Archive for February, 2014

Birds, a Play, and a Friend

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

May I tell you about the sandhill cranes, Charlie Brown, and my friend Ron?

I was in my yard last week when a familiar seasonal sound started in the sky. Each winter, thousands of sandhill cranes migrate to our area for some sun and surf. We find them gleaning in fields all around the area. Large birds, they make amazing loud sounds—and the sound can be deafening.

Here is what happened. There were 6-8 vultures visible from my yard, circling about 75-100 yards away. I saw them because I was distracted by the sound of a dozen sandhill cranes passing through. The cranes slowed down and began to circle the vultures—squawking as they do with a sound that always seems to me to be a complaint. Within minutes their entire family tree showed up—I stopped counting at a hundred! They circled the vultures until they left, and when the parade drifted overhead the sound was so loud I would have had to shout if someone came up to talk. It was so distracting.

Last fall, Cheryl and I thoroughly enjoyed the play at Bryan College, “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.” Poor Charlie Brown, he never gets respect and much of his life he is sad because of unrequited love for a little red-headed girl. He is a good man by all standards, but he doesn’t stand out in a crowd.

Ron loves the crane’s migration each year (you should see the huge photograph in his living room of their winter island home on the Tennessee River). But Ron recently shared something with me far more exciting than birds. In an e-mail conversation he said he had chosen Micah 6:8 as his Bible verse for the year. Unlike the comic strip character Charlie Brown, Ron is respected and has many friends (and a non-red headed, wonderful wife). He is, by all earthly standards, a really good man.        

David Wells notes, “We can all untangle ourselves from our appetite for instant results and immediate gratification….Redirecting our minds…and learning to focus is a wondrously liberating thing. It allows us to untether ourselves from everything that wants to consume our attention, our energy, and even our soul. It frees us from the tyranny of the urgent. When we are thus untethered, we are free to be where we want to be…before God.”

Ron is focused and untethered for 2014. He is undistracted by the noise of culture. But more importantly, he is focused on being the “good” man of Micah 6:8 (above). In the next few weeks I will explore the “good” things God enables us to do by His strength.

Father, we need your help to be “good” men and women of God. Thank You for providing your Scriptures and Holy Spirit to show us the way and to release us from the tyranny of the urgent.  

How Would You Pray for Her?

Someone I care about is sick, again. Lord, teach me how to pray for her.

When I received the word that Melanie had been to the doctor again, and the report wasn’t good, I knew it was time to pray again. She often asks me to pray for her and I am happy to do it. The afflictions of some are easy to pray about. No healing or other help comes without God’s involvement; all are Divine interventions. Some situations are hard to know how to pray—like Melanie. Her illness is not terminal but persistent and truly problematic on a daily basis, and there is no cure. Doctors treat the symptoms, but the side effects can be serious and the discomfort real. How do you pray for people in such situations?

I have always appreciated prayers which include the Scriptures on my behalf. So, I sent her a short text message with a prayer that uses Scripture to bring God’s heart into her situation. I hope this may be encouraging to you if you are in the midst of sufferings, or you struggle with how to pray for loved ones and friends that need God’s intervention. As you study the Word of God I am sure you will discover other helpful, appropriate passages. Here is my text message prayer.

Father in heaven,

Thank you for being at work 

   in and through Melanie (Philippians 2:13).

We trust You in her illness,

   knowing You desire to do a good work

   in and through her for your glory (John 9:3; John 11:4).

This is really all about You

   and You are for her and with her (Matthew 28:20).

This work of God may be her “thorn in the flesh”

   to protect her and to reveal Your grace in a deeper way

   than she can imagine with good health (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

I thank You that You are the God of all comfort,

   who comforts us in all our afflictions

   so that we can comfort others

   with the comfort we have received from You (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

So, Father, please draw close to Melanie as she looks to You.  

   In Christ’s name.

A connecting thought. In the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11) there are several secondary things going on. The grief of Jesus and his strong expression of it is one subplot. In another, we see Martha’s journey in grief and faith. Jesus, a watchful eye will see, displays astonishing compassion and patience as Martha agonizes, expresses trust, declares her faith, and…wavers. Jesus, who gives us bold access to His throne (Hebrews 4:16), welcomes honest, struggling hearts in the midst of suffering and losses. Remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane?

