Archive for October, 2013


The Herald-News
October 30, 2013

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1)

We saved for years, booked early, and went on a seven day cruise to the Caribbean for our fortieth anniversary last week. It was wonderful! Sorry, I didn’t miss you.

If you’re edgy about being on the water, don’t go. Once, the ocean’s depth was 18,700 feet. That’s more miles down than I can walk on flat land. If you don’t like to eat, don’t go. All I will say is: I am dreading my upcoming blood test.

I don’t recommend a 24/7, inseparable experience for nine days, 2100 nautical miles, and 1700 miles of traveling to start unless, of course, you do like each other. The ship was touted to be the largest cruise ship in the world but it could get pretty small if you don’t really like your cruising partner. Our stateroom was very nice, but I am glad during our forty years together someone introduced me to “count others more significant than yourselves” in small places.

Without question, 216 hours of uninterrupted time with my bride was the best thing about the trip. A love song says “I’ve grown accustomed to your face…” Cheryl’s accepting smile that won my heart four decades ago increasingly lights up my world and to gaze upon it all day, every day was immeasurably satisfying. Truly, I married up.

We had amazing weather, including one night of violent lightning and rain (very exciting at sea). Most nights were filled with remarkable moon comings and goings. For me, the icing on the cake was the sunrises. They were earlier as we traveled southward, but worth every minute of sleepiness to sneak out, grab a cup of java, and go to a quiet place to watch God wake up the world. Sunrises and sunsets over the ocean develop slowly, lingering with a palette of unrepeatable colors never found in a Crayola box.

I offered creation Psalms to The Father: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses.” (33:6-7); “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.” (104:1-2)

Creation is a double-edged sword. Cutting through our self-orientation, it screams of God’s glorious might and provision for every need. It can—and should— move us to worship Creator and not creation. It’s more than pretty or majestic for us; it’s about God.

Romans 1 tells us the dark edge of creation can turn us from Creator-God to lesser gods and self. Scripture is clear: creation is the original and sustaining work of Jesus Christ. To ignore Him is to miss the deepest, sweetest delights of Caribbean sunrises and Smoky Mountain forests.

Father, winter is near. Help me to not forget You on dry land each sunrise and sunset this year.

“Daddy First”

The Herald-News
October 23, 2013

When Fall temperatures begin their first tease, I think about my favorite Fall story. It’s twenty-five years old but the leaves and smell and story are as fresh as yesterday. May I retell it again?

As warm-weather Floridians, our family anticipated cool East Tennessee holidays. Here were loving relatives and infamous calories. As usual, by Thanksgiving the leaves had metamorphosed into innumerable smiles from God. My kids turned into grandchildren and quickly turned Fall’s adornment of irresistible colorful magnets into trampolines of laughter. Abandonment replaced caution; wonder forgot risk.

I grabbed both daughters’ hands and ran down a sloping yard toward a world-record mountain of Fall’s finest sponges. “Fast,” I urged, “and jump real high.” Leaves stuck everywhere as we fell, rolled, and laughed! Abruptly, the idyllic scene turned chaotic as Robin, only six, screeched at the sight of her severely dislocated thumb. “How?” you ask. I had landed on Robin’s hand.

The specialist, also called to the emergency room from his holiday celebration, was gentle and soothing. Returning Robin’s thumb to its home base would not be easy. For two hours Robin sobbed and we groaned. At one point, the doctor left and returned to the treatment room with a textbook, no doubt hoping for a technique or detail that would provide a miracle.

The inevitable moment came; surgery would be necessary. Presenting it as an adventure, Mom prepared Robin for surgery. Yes, the gown was cute, and her friends at school could all sign her cast. Weary from hours of pain, Robin was brave and fearful all at once. Her family was mush.

The moment Robin was wheeled into surgery, alone, time stopped. For me, the weight of guilt and helplessness engulfed every thought. Yet, we gathered to pray and held on to hope: the surgeon assured us that once anesthetized he would try one last severe manipulation. I have always envisioned he picked her up off the operating table by her thumb!

Surprised by the appearance of a nurse before we settled into our newest waiting room, we leaped in anticipation. It worked! Surgery was averted and Robin could go home. Hugs and grateful tears abounded, and thankfulness to God followed.

“To grandma’s house we’d go,” where family waited and prayed. “Oh Robin, how are you?!” Gam-ma asked at the door. And, what about waiting, anxious “Swister” Joy?

Wonderfully close, earlier that year Joy introduced Robin to Christ. Gleaming with excitement to see her, Joy begged, “Let me sign the cast first!” “No,” Robin said quietly, “Daddy first.”

Overshadowing His own pain God, too, forgives us forever when we place our trust in His Son. “He has not dealt with us according to our sins…As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:10, 12).

