And That’s The Way It Is???

from dictionary.com

Yes, I am old enough to remember Walter Cronkite. Perhaps it is because of the way he ended every newscast: “And that’s the way it is” followed by the date. That was back in the day when newscasters knew their responsibility was to report the news, not BE the news. Not so much anymore. It seems to me at least, that so many, not just newscasters but others as well, want to create a Narrative that fits their world view.

Look carefully at number 4 definition of Narrative: a story that connects and explains a carefully selected set of supposedly true events, experiences, or the like, intended to support a particular viewpoint or thesis. (emphasis mine) What is happening today is the desire of so many that if one doesn’t like the truth, then they create a Narrative that supports their viewpoint. And in a tout de suite, the Truth is also changed. The fact of the matter is that Truth never changes; but many are trying but it is supercilious exercise.

Just this week, I watched and listened to an interview with Michael Regan, the current head of the EPA. True to the current administration, he touted that the current weather related disasters were the direct result of climate change. His narrative stated that something need to be done to reduce pollutants because people of color are being disproportionately being affected by these recent disasters. I wonder, how many disasters has he personally responded to? I have been actively involved in disaster response since Hurricane Katrina. And I have never seen a disaster that avoided the homes of whites. While discrimination still exists in the hearts and minds of some–natural disasters discriminates against no one. Mr. Regan wants to change the narrative of being good stewards of creation, to a narrative of social justice for people of color (his term not mine).

Or how about this one: Sexuality is fluid and not determined by gender at birth. Or this one: Children with gender dysphoria should be allowed to explore whatever they want when it comes to their sexual “orientation”. Or how about this one: The government needs to protect the most vulnerable, while at the same time advocating for and sponsoring abortions. See? Narratives! And this morning I’m left feeling baffled, perplexed, addled, and flummoxed. Whatever happened to The Truth? I leave you this morning with two thoughts, which are not even close to being a Narrative, but rises above the idea of all other narratives:

What sorrow for those who say
    that evil is good and good is evil,
that dark is light and light is dark,
    that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.

Isaiah 5:20 (NLT)

They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself

Romans 1:25 (NLT)

Postscript: It’s not just progressives/liberals that change the Narrative, even fundamentalists and conservatives do the same. There, I said it! Bring it on!

Are You A Walker Or A Runner?

This morning I was thinking about THE Resurrection–the one Jesus had. I love all the different stories the Gospel writers shared about that unbelievable day. What? What do you mean it’s not Easter? Since when are The Resurrection Stories JUST for a day marked on the calendar? The Resurrection is a story for any day–every day–especially today. After all, who among us doesn’t need something Resurrected inside us? Any who–I was thinking about Cleopas and his unnamed companion. (You can find this Resurrection Story in Luke chapter 24.)

There are so many rich moments in their encounter with the Risen Lord. But what sparked my imagination is what they were doing BEFORE and AFTER they encountered Jesus. Has your imagination been sparked by this? If not, maybe you need an imagination defibrillator. Look at that story! Before they encountered the Risen Lord, they were Walking. After that transforming encounter they were Running! See the difference? OK, I’ll explain a little more.

They were Walking back to their little obscure village of Emmaus. More than Walking back TO Emmaus, they were Walking Away FROM their hopes and dreams. They had hoped that Jesus was The Messiah. But those events that just happened were interpreted by them to be the end of that hope. Have you ever Walked Away from some hope? Some dream? Some great and noble desire? That is exactly where Cleopas and his unnamed friend were going. Walking Away from hope is a gruesome feeling of anguish that knocks us down and takes the breath away.

But on that Resurrection Day, there’s more to their story. After–I said AFTER–their encounter with the Risen Lord, they were RUNNING! They weren’t Running in just any direction. They were Running BACK to the place where they thought their dreams had ended! That memory of the horrid crucifixion that had them Walking away from–was transformed by the opulent encounter with the One who owns The Resurrection! In that moment, Jesus shared His Resurrection with those who needed a Personal Resurrection!

Now can you see the difference? Hopefully so. I see a lot of Walkers today; but not very many Runners. Walkers are those who have given hope that things will ever change. All they see are the loathsome things that is driving out culture into the ground. And conclude that there is no hope, so they Walk away. But Runners are those who have encountered the Risen Lord and have experienced a Resurrection themselves. And that Resurrection has inspired them to RUN into the places of despair with the confidence that the power of the Resurrection will happen there as well. Remember, Jesus’ Resurrection happened in a cemetery.

Now–about you! Are you a Walker, one who has given up and Walking Away from life? Or are you a Runner, one who cannot wait–will not delay–in sharing the Power of The Resurrection with those who need that Resurrection? Your choice. May your choice be to be a Runner!

When You Can Feel Something’s Wrong

Yesterday, Monday, September 27 is prompting today’s thoughts. More than just thoughts, it’s been and continues to be a journey. To tell the story I need to go back to June of this year. My wife, Debbie, had her annual mammogram. The report came back all clear. That’s good news, right? But remember, I’m telling the story of a journey.

About 3 weeks ago Debbie felt something in her right breast that just wasn’t right. I could feel it, too. She calls our family practice, and the nurse practitioner agreed. Since it had not been that long since her mammogram, she ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound confirmed what the Nurse Practitioner, myself, and Debbie already knew that there was some type of cyst present in her right breast. The radiologist report was to come back in 6 months to see if it had grown any. That advice certainly didn’t feel right.

She scheduled an appointment with a local surgeon for another “opinion”. Dr. Evans agreed that 6 months was too long for a just “wait and see” conclusion. He attempted 2 needle biopsies but could not draw any fluid from it. So yesterday, Monday, September 27, we went to the hospital for surgery. Everything went good and Dr. Evans was able to remove it, along with some tissue around the lump. He sent it off for a pathologist to carefully examine it. Now we wait for the pathology report.

Now Dr. Evans doesn’t think it’s cancer–nonetheless–sent it off for to pathology to do their thing. The pathologist will determine the nature of what we could feel was wrong by carefully examining deep inside that lump. The radiologist could only “think” it isn’t cancer. Dr. Evans, based on experiences, can only give his personal opinion. But that pathologist? They will know for certain! And that is what Debbie and I need in this season.

And this morning I am realizing how this “journey” is comparable to the spiritual journey we are all on. There are times when something is wrong with our body and our spirit–and we just can’t feel it. But other times, we know something doesn’t feel right deep inside our heart, mind, and soul. So what is going to be our response to this “it just doesn’t feel right” moment?

Well, you could take that radiologist’s guidance to “wait 6 months and see what happens”? And truth be told–sometimes that’s the advice other people will give us. But when something deep down inside us doesn’t feel right–when there’s something that shows up even though life has been going well, we need to know exactly what it is. It may not be anything–but then again–it may be. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Delaying the finding out will only make it worse. The sooner that “foreign object” is removed and identified, the better the outcome.

One opinion did not suffice for Debbie nor myself. That opinion did not suffice for Dana, our Nurse Practitioner. And it did not suffice for our surgeon, Dr. Evans. We all need to hear the full report from the pathologist. And when it’s about our spiritual journey? Go to the one who told Samuel in his quest for a new king, “Stop looking at the outside because I’m looking at the inside!” And even if you feel it’s not “safe” to bring what doesn’t feel right to God, remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Lamentations 3:22-23

God is able and willing to handle all those things that just doesn’t feel right. He alone is able to get to the core of everything–to remove from inside of us the things that don’t belong–to heal us–and to restore us. Debbie and I will not know the pathology report until Friday, but we know who holds Friday in His hands–and He holds us in His hands.

