WHAT ARE THEY TEACHING???

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.

Romans chapter 8, verses 6-7; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Recently I had a conversation with a fellow United Methodist clergy on Facebook. It was focused on a post this individual had made. It was surprisingly civil (up to this point)–still, I couldn’t help but think: What are they teaching now in United Methodist Seminaries? Here’s the screenshot of that comment:

This person compared understanding Scriptures to a 3-legged stool. The top is the Scriptures and the 3 legs are tradition, reason, and experience. Thus, without tradition, or reason, or experience, one cannot adequately understand Scripture. The primary (and often times “sole determining factor”) way to understand Scripture is through tradition, reason, and experience. Now, before you call me that dreaded “fundamentalist”, hear me out. We do not study the Scriptures in a vacuum. There are traditions. We all have experiences. And God created us to be able to reason, or think if you prefer.

But it seems that many of our clergy are using reason as the final determining factor. In other words, if it doesn’t make sense to us, or if the culture tells us something contrary, then we are free to change or ignore what the Bible clearly teaches. This is what many seminaries are teaching. Not all of them, mind you; but enough of them are and the result has been the dilution and devolution of the power of Scripture to guide us and form in us the life of Holiness demanded by God for His Image Bearers. Go back to the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool.

The writer is correct in stating that for a three-legged stool to be secure enough to sit on, it needs all three legs. And, by implication, those 3 legs need to be the same length. Otherwise it is unstable. But do not overlook the other implication–that Scripture (the seat of that three-legged stool) cannot safely support us until all three of those legs are the same length. In other words, Scripture is to be formed by OUR traditions, experiences, and reasoning.

Can I be frank with you? I know, my name is Randy. But I need to be FRANK with you this morning. Using the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool, when those who are supposed to be our Spiritual Leaders are taught that human reasoning overrides the Scriptures and that we need to change our beliefs about anything in the Bible, then the result is the chaos and soon to follow destruction of the United Methodist, and any other church that follows the same primrose path. And to my fundamentalist friends, if you allow your traditions to determine your beliefs about the Bible, then your three-legged stool is just as unsteady.

Hear me out! Yes, reason, tradition, and experience are helpful tools when it comes to understanding Scripture! But they do not determine what is THE TRUTH! The Truth is set by the Bible for all matters of faith, life, and conduct. But none of them gives us the permission to change The Standard clearly set in The Bible! From my perspective, many seminary professors took a bite of that apple Satan offered Eve and Adam, and unlike Eve and Adam who recognized the shame and mistake, they “reason” that the apple is good, and that Satan was right. Is there any doubts now as to why the United Methodist Tribe is imploding? It looks like that three-legged stool analogy doesn’t work after all.

BUT WHICH ONE WAS IT?

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

Luke chapter 15, verses 11 and 12; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

The other day, The Spirit planted this thought in my mind and heart: But Which One Was It? Out of nowhere (actually it came directly from the Throne of Grace and HE who sits on it) I started thinking about what is commonly referred to as The Story Of The Prodigal Son. And I got to thinking, “Did Luke, who wrote this letter, really put a heading on this section that read The Story Of The Prodigal Son? Well, don’t most preachers give their message a title? It just goes to show how our thinking is influenced by HOW we think. When a writer sits down to write, they always put in chapter numbers and often titles. But Luke, and the rest of the writers didn’t write that way back then. In fact, (this may be a shocker to my fundamentalist friends), not only did they NOT put in chapter numbers as they wrote, they didn’t put in the verse numbers. These were devices added later on by editors and translators to assist the readers find a particular passage. Which only makes it a wonderful miracle that day Jesus opened the scroll of Isaiah and found the exact passage He wanted to use that day.

OK, OK, I’m turning into a professor of biblical studies. Let me get back on track. At some point, an editor added this heading for today’s passage: The Story Of The Prodigal Son. Notice, no “s”! Therefore, people assume only 1 of those sons was the Prodigal. Notice carefully what the Father did in this story: So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. Now notice that there’s an “s”. This means the youngest and the oldest received their portion of the estate. Are you clear on this point? Good! So, answer my question: Which one was the Prodigal? Write down your answer. Got it? Good! If you said it was the youngest son:

Did you assume that because the youngest left home that he is automatically the prodigal? Well, doesn’t the word “prodigal” mean “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.”? As a matter of fact, it does. But listen very carefully–Jesus never used the word “prodigal”. This is a story about a Father who had 2 sons–neither of which He identified as “prodigal”. WE and others have given that designation–but not Jesus. So, what’s my point?

