Archive for May, 2015

The Rodeo

The Rodeo

“…we walk by faith, not by sight.”  2 Corinthians 5:7

We went to the rodeo last weekend. I learned a lot there.

We sat on the front row where the kids would be safe from skinny bleachers with bouncy boards and long falls. The music was loud, the food overpriced, dirt was everywhere, the air pungent, and my granddaughters were the cutest cowgirls. The guys had big belt buckles and striking western shirts. The announcer circled on a horse and opened the show with a stirring patriotic speech and prayer in Jesus name. With a twang to his voice, he made fun of the clown and whipped up the crowd for responses. I can see it all right now.

There were amazing acts of showmanship and courage, but there would be no show without the supporting team. I noticed many white-hatted cowboys helping the bull riders. Some held the gate until he was ready; others held on to the cowboy as he slid on to the back of an uncooperative bull. One bull even tried to climb out of the stall. Very exciting! Do you ever wonder where you fit in to God’s purposes? Maybe it’s to rescue other cowboys; maybe it’s to ride the dangerous bull.

Rodeos are fun but the cowboys go home at the end of the night. There they make a living, tend to their horses, practice their skills, dream of another rodeo, and heal from their wounds. Stewardship of the actual life we’ve actually been given is a primary way we please God. One cowboy was introduced as a four-time world champion. Surely he missed the spotlight. But now he smiles as he rides around picking up cowboys who were thrown off bucking horses and bulls, high-fiving kids at the fence while he waits. William Zinsser said, “Writers [cowboys, parents, church members, factory workers, politicians] should write [live, work, and play]…from the muddy path filled with pilgrims and strangers not yet home.”

There are scary things in the arena of life. We were seven feet from the action. After the wild horses slammed against the fence in front of us several times, Shawna, age four, jumped into her mother’s arms and didn’t move for a long time. Sea World has a splash zone; we were in the dirt zone. We can’t nor should we avoid risky kingdom living. Jesus is with us all the way.

Bringing it home, cowboys and girls struggle with sin and sadness, too. Though immensely blessed, not everything goes perfectly in the arena between birth and heaven. So, we walk by faith, not sight. Jesus, the best teacher, said, “…in me you will have peace. In the world you will have tribulation.” The secret is to be “in me.” Cowboys expect to fall but they have The Audience of One to cheer them on.

We all would benefit from a dusty, noisy, smelly, invigorating Saturday night rodeo once in a while—don’t you think?

The Rhea Herald-News, May 27, 2015


Fog and Cows

A New Song, May 29, 2015

“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band…?” Job 38:8-9

Like a well-haired head, fog is a cloud hugging the surface of the earth. I know, what would a bald guy like me know about hair…

Cheryl and I often comment how patches of fog on the mountain range at the end of our street look like smoke from unaffiliated fires. While sometimes portrayed as foreboding, fog is also a gift of God providing coolness on a summer morning like today. Today, we so enjoyed the focus fog brought to cows on the side of a hill, who were perfectly stationed between pillars of fog across the street from the walking track nearby. Creation’s congregation brings praise to God in unity and diversity!

What would the Father want me to imagine or see today?


A New Song, May 20, 2015


“And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” Revelation 21:23

Yes, it is obvious, but this idea disrupted and delighted my sleepy brain this early morning: as the sun rises each day there comes a point when it becomes too bright to look at. Today’s drowsy, pastel-laden alarm clock engulfs the horizon and we are blinded by the fullness of the life giving, purging, warming, illuminating sun. Dah.

Then I thought of the future. How bright will be the light in the New Jerusalem, our permanent home, where the Father and Son will exude their light and there will be no darkness at all.

And we won’t need sunglasses!

Until then, Father, keep reminding me of my future and the daily privilege to reflect a little of that glorious light.

Persimmons Anyone?

“…in your presence there is fullness of joy…” Psalm 16:11

Nothing brings a smile like a new baby.

Last Saturday, Cheryl and I were at a BBQ at our youngest daughter’s home where there were two five month old babies. The food was superb and the fellowship with Christian friends and family was wonderful. And…the babies were happily passed around like a basketball at a championship game. Did I mention the cutest one was my youngest granddaughter?

In another baby scenario, my oldest daughter traveled to Florida Sunday to adopt a newborn girl, scheduled for delivery this week. So much prayer, sacrifice, and nervous joy have gone into the process of pursuing “Baby Girl.” I can’t wait to hold her. She’ll be, humbly speaking, our seventh grandchild—but who is counting…

On earth, nothing brings a smile like a new baby. Yet, there is a word in the Bible that describes a heavenly smile: delight.

