Thursday, July 29, 2010

Looking Up

Read a piece yesterday that I will not soon forget.

About a book written by Soon Ok Lee, a lady of faith who spent 6 years in a North Korean labor camp. She has written a book called EYES OF THE TAILLESS ANIMALS that chronicles her experiences and that of many.

"Lee's burden, on every page, is the pleading eyes of 140 inmates in the front row who on the day of her public release, dared to break the prison policiy forbidding Christians from raising their heads.

Their peculiar punishment is to never be allowed to look up.) But on this day they did...together.

So Lee writes:
"Whenever I got tired, I remembered their eyes and kept writing."
(World magazine, June 20, 2009 page 99)

Never allowed to look up.

What an incredible gift it is just to be able to do "consider the heavens, the work of Your hands." To look at the trees, the stars, the clouds painting life across the skies.

And to look into the eyes of friends and see their love, and care and tenderness and attentiveness.

Looking up...what a gift.

Most of consider our forever home with Jesus.

"When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus." (Matthew 17:8)

May we look up today
....and be sensitive in love and prayer to those with eyes cast down.



Monday, July 26, 2010


"Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. but Martha was distracted with much serving." Luke 10:38-42.

Martha's distractions led her to:
a. impugn the Lord's character - "do you not care?"
b. interrupt the Lord's teaching - went up to him as he taught
c. create family tension - "my sister has left me"
d. live with lots of emotion - "anxious and troubled"
e. require two mentions of her name for even Jesus to get her attention!
- "Martha, Martha"

Martha's distractors were:
a. good things - "welcome" & "serving" but gone too far - "much serving"
b. possessiveness - "her house" - Mary and Lazarus lived there too!
c. attitude of poor me - "left...alone"
d. probably a long list of stuff attached to a certain time of day..for eating

Martha's way out (and ours too), according to Jesus:
a. simplify - "one thing is necessary" - simplify the kitchen, the schedule...
b. focus - take care of yourself, be who you are
c. diversify - let your family be who they are
d. trust Jesus - He is saying, "I give and as I do it can't "be taken away"...and if I have to I'll call your name over and over...but do listen, it is the secret to life.

And that for us all is a big Spirit life lesson...
If we have to choose between a three course meal and sitting at Jesus' the latter. It is focused time with Him that will do so much to keep the rest of the distractors at bay.



Thursday, July 22, 2010



Out this morning, before it gets into the 90's, mowing grass and pulling weeds.

Long spindly weeds that have turnip roots,
fine lacy weeds that spread quickly across the bedding with their strange leaves, dandelions that send up bright yellow aberrant flowers ("look at me, he missed me") and then blow their parachute seeds all over the yard...
weeds that turn earthy-colored rock beds into bursts of invasive green.
"Missed me again!"


I pull them with a long screwdriver blade unearthing their grasp on mother earth. If not, most of them have learned to say "bye, bye" to the green part as I pull on it and just dig deeper into the earth, waiting till I retreat to launch their next green invasion.

Lots of them learn to burrow in, in the midst of beautiful bedding plants - so we are in the midst of admiring a thousand tiny flowers, when our eyes are assaulted by - green weed leaves.
"Honey, this yard really needs attention."


Very durable. Very clever. Very fast growing. Very hungry.

And one or two of them in plain view gives the feeling to others passing by..."they sure don't care for their yard do they."

Just one or two...weeds.

So, by now sweat is running freely behind my ears, and the back of my knees, and my back is tickling with the little rivulets of weed-wrought moisture.

Then I am struck by this thought:
I will get this job done - all the weeds gone - and no one will even notice...because there will be no weeds to see.
Cruel irony.
Idea: maybe I should leave my weed container near the sidewalk with a little sign saying something like: "This is what I removed. I won. Please, enjoy not being able to see them. PS - and how is your yard?"

And then I am thinking about people weeds
...attitudes that sap goodness,
sins that invade righteousness,
Spirit Life destroyers,
character of Christ diminishers.
Spiritual weeds.

They too need to be pulled from their deep grasp of our souls.
And when they are will be beauty that remains.
Always it is hard work...careful work....this cooperation with the Spirit.

