Category Archives: Reflections

Coming Clean Again

In the summer of 2016, we attended a sweet and beautiful family wedding in Indiana. Following the wedding came the family pictures, then the reception dinner. There was a long delay from the staff in the starting of the dinner. At one point, I confess, I became restless and got up for a cup of coffee. On my way back to our table I noticed two boys playing by the unattended wedding cake. They were playing a dangerous game of “who can poke their finger closest to the cake without touching it.” Since these boys were closely related to me, I made my way towards them. It did not take long to point them to the food line and redirect their efforts. Mission accomplished. Then one boy suddenly had a thought and whipped around to get my attention, but I was much closer than he realized. My hot cup of coffee was almost at my lips when the bump happened. Hot coffee soaked my shirt and jacket. He was very sorry. It was an accident, but I needed to clean up.

We are always having to clean up, aren’t we? Spills, accidents, hot days outside, housework, you name it, we are always cleaning things up. Coming clean is a way of life, isn’t it? We bathe, wash our clothes and brush our teeth. Hopefully, regularly. So it is and so it should be for us spiritually. Coming clean with our sins—before ourselves, before others and before God Almighty—is the spiritual necessity for each of us every single day. Confession is good for the body and the soul.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

 I stopped by the gift shop at the golf club, where the reception was held, and was bought a new shirt by the boys’ mother—the only shirt in the shop in my size. I took my coffee-soaked self into the locker room and washed out the stained shirt. (The red spots on my chest and stomach weren’t too bad.) After I put on the new shirt, I felt clean again. It felt good. If you ever see me in a bright pink shirt with the Valle Vista Golf Club logo on the sleeve, just know it was the one I was wearing when I stepped up to lead the blessing at the wedding dinner.

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

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Dini Goes to Church

This is a reposting of the official account of the day Dini came to church.

On September 7, 1979, I received an urgent phone call asking for my assistance. One of our church members at the time, Ty Frederick, was trying his hand at breeding cockatiels. I was very interested in his new hobby. He called me that evening to say that a new mother was rejecting her two hatchlings. He asked if I could come over and help him. We decided that I would take one and he would work with the other. I took the hatchling home and fed him with an eye dropper and kept him warm with a towel in a shoebox. After his feathers came out, I began to teach Dini to fly and to talk. One of his favorite sayings was, “He’s a good bird.”  Then, one fateful day in the spring of 1981, I brought him to church to show the children.

The world’s longest children’s sermon began during the morning service as usual. When I took the bird out of his cage to show how he was trained to talk and fly back to me… well, let’s just say he flew and flew and sang, all through the rest of church that morning. I thought it was poetic that Ty was singing a solo in worship when Dini decided to make it a duet. No one slept through church that day! We worked all afternoon to try and coax him back to his cage. He loved singing in church. Later, after the evening service, I climbed an extension ladder and lifted a long pole with an improvised crossbar up to his perch near the sanctuary’s cove lights. He got on the crossbar, then as I slowly inched the pole down, he jumped on my shoulder like he was supposed to have done 10 hours earlier!

I looked up the life expectancy of the cockatiel—they live about 20 years. According to Wikipedia, there was one bird confirmed to have lived 35 years. Dini was a noble pet that outlived a number of our cats. For around eight of those years, he shared his cage with a female cockatiel we called DeeDee. We thought Dini would like the company and that they might even mate. He mostly tolerated her. She died unexpectedly one July. He did not seem to miss her. Dini died on May 7, 2011. He lived 31 years and 8 months with us, greeting us every day with songs and whistles and chatter. He was a very good bird.

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

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The Great Resignation

It is being called “The Great Resignation.”  The Great Resignation was first noted by economists following the release of the April 2021 Jobs Report. Articles continue to be written about this in the nation’s leading financial and business journals. What happened was that 4 million US workers resigned or quit their jobs all at once in April. This was separate from those being laid off or fired from their places of employment. It happened again in May and by the end of June a total of 11.5 million workers had stepped away from their careers. Millions of these were high paying professionals making well over six-figure salaries. This is a seismic shift in the economic landscape of America. It also coincides with a massive return to the workplace following the shutdown. Millions of workers said, “Not me.” Speculation centers on low wage earners demanding better pay, and lingering health concerns in the time of a virus resurgence. But the astounding number of high paying job resignations points to a reordering of personal priorities. 

