OH, LORD! IT’S MONDAY! WIMPINESS

Wimpy, Wimpy, Wimpy! There was a commercial for Hefty Paper Towels that said these exact words. And who wants a wimpy paper towel? No one, that’s who! Why this remembrance of a commercial about paper towels this Monday Morning? Because one of the Monday Spirits that rob us of the joy of life is Wimpy! No, not the character from Popeye cartoons–but the willful acts of cowardice in the face of life’s many challenges.

So many have surrendered to the wrong things, and at the wrong places. They, maybe even you, are looking at today with weak resignation. Doubt of anything changes is the agenda of the day. Acceptance that nothing is going to get better drags us down and beats us to a pulp. There’s a big word like mahogany for this–it’s pusillanimous! It means the condition of being consumed by cowardice. When we are consumed by cowardice there is no reason to ever think there is any hope for things to change; and no hope for our life to change.

But watch the news and you will see a powerful example of resolve in the face of seemingly impossible odds playing out in front of us. It’s happening in Ukraine–from its leadership to the citizens, pusillanimity has been replaced by resolve. The bear has kicked down their door–but there are no white flags of surrender being waved. They understand that courage isn’t the absence of fear–but the presence and power of resolve and determination.

Where can WE find such resolve and determination? Remember what I wrote in the second paragraph? So many have surrendered to the wrong things, and at the wrong places. To defeat the Spirit of Wimpiness means we have to surrender at a different place. The only place where we need to–must surrender–is at the foot of the Cross! Look up into the facing of The Suffering Jesus and you won’t see pusillanimity–you will see resolve and determination! And this is what He will do for you today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life on this troubled orb. He doesn’t leave us without weapons or power. On the contrary–He equips us to face whatever life throws at us. Make up your mind–right now before your battles even begin–that when the dust of your battles settle, you will still be standing. All because you chose to surrender at the foot of the Cross!

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ephesians 6:13 (NIV)

When you surrender at the foot of the Cross and rise up with Resurrection Power, then you can say: “Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?”

his bed

This morning I am thinking about yesterday. I know, oh, do I know! As followers of Jesus we’re not to live in the past. But here I am! Honestly I don’t know how people live in the past–be it sad, bad, or even good. But like an old snapping turtle, yesterday has bit me and it’s not about to let go–and it’s painful. So, what has caused this harbinger of Good News to do the very thing he counsels people in hard times not to do? Let me tell you and perhaps it will help me let go.

Yesterday it didn’t rain, so I headed off to Dad’s. There’s still a lot to sort out and make decisions about. No one wanted Dad’s bed, so Debbie and I decided to get it. Tuesday Debbie will have a “foot overhaul”. The bed she and I sleep in is high–his bed is low to the floor. It will be easier for her to get in and out of bed after surgery. There were some other things he wanted us to have still there–so off I went. My truck and trailer headed out, and when I got there, I and a good friend started to work. As we went into his bedroom, I remembered the last time I saw him there. The hospice nurse had changed his clothes and made up that bed–and for the first time in a long time he didn’t look like he was in pain. But I was–I was visually reminded of how life changes. And now there was no bed in HIS bedroom–and what’s a bedroom without a bed?

When we arrived back home, we immediately went to work unloading and moving things around. And last night as I prepared to lie into that bed, it hit me hard. I was sleeping on HIS side of the bed–the same side I last saw him in HIS home. And this morning–Yesterday is doing a number on me–in my heart and mind. Did I sleep good on that bed last night? Sure–but I was physically exhausted. I could have slept good on a floor. And this morning–I am sorting through the morning after. And truthfully, I haven’t done well with it. And as God and I were sorting through this heavy grief, He came to me. Not with answers, but His very Presence.

Has my ache and pain disappeared? Absolutely–NOT! I am just as heartbroken right now as I was Yesterday, and This Morning. The snapping turtle that bit me doesn’t seem to be inclinced to let go of me–if anything, he seems more determined. But I am different–different because God sent me Himself, my very best friend–The Holy Spirit. So, I know that this voracious snapping turtle will release his bite on me–at some point, because he has no choice because I am leaning into and leaning on The Holy Spirit. This moment’s power filled truth came into my heart as I listened to this song. I pray it speaks into you as it is speaking into me–as I deal with Yesterday!

AND THEN THERE’S THIS WAR!

