Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Squeaky clean


December 30, 2008

Used to be a commercial that featured a cleaning product accompanied by a demonstration that produced squeaks. They were trying to say, our product will so get the dirt out of your stuff that it will squeak (with delight?)....

At a family get-together recently, we were about to say good-bye to one who had travelled far to join us at this Christmas...and it came to us to do something that has become a regular part of such moments as a family.

We have gotten into this pattern of forming a huddle - ususally seated - and declaring that the next minutes will be God's - to shape prayers in us, to speak prompts to us, to clarify His will for us. We make sure that everyone understands this is an open time - no designated pray-ers, the Bible as reference if prompted, but no specific agenda. Just us together - and God...for usually fifteen minutes or more...even if it means sitting together in silence. We all wanted God to have our complete attention before we parted from each other.

So we huddled in the living room - making sure nothing would interrupt, and speaking the open context just outlined above. Someone reached for a notepad to act as the secretary, writing down a summary of whatever would happen.

We sat quietly for a time and then one of us began to pray, deeply thanking God for the time we had shared and expressing our desire to hear whatever He might say to us or have us do. Further prayer followed...and quietness...and prayer....and then to my heart a prompt: "Confess your sin and weakness" - get squeaky clean.

So out tumbled something that I felt could be important at the moment. It involved a time of weakness in my parenting that I was ashamed of. I asked for forgiveness and it was granted. There was pretty deep emotion right then. I felt released and I could sense it was important for others that this had transpired.

We prayed a bit more and blessed and thanked and felt lighter and "done." The secretary disclosed that she had written things down and handed the notes to the person that some of it most would apply to.

We hugged....and when someone hugged me, I squeaked.

Not really...but inside I felt that clean.

And we all seemed more joyful.

And parting was easier...cause we knew even away from each other we would still be together.

James, the younger brother of Jesus, in his New Testament book writes: "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."

It really does work.

Ah, the New Year is almost upon us.

Why not enter it squeaky clean?

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Psalm for the New Year

December 29

A Psalm for the New Year

I've considered a lot of Psalms for this "award"....and this one stands out.

It is Psalm 145.

Reasons for its selection:

1. It was written by King David, who lived in such frequent turbulence and yet prevailed to make an impact that lingers thousands of years later. That cool.
(Read his story in I Samuel chapter 16 and follow. It will keep your attention!)

2. Though he had lots of reasons to be down, to quit, to not do what God had made him for, he became known as a man after God's heart, a worshipper, a writer of psalms. He also did the king thing - with mixed results. But through it all, he learned to live with his mind focused well.

3. Our times are turbulent and millions (yes, that's no exaggeration) are scrambling to maintain a positive attitude and interior stability.

4. Our inner dialog and the focus of our minds has very high impact on how we "are" and how we live. For instance, today, most of us will again make choices...will it be faith or fear, innitiative or withdrawal? joy or caution? boldness or undertainty? love for others or self-absorption? Our inner dialog - like the flags on a downhill course - determine mostly where we will "ski."

5. It is really not the circumstances that are controlling us...but the focus that we are choosing. Which of us don't have some dark clouds in the sky that could control us? Circumstances can be extremely powerful, but it is the set of the mind that is the final determiner.

So, before you read the rest of this blog entry, get a copy of Psalm 145 and read it slowly and connectively several times.

Now...here are some of my insights from doing the same.

1. David's mental focus...he is choosing to praise God and says that should be an "always and forever" thing...ie for all of us at any time. Praising God never will be "mental suicide."

2. Over 25 times David lists attributes of God in the Psalm...like "great, mighty, wonderful.."
Can you find the others in the text too?

3. You and I do have a part in getting interactive with the benfits of this Psalm. In several places David states something like: "the Lord is near to all who call on Him"

Don't know about you, but I am feeling something rise in me, to look to God in fresh and bolder ways in the days ahead...
...and to make sure my mind is focused well - which means on God.

Fox, CNN, The Times and webb...ah, they do inform.

But only God can keep our minds stable and whow us how to live lives that truly matter.

So for 09
lets do something fine..
Keep our minds
in right align.



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

First Christmas

First Christmas

No marriage certificate to make it all "socially acceptable."
No trip finder to show the way and "how long till we get there."
No headlights or streetlights to make darkness more friendly.
No heater to warm the car.
No shocks to smooth the awkward lurching.
No McDonalds to "grab a quick burger and fries."
No Highway Patrol to make it all more safe.
No Starbucks to get some hot brew and stay awake.
No Holiday Inn at the end of the road.
...but they traveled safe and found their way to God's place for His Son's birth.

No midwife to guide a young mother through first birthing.
No hospital delivery room with staff standing ready for unforseen problems.
No warm blankets, and heat lamps, and soft sounds, and sterile everything.
No phone connect to be able to say - "He's here...and He's beautiful, mom."
No warm bath and lotions to soften his skin and fill the air with fragrance.
No pampers...no quick wipes...no air tight disposal containers.
No bottles....no family to laugh with, hug, and celebrate the moment.

But the whole world is celebrating now.

It happened down a long, dark, cold, bumpy road.
It happened in a shed where animals lodged.
It happened in conditions now "awful" to the max.

And that is truly how Jesus was born....and with Him,
the revelation of a God Who selflessly loves us all,
and a Son Who will give His all,
and a plan that has already opened up millions of hearts to the very presence of God.


God is with us.

No matter the road you're on....and the mission that seems to be occupying your life....you can trust Him with everything in these days.

Merry Christmas.


Next blog entry will probably be in about 12 days.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Best Recent Reads

I leave a little trail of things I am reading behind me. Bright pieces of paper to mark the place of next devouring. Little stacks of books...on my desk, by the bed, in my study.

So what are the best books I have read recently?

1. Starting a House Church - Kreider and McClung - Regal books. Informative, vision-casting, equipping, passionate, unifying. (this is not a book about criticizing the formalized church)

2. The Forgotten Ways - Alan Hirsch - Henderson - Speaks to the issues of life and church that make it succeed or fail. Heard him recently at a conference - here is a guy that is very deep and very clear. A must read.

3. Robert's Ridge - one of the most heroic true stories I have ever read - set in Afghanistan. An incredible salute to our troops.

4. Evangelism without Additives - Jim Henderson - Water Brook - Is this not the first book I have read on personal evangelism that makes you feel you can do it?? Yes.

5. UnChristian - what a new generation really thinks about Christianity - Kinnaman - Baker books - a must read for anyone wanting to bridge the gaps and effectively minister.

6. Simple Church - Rainer and Geiger - B&H books - Peeling off the old stuff that has bogged and clogged the church. Relief.

7. The Irresistible Revolution - Claiborne - Zondervan. A bracing and passionate review of the church and the gospel - loaded with insights and things to ponder. A great tune-up for faith written by one of the new young leaders.

8. The Message - Eugene Peterson - A very contemporary translation of the New Testament, that has made many passages come alive for me. A great read...not just another translation.

Now that's eight - that truly are great. (sorry)

You probably can buy many of these below jacket price by googling the titles.

May your reading go well in this season of a bit more free time.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Economics 101

December 11, 2008

Economics 101

Lots about money in the news these days...
>from recession to depression
>homes that can't sell - owners doing fixup at their own expense and selling at a loss
>layoff's by the thousands
>desperate measures taken by despairing people
>food lines very long
>state colleges crowded with "need more education" students
>retirements pushed off into the "not sure when" future
>and shopping, sales, "must have" words all over everywhere - welcome again to Christmas

So, as I am reading the New Testament, words about finances catch my eye.

(Here is my list of ideas gleaned from Chapter 6 of I Timothy. For "extra credit" read it yourself first, list your own ideas and then read mine and see if the ideas you have discovered are the same ones I will list. A+ for anyone who can write me showing what I missed. :))

Econ 101 - According to Paul

1. One of the significant wrong notions about godliness is that it will probably lead to "great gain" right now. Ie godliness and gain in the now are not that linked.

2. Having a wrong & greedy attitude about money fosters strife, malice, suspicions, quarrels. So consider a financial root to the next fight you are around.

3. Godliness + contentment = great gain.

4. "You can't take it with you" - is a false statement (#5&12)

5. You can send it all ahead of you into eternity - to be enjoyed in fellowship with God forever - see :19.

6. The basis God thinks is adequate for true contentment: food and clothing.....a much shorter list than we have been told in our cultures and time!

7. Being motivated by wanting to get rich leads to self trapping, ruin and worse.

8. The love of money is the root of all evil and leads in directions away from the presence of God.

9. Those with wealth must be on guard to put their hope only in God. (Jesus' said this was a very hard thing to do.)

10. God promises to "richly provide (those in relationship with Him) with everything (needful) for our enjoyment."

11. We should cultivate a continual habit of generosity, no matter our financial condition.

12. As we walk in these principles we will "store up treasure" for eternity in heaven and "take hold of the life that is truly life" in the now. (I think the latter is true because living in these principles deepens dependence, grows relationships, matures faith, gives open door opportunities for the spread of the life of Jesus in the world, and crucifies the lusts for more and more.)



Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Centerville, Texas

They came on the court fully prepared for action.

You could see it in their eyes.

And on their shins....special designs and colors.
Oh, and their feet...shiney "new" sneakers...with plenty of squeak in them.

This was to be a practice session...but they were ready, fully ready.

Jackie's brother Doug is their coach.

The team is made up of very young girls...many of them having a first experience at basketball....pony tails waving as they ran.

When they tried to score, most of their body had to be behind the shot for it to make it.

When it came to a simple play, whether they "cut" left or right was up for grabs for a long time - in spite of the fact that Coach had said "right."

And when they ran, most of them kind of bounced...like even this is a bit of a new skill for them.

Today they had all snuck into a gymn for one more practice with coach.

And he was ready - with a defensive strategy to teach them, and one simple play to run over and over until they all went "right."

And until they all got it, Doug was insistent. He was ready. He was patient...never a lifted voice - though I know him well enough to know he has one to lift. :) Over and over he would instruct - sometimes with his big hand resting on a head or shoulder.

And before it was all over a moment of fun with a very original cheer....a growl. (They are the Tigers)

What caught me deeply was the human dynamics taking place on the court....the affirmation and sense of self-worth that was being cast upon these girls. The pride in their eyes when they did well...the furtive gances towards coach for his approval. A girl who showed up for the first time, fit right in and was affirmed by coach and others. It felt at times that they were building lives as much as plays.

Coaching...it can unearth great human treasure.

Got a coach?

And who are you coaching?



Monday, December 1, 2008


His name is Bennett.

He's one of my grandsons.

Full of energy and a dynamo at most everything he does.

At three he wanted to grow up to be "Oooperman."

And now he is four...."Oooperman" is now (properly)"Superman" - and the idea lives still in his imagination.

Many days he wears the Superman outfit...and some nights too.
And he "flies" - just very short distances - and does all kinds of mighty deeds for his family...with those minature muscles underneath blue satin.
Get around him and he'll rescue you from something - normally boredom! :)
Blond hair and lots of ambition. That is Bennet.

Oh, I expect he'll change a lot as he grows - with different views of what a super man really is.

This morning I read the letter called Ephesians.
It's tucked into the middle of the New Testament....a book that sparkles with incredible, life-changing truth.

Like, what is God's idea about what describes a super man?

Here is a cluster of words from chapter 4 - I encourage you to read it all.

Qualities of a super man:
"Completely humble, gentle, patient, bearing with (stuff), loving, making every effort to keep the unity, peaceful, holy, speaking truthfully, kind, compassionate."

What enormous strength is reflected in these words....a strength that God and our wills must form a partnership to achieve. But what a man this results in - a faithful partner and friend, a strong worker, trustworthy in hard places.

So, keep going Bennett....all the way to God's super man.

And may we all be on this road...together.



Wednesday, November 26, 2008


An hour ago I was sitting in a little restaurant grabbing lunch and writing this note about thanksgiving.

I realized afresh that Thanksgiving is 1)a focus and 2)a choice with 3)clear consequence.

A focus:
Because it seems a person can always find a reason to complain and not give thanks. For instance - the weather: I love the sunny days in Colorado (300 to be exact) - BUT I do not love the water shortages that can come if we don't get rainy days. So what will my focus be - the sun or the dryness?

I am thankful for the wisdom that comes with aging....but I am not thankful for aging - understand? :) So what focus shall I choose today?...wisdom or wrinkles?

The person with negative focus is what I call the "yes, but" type.
We may say, "What a neat time we are having" and they say, "yes, but" it is going to be too late when we get home. We say, "wow you are looking great today" and they say, "yes, but" you should have seen me yesterday.
And on it can go.
Thanksgiving is truly a matter of focus.

And, being thankful is most often a choice.

Reality is - all of us probably can see the pros and cons about anything.
There is an up side and a down side to most aspects of life on this side.

(That's one of the wonders of heaven to come...only an up side. Is that why the Psalmist wrote "I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart? - just gettin' ready for heaven?)

So as your friend, I am encouraging you to take the up focus and make the right choice - ah, there you have it - Thanksgiving.

And when you practice choosing thanksgiving, a lot of graces come with it - joy, love, peace, faith and much more.

So, this Thanksgiving - make the choice, keep the up focus, and reap the rewards of a real Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thursday, November 20, 2008



It sits on my bookshelf as I write this blog.

A scorpion....tail drawn up and forward....tallons held ready.

But it brings, not fear, but an important reminder.

It is made out of thin copper wire wound creatively.
It is only 2 inches long....but it is clearly a scorpion.

It comes from Mexico...made by persons who make a living doing so.

They salvage the copper wire from throw-away piles, and skillfully spin the wire into scorpions and other little creatures.

A very modest living ensues.
But far better than otherwise.
And they are meaningfully occupied.

I think of the resourcefulness of the man who thought of this and got people doing it. A man God has called to be there and help a lot of people every way he can.

And beyond him, I think of the God Who prompts people all the time to really "bloom where you are planted." To "consider the lillies" and open a floral shop. To consider the ravens and worry just a bit less about provision off into the future. (See Luke 12)

In these uncertain times, I sense that staying close to God (and one another) should be our first line of response. His provision and the unlimited wealth of His ideas and creativity will see us through any times that we face.

It's an important message for today - from a little copper scorpion.

God, we join our hearts together today, to ask You to meet with us as we draw near to You . May our eyes be opened to Your presence and to the creative flow of your life. And, in these turbulent times, may we love those around us in tangible ways.
Thank You again for Jesus.
It is because of Him that we know we can speak these things to You.



Tuesday, November 18, 2008


November 18, 2008


For a very long time in my life, I took the great prayer that Jesus gave us all to pray with frequency and turned it the wrong way relative to what it is really directing.

Here is the prayer Jesus told us to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but delilver us from the evil one.

Somehow, because the prayer begins in "heaven" and repeats "heaven," and because I understood "kingdom" to mean heaven as well, and for whatever other reasons, I ended up attaching a future sense to the whole prayer...and not expecting anything in the now. It was (hopefully) going to all work out later.

And then along came an opportunity to understand "kingdom" more accurately.

Matthew's gospel uses "kingdom" over 50 times. Read the whole book with this blog in mind for a mind-popping trip into truth.

Someone pointed out to me that a kingdom is basically where the king is ruling. It is where his/or her (congratulations to Queen Elizabeth on her very long reign) kingly authority is supreme and where the will of the sovreign carries. King-domain - the sphere of the king's rule.

So I learned that when I was praying "your kingdom come" I was basically saying, "God, bring your rule, your presence, your will to pass right here and right now." And from there I began to see the rest of the prayer differently - like "hallowed be your name" is actually placing active worship at the start of the prayer....like the prayer for "daily bread" is actually a request for food supply....and "forgive us our debts" hinges on our prior "as we also have forgiven."

Rather than a formal prayer to be prayed in "church" expressing hope in eternal bliss, I came to see it as a prayer for today inviting the presence and rule of God into every area of our lives.

Come, Oh King....and rule in us today!



For extra credit - try praying the prayer (like it really means) each day for a week and journal what happens. Let me know.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Thursday November 13


Ever find yourself getting a little bored with "Jesus?"

A bit too ho hum?...too familiar?...too predictable?

Stories a bit worn out?...like when you used to sit on someone's lap and it's the same story book, over and over, until you find your lips moving with the words?

Knowing the big pieces of His life so well...missing the details?..and the excitement?

As someone, commenting on their reading of the Bible that day said to a friend - "I feel like I've just been bored again." (Get it? :))

Well don't switch books....just learn to read The Book...really read Jesus. That's in the Bible in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John...and His fingerprints are all over most of the others books too..

Even if on some days you find your self a little low on faith.....read Jesus with this mindset:

1. This is the story of God showing up in human form.

2. Look at the culture, the people, the events well, because it is all of God's choosing. (What if He had chosen to come to America in 2006?)

3. God is on a mission here in Jesus to change the planet and He does. Watch how...watch the big picture unfold through the details.

4. There are four accounts of Jesus' life because it is just that important. Everything counts.

5. Jesus was single, from a single-parent family, with 4 or more siblings of which He was the oldest. His earthly father was a carpenter, died young and passed his trade on to Jesus. For most of His life, Jesus cut, hauled, planed, carved and made things out of wood....possibly into house building and roofing.
He was strong, disciplined, and real to the core...and a lot of fun to be around.

6. Jesus was Jewish, and that is why the Bible is so large. The first part of the Bible is Jewish and everything in it relates to the big story about Jesus. (But wait till later to get into that.) Get the first and biggest part of the story down well at the start. It will serve to help you fit the rest of it all together.

