LET’S ALL GET CONFORMED!

There’s definitely this movement (more like bowel movement) to get the masses to conform to the prevailing winds of philosophies, ideologies, and beliefs. And the thing is this (bowel) movement promises love, joy, and peace–IF we would only conform to their way of seeing and thinking. It’s all about conformity. Has anyone out there ever read George Orwell’s fictional book (it’s looking more like a prophetic book) 1984? Those who resist conformity are considered to be mean, narrow-minded, and phobic. Will conformity really solve the complex problems in our society?

Not hardly! When I was in high school we didn’t have classes on computers, but we did have Typing! In our school, it was a fight to get to the electric typewriters rather than the manual ones; and we only had a few. My point? Oh, yeah! On typewriters, and computer keyboards, you have this thing called “home keys”. It’s where the 4 fingers of each hand are to be before you start typing–it’s the same 4 keys, always! Now, this morning I am going to do an experiment and ignore where the “home keys” are and type the next sentence. Now, here’s the results:

Yjr wiovl gpc ki,[rf pbrt yjr ;sxu npe ;sxu ntpem fph.

Now, that’s really intelligible! That makes as much sense as this (bowel) movement towards conformity. Even in theological circles, the push to conform is rampant. Here’s the thing, though. Even God doesn’t want conformity. Jesus never offered nor promoted a process where we could all be conformed. To acquiesce to the prevailing winds of ideologies and beliefs goes contrary to God’s design and His desires. So, what is the alternative to being conformed? Here’s a thought:

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

2 Corinthians chapter 3 verses 17 and 18 (New Living Translation)

The Greek word used for changed is metamorphoō and it means “to change into another form, to transform”! It’s where we get our word metamophosis. It’s both radical and unique! God doesn’t want us to be conformed so that we think alike, talk alike, and act alike. He wants us to be transformed–into the image of our Creator. And there’s no way for one single human person to show the glory of God! Now, the (bowel) movement towards conformity thinks so. But they are sooooo wrong! So, my friends, RESIST CONFORMITY! And let God be God! I am confident He knows what He is doing!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him! AND DON’T YOU DARE CONFORM!

HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR DECISIONS?

Making decisions is the most important decision you can ever make! But to make more than good decisions–you need to make GREAT decisions. But to make a decision you need a source that will shape and form that decision. And it needs to be a tried, tested, and proven source; unchanged by time. An ever changing source leads, always leads, to poor choices. This scene from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade bears it out.

For example, the Supreme Court of the United States. They are preparing to undo a flawed decision made 22 January 1973 with Roe v. Wade. The SCOTUS at that time ruled that abortion was a constitutionally guaranteed right. But there’s nothing in the U.S. Constitution that guarantees it. So, it is about to be overturned. Now, before my Fundamentalist friends declare that abortion is unconstitutional, that’s not what this Court is about to declare. Their decision, and a right one I might add, is that abortion is a state and legislative issue, not a constitutional issue. Bravo, SCOTUS, bravo! About time the Tenth Amendment is recognized. Enough about the SCOTUS.

Today’s culture wants to make decisions based on feelings and how they think. Forget the proven science–each decision is a matter of personal preferences and how one feels. If you feel a certain way, then you make your decisions based on that feeling or that thinking. Remember my earlier comment about having a source for making great decisions? That source needs to be anchored to an unchanging truth. Feelings are subject to change more than the weather. And about our way of “thinking”? Well, thinking is always influenced by information. Unfortunately many are using flawed and untruthful information. (Go back and watch that scene from the above and what happened to Walter Donnovan)

What about you? What is the source for your decisions? Anything that is tethered to human logic and thinking is flawed. Always flawed. Think about it. Have you ever bought something and when you got home and opened it up, you discovered that it didn’t work! Why do you think there are so many automobile repair shops?

What you need to make GREAT decisions is the most reliable and greatest source ever: The Bible! Not what people say about The Bible. But what the Bible really says. The Apostle Paul reminded young Timothy of this by writing in 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 16-17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

And when (not IF) you can’t or don’t understand The Bible, God has an app for that! It was developed by James, the biologically half-brother of Jesus and the full brother of Jesus by faith. He wrote in James chapter 5, verses 5 and 6: If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Remember the words from William the Lion, Duke of Brittany in the movie The Last Crusade: Choose Wisely! And yes, the picture is of my Go-To Bible!

THE FAMILIAR

Normally The Familiar isn’t a good thing because it keeps us from experiencing the Adventures God has for us. It denies us the wide open spaces where we uncover and discover the greatness and faithfulness of our Heavenly Father. It hides and denies us the truth that we can do anything through Christ who strengthens us. The wide open spaces teaches us how to hold on to God in every situation and throughout all seasons.

But. . .but sometimes we need to go back to The Familiar–the good Familiar. I’m talking about those times and places where are reassured of God’s faithfulness to us–even when–especially when–we have been unfaithful. Or maybe it’s a season of doubt where we struggle to embrace our future. Even David, the mighty King and Warrior, needed to go back from time to time to The Familiar. Psalm 23 places were essential for David. Before he became a mighty warrior and long before he became the Mighty King, David was a shepherd. And when life as a Warrior or as a King became difficult, I can easily imagine David singing this Psalm to himself–maybe even out loud.

As a shepherd in the wide open spaces, David experienced the faithfulness and provisions of His Heavenly Father. Imagines of green pastures and still streams helped him remember the Faithfulness of God. I have my places where I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to me. Sometimes all I can do is go there in my mind. And sometimes I can literally visit those places. Each time I find myself renewed and refreshed, and enabled to go forward into “my” unknown future, but a future that is known to God–and a future where I know He is right there with me. What are The Familiar places for you? Places where God’s amazing love and grace overwhelmed you? The Familiar isn’t a place made to live in–but it is the place to visit where we find the reassurance we need when the Journey becomes difficult.

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

THE GARDEN

This morning I’m a little sore. All yesterday afternoon, I worked in The Garden. Not the vegatable garden, but a new Flower Garden. Around here, we love all kinds of flowers. Debbie had been wanting one in a particular spot of our yard between and around 2 forsythias. So, I worked on preparing it. Can’t really plant any flowers just yet. Though it’s Spring, in Alabama, you never know what kind of weather we will have in March. Heat is on in the morning, and the a/c in the afternoon.

In order to have this flower garden I needed to till up the ground and get rid of the grass. It’s too small for my tractor, so I had to use the good old fashioned tiller, garden rake, wheel barrow, shovel, and a lot of scooping up and bending over. Thus the sore muscles and aching bones this morning. And I’m excited for what lies ahead. Sure, we can’t eat what will grow there–but we can still enjoy them. And not just us, but others who notice it as they travel down Alabama Highway 18. And–have you ever heard the expression, “Take time to smell the roses.”? What’s the purpose of my musings about a flower garden? Glad you asked!