CHUHUIV, UKRAINE – FEBRUARY 24: (EDITORS NOTE: Image depicts graphic content) A wounded woman is seen after an airstrike damaged an apartment complex in city of Chuhuiv, Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine on February 24, 2022. (Photo by Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Yesterday I wrote about spiritual war–fighting it with prayer. Today, it’s about the war in Ukraine. I wanted to write about the demogogue Putin and his unilateral decision to recognize two regions within Ukraine as non-existent independent countries. I wanted to write about the impotent response from our POTUS. These are just a sampling of the thoughts “I” wanted to share today. But my friend and companion, The Holy Spirit, “handcuffed” me and challenged me to go deeper. So I have, and here’s my thoughts and heart for today.

The Innocents! Lost in the rants and banter of international politics are the lives of ordinary citizens who are not members of the military who have become, and will become, casualties! As decent human beings, as followers of Jesus, our focus must be first on the citizens who are paying the price for the arrogance and ignorance of the leaders of nations. The casualties of any war go beyond destroyed equipment and soldiers–it reaches its treacherous tenacles out and pulls in innocent civilians.

And today–and until this ends–pray first FOR the citizens of Ukraine; their safety, for the healing of the wounded, and for the broken hearted who are grieving the death of a loved one. Then pray FOR those responsible to have a change of heart and end this senseless violence. (And if you think that won’t happen–then pray FOR God to change your attitudes!) Then pray FOR those who could influence Putin to end this war. And pray AGAINST Satan and his legions who, after all, are the true and real cause of this devastation. Yesterday it was about spiritual warfare. Today the spiritual war has spilled over in the human realm–so let’s not doubt and pray for the peace of Ukraine! Remember what our Master said about not doubting!

Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen.

Matthew 21:21 NLT (Emphasis mine)

AND THE FIGHT IS ON!

What is your perspective when you think of prayer? Soft organ music in a pristine sanctuary? Quietness and solitude? Bowed head, closed eyes, and folded hands? Reading a prayer written by someone else? But do you feel like your prayer life doesn’t change the thing or things your are praying about? What if I could show you a different model for prayer? What if I could show you a way that would cause a radical shift in your prayer life, transform it into a might force and power? Are you interested? If not, go find another blog to read. But if you are, then fasten your seatbelt and hang on. Here is is:

Prayer is a fight and combat! That’s right! Sound blasphemous to you? Then get over yourself. In a fight and in a combat situation, meek and mild gets you slaughtered. Do you need a verse from the Bible to back up my audacious claim? You got it! Ephesians 6:9–For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (NLT; emphasis mine) Folks, agree with me or not, believe it or not–people we are in a WAR!

And being in a war requires and demands we excel in enemy identification! I’ve heard some who say that are followers of Jesus pray AGAINST people. If you are fighting against your neighbor, the politicians, the President of these United States, you’re fighting the wrong ones! We are to engage THE Enemy–Satan, himself! Satan doesn’t fight mildly or even fairly. He will use every trick up his sleeve to beat us down and crush us! So tell me, why we think meek and mild works in our prayer life? Need more Bible quotes to back this up? Well, here’s your sign:

15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Hebrews 4:15-16 (NLT) (emphasis mine)

See? And if you still doubt that Prayer Is Warfare, then remember the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested. (See Luke chapter 22) We find that an angel came to help Jesus. If prayer is all about meek and mild, Jesus certainly didn’t need any help in this category! Then we find that Jesus was praying with such intensity that He started sweating, sweating with such intensity that as his sweat hit the ground, there was blood mingled within them. And this certainly doesn’t sound like His prayer life was meek and mild.

Can’t you see that Jesus is fighting? Fighting against Satan? Fighting for us sinners (people)? So, let’s start treating our prayer life for what it is: Fighting! Forget that fighting is for games like Mortal Combat or Halo! Before you begin to pray–equip yourself for the battle that is in front of us all! Don’t give up and throw up the white flag of surrender! Remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane–when He finished praying/fighting–He got up on his feet and announced, “My betrayer is almost here! Let’s get moving!” And when the battle becomes impossible, and it will, hit your knees again in prayer and remember this:

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Ephesians 6:10-18

HANDCUFFED!

Have you ever been handcuffed? Well, maybe not by law enforcement officers–but if you’re honest, you have been by life. Handcuffs are meant to subdue a subject to make it safer for the one who put on those cuffs. This is the image and thought that the Holy Spirit sent to invade my thoughts this morning.

There are forces other than law enforcement that want to handcuff us–and for the same reason. Those forces want to subdue us. Call them Deputies Of Fear, The Guilt Police, or a thousand other names (remember that demon name Legion from the Bible?), their intent is all the same. Handcuffed, we fail to experience the life God designed for us, and that Jesus paid for us on the Cross. And like those literal handcuffs, the more we struggle against them, the tighter they grip and hold us.

