Wednesday, August 31, 2011


National or local tragedy. You know the drill. Camera crews in the face of those suffering. Some sad person (with whom you offer prayers and compassion) says, "I try to remember to be thankful. Someone else has it worse off." Huh?

I wonder about the theology that under girds these statements. While I am aware that I do not know what goes on in someone else's heart, this phrase turns up in almost every story. There is some universality to it and, hence, bears examination.

I would think a Christian would be both thankful and hopeful. Do we feel better because we are not at the bottom of the barrel? There is kind of a perversity to this line of thought. Or do we feel hopeful because we know God redeems. Redeems both our situation and those of others?

Our neighbor's condition is too often our reference point in life. Are we a leg up? Have we lost ground? Commercials on TV play to this weakness of ours and make billions.

I must admit that I do not understand God's economy but I do count on it. My reference point is God's goodness. Do you see yourself as blessed?

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit,
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
   for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
   for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
   for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
   for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
   for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
   for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.                        Matthew 5:3-10 (NIV)

Monday, August 29, 2011


Psalm 42

1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
   so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
   When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food
   day and night,

while people say to me all day long,
   "Where is your God?"
4 These things I remember
   as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
   under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
   among the festive throng.
 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
   Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and my God.
 6 My soul is downcast within me;
   therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
   the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
   in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
   have swept over me.
 8 By day the LORD directs his love,
   at night his song is with me—
   a prayer to the God of my life.
 9 I say to God my Rock,
   "Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
   oppressed by the enemy?"
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
   as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
   "Where is your God?"
 11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
   Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and my God.
ABC News had a feel-good piece about a bird that survived Hurricane Irene. It seems that this particular bird was electronically tagged to they could keep track of its migration. The bird had started to head south for winter when it ran right into Irene. The scientists were hoping the bird would not fly directly into the eye of the storm. It did. A couple of days later, however, the bird turns up in the Bahamas. "Hey, guys, I'm fine and chillin'" reads the postcard.

Contrary to popular TV religious folks, some days blind-side us and just plain suck. If we pray all the time and if we do all the right things (okay, we don't but bear with me,) we are not spared suffering. Same was true for God's Son. God's story seems more one of keeping track of us through suffering and working through us to persevere if not to thrive in tough times. Suffering is always the penultimate. Resurrection is the ultimate. No matter how fast and how bad things come, hold onto the postcards, God has the last say.

This is not to say suffering is good or that God does not answer prayers. It is to say that suffering is inevitable and God does not lose track of us. We are precious. Period.

If you are in the middle of a storm, God is there. I hope the Church is as well. Me, too. If you are stormless today, be there for your stormy friends.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Matthew 28:18

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Few

Some wisdom from a mentor. "There is nothing in the local church that a few good burials couldn't fix." Yes, the mentor had tongue in cheek and, yes, maybe was a bit cynical.

Yet, do we know when to exit? And can we exit well? On a recent edition of the TV show, Shark Tank, an entrepreneur with a marvelous product could not accept that it was he that was hindering success. With him, the product would go no where.

What's more important? The product or our pride? To put it another way, is it more important that I get credit and accolades or is it more important that the mission is accomplished?

Jesus knew the Kingdom would go no further if he kept propping up the gang of rabbinical school, civil service and fishing dropouts he had assembled. They needed to fly without him. He exited. Our story would have been much different if Christ had stayed.

First, we only would have a great moral example (but little power,) and be stuck in our own inability to overcome our selfishness. Second, we would look to God to do all the work (okay, some of us still expect that.) Third, we would have missed the knowledge that the story is never over until God has had the final say.

Who or what are you holding back because you cannot let go? Church, family, spouse work? Have you set them up to flourish without you? It's a lock that someday, you will not be there. What new thing might need you and your spirit and talent that will languish because you have not let go elsewhere?

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, 
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from 
all my fears. Psalm 34:4
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools 
despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, 
because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears
is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
God identifies two types of fear. Fear of God and fear of everything else.
Fear of God means a healthy respect for the consequences of going against God. 
God is not against us. God is not looking to get us on a technicality. God drives
everything to goodness. But the consequences remain.
Fear of everything else can take two paths. First, give God your fears. 
God is big enough to handle them. Second, do not follow your fears. They lead
to the consequences in the previous paragraph. Follow God who transforms fears.
The first "fear" (of God) brings hope. The latter "fear" shapes an ugly reality.
Today, will I let my fears shape my reality or will I enlist God to shape my reality 
by domesticating my fears? Fear, trust God.