7. The reality about Jesus is this: and this is not a faith deal - in about two years, having left the carpentry business, He taught lots of people, trained a few, and walked out a very early finish to His life here in order to provide a way for people to come to God without fear and to begin to experience His changing of everything about them.

And the plan worked.

As I write this blog today, millions of people are speaking His name, reading Jesus, and experiencing His presence in their lives. This is going on on every continent and population center. Centers of learning bear His name. Hospitals and benevolent organizations center in His teachings. Even swearers get rid of frustration speaking His name (not a wise thing to do, incidentally). Millions of crosses are on rings and around necks.
.....Jesus' influence and effectiveness is very much present all around us.

There is no person in history who comes even close to matching His life, teachings and impact.

Jesus is in a realm by Himself. He is unique and only. He stands alone.

So as you read, keep this in focus....go beyond the big parts of the story....go for the details and the context....think, think, think.
And pray
...for as you read about Him, He'll be peering over your shoulder and entering your life.

That's another God thing about Him. He loves you.



Monday, November 10, 2008

STARK blunt harsh severe grim

Lots of the Old Testament (the first major book division in the Bible) is stark.

Just today I read I Samuel - yes all lof it - with a black pencil in hand.

Black is the color of stark.

So, in the margins as I read, I placed a lot of black circles - colored in. Stark reminders of what I had just read - stuff like killings, and deaths, and wars.

Early on I knew I was "going to be in trouble." I read - "The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up....He humbles and he exalts....He will guard the feet of His saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness." Chapter 2 verses 6-9.

And very soon I was reading about David - a man sought out by the Lord very clearly, a man "after God's own heart." 13:14; 16:1,12,13

David is a warrior even while very young. This is made plain so tellingly in chapter 17 in his epoch battle against a giant (from a family of giants) named Goliath. (You just gotta read the whole chapter.)

What is amazing - and stark - is that David kills Goliath by planting a stone in the giant's head with his sling shot and then with the giant face down on the ground, he cuts Goliath's head off publicly - and then carries it around in his hand, even to the time that he is brought before the King in Jerusalem.

This defines stark.

Actions taken by a "man after God's own heart."

There are 31 chapters in I Samuel.

There are now 29 black circles in the margins of my copy of I Samuel.

David and us have a lot in common.

We all have lived and are living now in what the Bible calls "this present evil age."

"Present evil age?" It is called that for very good reason. Wars are everywhere.

And wars are always very stark...it has always been that way.

War forms an apex of human stuggle of good and evil. It is like a giant complex wrestling match - sometimes with thousands of people "on the mat" all at the same time.

The distressing images of suffering are all over the world now....and they have always been.

And as we consider this today, so many are in far-flung places making a difference - like David of old. Like our son Micah in Afghanistan and his buddies at Kalagush. So, yes, as a Dad, I am thinking this way, a lot more than I have ever before.

So...on the eve of Veterans Day - I salute those who are serving, and those who have served. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Most of us will never know what you are going through hour by hour......but God does.

And as you deal now (or in memory) with the images of suffering and horror - may you find the grace to be strong, the tenderness to cry at the loss, and the resolve to stand against evil until the last battle is fought.

And in the hardest, lonliest terrible places, may you find God in fresh dimensions...

Who knows where you are and what you are about, and Whose Book is marked all over with black circles where those who have gone before have done it just like you are.

Who has already secured a final victory we can all share together, with Christ.

It's already there in the back of The Book
- Christ, The One Who is faithful and true, the King of Kings and Lord of all Lords.
(See Revelation 19)

Christ, riding on the white horse (I think that was the first century's F-16 - :))



Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post election day thoughts

November 5, 2008

Well, its over.

Like so many, we too watched a bunch of the election results, the concession speech and the victory speech.

It was truly an extraordinary night.

Loved the "kids you get a new puppy" Obama line...and the open real affection that Mom and Dad shared.

Admired greatly the "I am responsible" and words of humble and wise counsel - from McCain.

Was deeply moved by the great camera work showing tears and jumps and hugs and looks of wonder on the faces of people...and the sense among the young that "I too can really reach for the stars." It truly was history in the making.

Wowed by the size of the crowds and record turnout at the polls - some stood in line for 4-5 hours?! People came to the final rallies half a day or more early.

Loved the every-generational people who got involved in the whole process.

Endured the endless - must keep talking - commentators.

And finally was grateful the two year process was over.

Wondered how the Obamas slept last night....if at all.

Wondered if McCain wept - or was he silently relieved.

Did Obama panic just a bit within himself when the lights were turned out?

Did anyone worry that some crazy person would try to take him out? I did - and noticed the huge almost-invisible plexiglass screens "walling" off the podium.

What a moving night...what a great acceptance speech. Obama on platform is truly one of the most dynamic, sensitive to crowd ever.

And now...how will he do as President.

"When the music stops and all is stripped away"...how will he do.

The Bible calls us clearly at this hour as a people who respond to His call:

"The first thing I want you to do is pray.

Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.

Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well

so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation.

This is the way our Savior God wants us to live." (I Timothy 2:1f)

So be you Republican or Democrat...or Independent (did you see the number of them in this voting process!)...the call to us all is to pray. There are grave challenges that face our nation and the world. Join me in seeking to pray on a regular basis for our leaders.

They need God's wisdom.

And we need them to lead well.

And it all fires up in prayer.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day Thanks

November 4, 2008

It's Election Day.

New records for voter turnout likely to be set.

Presidential candidates stumping various states and then heading home.
...both to announced victory gatherings.

News coverage will run for eternity...with speculation, charts, polls, and pundits.

The winner seems forcast already, but who really knows?

Stories of intrigue and stories of heroism.
Joe the Plumber and Palin the Perky Alaskan.
Yard signs, TV spots, blog sites...ad infinitum.

Jackie and I voted a few days ago.
Back of a JCPenny-dominated mall.
Went early thinking, we'd avoid a lineup.
The line snaked back and forth for a very long distance. Heard that "yesterday it went to the escalator and down! :)" Now that's a line up - get it?!

It was an orderly proceedure.
People craming at the last minute for details - through a long and complex voter guide.

And as we drove away we remarked at how blessed we are to be able to live in this land, with its due process - pretty exciting at that. And its order and unity.

And we thought of the troops at FOB Kalagush that read this blog and the deep debt that we owe them for what they are doing right now, to make this process possible.

So on this pivotal election day - special thanks to all those who serve. We esteem you and appreciate you greatly!

May the day go peacefully and well.

May the outcome be followed by unity and strength.

May we all continue to believe in this land and be thankful for it.

And may we continue no matter what, to look to God to bless America.

Yes, yes, yes.



Wednesday, October 29, 2008


October 29, 2008

Somewhere in graduate school a professor shared this information -
The mathematical formula for calculating the number of relationships possible in a group of people is (where X = the number of possible relationships and Y = the number of people in the group) is: (ready for a little algebra? its all I know!)
The formula: X = Y2 - Y / 2.

Let's try it out...
2 people - 4-2 over 2 = 1 relationship possible (duh!)
4 people - 16-4 over 2 = 6 relationships possible
6 people - 36-6 over 2 = 15 relationships possible.

Interesting, I sometimes hear people say: in this group of 100 there just aren't any people I can relate to. Hmm...check it out....what they are saying is that of the 4950 relationships that are possible here, there is none for me.

Interesting that Jesus did two things with this formula:
1. He chose three to be very close with: Peter, James, John. Thus there were 6 relationships possible to manage in that group.
2. He picked 12 men to raise up as His disciples...66 relationships to manage there. Gives some reason for the choices He made and the focus He gave to what can seem like such a "little" group.

Real issues for us I think are this:
1. Not how many "friends" do wehave, but how many people really know us well?
2. Make sure we are not spread thin but have dug deeply in relationships.
3. Remind ourselves frequently of the power of 12 to change the world.




Monday, October 27, 2008

The Dancing

October 27, 2008

Last Saturday morning.

Jackie and I out on a run for an early treat....to Dunkin Donuts.

I order - cream-filled and coffee - and find a place to sit and watch the people. It is a busy place - a continual stream of people at the counter.

A man approaches the shop - two children in tow. A little boy - short pants, army crew - and his older sister. They will get a donut and chocolate milk.

The anticipation builds after dad bends over to talk to them.

But, there is a line...and they must wait for a few minutes to be served.

I watch the little boy - obviously excited - his head turning upwards frequently towards his father, his eyes full of wonder...and his feet dancing - a simple hop from one side to the other, back and forth, back and forth.

Donuts and chocolate milk!

I get Jackie's attention and whisper: "look!"
She smiles at the dance....and shows me that his sister is dancing too.

An soon they are at table nearby....and the expected is happening.

And it is fun to watch.

And I think of the Bible Psalm that says: "Let them praise His name with dancing." (149:3)

And a great book of wisdom states: "There is a time....to dance." (Ecclesiastes)

Have you had that time lately?