There are other sources that want to handcuff us. The news media–my, oh, my–they want to handcuff us to their views. The beast called cultural norms, which is about as abnormal as it comes, want to handcuff us to its values. And dear Lord help us, there are the handcuffs called political parties–they want to take us hostage and make us experience the Stockholm Syndrome. This list goes on ad nauseam. My point is whoever or whatever put those cuffs on us had made us their prisoner.

What are we to do, what CAN we do when we find outselves handcuffed? Unless we’re the reincarnation of Harry Houdini, we’re locked into those cuffs. What we need is someone with the key that will unlock them. Would you believe there’s a true story about this? In the Bible??? In Acts chapter 16, two guys, Paul and Silas, were more than handcuffed–they were bound by chains. Neither of them was a Houdini, so it seemed hopeless to the outsider. But they weren’t hopeless on the inside.

Around midnight Paul and Silas began a prayer and praise service. And do you know what happened next? Not only did their cuffs fall off, but their prison door flew open. How did that happen? Easy! They continued to operate and live as if those cuffs didn’t affect who they were and what they were doing. They didn’t pray and praise in order to get rid of their cuffs. They prayed and praised because that’s who they were! And you, too, can do the same. Maybe your cuffs won’t fall off and the prison door swing open–but you will find Jesus right there with you. And His Presence opens the doors to more opportunities than you can imagine. I leave you this morning with this song:

OVER TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER!

Yesterday was the day we were coming home from our most recent sabbatical. Before we left Pigeon Forge, TN. we decided to do a little shopping. We visited several places and headed out. Then “our” plan was to stop by Dad’s home and pick up a couple of items. That was our plan–until we reached Chattanooga. Well, it was before we reached Chattanooga. It all started in Cleveland, TN.

What started? Traffic problems! It came to a complete halt! Debbie was driving at the time and I know she doesn’t like driving in the rain, especially in heavy traffic. So we exited off the Interstate and swapped driving responsibilities. Rather than get back on the non-moving interstate, we turned on our WAZE app, and headed in another direction. I left it up to the app to get us back to where we wanted. And it did! It didn’t take long until the Interstate traffic in Chattanooga to come to a complete halt. At times we were moving about 2 feet an hour (or so it seemed to us), the rest of the time the right foot was on the break pedal.

And what should have been a 30 to 40 minute drive time turned into over two and a half hours of alternating not moving at all to barely moving. It was daylight when we arrived in Chattanooga and it was dark when we left it all behind. Needless to say our side trip to Dad’s was cancelled and we headed for home. Today’s musings are about being still when we should have been moving forward challenging the posted speed limits.

All of this prompted me to remember Psalm 46 Verse 10 this morning. Really it was all over me in that two and a half hour mess. I experienced a calmness in the rain and slow when it was moving traffic. The Holy Spirit was all over me, around me, and best of all–IN me. Interstates are made for moving, not sitting. That’s the same view we have about life. But then something happens–and life comes to a dead stop.

When this happens we have options. We can fret, stew, and become agitated, honking endlessly the horn. And yes, there was a time in my life I would have done such a thing. Or–I said OR–we can live within Psalm 46 Verse 10. When it comes to Psalms, normally I don’t turn to Eugene Peterson’s work “The Message”. But this time, it spoke to me and into me. In the stillness of what should have been a fast moving Interstate, I was calm.

Debbie thought I had lost my mind when I started saying: “OK, all you trucks and cars! I believe in you! I believe you can start moving again! That’s it, just a little. Now push on a little bit faster!” Rather than cursing the long line of cars and trucks in front of me, I was encouraging them. Did it work? Sometimes, but I never stopped encouraging them to go forward. And here’s this morning’s important lesson for us.

When life brings us to a complete halt, Remember God! Far above traffic jams and pressing deadlines, there is God. And while our plans get changed, God’s plans for us never change. In those moments when your life comes to a complete halt–whether it’s an Interstate highway, at work, at home, or when you are all alone–remember Psalm 46 Verse 10“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” And everything means everything! Knowing God is difference between blowing fuses and being at peace.

BOYS AND THEIR TOYS!

My latest toy!

This is the picture of my latest “toy”. You know what they say, “As men grow older, the price of their toys go up dramatically!” But before you worry that Debbie has thrown me into the proverbial dog house–again–she gave me permission to buy it. I’ve done some marginal gardening–and perhaps it’s the death of my Dad–who was a master gardener–has stirred up something in my ancestral DNA. Dad grew up in a family of share-croppers. And their personal garden was often the difference between a full and empty belly. But I think there was more to his gardening.