We live in a time when the simple things of life are both ignored and neglected. So many times we are obsessed with what we want, what we think we need, that we fail to enjoy life. And agendas seem to be drive by what’s next. Sometimes what we need most of all is to stop and take it all in. Perhaps this is why David wrote in Psalm 23 this verse: “He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams.” It is so important for our emotional, mental, relational, and physical health and well-being that we stop and take in the beauty that does exist in this world. Yes, feed the belly–but also make sure you feed your heart and mind with the beauty of God. Yes, there is beauty to be seen in this broken world, and you never know where it will be. I know some of it will be seen along Alabama Highway 18. Right now in our newest flower garden there’s only brown dirt and a couple of forsythias, but more is coming.

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

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!

WHAT NOW?

Ever noticed what comes up when you start to make a post on Facebook?? It’s “What’s On Your Mind”. What’s on my mind this morning is a mish-mash of a lot of stuff. If I had a hot tub, that’s exactly where I would be this morning. But I don’t have one so I settled on an “as hot as I could stand it” tub bath. And it was there I regained some of my missing perspective. And I owe it all to Joel White. I know, how weird is that?

You have to know Joel. He’s my brother from my other set of parents. Joel teaches math–so he’s all about the details. Furthermore, Joel has a very weak filter when to comes to thinking before he speaks. For Joel, thinking and talking are synonymous terms. Yesterday Joel gave me some sound advice filled with wisdom–even stranger, right?! (Just kidding Joel!) Joel told me to NOT think down the road; simply live and accept each moment as it happens.

This morning I woke up thinking ahead–too far ahead–of what needs to be done. So, I’m doing what Joel told me–and it has given back to me what I needed most in this moment–perspective. I’ve remembered all your words of care, compassion, and encouragement. Last night I got a call from a cousin that I haven’t talked to in years. A friend of Daddy’s, another pastor–Ray Lathem–also called last night. I’ve tried to read all of the tributes to Dad on Facebook. All of this put together has helped me focus on Dad’s legacy–and it’s a great one!

So starting this morning–I will live in each moment, one at a time, as they happen. But unlike some of my promises in the past that I broke–this promise I must keep–I WANT to keep. So pray for me that I maintain this course, as Dad taught me by his example. The dam holding back my emotions hasn’t broken–yet–but it’s cracked–and I know what’s coming. But I have Dad’s legacy–your prayers–and The Father’s love, the promises of Jesus, and the strength of the Holy Spirit. These will get me through–of this I am confident.

ARE YOU DRIVING WITH YOUR EYES OPEN, OR CLOSED?

Do you drive with your eyes open or closed? I’ve seen people drive like their eyes were closed–but I’m talking about driving all the time with eyes that are closed. The newest vehicles will now help you drive–they will sound warnings if you get out of your lane. They will even apply the brakes for you if you don’t. You can just “point and go” when you get in vehicles so equipped. Me? I’m not ready to trust my life to an onboard computer. Over the years I’ve had too many personal computers crash to trust them to be my chauffeur.

What’s my point this morning? My point is this–if you won’t drive with your eyes closed, then why try to navigate life with eyes that are closed–closed to God? The Spirit and I were just sitting and talking on the front porch bench. I started to pray about the churches He has given to me to pastor in the light of what I wrote yesterday (click here to read that post). Then the Spirit nudged me in the ribs, and asked, “Why are your eyes closed while you’re praying? You gotta’ see it and you can’t if you’re eyes are closed!”

Now, I’m not preaching against praying with your eyes closed. What the Spirit was trying to teach me (and you) is that we must be open to what God is desiring to do. Elisha saw the same danger that his servant saw–but Elisha saw more. This morning I needed my eyes open in order to see all that I was praying for. Know what? It worked! Don’t drive with your eyes closed–PLEASE DON’T! And don’t drive your vehicle AS IF your eyes were closed. Pay attention to your surroundings! You can’t if your eyes are closed. Open them! Open your eyes as you pray. Open them as you intercede for people and our culture! And you can begin to see what God is doing!

It’s A Whiteboard Kind Of Day!

Here’s my thought for today: This Is A Whiteboard Kind Of Day! Truthfully, I first thought about A Blackboard Kind Of Day. People my age know what a blackboard is, but if you’re younger you may not understand the analogy. So, I changed it to an image any younger than me reader can comprehend: A Whiteboard Day!

Every morning I listen to my music–and as I listen–I seek to hear the Holy Spirit in order to know what to write today. I admit it! Sometimes it’s hard to find something to write that is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Those days I simply want to NOT write a thing. But God gave me this gift–and a couple of times (maybe more than a couple of times) I made a promise to you readers not to ever stop writing. This morning my mind was blank. And no comments from the peanut gallery, please!

Then this single word hit me: Blackboard–which I quickly changed to Whiteboard. Today is a brand new day. Nothing has happened YET. And it is up to me–and to you–what we will do and how we will respond to the other things that happen to us. We are free to make of this Day whatever we want it to be. Today is a brand new Whiteboard Day and we have the markers to imprint on it whatever our heart desires. It can be a Great Day or it can become a Miserable Day. It all depends on what we put on This Day. And regardless of what this Day throws in our paths, we are free to leave Our Mark on this day.

It depends on what you desire to achieve in This Whiteboard Day. There are more options than you can shake a stick at. Some marks are not so good. Some marks are even worse than not so good–they are mediocre marks. Today my guide for the marks I will leave on this Whiteboard Day is being formed by one verse from the Bible:

But He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.

Micah 6:8 (The Message)

Here’s the Song that solidified my thought for today:

Looking For. . .

Tell me. Tell me the honest truth. More importantly, tell yourself the honest truth. What exactly am I asking you to be honest about? What are you looking for? You see, we are all looking for something–every day–every hour–every minute–every second. Granted, we may forget what we are looking for at a particular moment (I do this more frequently than I like!), nonetheless, we humans are always looking for something.

It may be the keys to our car; an ink pen; the scissors; a tool; and the worst one of all–OUR CELL PHONE! We not only look for things that someone else moved from where we put it–by our nature–we are inquisitive beings. From our birth–our eyes are probing the environment around us. Not only our eyes–but our minds are inquisitorial. And it’s a good thing our eyes are inquisitive–otherwise, we can’t find what someone else moved from where we put it down. But the mind–that’s where we can get into a whole heap of trouble, as we say down here in the South.

