It Seems Different, But It’s Not

1st STORY: John and Beth were experiencing the greatest moment of their lives. She had been in labor for several hours, and the happy moment was imminent. With a final push, baby MaryAnn introduced herself. Their maternity nurse, Nancy, was happy for them but was unable to avoid the darkness.

2nd STORY: Aaron Bishop was doing well. His business had been touch and go, and he wasn’t always sure it would succeed, but it did. He was fulfilled, at least in his work life. As to his personal life, Aaron was living with a broken heart. The divorce had ripped it apart, causing a canyon sized emptiness.

3rd STORY: Cynthia Anderson landed her whale, a dream job. The interview went great, they called for a follow-up, which went fabulously, and she gladly accepted their offer. On her first day as the managing CPA, while driving to work, she was in a car accident. Cynthia had a concussion, some broken bones, and severe bruising. She would be okay, but it would take a few weeks. The firm rescinded the offer.

4th STORY: Freddy Johnson had been in rehab for thirty days. He had destructive addictions that damaged him and wounded others. When stoned or drunk, he was reckless, and more than once had put his life in danger. But after thirty days, Freddy was ready. There would be support groups to attend, fences to mend, and he was determined to make better choices.

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   Life can make us feel like we are alone. Make us think that we are the only ones hurting. We wake up groaning because after opening our eyes, it hits us hard that today will be another day of heartache.

Until one day, when it isn’t.

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  While Beth was resting, John went to the cafeteria for something to eat. He was joined in the elevator by a young woman headed to physical therapy. They struck up a conversation, and he showed her pictures of MaryAnn. She explained her accident, all of it. Hearing her story, John remembered a friend who was looking for an accountant. He gave Cynthia the contact information.

   Nancy was still blue. It had been a year since her husband died and the sadness just wasn’t fading. They were deeply in love and had been trying to start a family. One evening, she went to a coffee house to read. She got her Chai Tea and sat down and soon noticed a man who brought his coffee and a book to a table close by. Before long, they were talking about their books and other things. He said he owned a software company, and she said she was a nurse. His name was Aaron, and Nancy thought he was nice. Walking home she realized that she hadn’t felt sad while talking to him.

   Cynthia had recovered enough to home. After a few days, she decided to call the man that John had recommended, a man named Aaron Bishop. They had a positive phone conversation, he requested her resume, and the next day asked her to come in. He offered her the job! She was so excited about the company, a rapidly rising software business. Maybe things were turning in her favor.

After a few weeks, John and Beth hosted a “Come Meet The Baby” party. One of the guests was John’s friend Aaron Bishop, who brought a woman named Nancy, whom they recognized as their maternity nurse! Nancy enjoyed holding MaryAnn. John had invited his new friend, Cynthia. She had called to say thanks for helping her, and he invited her to the party. She brought her friend Freddy who seemed to be more than a friend. Once she and Freddy arrived, Aaron was surprised to see his new accountant. “I didn’t know you knew John and Beth,” Aaron said to her. All the dots were beginning to connect.

Freddy got into a conversation with Beth and John, and it was clear that he was in love with Cynthia. He volunteered that he had been in rehab and was doing well. They were supporting and helping each other, both wanted to do well and move forward in life.

Seeing lives affected and changed was joyous to John and Beth. They were basking in the glow of MaryAnn, their miracle baby, for they had been trying for many years. Each of them was grieving over the loss of a parent due to the Covid-19 pandemic about a year earlier.

You see, some were grieving and some were celebrating. One had suffered a car accident. A few were lonely, discouraged, and felt lost. Some had thought that life would never get better. Some believed that no one else was hurting like they were. But somehow, life went on. They eventually found new opportunities and possibilities.

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We think perhaps that we are alone. We are not. We are surrounded by people who have struggled just as we have. Maybe different circumstances but the same sad results. But in one way or another the people around us have struggled, hurt, and felt alone, just like us.

 I pray that you will still find peace. Don’t give up. We are all the same.

Listen To Our Hearts

A HARD DAY

Someone said there would be days like this. Someone was right. We all know tough times and discouraging days, certainly I do. But not like today.