Daddy loved to watch things grow. When he decided to move he bought 2 lots. One for the new home and the other for the garden. He would work his 8 hour shift at the plant, then come home to work the garden. He raised vegetables not only for us, but for anyone and everyone. And that’s now my burning desire. But I admit I’m getting too old for a garden hoe and rake. Oh, I can do it–but the price after the fact–well, let’s just say age has it’s own form of inflation.

This Kubota L185 is a two-cylinder diesel that produces an amazing 17 horsepower. No, it’s not like those towering John Deere green tractors. But for my dream and goal, it’s absolutely perfect. But to garden, I needed a few implements–which adds an additional cost because I needed more toys. I am now the proud owner of those implements. And the best news of all–I’m still NOT in the doghouse. When we get home from this sabbatical, I will begin doing the things necessary to produce our garden.

“What things?”, you ask. I need to turn the soil over, loosening the soil and putting old vegetation under the ground to help enrich the soil. Then I need to take the disk and smooth it out–lay out the rows–and start putting out the plants and seeds. I learned from Dad that you don’t plant everything at the same time. Each vegetable has it’s own growing season. Plant too early, it won’t produce. Plant too late, it won’t produce. I see this newest desire and goal as my way to remember everything Dad tried to teach me–not only about making a garden–but about making life. And just like him, I want to have some to share with others.

What does all of this have to do with the Kingdom Life? What’s the analogy and lessons? Well, let me see if I can connect the dots. First, there’s the tractor. Now, I could have tired to prepare the dirt–but it would be much too difficult and take too much time. The Kubota will use it’s energy to do it for me. And just as we can’t clean up ourselves–we need the power and energy of the Holy Spirit to do it for us. Second, is the turning plow. To prepare soil for a garden, you need to get deep. The Holy Spirit gets to the deepest parts of our minds, hearts, and lives. Third is the disking. Our life needs to be refined and “smoothed out” in order for the seed of God’s word to grow and take root in us. Fourth is the cultivator. Just as the cultivator helps me to lay out the rows for the different vegetables, we need The Holy Spirit to bring order into our lives. And fifth there’s the seeds planted at different times. The Word of God are the seeds we need to grow up into God’s image. But we need different seeds at different times in our life journey. All of those seeds come from The Bible–and if we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, they will come to us at the right time.

Finally there is the harvest. Just as I want more than enough vegetables to share, God wants more than enough in us to share. When we keep in everything that God has done for us and to us–we miss the whole point of discipleship. But God gives us what we need in order to grow and mature as followers of Jesus. But wait, there’s more I almost forgot.

The Weeds! To produce the most, gardens need to be weeded out regularly. Now, early on I will use the cultivator, making the task easy. But eventually the crops will grow too tall to us the cultivator. Then I have to rely on manual labor. But I know that hard work will result in great rewards. And the Kingdom Lesson for all of us is that we need to watch out for the spiritual weeds that will get in the way of the harvest. And sometimes it takes a lot of effort on our part–yet remembering that we rely on the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to rest up a while. My work is cut out for me–but I’ve got everything I need–no, not my little Kubota–but enormous Holy Spirit!

HE LOVES TO CREATE!

Newfound Gap, Great Smoky Mountains

Debbie and I are on another sabbatical. We intentionally take at least 2 sabbaticals each year. Occasionally we have taken 3–and sometimes 1 or less. Most folks calls the vacations. We prefer the word “sabbatical” because when most folks hear the word “vacation” they think of an agenda of going here and doing this, that, and the other. We have found that vacations leave us tired–but sabbaticals leave us refreshed and renewed.

One of our sabbaticals is going to the Smoky Mountains. Most of our time this year will be spent at the condo that one of her cousins graciously allows us to stay here free of charge. We arrived here late Monday afternoon. And against our usual tradition, yesterday was a bit of a busy day. Normally we settle into a routine of rest and relaxation. Instead, we went out for breakfast–a meal we usually prepare where we stay. But we wanted to try a new place that some friends of ours recommended we try. It was Crockett’s 1875 Breakfast Camp. Now, they are not a sponsor of this blog, but I highly recommend them if you are ever in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Since we were already out, we decided to go through Cades Cove, a beautiful place with a rich history. And thinking about yesterday has led me to today’s thought: God Loves To Create! This morning as I sat on the deck looking out and talking with the Holy Spirit, I blurted out, “Man, you just love to create, don’t y’all!” And I realized the great joy God had as He began creating this amazing universe. I was thinking about all the scenes we saw, the rocks, the trees, and all the wild rhododendrons we saw, and me and Debbie talked about how beautiful it will be in the spring when the wild rhododendrons would begin blooming.