And it’s that inquisitorial mind that I am speaking into today. Have you ever heard the expression, “Your mind can play tricks on you!”? It’s true. But sometimes…sometimes we see exactly what we are looking for! If you are looking for something to complain about–you will find it! If you are looking for something to be angry about–you’ll find it! If you are looking for something to be sad about–you’ll find it! If you are looking for something that will offend you–guess what? YOU WILL FIND IT! It’s become a contagion in our culture and an infestation to the mind–looking for things that disrupt–disrupts our peace, our relationships, our attitudes, and our spirit.

When are looking for the wrong things it takes away the joy of this inquisitive nature that God placed within us. It’s a deplorable misuse of a very good gift. The inquisitive mind has done great things–eliminated some diseases–created treatments for others–solved engineering problems–and so much more. But the misuse of our inquisitive nature has also made us suspicious–doubtful–resentful–and bitter. It causes us to say hurtful things. And even worse–it makes us see things that just aren’t there. You do know the classical definition of insanity, don’t you? It’s doing the same things over and over and over and over while expecting different results!

May I suggest looking for something different? Let’s go back–back to the beginning when we were first created in the image of God. Let’s once again become inquisitive about the wonders and beauty of creation–and the mysteries of God. Let’s start looking for God in places, situations, and people–even the most unlikely of people and places you might expect to see Him. After all–He was found in a feed trough just outside of Bethlehem. And a few years later, He was found just outside Jerusalem–dying on a cruel Roman Cross. And He freely did this just so we would begin looking for Him! So I ask you again: What Are You Looking For?

When We Need To Slow Down!

I am nearly always up long before the sun. Sometimes it’s the alarm clock; most of the time I just wake up. I reckon it’s part of growing older; at least that’s what Solomon said in Ecclesiastes. I do it because I both need and want some quiet time with God. Even this early in the morning, there is some traffic on Alabama Highway 18. I suppose it’s people on their way to work.

Most mornings the vast majority of the drivers are in a hurry, exceeding the posted speed limit. Highway 18 is a two lane road. And the battle is between those who observe the posted limit and those who think they are in a NASCAR race. This morning it’s foggy–really foggy. An advisory has been issued. And between songs and talking with Papa, I noticed this: Most vehicles were driving slower because of this fog. But then–some were driving like the visibility was unlimited–even though it was severely limited. And it got me to thinking. I know, it doesn’t take much for me.

Here’s what I was thinking: It’s dangerous to keep moving at the same speed when we can’t see clearly what’s ahead. I’m not just talking about cars–though around here, deer have a tendency to be moving at this time of morning–and if a car hits a deer, the outcome isn’t good for either. No, I’m talking about life!

Fog isn’t just a meteorological phenomenon; it happens in Life; and sometimes it happens frequently. There are events that happen that hit us hard–so hard that the visibility of what is ahead is limited. And some people, like some cars I witnessed this morning–keep driving fast as if everything will be OK. And when it happens in Life, the results can spell disaster.

So what should we do when the road ahead cannot be clearly seen? Slow down–both our cars and our lives. And to remember, that when we can’t clearly see what’s ahead–our Heavenly Father sees with clarity. All we need to do is heed the advice of David:

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.

Psalm 42:1 (NLT)

One of the meanings of the Hebrew word translated “waited patiently” is “to wait for, linger for”. Indeed, Life often moves at a fast pace, but it doesn’t mean we have to move at that pace. Linger for a moment, and God will hear your cry. It’s safer for you–and everybody else.

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!

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)

How’s It Looking To You?

Answer me this:

  • Washington D.C. How’s it looking to you?
  • Politics. How’s it looking to you?
  • Today’s acceptable norms. How’s it looking to you?
  • The price of gasoline? How’s it looking to you?
  • Church. How’s it looking to you?
  • The stock market. How’s it looking to you?
  • The state of the economy. How’s it looking to you?
  • The performance of the President. How’s it looking to you?
  • The prices of goods available. How’s it looking to you?
  • The Pandemic. How’s it looking to you?
  • The Covid-19 Vaccine. How’s it looking to you?
  • Conspiracies. How’s it looking to you?
  • The future. How’s it looking to you?

Most would say that the answers to these questions lies in our opinions. And you know what they say about opinions: Everybody has one and it’s like a certain “part” of the body that most of the time stinks. But I’m thinking this Monday morning. So let’s try another “probing” (no pun intended) question. Where do our opinions originate (for the lesser informed that means ‘come from’)?

  • The News?
  • Other people?
  • Blogs?
  • Podcasts?
  • The Wacky World Web?
  • Google?
  • Pseudo-Wanna Be Experts?
  • Conspiracy Theorists?

Answers such as these assumes a fact not in evidence; and they open the doors to making us victims if our chosen source of opinions is–how can I put it? WRONG! There are nefarious people out there who have twisted the old motto from Greyhound Bus Lines. Greyhound once had the motto: “Leave The Driving To Us.” And these vile, flagitious, opprobrious miscreants want you to LEAVE THE THINKING TO THEM. (very long sigh happening at this moment on my end) And so it is–(even longer sighing)–it seems that many people have relegated the formation of their opinions to others. If one or more of your answers to the above questions is: It’s a mess!, you are grasping what I’m saying this morning.

Even though you may think that many have drank the Kool Aid (thank you Jim Jones for that image) and blame their sources for their opinions–this conclusion is like so many other conclusions in our day–it only scratches the surface. You see, in reality our opinions come from only one source: Perspective! And everyone–I MEAN EVERYONE–chooses their own perspective. Blaming the Pied Pipers of Opinions is a mythical hypothesis. The time has come for everyone to stand up and be a man, be a woman, and admit the blame for all the prevaricated pig slop (you have to be from the South to appreciate this analogy) lies at their own feet.

You can disagree with me–and you’re still wrong. (And if I just offended some snotty nosed millennial, “Toughen up, buttercup!”) We have no control over some of the things that come our way. But Perspective? You own it, and you control it! Do some deep thinking for yourself rather than embracing the blather and twaddle of others. Sure, deep thinking for yourself may give you a headache–but the results may surprise you. It may even contradict the flummery you had called your “opinion”. And you will become a more intelligent person.

A Different View

Alas! Our culture continues to persist, wallow, and drown in “the immediate”. The technical term is “instant gratification”. Some things are not meant to be instant. Instant mashed potatoes? Dear Lord, NO! Instant tea? Heaven forbid! And instant coffee? That is an abomination straight out of the depths of hell! While this phenomena of “instant gratification” has been around several decades, today’s culture has improved and refined it to a lower art form and a whole new depth of wretchedness.

Now it is more than “instant gratification”–it has become The Culture Of Ignored Consequences”! But why am I surprised at this development? Focusing only on the present always leads to heinous and horrid conclusions. At one point our culture could not see beyond the end of their nose. Now they cannot see beyond the bridge of their nose. It is daft, demented and deranged that they become so upset when those Ignored Consequences come in like a storm surge in a hurricane.

