Monday, September 15, 2014

My Missed Conversation with John the Drummer

I was as shocked as anybody in our parish to learn that John passed away last month.
I don't know his last name. Early 40-ish, thick beard, soft spoken and always smelling of cigarette smoke.

John played conga drums at our 7:30 am Sunday church service.
If conga's seems a little out of place for the "early" service, you're right.
But our music director rarely has volunteers for that time slot and John was willing, so he became a regular.

As the parish guitar player, I rotate services and only play a handful of the 7:30's each year.
John was always very friendly towards me. Greeted me and offered to engage me in conversation despite the unseemly hour (7:00 am rehearsal...ugh).
But I wasn't very friendly back. I don't know why.
I usually enjoy the camaraderie of another musician. Whether it's the music director on piano, the flute and violin players who sometimes visit, they add so much and its more fun for me.
And I am almost always curious to learn more about my fellow musicians and the singer soloists as well.
What other types of music do you enjoy? How long have you been playing? Have any plans for the coming week?

But I never did ask John those questions, even though he asked me a few. That's why I know so little about him.
Maybe the conga drums were a little jarring for me, despite the gentle and capable way John played them. And I was admittedly put off by the heavy pall of cigarette smoke that encircled him.
Even when John would say to me after the service, "Nice job today, I really like the way you play."
I never accepted the opening to say more.

So I was as shocked as anyone to learn that the poor man had passed away at such a young age.
I'm equally troubled by how my own behavior cannot be reconciled with John in this lifetime.
I can't make an effort to be kinder to him next time. Can't apologize for treating him so indifferently.
There is no next time with John.

I won't make that mistake again...or will I?
I've asked God to help me do better and to please forgive me for not treating others as I would like to be treated. There is always more to learn, and I'm once again humbled by the stark reminder.

James Chapter 2:
"My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers."

What do you believe?





Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Daughter and the Trip West

I just had one of those most-gratifying parent moments.
My adult daughter explained details of her upcoming road trip to Yellowstone with her husband of four years.
Without a map in hand, she described the daily itinerary and various options they could take depending on weather and driving conditions. She had a rough estimate of time at key attractions like Mt. Rushmore and knew road conditions in Yellowstone (a mountain pass is closed for the season).
She's prepared for the weather (snow on the ground, but it could quickly warm up) and they are deciding on hiking distances and trailheads they may tackle in the nearby Tetons.
Its a solid, safe and well thought out plan, with a few twists and goals that I would not have included. And that's a good thing. She and our son-in-law are making it their own, building on what she and he have learned from their early family travels.

I never sat my daughter down to say, "this is how you plan a family road trip."
She's learned that you need goals and guidelines for a successfull trip. How many miles can you travel - and enjoy - in a day?   How do you plan for as many options and possible pitfalls as possible, still knowing that you'l have to call a few "audibles."  Rain days, road closures, mis-calculations.
Its all part of the fun.
She learned all this by being part of the family. And simply living it.
She traveled the 50 states with us and gradually absorbed that there was method to our madness.
I can remember apologizing to her on a long drive through Utah when I had underestimated the hours to our next destination. We had to pound through the miles into the late evening because we were whitewater rafting on the Colorado the next day. My teen daughter said, "that's ok Dad, the hike at Zion today was worth it!"

Our kids also learn their spiritual planning insights from us.
Years of attending church on Sunday help them to learn that its a priority. You work your schedule around it.
Praying out loud together - not just saying grace at meals - provides a familiar and natural setting to have conversations with God.
Highlighting your favorite bible verses and talking about their application in daily life.
And simply saying, "I love you, no matter what," helping to exemplify what God's Grace of unconditional love means in practice.

I hear parents say, "I didn't want to force them to believe what I believe, but I'll answer their spiritual questions when they're old enough to make their own decisions."
They don't always grow up to ask those questions, and they don't necessarily ask their parents.
But they do learn as they go - if there is an example to follow, and if its combined with positive participation and outcomes.

That's why I smiled to hear my daughter describe her travel plans.
She's got it.
One of my wife and my joys in life - the family road trip - its been passed on to another generation,  fully intact and breathing a life of its own.
We didn't force that on her, she took it and ran with it - recalling how much she enjoyed learning it together with us at her side. And with Jesus, her savior.
Spiritual travel plans, for this generation, and generations to come until He returns.

"Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they grow old they will not depart from it."
Proverbs 22:6

What do you believe?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

5 Memories of My Mom

Its been 5 years since my mom passed away in the summer of 2009, and I miss her.

Its almost surreal to accept that our individual lives have progressed as they have in her absence.
Yet there's no doubt our collective interactions would have been different in many ways, simply because she has not been here as the heart of our family.

I had originally thought to write about the 5 things I miss most about her on this fifth anniversary, but that seems morose - and mom would prefer something more cheerful.
So instead, I'm sharing 5 of my favorite memories. And as long as I'm still around and able to remember, I hope to add another each year in the future.
  • Riding in the wagon to the grocery store - many of my memories start about the time my two older sisters were off to school and I spent lots of quality 1:1 time with my mom as she tended to our home. Riding two blocks to the grocery store in the wagon was great fun, and I could tell she enjoyed our excursions on those warm, breezy summer days.
  • Ice skating and "cracking the whip" - when I was old enough to ice skate we went to the local park and its frozen pond. I remember our family holding hands and me being the last in the line, holding fiercely to my mom's gloved hand as we all turned in a large circle, with my dad at the center as we "cracked the whip." It was a sharply cold, moonless dark night and it seemed extra special because my mom was so enthused with the adventure.
  • Saturday night movies and popcorn - My mom had a gift for making world class popcorn. She had a certain way of tossing the popped corn in a bowl to get just the right amount of salt distributed. Any extra went into special metal tins that the family could enjoy for and extra day or two.  Part of the fun was knowing just how much mom enjoyed eating the popcorn herself! 
  • The Summer 10:30 PM Chats - I was a serious distance runner and I liked to take a nightly run during the summers when it was cooler. There was always a 10:30 pm TV rerun that mom like to watch after the news - Alfred Hitchcock, The Untouchables, PerryMason or the like. By those high school years I wasn't around the house quite as much, but we had an unspoken appointment to chat over the day either before or after I went for my run. Many was the night I dragged my feet until after the 10:30 show, just to see if we'd correctly figured out 'who dunnit.'  And she never failed to ask, 'do you really have to run every day?"
  • Seeing her play dress-up with my daughter - From the moment she held my daughter in the hospital, there was always a special bond between the two. You couldn't help but laugh to hear them play dress-up and make elaborate pretend stories as they cooked and cleaned with all the toy utensils. My daughter still speaks of those fabulous trips of imagination and its a joy to know that she will have some of these memories to hold on to long after I'm gone.
I'll share more next year.

What do you believe?