“The Great Reprioritization,” as some are now calling it, is earnestly gaining momentum across our land. As a pastor, I can see where this last year of sickness and upheaval is causing people to reevaluate their lives and dreams.  Congregational studies are reporting that fully one-third of all church attenders before the pandemic are not planning to go back to church with any regularity, if at all. 

This all gives me great hope for our future as a nation, and for the local church. People who make such dramatic changes in their lives are thoughtful, aware of the risks, and seeking fulfilment in body, mind and spirit. The great resigners will seek a healthier job and life balance. They will create new incomes and deeper satisfactions. Those who have tasted the joys of Christ, but been hurt or betrayed by church people, will discover a healthier faith and life balance with authentic believers. The disillusioned and discouraged need genuine relationships that are honest and true, just like you and I do. Now is the opportunity to reprioritize our faith with service and justice for all. Or, as Isaiah put it, Today… is the day of salvation.

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

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WWJD — What Would Julia Do?

(Note: I asked Connie Connely to share this week’s Reflections) 

Years ago, many of my third-grade students wore bracelets that said WWJD.  When I asked what it meant, they told me, “What would Jesus do?” I never had one of those bracelets, but if I did, I would wear it every Sunday to remind me of Julia Ford, “WWJD — What would Julia do?” as I replace her as the leader of our Ladies’ Sunday School class.  Who am I kidding?  No one can replace Julia!

Brother Darryl didn’t ask me to step in as the leader because I have style and flair.  No, it was because I was there!  Plus, I know how to use the DVD player. Julia not only talked the talk as a Christian, but she also walked the walk.  When I was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2017 and had to make a couple of trips to MD Anderson in Houston, Texas, Julia called to check on my mother, who was 88 years old at the time.  Julia checked on everyone.  She would telephone, send cards, and bring cookies to my door for a fun surprise. When I would ask her to come in for a visit, she would say, “I can’t stay long because I have some other deliveries to make.” That was Julia, always taking care of people.

When I received the phone call to pray for Julia because she had COVID, I thought, “This will be hard, but I think she will make it. If the 85-year-old lady in my book club survived COVID, surely Julia will, too.” “Why, Julia?” I have asked. Although I am 100% sure the Pearly Gates swung open wide to welcome her into Heaven, I hoped she could stay longer to watch her younger grandchildren grow up. God has His plans. Sometimes we don’t understand.

As a tribute to Julia, our Ladies’ Bible Study classes are continuing.  We have recently completed: “Chasing Vines” by Beth Moore and “Forgiving What We Can’t Forgive” by Lysa TerKeurst.  In addition, we plan to participate in another study about anxiety.  Who doesn’t need that during this pandemic? Ladies, we would LOVE for you to join us. The more, the merrier! Don’t worry about waiting until we have a new Bible Study; just come on! That’s what Julia would do!

Hope to see you on Sunday mornings at 11:15 — 11:50!  We are in the room across from the kitchen.  

Connie Connely, teacher

Julia Ann Dooly Ford, June 1, 1952—May 3, 2021

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Tulsa State Fair Preparations

Over the course of the summer, I have watched construction crews redesign the entrance to the Expo Building by the Golden Driller statue at the Fairgrounds. They have been frantically painting the outside of the building, roof and all, to the new colors of light grey and royal blue. This is to match the new logo on the reimagined gates at each of the old entrances.  It looks to me like they may be painting late into the night for another week. The Tulsa State Fair is about to open on September 30. On the other side of the fairgrounds, where the barns are, the fair has already begun for the future farmers of America.

Trucks with trailers filled with large animals have been rumbling past the church this week headed for the fairgrounds. While the painting continues, midway rides have been assembled, new parking signs have been added, and RV’s filled with people and merchandise have assembled in the designated parking lots, creating their own little camp towns.  Corn Dog and Cotton Candy trailers are escorted down the street like honored guests arriving at the ball. All that is left is for about 1,000,000 people to show up, discovering along the way that it costs real money to go to the State Fair.

I enjoy the Fair. Last year it was cancelled because of you know what. This year seems to be full steam ahead. I enjoy watching the people, eating the food, and discovering the latest, greatest miracle-working gadget ever seen on the face of the earth. If we make it to the fair, I will be searching for the first sign of autumn—the deep-fried, bacon-wrapped, pumpkin-spiced cheesecake on a stick. There is nothing quite like a state fair. But it would never happen at all without detailed preparations, hardworking people, and a common goal to hold the finest fair ever. So when you see the 4H-ers with their prize cow or pig, the blue ribbon cakes or quilts, the hot tubs or the glasses cleaners, remember the effort and sacrifice that is behind it all. Any worthy endeavor takes preparation, commitment, and sacrifice. That includes your family, your church, and your daily life.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Do what it takes. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Come From Away

I am still reflecting on the impact of the 20th anniversary observance of the 9/11 attack on the United States. I was surprised by the emotions I felt about a story from so long ago that I thought I knew so well. Dorothy and I visited the World Trade Center National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in 2018. I showed a couple of pictures during Sunday’s service. While we were in NYC, we attended the Broadway show, Come From Away. It is a musical play based on a true story about the days following the attack. 