Delight is a Bible word with many siblings, each with similar DNA but with unique contributions to the family. Some of their names are joy, blessing, happy, desire, and pleasure. In the Psalms I find three uses: God’s delight in us; our delight in God, His works, or His ways; and the diabolical delight of our enemies. Let’s tackle the ones involving God.

God takes great pleasure in us. This is alien to us if God is a stern Father trying to catch us doing something wrong. To some, God cannot be pleased, their past is unforgiveable, and their future indefinite. Feebly, we attempt religious or community busyness in search of an unobtainable status or peace. But God said: “Having been justified by faith [trust in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection], we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1). And, “His [God’s] delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him [revere, adore], in those who hope [a certain, well-placed trust] in his steadfast love” (Psalm 147:10-11). God’s pleasure is even better than holding a new baby!

Next, we have pleasure in God. This, too, is unimaginable if wee see the Father as unapproachable, with intimacy out of the question. With grateful, humble hearts we proclaim Psalm 16:11 (above): “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Followers of Christ: Reach for ripened, spiritual strawberries and forget the persimmons!

Yes, delight in God and His pleasure in us may seem impossible. Our Gardner shows us how: “…delight in the law of the LORD [Scripture], and on his law he meditates day and night”  (Psalm 1:2). His encouragement will direct us to confess our sins and commit to turn from them; bear our soul to God, and move back into the palace where God lives—the place of “joy” and “pleasures forevermore.”

So, do you have a couple of hours for some gardening—soon?

Rhea Herald News, May 20, 2015

The Breeze

A New Song, May 13, 2015

“…he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire.” Psalm 104:3-4

I have been taken away from lingering with sunrises lately for a variety of reasons, so today I was really thirsty to inhale the early morning.

Father, I wonder if the moon is female since she smiles so sweetly upon the sunrise and earth—like Cheryl. Thank You for setting the moon in the corner of the tree next door, perfectly positioned to watch a sleepy sunrise. And Oh, I drink deeply of those thin, sweeping, pink clouds with turned up, wind-blown corners. To tell the truth, I wouldn’t mind if You would let the paint take a little longer to dry in the morning. Is pink Your favorite color in heaven?

Most of all Yahweh, the breeze caught my attention right away. It was delightfully cool and brisk for an almost-summer early morning. I know it is poetry Father, but I can’t get the image out of my head of You in a chariot on the clouds. It does remind me of Your engagement with and care for earth life—my life. I picture You riding with reins in one hand, tossing out gifts with the other.

Words just aren’t enough to express the joy of You and this morning.


A New Song, May 6, 2015

“I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever.” Psalm 145:1-2

“Extol” is a word that expresses the energy of praise to God. To extol is to exult—to “upward raise.” It is a rave about or to go into raptures about something or someone. Remember your love when it was new? Young lovers cannot stop enthusiastically praising their new mate and telling others about them. It’s almost embarrassing. Extol requires an exclamation mark: We rave about God!

It is a daily thing (v. 2) and a forever thing (v. 1).

This morning’s sunrise reminded me of the glory of God. I couldn’t wait until Cheryl came outside to the porch to share its pink, delicate prelude to a blazing sun and new day.

I really like the new song God is singing today.

The Eighth Wonder

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ ” Psalm 91:1-2

My friend Charlie notices the red one in the back yard every spring. When he does, he gives an exuberant shout of joy. We might debate what the seven wonders of the world are, but I have the eighth wonder in my yard: azaleas in the springtime.

The biggest one is the red one in the back yard that Charlie beams over. It is deep red and reasonably round for a bush I never trim. In the front yard is a small cluster of modestly-sized bushes, right beside my porch where I watch some sunrises and drink scolding java. The brightest bush is another red one. It blooms first, no doubt with text messages from the backyard bush on how to be first and regal if you want attention. It is a wonderful thing for the gifts of springtime to be that way, but it isn’t so flattering when people are like that.

Among the little family of azaleas next to my porch are a pink bush and a white one. The pink one was startling this spring and the white one seems more vigorous than in the past. It is enough that my azaleas dance onto the scene each spring with new, colorful dresses to celebrate winter’s passing. But I see them as parables for life with Christ, too. Here are two.

First, I see the order in creation and the care of God over us. The red bushes come first, then the pink one, then the white one. Year after year God awakens each bush in their time. We live in a fallen Eden and our temptations and trials are many. It is immensely assuring that God sustains creation motivated by His constant and timely love for our good and His ultimate glory. If I am not careful, I will misread the signals from the Father and forget He has promised, “No temptation [test] has overtaken you that is not common to man; and God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation [test] he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Second, life is brief and we are secure with God. A faithful Jew would read Psalm 90 and 91 (above) together. Each begins with our shelter with God. Only a few things live forever. The Word of God is one. Another is the earth, which, after judgement, becomes the new earth. Of course, followers of Christ will live forever in resurrected bodies. While azalea flowers don’t last very long, they faithfully reappear each spring.