It’s rather simple: This “Father” had two sons, neither of which understood their Father at the beginning of the story. Both sons were lost; but only one ended up knowing he was lost. We know this because of the ending of the story:

28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

Luke chapter 15, verses 28 thru 30; NLT

The eldest son did not share the heart of his Father. Instead of being thankful for all the money that had been given to him at the beginning of the story, he chose to be ungrateful because his Father didn’t kill and bar-b-que a goat for him and his friends. Can you see it now? We can be lost in the “foriegn” land, wasting our resources on things that doesn’t fill us with life. Or we can be lost right here at home, lamenting that we never had a party with bar-b-que goat. So, which son–the youngest or the eldest–was the Prodigal?

Sure, the youngest “wasted” his inheritance of money. But the oldest wasted his inheritance of the values that his Father had tried to impress on them both. And in case you’re not connecting the dots–we can be just as lost at home, sitting in a church building every Sunday morning, as the person who goes out on Saturday night and parties like there is no tomorrow. If we waste what God has given us on the things that don’t really matter when it comes to The Kingdom Of God–then WE are just as much a “prodigal” as the youngest son in the story. I’ll end today’s musings right here. But be warned, I may take this thought about “wasting what God has given us on the things that don’t really matter when it comes to The Kingdom of God” at a later date. But for now, let me say: “Be very careful who you label as the prodigal!”

CLARITY!

22 When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?” 24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.” 25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.”

Mark chapter 8, verses 22-26; from the New Living Translation

This morning I was thinking–and those of you who know me, know this isn’t always a good thing. Nonetheless, fasten your seatbelts because we are about to take off. President Biden just signed a check for our government to spend another $737 BILLION. Purportedly this is going to get us out of inflation and help solve our economic problems. One would think, or at least I do, that after spending gazillions of dollars over the past several decades all the problems would have been solved. And then I was thinking about this mess in the United Methodist Institution. After saying gazillions of words our problems should have been solved by now. But in both cases, it ain’t happened and it ain’t gonna happen!

Yet, the dollars flow freely, and words flow even more freely! Politically, some are looking to Trump; and some are looking to Biden. They are looking for political salvation in parties that have neither the ability nor the skills to provide such a hope. And it appears at times that neither party wants to solve the problems; it seems that they just want to add fuel to the fire. Yet, people are tenaciously running down the path that leads us nowhere. And in our Tribe (the United Methodist Institution) it’s not any different. Some says it’s all about progressive theology and some say it’s all about orthodox theology. The view and perspective that both issues (in both the political and spiritual problems) have created is what I term perspective astigmatism!

Now, for those unfamiliar with astigmatism or do not live with this malady like I and so many others, here’s the medical definition: “a refractive error of the eye in which parallel rays of light from an external source do not converge on a single focal point on the retina.” And here’s the down-to-earth definition: “everything looks blurry!” And then I also started thinking (thank you, Holy Spirit) about this morning’s passage. A man was brought to Jesus for Him to heal. The villagers were just looking for a show; some entertainment and fodder for the dinner table conversations. But Jesus took this man outside the village and. . .well, you can read the rest of the story.

Here’s the point! After Jesus spit on this man’s eyes, he could see–but there was no clarity. He described people as, They look like trees walking around.” I understand that, and so do you who have astigmatism. And be it in the political arena or the spiritual arena, the dominant views are creating and spreading perspective astigmatism. Neither side seems interested in getting to that focal point where everything comes clearly into focus. And as long as were are focusing on the wrong point–be it political or spiritual–everything remains hazy and blurry.

The problems–both politically and spiritually–are deep and complicated; complicated by years of living in perspective astigmatism. So what is one to do??? Live each day with nothing seen with clarity??? Give up and become a stoic??? Well, that is an option; but it ain’t a good one. May I suggest something different, using the analogy of visual astigmatism? We ALL need to do 2 things: first we need to admit that what we’ve been trying and looking towards just ain’t working to bring us the Clarity that we need. Second, allow Jesus and the Holy Spirit give us the lenses we need to see life with Clarity! The “eye chart” that Jesus and the Holy Spirit uses is the Bible. They will never contradict what The Word says. They may (and usually will) contradict what WE say about The Word. But They will never contradict That Word.

