Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Gifts

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand."

John 10:27-28.

It is a great word from Christ, spoken when He is being questioned about His true identity. Is He the Christ? He says, "Yes" and adds the words just quoted as though it is not just His works that testify to Him, but His unique gifts to those who would believe and follow.

Here is the short list of the gifts of Christ He promises:

1. His voice...His communication, often by the Holy Spirit and inner prompts. We are not blindfolded, in the dark, trying desperately to connect.
2. His heart-on knowledge of us...our leader is also our best Friend. We are not alone, un-cared-for, without a friend.
3. His guidance of us...we get to "follow"...He's always been there first. It is not all a maze...and who knows what will happen.
4. His gift to us of life...that goes on and on forever...a cosmic crescendo. It is not "life is but a candle" but this is just the beginning of the universe going into overdrive.
5. His strong grasp of us, such that "no one will snatch them out of my hand."
Even when I am the one who is snatchy, His arms around me hold on tightly. I really am secure...just as I am, in Him.

Ten times in a few verses God is personalizing these words..."my, me"...He is saying, "I am in charge. I am fully invested in you." It is not - "So, here are the rules, and you'd better follow all of them well. Oh, and I'll be waiting to see if you did, when you enter eternity." No, no, no.

Our responses? To listen well, to follow (when we know that He is clearly out front), to live life fully, to let the security we have enable the risks we are to take now.

Might be worth a hop, skip and jump today.

Sheep do that you know.

Not baaad eh?


Yesterday Jackie and I were moved by both the Joplin gathering (the President's and Governor's words), and the National Memorial Day gathering from the mall in DC. Both so reflective of people very shaped by the qualities (mentioned above) that Christ promised could be ours.

A special thank you to all who have served and are serving the causes of freedom around the world.

We are deeply and forever grateful for your service.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Out this morning early to work on the yard.

Beautiful, sunny, breezy.

Winter kill in the lawn? Scatter patching with seed...enough of something in it to give each seed a screaming boost into green. Hand water. "Send the label back to Scotts for a full refund if this doesn't work." That gives me courage.

Spring pruning? Butterfly bushes "cut down to 6-8". That's what the book says. That means piles of prickly dead stuff 5 feet tall.

Tree suckers? Pull back the surface roots and prune them. And don't cut the watering lines.

Weeds? Remove them getting the roots fully. (Just don't like all those chemicals.)

Mulch? Stir it and turn it over...getting close to needing another truck full. "Monkey mulch" they call it..named after what you look like as you deal with it.

Tree shaping? Remove trunk startups, awkward branches.

So I am sitting under a tree working on the suckers, getting a bit moist where my hm,hm meets the ground..and thinking about how life has become so much less professional, punctual, dressy, clean-handed, manoevering, influencing, controlling, running...just sitting under a tree with suckers, interfacing with stuff, hands dirty, mind loping across the creative order (and disorder) around me.

And it suddenly comes to me that this was the biggest portion of Jesus' life. Oh, it was wood and primitive axe, a rough saw driven by hand, a chisel to fit, and dirty hands..and sweat.

Well now, I am not trying to baptize my life. And, I'm not suggesting we all quit work...but I am suggesting that this weekend when you get outside, remind yourself that Jesus relates a lot better to what is going on out there than we often think. In fact you just might "hear" the sound of hammer on chisel and the soft movement of sandaled feet.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend.

And thank You, Jesus, for Your life, and for those whose memories and lives we cherish at this time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Starting over

He was a preaching phenomenon.

His gutteral prouncements, humorous anecdotes and impassioned pleas, either put you right into the shoes of an old testament hero or living on the road with Jesus.

Creative, bold, unique in every way.

We called him CM - last name: Ward.

I got to sing in a choir that ministered with him for over a year. C.M became a communications lab every time he spoke....and this story lingers in my mind as exemplifying his humanness and adeptness.

He was speaking in a large church.

The Senior Pastor had resigned and left not long ago.