Paul even uses the upside down imagery
"put to death therefore" with the result
and you will "live." See Romans 8 - especially :13

So lets keep grabbing our inner person garden tools...
the deep digging of prayer
the sweat of diligence
the planning and doing of commitment
the chemical enrichment and restraints of the word.

As we do...the Spirit of God will help us
....and what will shine brighter and brighter in us is





Monday, July 19, 2010



Four meanings of this word in my dictionary....the third one: to show irritation or anger. The others - having to do with emitting an irritating vapor, smoke. (in an almost funny way, these seem to relate closely)

You fume?

I can
...started with the chance to observe at my grandmother's fuming. She fussed and fumed over life, and food, and what "they" were or were not doing to her, and the traffic and did I tell you about the weather?...and that government!

Fuming - filling the air with noxious words, thoughts, looks, gestures, eyes cast heavenword (and not in prayer) ....robbing energy from the good stuff that could be done and being overcome by the bad. Totally absorbed in self and what I consider to be fair and good...especially as it affects me.

So when I got into "Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes" by Kenneth E. Bailey - IVP, 2008 - a book I bought in Phoenix, at the XA conf - well, when I got into it and got to a section headed: "Joseph's Fuming." I was a bit surprised. It is Baily's exploration of the Jesus' narratives...and what a treasure chest of insight and fresh thought it is. He lived a lifetime in the middle east and is a linguistic scholar.

Bailey explores what the language means, when, of Joseph's learning of the coming of Jesus..."he considered this" and Bailey says two meanings are possible: 1) considered or pondered and 2) "he became angry." (See Matthew 1:18-25)

Bailey weighs in for the latter.

Not surprising.

How would we react, really, if our plans for a nice home and marriage to a wonderful lady were crashed by an unexpected pregnancy...and we found ourselves caught in the interplay between Jesus, God the Father, Mother Mary and a few angels?

Unfair to the max!!

Reason to fume...lots of smoke out of nostrils, ears and eyes.

Joseph is truly a first hero of the Jesus' story. Not that he doesn't fume but that he does. It is not his human emotion that disqualifies him, but his right responses in spite of all his feelings that make him wise, before the "wise men" ever show up.

So, today's thought. What have you and I been fuming about? What "just isn't fair?"
And what is the right thing to do anyway?

Shake it off. And move forward.

Joe just might be peering down, shaking his head and cheering you on.



Saturday, July 17, 2010


Got in last night at 9pm - after a meeting with grandkids (and parents) at Rizutto's ice cream parlor...the best stuff in town. (Should have seen the mile-high soft ice cream cone disappear under a four-year-old's focused delight!)

Came home to a stuffy, hot house...needing fresh the first thing was to open all the windows and doors...and turn on a fan. After all it was still in the 70's...:) Then unpacking and rehanging...and piles of...

Finally to bed....only to wake this morning and find that I had left the garage door and the entry door off of it into the house wide open...all night. And everything was fine.

What a privilege is ours to live in a basically safe land...with a God who watches over us. In so many places in the world, it is another fearful season...

And now we go tomorrow to do a church assessment...and then the follow up process that comes from it. By next week I hope to have laid out a track for this blog that will have it focus on Spirit Life - Every Day with Jesus, and hopefully will have the opportunity to even step up the entry process.

May the Lord give you a wonderful Sabbath!

Thanks for being my friends...


Thursday, July 15, 2010


July 15, 2010


It has been a very good week.

Around 700 Chi Alpha leaders gathered at the Arizona Grand Resort to learn, worship and build relationships together. It is a great place to be to simply be a part of their life.

What an overwhelming testimony it is to the transforming motivating power of the gospel. Incredible.

The day long seminar that I facilitated on my book SPIRIT LIFE went really well...everyone seeming to be alive and excited by what was being presented. Yesterday I had an opportunity to promo the book in a workshop....and at the table they said the sales of it were moving well.

Tonight at the closing banquet I have been asked to promo it again...and then it will probably move briskly.

Some good feedback already coming from people who are getting into it. Jackie said, " I was reading your book last night and really enjoyed it"....and my thought was, which one?, the one by Kenneth Bailey on JESUS THROUGH MIDDLE EASTERN EYES, or the one we picked up on the interior life? by James Bryan Smith?

No...she said. Your book. I was surprised...and blessed!