Up and to the Right

If you have paid much attention lately, you will have noticed that the stock market has gone "down and to the right." That is, if we plot wealth versus time, thing are going down hill. I think that most of us go through life believing one thing. Life is supposed to go "up and to the right." We assume things should get better and better over time. Life, however, is more a mixed bag of up's and down's, many of which we did not author.

Commercials promise us youth even though this is the ultimate lie. My body is giving way and some day will not be here at all. Down and to the right.

Much of life has gotten better over time. I'd rather live now that in the 1500's.  And God does promise a better world, if not in this life, in the next. But, if we look at a short bit of time in a single life, things often go down and to the right. Maybe you are experiencing such a day today. Jesus' life took a disastrous "down and to the right" turn (crucifixion) just before God took it on an exhilarating "up and to the right" climb that continues (resurrection.) There may be setbacks, but God's "up and to the right" movement will not be thwarted.

Today, believe God is working any suffering you may be encountering "up and to the right." Join God in offering an "up and to the right" experience to someone else today. Especially, someone who cannot pay you back and is invisible to society.


A local television ad claims that the 1950's are now retrosheik (and, therefore, buy their 50's looking furniture.) In plain English, retrosheik means that something that was formally great but recently sucked is now great again (for now.) I see a lot of 1950's stuff getting a second chance to sell itself to a world with an insatiable appetite for the newest trend, even if old. I was born in 1950 so I guess I am also retrosheik.

The 1950's were different than most think. We rehearsed surviving a nuclear attack (even though it would not have helped.) We had one car or none. Children walked along highways and wore no helmets or seat belts. Kids got polio. People of color lived on the other side of the tracks (as did many immigrants.) Summer was one big long adventure outdoors with no planned activities. Cancer and alcoholism were taboo subjects. An entire day at the movies (2 films) cost me 40 cents including drink and candy. Teachers had a place of honor in society. Milk, dry cleaning and baked good came to us at home. We had one week vacation that usually involved some place close or relatives. People retired and died soon after. Things were simpler.

Nostalgia is the feeling we get when we falsely remember the past for something more than it was. It is a phony memory that makes us feel warm. Anxiety, and we have a lot of that today-it sparks nostalgia, is nostalgia turned towards the future. We feel anxious because we cannot control what's next and doomsayers sell more stuff than contented folks.

Jesus build on the past but spoke truthfully (remember, he was killed for the truth) about the past and understood that God had already authored our future. Contentedness comes from dwelling in the present, even if painful.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:11

For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:32-34

The Long View

I passed by a picture of my now high school sophomore granddaughter the other day. She was about 7 in the picture. Then, another picture came to mind. That of my 2 daughters around that age doing the same thing (baking.)


I though about how smart and focused I was in creating in my 2 daughters perfect humans. Especially ones who would not embarrass me. I am sure they were not that amused in my lab experiment mentality. I often majored in the minors as in "minor in importance in the grand scheme of things."


Today, I am looser, less intense with my grandchildren. Not because I am tired (okay, sometimes, I am tired) but because I have the long view of 60+ years.


The long view gives us a depth perception we do not have in getting all caught up in the moment as if this moment would never pass or as if this moment had not already happened millions of times. I think I make better decisions and am less judgmental and less anxious with the long view.


Jesus suggested we all establish the long view. He called it The Kingdom of God.


Before you get caught up in something trendy or pressing or fleeting today, ask God to connect you with his long view. The destination is better than anything we could ask for or imagine.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


If I had it all to do over again, I would talk less and listen more. When I was younger, I had all the answers. Often, I was bluffing. I only had opinions and uniformed ones at that.

Wisdom comes from listening. Listening to those who listened. Those who are wise. Wise people can be known by the luscious fruit their lives bear, regardless of the season. The lives of fools are empty. Wisdom, ultimately, comes from God.

Will you be listening to those who are wise today?           

whoever listens to (wisdom) will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm Proverbs 1:33
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Proverbs 4:6

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Proverbs 12:15

Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning and even among fools she lets herself be known. Proverbs 14:33

To answer before listening— that is folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Talking the current economic weirdness with a friend. He would be more of a conservative type. A veteran and a business man. I was struck by where he took the conversation. He went to the topic of respect. "I think it is a shame the disrespect shown the President."