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Counterfeit 5 Dollar Bill

My daughter works in the banking industry.

This week someone included a counterfeit 5 dollar bill mixed in with their other cash.
My daughter spotted it.
She later snapped a photo of the counterfeit and a regular 5 dollar bill and asked us to determine which was which.
I could not.

"How did you do it?" I asked, genuinely impressed.

"It didn't look right to me," she said, " and when you held it up to the light you could easily see that the 5 didn't show through in the proper manner."

My daughter has seen literally thousands and thousands of bills over the years.
She's become accustomed to the true look and feel of the real thing.

My daughter is smart, thoughtful and perceptive. She has also seen many forms of spirituality over the years amongst friends, students, acquaintances and family.
She has held them up to the Light and recognizes the Truth when she sees it.

From her very youngest years we would talk about God in a very objective manner.
"Yes, there really is a God, and He loves you very, very much."
"Yes, Jesus really did exist, and he had a specific mission when he died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins."
"Yes, you can absolutely believe in the bible as your reference point."

She went on to do her own studies and make her own decisions.
And now I hear her incisive interactions with people who wonder about, or try to introduce, counterfeit spirituality.
She holds them up to the Light. And she is not mislead.

What do you believe?


We Need More Light Around Here

I've had the same cubicle at work for two years now.

My desk is located in a sort of dead spot beneath the overhead fluorescent lights.
The direct light is over to the left and right of where my cube is.
No big deal for the most part - I've adjusted to it - but there have been times when I simply wanted  more light.

Then I went on a series of business trips.
On the days in between, when I returned to the office, I saw a lot of cube-moving activity all around my area. It seems that they are doing some renovation in one part of the building, so they had to temporarily move an entire section of people over into the vacant cubes dotted throughout my area.
Even for adults, there is a certain camaraderie to temporarily 'setting up camp' in a different area, and I noticed that this group stayed cheerful and positive about the added distraction to their daily work.

This week I returned to my cube after another travel week away.
Something was different.  The atmosphere around my work area was noticeably different.
Pleasantly different.
There was more light!

These new folks had swept into the area and determined that many of the overhead fixtures had aged tubes or ballasts. They had immediately brought it to the attention of the facilities team and literally brought new light into our midst.

I'm surprised at how much this one change seemed to please me.
I had no idea what a difference it would make. And I had no idea why I had simply gone along with the dull shadows for two years!  I had simply adjusted and "settled."

I immediately paid more attention to this traveling group of positive people who had brought the change. I looked at name tags. Asked about their work. And I thought more and more about why they had thought to bring change, and I had assumed change was not possible. That I had simply forgot and put up with it.

Isn't that what missionaries have been trying to do for centuries - and to great success?
I have a friend from work who sold her home two years ago, took a leave of absence, and moved to southeast Africa. In the pictures she shares, I see her joy and light in the midst of the children she now helps. Somehow she believed that those children did not have to simply endure the shadows of that region's poverty and physical assaults. I would never have imagined someone could go in and make such a difference in such a short period of time.

But then, I didn't think to help bring light to the 8x8 area of my own work cube.
We can't assume that people want to live in the darkness of this world's spiritual doldrums.
And we have to realize that many people simply assume there is nothing better.
How would they know - unless energized, positive people come in and help with tangible actions?
You don't have to go to southeast Africa to bring Light to where you live and work.

John 8:12
"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

What do you believe?







Saturday, April 26, 2014

What I Learned This Easter


This Easter I realized there have been 6 major milestones in my  spiritual life.
They seem to span about a decade each - I must be a slow learner.
Here is what I learned (am learning) as part of my relationship with God:
  1. The bible is the revealed and inspired Word of God - this changed everything. Reading the bible turned my life upside down. Without a reference point, you can rationalize anything...and I had been rationalizing many things wrongly for the first 25+ years of my life! 
  2. Jesus is God - I had dinner with a kind business associate who was visiting from Oregon. I told him it would help me to know that the bible affirmed Jesus' as truly God and not just a 'good man.'  He pulled out a pocket new testament and showed me John 10:30, and Colossians 2:9. I was 29.
  3. Grace is God's unconditional gift of forgiveness - given freely to and received by those who believe in Jesus.  I had believed in various forms of 'works,' only to learn that no one 'earns' their way to heaven. Our multi-denominational bible study broke through to me on Grace in my 30's.  It builds on #s 1 and 2. If they are not true, then Grace is meaningless.
  4. Following Jesus is not just a salvation experience - throughout my 40's I asked God to grow His ways more naturally from within me, rather than me 'acting the part' of a Christian. Left to myself for forty years, I was not naturally (or otherwise) humble, compassionate, forgiving, merciful, generous or moderated. Some people probably are. I needed God to transform me, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. With Grace, and kind mercy. If ever a Godly attribute is evident in my life, it comes from God - I was never able to 'will' them into place on my own. 40 years proved it.
  5. People will leave this life having chosen not to believe in Jesus. Where they are is less important than where they are not.  Jesus and the bible make it clear that eternal life in God's presence is through the name of Jesus. I choose Jesus and eternal life in God's presence. God does not delight in the death of unbelievers - nor do I.  I pray all people will know that eternal  presence (Ezekiel 33:11,  1Thes 5:9)  Now in my 50's, I volunteer and counsel people on this eternal decision for their lives. There is great need and many people seeking this Truth.
  6. Jesus' Last Supper did not complete the passover...yet.  This Easter, a dear friend of our family from Hungary shared a thoughtful podcast about Jesus, the Lamb of God. I'll leave you to do your own homework on this one, I'm still studying it! You'll read in the Gospel's that after Jesus and the disciples broke bread and drank wine as part of the passover, they departed after singing a hymn. As I now understand it, that left the 4th cup of the traditional Jewish passover unspoken for. It was not complete. The next day in Jerusalem was the day that lambs were sacrificed for the traditional passover meal. Note that Exodus 12 talks about the sacrifice being fully consumed by all participants. On the cross that day, Jesus took a sip of wine extended on a branch of hyssop. He declared, 'it is finished.'  And in the Holy Communion of the Lord's Supper, we now partake in what Jesus asked, in remembrance of him, as at the Passover. As Paul said in 1Corinthians 5:8, 'therefore, let us keep the feast.'   That is to say, complete the remembrance that Jesus requested in its fullness, by consuming the sacrificed lamb, which in biblical times was prepared whole, body and blood. Bread and wine.  Its a difficult teaching of the new testament, but makes more sense to me now, and the link to the old testament is now clearer.  I encourage you to also read the Gospel of John, Chapter 6.
I wonder what I'll learn next!

And as always...what do you believe?