For some reason, CM took to joking more and more about the pastor who had left, dubbing him with unusual traits and exaggerated moments. At first there was laughter, but as he contined, it turned quiet, and motionless....until someone stepped up to CM and whispered, "the present pastor is the son of the former pastor."

With that, CM pivoted a full 360 degrees and coming back to the microphone said: "Hello, I'm CM Ward and I need to start over."

How about you? Need to start over? Need to face a bit of stark reality? Feeling immensely humbled by life?

Face it.
Eat crow.
And start over.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Gentleness - kindliness, being soft-mannered, a "pushover."

A text on my heart this morning:

"Let your gentleness be evident to all." NIV - Philippians 4:5
"Let your reasonableness be known to everyone." ESV
"Make it clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them." The Message
And, coined so long ago as "sweet reasonableness" by Matthew Arnold

In a world where might makes right.
Where there are sides to everything - let's fight.
Where "it's my way or the highway."

What a light Jesus casts on our world in his gentle, self-giving manner.

We don't have to win. We've won already.
We don't have to fight. But "in Him" we can stand fast.
We don't have to fret. We are called to faith.

Living "in Him." It's the key to everything.

Peace be with you today my friend the gentle grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, May 16, 2011


to make foul, dirty, unclean. To desecrate, profance, misuse.

In reading Matthew 7:1-24 today, I ended up focusing on the word defiling. The definitions above give breadth to the translators' choice to use this word to accurately render the words of Jesus. It is a perjorative...a negative, a forcefully sombre word. (So much for the view some have, of Jesus - rather pale-skinned, making a peace sign with his fingers...not quite!)

The issue of defiling emerges in the text over a dispute - does defiling happen when stuff enters us or is it the stuff from inside that emerges in thought and deed?
Pharisees: it is the stuff that enters us. Therefore here is your exhaustive list of what not to touch or taste. Hands under control mean you've got it made.
Jesus: it is the stuff that comes out of us that reveals the nature of what is deep inside of us, and defiles us.
Then Jesus goes on to enumerate some of the things that should sound an alarm when they show up on an honest personal appraisal of what is inside. These things defile...make us dirty and unclean. Hand washing won't do the takes a heart transformation.

Here, then is Jesus' list. 13 things that quickly come to his mind as things internal that defile: "evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness."

Jesus is saying it all starts on the inside. It all has its way of emerging to dirty our lives and that of those around us. And that is where the spiritual surgery should begin.

I note that Jesus simply puts all these things in a list. Foolishness gets put with murder, sensuality with immorality, coveting with theft. So my battle with envy, if not won through Christ, defiles me and puts me on murder's row.

"Jesus, today we ask that you would give us depth honesty...and wash us clean from the inside out. Some of us have been saying, 'if this behavior doesn't emerge I am ok'...when you want to scrub us squeaky clean.

No ritual moves is you that we need. Not endless self-control, but Spirit-controlled living. Not reformation, but transformation.

Your reputation is that you "make all things new."

Us too, Lord."

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Read this yesterday...
"Islam offers lots of definite answers, but Christianity takes after Christ in leaving some questions on the table and often offering stories rather than formulas. Don Everts and Doug Schaupp, in I Once was Lost (IVP, 2008), state that "Jesus is asked 183 questions in the Gospels. He answers just three of them - and He asks 307 questions back." (In World, April 23 - p.84)

So, in my reading just this morning Jesus is asked: "Why do your disciples break the tradition...?"
And His reply: "Why do you break the commandment...?"

With us it is far different, often so focused on thinking of answers, that we even forget the questions. :)

With Jesus it was otherwise.

His purpose was not to settle people down with neat answers that elevated their view of Him, but to open people up with questions that caused them to think, and self-assess, and press on into further truth...and even many times get frustrated and angry...perhaps leave Him or walk closer. Their questions, precipitated His questions, and always a rather definitive response.

307 questions....3 answers.

Oh, don't lose track of Jesus' statements, like: "I am the way, the truth and the life." He wasn't unsure of either truth or Himself or His purpose. It's just that lingering questions often provided a better way to truth than quick answers. Still the same today.