When I was a child, one of my key components of my parental schooling was to show, at all times, respect. Respect started with the recognition that I am talking to or talking of a person who God made on purpose and for whom Christ died, also on purpose.

Disagreement was fine. Even anger, if not cultivated was fine as long as these were honestly expressed directly to the person. After all, that was the respectful thing to do. A person of value deserved respect. It was disrespectful to guess at people's motives (unless they expressed them.) It was disrespectful to call people names. It was disrespectful to paint a person with the broad paintbrush of generalities.

It was respectful to give people the benefit of the doubt and ask questions. It was respectful to listen without working on my rebuttal. It was respectful to withhold judgment until all the facts were in. It was respectful to honor another person's culture – ethnic, socioeconomic, religious or political. Respect demands we know our own motives and keep some of them in check.

The past few weeks contained a number of leaders and others engaging in the art of disrespect towards God's children. God is sad. Christ asks us to raise the bar.

How will you fuel respect today?

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves

Philippians 2:3

2011 Children and Youth Registration forms for St. Andrew's

Monday, August 8, 2011


I am a "Both/And" Christian. "Both/And" Person for that matter. Jesus was both Human and God. The Kingdom of God is now and later. I am good and bad, often at the same time. Life is wheat and weeds. I love and hate a number of people and things at the same moment. The Astros management comes to mind right now. I am a mixture of good and evil that Jesus thought was worth redeeming even though I haven't got my act together.

I have watched recent events in the Church and the U.S. and see a polarizing "Either/Or" zeitgeist emerging. Radical Conservatives or Radical Liberals claim the orthodox position in both church and culture. Conservatives claim the Truth with a capital "T." Liberals claim "Love" with a capital "L."

Hell is what ensues when poles insist on claiming the whole reality and a lock on what is right. Those who do not occupy the proper pole get to dwell in a hellish reality, which is perpetual battle with no real resolution.

Sinners (I think that covers all of us) must be open to being wrong or, at least, trainable, even if they claim to hold the truth. Lovers must be open the fact that only God can cure all ills and that some "cures" that look loving are crippling. It does not mean we do not try, either.

I prayed for my Congressman and my Senators today and wrote them all (kindly) to work together with all those who are Americans with varying opinions and to do so in the spirit of humility. I did mention that there are those who, through no fault of their own, do not have the perk of gridlocking bluster they and I who are rich have. Jesus would not ignore those people was mere bystanders. God has a special place for the overlooked and ignored. So should we.

Pray and write from your faith today.

Monday, August 1, 2011


While out with my grandsons, I noticed the sea of faces. Faces on ads, video and posters that expressed either

Overt sexuality – I'm desirable because I am beautiful and, unlike you, I get to be airbrushed

Over the top happiness caused by acquiring something – I'm happy because the world is cooperating…for now

A hip version of ennui – I'm bored, humor me or pity me, your choice

Sentimentality – I am frozen in a moment that most likely never really existed

In the breathing population, I meet all of these. We all seem to find at least one of these poses as appealing. These four worship the god of control. In other words, they seek to control or maintain control of their lives and the lives of others. If God is in the picture, she either has not delivered as commanded or is there for insurance in case of loss of control. These four poses are the poses of, ultimately, unhappy and unfulfilled people. People with a hole they cannot fill, yet aches. We are drawn to them. The ad people know this. We want to worship at their altar as well.

Oh, and I meet one more type of person.

The fifth person is one I also see and wish I would see more often. I wish I saw it more in myself.  It is the person who has suffered the loss of control and gave up and turned things over to God. Suffering at some point seems to be the key. This is not a passive person. Rather, it is a person who has come to realize that control is an illusion and that God is reaching out to those who have little to no control. This fifth person is content with his life under varied circumstances but seldom content with the world as it is, broken. This person understands the motto, "die to live," which was Jesus' motto. This is a liberated person. God is less a god of test-passing and parking-spaces-close-to-the-store and more a God who works in the medium of suffering.

I pray that you find yourself liberated this day. I pray you let God help you make something out of suffering's nothing. I pray that God helps you with the steps of liberation, starting with control.

Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. Luke 17:33