Oh, one more thing–October is almost here and October is

I Owe Ya’ One!

One usually hears these words on certain occasions. “Have an extra cigarette? Thanks, I owe ya’ one!” “Got an extra beer in that cooler? Thanks, I owe ya’ one!” “Can you help me move some furniture around? Thanks, I owe ya’ one!” Can you help me fix this? Thanks, I owe ya’ one!” And the list goes on. Well, Saturday I had one of those “Thanks, I owe ya’ one!” moments.

First thing I did was stop by at one of the local “institutes of higher learning”, also known as McDonalds. Sat with some friends, heard some interesting stories–and laughed a lot. Then it was on to the local Wally World. I was there yesterday, but that day I needed 4 items not on yesterday’s list. I got those 4 items, and only those 4; kinda proud of this fact. Midway through that episode I needed to visit the men’s room. Accomplished my objective and headed home. Again, very proud of myself.

Arrived at home, got the Wally World bags out and in the house. And then, I said AND THEN! I realized I had left my phone at Wally World. Hoping no one thought it was a free gift from Wally World, I rushed back as if there were no state troopers or local police out there with radar; thankfully there wasn’t. And I was also praying–not the driving part–praying that my precious phone would still be there. I parked, walked as fast as I could–then low and behold, There Was My Phone Right Where I Left It!

Feeling most thankful–and a bit dumb for forgetting it–on my way back home I expressed my thankfulness to God with a “Thanks, I owe ya’ one!” And the Spirit leaned in and whispered in my ear, “One what?” I thought for a quick moment, and gave what I thought was a very spiritual answer: “I owe you one life, mine!” Feeling a bit smug with my answer, the Spirit leaned in and whispered this: “Nice try, but that’s not enough. What else ya’ got?”

Now that one caught me a little off-guard. So, I doubled that quick moment time and replied with what I thought was an even more spiritual answer: “I owe you one day, TODAY!” And the Spirit leaned in a third time and whispered: “Another nice try, but that’s still not enough. What else ya’ got?” I admit I was a bit bumfuzzled. Two spiritual answers that’s just not enough? What else do I have that He could possibly want?

It was then that Wisdom spoke up and gave me an answer; the answer that was absolutely the correct one. So I said, “I owe you one moment, this moment. Not tomorrow. Not next week or next month or next anything. Just this moment–that’s what I owe ya’!” And the Spirit leaned in yet again and whispered: “I’ll take it, after all, that’s all you have.”

How many times do we put off life? How often are we thinking about waiting until “the right moment”? I’m not talking about goals and dreams we have for our lives; we need those. I am talking about the moment right now! How are we using the ONLY thing we have that is related to this thing called timethis moment? The single most important asset we have is this moment. Nothing else matters. And nothing else is guaranteed in this journey of life. Think about these words from Paul:

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.  Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

Ephesians 5:15-16 (NLT)

Look at that word opportunity! The Greek word Paul used is Kairos. Kairos is not the ticking of the clock nor the days on the calendar. It is that moment where things happen that are full and rich with meaning. Yes, Jesus did so much for us–let me rephrase that–Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves. Therefore, we need to be thinking and saying, “Thanks! I owe ya’ one! And allow that owe ya’ one be paid back every moment you breathe. Moments are important–very important–eternally important. And the only moment any of us have is the one right now!

But What About?

The above is a picture of one of our local “fast food” chains. It’s also one of the homes for “Old Coots Giving Opinions”. Yes, I have sat among them. This location is in the middle of a remodel and update. The outside is going to look “brand new”. But what about the inside? Honestly, I do not know how it passes it’s monthly inspection. Sometimes the food is lukewarm, and I’m with God on what lukewarm makes you want to do. The culture of the management, well, it doesn’t fit in with the best examples. Some employees make the effort to do a great job–the others are just there to get a paycheck. And the floors? Not very clean–especially in the food preparation area.

But the outside is going to look great! And a lot of people today live by the same attitude. As long as the outside looks great, that’s all that matters. Many even believe that if they can get the outside looking great that the inside will automatically look great. Others vainly believe that if they successfully tackle the outside appearance, then they can do something about the inside.

It might be, mind you, I said “Might be”, great if this formula really worked. But it doesn’t. Think about the encounters between Jesus and the Pharisees. The Pharisees were all about the outside appearances. They worked diligently on the outside. And here’s what Jesus had to say about all that sincere effort: 27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew chapter 23 verses 27 & 28). Around here we have this thing called “Decoration Sunday”. Cemeteries are cleaned up and new floral arrangements are put out by families and friends. It’s looks good on the outside–but in a few months those arrangements are faded. And what lies beneath the trimmed sod, hasn’t changed.

So, what’s a person to do? Well, may I suggest what King David did? For the most part his “outside” looked pretty good. But his inside needed help; a lot of help. So he penned in Psalm 136 verses 23 and 24 (NLT): “23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Someone may be thinking: “God doesn’t want to see what’s inside me!” But He has already seen it. David trusted God with the mess inside him–and so can you!

To me, the best part of The Good News is that it doesn’t matter to Jesus what our outside looks like. He starts in the places we need Him most–on the inside. He wants to lead you from the inside to the outside in a journey that will radically transform you more than any “curb appeal” work you can try. As far as that “fast food” location here? I can only hope they will eventually get to the inside. After all, that’s what matters the most!

Look At Those Hills!

We love the Smoky Mountains. The hills and the peaks are magnificent to us. We go there once a year. After going through Maryville on the way towards Townsend, we catch a better glimpse of our destination ahead. We go, not as tourists, but to rest ourselves. We venture out one day–but the other 6 days are spent in the cabin. And I was think how refreshing those mountains are. But something, rather SOMEONE, just reminded me: “Oh, really? What about the ONE who made those mountains? Reckon He has anything to do with it?”

And I immediately thought of Psalm 121 and Verses 1 and 2: “I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” Mountains are part of life–both those found in nature and those who rise up in life’s difficulties. As we face mountains, whether they are the beautiful ones like those in the Smokies, or the ones more rugged and difficult, there are two ways of looking at them; as I was just reminded.

We can look at them and think they are going to define us. That they will ultimately either rise us up to the peak, or send us crashing down to the bottom. When those mountains are made of pain, suffering, difficulties, and challenges rise up–we falsely think we have only two choices. We can roll up our sleeves and give it our best try. But most of us are not mountaineers. Or, we can bow down in surrender and believe (again falsely) that we are defeated by those mountains.

But there’s a third choice. We can look for help–but not just anywhere. Look to the God who created the beauty of the Smokies, the Rockies, the Alps, the Himalayas, and every other mountain made of rocks and dirt. If He can make such beauty (sorry, I don’t have enough faith to believe such beauty and majesty happened because of some big explosion) then He is more than able to help you when those ginormous mountains of pain and problems rise up like it’s Goliath. And He is willing! Though He did not make those mountains of problems and pains–if we look to Him and ask for His help by surrendering completely to Him, then one of two things will always happen. Either the mountain collapses in front of you like Goliath did before David, or His strength will turn you and I into mountaineers.

HELP WANTED: Signs Of The Times

Help wanted sign in front of store front

Snarky! The dictionary defines snarky as “having a rudely critical tone or manner“. I prefer my own definition of snarky: “it’s the combination of a lot of common sense and frustration fueled by the stupidity of others.” For some snarky is an ability; for others it’s a gift. I have been doubly blessed with both the ability and gift of snarkiness. This is also a curse because I have to fight the battle every day to use it at the most inappropriate moments. Most days I manage to keep Snarky locked up in the closet. But this morning Snarky is banging on that door, begging to be let out. And I can’t keep it locked up. So fasten your seatbelts, it may be a bumpy flight.