For me, every colorful leaf is a reminder of Robin’s—and God’s—sweet forgiveness.

Now, Tennessee is our home. For Christ’s followers forgiveness is, too.

Oliver is Here!

The Herald-News
October 16, 2013

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15

Thank you for patiently journeying with me in these columns through the maze of adoption. Our newborn adoptive grandson is apparently part of the family now. I say “apparently” since most of the legal barriers have been conquered, yet there is still some uncertainty about where the birth father is and if he wants any part of his biological son.

This leads to an irrefutable, crystal clear, rock-solid, wonder of wonders: There is no uncertainty about God’s heart for us. He is for children and their lives, and gives a prominent place to them in His kingdom. Strikingly, He calls those that follow His Son “children of God.” All the gold on earth is insignificant compared to these realities.

I think of three sweet reminders that linger worthy of praise to The Father in this sacred journey. Initially, there is the glorious doctrine of our adoption. Born again, we have been brought into the family of God. Ephesians 1:5 plunges into deep waters with a few simple words, “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.” This alone draws us to a lifetime of study and worship.

The mysterious processes of God also come to mind. Our family marvels at how God brought together a chain of links in two states. One miracle: when Oliver was born an adoption lawyer had to be found on a Saturday in an unfamiliar city—and was.

Last, consider the sacrifice of Oliver’s new parents and siblings, choosing to live courageously and intentionally in the kingdom of God now—risks and all. The financial costs and emotional drama(s) of adoption attempts are real.

These reminders are serious but safe destinations for travelers with Christ, nestled in His strong arms.

There is humor in Oliver’s coming, too. Now I have to refresh my skill at handling public restroom duties with grandsons. I raised girls, so this whole subject is a challenge. How grateful I am for my other grandson, Wilder, who gave me plenty of practice. But my skills are rusty. Pray for Oliver.

The seriousness and joy of adoption come together in Romans 8:15 (above). The mood of the verse is uninhibited enthusiasm; the basis is the work of God in adopting us out of slavery and fear; the response is high moments of worship—personal, joyful cries to God who is “Abba! Father!” Abba is a respectful, energetic address of affection from adoring children to a doting Father who has deliberately brought us into His family. Adopted children, freed from their orphanage of separation and despair—real and/or spiritual—now delight in the presence of their heavenly Father who is King and Savior and Abba—Daddy—all at once.

I wonder: Will I think of God’s adoption of me the first time Oliver calls me Popi?

A Shining Light

I wrote this article for The Herald-News as a thank you to retiring columnist, Dr. Charles Robinson.

“He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
But the testimony that I [Jesus] have is greater than that of John…” John 5:35-36

It is time to say thank you to a special servant of Christ who is stepping aside after decades of service to our community and The Herald-News.

While I do not know Dr. Robinson deeply he has made a mark on me. No doubt, he has for many in our community.

Early on I learned of Dr. Robinson when I moved to Dayton and heard about Dayton Bible Institute. There was Dr. Robinson for my first night of classes, his devoted wife by his side, digging deep into Scripture. He had a tangy edge to his teaching, pushing us to think deeply toward what the passages actually said. Truth-thirsty folks traveled from neighboring counties to take in his classes. The Scriptures were and are clearly his passion.

In those days I also joined other pastors for monthly prayer and fellowship at Ministerial Fellowship meetings. Dr. Robinson was faithfully there. Humble in his influence, I remember he had a presence among his peers that oozed with respect.

What are the things you would add to Dr. Robinson’s story? How he pastored you or your family? The truth he unfolded through his teaching and writing? Perhaps, the way he displayed the Christ he believed and taught?

And what can we say about his column in The Herald-News? Did you know he has been writing his column since 1983? Thirty—three decades—ten times three years! He is an amazing display of a faithful communicator and teacher, with a heart for the Word of God he loves so much.

It is a humbling and a daily gift to remember God uses imperfect people like you and me as part of a long chain to accomplish His kingdom purposes. No doubt, the devil himself continually works hard to erase that truth in us. Consider Philippians 2:13: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This is true for plumbers and professors, moms, kids, dads, students, young, and not-so-young. And it is true for a writer-teacher-pastor-servant. Like Dr. Robinson.

In our culture we often speak of advancing in years and finishing well. Dr. Robinson’s contributions to our community and The Herald-News model a mission field finished well.

Thank you Dr. Robinson, for your God-centered, passionate teaching, and for the hundreds—no doubt thousands— of lives you have touched and served. It is an honor to have shared this page with you. Jesus described John the Baptizer in a way that speaks of you Dr. Robinson: a “burning and shining lamp.” We have rejoiced in the light you brought.

Most importantly, you have pointed us to the One who is the greatest light.

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