What’s Your Synergy?

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians chapter 3 verse 14 from the New Living Translation

Think about this: Energy produces synergy; and synergy produces energy! Perhaps I should take a step back and share the definition of synergy: the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. Maybe I’m the only one this morning thinking about that word synergy. But YOU, think about it. Synergy is producing the energy that keeps your house with light, a/c, and such going. Think about hydroelectic energy. Water flows throw a turbine, the turbine spins against that thingy, and electricity happens. Or think about your vehicle. The gas (or diesel as the case may be) in the fuel tank is drawn up to the engine–then that computer kicks in pulling all the components together–and off you go to wherever. Remove just one part of these processes and the energy ceases to exist. What does this have to do with The Kingdom Life? Good question! Great question!!!

There is a synergy in every person; it comes from seeking and wanting life as they want it to be. That’s the point: Wanting life as they want it to be. They know they can’t get there by themselves so they seek other sources to cooperate with them to that goal. That energy forms synergy and that synergy forms more energy. When it comes to the human life and human heart, where we seek cooperation or help matters. For that source ultimately determines success or failure.

Some are seeking cooperation with the world’s value system; allowing the world to tell them what they need. It might be money, power, fame, or even sex. We see this synergy happening within my beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church. Many believe that the Bible needs to be changed–or at least how we see the Bible–so that some might achieve what they believe will give them life. Cooperating with the latest pop psychology, the latest cultural trends is what many in our leadership believes will produce that synergy and energy that will reduce decades of decline.

The synergy that will produce the energy for the life we are created for is as Paul declared in today’s passage: through Christ! The synergy is found as we cooperate with Him through The Bible and with The Holy Spirit. For this synergy to work we must cooperate with God. You see, God doesn’t cooperate with us. He works ON us; IN us; and THROUGH us–never, never does He COOPERATE WITH us. WE cooperate with HIM! HE shows us what we need to achieve real and abundant life. And it’s all found in The Bible. But we also need the Presence and the Power of The Holy Spirit! Without The Spirit we end up with the form, but it’s void of the substance.

So, if you are finding your life missing some things–maybe even void of life–then do what Paul did–develop the synergy by cooperating WITH HIM that creates the energy which in turn produces the life, the ONLY life that fills us with peace, joy, and hope. And so much more. So VERY much more.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE STARS LAST NIGHT?

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

Psalm 139 verses 7-12 from the New Living Translation

Last night, as is often my habit, I went outside and looked up to see there stars. But I couldn’t see a single star! Not one, mind you! What happened? Is the apocalypse happening? Has there been a tear in the space time continuum? I tell you, there were all gone! Yes, I was sober; and yes I was outside! But not a single star. Oh, and there were no clouds anywhere; so don’t even think that it was because it was cloudy. I know this because the Weather Channel App informed me there were no clouds! So what happened to the stars that I love to watch?

Could it be where I was at that particular moment? Hmmmm. . . I wasn’t at home; I was in Huntsville, Alabama for our Tribe’s Annual Conference. The problem seeing the stars was that the lights of the city obscurred the view. They were still there and still shinning; but all the other lights made it nearly impossible to see the stars. And here’s a very human story. Sometimes we think we can’t see God, that somehow God has abandoned us. He hasn’t. It’s just our perspective. When we allow other things to override our relationship with Jesus, it “looks like” Jesus has hit the road and left us.

He hasn’t! Last night I had to remind myself that the stars were still there, even if I couldn’t see them. And God is still here with you and me–even if we can’t see Him. We cannot escape or hide from God’s presence. This is the point David is making in this Psalm. And nothing on the third rock from the Sun can get in the way of God’s presence and love for you. So remember, if you can’t see Him it doesn’t mean He ain’t there! Just be confident He is there for you even when–especially when–it seems like He’s disappeared. He hasn’t! So stay calm!

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

JUST THROW IT AWAY AND FORGET ABOUT IT!