Today, there is a funeral at my church. Actually, it’s a Celebration of Life Service. That’s what we call them now, a Celebration of Life. Mostly it means there won’t be a long-winded preacher preaching something nobody wants to hear.

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We hurt and grieve and wonder if God is listening.

The celebration allows for laughter, joyful memories and sweet stories. It’s not to prevent tears but to embrace other emotions and expressions. It’s surrounding those we care about to help them celebrate the life of the one they’ve lost. Sometimes, the one they’ve lost is a child.

Today’s service is for a little boy who died a few days ago.

LEVELS?

There are levels of grief. One is when a distant relative, whom we barely know, passes away in their sleep at the age of 89. Another level is when a young child tragically succumbs to illness or is struck down by a senseless accident.

All the deaths of children are tragic and senseless.

Arguably, the only grief that is harder than losing a child is losing more than one. Today, many will gather to support a family who has lost four children in just a few years. It is beyond words, beyond explanation, beyond answers.

The things we say at times like this can seem trite or useless. Sometimes, all we can do is hug the grieving, weep with the hurting, and hope they can hear our hearts because our words have stuck in our throats.

YET, WE PRAY

We pray to Him who seemingly turned a deaf ear to the calling, ignored the praying and abandoned the grieving. We pray because prayer is what we have, along with our faith.

Gut-wrenching grief can leave the shattered with a deep-seated anger at God. We know, we try to understand, but we lack the words, the theology, or the wisdom to comfort them. And yet, we pray. We pray, for our faith reminds us that the God who sacrificed his own son knows something of loss.

TO CLOSE

So, please pray today. If words fail then trust the Holy Spirit to speak on your behalf. Please forward this to others and allow this day to be a day that God our Father listens to  our hearts.

Thank you.

“It’s Like Camp For Kids”

It’s been one and a half weeks since returning from the Holy Land. My sleep seems to have readjusted. My daily routines have resumed and the bad cold I caught on the last day of the tour is almost gone!

BACK TO NORMAL?

What hasn’t returned to normal is the levels of enthusiasm and excitement regarding what I learned. This was my fourth trip to the Holy Land and yes I am still learning, still receiving new thoughts about God and his word, and it’s thrilling. 

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At the Wailing Wall, The Western Wall of the Temple. I’m the one on the left.

Thoughts About Meeting With God

  1. God calls me to the desert to meet with him. 
  2. He always has a message I need. 
  3. It may be personal or a new insight, or an assignment.
  4. It begins the moment I arrive and is completed by the time I leave.
  5. He calls me there to get my attention. 

Jerusalem's Wailing wall

DESERT EXPERIENCES?

If you read your Bible you will find examples of people receiving messages from God while in the desert. There are many. 

No, I didn’t go into the wilderness as Jesus did and certainly not for forty days. I didn’t go up on a desert mountain as Moses did. I didn’t spend time in the Arabian desert like Saul of Tarsus. Just the same, I was there, by His invitation, and he spoke to me. 

Did I hear him audibly? Yes, but probably not in the way you think. I heard him through the teaching of our Jewish guide who is a strong believer, a Messianic Jew. I heard him through Moshi, a brilliant Orthodox Jew who is open to Christians and Christianity and had an understanding of the New Testament that was impressive. I heard his voice through Joseph, and Muslim who converted to Christianity through the example of his believing wife.

I heard his voice while walking in the Desert of Zin, a place the Israelites camped on their journey to Canaan. I heard him while on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. I heard him while standing on the stone floor of the Capernaum synagogue where Jesus taught and healed. Frankly, I’ve been to those places, and many more, several times. But they never fail to connect with me. 

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The Canyon In The Desert Of Zin, Possibly Where Moses Struck The Rock For Water

I heard him through the voices, comments, and insights of those who joined me on the tour. I heard him while communing with them in the Garden Tomb. I hear him every day I am there.

TO CLOSE

No, I don’t think God speaks to me only when in Israel. But the Holy Land is like how one of my friends on the tour put it,”The Holy Land is like camp for kids. It’s where we slow down, disconnect from daily life, and finally listen to God.”

She was exactly right.

Shalom 

 

 

The New Year’s New You

The mess has been cleaned up. The confetti, streamers and hats have been dumped into America’s landfills. The calendar has turned. 

