Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Band Is Playing

Today is cold and wet, a repeat of several days we have experienced this winter. I sit here thinking and writing, praying I’ll submit something entertaining and worth the time it takes to read it. This sort of weather awakens memories of past winters being experienced by our fellow northern citizens this very winter. I can testify to dealing with snow-fall shoulder deep to a giraffe and using so many no school bad weather days it was the end of June before we were out of school for summer vacation. Well, Uncle Sam moved me out of that region of the U.S. in 1969 depositing me in South Texas where I discovered there was actually somewhere in the world it didn’t snow. I stayed! Call me Yankee if it makes you feel better, but my message is, “Y’all can keep your snow!” Once in forty something years snow has fallen and accumulated to a little over a foot deep, reviving my primal instincts of dealing with it, but oh so happy to see it melting and gone in two days. Been there; Done that; Got the hat; Ain’t going back.

Here is an excerpt from a speech given by former First Lady Barbara Bush at Kennebunk High School in Maine. “We get on board that train at birth, and we want to cross the continent because we have in mind that somewhere out there is a station. We pass by sleepy little towns looking out the windows of life’s train, grain fields and silos, level grade crossings, buses full of people on the road beside us. We pass by cities and factories, but we don’t look at any of it because we want to get to the station. We believe that out there is a station where a band is playing and banners are hung and flags are waving, and when we get there that will be life’s destination. We don’t really get to know anybody on the train. We pace up and down the aisles looking at our watches eager to get to the station because we know life has a station for us. The station changes for us during life. To begin with, for most of us, it’s turning 18, getting out of high school. Then the station is that first promotion and then the station becomes getting the kids out of college, and then the station becomes retirement and then – all too late we recognize the truth – that this side of that city whose builder is God, there really isn’t a station. The joy is in the journey and the journey is the joy. Sooner or later you realize there is no station and the truth of life is the trip. Read a book; eat more ice cream; go barefoot more often; hug a child; go fishing; laugh more. The station will come soon enough. And as you go, find a way to make this world more beautiful.”

[Psalm 30; Psalm 121; Psalm 118] “…his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” “…the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and for evermore.” “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” There’s nothing wrong with striving for something in life, but it’s easy to get caught up in trying to reach some milestone. We could become guilty of missing God’s will for our lives by our pursuit of happiness so we need to be careful to not let those pursuits interfere with or override what God wants for us, and from us, as we journey through life. Remember that today is all we really have (James 4:13-16) and we are where we are because the Lord has led us here to serve in His name. It’s His train and he’s the engineer. He switches the tracks and the cars at will for our own good. I’m looking for that station where the band is playing and banners are waving, welcoming me home in glory (Psalm 116:15).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

What's To Complain About?

In the world today where there is so much to complain about we seem to forget all the good that is keeping most of us propped up and pressing forward. I began a new regiment about five years ago of regular visits to the doctor just to hold a piece of mind that I’m doing a good job of maintaining my health. Except for a few minor infractions the doctor told me the other day, “You’ll probably be the healthiest person I see today” and sent me on my way for six months. Armed with an appointment, and the confidence of my health professional I can keep it, I’m on my honor to improve those things in my physical health lacking the personal attention they deserve. Pass the tortillas please.

Here are a few lessons of life for good health from Will Rogers: * Don’t squat with your spurs on. * Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco. * Never kick a cow chip on a hot day. * There are two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither one works. * Never miss a good chance to shut up. * Always drink upstream from the herd. * If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. * The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back in your pocket. * Good judgment comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment. * Lettin’ the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in. * If you’re riding ahead of the herd, take a look back now and then to make sure it’s still there. (“Natural born leaders” might take note of that.)

