Category Archives: Reflections

All God’s Creatures

I’ve been thinking about family pets lately and came across this old narrative:

If you can start the day without caffeine, If you can get going without pep pills, If you can resist complaining and boring people with all your troubles, If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it, If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time, If you can overlook it when something goes wrong through no fault of yours and those you love take it out on you, if you can take criticism and blame without resentment, If you can ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct him, If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend, If you can face the world without lies and deceit, If you can conquer tension without medical help, If you can relax without liquor, If you can sleep without the aid of drugs, If you can say honestly that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, color, religion or politics, Then, my friends, you are almost as good as your dog.

It is simply amazing how attached we can become to our pets, whether dogs or cats or even little birds. We can simultaneously delight in their antics and clean up their messes. We love them in our laps or at our feet. We smile when they are happy and cry when they are in pain. Our grief is all too sharp when we lose one. I called my first dog Nickel because his mother’s name was Penny. Nicky listened to my troubles, chased mice and other critters and ran beside me when I rode my bike. I do not know if our animals go to heaven when they die. I do know that the Bible indicates that heaven is filled with all manner of animals and creatures beyond our imaginations. If we can love our creatures so deeply, how much greater is God’s love towards us today?

The Psalmist wrote a song we sometimes call “Creature Praise.” In Psalm 148 all of God’s creation and all of His creatures, including people, are encouraged to praise the Lord. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens. (v. 13)

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Praise the Lord. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Planting Is Hard

Planting is hard. Maybe not the actual placing of the seed or plant into the hole in the ground, but planting is hard. Because of the crazy weather every day since November, our winter pansies were still doing quite well when we unceremoniously pulled them up at the end of May. It’s been raining or blowing or freezing or something every day this year. By my estimate we’ve probably had a record 14 beautiful days since November 2021. This week, when it has not been pouring down rain, the humidity rests at 98%.

Our backyard has a partial moonscape look to it. The heavy rains over these past couple of years have washed away layers of sod and soil, exposing just under one million multi-sized rocks, pieces of concrete, and broken bricks from when the house was built. I once paid a grandson a nickel for every rock he could gather. He quit after 200 rocks. We just moved them to the fence line. The wet ground does make it easier to pull the grass and weeds from the flowerbeds. This year we are experimenting with different kinds of flowers. In the front we planted Vista Red Salvia and White Lobularia. That’s what I said—what? We also purchased a couple of yellow and red Coreopsis plants plus a few Petunias, for old times’ sake. 

While God was digging in that first garden, the one we call Eden, God scooped up some clay and made a man. God breathed into man life and understanding, becoming a living soul. God gave mankind one assignment—tend the earth. Adam walked with God every evening until he did not. Man’s rebellion and sin is why everything is so hard. So Jesus suffered death for us that we might walk with God through eternity.  Preparing the ground, removing the rocks, weeds, and grass. Digging in the soil, adding a little compost and maybe some coffee grounds. It is all worth it, though, for the beauty and satisfaction of a well-tended flowerbed. In times of uncertainty and chaos I recommend finding a creative way to experience a sense of focus and control. That is why people have hobbies, gather collections, hunt for bargains, make things or visualize their ideas. To gain a sense of control in your life, do something creative—or perhaps, try gardening.  

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Tend to your soul. Let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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If I Should Die

As a child I was taught the bedtime prayer: Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep, If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. You may have prayed this prayer, or a version of it, as a child. Children have been praying this bedtime rhyme for a few centuries. As a youngster, the “if I should die” part of the prayer did not bother me, I did not know anyone who had died. I did wonder about the keeping and taking of my soul. What is my soul? Where do I keep it? And why would the Lord want to take it somewhere? That was heavy theology to ponder before going to sleep at night. I discovered that this prayer was probably born out of the anguish of high infant and children mortality during times of smallpox and other plagues. 