But what if? What if we started looking further than the roots of our eyelashes? What if we started taking a longer view of life? What if we started looking further down the road BEFORE we made decisions, choices, and taking action? I know that to many I may sound like a schizo and have several loose screws–but there really is both hope in wisdom in taking The Longer View Of Life.

The Longer View will eliminates things like fear, dread, confusion, chaos, and anxiety. The Longer View is where we begin to form deep, lasting strength and maturity. I mean, who makes one visit to a fitness center and expects to walk out with 40 pounds less fat and 20 pounds of more muscle? The writer of Hebrews gives us both insight and a reason to take This Longer View Of Life.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.

Hebrews 11:13 (NLT)

Tell you what! If you do not like The Longer View, go out right now and run your own marathon–and finish it! Most of you would think such a task would be more than crazy–but impossible. And you would be right. Marathon runners know it takes time–a long time–to build up the strength to run a marathon–and in case you did not know or forgot–a marathon is 26.2 miles. And life is more than the present moment–it is even more than a journey of years. It is an eternity. So start looking for what lasts longer than one day after the factory warranty expires–starting looking for and investing your life in what will last for eternity. You will be a lot more happier if you do.

Did You See That?

When I was the Spiritual Director for the New Covenant Emmaus Community, it was easy for me to write weekly devotions for the community. A lot of my stories came from our grandchildren, our smart and wonderful grandchildren–they are quite an inspiration to me. I could write from viewing scenes in God’s glorious creation, or a sign going down the road. It was really quite easy for me to write a weekly devotion.

Then I started this blog. And it seemed, at least for a season, there was a never ending supply of materials from which to write about; to share insights, to challenge, and hopefully to inspire others. But then I quite writing (to my followers, I guess you noticed that!). I could blame the pandemic, the Democrats, the Republicans–but the fault lies all on me! And why? That’s what I’m going to write about. I couldn’t really decide on a topic today–so the topic chose me: Why I Quit Writing!

I was looking in the wrong places. Ha! Ha! Forget that thought–I wasn’t looking at all. My focus had been taken off where God is always present and always at work. So today, amidst all the news reports and the bickering and fighting, let me challenge you, inspire you to realize what I finally realized: That I choose what I focus on! And so does everyone else.

You see, even if you don’t focus on anything, you are focusing; on a vast void. And that void is, what I would call–thanks to my good friend Andy Andrews–the lack of wisdom. God is still on the Throne, Jesus is still present–and He is still speaking to us through the Holy Spirit. And I close out with this.

One day I was walking around the yard, as I frequently do, I made the full “lap” around our place. As I was coming up from the back, I looked and there was deer–in our yard! Being an ardent and zealous hunter, that deer grabbed my attention. I did not have my rifle–and it wasn’t hunting season. She was watching me and I was watching her. Just then a second deer slowly walked across our front yard and also stopped. They were looking at me, and I was looking at them.

And what I saw wasn’t meat in the freezer–I saw 2 beautiful creatures of God. Besides, both needed to get a little bigger to shoot. (Sorry PETA, I am not a vegetarian.) But I was simply amazed at the beauty and wonder of God’s glorious creation. So, today Be Amazed! Be Amazed at everything God has for you; the things God has put in creation for you, and I, to enjoy–or to do what I did. Just to stop and marvel at the beauty that God has for us.

If all you want to see is ugliness–dear Lord almighty and Heaven help us–there is an abundance of things that will lead us to despair. But remember, you choose where you are looking. I think I am going to watch God a little more closer.

Love God with all your heart. Love others the He loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

It Depends On Where You Are

Newfound Gap, 20 January 2021, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

Debbie and are back in the Smoky Mountains. It’s one of our favorite places. We haven’t missed many years coming here. Usually we would go in November, around our anniversary. This year we decide to come in January. The primary reason was in the hopes of it being cold and seeing snow, something rarely seen in West Central Alabama. It’s something wonderful to be sitting in a hot tub on a cold night.

It’s been cold at our cabin, but not cold enough for snow. So, this morning we went to the Pancake Pantry for breakfast (another tradition) and drove up the mountains in search of snow. And it didn’t take all that long. Remember me writing that it wasn’t cold enough for snow at our cabin? Well at Newfound Gap, it wasn’t only a good bit of snow, it was BITTERLY COLD! It is a gap in the mountains and the wind was really cold. Though the sun was shinning, the wind was blowing snow from the trees. That mountain was different from the mountain where our cabin is located. We could from our cabin that there was “snow in them thar mountains”, and we were not disappointed. It looked better up close than from a distance. And this leads me to my thoughts this evening.

Perspective is everything–how you see life as it happens in real time. But you know that. My perspective–OUR perspective changed when we stopped looking at the snow from a distance and saw it up close and personal. You can check out some other pictures on my Facebook Page. And right now I’ve been thinking about a song. It’s not played on the radio; no CD; it’s not on Apple Tunes; and it’s not heard on Sirius, or Spotify or any other music service. It was written before all of this technology. It’s Psalm 121. The first 2 verses go like this:

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

Whatever I need, whenever I am weak, wherever I am fearful, there is only one place for me–and for you. The mountains around me today, the result of God’s creative power, assure me that my help comes from THE ONE who made these mountains–mountains that offer us a brief respite from God’s calling on our lives. They remind us that God has taken care of us, IS taking care of us, and WILL continue to take care of us.

It’s interesting, at least to me, that this Psalm is part of the Songs Of Ascents. They were sung by travelers on their way to Jerusalem. The mountains in front of them we difficult and treacherous. But someone was thinking beyond those mountains–even beyond the mountain where Jerusalem, their destination, was situated. Difficult and treacherous–does that sound familiar to you?

Do you feel life as it is happening right now is difficult and treacherous? Where is your hope? Your job? Your business? Your spouse? Your boyfriend/girlfriend? Your financial accounts? Your education? Your intelligence? Your wit? Your politics? Your choice of addiction? Your __________ (fill in the blank)? How’s that working out for you? Truthfully, is it really helping, or just delaying?

The Psalmist knew his help came from a much higher source–the Creator! God offers us wisdom, courage, and strength to get through the mountains of difficulties we face. If HE created this beautiful place (and He did), if HE placed HIS Image in us human beings (and he did), then HE will guide you through any and every difficult moment. Do you question the validity of my statement? The listen to the rest of the song:

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
 Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

 The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.  The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

One Inch Of Snow Can Change Your Life

Mt. Vernon, Alabama

I took the above picture on Monday of this week. We had an inch or so of snow! I know for you folks north of the Mason-Dixon Line you are thinking, “So what? Why is that a big deal?” In west central Alabama it’s a big deal because we do not see a lot of the white stuff. For you who see this regularly it’s not a big deal. But for us? It’s a really big deal–and that got me to thinking. It took me until this morning–but I finally figured it out.

