ezekiel God said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26).

 God is always about new beginnings.  He offers to the young the opportunity to launch their lives on the path that leads to life and, to those who are older, the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start anew. Whether or not you hold a formal degree from an institution, whether you are nineteen or ninety, you can make a new start on life by trusting His Son, Jesus. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Providence or Luck

 One church called a new pastor who was nor familiar with the traditions of the community. After the first “pot luck” dinner where the members pooled together their favorite casseroles, puddings and pies, he took his stand staunchly opposed all forms of gambling.  He began to rail from the pulpit against the very idea of a pot “luck” anything.  The deacons and the women of the church got together and came up with an idea. “How about pot providence dinners?”  This seemed to calm the theological storm so that everyone could once again enjoy the cooking.

 I know it sounds a little odd. But strange things happen in churches and it does raise a question.  How much of life is providence and how much is just plain good and back luck?  For some, of course, there is no such thing as chance.  Everything, down to the smallest detail of every day is providential.  And for others, there is no such thing as providence.  Life is just the luck of the draw. But is it?

Forrest Gump, in the classic movie, contemplated the question that faces us all. Is life the result of random chance, like a feather balanced on the breeze, or does destiny direct our path?

 Mathematics contains an entire field of probability. Any single flip of a coin cannot be predicted. But if that coin is flipped enough times, it will eventually sustain the laws of probability. It will turn up tails just as often as it lands on heads.  This is called the “law of large numbers.”  

At the same time, some of the greatest men in American history have recognized the power of a providential presence. Benjamin Franklin opened his famous autobiography by saying, “I desire with all humility to acknowledge that I owe the mentioned happiness of my past life to His kind providence.”  George Washington repeatedly referred to “providence” as a guiding force throughout his life.

In 1862, during the Civil War, Lincoln stated, “If after endeavoring to do my best in the light which He affords me, I find my efforts fail, I must believe that for some purpose unknown to me, He wills it otherwise. … and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that He who made the world still governs it.”

 Reflecting on his life, King David wrote, “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).

Isaiah declares, “And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”  (Isaiah 58:11)

 While God has established laws of probability in the universe as real as the physical law of gravity, He has also established His providence.  He has a plan and purpose for our life.