I eventually decided that the prayer was a metaphor, like the other children’s rhymes that we learned to say or sing, like Rock-a-bye Baby in the treetop, when the wind blows the cradle will rock. When the bough breaks the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle, and all. It is always sung sweetly to little children, although its imagery is terribly disconcerting. What kind of people put a baby in a cradle in the top of a tree? Later I learned that this song was probably a metaphor using bird nests and hatchlings blown away by the storms as the image. This all comes to mind today as the first of the little children are being buried in Uvalde, Texas.  How well are you sleeping these nights? Little children and all their friends and relatives in the whole county and beyond are forever traumatized, souls taken, lives broken. Robb Elementary School will be torn down to be replaced. Why do we do this to our children, over and over, decade after decade? Or maybe we should just start singing a new lullaby to our babies? Now I dress and go to school, I pray the Lord my soul to rule. If I should die inside my classroom, Lord forgive the ones who took no action.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. We must do better. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Brokenhearted

My heart hurts right now. I have been working my way through the nearly 300-page report authorized by the Southern Baptist Convention last June that details the systematic and purposeful deceit of our convention leadership to perpetuate predatory sexual abuse in our institutions and churches. I can see why these leaders were so unwilling to even let the study begin. Let me say this is not a problem of a few employees and elected leaders committing adultery. This is far worse.  This is a report documenting how, for at least 20 years, victims and survivors of sexual aggression, male and female, were demeaned, lied to, and falsely characterized as charlatans or harlots, including young children. The call for a database of reported abusers has been turned down starting in 2007, by stating that because of the autonomy of the local church, it was impossible to create such a database. The newly revealed SBC in-house database that was established years ago is being released this week, highly redacted. There are some links provided below for you to see the scope of the problem for yourself. 

As I have been trying to write this heartbreaking story, I learned of the mass shooting at the Uvalde, Texas elementary school. Why is it republican legislators can ban books deemed inappropriate for children, or prohibit certain subjects to be taught to children, but not the weapons of war being used against children and their teachers in school, or people shopping in a grocery store, or worshippers at church?

I am heartbroken at the level of greed that routinely drives preachers, politicians, and corporations to immoral and unconscionable actions. The “lone gunman” never acts alone. He, and they are mostly a He, have been radicalized, preyed upon, or encouraged in their evil actions. It is more than a mental health issue, it is perversion of all that is right, moral, and honorable. Leaders without a moral center have no qualms about doing wicked things in the name of Jesus. They take courage in gathering other smooth-talking hucksters into their circles of greed and perversion. (See Psalm 1) While we are all sinners in need of forgiveness, in times like these I take comfort in Scriptures like Galatians 6:7-10, and Psalm 147:3-5.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. God heals the brokenhearted. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

SBC REPORT ON SEXUAL ABUSE RELEASED

Here are three website links that are helpful in understanding the Southern Baptist Convention’s authorized investigation.

The full Report – https://www.sataskforce.net/updates/guidepost-solutions-report-of-the-independent-investigation 

An Analysis – https://baptistnews.com/article/guidepost-report-documents-pattern-of-ignoring-denying-and-deflecting-on-sexual-abuse-claims-in-sbc/#.Yo2u9KjMLIV

A Rebuttal  – https://baptistnews.com/article/sbcs-former-law-firm-sharply-disagrees-with-sexual-abuse-task-force-report/ 

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Wonder-Working Prayer

This is a true account of the power of prayer. Dorothy prays about everything, including misplaced keys or a bottle of nail polish. Little things in prayer can become big things in life. Before cell phones, in the early 1980s, Dorothy and I were visited by her cousin David, and his wife Nina Jo, from Houston. They were passing through Tulsa on their way to spend some time with friends at Grand Lake. They had not been to Tulsa before. On the way to show them the church, we heard the news that a stronger than expected hurricane was making landfall in the Houston area. Concerned, they called their college-aged son who was home alone at the house. He reported that flood waters had risen to the top of the bar ditches in the streets and the water was creeping up into the yard towards the house. Alarmed, our guests decided they needed to cancel their trip and head back to Houston. This is when the wonder-working praying began in earnest.