Times are heavy...but the good news is, dancing doesn't take a crowd, or a band or anything else - but the Father's presence and favor upon us. And our expectation that we will be with Him in heaven forever.

May we have that focus and at times just let it go...to dance with expectation and joy in His presence.

Today...lets look up to our Father - and dance!



Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Under a clear plastic blotter on the top of my desk are two pictures.

In each, 12 or more men selected from among their peers stare back at the camera. They are entrusted with the discipline of the wayward, the management of a lot of money, the care of thousands of people, the direction for a trusted organization. Big decisions - often with grave consequences.

What do you see when you imagine the pics?

Suits and ties? Formal seating? Austere, even stern facial countenances? Hands at sides, feet placed carefully? The most important persons most impressive in bearing? Facial lines in vertical array? Neat, clean, proper, severe?

Got a picture in your mind?

On two occasions, now, I have been asked to be the one who takes their annual group picture.

On both occasions I have taken the group pics.....and then just before the shoot ended, each time I have said something like..."Common guys, ham it up...go for it...let's have a bit of fun with this."

And they have done well with that idea - fingers showing above heads, some pulled off balance by hugs, facial poses that compete with the masks of this Halloween season. Pushing and shoving playing...become very apparent. "We like each other" could easily be the title overhead.

And I have not been able to wait to see - these last poses, not the first ones.
The play, not the proper.

In fact I took the pictures again today and within moments of returning to the office, this year's play shot was positioned underneath my blotter...at an angle that lets me feast on it easily.

I've discovered that the play shots reveal more of the person.
The play shots provoke smiles, and faith and lightness.
The play shots are by far the keepers.
The play shots give me a certain sense of comfort and security in their leadership.
The play shots say to me: I love people
You can trust me to lead well...to be real and open and honest.

And I think of this on a bit wider dimension
and I wonder at the cycle of life.
All of us start out playing as the predominant activity of most of every day
...and at the end of the cycle of life we seem to shut it down...playing hardly at all.
We begin so happy and free, flexible and optimistic
and end up often sad and bound and cautious.

Could it be that if we learned to ham it up a bit more
...to shuck off the pressures just for an hour
we would become the person that most people feel is "the keeper"?

And I wonder suddenly,
could...would Jesus be in the picture if He were on the board?

Ah...I think the answer to that question might be caught in His words:
"Unless you become like children you will not even see the Kingdom (present activity) of God.

So may we learn again (today, perhaps) to play.

And may our days today be a whole lot more playful than our yesterdays.

Click, Click......


aka...Joedy Kabloedy
(my nickname as a kid...don't ask me to explain! - :))


A free definition of the word might go something like this:
an event or events that get our attention and seem unusual enough to make us ask: what is going on?

A few days ago I heard this definition for coincidence: when God arranges the details, but is not concerned about Who gets the credit.

I sometimes wonder: Could it be that God is that playful? (for a bit of assistance in formulating your answer, consider gerbils and elephants, seals and whales, butterfiles and pandas.)

I suppose it all depends on how far we think God likes to get involved in our lives. Personally I vote for God being a whole lot more involved with our lives than we often realize.

Perhaps coincidences really should be seen as God-incidences.

Like a verse in the Bible that I just read says: "In Him we live, and move (!) and have our being." Seems like enough God-coverage there for "chance encounters" and "near misses."

So...I've been learning to take coincidences like the melodic call of some cell phones and answer it with: Hello - God, is that You?

So let's join up on this journey and tune in today to our Creator.

It's just another part of the Great Adventure.

It's a Jesus thing. He announced His purpose this way:
"I have come that you might have LIFE."

Selah -


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Titanic Entry #26

Thursday, October 16, 2008


"The Titanic's Last Secret" caught my eye in this week's Newsweek magazine.

97 years ago she went down in freezing north atlantic waters - on her maiden voyage - just 2 hours and 40 minutes after striking an iceberg. Making great time. Parties on deck.

1,522 people perished. And now we know it was because she sunk so fast.

The story of what happened has been written in close to 200 books, documentaries and movies.

All these accounts laid the blame for it all on a captain who did not exercise care.

And now the truth has come out -
* it was faulty riveting and thinned plating (by 1/4 inch) that made this ship a sure bet for disaster. ("If we make the plates thinner, we will lighten her by 2500 tons and she will go much faster.")
* before sinking the ship broke into three pieces not two
* the ship went down faster and a much lower angle than has been depicted
* the negligence in building was fueled by the press of time, the hunger for ship speed, a intense shipping rivalry, and the desire to please the great financier J.P.Morgan.
* what really happened and caused the sinking has been known by key persons all along.

The truth always seems to find a way to come out.

Like Jesus said: "what is hidden now will be revealed."

Stopping to consider...I feel deeply called
to build the "ship" of my life well - to the pattern of The Designer,
to live with His gaze in mind - He is the Truth - and all will some day be revealed,
and I feel the call to resist firmly the temptations
to cut corners,
put lives at risk,
think that hiding truth is ever the right choice.

May God help us to always choose the paths that lead to life now and fellowship with God forever.

Sail on..



Monday, October 13, 2008


My Dad had this interesting habit.

He would hitch his pants in an unusual manner.

He would do it any time any place.

Always with his hands free....using his forearms to try to get ahold of the tops and sides of his pants...trying to move them up just a bit. Problems with sagging I guess.

Why this unusual behavior?

At the time this behavior appeared, we lived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
On the campus of Bethel Bible College.
Dad was the President, so we we got to live in a big stucco house 20 yards removed from everything....ah yes, such an honor.

Winters were cold....
I still remember waking and seeing the lacey patterns of frost on the inside of my windows. (And the one morning when I put my tongue out to see how cold it was. !!)

The whole campus fought against the cold from a coal-fired furnace that heated water to steam and sent the steam shunting down long corridors of pipe....and hopefully some made it to our house, banging and clanging in loud protest as it came.

Sometimes it didn't arrive....
and sometimes it was an off night, and the workers weren't there to feed the furnace,
so my President Father would go to the furnace room and shovel coal into the furnace, even all dressed up Presidential.

And after that busy activity, his hands were covered with soot, and his pants were sagging.

You guessed it.

So he hitched his pants with his forearms, holding his hands out in front so as not to get anything more dirty than it had already become.

He did it enough times that it just became a habit, an unusal behavior, tied to lilfe experience.

You hitch too?

I hitch my soul....trying to not cry in inappropriate moments. Made harder by the experience of deep losses in my life.

I hitch my lips...trying to not dominate conversations, 'cause I just at times get too excited.

I hitch my hands...trying to stay away from most things mechanical...so as not to bely my clutziness.

I hitch my expectations...trying not to get too disappointed over people who don't like history.

Hitching....it can be an intersting revelation to the past.
Hitching....we probably all do it at times.
Hitching....it helps us cope, and usually makes life just a little bit more appropriate.

May today find you adjusting to life....making things work....and drawing strength from Jesus Christ, the Source of everything we need to truly be alive.



Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I was involved in planting a new church.
...in the heart of Lincoln, Nebraska - right next to the campus of the University of Nebraska.

We were meeting in Lodge #16 - fraternal site - old, cracked windows, smells - but affordible. :)

From the ceiling in the main room hung a huge electronic bingo sign. Numbers prepared to light up the night before (Saturday)- for those who came to try their luck.

We met on Sunday and drew chairs in a semi-circle on the cracking floor.
Guitars, drums and even a ukelele sounded forth as we sang vigorously our worship to God.

And often we shared in communion - a common loaf of bread and a common cup of grape juice - yes grape juice! :)

On the day I remember well, we sang, and learned from the Bible and shared in communion - first the bread, and then, passing it around, the cup. (No...we hadn't heard of health risks!)

When the cup came to me, with closed eyes, I raised it up ceremonially, and brought it to my lips - and as I did the whole place exploded in long and hearty laughter.

Now, I have prided myself in being rather liberated, but this seemed instantly to be way too much......until I opened my eyes.

You see, at the moment the cup had touched my lips, the great Bingo light went suddenly on...and stayed on until I had finished.

We never could find anyone who touched switches, or played a trick...so we developed a theory.

God did it.

Not very good theology...but it does make some sense...because in communion the church celebrates over and over the sufficiency of the death of Christ...and the resurrection of Him from the dead. It is also the celebration that He ascended into heaven and will come some day to pick up all who have committed their lives to Him while living here.

So may you celebrate communion again soon.

And as you do, may the lights go off very bright....in your soul.

Bingo ....indeed......


Tuesday, October 7, 2008


A pretty sober morning.

News - oh not about the stockmarket (again) - but this time, the news that a good man, who has done so much for so many, has acted in a way that broke his lifelong commitment to his wife.

Adultery.....becoming sexually intimate with someone you are not married to.

The question often rings after the fact....
"How could this happen?"
"How could a person like this end up doing something like this?"