There was a season when the signs outside a business said things like: Clearance Sale! Buy One Get One! Inventory Liquidation! Mattresses 50% Off! Going Out Of Business! But do you know the most frequent sign seen today in front of businesses? HELP WANTED! Some are even offering sign on bonuses. What’s happened? Has the pool of available employees been abducted by an armada of UFOs? Nope! And thus Snarky has a message today.

So many people do today not want to WORK! Every day I see a boatload of people who appear able to work, but they aren’t! Those who do show up only want a paycheck. Earning that paycheck for them is as foreign as reading and properly pronunciate the Classical Greek language. The concept of hard work is anathema and they are having no part of it! It’s like 3 day old chewing gum–they find it tasteless.

Why? Why? Why? Would you believe I have some theories kindly given to me by Snarky? One reason is PARENTS! Every day I see some snooty-nosed kid with a $50,000 truck with $3,000 rims and tires, and the front end jacked-up. How do high school kids afford it? They don’t! Daddy and/or Momma wants them to have it, not earn it! I don’t know if they do it out of love or whatever reason. It’s not love giving someone whatever they want. Doing such harms them and takes away from their potential.

Another reason Snarky gives me is the U.S. Government. They reward people for doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Instead of giving incentives to become productive citizens, they hand out money as quick as their intaglio printer can spit it out. I’ve heard people laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic say, “I can earn almost or even as much staying at home as I did working.” Now tell me, WHERE IN THE NAME OF GOD’S CREATION DOES THAT ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO WORK? Sorry for the yelling; I momentarily lost control of Snarky.

So what can be done? Well, parents can shut off the muck of showering their love for those kids with money and trying to make it easy for their kids. Life ain’t easy–but it can be very good! I always told my kids: You can work hard, or you can work smart! I still remember to this day back in 1992 at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. My son had just finished Basic Training, and one of the first things he said to me was: Dad, you were right! He may not remember it, but Dad sure does. Parents, teach your kids that work, even hard work, isn’t a curse–it’s an opportunity to grow and improve yourself.

Government can turn off those intaglio presses and remind everyone that nothing important, significant, or valuable is ever achieved without both determination and hard work. This may well be the thing least likely to happened. It seems our government was us to depend on THEM! Seems to me, back in the 1770’s this was one of the things that the King of England wanted–in addition they want money from those who actually worked so they would not have to work.

Finally, for those of us who understand the value of hard work, let’s doing something different. Instead of complaining about all those people sitting at home doing nothing or shopping at WalMart with their government incentives to do nothing when there are all these HELP WANTED signs–we create opportunities for teaching moments. If you’re always telling how useless they are they will not embrace those teaching moments. We need to re-teach people that there is no shame in applying themselves and that hard work is not a curse or a sin. Excuse me, I need to shove Snarky back in the closet!

TODAY

Today is the Official First Day Of Fall! Unless you live in Alabama, where the weather never looks at the calendar–except summer, it doesn’t care about calendars, and it’s always lurking about some tree waiting to pounce on us. That’s all I’ve got to say about seasons and calendars.

For many folks, maybe you, their Today is not about meteorological seasons. Their day is not about revolving around the sun and how the earth is tilted in relation to that sun. Here is the Today for many–maybe you.

  • It’s getting dressed to go to a funeral
  • It’s another appointment with the oncologist
  • It’s another lonely day in the nursing home
  • It’s another day worried about that loved one battling for their life in a critical care unit
  • It’s another day of living with, maybe I should say without, their Prodigal Child
  • It’s the day they meet with their doctor to hear the results of their tests
  • It’s the day they clean out their personal belongings at work because they have been terminated
  • It’s another day of battles and despair for the addict
  • It’s another day of looking at a family member with dementia wondering, “Do they recognize me?”
  • It’s another day of trying to figure out how will they be able to buy groceries, or rent, or utilities, or all of the above
  • It’s another day of gloom and depression
  • It’s another day in the prison of fear

This, and so very much more, is the Today that people are facing. You have heard me say it so many times, but I will say it again: Much of what happens to us is beyond our control. But there is good news. While we live Today in the middle of some paroxysm, we can choose to hope in the face of anguish. How, you may ask? By remembering what David wrote:

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24 (NLT)

We do not know what kind of Today he was facing when he penned these words. It could have been a Today filled with trouble and problems. David faced many such Todays. But he also remembered he wasn’t alone in that turbulent Today–and neither are you. We never rejoice for what happens in those painful Todays, but we can rejoice that if we so choose, we are not alone. The ONE who faced that wretchedness of the Cross, will walk with us Today if we allow Him.

As difficult as any Today may be, begin your Day with the ONE who will always be with us to sustain us, guide us, and deliver us from the dominion of anguish–and replace that anguish with hope–hope that doesn’t rely on Today–but the ONE who loves us–even on a Today like Today. And hold on to HIM every second of TODAY!

And if you can’t relate to David’s song, maybe this one by Lauren Daigle will connect with you:

Wha?

Garmin. Waze. Tom-Tom. Google Maps. et.al. All of these GPS based systems promise to get us to a destination we are looking for. Right? But! Have you ever had the experience of using one of those GPS things and it tells you You Have Reached Your Destination only–it’s not the place you’re looking for? Yes or No?

That you are looking for a place you really want to be–so you enter it into your GPS. It does its calculating and off you go. You turn left. Then turn right. Then turn left. Then turn right. Go 5.2 miles. You hear the glorious words, “Your destination is a quarter of a mile on your right. In 100 feet turn right. TURN RIGHT!” Then! You find yourself at a cemetery and the GPS proudly announces You have reached your destination! Wha?????

While this parable (maybe it’s happened to some of you) would make a great episode of “The Twilight Zone”, it’s an every-day-often-all-day-long experience for people today. And it’s not a GPS thing. It’s a life thing. They try to find more than a tourist attraction or great restaurant. It’s trying to find satisfaction for their life. They seek The Promise but only find a cemetery. Solomon warned us about this in Proverbs 14:12–“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” So they think, “Well, Google Maps was wrong–I’ll try Waze!” More left turns. More right turns. But they end up in the very same cemetery. What’s a person to do? Isn’t there anything that can get us to where we long to be?

I’m probably about to appear to some to be a simple-minded dolt, but if nothing in this world gives us what we long for–then perhaps we should try God’s Word–The Bible. We read in Psalms 119:105–“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” If the directions you have been following hasn’t gotten you to where you long to be, then may I suggest you turn to God’s Word–The Whole Word–And Nothing But The Word? After all, isn’t insanity defined as trying the same thing over and over expecting different results?

Surrender your life to God. Then, when the undertaker reaches that final destination, it won’t be your final destination. With Jesus leading the way, our final destination is life!

Dear Lord, What Did I NOT Do? Panic Mode!

Image from imbd.com

It was Saturday, somewhere around 3:30 p.m.; during the Alabama-Florida football game. Bama (Roll Tide!) started out real good. At the end of the first quarter THE Crimson Tide was ahead 21 to 3. Then Florida started a comeback, and it looked like Alabama was stumbling hard. And I began thinking, “What did I miss in my pregame rituals? Did I wear a Bama shirt on Friday? Yes! Did I put on a Bama shirt Saturday morning? Yes! Did I have on my gameday underwear? Yes! Did I follow my pregame menu? Yes! Did I have on my Gameday Shirt? Yes! Did I have the correct snacks and beverage? Yes! Did I let down my ponytail? Yes, Yes, and Yes! So what did I forget??? It must be my fault that Bama is slipping!” This may sound crazy to some, but do you remember this Budweiser commercial?