Kindest, Most Gentle Soul I've Ever Known

I met up with an old college friend recently.
We traded news and updates of our families.
He asked me how my wife was. I gave him the quick summary of her work and hobbies and time spent with our kids.
Then he asked me a question that doesn't usually come up with casual acquaintances. It's more a question for  good friends, people that have no boundaries in what they know about you, perfect and imperfect.
"How are you two doing together after all these years?"
It's a question I would have summarized in the past with a simple, "we're doing fine as usual."
But that wasn't what he meant.
College is a long way behind us now. We've all been through the blurred years of raising our kids.
Now we've had parents and loved ones pass away. Weddings. Job changes.  A changed world around us.
"How are you two doing after all these years?"
Being married to my best friend means immeasurably more to me now than when my friends used to ponder such things at the student union.
I understand in my core being that she loves me more than anybody else ever has, or could. And that is how I love her. We've been through a lot - as most people - but its now that I see how the steadfastness and commitment to always go forward another day has galvanized us with unshakable trust. And affection. And a singular, deep rooted gladness that I really can't put into words - although I know she understands it too.
Time to me now is measured in portions I am able to spend with her, near her, or while doing other things until we are back together again.

Inscribed in our wedding rings are the words, "We are One."
At the time, we meant it to signify the joining of our individual lives, together with God.
Then it was aspirational. Now it is true.

I said to my friend,
"She is the kindest, most gentle soul I have ever known."

And we are one.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Phone A Friend - Got anything about Jesus ?

I had questions about an allergy medicine a few weeks ago and I called a friend with experience using  over the counter products. I kidded her on the call that she was my allergy phone-a-friend.
I get calls on various topics from friends and family and hear the same line. Its fun to be considered knowledgable on some topics, even in everyday life.

Then last weekend we attended a very unique symphony concert. Our very renowned local orchestra played the musical score in sync with the "Wizard of Oz" movie as it played on a large screen in our beautiful performing arts center.
On the way home my daughter and son-in-law busily uncovered delicious trivia items about the original 1939 movie, its cast and the production details.  In just a few minutes of smart phone sleuthing they came up with  fascinating and fairly comprehensive insights to the beloved movie.

Two very nice 24/7 options are available to us these days - call an expert or search the net - either way, we have answers at our fingertips, eyes and ears, within seconds of a question popping into our consciousness.

It's Holy Week, 2014.

This is an annual Christian remembrance of Jesus, the Christ, and his final days before dying on the cross and then rising from the dead. He did this for the redemption of sin, for all who repent and believe on his name.

Somebody might have questions after hearing about Jesus, Easter, Good Friday, the Passion, Resurrection, Redemption, the Cross, Scourging, Tomb, Pilot, Sanhedrin, Passover, Upper Room, Last Supper...

If they decide to phone a friend...will they call you?

If not - could we envision four people driving in the car and enthusiastically sharing fascinating trivia and insights about all those Holy Week topics - as my own family did because of a 1939 movie?
There is far more information available for internet searches on Jesus topics than there is for Wizard of Oz topics.

I still have conversations with Christian friends and acquaintances who will say, "I'm sure it's in the bible somewhere, I just wouldn't know where to look."
In today's day and age - that's really not a reason, so much as an...well, it's not a reason at all.
And if we're not willing to look, why would we expect a non-believer or seeker to do so?

He's risen.  That is the Good News of Easter, 2014.
I'm ready if anyone decides to phone this friend.

What do you believe?




Sunday, April 06, 2014

Noah - Genesis - Book and Movie

I did go to see the new Noah movie, starting Russell Crowe.

Like most people, I quickly recognized the most obvious fictional component - the three-armed  rock monsters.
My guess is that the screenwriters and producers thought no one would believe that human beings could build such a big ark on their own.  But they would believe three-armed rock monsters.

For the rest of the movie there's an ad-hoc mix of biblical references and Hollywood movie plot creativity.
On balance, it's a pretty entertaining action movie that will mostly disappoint viewers who really like the original book.

Here's an excerpt from a review from worldmag.com by  Sophia Lee

" [Noah movie] reflects a rough understanding of sin as moral wickedness evidenced through rape, murder, pillage, and bad stewardship of the earth, all of which are dominant in Noah’s mankind. But the film fails to capture the more dangerous sins: nuanced, hidden, deceivingly beautiful, flesh-and-ego-pleasing sins that first tempted Eve in the Garden. When Noah finally starts recognizing his own inner wickedness, he descends into a lunatic and irrational state that victimizes his terrified family—revealing a rather biblical truth of what happens to a man who becomes “enlightened” without the promised hope and grace of the gospel."

It did prompt me to go back and flip my bible open to the 6th chapter of Genesis...there's was quite a bit I had not thought of in quite awhile...its worth the read.

What do you believe?


Thursday, April 03, 2014

Career Advice - God is my #1 Referral Source

One of my young business friends was talking to me about looking ahead for his next career move.
How best to narrow down options and choose the best job direction - at least when the economy and circumstances allow for choices!

I looked back on how my own work life has progressed across 3+ decades - for which I am very grateful and aware of God's blessings.
I started to write a few notes about the intentional prayers I had offered to God - and then realized that there has been quite an extensive running dialog with Him on this topic. God has blessed and never failed, including times when I was sadly out of work.
Here is what I recalled for my young friend:

Lord, I pray...

  • That you grant me a humble heart that is open to your perfect will.
  • That you cultivate spiritual depth and growth in my relationship with you, that I might recognize your Holy Spirit of insight as it transcends my own.
  • That you lead me to the best possible future, for our entire family, not only this generation, but all generations to come until you return...for eternal purposes that are beyond what I can know.
  • For divine appointments, every day, in every situation, to be met with wisdom and discernment, that I might not hinder or block what you make possible. For restraint when my impulses or reactions could disrupt what is the better path. For a straight path to your ways...without detours that I create. For Holy Spirit course corrections when I have done so.
  • For divine patience and a Spirit of peace to wait as you lead and align, but also a Holy Spirit of appropriate action and sense of urgency when you have provided the opportunity.
  • For forgiveness when I put myself first, or willingly ignore what I know to be Godly influence or guidance.
  • For Godly confidence and assurance to keep career in its proper perspective, never to be daunted or in doubt about what You can accomplish without the help of men.
  • For a lifetime of Godly people and circumstances in my path offering help, accountability, encouragement, example, protection, nurturing.
  • For specific, tangible insights that help with decisions and choices. Especially those that diverge from what I believed most evident or assured. For a recognizable, Holy Spirit sense of affirmation in all matters that transcends the ‘milestone’ situational needs.
  • For a Holy Spirit continuum of what is our marriage, our family, our work, our outreach, our friendships...that they are Spiritually one with you and your purpose in our lives - to the point that we more readily see and understand what directions or choices are of you, and of what we are with you.
  • Philippians 2:3 - That I do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
All this I ask in Jesus' name, Amen.


What do you believe?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Where's That Bible Verse?