Yay, spring presents wonderful azaleas and their stories of life with Christ! My role is to see and trust Him fully. Come join me, won’t you?

The Rhea Herald News

May 6, 2015



For A While

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:11

Our youngest daughter and her family live twenty miles away. When we are driving nearby, we usually call to see if we can stop by. Recently, we called twice in one week. The first time was near bedtime so it was a short visit mainly designed to have our granddaughters load us up on their willing hugs and kisses.

When we called another day, Hailie, already six years old, asked, “Could you stay and play a game with me? We did, and I was soundly defeated in two rounds of Alphabet Bingo. The game wasn’t the point: she just wanted us to linger with her.

One of the most disturbing things about life this side of heaven is, though God indwells me (Romans 8:9), I can ignore Him. The sunrise or sunset can just become a beautiful experience with nature; the calamities and challenges of life can become another cowboy opportunity to tough it out; the material gifts from God can convert me into a consumer with a hunger for more; the busy-ness of life can control me and become a badge of significance.

God’s presence is where life is fullest. Aren’t substitutes for God called idols?

I’m not thinking about seasons, occasions, or emergencies that lessen our opportunity to pursue the Lord directly. It’s during those times that we draw on the reservoir of time with the Lord (Psalm 16:11, above).

How do we build up the reservoir and live in His presence? Matthew 22:37 notes loving God includes consciously loving Him with our mind (Psalm 77:11-12). The process begins when we are saturated with God’s Word (Psalm 1:2). I have found help to do this in the nineteenth century leader George Mueller and his “Secret,” as it has been called by others:

“My practice had been…to give myself to prayer, after having dressed myself in the morning [whenever]. Now…the first thing…was, to begin to [ruminate] on the word of God, searching, as it were, into every verse, to get blessing out of it…The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving or to intercession [for others], or to supplication [for myself]; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer.  When thus I have been for a while making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the Word may lead to it.”

Father, I miss You when I am away from Scripture and prayer. Please poke me often with the reminder: in Your presence is my strength and joy!

The Rhea Herald News

April 29, 2015

Spring Has Sprung!

“Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt.” Job 38:25

Spring has sprung and we all couldn’t be happier. I am a fan of winter and its opportunities to appreciate God in unique ways. Though I didn’t give a swift kick to winter as she went out the door, there is no denying the cold of winter won’t be missed for a while.

Recently, Cheryl and I sat on our front porch and just observed God’s early spring gifts around us. The sunset was subtle and sweet. Tiny purple flowers had popped out from the main trunk of a tree next to us. The moon was nearly full and high in the east. After fifteen years in our house, we noticed the tall pine tree across the street—and the thousands of pine cones on it. “Soon, the dogwoods in our backyard would wow us,” I thought. This Florida-born boy just loves dogwoods. God is the Master Tree Maker.

Well, the dogwood blooms are gone and the azaleas have burst on the scene—overnight. They aren’t at all modest about taking center stage. The pink and brilliant red flowers in my front yard scream out loud and leave me breathless. I anticipate them each spring but they are always a surprise and an “aha” moment. I imagine God’s flower studio is a happy place, where spring’s flowers are colored lavishly and their petals are shaped individually to reflect the sun’s light.

Spring offers daily opportunities to sit on the outside porch with Cheryl in the middle of sunrises and to get a glimpse of God’s glory. This is special to me and I love writing about it on my blog ( Stop by the porch with wide open eyes and heart. The coffee will be on.

But alas, spring can be an unpredictable and sometimes rude house guest. Often smiling and outfitted in colorful array, she can sometimes turn suddenly sullen and angry. Our naïve ideas about sweet “Mother Nature” vanish as we endure her violent side. It is God who controls the weather but it is challenging with swollen creeks and floods. We rest in God, who is unchanging and trustworthy, though the sky in spring is sunny, then boisterous, cheerful, and ominous again.

Grumbling about the storms and weeds and fast-growing grass is not an option since it is associated with idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:7-10). It is God who “carves canyons for the downpours of rain, and charts the route of thunderstorms” (Job 38:25, The Message). One gift from God through the rains is they wash the pollen away so we can breathe. But I wonder further: What portraits and lessons about God can I be learning in this beautiful, turbulent spring?

God’s question for Job (above) is our question, too. Ultimately, the joys, delights, gifts, and challenges of spring are about God, not me.

Let us not ask “Why?” but “Who?”—and say “Wow!”

The Rhea Herald News

April 22, 2015

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