Somehow, I was convinced that Bama wasn’t performing at its best because of me–and something I didn’t do right! Crazy to think that the outcome of an epic contest between two teams somehow depended on me and what I did, or didn’t do! And it’s crazier to be convinced–much less think–that we human beings are capable of fixing all that’s wrong in our culture. Yet this fatuous, frivolous, and futile half-baked conviction is driving so many today. And it’s driving us off that proverbial cliff.

Like a herd of lemmings, we continue to run even harder, only to fall of that cliff. You see, us hard-headed, pea-brained vacuous human beings–the only control we have in this vertiginous world is our will and our choices. Oh, these is one other thing we can control and fix: Our Reactions to what happens. No one but YOU has control over these three maxims. But the problems in our world? It matters not how many titles are after your name; it matters not what you think about yourself or another; and it certainly matters not how many initials you have after your name. It’s all BS when it comes to resolving our current crises.

So, am I suggesting that we throw up our hands in surrender to despair? Heaven’s to Betsy, NO! To relinquish and renounce hope is definitely NOT the ticket to a better world. Back to my Crimson Tide. They did win the game–but not because of my Gameday Rituals. Coaches coached to the best of their abilities. Players played hard and proved themselves at those critical junctures. I had nothing to do with the win–but I did enjoy it!

So what do we do? What CAN we DO? The remedy to this enervation? It’s not to be found in more sedation. It’s not found in the red or blue pill. While the Bible student may desire to blame Adam and Eve for this discombobulation, the castigation lies closer to home. We messed it up–and though we can fix some of our messes–this one lies outside our abilities and way beyond our capabilities. But it is not, I say NOT beyond God.

It’s NOT above His abilities. It’s NOT beyond His capabilities. And it’s NOT on the far side of His willingness. Oops, my ESPN kicked in again. One of you were just thinking: “Well, if God is able, capable, and willing–why hasn’t He done something?” And it’s a valid question that is worthy of a truthful answer, not some vapidity. He’s waiting! “Waiting for what???????” You and I.

That’s right. He’s waiting for our unconditional and absolute surrender. One day a young man who could easily be called a “religious man” came to Jesus seeking unending life. Jesus reminded this young man of how God said we are to live. And this religious young man saw those “rules” as a formula, not a lifestyle. He admitted to Jesus something was still missing, and dared to ask what was missing in his life. And Jesus told him: “Get rid of all your possessions, give the money to the poor, it will produce eternal wealth, and then follow me.”

Jesus wasn’t speaking against this religious young man’s wealth–Jesus was speaking into his surrender. We see in Matthew chapter 19 verse 22 the response of this religious young man: “But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” I love how The Message rendered the text: “That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.”

He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go. Do you get the point Jesus is making? If we want to see real change in the culture, it begins with absolute and unconditional surrender to Jesus. Then, as Jesus told the disciples: “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Quit looking for the formula to cure these many ills. And start surrendering to Jesus and God will do the impossible–Beginning With Us! I leave you with a song:

Sow What?

Image from Humintech

The title is not a typographical error nor is it an example of using a wrong word that sounds like another word. The word is: Sow! Early this morning, while it is still dark, I was wondering what to write about today. And there wasn’t any idea floating around in my gray matter. Then it hit me! Not an idea! But a pain–a pain caused by yesterday’s activity.

Rain was coming, and I needed to get a green field planted for the upcoming deer season. I do not have a tractor–but I do have a tiller and hand tools. I loaded up the tiller, fertilizer, and seeds and off I went. I tilled up the soil, fertilized it, tilled it again, then planted the seeds. Not just one kind–but a variety of seeds. Oats. Winter Wheat. Rye grass. A variety of clover. And turnip greens.

Though the air temperature wasn’t all that bad yesterday, we did have typical Alabama humidity of somewhere around 110-125%. There were more than a few moments when I just wanted to stop and wait until another day to finish this project. But I set myself a goal–and I completed it. And now my bones, joints, and muscles ache–oh, brother do they ache! But it did get me to thinking–about Sowing Seeds as well as the end results.

Why plant such a variety of seeds? I want the deer to see a smorgasbord of great and wonderful things to eat–things that are proven they like to eat. I want to attract them in–so why plant anything they won’t eat? And what does all this have to do with Kingdom Living? This is what.

Every moment of every day every person is sowing seeds of some type. And those seeds will produce something that will either attract or repel. You can’t plant saw briars and hope to produce roses.

Even The Bible teaches this horticultural principle. Look at Galatians 6:6-7 (NLT)“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.” Many people are sowing seeds of:

  • Anger
  • Apathy
  • Resentment
  • Bitterness
  • Rage
  • Prejudice
  • Hate
  • Malice
  • Selfishness
  • Fear
  • Doubt
  • Mistrust
  • ad infinitum
  • ad nauseam

Just look around! Watch the news! Listen to people talk! Such seeds as the aforementioned are growing everywhere. They repel people. They are repulsive and destructive. The fields look like kudzu patches–choking the life out of anyone and everyone. It’s not surprising to see what grows from such sowing. It’s that horticultural principle–sow seeds, add nutrients and water–and they grow into their nature. You can’t plant spinach seeds and expect to see watermelons.

But here’s the thing. There are a lot more varieties of seeds that can be planted, other than the aforementioned list. And these seeds live by the very same horticultural principles. Humor me with a few examples:

  • Kindness
  • Graciousness
  • Helpfulness
  • Mercifulness
  • Love
  • Tenderness
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Forgiveness
  • Patience
  • Peacefulness
  • Hopefulness
  • Faithfulness
  • Joyfulness
  • Sincerity
  • Genuineness
  • Truthfulness
  • Honesty
  • Selflessness
  • And so many more wonderful seeds!

These types of seeds are far more attractive than repulsive. These types of seeds come from Jesus Christ. And Jesus promised that if He was lifted up, people would come to Him. I want to close out with a word to those who think they are or self-identify as “Christians”. Make sure the seeds you are sowing are the seeds that produce the character of Jesus. When Jesus was walking in the midst of His creation as one He created, sinful, messy, broken people were attracted to Him. Religious folks, not so much–with a few exceptions. There’s another verse in Galatians 6 related to sowing. Verse 9: “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

After 4 hours of working on my greenfield, I was giving serious contemplation to giving up. But I let the thought of what it will produce override my pitiful desire to quit. So, what are you sowing today?

Emptiness, Frivolousness, Measliness, Paltriness, and Triviality

I chuckle a bit when looking at the above image. One would have to be an electrician or electrical engineer to get it–I’m neither, but I get it. It’s the symbol for resistance. So, it means Resistance Is Futile! And in case you were wondering about the title of today’s musings–they are synonyms for Futility! Today’s culture has many issues; even more problems. Among those is Futility; more accurately–the failure to recognize Futility.

Allow me to share what a certain author once wrote. This particular author had the means to do anything he wanted–without anyone telling him he couldn’t. Ever imagine winning the biggest lottery and what all you would do? This author lived his life doing anything and everything he wanted. And after the fact–he writes with brutal honesty about that experience. Here is what he had to say:

“Everything is meaningless, completely meaningless!  What do people get for all their hard work under the sun?  Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes.  The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again.  The wind blows south, and then turns north.  Around and around it goes, blowing in circles.  Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description.  No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.  History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before.  Nothing under the sun is truly new.  Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!”  But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new.  We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” A few lines later, he adds this: “But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind.”