And as those thoughts were running through my mind, the Holy Spirit put another thought into my mind, and it went straight to my heart. He said, “Oh, yes we love to create, but we love even more to re-create our Image Bearers back into Our Image and it brings us even greater joy!” And I thought–thought about the moment when I was 16 and surrendered my life to Jesus. And I thought about the many more moments when I screwed it up and made my life a mess–but The Father was right there with open arms willing to take me back again–and picked right up where I resisted and continues to this day re-creating my life.

Then I had a fresh memory of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5 and verse 17: “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! Pay attention to how that verse ends: “a new life has begun!” Not over–but begun! There is a journey, a process, that The Father takes us on where HIS work continues to shape, form, and transform us back into His image. And every moment when we allow HIM to take over our heart, mind, and will–well, it just brings Them a much greater joy that when They finished the physical creation! And I leave you this morning with this song that spoke into me hope, life, and strength! I hope it does for you, too!

BIGGER OR SMALLER?

Once upon a time, at a tractor dealership, there were two tractors–Billy and Franklin. They couldn’t possibly be any more different. Billy was a used Kubota L180 and Franklin was a brand new, shiny John Deere 8345R. It was truly a Mutt and Jeff kind of difference. Franklin’s paint was green and pristine–not a scratch or dent anywhere. But Billy, well his orange pain was faded from decades of use. And their sizes? Just one of Franklin’s tires was taller than Billy.

Everyday Franklin would tease and torment Billy because of his small size. Franklin would say things like, “You only have 17 horsepower, but I, I have 345 of them bad boys! I have 4 wheel drive and you–you’re just a pitiful 2 wheel drive! I can do 1000 times more work than you! I can work 100 acres in less time that you could do just 2 acres! Look how clean my lines are–and just look at your faded paint and those scratches. I have a cab with an air conditioner for the summer and a heater for the winter to keep my owner comfortable! You don’t have a cab–and if anyone DID buy you, they would be forced to endure the heat and cold! Who in the world would want you?” Well, Billy just couldn’t help himself–next to Franklin he was indeed small and he believed he was useless. No one would want him.

One day a customer walked across the lot and was checking out Franklin. Franklin whispered to Billy, “See! I told you no one would want you.” The salesperson and the man talked a while and Franklin was so proud. The customer climbed up into that awesome cab and fired him up. The roar of power was something else! He gave that look of gloat in Billy’s direction. But to Billy’s surprise another man walked up to him, checking him out carefully. Billy thought, “He doesn’t want ME!” The customer climbed up on his seat and Billy also fired right up–but he didn’t sound anything like Franklin!

After the sound of their engines ended, Billy heard the man look at Franklin and say, “Oh, yes! I’ll take it!” Franklin had a smile as big as the Big Dipper as he looked at Billy. Billy was even sadder than before, though he was glad he wouldn’t have to hear Franklin’s boasting anymore. And he almost missed hearing the man looking at him say, “This is perfect and exactly what I’m looking for and need! I’ll take it!” Billy was confused; “How could I be perfect when Franklin, well, Franklin is everything I’m not?”

Customers and salespersons headed for the office. In just a short while, the man who said he wanted Billy came out with a smile bigger than Franklin’s. Franklin said, “I bet he’s changed his mind and wants a tractor like me!” As the man got closer, he saw he had some papers in his hand and said, “OK, let’s go home!” The other man was still busy filling out paperwork and arranging financing. Billy’s new owner climbed onto the seat, fired up his engine loaded Billy onto his trailer and went to Billy’s new home.

The man soon begin to put Billy to work, preparing a garden. Franklin eventually made it to his new home and began preparing the man’s crops. As Billy worked, he thought, “You know, I’m not doing near as much ground as Franklin. How can I be useful?” Harvest time came, and the ground Billy worked, though small in comparison to Franklin’s gound, did look good and bountiful. His owner gathered in those vegatables, and those vegatables fed his owner’s family, and even had enough to share with others who didn’t have any! He watched as people gratefully accept what Billy had helped to grow.