Come From Away is about the little community of Gander, Newfoundland, the home to a long disused international airline refueling station. On September 11, every airplane going or coming to the U.S. was required to land immediately. The Gander runway was big enough to land some of the international flights. In fact, 7,000 passengers, including infants and crewmembers, found themselves stranded in Gander with nowhere to go. This story tells of the generous and heroic efforts of the townspeople to open their homes to these strangers in distress. And no one knew for how long. Or the fact that all the planes had animals on board! And many internationals did not speak English or French Canadian. “Come from aways” are what Newfoundlanders call visitors. You can watch some clips of the production on the internet. The Tulsa Performing Arts Center will be hosting the touring production October 12-17 if you would like to see the musical for yourself. 

It is the story of people rising to a dramatic and uncertain situation. There are themes centered around fear and grief, neighborly love for strangers, with a kind of loaves and fishes quality about it all. At the end of the performance, during the standing ovation, a small group of young people in front of us clapped vigorously. One young lady exclaimed for all to hear, “I have been so proud to be a Canadian!”  It has been announced that 800 recently rescued Afghans are being sent to Tulsa to begin the long process of rebuilding their lives as strangers in a distant land. Temporary housing is needed for nearly all the people.  Will the people of Tulsa respond like Gander?

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Welcome the “come from aways.” And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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The McDonald’s Incident

I was called out on a childhood memory I created for our girls about 35 years ago. During a quick meal with some of the extended family, McDonald’s hamburgers made their way into the conversation. Our granddaughter, who has lived most of her life in China, believes the American McDonald’s is the greatest hamburger in the world. I have actually eaten a McDonald’s burger with her twice now in the past 4 months. Just for the record, let me state that I have never been a fan of McDonald’s. Burger King was always my fast-food burger of choice. Burger King had an early store not far from our house. The price of a regular burger was 15 cents, but the flame-grilled Whopper cost 25 cents. It was worth it! My choice was set. To underscore this point just a little more: On our wedding day, Dorothy and I drove to Dallas after our afternoon ceremony. We checked in at our designated hotel, then drove the two blocks, still in our fancy outfits, to the Burger King for our first married meal together. This is a verifiable story.

The incident all started innocently enough. Whenever I was asked Why not McDonald’s? by our young girls, I would reply, Burger King is bigger and flame grilled, and McDonald’s is made with horsemeat. We all would have a big laugh and go to Burger King.  Raising McDonald’s-free children is not an easy task. It seems their friends went to McDonald’s often. On the family road trip in question, we were headed to Glorieta, New Mexico. We came upon Tucumcari just as everyone was ready to stop and have lunch. As life would have it, there was a Burger King and a McDonald’s across the street from each other. As I steered the car toward the Burger King, the McDonald’s pleas began. To their surprise, I quickly turned the car and headed to McDonald’s. I drove around to the back and sure enough, there was a horse trailer with some horses parked near the kitchen door. All I said was, “See, I was right.” We ate at Burger King. 

Apparently grown children remember these kinds of incidents for decades. I was confronted with, You had seen that horse trailer at the McDonald’s and that’s why you went over there. What could I say? She has grown wise. 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Actually, McDonald’s burgers are not made with horsemeat. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Five Big Dreams

I call it Five Big Dreams. I was involved in a small directors meeting once when someone posed the “Million Dollar Question.” What would happen if someone gave us a million dollars? A number of quick, humorous answers were given. The group was stopped with, “No, I’m serious. What would we do to fulfill our mission?”  No one in the group could offer a reasonable answer. So I made up, on the spot, the challenge for all of us, including me, to come up with Five Big Dreams.

Five is an arbitrary but reasonable number for any challenge. Packaging a series of little ideas into one seems to be less appealing to big donors. But one Big Dream can captivate the imagination of the very many who may not be able to give as much. A Big Dream inspires. Five Big Dreams could change everything. I have been giving deeper thought to this whole idea of big dreams. Inspiration comes through dreams, visions and imagining a better future. The business world understands this with their emphasis on mission statements, as well as goals, which are the steps to make the big dreams come true.