One answer came to me: deceitfulness.

Deceitfulness is by definition - the intention to deceive, to be misleading.

And a verse from the Bible came to my mind immediately with this word: "See to it, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourge one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Hebrews 3:12-13.

Thoughts from these words:

1. Sin by its very nature is deceiving. In other words it is slippery, misleading - what seems to be the case ("I'll be ok" "No one will be hurt" "It's just a little thing anyway") before the act of sin, most often is not the case on the other side. ("I'm not ok." "People are getting hurt.""It is a whole lot bigger than I thought.") Sin has a magnetic pull to it...and is full of faulty logic. Beware its deceitfulness.

2. It seems to me that these verses are warning us all. We all can be candidates for deception - whether 60 or 20....whether a long-term follower of Jesus or brand new....and whatever gender, occupation or situation we find ourselves in.

3. What is at stake is this: the enemy of our souls (satan) getting us to completely turn away from God. That is always the ultimate contest that is afoot in the entire universe.

4. We have a responsibility to "encourage one another" to stand strong and avoid the slippery slope. How? Here are some ideas:
i. we should all be asking our friends occasional and penetrating questions - like, *"are you walking in purity?" - *"are you staying away from stuff that is tempting?" *"how close are you walking with God right now? and *"how do you measure that?
ii. learn to be "encouraging" to those in your life right now...speak in truth and in faith. Speak hope to them. Let your words convey strength to your friends. We are all in this battle and we all need one another.
iii. keep a short account with God - a daily inventory-taking and time in prayer with Him. Ask God to give you more of his main weapon against deceitfulness - it is called discernment...and the Bible is its main standard of evaluation.

Aren't you glad we get to follow Jesus? "No deceit was found in his mouth." I Peter 2:22.



Friday, October 3, 2008


Ever been lost?

I have.

First time I remember feeling really lost was at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, Ontario. Attended by hundreds of thousands. Big. Sprawling. Noisey. Complex. Very possible place to get lost ... really lost.

I did.

And it was frightening to contemplate that it might be a long time before I was found.

Lostness was a huge matter to Jesus.

Luke 15:1ff - "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law (religious types) muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

The tax collectors and sinners, feeling their lostness inside, were coming to Jesus to see what He might say.

The religious types were so lost they didn't know it...and could only criticize those who came to Him for help.

So Jesus told a story about a man who had one hundred sheep but lost one. And he went looking for that one sheep, found it and brought it home....to the sounds or great rejoicing.

He identified His mission as just like that. Seeking for people who know they are lost...who yearn inside to be found by God Himself.

Jesus came to the planet on a mission to provide the way for people to be found by God - because without God, we are all lost...disjointed inside, far from the peace and "found-ness" God intended us to know.

Lost - when I was lost, it was all-consuming, face draining, fear producing, paralyzing.

And when I prayed to God, asked Him to forgive me of all my sin, and said that I wanted to live in a way that pleased Him for the rest of my life....my lostness was dealt with forever.

When I gave my life to Him, then, He not only placed a portion of His Spirit inside me, but gave me the assurance that one day I will join Him in the forever-found place....heaven.

So...we all start out lost.

We all need Jesus.

We all can be found.

We all can have hope beyond this life.

See you there?



Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Eye see

Tuesday - September 30/08 - Entry #23

Reading through the first part of the New Testament again.

I do this a lot.

Jesus words struck me with force a few days ago:
"Your eye is the lamp of your body.
When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light."
But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness.
See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.
Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you."
The Gospel of Luke Chapter 11, verses 34-36.

Points I note as I think about these words:

1. The eyegate affects the whole body. Porno is not isolated to the eyes, it fills us up entirely with darkness.

2. What my eye focuses on is largely my choice. Something outside of me is not determining that. Only if that is true can Jesus say: "see to it that the light within you is not darkness."

3. Darkness is very tricky stuff - we can come to think that the darkness inside is actually light

4. When darkness is our intake, it affects everything: marriage, sleep, telling the truth, being an open person, our sexual wisdom and function, our use and abuse of people. Jesus got it right - an uncontrolled eye is the entry point to some pretty bad stuff.

5. When the eyegate is under control, however, the whole of our being can be filled with "light" the light of integrity, trustworthiness, kindness, truthfulness and much more.

6. Jesus not only speaks the truth, but He is prepared to help us live the truth He speaks of.
For instance, about "light," He is so good at helping us here that He gets nicknamed "The Light of the World." (John 8:12)

Got trouble with your eyes? A bit "dark" where you live lately?

An old song writer got it right:
"Don't try to drive the darkness out, you just turn on The Light."



Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Wednesday, September 24

- "To entice to do something wrong or unwise." (Webster - Dictionary)

- "Pray simply like this:
Keep us forgiven with You and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil." (Jesus - Matthew 6))

Recently I was hit by a particularly strong form of temptation.
Temptation, I realize, is part of normal living - but this was was stronger than I had experienced in a pretty long time.
An innocuous gaze turned suddenly poisonous.
The normal patterns of thought and response were suddenly stalled.

The snake had bitten.
(The devil is called a snake often - see Revelation 12:9)

Suddenly I felt the numbing and paralysis.

Then the temptation was over.

Quick hit....quick slither off.

But I felt weakened, disappointed...and wondering what I should do in response.
I was worried that the snake would try to return.
He usually will.

Here is what I did.

1. I immediately began to pray, right where I was, and in soft tones began to ask God to forgive me for yielding to that temptation, even briefly, and to forgive me and make me clean inside again.

2. I reminded myself of one very special promise: "if we confess our sins He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:8-9)

3. It came to me then to solicit a friend's help in making sure that I had dealt with this openly enough. I would ask that friend to hear my confession, to question me in any way appropriate and to pray with me. I would also ask this person to check back with me and ask me how I am doing, whenever it seemed good to do so. (James 5:16)

4. Soon after determining #3 (above) was to be part of the agenda, I did just that - told of my encounter with temptation and in return found love, acceptance and wisdom in the process. We both prayed together as well.

5. Finally, I thought of a preventative idea...one deliberate but simple step that I could take to put up a wall between myself and the temptation....shutting down its source....and trapping the serpent in his den. I did that at the next opportunity. It worked.

"No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down;
He'll never let you be pushed past your limit;
He'll always be there to help you come through it." I Corinthians 10:13ff



Monday, September 22, 2008


Monday, September 22, 2008

A few years back, a man who profoundly walked with God wrote a little track (early form of blogging :). In it he set forth three words: facts, faith and feelings.

The facts, he said, are those truth statements that clearly point us to Jesus Christ and explain to us what He has done for us through His crucifixion and death for us and His resurrection to life and ascention into heaven.

Faith - our personal means of connecting to the facts - for instance when I say: "God, I believe the facts...and I am asking Jesus to forgive me of all of my sin and become my Partner for life and eternity." When I say words like that from my heart, it is like I am building a bridge from who and where I am right now into the presence and purposes of God for my life.

And Feeling - what we sense within when we do all of the above. Spiritual wholeness - a feeling of release from the crud, the immoral, selfish, wrongful stuff....and on the other side of the spectrum of feelings, sensing forgiveness, joy, hope and what one Bible verse calls "peace with God."

Facts. We find the facts so critical to connecting in reality with God in the Bible.
Faith. Exercising in the spiritual realm like we do in the material realm lots of times every day...like, walk over a manhole, or fly in a plane lately?
Feelings. The squeeky clean feeling inside...the "all is really well with my soul"...the eternity questions and my destiny in it is now a certain thing.

What the man who introduced these words freshly to all of us also pointed out was:
1. It is usually always a progression - facts -> faith -> feelings - and not some other order.
2. If you have facts and faith that is truly enough. Feelings are ok, but not a must.

Both points have great merit and often helpful in our journey with God.

Ah, but most all of us have been built with a huge feeling feeler (got that? :)

From where I live, sometimes it seems that the order is just not that clean and neat...like sometimes great feelings seem to sweep over me from who knows where? Then I try to assess: is this "cool" or not...and then, if it is good, I try to search out facts to sort out what our response to the feelings stirred up should be. Feelings->faith->facts.

Two days ago I was in one of those moments of great feeling.

I was on a two day retreat with men from all over Utah. We had a number of sessions for teaching (facts). We had moments when faith was released in prayer and action. What stood out to me was the way feelings occured. We had been listening to a teaching from Luke 15 about the lavish love God the Father has for all of us. This was followed by the speaker giving a long and personal illustration about their family learning to love like that.

I found myself so moved that for many minutes during his presentation, I kept having to wipe tears from my face. As the session came to a close the band returned and we began to sing softly to God, some kneeling, others with hands raised.
As I went to the microphone to give closure to the session a man who had not been in the session came forward to share an announcement. His first words were: "There is such a presence of God in this place that I could feel it as I just entered the room."