For those who see a lot of snow, an inch or so doesn’t mean much if anything at all. For us, it meant we pulled up a chair and watched it fall with great admiration at its beauty. Many of us were mesmerized by the scene as we watched it fall, collect on the tree limbs and cover the ground. Facebook blew up with pictures people were taking–each one showing the unique beauty of this very rare event. What does this all say about Kingdom Living? Glad you asked and I am even more glad to tell you.

Let’s start with something straight out of the Bible! What a novel idea in times like this! Look at Psalm 119:18–

Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.

(New Living Translation)

There is a deep crisis within the U.S. church. It has replaced The Truth with a cultural truth. The source of the problem is that many have embraced their personal interpretations of The Truth. Churchians and Tenured Pew sitters have become so accustomed to their views on The Truth that they have stopped seeing the wonder of The Truth. Just like people who are accustomed to seeing snow on a regular basis–they miss the wonder of God’s Creation. And just like us Alabamians who rarely see snow and stop what we doing to take pictures and post them on social media–people who walk closely with Jesus understand that The Truth is always amazing to us, teaching us the beauty of the life God wants us to live.

When we are locked into our personal views, opinions, and beliefs it leaves little to no room for God to WOW us. This entire Psalm is full of WOW moments, not because it’s the longest one–but because of the way the verses are divided. Each section begins, not with the name of a person, but a Word. The Word for verse 18 is Gamal–it means to ripen, to produce. David is sharing the way to a life that is full and rich; a life that produces what God created us to produce–each in our own way. And it’s found in THE Truth–call it His Law, His Instruction–better yet, call Him by His name–Jesus!

The chaos of this day is the result of NOT living by God’s instructions. We need to stop seeing The Truth of The Bible in the ways we are accustomed to seeing it. We need to see it the way we Alabamians see snow–with wonder and amazement. When you see a lot of snow–an inch or so is no big deal. When you are accustomed to your own views of The Bible you leave no room for God to ripen our life in order to produce what HE created you to produce. So stop seeing The Bible with the same-old-same-old view. What has that view produced? Watch the evening news. That will tell you what that view produces.

Hymns and songs have been written about this verse. But let me leave you with a story about what happen when God opens our eyes to HIS Truth rather than our truth. It’s found in 2 Kings chapter 6. Elisha’s servant goes out one morning and is filled with panic. An army has surrounded him and his teacher. Listen and learn from Elisha:

17 Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

2 Kings 6:17

It takes God to open our eyes–what when He opens our eyes–an inch or so of snow becomes an experience! And what an experience it is!

Where Does Your Help Come From?

It seemed for a while that writing was a gift–a gift that I enjoyed. It began when I was selected to be Community Spiritual Director for an Emmaus community we were involved with. I started doing a weekly devotion for the Community. My sources of inspiration was seemingly unlimited. Nature, signs, conversations, and my best source of inspiration was our wonderfully unique grandchildren. I even started working on a book based on those devotions. It’s still unfinished.

I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve been absent quit a lot from this blog. Can I be truthful with you? I lost my inspiration to write. I could blame it on the Pandemic–my routine was changed. I could blame it on the Republicans. I could blame it on the Democrats. I could blame it on the news media. I could blame any of a number of things and events. But that wouldn’t be truthful. Call me Harry S. Truman if you like, but the BUCK STOPS HERE!

God confronted me this morning with a painful truth. I would rather truth be pleasant, but sometimes, often times, The Truth is painful. Here’s how it happened. I’m a pacer; and when the weather is decent, I walk around the yard. This morning I decided to walk the perimeter of our place. I started on the east side, then the back side, as up the west side (not that much of a distance; probably took me 1 minute), I looked up and I saw a deer traversing our front yard and enter the woods and stopped. I stopped to watch it. Then another deer crossed our front yard. The first deer was watching me. It came within 20 yards of me.

And in that moment, I was mesmerized by God’s creation. For a fleeting moment I thought, “I wish it was deer gun season!” But that thought left me quickly. One creation of God was watching another creation of God. That’s when the Painful Truth hit me hard! My inspiration for writing has been here all along. I just wasn’t watching! Forgive me, Lord, for I am an unprofitable servant.

And I remembered Psalm 121–“I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” Please hear the plea of this unprofitable servant, don’t look at the headlines, look at the ONE who always sees us and patiently waits for us to see Him!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the Glory goes to Him!

Posters To Social Media–Change My Mind

This is directed to all those angry posts on social media revolving around politics and political parties by those who self-identify as Christian. I have a question for you: “Do you think God is really glorified with those negative political posts? Do you think those posts reflect HIS Character?”

Truth time: You are dishonoring His Character and misrepresenting His Kingdom. Shame on you! Change my mind about this!

There Is No Quick Fix

This is the last in my reflections of my recent medical emergency. If you haven’t read the first one, then click here.

When we are hurting–whether physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or relationally–we want the pain to go away and go away quickly. And here is another lesson I have learned in my most recent episode:

The quick-fix rarely, if ever, works.

In my situation of my ruptured appendix, Dilaudid made the pain quickly go away. And for a little bit the quick-fix solved my problem with pain. But guess what? The effects of Dilaudid wore off and the pain returned. Other than making me feel comfortable, the Quick-Fix did nothing to solve the real problem. Can you make the connection here?

In case you did not, allow me to explain. There are things that will help us numb the pain but cannot treat the real condition causing our pain. It’s not just in the realm of physical pain–but all other forms of pain. For example, holding a grudge against someone who wounded you deeply can hide the pain momentarily–but the pain returns. Trust me on this one; I personally know about holding grudges–it won’t heal the pain.

There are a lot of ways–chemical, emotional, and mental–to numb the pain. Yet they fail to heal the cause of our pain. This is why we turn to God in times of pain. God doesn’t offer us a quick-fix–but He does offer us wholeness. And sometimes, wholeness requires both time and a process. In the case of my ruptured appendix, they did not immediately remove that vile and evil beast. To have done so would have exposed my entire body with poisonous toxins that would have put me in further danger. By treating the poisons in me first, it decreases the probability of further complications when they will remove my appendix.

Next Wednesday I revisit my doctor. Hopefully he will tell me when they will schedule surgery to remove my appendix. Doctors have helped me understand why I need to wait–and I trust their knowledge and skills. And you can trust the knowledge and skills of the Great Physician to restore your whole health–spiritually, emotionally, mentally and relationally. You can trust Him because He created you–and offered you redemption through His Marvelous Grace. God doesn’t offer us a day-trip with a quick-fix. He offers us a journey–filled with His more than sufficient Grace–and His Presence to help us when we can’t help ourselves.