What are the big dreams for your personal life? This past year and a half has altered, and in some cases, forever changed our plans and dreams for the future we had hoped for. This is a time for rebuilding and redreaming our futures.  Let me ask about your dreams for your family, your relationships, your mission, and your retirement.  Add to all of this your big dreams for what you would like to own one day or where you would like to travel, and if you are not careful, you might discover that you have 25 Big Dreams to inspire your life. I believe 25 Big Dreams is overwhelming and may be going a little bit too far. Let’s just stay with Five Big Dreams. Here is your challenge for today: what would your dream be if, as we say we believe, “Nothing is impossible with God”? (Luke 1:37)

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

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When the Wind Blows

When most of us think of the Gospel of John chapter 3, we naturally go immediately to verse 16, which Billy Graham often called “The gospel in a nutshell.” Yet there is much more in Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus than that verse. One overlooked part of the discussion has to do with the wind. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. (John 3:8) Jesus uses a play on words here not just about flesh—being born again, but also about the Spirit—when the wind blows. Jesus is teaching us about the power of God’s Spirit in our salvation and daily Christian walk.

We love to name the wind. Tropical storm Henri tore through the northeast recently. Our terms for the wind usually include descriptive words like cool, gentle, harsh, or bitter. We have breezes, storms, gales, cyclones, hurricanes, and tornadoes. There are puffs of wind, whirlwinds, and windswept images around us. Many of us were put to bed with the odd lullaby, Rock a Bye Baby in the Tree Top. Those of us who came of age in the Hootenanny Era of world history remember songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “They Call the Wind Mariah.” Later the group Kansas sang the Ecclesiastes paraphrase “All We Are is Dust in the Wind.”

Our Scriptures are filled with images of refreshing breezes and mighty winds. We call the Breath or the Wind or the Spirit of God Rûach in Hebrew, Pnúema in Greek.  The Bible opens with the Wind of God blowing across the endless deep, signaling the start of creation. I love the passage in Genesis where God breathes, and newly formed Adam’s lungs are filled with air and his body is filled with God’s Spirit (2:7). The passage in 1 Kings when Elijah, depressed and alone, desperately needing to hear a word from God, cannot hear God in the fiery windstorms but only in the still, quiet voice (19:12). Read in Matthew where Jesus rebukes a fierce storm, and the wind obeys (8:27). Or about the day the gathered church was set on fire and the wind of God’s Spirit was so loud people came from everywhere to see what was happening. We named that day Pentecost (Acts 2). 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Look where the Wind is blowing. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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How Do You Handle Your Disappointments?

How do you handle your disappointments?  P.T. Barnum (1810-1891) is famous for the phrase “There’s a sucker born every day.” If he really said it, he was talking about himself. I read his autobiography when I was a young teen. He wrote in his book that when he was born, his grandfather deeded to him a piece of property called Ivy Island. He was reminded throughout his childhood that he owned Ivy Island and dreamed of the adventures he would have on his personal island one day. When he was 10, he finally saw Ivy Island. “It was a worthless piece of barren land,” he wrote. The joke was on him. He was 15 when his father died. He became sole provider for his mother and five sisters and brothers. P.T. Barnum understood disappointment and pain, yet somehow discovered the faith and courage to embrace life. 

It is my observation that people tend to undervalue their victories and overrate their disappointments. We undervalue our victories, joys, and successes with words such as, “It was just luck,” “I happened to be in the right place,” or “It’s no big deal.” We overrate our disappointments with words such as, “Things never work out for me,” “No one understands,” or “I always get the raw deal.” If I’m not careful, I can nurse my disappointments as if they are wounds that will never heal. If I’m not careful, I can focus on the circumstances around me rather than on the Spirit that forever holds me.

Around age 30, P. T. Barnum wanted to buy what would be his first museum of curiosities. He was not able to raise much money, so he made a deal. He mortgaged himself to the building’s owner, proposing for collateral: good references, a determination to succeed, and a “valuable and sentimental” piece of property known as Ivy Island. A year later he was out of debt. In his 50’s, Barnum took positions against slavery and the death penalty and for temperance and equal voting rights. He was nearly 70 when he teamed with James Bailey to provide “The Greatest Show on Earth.”  If you read about Barnum’s whole story, you will discover he spent his life overcoming disappointments and severe setbacks with a Christian’s faith and courage.  

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

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