For a number of moments we all simply stood in the presence of God. Feelings and responses took shape in all of our hearts. The analogy that came clearly to me was that it was like we were all standing in a river (of God's presence) waist deep. It was a time to remember and take action upon.

Facts....faith....feelings. Feelings....faith.....facts. May we know them all and be encountering God richly in these days.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Several days ago I found myself sitting on the edge of a high bank, in a canyon, by a rushing, clear river....while my friend went after some trout, and our wives talked together.

I had walked down the gravel road a ways staring at the river and the wonderful mountainous territory just across the way. Aspens just beginning to turn golden. Air crisp and fresh.

I finally decided to just sit on a rock by the edge of the road...and listen and watch. That always seems, for me, to be the doorway to discovery.

Within a very few moments something caught my attention near my feet. Only inches long, it darted up on a rock 8 feet away and looked at me curiously. Tiny dark paws seemed to be clasped in prayer...and I could almost sense a "please" was in the air.

Too bad I didn't bring anything to give, I thought.

And then I remembered...I've got an Almond Joy in my camera bag.

I got up quietly and slowly to retrieve my bag. The chipmunk bobbed his head, but didn't move.

When I found the candy bar, I detached the almonds from the top.

The first one I tossed close to my little friend. He retrieved it - can I say "joyfully?" :)

The first almond he took to his rocky perch and ate...rotating the whitening nut in his "hands". With the second one he made the puch of his left cheek bulge and then scampered out of sight.

Chipmunks must have "leftovers" too....perhaps saved for cold, snowy days. He didn't just stuff himself. He saved for a scarcer time. Smart...really smart.

As I walked back from where I'd come from, I thought of how the tiny things in the world often amaze as much or more than the big things.

And I thought of Jesus who advised His hearers: "Consider the lilies. Look at the birds." (See Matthew Chapter 6 for the full account.) In fact, my impulse to write this blog today comes from the example of Jesus Who took His disciples into the fields with some frequency to share what He saw there about life and God.

So let's keep our eyes and ears open. And may we see beauty and experience joy in small things around us today.



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The news September 16, 2008

In the middle of last night I found myself tossing and praying.


*I'd watched people carrying boxes "everything that was theirs in their office" - 5000 of them - carrying the box of their stuff. Suddenly out of work. They had been part of an esteemed team of financial professionals on Wall Street - but now the company they had counted on was going bankrupt.

*I'd seen the shots from helicopter of the miles of devastation in Galveston, and Houston and so many coastal and inland areas in Texas and Louisiana....acres and acres of rubble and bare foundations. How many people will be looking simply for a good drink of water today?

*I'd read the article about the Russian long-range planes now flying into NATO territory - and leaders of the world wondering what this new bristling and power really means.

*The reports from the Middle East of bombs and bloodshed...and radical Islam.

The economy.
The weather.

Nations and people - in crisis.

And this morning I reached again for the Bible asking for truth to fashion my heart.

Here is what I found.

1. Don't Panic: Jesus, when talking about the calamities that will come at the end of earth-time (See Matthew 24, Luke 21, Mark 13) - said, the first response should be not to panic or get swallowed up in fear. Calamities are part of the climax of the ages. Difficulties will increase as a sign of reaching the very end of time. Allowing fear to become the emotional focus can cause a freeze-up...and a draining out of faith. A preoccupation with things beyond our ability to control.

2. Remember Who is in control: I found the Bible reminding me that Jesus is truly in charge of history and time. He is Lord of everything. He is not ever taken by surprise...though those who follow Him were often "amazed." He does not ever need to draft an emergency plan. As a great lady, who lived through persecution and the Nazi regime, often reminded her audiences: "There's no panic in heaven."

3. Pray: *for leaders who must make hard decisions in these times, *for people who are in a chaotic situation to turn most of all to God for His help, and *for ourselves to maintain the course with a heart of love and obedience to God.

4. Listen and do - take time not just to listen to the news -over and over and over and...see #1 above - :) - but to listen to the Spirit of God. Ask Him: "Is there anything You want me to do?" Then wait to hear. And when you hear, obey. Do the next right thing - no matter how seemingly insignificant - in the right direction.

Finally, some of Jesus' direct words:
"Watch out for doomsday deceivers.
When you hear of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don't panic. This is routine history and no sign of the end.
There will be famines.
The Message has to be preached all across the world.
...And then (you'll) see the Son of Man (Jesus) enter in grand style, his Arrival filing the sky - no one will miss it! He'll dispatch the angels; they will pull in the chosen from the four winds, from pole to pole.
So keep a sharp lookout.
Stay at your post, watching.
The words of Jesus...selected from Luke 13 - The Message.

The evening news: may it be a call to prayer, not a call to fear.
May it summons us to appropriate action, not circling anxiety.
May it cause us to look with expectation to the return of Jesus.



Friday, September 12, 2008

The Presence

V. Raymond Edman was his proper name.

But he had lots of other names given to him because of his kindly manner.
Prexy was the one I remember - quite a name for the President/Chancellor of a presigious college.

For years he had been involved in taking the good news about Jesus to people in Ethiopia.
His devotional writings had stirred the hearts of many.
His ability to reach out simply and love people. had brought deep impact to many.

And recently he had suffered with heart problems.

But "recovering" was the word now and it was announced the he would be back to speak in the Wheaton College chapel one more time.

I remember the day we all entered the chapel with expectations as to what we would hear.

When Prexy was introduced he came quietly to the podium.
He spoke that day from the Psalms - the theme being "In the Presence of the King."

Then he illustrated the theme by talking about what he experienced when entering Emperor Haillee Sellasie's throne room....the protocal, the attire, the mannerisms...and the overwhelming sense of awe....to be in the presence of a "king."

He concluded quietly....
stepping back one pace...
And then he fell backwards
and was gone.

"Gone," I say....not "dead." But gone into the Presence of The King.

He had lived his life so close...and now just a small step backwards took him into The Presence forever.

The auditorium was hushed. Some wept quietly. Others wrote notes...what did he say? What was God saying to me in this?

Some day in our own way, we will all take "a small step backwards" - for we are all living that close to the edge of eternity.

For those who have given their lives over to Jesus and asked Him to partner with them on the journey called life - it will be the fulfillment of the promise: "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."

May we live today, ready to go.

May we live - in and for - The Presence.

Selah -


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Grumble, grumble, grumble

It was time for desert.

Grandma Paul was at our table again.
She lived only a few miles away and was a frequent guest.

Desert was offered and everyone dove in eagerly to the large portions handed out - until it came to Grandma Paul.

Clearing her throat she would say: "I'll just take a very tiny portion."

That directive was followed - often with some expressions of "are you sure that is enough?".

And her comment, after receiving her insisted-upon small portion always followed: "Well that is a very small amount."

Just a little grumbling to adjust the feelings she must have had inside aways was needed.

Saw a cartoon that portrayed a youngster having received the firm instructions to "lie down" - saying - "I may look like I am lying down, but on the inside I am standing."

Grumbling - obedience on the outside, complaining on the inside. Saying yes, and feeling no. Smiles on the face and acid in the stomach. Nice words when present - and ugly ones when out of earshot.

Grumbling is infectious. It can spread to an entire nation....actually did....and it led then to a serious crisis. (Check out the Bible - Numbers 14 for one account) I Corinthians 10:10 - do not grumble...it can lead to destruction.

Want to stop but can't seem to?

Two bits of thought:

1. Simply resolve to stop grumbling - it gets habitual. Make this the moment when you determine strongly to begin a new pattern of speech control. For extra help try the buddy system on this asking a friend to alert you to times you do, so that you can sharpen up on your tongue-control.

2. #1 doesn't seem to be helping enough? How about trying a depth personality makeover. That's what can happen when God starts to work within us. Here is one of many promises He makes: "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone... Ezekiel 11:19.

May the words of our mouths today, give joy, and life, and love to all around us.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

The name

Dateline: 14th century Scotland.

They called him Bruce.
Sounds Scottish and it was.

Pretty primitive times.
Kilts, and swords, and castles and grogs.

Justice too was very primitive - and often very unfair.
Might made right. Status gave privilege.

And a guy named Bruce saw the plight of the poor in the "courts" of his day and was moved into action. First with one needy person and then with another - and finally he developed a reputation for defending the rights of the poor in "court."
Eventually it came time for names to become more complex and people took sirnames to better identify themselves.
And because of his skill and compassion, Bruce took a name that spoke of his calling.
He chose Argue.

Bruce Argue.

And thus an unusual last name began with noble cause.
And survives to this day.

From what I understand, everyone who bears that last name is related. An interesting benefit indeed.

As I reflect, I wonder if Bruce found himself on this cycle:
1. One day he simply saw a need that caught his attention.
2. At some point he offered to help meet that need.
3. He discovered that he had some gifting relative to presenting arguments in court.
4. He found that when he did this, it was satisfying and even stirred his joy and passion.
5. He did it more and more frequently - until (perhaps?) it became the main agenda of his life.