So, join me today, in seeking to remember: if the person with the question is questing....a question in reply just might be the way to lead them further into truth.

"Selah" - it's an old ending/question and means: stop and think about it.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More or less

Thinking today of wanting to grow inside. Never stop. In that set I began to think of a very long list of more and less. Just writing it down was stimulating. Hope your reading it...and adding to it...might be for you as well. Here is part of my very long list.

I desire
pouring out...poured into
Jesus...pop culture

Get the last one right...and you have got it all.

...more or less.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


My wife Jackie and I both suffered the loss of our first spouses.

Jackie's husband Tom was killed instantly in a car accident in Montana.

She was suddenly without her best friend, and the only parent to three dependent children.

She tells the story of the first Mother's Day after Tom's death....
Each of the children wanted to go shopping and had a few dollars to spend to honor "Mama."
She drove them to the shopping center and waited in the car.
One by one they came out of the store with excitement spilling over for what they'd chosen.
And she couldn't help but noticing that her son's package was really quite large.

Sunday morning of the big day came and the kids could hardly wait for her to open the gifts: *A basket filled with bubble bath and body lotions.
*A wallet with a note tucked inside...that she treasures to this day.
*And then the large gift from her son...excitement building as she began to open the bag...and discovered it was a large memorial marker that had brightly colored plastic flowers with the word, "MOM" in big letters.
You guessed it...a marker for a mother's grave.
He had found his gift in the Memorial Day gift aisle.
Unaware of what it really meant...he saw it as a great way to tell his neighbors how great his mother was.
So all that day, and several days after, this wonderful grave marker sat in their front yard to make her child's love for her known.

But that is not all that happened that "alone" place in a restaurant, a deep sadness seeing all the couples in church, and one of the children throwing up in the car just before they got home.

Mother's Day is almost here.

Would you join me in being sensitive to some of the 9.9 million single mothers all around us? Mothers living with children younger than 18?....and that number is climbing rapidly.

There is time to plan something special, to adopt a young mother for the day, to do something joyful for the children, to make that hug and expression of love last a few minutes longer.

'Cause Mother's Day really should be special for every Mother.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


News of Usama Bin Laden's death came upon us with force...added to by thinking for a second or two that it was Obama and not Usama. :)

The earthly end of a person so bent on their own agenda that they will sacrifice many of their own and kill as many of the "enemy" as possible.

An evil person indeed.

What has followed as I have watched it is a rather up/down response...some applauding and some wondering what a Jesus' followers response should be.

Blast him Lord, or show mercy?
Bury with dignity or rage?

Try this poetic expression out:
"In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer...
And here is what he prays:
"Appoint a wicked man against him;
When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;
Let his prayer be counted as sin!
May his days be few...may his children be fatherless..."
..and that is only a portion of the vehemence expressed in this, Psalm 109.

And how about this...
"Blessed shall be he who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!"
Another Psalm - 137:9

Years ago and again this morning, I am helped by reading from C.S.Lewis' Reflections on the Psalms. He devotes considerable space to these expressions and his thinking is really spot on. Here are a few points from his writing:
1. The culture of the time - very violent
2. The people of this expression - very strong in their sense of right and wrong, and very open. They didn't "hold it in" we are trained to do in our time. Their rage is reflective of deep convictions, often more than our quietness.
3. The substance of their imprecatory prayers contain words not perfectly formed, but emotions strongly expressed. Lots of us "careful prayers" could learn much here.
4. The Psalms then are expressions of human rage to a God who does judge, will do all things well, and who sees it all, and will wrap it all up in the end with justice. See Exodus 23:4-5; Leviticus 19:17-18.

In times like this...
1. May we pray not piously, but passionately.
2. May we turn feelings of deep anger into brokenness and acts of mercy.
3. May we seek peace and pursue it.
4. May we forgive and forgive and forgive....70x7, remember?
5. May our behavioral model always be Jesus...a time for anger, but a life of grace.

Working on this with you...