Do these words sound like a cynic? Do these words sound like what is in your own heart, but you are either too stubborn to admit it; or too afraid? Our culture is that proverbial hamster on a wheel. Running as fast and as hard as we can, spinning that wheel, but going and getting nowhere. People try and try to make their own way work. They live by the opinions of others. They live by their feelings. And they live by their own sincere beliefs–be they ever so ineffective. No wonder there is so much hate, frustration, anger, distrust, resentment, and yes–Futility.

It’s going to take more than getting the hamster off the proverbial wheel. When the hamster gets off that wheel, he’s still in a cage–imprisoned. So he gets right back on that wheel hoping it will free him from his prison. So he runs a little faster; tries a little longer; hopes a little more. And when he finally gets too tired to run anymore, he’s still in that cage. Rest a moment, then try again. Rest again. Try again. Listen again to the thoughts of the aforementioned author: The wind blows south, and then turns north.  Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. And the resulting sensation after all this? Try these words on for size: Everything is wearisome beyond description.

If you listen very carefully you will hear that Sigh Of Futility when we writes: Everything is wearisome beyond description.  No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.  History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before.  Nothing under the sun is truly new. Is that how the world looks to you? Is that how you feel about your life? Sounds like he wrote this just this morning.

Oh, would you like to know the name of this book and the author? Get your pen and paper; write it down so you can get on Amazon and order the correct book. Here it is: Ecclesiastes is the book and the author is King Solomon. And to think, some believe the Bible isn’t relevant for what we are face any and every day. Granted, this all sounds like doom and gloom–because it is. Without understand the Key to what he writes, it seems like we should all give up and live in loud desperation.

I am thankful to Chuck Swindoll for helping me see and understand exactly what Solomon is writing about. I give credit where the credit is due. The key phrase that makes sense of all this Everything is meaningless, completely meaningless” wretchedness is this repeated phrase: UNDER THE SUN! It comes from living a life completely detached from God–the God revealed in the Bible through The SON.

Life without surrendering to God always feels like, using Solomon’s image, we are chasing the wind. Chasing the wind only gets us winded–and gives us that tsunami of Futility. The Futility of life without The SON isn’t God punishing us for ignoring Him. It’s the reality of life without the Lordship of Jesus over us–how we think, what we say, and what we do. It one of those moments of true cause and effect. Until we quit living under the sun and start living under the SON we will be plagued by Emptiness, Frivolousness, Measliness, Paltriness, and Triviality–which means Futility!

And if you doubt this Wise Man’s opening remarks, then listen to this: “We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.  And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind. Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.” Futility ends when we kneel at the Cross and surrender everything under the sun and begin living life under the Kind Rule of The Son!

Trying To Make Sense Of It Doesn’t Make Any Sense

from Leslie Weatherhead’s book The Will Of God

“I’m just trying to make sense of it all.” When we see, hear, think or read about something that defies human logic–the brain wants to kick in and wants to do something, do anything, that will make sense of it to us–so that it becomes more copacetic and saporific for us. After all, that’s the way life should be, right? And that’s how the fight started!

For example, take the above quote from Leslie Weatherhead’s book The Will of God. I don’t know what was going on in his gray matter when he wrote this; and I don’t want to know if there’s more swill like this in there. My hunch is that Weatherhead was trying to make sense of why Jesus was killed. I mean, who in their right mind would leave the perfect eternity and step into time with the intention of dying on a cross? It just didn’t make sense to Weatherhead.

So, to make sense of it all, Weatherhead concludes that Jesus’s intention wasn’t to die, but to get all of us knuckleheads to follow Him. Somehow, that made sense to Weatherhead. Bless his heart! And I say this with all the Southern that lives within me. Those from the South know exactly what I mean. It didn’t make sense to him that The Creator would intentionally (using Weatherhead’s terminology) choose to die for who He created. I’ll say it again with emphasis: Bless his pea-pickin’ heart!

I’m not picking on Weatherhead and his pea-sized brain alone–but the sophism and absurdity that somehow we human beings are qualified and capable of making sense of. . . well . . . anything and everything. Here’s another example: The government’s responsibility is to take care of our needs and wants from cradle to grave. Making sense of this is like trying to nail a poached egg to a tree. Or how about all those other ludicrous, ill-advised, and doltish things people believe, say, or do? How do you make sense of things that just don’t make sense?

Try this on for size:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek His will in all you do,
    and He will show you which path to take.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

Here Solomon doesn’t say God will help us make sense of everything. But he does say that God will guide us to the right path. I don’t know about you, but this here wisdom of Solomon–It just makes sense to trust God! Especially when nothing else makes sense!

Using The Wrong Specifications

Image from Dreamstime.com

Are specifications important? Ask an engineer! Commercial jets are manufactured to exacting specifications. In the manufacturing and in the maintenance of an airliner each and every part must match the specifications in the design. If any part falls outside the tolerance levels, then we get to watch how it affects that plane on the show Air Disasters!

Why this musing about specifications and tolerance levels? Because I’ve been thinking–seriously thinking–deeply thinking–about the malaise of the church in the U.S. and throughout Western Civilization. Civilization! Now there’s an oxymoron–ain’t much civilized in the Western Culture. Let’s go ahead and address the pink elephant in the room–Western churches are in a state of decline. Truth is–this isn’t a recent phenomenon; it’s been happening for decades. And it breaks my heart.

My conclusion? The church has been built to the wrong Specifications–and it is way outside the tolerance levels. And like that jet headed towards that Air Disaster, so are we. In fact, many local churches have already crashed and burned–debris and dead bodies lying everywhere. They have built the church according to their specifications rather than God’s! The color of the church carpet? Our Specifications! The kind of music to sing? Our Specifications! Use of church building facilities? Our Specifications! The type of preaching? Our Specifications! The kind of people they want in? Our Specifications! Who’s in leadership? Our Specifications! The mission? Our Specifications! The expectations of members? Our Specifications! Got the point yet? Good!

When we build a church on Our Specifications it falls way outside the tolerance ranges established by the One who designed it, and the One who owns it. Instead of building by Our Specifications, what if we started asking those OUTSIDE the building what THEY would like to see in a local church? WHAT IF we designed a church that those who don’t like church would like it instead of designing a church that WE LIKE? I’m not talking about changing The Message! That would fall way outside the Specifications! Besides, look at many United Methodist Churches in The West who have changed The Message, and see the disaster that’s happening. In North Georgia, the largest United Methodist Church is being accused of not kowtowing to the progressive agenda and the Conference is attempting to take it over. They are accused of having closed hearts and closed doors–even though they are the largest congregation in that Conference. Madness, I say, Madness!

What if we designed our church according to God’s Specifications rather than our own? The church is designed to be a refuge for the messes (that’s not a typo–messes not masses). After all, that’s the kind of people that were attracted to Jesus when He walked His Creation in the form He helped create. Jesus attracted crowds of people who were messed up, broken up, and confused. They were drawn towards Him! And those Pharisees and Sadduccees, operating accord to their Own Specifications? How many were drawn towards their Specifications? Figure it out for yourself–and see if you are using the Wrong Specifications.

What Happened?

What happened? Can anyone tell me? Please, I need to know! Can somebody, anybody tell me what happened? Isn’t there anyone out here in the Wacky World Web who can explicate and expound to me what happened? Well…I’m waiting! What? No answers?