Ridding Yourself Of The Poison.

Today I’m continuing to reflect on my recent medical emergency and the lessons I am learning. If you didn’t read the first one, here is the LINK to where this all started. So here is today’s Lesson:

Get Rid Of That Poison!

As you probably know, when the appendix ruptures it release a toxic poison into the abdominal cavity. No one really knows the exact function of the appendix–lots of hypotheses–but no certain conclusion. That’s right, our body is locked-and-loaded with poison. As long as it stays where it belongs, no harm, no foul. But when it gets out–the story line changes.

Here’s how it continues to change my story line. I still have a drainage tube which requires my attention. Twice a day I take a 10-cc syringe of sterile saline, take an alcohol wipe and clean the connection, attach that syringe, turn a value and inject half of it into my abdominal cavity, turn the valve again and flush the line, and return that valve to the original position. It may sound painful but it’s not really painful. Then I measure what’s in the drainage bag and record it in a journal for my doctor.

Some may think this is another inconvenience–but my perspective tells me it’s necessary for my healing. If this poison remains in me then sepsis will set in. Sepsis happens when an infection you already have—in your skin, lungs, urinary tract, or somewhere else—triggers a chain reaction throughout your body. Untreated it is fatal. Knowing the outcome of what happens if I don’t flush out my abdomen, it’s not really inconvenient.

And it’s not just the body that internal poison is harmful–it also happens in the heart and mind. Some of those poisons are greed, fear, bitterness, resentment, guilt, shame, anger, lust, revenge, unforgiveness–these are just a few of the poisonous toxins. If untreated, they are as fatal as sepsis to the heart, mind and spirit. And as in my physical case, there are ways to get rid of those poisons. We can’t get rid of the poisons alone–we need our Heavenly Father to show us how to get rid of that poison. And they are worth the effort–because they work.

So, don’t allow those poisonous toxins create spiritual sepsis. Jesus delivered us on that Cross–and He continues to deliver us. It’s not always instantaneously–but He always makes us whole!

BUT NOT COMPLETELY!

Well, in the immortal words of Jack Nicholson. . .

It’s been a while since I’ve put my thoughts, emotions, and questions in blog form. This respite has been intentional; I’ve been in a season of observation and reflection. At this stage of my spiritual journey I have come to understand how priceless observation and reflection are navigating this world as a citizen and warrior of the Kingdom of God.

Some of the observations and reflections resulted in my previous and current sermon series. Some of my observations and reflections have been planted in my “thinking about it” garden to see what grows out of it. And honestly, this was not going to be my “return to blogging” article. But then. . .real life happened.

It started on the afternoon of Sunday, July 12. After preaching 2 services I engaged in my Sabbath Discipline, A.K.A. a nap. When I woke up, I just didn’t feel good. Tried doing a couple of things and nausea set in. Nausea turned into more pain and then vomiting. All Sunday night the pain only intensified. But late Monday the pain eased up and I thought the worst was over. So much for my thinking. Finally, I told Debbie I needed to go to the emergency room. The rules at our small rural hospital meant she could drop me off, but not stay with me. But my high threshold for pain had been exceeded.

I signed in and then had to wait even though, on a scale of 1 to 10, my current pain was at 12.5. When they finally called me back the first order of business was a COVID-19 test, and then the reason why I was there. An injection of  Dilaudid became a gift from God to me. Then things started happening pretty fast. A CT-Scan with contrast revealed a ruptured appendix. The nurse came in with the bad news and said “The helicopter will be here in just a few minutes.” It seems the hospitals closest to me that had the facilities to care for me didn’t have any beds.

When I arrived at University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center, another COVID-19 test, conversation with some doctors, I was sent to the appropriate unit. Once there I was hooked up to IV antibiotics–and constant care. Wednesday was another day of pain and pain killers. Thursday morning was another whirlwind. I was taken for another scan; returned to my room, only to be turned around and taken back for 2 drainage tubes (one of those tubes was inserted into an orifice that shall remain unnamed).

In this same time my IV stick had to be moved 6 or 7 times because my vein had blown. My daily routine was pain, pain-killers, more IVs, and walking the halls for my physical therapy. Sunday morning I was feeling a little better, so I took a shower and even shaved. I was feeling a bit hopeful, that is, until the usual returned on Sunday night. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually I had been on the Roller Coaster From Hell.

Finally, on Monday, the numbers started moving in my favor. The pain was subsiding and I was feeling hopeful again. Tuesday morning one of my doctors came in and removed the most invasive drainage tube (remember the orifice I mentioned earlier?) and I wanted to sing the doxology. A little later he cleared me to go home with the other drainage tube. After a “how to flush the drainage tube” lesson and extensive discharge orders, 1 week later I arrived back to where this all started. Now I am home reflecting on these part 2 weeks. Allow me to share one of the lessons I have been learning.

We have no control over most of what happens to us in life

The need to be in control is only adding to the anger and chaos that is consuming and destroying our nation. I looked all through my calendar and to-do list and no where have I found “ruptured appendix” in my plans. The need to be in control over life, relationships, other people, families, even church–goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Satan offered that lie to Adam and Eve. Now I want to really upset some people:

We are not equipped to be in control!

Now that the bad news is out of the way–there is one thing over which we have absolute control. No thing or no one can control it for you. It is your reaction to what happens that you and you alone control. No whining and no excuses. Your reactions come from your perspective and no one can give you or choose for you that perspective. While lying in that hospital bed did I have a pity party? Of course I did! In fact, I had more than one. But I had a choice–do I choose to live in that pity party or do I choose to change my focus? I chose the later–and when I focused on God’s faithful presence, which at times I doubted; the pity party ended because I know that regardless of how I feel–God hasn’t abandoned me–and He is loving on me. Tomorrow I will share another lesson.

JUST 3 PLANTS

As long as I can remember, Dad had a garden. I mean a BIG garden. I think it came from his growing up years when times were hard. In spite of those hard times, he absolutely loved planting a garden! I remember him coming home from an 8 hour day at the local Reynolds plant and working until dark. His Saturdays found him working in the garden. And when they decided to build a new home in a subdivision he purchased 2 lots–one for the home and the other for the garden.

Even after my sister and I grew up and moved away, Dad continued his garden. After he retired, I remember my Mother fussing because he was working so hard in that garden. At first I suggested he slow down; but then I realized if he died working the garden, he would have died happy. Lord knows I’ve seen enough people die in misery. But as the years passed, he made his garden smaller. The only way he could do that was to plant some fruit trees so there wouldn’t be room to plant something else.

