Henry, patriarch of a large family, is upset because his wife has gone off for a month long junket of painting and crafting.  He discovers that he can’t keep the house clean, he doesn’t know how to shop for groceries, and he can’t feed himself.  He starts going to the local diner for lunch.  He meets another old guy there.  Call him George.  Henry doesn’t take to him at first but over time a friendship blossoms.  Even after his wife comes home Henry continues to go once a week and hang out with George.  Over time it becomes clear that George is a Christian, not by any overt means but just idle conversation makes it clear that God and Jesus color every part of his life.

One day Henry is particularly despondent.  He says, “George, I think I’m losing my wife.”

“What makes you think so?”

Henry toys with his coffee cup, looks at the dregs in the bottom.  “She has ‘other interests.’  Running off to who knows where to paint and craft.  Always busy here and there.”  He looks up at George.  “It’s like I’m not enough anymore.”

George shrugs.  “She can have other interests, can’t she?  It doesn’t mean she doesn’t still love you.”

Henry looks vacantly at the area behind the counter.  “Actually it’s my whole family.  Youngest daughter’s marriage is coming apart. Youngest son is irresponsible.  Won’t grow up.  The other daughter…  Well, her life is a constant train wreck.”

He turns to face George.  “Of course you don’t have any problems.”  A hint of sarcasm creeps in.  “You’ve got this God that fixes everything.”

George says, “Sure, He’s been good to me.  He’s answered prayers.  But it’s not been all rainbows.  One of my kids lives in Portland.  Another one in Texas.  I’m lucky to see them once a year.  I have grand-kids but I never see them.  We talk.  Father’s Day, birthdays. holidays.  I call them more than they call me.  They say I can see them on some electronic device but heck if know how to do it.  Oh, they’re good kids.  Just busy.  I know that.  I just miss them.”

He turns back to his plate and fiddles with the remains of his salad.  “My wife died thirty years ago.  I still miss her.  Every day I miss her.  Sometimes I still find myself wanting to tell her about something that happened.  Something funny.  Something sad.”

Henry waits for him to continue.  The silence grows.  Henry says, “So what’s the deal?  This religion thing.  Pearly gates?  Get out of hell free card?  A family tradition?  Habit?  What’s it for?”

George lays down his fork and sighs.  “I suppose there was a time when it was about heaven and hell.  Maybe there was a time when it was more about answered prayer, what He could do for me in this life.  But now…”

He pauses.  Henry waits.

“Sometimes I get lazy.  Don’t pray.  Don’t read my Bible.  Just kind of quit hanging out with Jesus, you know?  But then I catch myself and get back on track, not because I want to go to heaven or I don’t want to go to hell or I want my prayers answered.  No, I get back on track…”

He turns to face Henry, eyes glistening with the beginning of tears.

“…because I miss Him.”

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I’m Still Here

I messed up the other day.  Not that I don’t mess up often, probably at least once a day, but this was a bad one, out in the open, in front of people.  I felt bad about it.

I was still feeling pretty miserable Saturday when I went walking at the rec center.  I chose a playlist as always but I didn’t choose gospel or worship.  I chose classic rock.  I don’t know why.  The second song that came up was Bridge Over Troubled Waters.  Not gospel or worship but God spoke to me through it anyway, through Bridge Over Troubled Waters.  He said, “I’m still here.”

Bridge, the song and the album, came out in January 1970 and a war weary nation embraced it.  I bought it and kept it going constantly on the turntable (vinyl, you know.). Even now I listen to my playlist and expect the next song on the album to come up instead of what’s on my list.  Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Let It Be (May 1970), You’ve Got a Friend (1971).  A nation sick of the turmoil of the sixties, sick of assassinations and riots and protest and failed presidents grasped for them desperately.

Here is Bridge Over Troubled Waters, not the best performance but it has that piano accompaniment that I love.  It still gives me goosebumps.