I started reading the bible for real when I was in my late 20's.
Up until then it was too overwhelming for me in its entirety. Too many books, too many words, too unwieldy.
I couldn't make sense of it.
Ironically, I had written and recorded over 30 contemporary Christian songs by then - matching verses to themes that fit my melodies, and vice versa. It was solid, God-inspired work that has stood the test of time. But I was no bible scholar, just a capable, creative, verse browser.

When curiosity and the Holy Spirit finally got hold of me, I was on fire to learn more of the details.
I took notes, highlighted verses, made flash cards, and attended studies with heartfelt enthusiasm. It was a spectacular surge of spiritual growth and insight that surprises me to this day for its intensity.

Some of that motivation came from growing awareness of the competing spiritualities and non-spiritual philosophies surrounding our young family. My wife and I had experienced an eye-opening, and unsettling, tour of the mormon church's HQ in Utah. I had also been frustrated and embarrassed by my inability to converse intelligently with Jehovah Witnesses and even Christian evangelists who knocked on our six-paneled front door. I didn't know exactly what I believed, or "should" believe about Jesus. I was woefully unchurched, having attended church regularly for over 25 years.

But God made up for lost ground, with a flourish. And it all started with reading His inspired and revealed words in the bible. It turned my life upside down and nothing has ever been the same - for which I will be eternally grateful. Quite literally.

After all these years spent with my favorite book, I can recite quite a few of the most commonly referenced verses by memory. Others are starting to fade a bit, but I can triangulate the book or chapter and track them down. "Its somewhere in Matthew 24, I think."
For all the rest, there are word searches with my iPad app or....with Google!
That's right, you can no longer say, "I wish I knew my bible better," and let somebody do the heavy lifting. Just type it into your computer or tablet browser. Or download a bible app like Tecarta.
http://www.biblegateway.com
http://biblehub.com

As easy as it is now to find a bible - a Gideon pocket bible, a hotel version, or online browser -  there are still two camps of people who make the "I don't know where the particular bible verse is," statement.
One group is sincere, despite being without plausible reasons. It would be more accurate to say, "I'm really not motivated enough to actually track down where the verse and context might be."  Or, "I'm content enough to know some reference is there without having to see it."  Fair enough.  True enough.

The other group is less genuine - with a side agenda to let general bible references serve their own purpose, but without actually seeking the truth.  These are people who point out that the "bible says not to judge anyone," or "plenty of people have used the bible to say that slavery is acceptable." But will quickly change the subject if you offer to crack open a bible and discuss the details.

I spent many years listening to - and offering up - countless versions of both conversations.
Then I simply read the bible for myself. And everything changed.

2Tim 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.

What do you believe?

 




Saturday, January 11, 2014

Call Your Own Fouls

When you play a game of pick-up basketball, or playground hoops, as we say here - you call your own fouls.
Its basically an honor system.
If the player shooting the basketball is fouled (illegally blocked or grabbed on the body or arms), that player can say, "you fouled me," and either get the ball back again, or shoot a free throw. And its bad form for the defensive player to deny it or argue. The offense gets to "call your own foul," and it balances out when the other team gets the ball and they then call their own fouls.
You play this style when there are no referees to be had - hence with playground ball. Its usually for a casual game, or your league is simply saving the cost and hassle of referees.

Its surprising how well it works.
Overall, when you're in a one-on-one situation and the other player slaps your wrist as you shoot, you both know it. They don't disagree when you call the foul, because they know its true, and so do you.

It's different in a formal game with official referee's. Now the crowd is watching. You are cheering for your team to win and you don't want the referee "hurting" your team by calling fouls.
And, if the referee seems to be harsher with the other team, and even calls a mistaken foul, that's ok with you. Because you want your team to win.

It's hard to deny your sins one-on-one with God.
You lied about oversleeping for church.  Foul.
You secretly enjoyed seeing a politician fall from grace after an embarrassing  extra-marital affair. Foul.
We know when we've sinned. And its an easy thing to read through the New Testament to learn what God considers to be the rulebook.

On the other hand, when we assemble as groups with referee's around, we lose sight of the ball.
More and more, people are finding judges, parties or politicians who will declare a certain morality or activity to be acceptable in legal terms. The spectators cheering for that point of view are delighted. And to some degree - at least in the comfort of their group, they may even have some vague sense that they are "in the right."
But one-on-one with God, the Holy Spirit helps to make very clear what is true, and what is right.
Most of the widely debated "conflicted and complex" issues of our time are neither.
We recognize a foul when we see it.  Granted, its harder sometimes to admit it when you're sitting in the stands with the rest of your cheering section - when they desperately want their team to win.
But a foul is a foul.  

Romans 1:19-20
"...because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."

Playground basketball wasn't always pretty. It could get rough around the edges. We ran hard and it was a gritty, sweaty battle from one hoop to the next.
But we called our own fouls. And win or lose, we each knew there was truth in that. 

It may be now, that we've got too many referees making calls on the essential spiritual matters of our day - and too many of us cheering from a distance. 

What do you believe?



Sunday, November 17, 2013

Because God is Merciful

There has been a nice surge of online inquires since the recent My Hope broadcast by Billy Graham.
I volunteer as a chat counselor for people who respond to the web site with questions.

Some inquiries are from people seeking God and some from Christians with doubts.
It's a humbling and encouraging opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus.

This week a man used the occasion of our online chat (both of us are anonymous to the other online) to ask about God's forgiveness in Christ.  He was stuck on the basic tenant of Grace - that God forgives us even though we do not deserve forgiveness. This, because Jesus died in our place on the cross, for the forgiveness of our sins. I explained that God then looks at us and sees no sin - Jesus having redeemed us.
The gentleman asked pointedly, how could God be so easily fooled - to see no sin when it is simply with Jesus.  We went back and forth on this for quite some time, the man clearly struggling with God so easily re-directed, so as to overlook our sin.
This is not an unusual conversation. This man and many others have a hard time accepting God's willingness to forgive and love, because of what Jesus did on the cross.

I finally typed back to him..."its not that God is foolish to see past your sins...it is that he is merciful."

And that is what broke through for this man.
"Merciful."    Ah, that made sense where the pure logic of retribution in our world did not.
Mercy is a foreign concept today. Especially mercy with no payback. Mercy without justice. Mercy with humble thanks.

The bible says "God saved us, not because of anything we did - but because of his mercy." Titus 2:5

For at least one person I met this week - that made all the difference.

What do you believe?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Seeing in the Dark

I woke up the other morning just as my wife was leaving for work.

She left the lights off so as not to wake me, and was finding her way from the master bath to our door.

Since I'd woken in the dark, my eyes were already adjusted and I could survey the scene.
She had one hand extended out in front of her, moving slowly left to right. And her feet were carefully shuffling one step at a time.
To her, stepping out of the lighted master bath, all was darkness in the room.  Her hand was out in front to protect her from hitting the doorway. Her feet were shuffling so as not to trip or stub a toe.