Finally, time did catch up with Dad and he just couldn’t garden the way he wanted. So he would plant in buckets and the inside of a washing machine tomato plants, squash and sometimes a cayenne pepper. But this spring, I was worried about him. Recently I asked him about his tomato and squash plants he told me, “I don’t think I’ll be doing them this year.” Understanding my Dad, I knew this wasn’t a good sign.

A bit of context. Dad just turned 94 years old. My Mother, his wife of 72 years, died 2 years ago come May. He still lives in that house he had built in 1962. It is filled with many wonderful memories, for him and us. He sounded tired, and I know he is; at times his grief is almost overwhelming. And for him not to plant at least 1 tomato plant and 2 squash plants meant he didn’t see a future for himself here on earth. I know he longs to go home to be with The Father.

But this week, 3 plants changed everything: 1 tomato plant and 2 squash plants. When I called him he proudly told me that he had put out his “garden”. That, my friends, is what is known as hope. Hope doesn’t blossom and become fruitful in the best of times–but in the most difficult of times. My Dad’s hope has grown. I realize that at 94 years old he may not eat a single tomato sandwich or fry up a skillet of fried squash–but he is planning on it. That is when hope becomes visual.

And the lesson, my dear readers, is clear in these days. COVID-19 is scary and there are many, maybe some of you, who have ONLY hunkered down and you do not see a future filled with hope. Let me ask you this question: What are you doing right now to plan for the future? I’m not talking about hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer. What are your plans WHEN this pandemic is over? And are those plans simply a reflection of what you are doing now? Where’s the hope in that?

So start “planting” now how to enjoy life more than ever. “Plant” those plans of spending more time with family and friends. “Plant” those plans of reconnecting with the Body of Christ. “Plant” those plans of being kinder in public. “Plant” that plan of a special trip with your family. Don’t wait until the pandemic is over to “plant” your hope. Do it now! Otherwise, your current mindset will continue to control your life. Three plants changed Dad’s perspective. It doesn’t take a whole lot to change your perspective. After all, only you can determine your perspective.

The Real Cause Has Been Identified

The prevalent question among the sane and those of us blessed with common sense is, “Where is all this fear, panic and hoarding coming from?” I know the answer. But before I share it with you, a little bit of perspective from me. In previous times when we’ve seen this kind of behavior and I’ve been asked “Why is this happening?” My answer was, “They don’t have any perspective.” Well, I was wrong.

Everybody has a perspective. Each person’s perspective is never chosen for them by someone else; each person chooses their perspective. And in these times they may want to blame the Chinese, news media, health care system, pharmaceutical companies, the Illuminati (yes, I’ve heard this as to blame for the current fear and chaos), or the ever favorite scapegoat, President Trump. Not so fast, Buckaroo! NO ONE CHOOSES YOUR PERSPECTIVE AND NO ONE FORCES YOU TO HAVE YOUR CURRENT PERSPECTIVE! It is never chosen for you. People may, and in fact do make many of your choices for you. But perspective? ONLY YOU CONTROL YOUR PERSPECTIVE.

What? What’s that you say? Someone just disagreed with me. You said, “No! It’s the fault of the Chinese, news media, Trump that’s causing me to fear!” No it’s not and just because you say it’s the reason why doesn’t make it the reason why. You have taken life as it happens and have chosen your perspective. That’s a fact, Jack! You can disagree with me but…

The mass fear, pandemonium, and chaos comes from the perspective of, guess what? The Perspectives of Fear, Pandemonium or Chaos. And the wonderful thing about perspective is that it can change–for the better or for the worse. Allow me to share some “different” perspectives in these times:

If you have an autoimmune disease, respiratory issues, or are on chemo or radiation therapy, choose to stay at home. Your perspective in this time is to prevent you from becoming sicker than you already are. Call a friend, family member or neighbor to go shopping for you. It’s not just the COVID-19 virus that you should be concerned about, but Type A and Type B flu is a threat to you. More people have died from Type A & Type B flu than from cornavirus.

If you have a sore throat, coughing, fever or sinus issues, get diagnosed by a doctor. Your perspective in this time is to make sure whatever it is, you don’t share it with anyone. Sure, it may be just allergies; but let a doctor make that call. And if you are diagnosed with Coronavirus or the Flu, stay out of contact with anyone until the doctor declares it to be safe for you to go out. And follow the treatment plan your doctor gives you. Don’t stop taking any medicines just because “you feel better now”.

And if you are healthy, no flu or other symptoms, carry on with your life and respect the space of others. Your perspective in this time is to be hopeful and upbeat, kind and encouraging. Now, I’m a hand-shaker and a hugger. It’s just who I am–I love and care about people. And I admit it’s a challenge not to extend the hand or arm for a hug. But it’s a challenge I’m up to–and so can you. Not only is the flu virus and coronavirus contagious, but so is a smile, as well as kind words. Greet people with a “Hello, how are you doing?” or something similar. Choose to be cheerful, optimistic and encouraging. You will be amazed at how social spaces are changed by a smile and kind words.

So, remember, you get to choose your own perspective in these times. In fact, every day you get to choose your perspective–and you DO CHOOSE YOUR OWN PERSPECTIVE. Just remember this scene from the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”

You can choose your perspective poorly or you can choose your perspective wisely…

The Perspective Of Facts

In this time of fear, panic and exponential hoarding people need to be reminded of simple, basic facts about viruses. Perspective helps all of us process what is happening with clarity on any given day; especially in these days. You may say that it’s just not that simple. Oh, yes it is. It’s not easy–but it is just this simple.

1) This pandemic is not the first. For example, the Swine Flu pandemic in 2009. There were more cases and fatalities than in the current pandemic. Yet there were no closings or shortages of toilet paper or hand sanitizer, and life continued.

2) COVID-19 is serious, but not apocalyptic. Basic precautions are enough to keep the wolf at bay.

3) The elderly, young children and people with autoimmune diseases are always at high risk. Upper respiratory infections, Type A Influenza, Type B Influenza and other viral diseases are a serious threat for those in these groups. Every year people in these groups die from these types of diseases or complications from these diseases every year that are projected to die from COVID-19.

4) Do NOT self diagnosis yourself. Don’t assume it’s just a cold or allergies. Get a professional diagnosis before going out into the public.

5) Respect other people’s space. Simply put, STAY PUT UNTIL YOU ARE SYMPTOM FREE AT LEASE 48 HOURS, LONGER IF THE DOCTOR SAYS SO. Because so many do not have the common sense and common decency to stay at home when sick, government officials are having to step in and tell them what to do and not do. This is why “gathering” is being discouraged and “social distancing” is being encouraged. We should not have to depend on the government to regulate our conduct in this time, but because people really DON’T CARE ABOUT OTHERS, government is forced to act. A side note: IF YOU GO OUT IN PUBLIC WHEN YOU ARE SICK IT SHOWS YOU DON’T GIVE A RAT’S TAIL ABOUT ANYONE OTHER THAN YOURSELF. If you disagree with this statement–you’re still wrong.