Now when Franklin’s crops came in, it took big trucks, lots of big trucks to haul off all he had helped produce. Those crops went to places where they were processed and prepared for people to buy. Franklin was very contented knowing he had produced far more in that one season than Billy could produce in years. But Billy–well, he was thankful that he had a part in helping some people enjoy fresh vegatables, and even enough to put up for later. Billy knew it wasn’t as much as Franklin’s harvest–but his little harvest meant a lot to those who enjoyed the fruits of his labors.

And the Moral Of Today’s Story is this: Our contributions to the Kingdom may not be as big and impressive as those in the limelight–but they are important, very important, to those who benefit from our contribution!

IF A CLUTTERED DESK IS THE SIGN OF A CLUTTERED MIND, WHAT’S THE SIGN OF AN EMPTY DESK?

Never in a thousand centuries would I have imagined that I would remember anything from one of Dr. Well’s Old Testament class at Birmingham-Southern. Well, it’s not from his class–it was the sign on his office desk: If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what’s the sign of an empty desk? Well, his desk was the epitome of cluttered. But I am not judging him–you should see my workspace! On second thought–you shouldn’t! And this morning I found myself thinking about all the cluttered thinking seen in our culture.

For example, recently a young man choose to carjack someone–who happened to be armed. The young man was shot and killed, and a family member stated on the local news that the driver shouldn’t have shot him and should be arrested for murder. Cluttered Thinking. Parents are allowing, even encouraging adolesent children choose their gender rather than allowing biology to do what it does. Cluttered Thinking.

And in my own Tribe (the United Methodist Church), this year our governing Conference of United Methodists from around the world are to convene and the biggest issue is deciding that it’s time to depart ways–it’s called The Protocol For Separation. It’s been postponed since 2020 because of this COVID mess. But travel from foreign countries is being allowed if the traveler has been vaccinated. Well, in some regions, limited funds have prevented people from being vaccinated. In order to enable UMC delegates from other nations to attend this General Conference, an orthodox group of United Methodists began a plan to vaccinate those delegates–without regard to how they stand on the Protocol issue.

Good thing, right? But our more progressive kinfolk are outraged by this act of kindness. Their thinking says, “No one should be vaccinated until everyone can be vaccinated!” See, cluttered thinking! Why all of this cluttered thinking in every arena of life? Because there is no single standard for The Truth! Everyone is encouraged to choose “their” truth! Without an absolute Truth, human thinking remains cluttered–and it will only get worse! It’s like roadside litter–if someone or some group doesn’t clean it up–it only gets worse.

What I can’t understand is why those with cluttered thinking cannot see the devastation and destruction they are creating and encouraging! It’s like they are saying, “OK, it’s a mess right now–but if we just keep on thinking our way, then eventually we will figure it out!” God’s Word alone–not our interpretations of it–but God’s Word alone must be The Absolute when it comes to how we think. If our thinking is contrary to God’s Word, meaning The Bible, we need to change OUR thinking–NOT what the Bible teaches! To declutter the mind–we need to do a personal inventory on our thinking–and anything that contradicts The Bible needs to be thrown away. I leave you with this thought:

If we allow The Bible to speak to us, rather than us speaking for The Bible, we will be liberated from the clutter of our times.

IT WAS DIFFICULT AND PAINFUL UNTIL

Last Friday Debbie and I went back to Dad’s house. On Saturday, me and his grandkids were going to sit down to begin sorting through some things–in particular, items he left for each of us. I stopped by to get some items from his safe deposit box that would need to be distributed according to his directions. Later on that day I begin looking around for some other things he bequeathed to certain ones. I confess that it felt like I was ransacking his treasures. Walking around and looking, it was difficult and painful. But by Saturday morning, everyone had a “pile” of items he wanted each of us to have.

Everything went very well–no family squabbles. But there were still a lot of items around the house. So I opened it up for everyone to go through and see if there was anything else they might want–especially pictures! Dear Lord, Mother and Dad loved pictures. The ladies found lots of things–and they had their own personal “swap shop” trading this for that. The boys and I went up to Dad’s workshop to look around–boys and their toys! Dad had a lot! We didn’t get through everything–but it was time to eat. And everyone knows you can’t make important decisions on an empty stomach!

They decided where we would go. Frankly, I was too emotionally spent to make another decision. As everyone was gathering up the items they could take with them, our niece, Christa Lynn, walked by me and said, “I feel like we are in an episode of American Pickers!” And what started out as a difficult and painful event turned into something good. There were 3 moments for me.