To me, I saw someone cautiously trying to find their way through what I could see clearly. What she could not see, I could see.

Light and darkness.

The first chapter of John's Gospel says a lot about Jesus being the Light of this world.

"In him was life, and that life was the light of mankind. the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:4-5

and of Jesus' birth, John said,
"The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him."  John 1:9-10

Knowing Jesus is like flipping on life's light switch.
You worry less about holding your hands out in front of you, worried about what you may encounter. You plant your feet more confidently, less concerned about stubbing your toe.
There is great joy and confidence walking in the Light of Jesus.

There is also great joy when you can see someone who used to walk in the dark, now walking in the light. Especially when it is someone you care about, someone you love.

Is there anyone you love enough to empower with the Light of Jesus?  Or, will you let them walk in the dark, hoping they "find their own way?"

"For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God in the light of life."  Psalm 56:13

"Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord." Psalm 89:15

"Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God."  Isaiah 50:10

What do you believe?




Healthy Grass Crowds Out Weeds

I fired my lawn service again last year.

After 5 years or so, my lawn wasn't any better and I was getting even more weeds.
"You just have to water it more," the service kept saying while my neighbors' yards looked beautiful.

So the new guys came in, very confident in their approach.
They recommended aeration, fertilization and something new...a compost top dressing.
The top dressing layer would be applied in the fall, about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of rich organic matter to complement aeration and over seeding.

The lawn got off to a good start in late spring and summer.
The grass looked more consistent, although the same thin spots and patches of crab crass were there.
Then the weeds roared back in August.
"What are you going to do about this?" I asked.  "It looks worse than before with all the weeds?"

The lawn guy confidently held his ground and explained his process.
"Sir, we're about to aerate and over-seed your lawn. We can't put down weed killer or we'll hurt the new grass that germinates."
Sounded like same-old, same-old to me, but he persisted.
"Sir, you have to think about what makes healthy grass. If you don't have a good base layer of soil throughout for healthy roots, then you'll never get out of this cycle. You'll have just what you have now. Patches of good grass and patches of bad. Its your lawn, but this is what I recommend."
I still didn't see how this would get rid of weeds. Wouldn't they just grow faster and healthier too?

But no.
Two months later, with a new base of soil and over seeding, the lawn looks fabulous.
And the darn weeds have been crowded out by...healthy grass.
I honestly would never have believed it.

A strong base helps the good thrive together and crowd out the bad. Just turn in your bible to the gospel of Mark, chapter 4 and read Jesus' parable of the farmer sowing seed.

But what got the job done for me? This young man was steadfast in his belief that a firm foundation would conquer the weeds. He risked his lively hood by NOT telling me what I wanted to hear.
"Sir, you could do it your way, but you'll just continue in the cycle that you have now..."

We have to be willing to tell people the Truth of the Gospel.

"Sir, Ma'am, you will not fix hate, envy, pride and corruption with weed control alone."
You must first build up the healthy layer of humility, honesty, mercy, forgiveness...and Grace.

We see ever encroaching patches of unhealthy philosophies. Thin layers of false hope. Ugly bare spots where past experiments have failed and withered - with nothing left to even build on.

Sir, Ma'am, without Jesus, we will simply continue in the ever worsening cycle we are in now.
With him, we are only a season away from renewal.  I've seen it with my own eyes.

What do you believe?







Yahtzee Imposter

Yahtzee is a game we've played since I was a kid.

It involves shaking multiple dice and trying to score a list of combinations - three of a kind, series, highest combined value, etc.

There are many other dice games out there. We walked through a game store recently and saw a different brand's version. Generally the same - shake the dice and accumulate various combinations to build your score.  In both games, highest score wins. Pretty simple.

Standing there in the store, we were trying to decide whether we should try the alternative game. Nice packaging, lots of exciting, fun statements on the box. Pictures of happy, laughing people. Not too expensive.

But without additional information, we weren't convinced that it would be that different. And we weren't really dissatisfied with our old reliable version.
Back home, I typed both game names into an internet search and asked, 'which is better?'
Several blog posts described how they each worked, and how much the person liked their game of choice. But none of the authors made a compelling case to stay or change.
We still plan to ask our friends what they know about both.

Then just this week we encountered a spiritual version of the same dilemma.

One of our young, 20-something friends moved to a new neighborhood and decided to attend a nearby church.
He told us about the nice people there and how he enjoyed the service. They told him the roots of their church were Christian-oriented, although other faiths were welcome. "They call it Unitarian Universalist," he said.
We were able to explain to him that this was not actually Christian - that beneath the "packaging" and nice people was a philosophy, but not salvation in the sufficiency of Christ. He was grateful for the personal insight from people he knew. Better equipped to now make his own informed decisions.

This is why we need to be more openly engaged in conversations about spiritual matters. Do you have a young person or friends in your life who are talking about knowing 'god' or going to 'church?'
"What is it that you are looking for in a church?"
"What is it that you hope to find in a relationship with god?"
These are good starting points to help people understand the love and mercy of God, in Jesus.

"In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to to give an answer to everyone who asks for the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."  1Peter 3:15

What is it that you are hoping to find in a relationship with god?
Find some answers here:
peacewithgod.net 

What do you believe?




God in the Rear View Mirror?

Yesterday I was merging into a two lane stretch of highway about a mile from home. I make this merge 100's of times in a year, coming back from work or shopping.
This two lane very quickly collapses to one lane before the curve. You have to jockey for position to get over from right to left. If you are patient and polite, you accelerate slowly and simply slip into the back of the line. If you're aggressive or impatient, you hit the accelerator and try to jump out in front of a few cars before the merging lane ends. Of course, if the other lane's drivers are aggressive, THEY may accelerate to squeeze you out of the merge, forcing you to back off and slip further back in line.

The time difference to anyone involved is a few seconds at best.

Yesterday I was distracted with other thoughts and automatically looked left to judge the oncoming traffic speed before starting my entry to the two lane section. I toyed with the idea of accelerating ahead of one more car before changing lanes, but I did not. However, I smiled to see the car ahead of me do just that, and he almost got pinched out by a left-laner accelerating to close the gap and block him out.

Seconds later, we all rolled to a stop at the red light. It was then that I looked in the rear view mirror.
The guy behind me looked familiar. He was wearing a distinctive white collar with his black shirt. It was my church pastor!

I immediately blushed and quickly recounted the previous 30 seconds of my life.

In vivid color I recalled my merge in front of the oncoming car, and how I had gaged his speed before sliding left in front of him.  That was ok, there had been plenty of space, so he didn't have to brake. And how about my last minute consideration to pass the car in front of me, could pastor have detected my latent aggression simmering right below the surface? Probably not. And most likely he had no idea it was even me in that car. Or did he?