They had no idea how to contact their friends at the lake. All they knew was their friends were from Bartlesville and were at a borrowed cabin of their neighbors. We only knew one family in Bartlesville that had a cabin at the lake, so we gave them a call. “Yes,” they had lent their cabin to that couple. The only problem was the cabin had no telephone, but they knew a lady down the way who had a phone; however, they did not know her number. Did I mention that the telephone operators were all on strike that week? Given the name of the lady in the woods, Dorothy proceeded to call directory assistance anyway. When she began telling the reason for the call, the amazed operator said, “Dorothy, is that you?” The substitute operator was related to a member of our church. She found the phone number for the lady in the woods. That lady graciously relayed the message to the right people. The trip was cancelled, and everyone made it safely home. The hurricane moved on.

God answers every kind of prayers, so pray about everything. And nothing is too small, or too big, for God’s handiwork to be seen. 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. God works wonders. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Feel Better

What makes you feel better? I was feeling pretty good on my Thursday before Mother’s Day as I drove to the church in typical Tulsa traffic. I was a car or two back when the light turned green. I barely crossed the intersection at 21st Street northbound on Yale Avenue when the cars ahead of me just stopped for no apparent reason. The cars in the other lane stopped also. There seemed to be no accident. No emergency vehicles coming or going. Then I glimpsed the issue and I immediately felt better. I saw a goose slowly walking west across all the traffic. She was followed in procession by 5 fuzzy gray goslings and another goose gently urging everyone forward. The goose family was making its way across the busy street headed for the waterpark. They all stepped up on the center median and my lane started forward. I noticed the cars headed south were also stopping to let the little family proceed. I realized a few minutes later that I was smiling while driving in traffic! 

I discovered I was feeling better even when I was not feeling bad at all. Over these past couple of years a few little bad habits slipped into my days. I sat around a lot more and gained a pound or two or three. I started watching too much breaking news and listening to whining opinions about it. My sleep patterns got messy staying up too late and sleeping in too long. It did not take long to feel grumpy, bored, or restless. Time for a little self-care and blessings awareness. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24)

What makes you feel a little bit better? I glass of iced tea on a humid afternoon. A rush of cool air when walking through the door. People stopping their cars to let the geese get safely to the other side. A quick nap. A good night’s sleep. The welcome home from your dog or cat. Little everyday actions can make us all feel a little better, even when we are not feeling down at all. 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Feel better. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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The Mt. Everest Challenge

The first famous person I ever shook hands with had climbed Mt. Everest. In fact, by the time I met him, he had stood on the highest peak in the world and at the geographic South Pole. Sir Edmund Hillary was coming to town and my mother needed my help. 

My mother was a part of the program committee that invited the famed explorer to be their luncheon speaker. The event was sponsored by World Book Encyclopedia, and my mother had joined the team as a sales representative. My role was to play the part of a newspaper boy and hand out copies of the Miami Herald. You know, “Read all about it, Edmund Hillary Conquers Mt. Everest.” My grandfather was the advertising manager for the paper, so my mother persuaded her father to have some mock front pages printed up with the headline on it. These were placed over the real front pages of that day’s paper. I remember Sir Edmund’s surprised laughter when I burst into the room to say my lines and pass out the papers, one to a table. I got to skip junior high school that day and to ask him one question at the end of his speech.

In his talk that day, the adventurer spoke of the need to face one’s challenges, to risk all if need be, and the importance of the Sherpas (the support team) to help one make it to the top. Hillary said he would not have made the summit without Tenzing Norgay. During the question and answer period I asked my burning question: Did you see a Yeti? No, he replied. He had come to the conclusion that a Yeti, or the Abominable Snowman, was a fiction of the local imaginations. I was disappointed. I wanted it to be real.

Some years later Edmund Hillary flew to the top of the world with Neil Armstrong, the first to step onto the moon, where together they stood at the North Pole. He was the first person to stand on Mt. Everest and both global poles. He gave much of his time and energy after that adventure to improving the quality of life for the Sherpas and the people of Nepal. Sounds like a personal challenge even greater than Mt. Everest.

 Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Face your challenge. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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One Love, One Mission

I was nearly run over by a careening car as I was crossing a street in Ft. Worth, Texas many years ago. The main thing I remember about the car was its bumper sticker theology proudly proclaiming: I’m Bound for the Promised Land. I thought that was fine for him, and that he would likely make it very soon. Bumper sticker theology is what I call those signs and sayings people place on their cars and Facebook walls. We seem to have a need to tell everyone our viewpoint through a clever sound bite. I see the good in that sometimes.