The first happened when I found an old letter, still in the original envelop from 1959. Dad had gone out of town for some reason–I concluded it must have been related to his work with his union. It was on the hotel stationary and it was about missing and loving his family. The second happened when I found their framed marriage certificate. And Dad had placed a small note in the upper left hand corner that said, “It happened around 10:00 a.m.” The third happened when Debbie noticed an old brief case in the top of a closet. We opened it and it was filled with what we call “clergy information” from all the funerals he had ever presided over. People and memories were important to him–and my personal burden finally let go of me.

And that trip down memory lane ended up being good for me–very good. And maybe you have some special and sacred places that you need to revisit. It may feel like it would be too painful–but feelings do pass. Where are those places for you? When was the last time you went there? When we arrived at Dad’s, I was focused on the pain. When we left to go back home, I was focused on the wonderful memories. It’s amazing and healing how God’s grace turns something painful into something healing–and replaces our tears with a smile on our face.

OH, LORD! IT’S MONDAY AND I’M LONELY!

Mondays and every day is a dreaded day when we are feeling lonely. I didn’t say “alone”–I said “lonely”! Being alone and being lonely isn’t the same thing. Loneliness doesn’t depend on the absence of people. We can be in a room full of people and still be lonely. We can be alone but never feel lonely. So, what is the difference?

Loneliness is the result of a myriad of experiences. Abandoned. Disappointed. Forsaken. Neglected. Ignored. Despised. Hated. Misunderstood. Resented. These are just a few of the reasons we feel lonely. To fight loneliness we often make poor choices–just to escape those deep, dark feelings. Back to the previous paragraph. Satan lies to us when he tells us that being alone and beling lonely are the same thing–though they are not the same. Thinking they are the same is only a bandaid fix–eventually lonliness returns.

This season of pandemic hasn’t helped–it has exacerbated the condition of loneliness. And though social media can be a useful tool, it is not the vaccine to cure loneliness. Social media serves the lonely by creating a make-believe world where we are surrounded by people who like, love, care, wowed, cry, and get angry right along with us. Emojis and gifs are replacements for deep, caring relationships. So what’s a lonely person to do?

Glad you asked! It’s not easy, but it is simple. Alienate and isolate those two words: lonely and alone. Then deal with that latter word: alone! Now, tell that feeling of being alone that it’s nothing but a liar–because it is! We are NEVER alone. We may feel that way–but feelings aren’t always truthful. There is ONE who is always present. Psalm 139 is a great song to read when we feel lonely. So is Jeremiah 23, verse 24–“Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord.”

So you see–we are never alone. But loneliness will persist. Fighting that requires a different battle tactic. The first step is to build a deep, faithful relationship with God. Talk to, even call out to the Holy Spirit–and you will find He’s right there with you. And begin to build deep relationships with others–especially those who exude the presence of God in their daily walk. Do you want to make more friends? Then be a friend to someone else. The word “church” wasn’t used in the beginning–the word was Koinonia! It means fellowship and it means holding something in common. Jesus knew loneliness–he said so from the Cross–“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

We don’t make koinonia happen–we step into koinonia. God is there with us wherever we are and in whatever we face. And He’s not alone! Remember He is 3 in 1–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then He established koinonia in the hearts and lives of others–and the Koinonia is still around us today. Quit trying to make loneliness disappear–step away from it and step into God’s Koinonia. There’s a lot of us already there, and we are waiting for you to step into this amazing fellowship.

When we know the difference between lonely and being alone–and we know that we are never alone because of Jesus, then we can say: “Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?”

PRAYER DOESN’T WORK!

I bet this got your attention, right? “What’s this Preacherman saying? Isn’t he supposed to be the one who should believe in prayer? Did the COVID damage his brain? Has all that wacky stuff he’s written fried what few brain cells he has left? What gives? Has the journey he’s been making these past couple of years finally done him in? What in the hell has Satan done to him?” Calm down, calm down! I haven’t lost my mind, my heart, nor my faith.

This audacious declaration isn’t how I feel, nor how I believe. This statement is an observation based on what I see and hear–among those who say they love Jesus. There is a cry–nay–a deprecatory bewailing pouring out across our culture. It’s louder that anything else. It’s the sound emitting from the melancholic heart–and I weep as I am hearing it. But when I hear this melancholy lament from God’s people–I get angry!

Why, in God’s name, are so many of God’s people giving up, at least here in the good old U.S. of A.? PRAYER DOES INDEED WORK! YOU CAN TAKE THAT TO THE BANK! (Yes, I’m yelling out loud!) But some are thinking–“If prayer works, why is our culture in such a mess?” If you are struggling with that question, I have the answer: Go look in a mirror! That person you see either believes that prayer doesn’t work or maybe, just maybe, you’ve been praying the wrong way praying about the wrong things.