And so the positive impact of his life goes on 6 centuries later.

And when someone, after hearing my name, asks: "don't argue do you?"

I can smile & say, "Can I tell you about where this name came from?"

What's in your name?


PS - what is also neat is that our names can be attached to His name. Christ-ians.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


The middle of the night.

Darkness - dark thoughts.
Why? If only? What could have been...

Whispers....to a partner who holds, and listens and probes and accepts.

It had been dealt with long ago...but here it is again.
The death of a parent and then later that of a spouse. And the emptiness that followed and follows still sometimes - even 40 years later.

And in bas relief the ever deeper realization of what was lost and never could happen...the love that could have been known but was taken away. The encouragement that could have been given but was consumed - spent - fighting a losing battle with cancer.

...and there is a sense of scar within and ache.


How can I respond?

Here are a few ideas.

of who I am and where I am - rather than resigning and giving up...and going into a life stall.
Acceptance means the end of endless "whys"...and the beginning of "now whats." Acceptance means turning mental energies towards the present and future rather than the past. Conducting an honest assessment of gifts and graces, of talents and challenges....ups and downs. acceptance for me is undergirded by the fact that I believe each of us are specially made with a plan that goes with the design. That part is God's deal.

of how the loss has deepened the gifts of life and the ability to pass it on to others. What is happening on the good days? What am I learning?....and how am I growing? And if I were to imagine the best possible future, what would it begin to look like? (Someone who knows you best might have some things to say that help.)

doing what can be done now to make up for the ache.
Like loving those around me - caring for them, listening to them, camping near them...doing what expresses love to them. Forgiving them when they fall short of my expectations and keeping short accounts on my failures...and theirs. "Do to others what you would have them do to you."
If I sometimes feel stalled, at least I can do something to head in the right direction.

And most of all
having a long and thorough conversation with Jesus about it all.
Purposefully telling Him that I am needing His help with the night.
And healing with the aches and scars.

It's the middle of the day now.
The sun is shining brightly and cool breezes are in the air.

And inside of me there is enough light - to share this openly with you.

Jesus - "light of the world" - has helped me again with the night.

For the night I describe was last night.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

(Read more about light in the Bible, The Gospel of John, Chapters 1,2,3)

Thursday, August 28, 2008


For the last few days the DNC (Democratic National Convention) has made front page of every paper I've seen. Obama/Biden have been covered from all angles....even family members and schools and on. Smiles, hugs, bright ties, nicely pressed shirts, arms raised in (hopeful) victory. Hillary calling for everyone to "unanimously" affirm their choice as presidential candidate. Ah, such positioning.

This morning the news was showing the lavish stage that has been put together on the field at Invesco - white pillars, massive lights, chairs arranged carefully, huge stage....some have drawn an analogy to Greek temples and whatnot. Others are starting to question what this must have cost - and what with the economy in trouble. Watch for the banter.

And as I caught some of this over breakfast I thought of the way Jesus entered on His "campaign" trail to change the spiritual environment of the world forever....."He came to his own and His own received Him not." "He was dispised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Long into the campaign He was asking: "Who do people say that I am?"

He came unobtrusively - unanimously unrecognized - lived with continual rejection, and died pinned to a cross - a loud and public spectacle of mockery - the exclamation point beyond any form of torture and suffering ever yet known to mankind.

If time goes on - (if) - generations to come will be tested to see if they can remember Obama or McCain (certainly not whoever becomes the VP)- and many will sweat profusely at that inquiry and will not succeed......but writing this today, I find myself moved so deeply within, with gratefulness for One Who came as He did. And did what He did.

The power of His upside-down Kingdom remains. The way down is truly the way up.

So may we live the Kingdom today...seeking not the acclaim, but the place of service. Not the bright lights, but the bright hearts lit up by God Himself.

Jesus..."elected" by the Father to the highest "office" there will ever be.



Wednesday, August 27, 2008


John did so much of it that he was called "The Baptizer." Imagine that - being so frequently at it that that act became your nickname!

Jesus insisted that John baptize Him - said it was about doing everything to please God. And when He did....clouds moved, birds flew and everyone went "wow."

At one point in the Bible, they baptised in a certain place because there was much water there. Kinda always turned me away from sprinkling. :)

From the very days of Jesus on earth it has been standard for everyone walking with him through life. Baptism.

I like baptism because it is clear.
Lots of faith is fuzzy.
Baptism gets you wet, puts you under, gets (normally) observed by a crowd.
Its a public, purposeful, messy thing.

When pastoring a growing church we baptised everywhere we could:
in a muddy lake, (with fish nibbling on our legs)
in a goat's milk processing vat,
in a borrowed tank,
in a swimming pool,
in a bathtub,
on a sandy beach (when it was so cold and windy that I couldn't remember the Trinity),
with polished words and rough...."nice" words and plain ones....
with tears, and shouts, and hugs, and laughter...
with children pressing in to see...and strangers dropping by
....and grandfolks driving distances just to be there.
with people jumping in so excited (that they almost self-immersed)

We baptized and baptised.

It was party time...always.

It was always the beginning of so much more.

Baptism is like a sign on the road.
It says to everyone, this is for real and I am on the road that leads to God's place.

Come and join me....let's go together.

Have you been baptized?

Got some water at your place?

Mix it with faith and join in the journey to God's House.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Just Do It

Tuesday - 8-26 - 4:10pm

I'm back.
Returned from a great time in Nebraska last night...and waited all day for work on this computer to be completed.
That's life...right?



Sunday afternoon - sipping tea on a sun deck with old friends.
Recounting favorite memories.
Lots of laughter.
Lots of humility. :)
Roger: "Remember when you and I used to resolve one more time that we would exercise and really get in shape?"
We would solemnly agree and part uplifted that such in-shape-ness was now on its way.

One week later: "How is the exercise program going?"

What we discovered was that Roger had purchased new sneakers. And I had drawn up a masterful chart to follow the progress.

Actual exercise?


And our bodies protest:
Don't worry about fancying me up. Just exercise me.
Don't worry about keeping accurate records of the progress - just do something.

Same with weight loss, and new skill acquisition (how many books have I purchased "to really get good at this" - and then not even read the book?!)

So, the next time you feel prompted to do something important....don't spend your valuable time getting ready to do it...and then not actually doing anything.

Just do something...
cause...even a faltering first step, is worth a lot of sitting.

Reminds me of Jesus' words:
"There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God.
But there's another part that's as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire. Stay alert!"
- The Message Matthew 26:41 -
Known best as "the Spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

Selah*....or shall I say...DOlah? :)


*Selah - an old hebrew expression that means "pause and think about it."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Peace - with God

August 20 - 08

She came into my room. "You ok?"

I had jumped into bed a few minutes before and was waiting for her arrival - and thinking about the condition of my soul.

"Not sure," I said. "Not sure if my heart is really right in God's eyes."

She explained to me that being "right" with God has to do with two basic things.
One: really opening your heart to God. Really and clearly confessing your need of Him to forgive you of your sin and asking Him to begin from that point to exercise His presence and direction in your life.

Two: His part is in forgiving you of your sins and sending a portion of His Holy Spirit to live inside of you forever. He can do this and does it every time someone prays honestly and with faith that way, because His Son, Jesus Christ, lived, died (as a substitution for us) and rose again, alive from the dead (to prove to all that what He had, in this way, arranged for us to be able to do - was really done! It was now in force.).

Party time!

With that good news made clear, I bailed out of bed and we knelt together.

I began to pray...
"God, I admit that I have sinned and that I do not have peace in my heart with You. I ask you, because of what Jesus did, to forgive me of my sins completely." (I've always found it to be so helpful to be specific here in prayer. If something comes to mind to confess, I do so, until the slate before me is all mentioned to God in prayer.)
I continued: "I ask You to bring me into a place of new life. Send a portion of Your Holy Spirit to live within me. This day I enter into partnership with You. As You help me, I will live with/for You, now and forever. Thank You. Amen."

I was in my bedroom. It was my mother who knelt with me that night.

And I slept with a deep sense of peace with God.

Over 50 years later, that prayer is still working in me.


I hope that you will join me on this journey of faith. And if you blog and let me know how, I will make sure you have a New Testament and further words of clear explanation about today's blog in your hands. Just had to do this once as we interact in this way. Welcome - to new life.

I travel tommorrow to Nebraska to do a marriage conference. Will return to the blog next Tuesday - 26th.
God be with you....really!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Tuesday, August 19

Yesterday I took the day off - to celebrate Jackie's birthday. It was a wonderful day.
Thanks for understanding that there was no fresh entry on this blog - always my goal for a Monday.


Today I travelled the usual route to work...a complex path across the city, that adds up being the shortest distance to work.

It was different today though, for my journey took me by an elementary school...and this school is in its first days of a new Fall semester.