[James 1: 19-27] I have been settled in my present abode for thirty-five years now and if you knew me back when… you also knew I was leading a pretty ruff life at my own hand. The other day I re-found a little essay, which uses many different titles, but no author attached, that brought me into remembrance of the change in me that took most by surprise. “Many years ago I entered the wonderful temple of God’s revelation. I entered the portico of Genesis and walked down through the Old Testament Art Gallery where the pictures of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, and Daniel hung on the wall. I entered the Music Room of the Psalms where the Spirit swept the keyboard of nature, and brought forth the dirge-like wail of the weeping prophet Jeremiah; to the grand, impassioned strains of Isaiah, until it seemed that every reed and harp in God’s organ of nature responded to the tuneful touch of David, the sweet singer of Israel. I entered the chapel of Ecclesiastes where the voice of the preacher was heard, and I passed into the conservatory of Sharon where the lily of the valley’s sweet-scented spices filled and perfumed my life. I entered the business room of the Proverbs and passed into the observatory room of the prophets where I saw many telescopes of various sizes, some pointing to far off events, but all concentrated upon the Bright Morning Star, which was soon to rise over the moonlit hills of Judea, for our salvation. I entered the audience room of the King of Kings and caught a vision from the standpoint of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I entered the Acts of the Apostles where the Holy Spirit was doing his office work in the forming of the early church. I passed into the Correspondence room where sat Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John penning their epistles. I stepped into the Throne of Revelation, where all towered into glittering peaks. I got a vision of the King seated upon his throne in all His glory and I cried: All hail the power of Jesus’ name! Let angels prostrate fall, Bring forth the royal diadem And crown Him Lord of all.” Amen!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Freedoms Lost

The thirty-fifth anniversary of my thirtieth birthday has come and gone. I can’t say I feel the same physically and I can no longer escape the rank of senior citizen, but I know I’m a lot wiser. A whole new strategy of life and survival for my spouse and me will keep us on our toes with a stricter budget than ever and health has become the new priority. Senior citizens are constantly being criticized for every conceivable deficiency of the modern world, real or imaginary. As I sit and reflect, I would like to point out that it was not the senior citizen who took the melody out of music; the pride out of appearance; the courtesy out of driving; the romance out of love; the commitment out of marriage; the responsibility out of parenthood; the togetherness out of family; the learning out of education; the service out of patriotism; the golden rule from teachers; the nativity scene from public squares; the civility out of behavior; the refinement out of language; the dedication out of employment; the prudence out of spending; the ambition out of achievement; or God out of government and public school. And we certainly are not the ones who eliminated patience and tolerance from personal relationships and interactions with others! It’s not my fault you can’t find time to vote!

So, you say you’re beginning to feel fenced in? This country was once wild and free singing the trill, “…don’t fence me in!” Then the “greater good for all” began to weigh heavy on all. Marx said, “Remove one freedom per generation and soon you will have no freedom and no one would have noticed.” Wild pigs are hard to catch, but with patience one can catch them all. You catch wild pigs by first finding a suitable place and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day you put a fence down one side. When they get used to the fence and start coming again every day to eat the free corn, put up another side of the fence. They’ll get used to that and start to eat again. You continue the process until all four sides of the fence are up with a gate in the last side. Unable to resist the free corn the pigs come through the gate to eat. You then slam the gate shut and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage for themselves, so they accept their captivity. The “good old days” never included Supreme Court rulings to pacify eight percent of the citizenry, or government programs spreading out free corn everywhere at the expense of the hard working tax-payer. Why do our young people know very little about economics and doing with what you have?

[Hosea 4] It is said that the church is only one generation away from apostasy, which means abandonment. Apostasy can be applied to anything – religion, marriage, family, the home, democracy and a host of other things. One can only look around and see tragic apostasies at work in our society today. Hosea wrote, “…my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” If each generation learns just a little less about their God and if those who are teaching personalize and fragmented ideals of God’s Word continues to be acceptable in the eyes of church leaders, it won’t be long before the freedom of religion in this country is lost. The church is to learn of God, learn of life and the life to come through the unadulterated Word of God; true knowledge to all.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

It's Going To Be All Right

Hanging out in a hospital all day as a patient is probably one of my least favorite activities in life, and worse yet, spending the day as a spectator. This past week my wife had back surgery to correct some pinched nerve problems, which went well thank you. We don’t know how much nerve damage has been done, but in a few weeks she’ll be able to tell. So, we started the day at 3 a.m. to be at the hospital by five to check in and get started for a scheduled eight o’clock surgery. Now we all know that ain’t gonna happen, and it wasn’t until a little after ten before she entered to the arena. Pre-op, although busy with nurses hustling around doing their thing, was calm and peaceful as family and friends of other patients were coming and going delivering well wishes and getting the scoop on the operation at hand. O.R. nurses, anesthesiologists and surgeons each in turn spoke with their patient explaining the procedure and assuring them everything was going to be fine. Conversation in the surgical waiting room revolved around what was going on in the O.R. and how things were going to change in the patient’s life. The room was full of anxiety and anticipation waiting for word from the surgeon who has promised to speak with the family as soon as the procedure was over. The peace and calmness of murmuring voices was interrupted now and again with jubilance for a report of success, tagged with an optimistic outlook for the future, to one sad and not so promising outcome, which snapped the room back to attention and the seriousness of the day. My wife’s surgeon greeted me and told me everything went as planned and rattled off what must be done for good healing, which floated away nearly unheard, with the inner pressure sigh of relief we release when told everything will be alright. Well, her recovery went a little slower than anticipated and needless to say, we didn’t get home until nine-thirty that night, a long day in anybody’s book.