Some folks are good, I mean really good, at praying against people. Praying for their demise. Praying for them to suffer. Praying for another to take their place. We need to be praying “FOR” people. And we need to be praying with GREAT CONFIDENCE! We need the mustard seed kind of faith–faith that, be it ever so small, never loses confidence in God to heal, restore, and renew! Sure, there are some things that you need to see it before you believe it. Admit it, we could all have familial roots somewhere in Missouri.

But when it comes to prayer–the kind of prayers that honor God, restore people, changes the course of human history–You Have To Believe It Before You Can See It! Now, go back to that mirror and say this: “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT) Once you’ve done this, do it again–but say it this way:

If I, who say I am a Christian, will stop being who I want to be and become who I ought to be, and confidently pray, seeking HIS desires and heart, and give up my own sinfulness to walk more closely with Jesus, then HE will forgive MY sins, and bring a revival to our times, the likes of which have never been see!

Pray with the attitude and heart that God is moving to heal and restore. Pray in confidence that transformation will happen. Think about that moment when those Disciples of Jesus failed to drive out that demon (see Mark 9). When they asked Jesus why they failed, remember His answer–and it’s the same answer to our prayer problem. “It can only happen through prayer and fasting!” And remember, fasting doesn’t mean just abstaining from food–it’s about giving up something we have or want and accepting what God offers. I heard a new song (to me, anyways) called “When We Pray” by Tauren Wells. The line that grabbed me and shook me hard (and thus led to this edition of my thoughts and heart) is this one: “But what if we could be a people on our knees, as one before the King, ’cause we believe. All the world starts changing, when the church starts praying. Stongholds start to break. Oh, when we pray!” Maybe you need to see and hear the whole song:

IT’S OPEN SEASON!

Sitting this morning in the darkness just before the dawn, I had this thought: Open Season! I’m not talking about hunting or fishing or trapping. It’s that assault on the very things that have kept our nation and society safe and strong. I think the term is called cancel culture. Revisionists who do not like truth have always sought to rewrite history to promote their own personal preferred future; even though that preferred future is frought with dangers and ultimate disaster.

Cancel culture is not only attacking in an open season style against individuals –but the values and ethos that have consistently proven to be favorable for a stronger nation and culture. Cancel culture is fighting tooth and nail against the highest ideas and deepest morals that are challenging to follow–but they build up people, families, institutions, and the world as a whole. Alas, cancel culture refuses to see it and so have declared open season and war on the tried and true.

And it is a war–a war against kindness, goodness, courtesy, respect, decency, determination, and so much more. And whenever there is a war–there is an aftermath and it’s ugly. Battlefield memorials are indeed pristine–but in those moments when the bullets and bombs are flying, it’s ugly devastation. So what are we, the bullseye for cancel culture, to do? Well, we have three choices–but only one of them will turn the tide of the battle.

First, we can just throw up the white flag of surrender–leaving the battlefield in our rear view mirror. This choice declares that it’s a fight not just worth fighting–so retreat to our preppers hideout and bemoan about the good old days. This is a pathetic choice. Second choice is that we viciously counter-attack the people who have been deceived by this cancel culture. Make them hurt as badly as we are hurting! An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth! This only creates more casualties and it is a poor choice.

Third choice is to stay with the battleplan. Yes, God knew this battle would happen. He’s prepared for it. And He has the perfect plan–and we need to trust that plan. Soldiers who don’t trust their leaders, make poor soldiers. You can trust God’s plan–so stay in the battle and follow His battleplan. Oh? Who just asked, “Well, Preacherman, what’s that plan?” Whoever that was, thanks for asking this question. Here’s the plan–Right out of God’s Battle Manual:

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Romans 12:21

Taking one on the chin for the team and being passive isn’t the plan. Our weapons for conquering evil–and thus this cancel culture–is to do good–just like Jesus did. Sure, His doing good led to that cruel Roman Cross–but that was all part of God’s battle strategy. He knew death would lead to Resurrection! So stop bemoaning what cancel culture is doing and start doing good! Be kind! Be gracious! Be merciful! Be helpful! Be friendly! Hold a door open for someone! Call that frazzled server by their firstname! Smile at those who are being hateful and ugly! Jesus is not a revolutionary–He is a Counter-Revolutionary. Tend to the wounds of those fighting with you. Ask for support when you need it. But never give up the fight! Jesus didn’t when He was on the Cross, and He didn’t when He was in the Tomb!