The weather here is amazing...should get to 114 today...already in the early morning it is almost a furnace. The birds, foraging from last night's pool party already have their beaks wide open in the morning heat. For breakfast they beat a number of eggs together and then just threw them in the air....and they came down ready to be eaten. Not really.

We travel home tomorrow midday...and I am sure I will get on this blog rather soon after our arrival. By the way, welcome to our growing family....some of the Phoenix Family. Good to have spent time with you this week.



Saturday, July 10, 2010


Saturday - July 10, 2010


Hope that another quite personal reflection might be helpful in your life. I do write these pieces often from where I am and what I am learning personally. It is a very intense and change-filled time. I hope that this helps us pull alongside one another...and that all of us feel especially drawn to the Lord.

(The Lord knows all of us intimately, and prompting both my experiences and my thoughts about them can match your situations in amazing ways...because it is the Lord's thing.)

So here we go.

Up this morning...last day to grab stuff, pack and leave for six days away. First thoughts when waking up, concerns for how the next days will go. Rehearsing how i would respond to this comment or that...and who might be saying the this or that! Hmmm...

Then, over breakfast, Jackie, who daily reads the Inward/Outward devotional downloaded on her computer, peers over her laptop screen and says: "Listen to this"....and reads:

"All this preoccupation with your own imperfection is not humility, but an insidious form of spiritual pride.
What do you expect to be? A saint? There are desperately few of them,
and even they found their faults, which are the raw material of sanctity.

Never allow yourself to be pessimistic about your own state.

Look outward instead of inward; and when you are inclined to be depressed and think you are getting on badly, make an act of thanksgiving instead, because others are getting on well.

The object of your salvation is God's glory, not your happiness."

Source: The Letters of Evelyn Underhill

A little slap in the face to get the head turned in the right direction.

May God's glory be our objective...
Faith from heaven guide our optimism...
And spiritual pride and fussing and fussing be driven far from us.

Smiling in the whirlwind...


Thursday, July 8, 2010



I'll bet if we were all together getting a coffee, I could start this favorite verse of scripture and we all could finish it in unison. It's Philippians 4:19 - My God will supply all your need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (We're you repeating it internally as you read?)

About "your need" - as I think about need, and live in a very materialistic culture, I think I see a tendency among us all to make "need" something that could be met with money...or gain of some kind. So, God, where is the hidden treasure? Remember the "all" word?

Today, I woke with Phoenix on my mind (know it's supposed to be Georgia - sorry) Thinking about what might happen, what God might want to do, how what I have worked to write and present might not pass muster...even worse.

Fear....may as well not play it down into a softer "discomfort" zone. Fear is what I was feeling...numbing, paralyzing fear. (Still my friend?)

My big "need" today, was something to deal with fear.

Two days ago Jackie was out walking and ended up praying rather at length asking God to speak to us more hear from Him in an unmistakeable we have in times past.

Show us Your path most clearly Lord. We need to hear from You...and know we have.

Her hear from God.

Midmorning, we received an email - a dear friend, from whom we had not heard for a long time - asking to speak with us by phone. And when we did, he had a word for us and a passage of scripture that moved us very about being confident in the call of the Lord and in His Who He is and who we are. I became so moved at one point...that I had to work to hold back tears.

God was using him to "supply" on both ends of our need.

Also He prompted me with a good idea, a wonderful talk with a wise son, and a day that went well.

Fear very much abated. (Keep praying with us through the next week. Thanks!)

Keep your eyes open...the promise holds true. Watch the timing and watch for the creative ways in which God shows up.



Monday, July 5, 2010


July 5, 2010


So we stood on a large deck at Brad's last night and watched fireworks explode into the night. Flashes and booms...and colors playing on the low hanging clouds. At a huge development complex to the east, and at the Air Force Academy to the west...and over the city....was that Broadmoor? And sprinkled in the neighborhood. It was a night to celebrate freedom. We left the cars unlocked on the street. And we watched and thrilled at the sights and sounds.


And we drove home on safe, wide, busy streets...kept orderly by timed lights at which we all stopped or started. And we did not fear that at the next light something would shatter the calm...or that a car by the side of the road would suddenly explode.