For my fellow United Methodists, I don’t have to tell you we are nothing but The Denominational version of the Titanic. If you are a United Methodist and don’t know what I’m talking about, “SHAME ON YOU! GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE SAND!” Why? Because this problem isn’t going away. And we cannot remain true to our Wesleyan heritage as long as This Problem exists. They (meaning Progressives, or as I prefer to call them, ‘ProAgressives’) want–nay DESIRE–nay again–they are DETERMINED to throw out the Bible and our Orthodox faith like yesterday’s trash. They “know” more than what The Bible clearly says–and for more than the Saints who sought and fought to preserve the Orthodox Faith. In case you may not be familiar with the word Orthodox (because it is a big word like mahogany), perhaps these synonyms will help you understand it better.

from http://www.thesaurus.com

Three of them in particular fit the bill to understand what I mean by the Orthodox Faith: authoritative, buttoned down, and by the numbers! But. . . there are those in this Tribe I have been a part of for over 66 years who are convinced (or should I say deceived) that the tried and proven truth about sexual ethic of the Bible is. . .well. . .just plain wrong. Jesus was all about the love, they claim. And they claim that only 2 genders, male and female, are way too restrictive for people to really be who they are. So, they’ve added 72 additional gender designations. Forget the science, forget the biology, and forget Genesis chapter 2. And forget how our stance on sexuality has been unchanged since 1972. It states that all people stand equally in need of God’s grace. However, the practice of homosexuality is incompatable with Christian teachings–i.e.–the orthodox faith. Homosexuality is not any worse than any other sin–but it is outside God’s design and thus it is a sin–along with that long litany of stuff that puts all of us outside of God’s Desgin.

And now to this past week–and it shows how far my beloved Tribe has wandered. According to our approved procedures and rules, no self avowed practicing homosexual can be licensed, commissioned, nor ordained. To assure fidelity to the Bible and our procedures, we have this group called The Board Of Ordained Ministry. Some call it the BOOM or BOM for short. In the most recent session of the Florida Annual Conference, their BOOM recommended 16 candidates to be commissioned on the path to full ordination. Of the 16, two admitted that they were self-avowed practicing homosexuals–clearly in violation of The Bible and our rules. However, the Florida BOOM approved them. But they still needed 3/4 of the ordained clergy to give final approval. And the stuff hit the fire.

What Bishop Ken Carter and the Florida BOOM did was to put all 16 candidates in a single vote. As a group, vote up or down. Now, in fairness, I do not know that the other 14 candidates met the requirements. However, we do know that 2 did not! And the resulting firestorm has been aimed at the 27.3% who voted against the 16 because Bishop Carter would not allow them to vote on the candidates one by one. 27.3% voted according to their ordination vows and the Bible, and now they are the villians. So, the 27.3% who acted in the same spirit as Joshua and Caleb (see the story of the 10 spies) are treated with great disdain and anger.

And a fellow blogger joins in the disdain and anger, Rev. Jim Harnish. You can read his blog here. Jim asserts that the orthodox faith is invalid because, well because we are such more enlightened. And during the eventual commissioning and ordaining service, Bishop Ken Carter apologized to that group with these words:

“I grieve the harm you have experienced.
I am committed to the support of your callings …

I would have gladly commissioned each of you, and gladly appointed each of you …

Bishop Ken Carter

So, Bishop Carter would have gladly thrown away both the Bible and our Discipline. Whether that’s what he meant or not, this is exactly what he was saying and doing. And to my fellow Brother Jim I say that simply because you have changed your views about The Bible and our Discipline, a Discipline you promised you would faithfully follow when you were ordained, doesn’t mean you are right. I am grieved that you would allow culture to define your faith rather than allow God’s Word to Transform the culture. And thus, we see the 21st Century version of the Titanic raising her bow in preparation for sinking. I am not angry–I am sad–and I am disappointed that there are those who will abandon John Wesley’s passion to be people of “homo unius libri.” (a people of One Book!)

To candid, reasonable men, I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be “homo unius libri.”

John Wesley (June 17, 1706-March 2, 1791)

Footnote: Though I am saddened, maligned by others, accused of quitting and giving up–I am still praying and hopeful that this blight and disorder–this cancerous lie–can be put in it’s rightful place. Back to hell where it came from and where it belongs! Furthermore, I am confident that the Wesleyan desire for renewal and revival is not dead on this earth. The signs are everywhere. And if our leadership in the UMC doesn’t have a change of heart–it will happen with another people–NOT in the UMC!

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.