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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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