Happy New Year

DIFFERENT? 

It’s January and about a week’s gone by since we put up the new calendar. I’t’s on the refrigerator and it has pictures of cats, and it’s cute if you like that sort of thing and several in my family do, and me, well, let’s move on. 

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Not one of the cats in the calendar, but close, really very close.

I can’t say the New Year has made much difference. Maybe it’s just me. I wasn’t jumping up and down about 2018 being over and I wasn’t bouncing about the new year starting. The new year hasn’t made me new, I’m just a week older.

However, a few thoughts I had:

  • it’s 11 months and two weeks until Christmas
  • it’s eight months until the new college football season
  • it’s four months until my birthday
  • it’s one month until my next Holy Land Tour
  • it’s tomorrow that I have breakfast at a Waffle House

I know, my life is seems terribly exciting. But it’s not all glamor and games.

The new year will bring some good things.

  • more progress for the gospel with the people of Cuba
  • more homeless families will find a home
  • more hot food will be served to the hungry
  • more souls will come to know the love of God
  • more lives will be forever changed

FOR YOU

Whatever you do with New Years and however it affects you just know that the God of all grace cares for you. His plan for your life remains steadfast and authentic. 

Some say that God is good. Some say God is good all the time. Life can be good, but defintely not all the time. 

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Will there be light at the end of your tunnels?

IN CLOSING

Sometimes there are days when life is good, really good, and you rise up to the highest peaks of Mt Victory! But sometimes there are days when life isn’t so good and you drop down into the valley of despair. When those days come try to keep your chin up, decide not give up, and keep looking up, because on your hardest days God is still there, he still cares and he’s still good.

Shalom

 

 

 

Overcoming Our Mistakes, Part One

Mistakes

Everyone makes them. Most will admit it. Some will even confess it.

What’s A Mistake?

The word is defined as:

“An error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgement caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, or insufficient knowledge.”

That’s an excellent definition, it covers all the bases, is clear, concise and complete.

For Instance 

  1. Forgetting to put the lid on something and ruining it. 
  2. Making a miscalculation in the checking account.
  3. Being late to pick up your kid after school. 

Yep, those five are mistakes all right, clear miscalculations due to carelessness.

Some mistakes aren’t fatal, but still hurtful. 

  1. Damaging a friendship with careless words.
  2. Doing something foolish and alienating a child. 
  3. Losing our temper with the ones we love. 

Those are serious but maybe not overwhelming, probably easier to remedy.

However, I would argue that the definition is lacking something. So much so that it could be thought of as a mistake. It failed to mention the gut wrenching, life shattering consequences that some mistakes leave us with, overwhelmed and destroyed.  

For Instance

  1. Reckless driving ending with others injured or killed.
  2. An affair that destroys the marriage. 
  3. Being drunk or stoned at work. 

Those would be in the category of overwhelming mistakes. Those, and others like them, can ruin lives, destroy careers, and in an instant separate us from everyone we love and everything we’ve achieved.

worried woman

Some mistakes are concealed, hidden and kept undetected. But others are public, uncovered and exposed to the full light of day. They can haunt us and hover above our heads like a dark cloud. Some mistakes stick for life.

Overcoming serious mistakes isn’t easy. 

But It Can Be Done!

Look for “Overcoming Our Mistakes, Part Two,” in Wednesday’s blog. 

The Nature of Awesome

Awesome defined: “extremely impressive, inspiring great admiration.”

Actually

“Awesome” is a word used in a diet of verbal overindulgence. 

It’s used to describe our children, marriage, profession, vacations and the cat.

Each generation has their jargon. When I was young everything was cool and super. As in, “That was so cool,” or “That was just super!” Looking back on it the “super” was just super annoying. 

My Point?

If everything is amazing and awesome then what words are left to describe what is actually awesome and amazing? If I repeatedly say my kids are amazing for everything they do then what do I say when they actually do something awesome? If my breakfast burrito is amazing then what word do I use to describe the grace of God? 