Quite a distance from the campus, a flashing light told us "be alert, school is going to start very soon. There are children now all around. Be careful."

Red brake lights punctuated morning air as traffic slowed to 20.

At one challenging juncture, a lady bright in a flourescent jacket, held a "STOP" sign in her hand and walked periodically into the intersection to make sure we did.

Mothers guided young children...many holding hands. New backpacks appeared in the clutches of many of the young. Looks of determination and concern could be easily seen.

And so unfolded an important journey along busy streets...and the experienced and the proud made sure the young traveled safely and on time. Any youthful but erratic behavior would be overcome by an environment that would allow them more than the ususal safety. The major risks for accident were diminished to almost nothing.

As I reviewed in my mind how awful it would be for some kind of accident to occur, I slowed to even below the required levels.

And I wondered how we do with our "young" - in the faith.
* The persons who have just committed their lives to Christ but know little of what it means.
* Those on a path uncertain with "traffic" going by that can have lethal consequences.
* The children and youth among us.

Do we dispatch anyone to bring them along during the early parts of their journey? Is anyone there to be their father and mother, to hold up the "stop" signs, to bring order to an often confusing world?

Will a piece of literature in their hands be enough? ..or a portion of the Bible? Will directions on living, delivered through the mail be life-giving for them?

I don't think so.

But, they will be helped so much more if someone will
call them and talk with them
...and walk with them on the journey
...and drink coffee with them or coke
...and help them sort out the best paths for their lives.

Now there is "follow up" indeed.

The young - in age and faith-
- it is good for us to give them special care.

Jesus said:
"Don't push these children away.
Don't ever get between them and me.
These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom."
Mark 10:14f - The Message.



Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The hummers

I didn't see them at first.

I just saw a sort-of trail in the air - like the flash of a bullet.

I knew something had just gone by the end of the patio...but past my range of clear vision.

Then, out of the corner of my eye...a tiny jerking motion.

Around clusters of orange flowers - one inch long and bell-shaped.
Darting from one flower to another was a black-chinned, 3" long humming bird...up down, back forth, hanging in air...wings almost invisible.

Placing an inch long bill into an inch long flower (!) with bright yellow eyes protruding made me think it had just put on a gas mask as it took sip after sip of "white lightening" from the blossoms.

Then there were two...and then three hummers...and they began to play (or vie for territory?). Round and round in the air they went until, still circling, they shot up into the air vertically.

Then straight down and by me close enough I could hear the hum of their wings.

And that night I draw my breath again as the moon shines bright enough street lights do not matter.

And I think of the galaxies beyond. And the cells within. And the Scottish poem turned to music generations ago...

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.
He gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty, Who has made all things well.

Have an awe-some day....and watch for His fingerprints.


Monday, August 11, 2008

The Race

Monday, August 11, 2008 - 1:20pm

Last night - 10pm. Jackie and I talk of turning off the olympics and quitting for the day.

Decision: watch a bit more. :)

10:24pm - up and off the couch, hands in the air, jumps & shouts of triumph. Laughter. Can-you-believe-it?
...over and over again.

We and a billion others had just witnessed a spectacular race. Fronted by some brash words about who was going to win. And anchored by "a 32-year old turned into a dolphin." Each down stroke on the last yards "seemed to propel him up out of the water."

Over and over the network played the last touch...fingers of two men reaching for the wall. Over and over they showed Michael Phelps and teamate celebrating - with prolonged screams of joy and boyishly abandoned gestures.

Ask in years to come, and we'll all probably remember - the race.

I offer to you a few simple thoughts that come as I ponder the race.

Here they are:

1. Give it your best...till the race is really over.
The winning touch on the wall was just 8/10ths of one second sooner than the second.
Paul reached for his "wall" with this determination..."I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

2. Don't think within: too late, too old, not enough talent to do that.
And now the name of that last swimmer: Jason Lezak - ever heard that name before? Not I.

3. Let the "enemy's" taunts turn you into doing your best.
Don't cave in to negative talk and any other techniques from the camp of defeat. Let that stuff embolden you to go even harder for Christ.

4. Team it
There is synergy always in team. There's more joy in team. There's more hope in team. There is more faith in team. That is why from the start, Jesus has always been putting people together on task, in teams.

So go for the gold...your gold...presented to you some day by Jesus Himself.

Ah, now that's a race indeed.



Wednesday, August 6, 2008

August 6 - noon

Just got a call.
"I'll be there in 15 minutes."
So I am waiting.

Just got back from an appointment. Starbucks. 10:15
"Sorry. I am just leaving." He got there :45 minutes late.

Lots of minutes in every day are spent that way.
Waiting for the plane.
Waiting for the mail.
Waiting for the food.
Waiting for the call.
Waiting for the light to turn green.

I've tried to become a bit creative with waiting.
1. Always carry something with me to record ideas, summaries, to dos.
2. Turn waiting into a mini prayer meeting.
3. Look to engage someone nearby in conversation.
4. Eat now...so you don't have to eat later - while you are waiting.
5. Read.
6. Do not let waiting turn into tension, or at worst even anger. (I've come to understand that God's sovreignty can touch even my schedule. )

In fact, somewhere He prompted someone (who must have needed it, like us) to write it down for all generations to have as wisdom. "Those who wait upon the Lord, will renew their strength. They will mount up....the will run....and they will walk." And sometimes it just is so much easier to keep running than to walk...also a form of tacit waiting.

Well, Ive got to run. Just got a call (really) from my wife to eat lunch. And I'd better not keep her waiting. :)


Monday, August 4, 2008


Jackie and I were walking down the street recently.
Nightly walk.
Tah tah.

50 yards from home we were deep in conversation and suddenly out of nowhere came a very loud and harsh bark - deep - from a 500 pound dog (!). Involuntarily, I shifted (in the air) to the left (away from the sound) and tried to calm down...heart racing, face flushed.
Wife laughing.

Then I figured out that the dog was behind a fence, and we were probably safe.
Heh, heh.

Now, before you respond to this with the language of persecution, let me tell you that early on I had a similar experience when walking. And a little dog came down the flight of stairs and took out a piece of my flesh. (I had short pants on...Boy Scout days!) I ended up needing some quick medical care.
No fun.

So, I involuntarily "jump left" on occasions like this.

And I am very grateful for fences.

Been bitten lately?
Oh, not by a dog, but by TV or a movie, or anger that produced some words unfortunate, or by temptations to greed or sloth or malice?

Here's an idea.
Before the "bark," try building a fence.

Pull the plug.
Set new standards.
Form a partnership against the weakness with someone.
Memorize a verse of scripture that calls for right responses.
Determine the action you will take before you ever hear "the bark."

Believe me, it's a lot better to build a fence early....
...than to give your flesh to the barking dogs.



Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How God gets tangibly involved in our journey.

July 30, 2008


I spoke several days ago with a former staff member.

He told about arriving at his then new and still current pastorate and sensing immediately that the big need they had as a church was to diversify. The church had moved away from people frequently in past years following "white flight." That pattern being stopped was a key, he felt, to the church's future. They must diversify and reach all peoples around them.

God agreed with that goal, and here in part, is what He did to be tangibly involved in their journey to diversify.

The process basically began this way -

A member was driving to church on a Sunday morning. As she did, she noticed a black family walking along together, all dressed up. She drove by them and then thought: Why are they walking? Where are they going? I could offer to help them.

Turning the car around, she pulled up beside them and asked: "Do you need a ride?"
"Yes," they responded, "we are going to church."
"Well then, jump in," she offered.
And they did so readily.

"What church are you going to?" she asked.
"We are not certain, m'am, in fact, we are looking for a church."
"Would you come to mine?" she inquired.

They said yes
....and have been coming ever since.

That was over 2 years ago.
And during that time they have become leaders in the church's diversification and health.

The story doesn't end there, for the woman who offered the ride wondered how it was that they had so readily accepted her invitation for a ride under those circumstances - from a stranger and with children in tow, to who knows where. So she asked that question and this was the response:
"Last night I had a dream and in that dream I saw our family all dressed up walking down the this street going to church. I saw a car exactly like yours pull up and a ride offered to us...as you did. I knew when it happened it was the Lord. So we got in without hesitating."

"Oh my," the woman said. "This morning I got ready for church and looked outside and saw my husband's vehicle rather sideways in the drive. The car I aways take to church was blocked in the garage, so I took his."

And voices in heaven said, "Everything worked out just perfect, Father. And another church is on the way to renewal." (This account in fact has propelled the church forward in rapid fashion into a present unfolding of God's life among them.)

Dreams, prompts, acts of love, trust, acceptance of "coincidences" and more....all part of the way that God gets tangibly involved in our journey. "I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.."

So, head in the ways that the Lord is leading.......and keep your heart open!

Watch people...take advantage of coincidences...offer acts of love often...and expect to see Him join you on the journey.

It's a promise: "The pure in heart will see God."

With eyes wide open..........with you.