Sometimes that's exactly how I replay scenes in my life when I finally think about God in my rear view mirror. Did I treat that person at work unkindly?  Was I wasting too much of my spare time when I could be volunteering?  Am I praying and reading scripture as diligently as I follow the news? And I do blush to think he knows of my willful "merging tactics"...

Better that I drive life like God is always beside me, not to "catch me" doing things wrong, but to help me stay strong on his path of righteousness.

"Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought  to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil."  Proverbs 4:25-27

What do you believe?





Sunday, September 08, 2013

A Simple Box of Memories

We've spent the summer preparing a 65 year old home for sale.

My dad decided it was time to leave the home he'd literally built with his own hands, and move into a more manageable apartment. It was good timing and a wise decision for all of us.
At age 85, he is nicely settled into his place and already making new friends.

His move to the apartment triggered a sometimes overwhelming set of tasks for us 'youngsters' to attend.
None of us had space to absorb 60 years of furniture, decorations, tools, equipment, household items and...memories.
So little by little, item by item, we had to wrestle with the decisions of keep, give away, or discard.
Countless families have had to deal with this, so I won't waste any words feeling sorry for us or our process.

What I did learn very quickly was that items aren't just items. Each of us have attached (locked) certain memories to the acquisition of, or use of certain items. Other items represent an event or time period.
It was very interesting to see how one person's "give away" was another person's "keep" or "discard" and why. Ok, 'interesting' doesn't even begin to describe it. The stress levels we reached over these decisions was excruciating at times. Surprisingly, most of the angst was not over who got what. It was more about "how can we somehow keep" things that had been in the family for so long...no matter their value to the rest of the world.

In the end, we have imperfectly endured the process as I'm sure other families have.
For me, the essence of the family home - other than photos, our most precious resource - is now comfortably resting here on a simple oak table.

One of my mother's crosses and one of her rings.
The cuff links and tie clasp that my dad wore to their wedding.
The hospital wrist band from my birth.
All tucked into my favorite wood music box. A simple, unremarkable item that I always enjoyed seeing in the living room of our humble home.

Faith, family, fidelity and simple pleasures.

My bride and I are looking around our own home with a different perspective now. What will our daughter and son most value some day when it comes time to keep, give away or discard.
I sincerely hope that their choices will somehow reflect elements of those same four themes.



What do you believe?

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Strike Down Hail Stones upon that Ugly Red Truck...

The ugly red pickup truck has been making me crazy.

Its an unspoken contest among early arrivers at work to claim the 1st parking spot.
It's directly across from the main entrance, just in front of the flag poles.
Honestly, it doesn't affect your walk by more than a few seconds, but it's still the first spot filled on any given morning. You have to arrive before 6 a.m. to even have a shot at it.

Normally I couldn't tell you the brand or color of the car that parked there if my life depended on it.
But the rusty red truck's driver has been regularly backing into the first spot and crossing the yellow line for the 2nd spot as well. That forces everyone to the third spot and puts the old red beater on clear display across two prime spots.

These are very bad parking manners. I might understand it with a shiny new vehicle - but even then a new owner would park in the "back 40" to protect their new paint finish from flung doors and swinging brief cases.
My inside voice sounded something like this:

Day1: "...sloppy parking, you shouldn't back into a spot if you can't line up correctly."
Day2: "...how rude, somebody should leave a note or something, don't they know they're doing it?"
Day3:  "what an idiot - I bet they're doing it on purpose - an in-your-face to the rest of us with nicer cars. Probably a liberal who thinks the world owes them an extra space."
Day4:  "I'm going to squeeze my car into the 2nd spot, right up against their door and see how they like it."  (I didn't, figured they had nothing to lose by losing some red paint on my nice car)
Day5:  "There's no excuse for this. By now they realize what they're doing and just don't care. Total disrespect and selfishness."

And so its progressed with each day I saw that fat red truck hogging those spaces. While I waited for the behavior to change those first few times, I soon gave up and simply believed the worst of them. The driver is ill-mannered and will always be ill-mannered. Leave them to their miserable, selfish existence.

That's when I had an 'aha' moment.

I sensed God smiling at me in a bemused fashion. Not unkindly, or disgustedly.
More like he was sitting in a lawn chair watching the whole scene unfold, and waiting for me to get it.

Its me in that ugly red truck of my own pride and selfishness.
How many times do I carelessly back into life's parking spaces and hog the next one too?
Spend money on an expensive latte and then steer clear of a panhandler.
Indulge myself in weekend sporting events without pre-planning the prime time with my lovely bride.
Skip my morning bible reading because I slept too late and wanted to read the news before work.

It's not that I do these things one time and learn from them. I keep backing into the same parking space and covering up the second one. Over and over again.  Rude to those who deserve better from the gifts God has given me. Worst of all, rude to my Creator.

Yet there He was, smiling at me. Loving me. Willing to forgive me.
Even as I walked past the stupid red truck and yet again castigated the driver for their repetitive character flaw. The driver who could well be my neighbor. Could well be me.

Lord God, please forgive me for my sins. Please don't give up on me.
Please bless me with the Grace to forgive others and for us all to realize how much we need you.
I ask this in Jesus' Holy name, Amen.

What do you believe?






Sunday, May 05, 2013

Planned Parenthood Celebration

Should the government really be funding Planned Parenthood?
Should anyone?

What do you believe?


Obama shouldn’t support Planned Parenthood

May 4, 2013
On April 26, for the first time in United States history, a sitting president addressed a Planned Parenthood "gala." The dictionary defines "gala" as a festivity or celebration. I wonder what they were celebrating. Planned Parenthood reports that in 2011, they were responsible for snuffing out the innocent lives of 333,964 babies via abortion. I might add here that this is federal taxpayer-funded abortion. This president assured the group that Planned Parenthood wasn't going to go away or be denied federal funds for their "cause" and that they have a president who will be there to support them all the way (my words). Reminds me of Proverbs 6:16-18: "These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."
I will say in that 12-minute span, another 7.6 abortions took place. He concluded his remarks by stating, "God bless you, Planned Parenthood." Reminds me of another verse of scripture in Isaiah 5:20: "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil ..."
Jeanie Lane

Protect your children with your Votes


Our votes are making a huge difference in the culture. Choose (more) wisely.
What do you believe?


Obama approves ‘morning-after’ pill for 15-year-olds

ABORTION

President Barack Obama and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto arrive for their bilateral meeting at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City.Enlarge Image
Associated Press/Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais
President Barack Obama and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto arrive for their bilateral meeting at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City.


President Barack Obama said late Thursday he was comfortable with the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to lower the age limit for buying the so-called “morning-after” pill without a prescription

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Going to Surgery - How, What to Pray?