Oh, maybe I need to delineate what I’m wondering about this morning. What happened to people thinking for themselves and using common sense? The provocation that started this thought happened last week (not that I haven’t been thinking about why people stopped thinking). But I had a moment when this thought simply erupted in a volcanic type moment.

I went by the local Tractor Supply Store to browse for some supplements for the upcoming hunting season. Before someone accuses me of illegal use of baits, in Alabama we can use baits for deer hunting with the appropriate permit; which I have. I always look forward to this time of year to see what new items are out. Well…I saw this item called Buck Bourbon 110 Proof Deer Attractant. It piqued my curiosity so I read the list of ingredients. Look at the bottom of the list of ingredients. I’ve underlined it for you.

Not for human consumption! Does not contain alcohol! Why this warning label? I mean, it is clearly labeled as a Deer Attractant! Who would be so stupid as to look at this bag and think: “Gee, golly! I bet this stuff is tasty. And I can get drunk off of it too! What a deal!” I could blame the lawyers for this; knowing how quick they are to pursue a buck (pun intended). But in deep retrospect, as much as I may want to blame the 95% of lawyers who give the rest of them a bad name–somehow people, not businesses and manufacturers, must be held responsible for their thinking!

We live in a nightmarish season where people have stopped thinking for themselves. This has been going on for so long that calling it a “season” isn’t the right word. It’s more like an era! This culture around us wants someone else to think for them. They want someone to tell them how to think politically, economically, socially, and yes, even religiously. Their minds have been at rest–and thus their minds have rusted. An expression often used to describe these “I don’t think for myself” people is: “They’re not the sharpest tool in the shed.” Listen! They don’t have any tools! And they don’t even have a shed!

Babies need to be–must be–spoon fed because they lack the motor skills to do it themselves. Eventually, though we must allow them to attempt to hold that spoon and feed themselves. Otherwise they will never learn how. Granted, it gets messy when they first try–but in time they develop the skill. But spoon fed adults–when it comes to using the old noggin–disgusting and appalling! So wake up! You have a brain–and you need to use it! Rant over!

Caught Up!

This morning my thoughts, like at the start of the Boston Marathon, are running together in a certain direction. How odd, I know! It’s a leftover from last night’s devotional reading. It’s a book titled Nobody Left Out: Jesus Meets The Messes by Michael Murray. The line from last night’s reading is this:

When we insist we have all the answers, we miss out on what God is doing.

I guess I should be a good Bible Scholar and give the context of these words. Michael is using the story of when Jesus healed the man born blind (see John chapter 9). Jesus did this on the Sabbath. I think Jesus loved to heal on the Sabbath just to raise the hackles of those Pharisees. They were such an easy target! Anywho, some people trying to earn brownie points with the Pharisees took this man who had never seen anything in his life, but now sees everything with clarity, to the Killjoys–a.k.a. Pharisees!

Two paragraphs earlier, Michael wrote:

“The Pharisees were so caught up in the knowledge of God that they missed the joy of God. They couldn’t (or wouldn’t) acknowledge the beautiful thing Jesus did for this man. (emphasis mine)

And this morning I kept thinking: “Wow! We still have Pharisees today! And some people still think Jesus doesn’t know what we go through!” Pharisees prided themselves on their knowledge about The Word of God. No doubt, few if any, knew more about those “words” than they did. But all they knew were words–they did not know the heart of the Giver of The Words! Had Jeopardy been around back then, they would have been in the Hall of Champtions!

People who focus on their knowledge of The Bible spread across the entire theological spectrum–from (no-fun) fundamentalists to (aggressive) progressives, and all points in between. There are still Pharisees who use their knowledge about the Bible to, as Michael puts it in his book: steamroll others! How sad it is to be so focused on knowledge–that one misses the heart of God. I would rather spend a day talking with some reprobate than spend a single minute with some Killjoy Pharisee.

Don’t spend you time learning the correct answer but spend your time leaning into the ONE who loves guiding us into the only way of life where we can see with clarity rather than being full of erudition.

Do You Remember

Hopefully, today will be filled with stories of remembering. Stories of where they were when the first heard the news. Stories of being glued to the television news. Stories of crying. Stories about talking with friends, families, even strangers about the day’s events. I, too, have stories of remembering; remembering my son was stationed at Ft. Campbell, home of the Screaming Eagles; remembering my son-in-law a full-time soldier with the Alabama National Guard.

But there’s one story I could tell that stands tall above all other stories. I remember the Kindness people showed to each other. I remember people who realized the importance of family and friends. I remember that politics did not amount to anything. For a season, we acted with Kindness. I remember thinking, “This is a brief glimpse of what the Kingdom of God looks like!”

Alas, we have forgotten the Kindness that followed 9-11. But maybe, call me the eternal optimist, maybe others like myself will recall the Kindness that was so dominant. And perhaps, we will all act with Kindness again. Lord knows we need it in these days. May it be so, Lord, may it be so!

It’s Out Of My Hands–But I’m Still In Control!

Here’s one of those, call it, Inconvenient Truths: Much of life is way above our paygrade! We lack the skillsets and knowledge to handle it. Deep down we know this is true. But that craving to be in control is the impetus induces us to hold on and not let go. I’m trying to think of an analogy to describe this choice to not let go. It’s like seeing a hornet’s nest and thinking how good it would look over the mantle. So we reach out to take it down and the hornets attack. But we won’t let go because we want it on our mantle–and the stings of those hornets keep on multiplying. But we want it. Got the mental image of this? Good!

There have been, are now, and until Jesus returns, continue to be problems and botherations that we cannot fix! And for most of us–that’s the irritation and vexation, and it’s becomes that hornet’s nest. Though the pain persists and intensifies–we refuse to let go of being in control–even though it’s conspicuous that we are far from it. And if we continue that hunger and aspiration to be in control, our life will reach terminal velocity–and the resulting crash leaves us unrecognizable.

Why do we have this hankering to be in control even though we know the outcome? Blame it on Adam and Eve–Satan promised them something he couldn’t give them and that they were incapable of–Being In Control! Now that the blight and debility has been identified, what can we do? Would you believe there’s a story in The Bible about this very thing? Who wouda thunk it?

It’s in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 19, starting at verse 16. Some think it’s about the evil of being rich. Only a dolt would see it that way. It’s the story about a young man who realizes something is amiss with his life–and so he comes to Jesus. A good place to go. It’s the question about life–lasting life–enduring life–life now and life forever. The first thing Jesus tells him are the things he already knows–and also knows that aren’t really helping him.

So Jesus tells him to do one more thing–let go of your wealth and pursue God’s Kingdom. In other words–stop trying to be in control! After hearing what Jesus had to say, I love how The Message puts it in verse 22: “That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.

Listen to me people! We got mega-tons of problems–in politics, in the economy, in society, in our culture. Add to these, we all have issues that are draining the life right out of us. And as long as we hold on to them–and refuse to give up CONTROL–they will persist to our annihilation and the lights go out.

Give up the futility, senselessness, and ineffectuality of holding on to that illusive and imaginary thing we call being in control. Ask the Nail Scarred Hands to take it out of your hands. I commend this song to your listening:

Don’t be like that young man who refused to give up control and left the presence of the Only One who is in absolute control–with that hangdog look.

411

Does one have to be “my” age to know about 411? Hopefully not. For readers not familiar with it, it is the number one would call to contact the phone company if you needed information about someone’s phone number. I think it’s still around. If it’s a business, I just use Google. What does this have to do with today’s musings? I am so glad you asked.