Something else came out of that weariness.  The Jesus movement was born.  Young people were being saved out of alcohol and drugs.  Churches were opening coffee houses to minister to those who would not darken the door of a Church.  A new awakening was born that became the beginnings of the Charismatic Movement.  People wanted a bridge over their troubled waters.  They wanted to hear they could ‘let it be’.  They wanted to know that they had a Friend.

I wonder if we are on the edge of something like that again.  I wonder if there are people out there who are weary of the fear and anger and strife and finger pointing and name calling, people out there who are looking for a foundation, a hope, a friend, a bridge over their troubled waters.  The question is what answers will we give them.  Will it be political solutions?  More anger?  More finger pointing?  More name calling?  Or will we have Jesus to point them to?  Will we have enough Jesus in us to light their way?

Will I have enough Jesus in me to light the way?




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The Apostle of Love

If you were going to choose the apostle who was most radically changed by the ministry of Jesus, I think most people would say that would be Paul.  He went from being Saul, persecutor of the church, to Paul, missionary, preacher of the gospel, writer on one third of the New Testament.  An impressive reversal.  But I wouldn’t choose Paul.  I would say John was the most radically changed of all the apostles.

Jesus called James and John sons of thunder.  They were the angry young men of their day.  Revolutionaries.  They wanted to call fire from heaven down on those who would not feed them.  They were ambitious.  They wanted to sit on Jesus’ right and left when He was elevated to His throne.

But John was changed, radically changed.  Matthew’s gospel was about the Jewish Christ of Old Testament prophecy.  Mark’s Christ was the Romanesque, make things happen Jesus.  Luke’s was the Son of Man.  But when we are asked where someone should start to read the Bible we say read the gospel of John.

The gospel of John captures the essence of Christ, the aura of Jesus.  It is touchy feely. Those three chapters near the end, the last supper, captures the Jesus who was personal, who was friend, who was love.  John wrote his epistles and they can be summed up in three words.  ‘God is Love’.

John was radically changed by Jesus and when he decided to write about how it had happened he didn’t write about Jesus’ oratory skills or His charisma or His teaching ability.  He wrote about His love.  At the end of that last supper he called himself ‘the one whom Jesus loved’.

So how do we reach people with the gospel?  Do we depend on speaking ability or charisma or compelling arguments?  Do we grasp for power, for authority, for influence?  Do we call down fire from heaven on those would would hinder us?  Boycott, march, blog and Facebook?  Maybe there’s a better way.

Maybe we are most powerful, most dangerous when we lay down or weapons, when we make ourselves vulnerable, when we love, when we love God, love our neighbors, even love our enemies.



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I Don’t Want to Get Over It

I watched a sermon about generosity the other day.  The preacher said he was thankful that he had been able to give away some big ticket items over the years including a house.  Somebody asked his wife how she felt when she found out he had given away her house.  She said she was glad that they could do it and happy that her husband had such a generous heart.  She said, “You need to know this about my husband.  He’s never gotten over getting saved.”

‘He’s never gotten over getting saved.’  That line has been bouncing around in my head the last week or two.  I wonder…

We can get righteously indignant over homosexuality and gay marriage.  We make our voices heard on refugees and illegal aliens and border walls.  We can go to those God Is Not Dead movies.  We can talk about the scientific and historical evidence of Christ.  We can preach the Roman road to salvation.  I don’t know that any of that will make that much difference.

I don’t think the people who march and preach and make their voices heard will change the world.  I think the people who will  change the world are the ones who can’t stop smiling, who have never gotten over getting saved.

How do I know when I’ve gotten over getting saved?  If the way I look and the way I talk and the way I act is more important to me than my salvation then I have gotten over it.  What I do (and what others do) should never have more value that what God has done for me.

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Five Dollar Bills

There was a thread on social media the other day about a woman in the local WalMart parking lot who was going around asking for money.  Her story was that she was out of gas and her kids were in the car and she just needed enough money for gas to get them home.  She was spotted later in WalMart buying something trivial like cigarettes or People magazine.