One of my neighbor friends was going to have a cardiac heart cath procedure done this week. That's where they check for coronary artery blockage and can choose to insert a stent to improve blood flow if  necessary.
He and I have a running dialog about God in the general sense, but I gather that he has not invited Jesus into his heart as Savior (although I'm not sure). I've enjoyed our ongoing neighborly friendship and we ride bikes together during the summer months. We talk about the gamut of life's topics - sports, family, yard work. But I've stopped short of inviting him to consider a prayer of salvation. I always figure that might happen at some future time when he's curious, which is fine with me.
So when we chatted on the sidewalk this week before his  procedure, things took a different perspective for me. Heart cath procedures are generally very safe (I work in the industry), but in the unlikely event that things go wrong, you may not see the person afterwards. So the immediacy of our conversation was not lost on me.
I won't share the specific conversation I had with my friend this week - but he's fine after the procedure, thank you Jesus.

For the next friend or family member, this situation did help me to boil down the essentials of salvation into two very simple phrases. I thought of these as the "walk-away" reminders for a friend or loved one with whom you've had conversations about God and His Son, but aren't sure you'll ever have another opportunity...
1. Tell God your sorry.
2. Tell Him you accept Jesus as your Savior.

"God, I'm sorry for my sins, and I accept Jesus as my Savior"

There's more to this conversation - realizing that God has always had a plan for our lives (Romans 5:1), and that we're saved because of His mercy, not our good deeds (Titus 3:4-5), and that Jesus chose to die for us on the cross, as a way to reconcile us with God (1Peter 2:21-25).

But if you're ever having to help someone who is facing the toughest moments of life:
Lost a job
Terribly sick
Lonely
Divorced
Addicted
Hopeless
In danger
Tired

Tell God your sorry for your sins. Tell Him you accept Jesus as your Savior.

If there is the blessing of another minute or hour or years in your life after that, then find me on the sidewalk and I'll tell you the rest.   Or go to that church down the street and ask the pastor.  And believe.

What do you believe?



Monday, April 29, 2013

Coarse words - anyone hear me?

I finished a phone call on my way home from work last week, clicked off and dropped the phone in my lap. More work! More deadlines!  And right before the weekend.
I was also irritated because the car in front of me had been straggling along below the speed limit. Hurry up already!
Just before the stoplight he finally decided to speed up, make the amber, and leave me stuck waiting for the next light.
Expletive Deleted !
I uttered a coarse set of words without thinking.
But then I did think - had I really turned off my phone?!
Blushing bright as the red light, I reached down and picked up the phone to check.
It was off - and I was relieved - saved the embarrassment of somebody hearing me at a weak moment.

You know where this is going, right?

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."  Ephesians 4:29

God heard me loud and clear - and my words would not have benefitted anyone who might have listened, let alone the creator of the universe. I had every reason to be embarrassed, phone or no phone.

There are too many things I let myself "get away with" in the course of some days simply because no one is there to hear or see my actions - or read my thoughts!   But reading the bible helps to keep me honest, because I come across verses like Ephesians 4:29. And more often than I'd expect, a recently read verse will even help to pre-empt a traffic light moment (just not this time...).

"Whoever loves a pure heart and gracious speech will have the king as a friend." Proverbs 22:11

I believe I can do better. And I like having as a friend, the King of Kings.

What do you believe?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gosnell Abortion Murders Trial

A very insightful article from Andree Seu Peterson at Worldmag.com


Broken scales and death at the Gosnell trial

ABORTION


Abortion centers definitely need better inspecting to assure that records are accurately kept and cleanliness is maintained. The goal, after all, is to kill babies, not mothers.



What do you believe?

Monday, April 01, 2013

Clear Varnish - Stained Colors

I finally got around to re-boxing our outdoor Nativity figures (its Easter weekend).
It's a bit of a chore to fit them back into the foam core packing, plus I wanted to first re-apply the weather protective varnish.

I made space in the basement, found a brush and opened up the gallon can of varnish.
It looked a little murky while I was stirring it, like muddy brown creek water. But it was the same can I used when I first bought the set a couple years ago, so it must be alright. It probably goes on murky and then clears up, I thought. Varnish is funny that way sometimes.

But no, by golly. I drew the first long brushstroke down Mary's shawl and dirty brown swirls made an immediate stained contrast to her beautiful off-white, original covering. Yikes!  It was going to look awful. What to do?

I frantically grabbed the nearest clean cloth I could find and began wiping off the liquid. To my great surprise, the varnish - and the color - came right off. None of it seeped permanently into the finish. The previous coat of varnish had done its job and made this clean up quick and manageable. I was so relieved!

Turns out that the brown stain had mixed in with varnish because I also used it to treat the wooden stable backdrop after the figures. I'd forgotten that part. It looked muddy brown this time around - because it was!

Lots of lessons compared here.
Once we acknowledge our belief in Jesus, we are covered - head to Soul - in the protection of the Holy Spirit.
"Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered."  Romans 4:7

We are sealed.
"...the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you are sealed for the day of redemption." Ephesians 4:30

And sins wiped away,
"Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord."  Acts 3:19

But if we do let ourselves get back into the mix of sin - even after seeing its obvious murky stain trying to blend in - God gives us a way to clean up, thanks to that protective covering we have:

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  1John 1:9    God does this for us, in the name of Jesus.

I was so relieved to see that dirty varnish wipe off the protected surface - like it hadn't even occurred.
I tell myself to be more vigilant next time, on the alert before letting sin come into contact with what God has already made righteous - but somehow there does always seem to be a "next time..."

What do you believe?





Friday, March 29, 2013

I let a sparrow die and I am so sorry

This happened more than 25 years ago, but it bothers me to this day.

We lived in a wooded area and kept a dry stack of split wood in the garage for our fireplace.
This inevitably attracted wood mice during the winter and I sometimes placed glue traps near the wood stack.
There were a few seeds on each trap, the mice would come by to investigate, get stuck and be easily disposed of. It didn't bother me that much to be rid of rodents, although a couple of friends did suggest that glue traps were not the most humane method available.  Still, it was expedient and effective.

Then one day in spring I was working on the driveway and heard something rustling in the garage. It took me a second to trace the sound over to the wood stack. "Ugh, a mouse," I thought.

But it wasn't a mouse. It was a tiny, brown flecked sparrow. It had somehow smelled the seeds and gotten stuck on the trap. Its toothpick leg was bent across the glue and it was fluttering in a circle, trying desparately to get away.

I was sick and horrified. Unlike the occasional dead mouse I usually found, this poor creature was alive and looking at me. I tried to work through the mechanics of extricating its leg, but that was going to do more damage, and the poor thing was frantic. I walked away at one point just to collect my thoughts - maybe I should jump in the car and drive to an animal shelter. But then I would be admonished for my glue trap - bad enough we were using them for mice. By the time I got back to the bird it was dead.
I am so sorry that I had anything to do with that.  That was one of the cruelest, saddest events I ever contributed to in my life. I've asked God to forgive me. I believe He has.  I still regret it.