Okay, Something Actually Awesome

For the past eight summers I have spent some time in the San Juan Mountains in Southern Colorado. I fly fish, hike and ride ATV’s. But mostly I sit quietly, look at the mountains, and reflect and pray. I seek clarity and inspiration, and find them. I leave as if I’ve touched the face of God. To me, that’s awesome, it’s, “extremely impressive,” because it “inspires great admiration.” 
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For the past three summers my San Juan Mountain friends have hosted my ministry staff for an annual retreat. They house, feed, and take care of us, and freely let us play with their mountain toys! They refresh our souls and restore our spirits. They minister to us so we can return and better minister to others. They do all that for us, but really they do it for the Lord, for they are believers, the church family of a sweet congregation up high in the mountains. We are one of their many ministries and they pray for us throughout the year. We return to Houston fresh and freshly prepared to faithfully follow Jesus. 

Now that is the nature of awesome!

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View from parking lot up at the mountains.
San Juan Mountain Church
The San Juan Family, truly awesome to me!

 

Thank you my mountain friends, you are the best!

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It Happened Sunday Night

“Tramp, Tramp, Tramp”

Do you know that song? It was a brutal Civil War marching song written by George F. Root in 1864 and was sung by soldiers as they marched into battle.

However

The tune wasn’t destined to remain a battle song. Nope, a lyricist named Clarence Herbert Woolston borrowed the music, gave it new words, and gave the song new life for generations to come.

Who was Clarence Woolston? He was born in 1856 and died in 1927. He was minister, author and writer of hymns and was Pastor of a Philadelphia church. 

And his song? You probably know it, have sung it, and even grew up with it. Here is a piece of the song he wrote:

“Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world, red and yellow black and   white, Jesus loves all the little children of the world.”

Yep

Woolston used the music of a Civil War marching song and transformed it into one of the most beloved songs of all time. Jesus loves the little children. Yep! Here are a couple of verses for you: 

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

“He took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them, and blessed them.” Mk 10:16

For Me

On Sunday night, our church’s Children’s Ministry performed their Easter Musical,

“It’s All Because of Jesus”

Watching sixty kids sing songs of praise was inspiring; they told the old, old story with young voices and fresh hearts. Jesus loves the little children indeed. 

Easter Musical

I cried during the performance, which isn’t at all unusual, but I did. Before they came into the Worship Center to start the performance, I had a moment to pray over them. That prayer was granted. There is just something about watching and hearing children sing about Jesus that melts my heart.

To Close

I get why Jesus loved kids. I understand why he wanted them to have unhindered access. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

Sure, kids can be loud, busy and constantly moving, even distracting and disruptive at times. But it’s their hearts. Jesus saw their hearts, and the love of a child comes from the very center of their pure and precious hearts. 

Thank you Mr. Woolston

Your song is a big hit. 

 

Salty & Shining Brightly

The essence of salt and the nature of light.

Salt

We were created to need it. It’s not our only need, but we die without it.

Light

The physical universe begins with light, for God spoke and gave it birth, it was day one. Not till the fourth day were the sun and moon purposed for day and night.

The light came first.

The Messiah

Jesus proved his authenticity by healing and he revealed his identity by the Scriptures. They recognized him as the Messiah, for his miracles and teaching were as the prophets predicted. They believed.

He launched his ministry by offering gifts to the disenfranchised. There were eight gifts in all. He said that blessings would come by having them. There were correlating actions or attitudes for each one. For example, those who mourned would be comforted, the merciful would receive mercy, and so forth.

The final gift was unique because there wasn’t a correlating action associated with it. The gift wasn’t given because of what they did, but because of what others would do: 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, 

for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Salt & Light

In the context of persecution, he said they were the salt and light of the world, which  was about their influence, their message, and a ministry that would bring the persecution. In that context, he cautioned them not to lose their saltiness or to hide their light.

The core meaning: Don’t let persecution leave you unsalted or afraid to shine your light. Discipleship must never hide under a basket.

To Close

He reached out to the lost sheep of Israel, to those who were unwanted because of their demon-possession, disabilities, and diseases. They were unclean and defiled. And Jesus came to seek and save them. He restored dignity and divine purpose by declaring them to be salt and light.  

He was the Messiah, called Emanuel. He was God among them and he came to save.

The Bible

Shalom