[Philippians 4:4-7] Having a physical peace comes from trusting and faith in one another as we deal with the day to day business of life. But when the trials of life pull us down our peace can be shattered and our spirit brought low. That’s when our spirit cries out for understanding and we turn to God for answers. But, when God is approached by people who are lacking trust and faith in the power of God they find it difficult to accept the answers they receive. Some years ago Louise Fletcher penned words with which many of us easily identify. “I wish there were some wonderful place, Called the Land of Beginning Again, where all our mistakes and all our heartaches, Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door, And never be put on again.” Without the love of God in our life, we may be alive on the outside, but we’re dead on the inside and ever searching for that elusive place of Beginning Again. For the Christian, the Land of Beginning Again is not merely a wish but a reality. The apostle Paul assures us, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ…” (Ephesians 2:1-10). Peace and new beginnings start with Christ and the worries of the world are answered with the assurance that everything will be all right. David said, “…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” (Psalm 23:4). If I’m walking in the shadow, I’m not casting the shadow for I am no longer dead. I walk with God and everything’s going to be all right.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

No Longer Imperfect

I just woke up from a good nap. When I was a child I thought “Nap Time” was a punishment… now as a grown-up, it feels more like a mini vacation. I don’t just jump up and get started with life again. It generally takes me a few minutes to acclimatize again, of which I often spend in philosophical thought. Wouldn’t it be great if we could put ourselves in the dryer for ten minutes to come out wrinkle-free and three sizes smaller? I told myself I was going to retire this year and live off my savings, but on second thought I had no idea what I was going to do the second week. Why do I have to press one for English when I’m only going to get transferred to someone I can’t understand anyway? People tell me I need to be more tolerant. My people shills are just fine. It’s my tolerance with idiots that needs work. Oops! Did I just roll my eyes out loud? Sorry! I’ve discovered the biggest lie I still tell myself is… “I don’t need to write that down, I’ll remember it.” I’ve lost my mind and I’m pretty sure my kids took it.

A ten-year-old girl was eating breakfast with her grandfather. Thinking she was fairly intelligent he asked, “Do you know what tomorrow is?” Without skipping a beat she answered, “It Presidents Day!” Expecting to hear something about Washington or Lincoln or other past Presidents he asked her, “What does Presidents Day mean?” She replied with authority, “Presidents Day is when the President steps out of the White House and if he sees his shadow we have another year of buffoonery.” I’ll bet it scared the poor little girl to see hot coffee erupting from her grandfather’s nose.

Of course we all know children have no inhibitions when it comes to expressing their thoughts which at certain ages is a gumbo of myths, jokes, tall tales and facts. Here are some thoughts about angels. * “I only know the name of two angels; Hark and Harold.” * “Angels work for God and watch over kids when God has to go do something else.” * “My guardian angel helps me with math, but he’s not much good for science.” * “Angels talk all the way when they’re flying you up to heaven. The main subject is where you went wrong before you got dead.” * “When an angel gets mad he takes a deep breath and counts to ten. And when he lets out his breath again, somewhere there’s a tornado.” * “Angels live in cloud houses made by God and his Son, who is a very good carpenter.” * Some of the angels are in charge of helping heal sick animals and pets. And if they don’t make the animals get better, they help the child get over it.” * “What I don’t get about angels is why, when someone is in love, they shoot arrows at them.” * “Angels don’t eat but they drink milk from Holy Cows.”

[1 Corinthians 13:11] “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish things behind me.” As children we are selfish… me, me, me… Mine, Mine, Mine! While Paul is writing about the “most excellent way” of being a part of the body of Christ, his emphasis is on… what is love? If we understand what love is then we are able to mature becoming God’s people, a people that will please God. Paul gives an example of the maturing of God’s Word, His will for us, through the prophets and miracles. All these things will be done away with and we will be left with the perfection of God’s Word, the Bible, to mature us in faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love. We may not understand all the Bible has to teach us, but there is no imperfection in God’s message of love.