25 years ago.
If I had participated in one sparrow death like that per minute - every minute of every hour - of every day - of every year - for the last 25 years...that would have been 13 million deaths. What a horrifying thought that would be.

There have been over 50 million abortions in the USA since a determined group of people chose to push through Roe v. Wade - and countless others have actively contributed to advocating and expanding the practice. People who fund the ACLU or work at and fund Planned Parenthood, or elect enabling politicians.    50 million lives as helpless as a sparrow on a glue trap.    God will forgive any of the people involved who are sorry and seek his forgiveness.  But what a heartbreaking grief to overcome.

Abby Johnson did just that - overcame her role as a professional abortion enabler at Planned Parenthood.  Linking to her website here - and encouraging anyone else who needs to reconcile with God on a past mistake. He loves you and will forgive you.  Tell others and help stop the madness.

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God."  Luke 12:7

What do you believe?




Grab Your Own Oxygen First

Have you ever actually listened to an airline's pre-flight safety talk?

In the event that we lose cabin pressure, the yellow oxygen masks will drop from the overhead.
Airline quiz:   Who is it that they instruct you to help first with oxygen?
Is it the child seated next to you?  Or the worried looking person across the aisle?

It's you.  "Place your own mask first, before assisting those around you."
It makes sense. You might pass out while starting to help someone else. And if everybody did that, there would be no one left to help!
The child and the anxious person across the aisle might figure it out on they're own, or they might not.
Be sure of yourself - so THAT you can help those around you.

I think of the airline oxygen sometimes when people pose the distracting spiritual conundrums...
"How will that remote culture's people ever be able to find about your Jesus?"
"How can you expect people to accept God when he lets these terrible things happen?"
"Why would anyone want to follow a God who did all those terrible things in the old testament?

Place your own mask first, before assisting those around you.

I've learned to ask, "but what do you think about Jesus?  Why do you think terrible things happen? Do you think its the same God in the old testament and new testament? "  Before we talk about what other people think, let's resolve what questions you have - that will give us the best perspective. And then maybe you can breathe easier.

This "what you believe" question is a good starting point for more productive, honest conversation. If the person asking these questions is sincere about seeking answers, they may then be able to explain them to the child in their care. Or the anxious neighbor next door. It's too easy for skeptics to throw out casual challenges about why "other" people should or should not believe. Its save them the trouble of having to make their own spiritual decisions.

What about God and all those other people out there who are struggling to find Him?

What do you believe?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Right Path - Wrong Direction

There's a highway near my home town.
It runs about 75 miles in an east-west line between Madison and Milwaukee.
Madison is the home of our magnificent state capitol building. Milwaukee overlooks Lake Michigan.

Imagine if I were to meet a visitor to our area somewhere in the miles between.
She asks me if she is on the road for Madison.
"Well, we both are on the very same road," I confirm.
"Well, I think I'll continue on my way then," she answers, and hops back onto her bicycle.

However, she is heading in the direction of Milwaukee. She is, in fact, on the road for Madison, only she will be getting farther and farther away from it with every push of the pedals.
I call out to tell her, but my friend says, "what are you doing?"
"I'm going to tell her she's headed in the wrong direction," I say, "what do you think I'm doing?"
"Don't be so arrogant," my friend rebukes me. "she seems like a very thoughtful, confident person. Who's to say she won't get to Madison her way, same as us?"  And he hops back on his bicycle toward Madison.
I think about how I would feel if it was me and I eventually rolled up to the beach in Milwaukee. What would I think about the people who could have steered me in the right direction? At the very least, I could have ignored their advice. But what if I really wanted to find Madison -- and what if I no longer had the energy, confidence, or courage left to change my direction?

I hop on my bike and go after her - I'm going to tell her what I know. Then she can make her own decision.

"Peter proceeded to speak and said.....they put him to death by hanging him on a cross...he commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name."  Acts 10:34-43

If your path is leading you away from Jesus, turn around. I don't think you're heading in the right direction.

What do you believe?


Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Music Celebrity Passing

End of year publications devote quite a bit of space to celebrity passings.
Astronauts, writers, movers and shakers. Entire lives efficiently summarized with one or two sentences about their "best known for" moments.

One of the true musical giants of our generation quietly passed this year and did not make the pages of Time. In fairness, he never performed at Madison Square Garden or Albert Hall (at least as far as I know).

Ed Doemland  was a brilliant keyboardist and percussionist who worked out of the West Allis, Wisconsin area from 1963 until his death in August.  I write "until is death" because even during my last visit with Ed in hospice - a few days before his passing - he was still busily notating melodies that would otherwise reach only a very exclusive, heavenly venue.

I can't summarize everything Ed accomplished because I saw only the part of him that so richly blessed my own life. I just watched the DVD tribute to another  celebrity musician, George Harrison. In it, Eric Clapton observed that he always felt especially close to George. But at Harrison's passing, and as friends gathered to honor the ex-Beatle, Clapton was surprised at the diversity of people who felt just as close as he did to their friend. Not just musicians, but 'regular people', spiritual people, race car drivers, actors, business associates and family.

That's the same diversity of appreciation I saw for Ed.

I knew Ed as the kind man who taught me about church music. How to organize and lead musicians and congregations in meaningful worship. Ed was famous for his last-minute, printed lyric inserts and contemporary music arrangements. He often removed entire pews from the church to make room for guest musicians. On other occasions he simply called out hymn numbers for the congregation to turn to. And as a guitarist, Ed would frequently slip me new chords or lyrics during the sermon because it would "work better" with the preacher's message that day. When I started writing my own music, Ed was my biggest cheerleader, generously helping to notate music, and evening sitting in with my band for live performances and recording sessions.

Outside of our tiny congregation though, Ed was in constant demand. When he wasn't playing solo piano gigs at the best restaurants in town, he was sitting in with some of the top bands or playing timpani with the symphonic orchestra. His own music was published and he was widely recognized as a gifted pipe organ player.

But the outpouring of love for Ed wasn't limited to musicians. 40 years of high school science students pointed to his motivation and passion for knowledge as well.  And many people recounted how they remembered his phone number digits.   Simply the words...   Kid Soda.

The others words I'll always remember are from the simple refrain to one of Ed's favorite original songs.

"We may all have different gifts, but the same Spirit.  The same God working in us all !"

Ed always made me feel like my gifts mattered. And I think everyone else that got to know him felt that same acceptance and encouragement.  It made a difference - and I hope I can continue to share what I learned from him.

You can probably summarize the "best known for's" of a lot of famous people in two or three sentences.   But not Kid Soda.

And I've got a feeling that the story continues....wouldn't we all love to hear the session he's got going now!

I'll miss you Ed.