We all need to be INFORMED. The issue is, who or what is INFORMING you? I came across this recently:

People want to be INFORMED–but alas, they make one of these mistakes; or both. They get their INFORMATION from the wrong places. Or, they process that INFORMATION the wrong way. There are three ways for processing INFORMATION from any and every source.

One way is to rely on how we feel about the information. Gee whiz! What the what? Blech! Arghhhh! Hmph! Oy, oy, oy! Tsk-tsk! It makes my head ache when people use feelings to process INFORMATION. Feelings fluctuate like a politician’s views. It’s like trying to erect a vertical wall without using a plumb. Oh, my, the chaos in the United Methodist Church should be enough to show the imbecility of this approach. In spite of the fact that their feelings continue to undermine the church, they persist with the ferocity not seen in even the animal kingdom. Feelings change more in a day than weather does in a typical Alabama day.

Another way is to accept what THEY say. OMG! Jeeezus Christ! This is doltishness and stupefaction to the Nth degree! Or as Buzz Lightyear would say:

Who, in the name of all that’s sane, is THEY? You’ve heard it, may even said it: They say blah, blah, blah. . . .” It may be the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Libertarian party or some institute of alleged (but not proven to be) institute of higher learning. Or it may be some Instagram Idiot, or Twitter Twit, or Facebook Fatuity, or maybe some YouTube Boob. Often times they are anonymously unknown. Absorbing the views of they is like drinking a glass of water dipped right out of Love Canal. No thank you!!!!!

If the first two ways are exasperating and rankle your sensibilities, then maybe this will help–more than MAYBE–it WILL help. Turn to the Truth of The Bible. Not someone else’s explanations about The Bible–just The Bible itself. What some people say about The Bible–well–it sometimes verges on, and other times go beyond the obtuse. Oh, it may take some time–it may even take a lot of time–but God’s Word is both relevant and reliable.

When it comes to processing INFORMATION, you can rely on The Bible. Our world is filled with all kinds of alleged truth. God’s Word will give us the tools, skills, and wisdom to process all that IMFORMATION in the way that builds us up, and keeps us from falling apart.

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.

(2 Timothy 3:16; The Message)

Silence!

Yesterday the Alabama Department Of Health challenged all Alabamians at noon to have a moment of silence for the over 12,000 (12,420 to be exact as of this morning’s Dashboard) who have died from COVID-19, their families, and healthcare workers. I wonder how many did this? I did, and I confess that as I started my moment of silence–even before it began–my mind was screaming: “Silence? Silence? You want Silence at a time we should be crying and wailing! We need to cry out–make some noise!”

And I know I heard the Holy Spirit say unto me: “Really? You think Silence is a waste of time? You’re just full of yourself, aren’t you!” Can I be honest with you? There are some occasions when I absolutely “dislike” it when the Holy Spirit speaks to me–and He’s right! Yesterday was definitely one of those occasions; He was right! But then, is the Holy Spirit ever wrong? Apparently some think so; but I know better!

There is such a boisterous cacophony of all kinds of ideas and words (yay, even the disquietude of personal opinions) around COVID-19 and vaccines. Now that I have been silent and had a moment to set aside all thoughts, Silence has been a good thing–a VERY GOOD THING! Silence is more than getting away to a quite place without the noises of people and things. And Silence is unquestionably more than keeping our big yaps closed. We must muzzle and shush the mind–otherwise there is no SILENCE!

Think about Elijah at Mount Horeb/Sinai. It was all that clatter and hullabaloo that got him there–both from Jezebel and from himself. Elijah was suicidal. That speaks a mountain of things about listening to others, and even ourselves. God directed him to go the Mount Horeb (a.k.a. Sinai). Elijah went and God told him he was about to pass right in front of him.

There was wind–such a strong wind that rocks were blown from their secure locations. If you’ve ever been in a hurricane or near a tornado you know that there is a lot of noise in strong winds. But, nope! God ain’t there! Then an earthquake–again lots of noise. Again, God ain’t there! Then there was fire–again, lots of noise. But God ain’t there! Then–I said THENSILENCE! The noise of the wind, earthquake and fire was gone. There was SILENCE! How do I know that? Because God whispered! Whispers cannot be heard without some silence.

Maybe you’ve heard this saying: “Silence is golden.” It’s another one of those sayings that sounds good–but isn’t completely true. The exactitude of Silence is more than it is golden–It Is Sacred! That is, if we can keep our hearts and minds clear of the fuss and fracas of the world–and our own caterwauling!

RECALL ALERT!

Recall Alert! No, not your vehicle. Not some baby product. Not your C-Pap machine. Not the food in your pantry or freezer. Not your coffee maker. Not your hair dryer or curling iron or flat iron. Not some power tool. Not your washer, dryer, refrigerator, or freezer. It hasn’t been on the news, but it should be. Are you wondering what I’m writing about this morning? Well, let me first tell you a short story.

One Sunday morning at my previous appointment, I was talking with someone about something (I forgot what it was), but as I was talking, I forgot some key point of the story. The person I was talking with was Dr. Joe Cooney, a physiology professor. I told Joe, “Oh, man! I can’t remember! I’m losing my memory.” And in his usual calm manner, Joe told me, “No, you’re not loosing your memory. It’s up there. You’re having a RECALL problem.” God bless Joe! I wasn’t loosing my memory, and he’s spent his whole life understanding and teaching about the human body, including the brain!

Recalling that episode this early morning got me to thinking–about Recall! And what does Recall have to do with this thing called the Journey of Life? Sometimes I forget. Do you? It acts like memory loss–but it’s a Recall issue. As a matter of fact, life can be, scratch that, life IS difficult to say the very least. You don’t need this old preacher to remind you of this reality.

Problems at work. Problems at home. Problems with our health. Unexpected deaths. Failures. Divorce. Abandonment. Loss of job. Foreclosure. Depression. These are just a very few of the moments in life that will cause us to question–question the Only One who loves us and takes care of us no matter what happens. Or am I the only one who has ever questioned the faithfulness of God? Felt abandoned by God? Felt like He just doesn’t care? When those moments overwhelm us–we act, think, and feel like there are no memories of how faithful God has been to us. But He has been–we just need to Recall those memories of other overwhelming moment when no doubt, God was with us!

One of my favorite memories was in July of 1971. At a youth service the Holy Spirit moved in my heart and invited me into this relationship with Jesus. I fought so hard that I held on to the pew in front of me–and I said NO to God. Why is this a good recall for me? Because a year later, that same Holy Spirit spoke that same message to me–and this time I said YES!

In September 2003, another of my favorite memories happened. I was a total train wreck, and the darkness was strong in me because of my divorce. I had performed a wedding ceremony for a very good friend’s nephew. A friend called me that next week and told me I really impressed one of the wedding directors and that I really needed to call her for a date. Debbie became God’s Gift to me in my darkest times. And on November 13, 2020 we celebrated our 16th Wedding Anniversary.

It’s not easy–but if we stop focusing on what we have forgotten–and start to Recall, well–it just changes everything. We recover the Truth that God hasn’t abandoned us or forgotten us. Recall is a good thing–an excellent thing. May I suggest, as I did this morning–to Recall moments when God overwhelmed us with love, mercy and grace.

Don’t wait until the crucible heats up–every day Recall something that God has done for you. And if you are having a Recall Problem and can’t remember–then think about Jesus on that cruel Cross. Look at the Cross–and the Recall Problem is resolved!