Walking near the church one day I came upon a very honest bit of bumper sticker theology. The sign on the car’s rear window read:

I saw it

I wanted it

I threw a fit

And I got it.

That is materially, psychologically, relationally, and spiritually very revealing. My mind started to conjure all types of stories concerning this person as a spouse, as a child, as a parent, as an employee or even as a church member. I wonder if this person has ever met the “What part of ‘No’ don’t you understand” person—they’re probably married to each other, of course.

If you were to ask our oldest grandson, Carter, to name his favorite restaurant, he would say, Raising Cane’s. He loves their chicken and their sauce. Raising Cane’s advertises they have one motto and one mission. Their motto is One Love. The one love is fried chicken. They only serve fried chicken pieces and one set of sides. Their one mission is to serve the public well. Jesus has a similar plan for us: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…And love your neighbor as yourself.  (Matthew 22:36-40). One Love. One Mission. 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Live your theology. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Dandled

I must admit that I always have mixed emotions when reading the bible prophecies about the end times. It is not that I do not understand what the prophets are saying, it is that I do. My hope in the completion of God’s glorious Day is tempered by the sadness and downright awfulness of Judgment. The last chapter of Isaiah is one such passage—judgment and hope mixed together. But I always got one word wrong in reading this chapter.

I gave up preaching from the King James Version (KJV) many years ago because of the outdated language. I still use the majestic language of the KJV at funerals and on some special occasions. I found myself spending too much time within Sunday sermons translating Elizabethan English into the American vernacular. I have an affinity for the New American Standard Version (NASV) but found that the New International Version (NIV) hit the right tone for my preaching. Clarity in our words helps us avoid confusing others with insider jargon or religious speech.

Once again while reading Isaiah 66, I came across the one odd word in the bible that I probably misread repeatedly. When I read it properly for the first time (in 2013!) I thought maybe it was a misprint in the text. That happened in “The Wicked Bible,” the 1631 King James Bible where the printers failed to include the word “not” in the seventh commandment, the one about adultery. Little words can make a big difference. 

This odd word is only found in Isaiah chapter 66:12. In an extended metaphor about a nursing mother and her child, the prophet tells of a future joyous time when “you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees.” I am certain that I always read it as dangled. Turns out the word is translated from the Hebrew as dandled in all the standard bible translations. Check your favorite Bible. Dandled is past tense for “move up and down.” Some very recent paraphrases are beginning to use the more meaningful language, “bounced on her knees.”  Now I understand.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Words matter. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Fainting in Church

The only time I have ever fainted was in church on an Easter Sunday morning. I was about 13-years-old. While not all of the details are clear I do remember the highlights of my embarrassment. My whole family sat together in church as was our custom.  During one of the Easter hymns, I fell over sideways into the pew. I was next to one of my parents who quietly took over the situation. Apparently since I was colorless, they roused me and gave me a Smith Bros cough drop. It worked. I made it through the rest of the service that morning, but I was the topic of teasing by my younger sisters for quite some time.

  Easter Sunday always held a special place in our family life. My parents were married on April 25th on Easter Sunday afternoon in 1943. My father wore his Navy uniform and my mother wore a simple dress with a corsage. The church was already filled with Easter lilies and lots of other flowers. So each time our family went to church for Easter our parents always reflected on their joyous wedding day. Poetically, my mother died in her sleep on their 60th wedding anniversary weekend and Dad died a few months later. Easter was interwoven into their hearts and their love.

  Easter has always been about joy overcoming sorrow, love overcoming sin, and life overcoming even death itself. The Cross demonstrated to us the full extent of God’s love with words such as, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus died and was buried, but on the third day, our Easter, He arose! 

  I have been blessed all of my life to be able to go to church every week with my family and the people of faith who are like family to me. Every now and then something embarrassing happens, but that is part of life and living with each other. Today the preciousness of Easter fills my heart to overflowing. 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Celebrate Easter. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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