I invite you to pray Scripture and your real heart. Won’t you express yourself fully to Him when you need Him the most? Maybe…now? And, please do pray for my friend Melanie.

The First Time

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13

May I share two remarkable, unforgettable images that brought me great joy this week?

I bet you are expecting a mushy column as a tribute to Cheryl, my wife, for Valentine’s Day. Now, I do like Valentine’s Day—and I absolutely adore Cheryl. But in our world, our anniversary is in March, and we’ve just come off a budget-busting season of travel, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthday observances. So we’re going to keep it simple at our house and focus on our anniversary next month—and I will keep Cheryl guessing about my secret plan for this year’s celebration. Besides, have you ever stood in line forever and ever at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day?

I figure it will take some time to declutter and debrief, and to catch a rhythm to this new season called retirement. I’ve set out to make my number one goal to grow in intimacy with Christ. Of course, the foundation for spiritual growth is the Word of God—studied, delighted in, prayed, and applied. It’s an essential part of Christian life and growth at any season. Now I get to linger longer and chase rabbit trails. I love those endless rabbits and the trails they take me on.  

So, my spiritual nerves are raw and aflame about the Scriptures these days already, and God provided two fresh images to fan the flame. The first image was a video I saw of Chinese believers receiving their first personal Bibles. They ran—actually ran—to grab their copies, clutching them tightly to their hearts. Several kissed their new found friend. It is a piercing image of laughter and tears and reverence all at once. Their delight was uninhibited as if they’d received the greatest treasure on earth. They had.

The second image is of Hailie, our four year old granddaughter, and the glow on Hailie’s face as she opened a children’s Bible app on her mother’s new phone for the first time. She couldn’t wait to see and hear a Bible story from it—mouthing parts of the story she already knew as the program came into focus. May she never lose her sense that these are “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Father, how I love Cheryl so much this Valentine’s Day! I remember the day when I first knew she was the one for me. Like the joy of that day—and the thrill on Hailie’s face and the exuberance of our Chinese spiritual family in the video—may I recapture the wonder of the Word of God all over again. And then, Lord of heaven, use your Word to be “at work” in me that I might grow in Christlikeness. Thank You for such joy!   

I have posted the video @

Squealing for Joy

“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation,…so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.” Psalm 65:5, 8, ESV

Psalm 65 and Oliver have me squealing.

Last week, before I actually “retired” Friday, I amused myself with this thought and shared it with a dear friend: What if I woke up for every sunrise in retirement? Leap year messes with my simple-minded math, but my computer calculator helped me figure out if I live ten years there will be 3652 sunrises. I am definitely not a robot and I am clearly imperfect, so if I allow for a ten percent failure rate that would be 3286.8 sunrises. I’m counting on a bunch of gray, foggy days like last Sunday to pad the count and lessen the pressure. And, I am open to your suggestions on how to handle the .8 day.

Psalm 65 is a creation song of joy—joy in creation, joy in the works and salvation of God, and joy in God Himself. I’m not sure I am always into joy, yet it makes God’s heart beat (Zephaniah 3:17) and is what He wants for us. Jesus pointed the way in John 15:11, when He said, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” Religion takes away our joy; a single focus on obedience and rigorous rules alone robs us of joy. Jesus offers His joy—in full. Yes, there is commandment-keeping shaped by love in John 15. In the end, when healthy and Scriptural, our faithfulness is motivated by and produces joy.

Joy can take many forms, but I think my new grandson, Oliver, is on to something. Only five months old this week, his mother just sent a short video of him squealing. So cute! Now, in full disclosure, she has said the frequency and volume of his squealing is sometimes annoying. Oliver is testing his lungs and vocal chords with the newly discovered noises he can make. I told Joy (!), his mother, Oliver is expressing praise to God in the only way he knows how.

The dear friend mentioned earlier sent a message on Saturday, “How was sunrise #1?” Do you remember last Saturday’s sweet sunrise? I replied, “Lovely! Subtle, gentle. A lamb not a lion.” Some will be grandiose, some quiet, some nonexistent when shrouded in clouds and fog (I personally love fog). But behind them all, Father, may I live in daily awe at your signs and awesome deeds, and give many shouts—or squeals—of joy each morning. For You are my hope and the God of my salvation.

Wow, sleeping in just doesn’t seem to be an option.   

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