I pulled up to a stop light and there was one of those guys holding up a sign.  I didn’t hear a voice.  I didn’t feel a nudge from the Holy Spirit.  I guess I had been thinking about something that triggered it.  The thought came to me ‘if you’re going to think about it and write about it and talk about it you ought to do’.  I never carry money with me anymore but for the last few weeks I’ve wound up with money in my billfold.  I knew there was a twenty in there.  I hoped there was something smaller.  There was.  Two fives.  I took one out and waved it at him.  He came and took it and said thank you.

I didn’t feel the approval of God.  He didn’t pat me on the back and tousle my hair and say ‘Good boy’.  I didn’t feel anything.  I don’t know if I helped someone in need or I was scammed.  For all I know he had a five liter Mustang in the Target parking lot, one with stripes down the middle and a testosterone throated exhaust.

Our pastor preached on the Sermon on the Mount last night.  Jesus told us to love our enemies.  Jesus said that if they ask for your coat you should give them the shirt off your back.  I thought how upside down and backwards that sounds compared to the world we know and understand.  The truth is that it’s our world that’s upside down and backwards.  We see a world that is images on a cave wall.  The world we see is distorted and out of focus images in a fun house mirror.  Jesus came to tell us the truth, to show us the truth, to be the truth.  Our world tells to collect all the five dollar bills we can and hang onto them.  Jesus says we should give them away.

We need to be good stewards of what God has given us, right?  We don’t give away our five dollar bills to people who don’t need them, who don’t deserve them.  Right?  So what’s the ratio?  Would you give your five dollar bills if you knew that one in three would go to someone in need?  How about one in five?  Feeling really brave?  Try one in ten.

Jesus gave His life and through the centuries untold billions have said ‘So what?  We don’t need it.’  But Jesus did it anyway for the relatively small minority who said yes and became sons and daughters of God.  He gave His all and it was wasted on untold multitudes.  But He did it willingly and joyfully because He did it for me.




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The World’s Best…

My ancient lawn mower gave up the ghost last fall and I am in the market for a new one.  I’ve been browsing Lowe’s, Amazon, and Home Depot for the best in my price range.  The customer ratings have me baffled.

The four and five star ratings say things like ‘This is the world’s best lawn mower’.  I actually saw one that said that.  The one star ratings say stuff like ‘This mower was designed by Satan himself and it was made by his henchmen.  It is demon possessed’.  There are few two and three star reviews.

I know what’s going on here.  It’s Starbucks.  A little bit of Starbucks, of caffeine and sugar, and suddenly the world is all rainbows and unicorns and you have the best lawn mower in the world and you want to sing along with the Fifth Dimension.

A little more Starbucks and the world is full of idiots and and you want to tie dynamite to your mower and blow it up and the music in your head is head banging guitar destroying acid rock.  I would post an example of that but I don’t have a clue who to look for.

So I now I know.  The reviews, good or bad, are not to be trusted.  Which mower should I buy?  I think I’ll go with the pretty red one.

By the way, if you are thinking about posting one of those reviews, please, don’t do it while under the influence of Starbucks.

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The Goal of Our Enemy

We know who our enemy is.  It’s Satan.  And we know what he wants to take from us or we think we do.  He wants to take our health.  He wants to take our money, our financial security.  He wants to destroy our relationships.  He wants to take all of that and more.  Or so we think.

I think he has a different goal in mind and those other things are just a means to that end. I think his design is to steal the fruit of the Spirit from our lives.  You know the verses from Galatians 5:22-23:

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

He wants to take love and replace it with hate.  He wants to take joy and replace it with depression.  He wants to take peace and replace it with fear.  Right down the line.  He wants to replace each with its opposite.

Oh sure.  He wants to destroy our faith.  But if he can’t do that he will settle for stealing the fruit of the Spirit from our lives.  For without the fruit we have nothing to give the world.  We call it our witness, our testimony.  The fruit of the Spirit is God’s particular stamp on us.  It is His imprint on our lives.  The fruit of the Spirit shows the world who Jesus really is.  It shows who God is.  Without it we can have a testimony of the greatest, most miraculous salvation and still have nothing to give the world.

So now you know.  You know what the enemy wants to do.  Don’t let him.


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