This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

1 John 4:10 (NLT)

an effort to secure or attain; quest

Signing bonuses! There was a time when this term was used for professional athletes, high-up the totem pole white color jobs, and truck drivers. It was reserved for those with certain skillsets from among a limited pool of people. But in these times, it appears that everybody and their cousins trying to hire employees are offering signing bonuses. Many businesses are desperately short of employees–and the minimum standard has been reduced to “pass the drug test”!

Why? It appears that the reason is NO ONE WANTS TO PURSUE A JOB, MUCH LESS A CAREER! Unless one counts sitting around doing nothing while expecting their boatload of money to dock at the pier. Pursuit has become both a lost art. . .and a lost desire. I’m not writing about the pursuit of the wrong things. I’m talking about the failures to pursue anything! Give me someone who pursues the wrong things–and maybe I can help them pursue the right things. Think about the Pharisee named Saul. Pursuing the wrong thing with all his energy–then Jesus turns him around to pursue the right things.

Just look at the chart above–how over time the use of the word pursuit has declined. And if the word isn’t being used–then the energies are not being seen. Notice the definition; It’s The Title Of This Edition! Where does the definition start? EFFORT! This means you have to pull yourself up by your boot straps; put your big girl panties on–and go all out. As bad as apathy was starting in the 60’s (remember Alfred E. Neuman? Mad magazine?)–today it has been elevated to a virtue. And that’s sad. . .so very sad.

Whoever goes hunting for what is right and kind finds life itself—glorious life!

Proverbs 21:21 (The Message)

Some Days You Just Gotta Do!

No words today of wit, wisdom, snark, sarcasm, frustration, or even despair. Don’t have time to write today–because I’m going to build a handicap ramp for my Dad. Some days are for writing. Some days are for reflecting. But today–is a day for doing. Excuse me, I’m running late. Until Tomorrow!

But I’m Knot!

Paul once wrote: “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” (Philippians 4:11 NLT) But I’m not! Paul once wrote: “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT) But I’m not. The Psalmist wrote: “When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” (Psalm 94:19 NLT) But I’m not. And because I’m NOT I’m in a KNOT! Here’s why.

My sister recently died. I’m deeply concerned for my Dad’s health and emotional state. Two people close to us won’t talk to us. My deep concerns for the two wonderful churches we serve. The state of our culture. COVID-19. Add to this all the other “stuff” too numerous to mention. And now, there’s another thing. This week my wife Debbie, God’s gift to me, found a lump in her breast. Yesterday she had an ultrasound. And we are impatiently waiting for the results. It’s impossible not to ponder about all the possible results.

I know, I know! But in this very moment, I’m not all those good and wonderful things I know. So, what do I do? Give in? Give up? Wallow around (if you’re from the south, the word is woller) in this NOT, or should I say KNOT? I could do that–and honestly–it’s very tempting to do this. So, what am I going to do?

One thing is that I will wrestle to get free of this NOT! And this is where YOU, the Body Of Christ comes in. Pray! Friends, we are in a war and the battleground is real life–as it happens. Though at this moment I’m a Not/Knot, I choose to fight. But I need some reinforcements. I know the rest of the Philippians passage–“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.” (Philippians 4:13-14) I know it, I just need to KNOW it is true on this battlefield. Thanks in advance for your prayers–and thanks for NOT telling me I should know better. Yes, I’m wollering around–and with the Grace of God, and your support, I’m getting out of this mudhole!

Apparently There Is!

Listen to the talk at the hair stylist or barber shop. Apparently there is. Listen to the conversations in the break room. Apparently there is. Sit down at the local liars table at the diner or fast food joint. Apparently there is. Listen to the words just about anywhere there are 2 or more people (yes, this includes the local church). Apparently there is. Someone reading this is thinking right now, “What is he talking about? A boatload of hopelessness? A superabundance of stupidity?” While this may seem to be true, it’s not what’s bouncing around in my mind–and my heart. It’s the answer to this question found in The Bible–a couple of times.

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

Genesis 18:14 (NLT)

Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change, much less use, the POTUS. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change our culture. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change Washington D.C. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change the hearts and minds of millennials. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change the hearts of the mega-rich. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change pastors. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change how businesses do business. I would expect to hear such things from those who are not Followers And Disciples Of Jesus. They just don’t know what The Lord can do.

But to hear this kind of balderdash and blather from those who call themselves “Christians”? Well, just call me Popeye!

If your “god” can’t use someone like President Biden. If your “god” can’t use someone like Nancy Pelosi. If your “god” can’t use someone like that discombobulation called The House of Representatives and The Senate. If your “god” can’t use someone like millennials. If your “god” can’t use someone like _________________ (fill in the blank of the stupidest person or group you know), then your “god” is way to small–and you need to change to a different “God”!

So, what if–I’m only talking to those who self-identify as Christian–instead of complaining, whining, griping, and yammering about all those “other people”, you begin praying FOR THEM rather than YALPING AGAINST THEM? What if you prayed for the peace of our nation? What if you prayed for those people to have wisdom? What if you used all that time spent bellyaching and sniveling to ask God to help them? Oh! One more thing! Make that TWO more things! What if you became the change you want to see in others? What if you became the model of HOPE rather than hopelessness?

If an old woman and an old man could have a child way beyond those child bearing years–and they did–can you imagine what WILL happen when we believe, act like, talk like, LIVE LIKE nothing is too hard for The Lord? This isn’t easy; I know! Even Jesus understood our tendency to believe more in the impossible rather than in GOD’S POSSIBLE!

Jesus answered, “What is humanly impossible is possible for God.”

(Luke 18:27 GNT)

You simply cannot be a follower of Jesus, if anything–I said ANYTHING (remember Popeye’s motto) is too hard for The Lord! If it is too hard, then, in the enduring words of the classic book by J.B. Phillips, Your God Is Too Small! And that makes YOU the real problem, not those people!

It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 7

This will be the last in the series of blogs. And in my humble opinion, here is the greatest heresy of all that some believe is in The Bible, but it’s NOT!

All God Expects Of Us Is To Love Like Jesus!

This is the creed and mantra from those who self-identify as progressives. I have a difficult time calling it a theology, because Truth has been completely ignored–even erased. Those who have been deceived by this lie freely quote all the passages that talk about love–and ignore the rest. They love to even quote a “bit” of Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you.”

They insist–scratch that! The DEMAND we see this their way–or else we are mean, ugly, dumb, hateful, homophobic, despiteful, heinous, odious, vicious, and vile creatures. To focus on LOVE and ignore TRUTH is a train wreck about to happen. Yes, sometimes Truth hurts–but living Lie? This hurts beyond our wildest imaginations.

They want us to think the the death of Jesus opens the way for us to think for ourselves about what is right and what is wrong. If we love like Jesus, then what once was immoral–instantly becomes moral. I just came across this in my research for today blog. It’s another blog called Jesus Without The Baggage by Peter Enns. In one blog he writes: “The essence of what we call ‘sin’ is not breaking God’s rules (that is Law–legalism); it is the way we treat each other causing pain, alienation, and all the other words mentioned at the beginning of this article.” For Mr. Enns, there is no such thing as “Original Sin”.

However, here is what Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-19 (NLT)–“17 Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

And let’s not forget good old Peter. He wrote affirming the standard of God’s holiness is to be our standard in 1 Peter 1:15 (NLT)–But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. If one cannot trust The Bible to identify sin, then they cannot trust The Bible at all! Love doesn’t mean we “gotta” obey God–it means we “get to” obey God. Yes, sin does still exist–and we are not qualified nor capable of defining sin.