We drove to a home with windows open to the fresh night air. Yes, the front door was locked...but only because it just is smart to do so. No street lights in our consideration, and after all it is safe.

And we flipped on the TV - with dozens of channels to select...some of them liberal, some of them conservative all of them able to express freely their opinions to whomever.


I could go on and on to speak of law enforcement, the political judicial system, and freedom of the press, the economic stability (even in these times) and the orderly and imaginitive way life is lived in America.

And we are living in such a time....I am reading a book (THE WORST HARD TIME - Egan) that is telling the story of the dust bowl days....when people worked half a day and got paid with a meal. When terror struck from the sky with 10,000 foot high dust pillars and nothing escaped its penetrating reach...and day turned into night...and people hunkered down in two room houses scraped out of the dry earth...and burned cow pies for fuel.

We are all blessed to be alive right now. We are living at the apex of a remarkable democracy...and a pretty peaceful world.

Let us remember that only Jesus brings perfect peace...and that it was for freedom that Christ has set us free.

May God help us to find a grateful balance and live our lives to His glory.


Saturday, July 3, 2010


Walking in the neighborhood with Jackie this morning.

Clear, breezy and cool.

New asphalt layer put down...a rubbery, pebbly, coat over the whole street, even overlapping the concrete edging seam. Crews did this a few days ago and it spruces up the neighborhood quite a bit.

But at the edges where concrete meets & is overlaped by asphalt there are considerable bumps appearing...and in lots of them green hues appearing.


Strong enough to push fresh concrete up and away and keep taking over their territory.

If I were to stop and stare I would see no movement at all. But if we had a time lapse camera and set it for one day or two per just a few days it would appear to be a giant with green fingers reaching up from below.


Lots of action in our lives that can be classified as weeds...stuff that moves the clear pavement of His presence backwards and disfigures the grace of the moment in our lives. Jesus talked about weeds. Seems like it has always been a factor.

For me weeds seem to develop this way: "just this once" moments that turn into "little innocent habits" that turn into life pattern...that erodes character and the ability to be sensitive to the still small voice of God's Spirit...and did I tell you how it shuts down clear witness?

Not a great topic for our culture, bent on personal freedoms and expression...

But it seems to me that in every generation, people marked by a reliable life of hearing God and making an impact on culture, were people who drew clear lines. It wasn't "everybody's doing it" so it's was "I have come to do Your will, Oh God....and it seems to me like this habit is not part of Your will for my life."

Weeds....we've got a kind that I have to use a long screwdriver to unearth the spindly root from regrowing another noxious plant. It seems to have developed an ability to let me grab the tops stuff and think I got it....while fooling me all the time. Its root is always longer than its plant.

If a dumb weed can be that about the enemy of our souls.

May God give us the forsight to deal with weeds...before they take over the rich soil of our hearts.



Friday, July 2, 2010


Friday, July 2, 2010


Just got word that copies of Spirit Life are being sent to me. Should be here in 2 days. 500 copies have arrived at the Chi Alpha offices...finished ahead of time.

So the project has been completed to launch point.

I am so taken by how many people have to form team to make this happen...not just an author, but a project manager (Laurie Jones), designers, editors, printers, office personnel, and behind it all someone who believes it is worth doing (Dennis Gaylor and Chi Alpha). All of that has been in place, so we have seen this happen in half the time that it would normally take.

From the start to this point...I have sensed the Lord's favor on this and today is one more Fingerprint on the process. The time granted to write, the way the materials came together, the ease of writing, the wisdom at critical causes me to believe that God has something special in mind and will use this piece.

I will be presenting the book for the first time, in an all-day seminar in Phoenix 10days from now. Please pray that as I go through the final stages of preparation to do this I will be led clearly by the Lord. I want earnestly for the day to be a day of the Spirit...not a dry, endless words barrage.

In fact the fondest hopes I have for the book can now has not been to get published...but to know that people's lives are being empowered and energized and gatherings on campus and in churches are experiencing the Presence of God at work among them. I am praying that it will begin in Phoenix and spread like wind across campuses and churches hungry for more.

Please pray with me during these days...that I might be a faithful servant of the Lord, full of faith and wisdom.

Thanks again to the great team...and the Team Leader of it all, the Lord Jesus.

Thy Kingdom come.