6) Three Last Words: Hygiene, Hygiene, Hygiene! When I was in school, we had a class on Hygiene. It’s time to bring it back. Wash your hands with soap and water multiple times each day. Keep your whole body clean. Put tissues in the garbage can rather than leaving them laying on a desk or table. Use disinfectant cleaners in your homes or apartments. Keep your vehicles clear of trash and clutter. Cleanliness has been said to be next to godliness. Cleanliness also protects you and the people around you.

GUIDE TO MANAGING AND MANEUVERING THROUGH COVID-10 CRISIS–ALL You Need To Know

I’ve made many satirical and snarky comments and analysis about the current News Media fed panic about COVID-19. Some of those comments were made in private conversations among friends and family, and a couple of snarky comments via social media (see the above graphic as an example). But today, though I usually reserve Friday’s for something funny, I want to be serious, transparent and truthful.

Here is your complete, yet simple GUIDE TO MANAGING AND MANEUVERING THROUGH COVID-19 CRISIS. For this to effectively work, you must first take a moment to breathe in deeply. Hold that breath and imagine it’s everything you’ve heard, been told, or assumed about COVID-19. Now exhale and as you do imagine that everything you’re heard, been told, or assumed is leaving your mind with that breath. Have you done that? If you are still have any of what you’ve heard, been told, or assumed still in your mind, repeat the process until you reach ultimate Zen. OK, let’s get going to the truth:

1. Understand the difference between a PANDEMIC and an EPIDEMIC

This is absolutely the first step, and the longest section of this blog. Without this knowledge you will dive deeper and deeper in fear and chaos. The word PANDEMIC is being tossed around like a football. I call your attention to that famous line from The Princess Bride:

According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia a PANDEMIC “refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people”. Do not panic at the word EPIDEMIC. By definition (of the CDC as well as epidemiologists) an EPIDEMIC “refers to a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected”. Stay calm because we need to understand these definitions and their appropriate applications.

Look at this part of the definition of EPIDEMIC: a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected. To help, I’ve emphasized those last 2 words. Here’s an example and application. The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control normally expects 3 cases of Spotted Zebra Measles (not a real disease). In 2018 they had exactly 3 cases. Normal, right?

But in 2019 they find 6 cases of Spotted Zebra Measles. By definition, since the number of Spotted Zebra Cases have doubled, from 3 to 6, we have an EPIDEMIC. The 6 cases were not normally expected. Are you with me so far? Good. Now let’s imagine that 2 of those 6 cases were in 2 other countries. You now have a PANDEMIC. Remember that a PANDEMIC refers to an EPIDEMIC that has spread over several countries or continents, USUALLY affecting a large number of people. Two is not a large number–however it does fall outside the parameters of NORMALLY EXPECTED. And notice that word in the definition of PANDEMIC: USUALLY affecting a large number of people.

Not always affecting a large number of people; just usually. And what defines a large number of people? Now apply all this to COVID-19. Less than 1 out of 500,000+ people world-wide have had presumptive positive tests for COVID-19. Only 1 out of 500,000 isn’t a large number. BUT, because of the first case of COVID-19 exceeded normal expectations, you have an EPIDEMIC and because it’s been found in other countries you have a PANDEMIC.

Let’s put all this in PERSPECTIVE. Since 29 September 2019 there have been 207,466 confirmed cases of Type A and Type B Influenza in the United States. Can we agree is 207,466 is a large number? Presumptive Positive cases of COVID-19 are minuscule compared to 207,466. In the same period there have been an estimated 16,000 deaths from Types A and B Influenza in the United States, primarily among young children, elderly adults, and those with chronic health issues. Yet, there is NO Epidemic because these numbers have not exceeded what has been established as NORMAL.

I’m not insisting that you go forward with reckless abandon and ignore potential dangers. That would be like seeing decaying boards on a swinging bridge over a 5,000 foot deep crevice and saying, “Oh, those decaying board will hold me up!” But there are some simple guidelines you can follow.

2. Practice Good Hygiene

Regularly wash your hands using both soap and water. This ancient practice (FYI–it was given to the Hebrews as a law from God) is time tested and a proven method for remaining healthy. In addition to soap and water, you can use hand sanitizer during the day. HOWEVER avoid using any of the online HOMEMADE VARIETIES. Unless the alcohol contention is greater than 60% they are not effective. You cannot know this unless you have a degree in chemistry and a lab at home to test it. If your local store has sold out of hand sanitizer because of the rush of idiots, you can use undiluted Isopropyl rubbing alcohol or undiluted hydrogen peroxide. Both are proven to kill the COVID-19 Virus as well as both Type A and Type B strains of Influenza.

3. Keep Personal Spaces Clean

Put tissues in the garbage can and don’t leave them on a desk, table, vehicle, or chair. Wipe areas down regularly. Again, simple soap and water does the trick if packaged wipes are unavailable. Remember rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.

3. Stay Home

If you have sniffles, cough, body aches or fever–don’t share your marvelous presence under any circumstances. I missed my last family Christmas with my Mother before she died because I had the flu. I also missed the first family Christmas after she died because of the flu. Don’t consider it just a simple cold or allergies. Go to a clinic or doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Don’t trust self-diagnosis. This applies to you, your spouse, your significant other, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins all the way to your 7th cousin twice removed, as well as the stranger within your gates. And please don’t expect your pastor to pay you a visit!

4. Don’t Visit Others Who Are Sick

This step is for you compassionate folks. Whether someone is isolated at home, or especially in a hospital don’t go visit them to show that you care. You can call them (letting them know why you are not there in person), send flowers or a fruit/snack basket. If they are at home and you want to bring them over a meal, call ahead and let them know what you are doing and when you get there, ring the doorbell or knock on the door and leave the food in a designated location. Add a nice handwritten note as well. Avoid nursing homes as much as possible to avoid spreading the Influenza or catching Influenza. As much as you may want to see a family member who is sick, show them how much you care by waiting until they are well.

5. Carefully Plan Your Shopping

This step really makes sense. The more often you are in a public setting the greater the probability you will come in contact with someone who has the Flu and has chosen to have no respect for human life and ignored Step 3. Don’t go to a store each time you need something. Change your menu, or adjust your plans as much as possible. Make a list and go once a week or every other week if possible. Some businesses will allow you to order online or with an app and you can simply drive up to the designated location, or walk to a specific location and everything is ready for you.

This is neither Rocket Surgery or Brain Science folks. Simple precautions and a hefty dose of common sense will begin to ease both the panic and stupidity that is currently in over-abundance. You are going to be perfectly alright….unless you see this in your neighborhood…