Reflection

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July 27

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

For the past couple of years I have often thought that if I was to ever start a church (which I have no desire to do), I would call it “Second Chance Church.” I know. Even as I write that it sounds a bit cheesy. Corny. But please hear me out.

Having been a pastor for close to 50 years, I have seen many broken lives. Train wrecks. Twisted beyond recognition. Mangled. Messed up. Even hopeless (as in giving up). I will even admit to being close to that feeling a time or two myself.

Getting broadsided in my car- as I was recently- does not carry the same picture of a car wrecked so badly it is unrecognizable and the “jaws of life” have to be used. There are some people whose lives are dented, smashed into, even put on the shelf temporarily. Then there are those whose lives are truly a disaster. Addiction. Poor choices. Loose morals. Alone. Destitute.

No matter which…we all need second chances (in some cases third, fourth and fifth). One of the biggest roadblocks to that second chance is shame. I want to be able to help people get past shame. I want them to realize there are always second chances. Shame doesn’t have to hang around and keep us where we are; God wants to take us “onward and upward” (to borrow C.S. Lewis’ words in the Chronicles of Narnia).

Second Chance Church. Sounds like a great name. But even without that name, that is exactly what a church should be about.

“Father, my life is a testimony to second chances. May I be your church here on earth offering that to others in Your Name.”

July 23

Friday, July 23rd, 2021

I won’t lie. I like noise.

Most of the time.

I love music. Certain genres, that is. I almost always have music on. Working out. Ear buds in. Cutting grass. Ear buds in. Driving somewhere. Spotify playlist on.

There are times I want/need silence though. When I’m having my Encounter Time, I may have a song running through my head but I want it quiet. When I’m studying, unless it’s classical with absolutely NO singers. When I’m riding my bike. NO ear buds. That is way too dangerous since I need to hear oncoming traffic behind me. I also notice I can’t multi-task. Turn off the TV or the music if you want to have a serious discussion with me. I’m too distracted. My daughter, Tami, wore a t-shirt yesterday that had two words on it: Be Still. Was that for me?

Consider this then: if I can’t hear people with all the noise going on in my life, how can I possibly hear God’s still small voice? It’s like a whisper in my soul. But if all I hear is noise, how can I hear Him?

I think that is one of the reasons I like it quiet in the mornings. I want to hear. That makes me wonder how much or if I am missing something when the music is playing. Matt Redman once wrote: “When the music fades/And all is stripped away/And I simply come…”

Am I missing out? Do I need to turn off and tune in? Makes me wonder.

“Father, I already know I will have a ‘noisy’ weekend. Help me to be open to changes You might want me to make. Help me to hear Your still, small voice.”

July 19

Monday, July 19th, 2021

I confess: I’ve never really been a fan of musicals.  My ideas have changed over time though. The first one I went to that I can remember was “Oklahoma!” Sadly, I wasn’t wise enough to keep my comments and opinions to myself and offended some people.  But over time I have changed. I realized it when we went to see The Greatest Showman featuring Hugh Jackman, Zac Effron, and others. The theater manager told me I will have trouble not wanting to move my feet and get up a dance. She didn’t know me very well. I was stubborn enough to do neither (I definitely would not get up and dance. Making a fool of myself is not in my playbook).  The second and third time I watched it -consecutive nights no less- I allowed myself the freedom to enjoy the movie…although I still didn’t dance. 🙂

One of the most moving parts was the song “From Now On” which comes after P.T. (played by Jackman) realized how he had hurt his family and friends by his actions. It still amazes me how he was able to sing while running and not be out of breath. 🙂  Anyway, the song celebrates the joy of coming home.

Luke 15, the story of the loving father and his wandering son, is a story of coming home. The cross is a story of an invitation to come home. Jesus dying on the cross because of His love for us and hatred of our sin, is a story of forgiveness and coming home.

It is actually an open invitation for all to come home. Perhaps you know someone who needs to know they can come home. Jesus is waiting for them. Maybe that person is you. Come home. The WELCOME mat is laid out.

July 16

Friday, July 16th, 2021

If I were to pick one characteristic that was prevalent during COVID, or one that it highlighted, and one that still rears its ugly head, it is FEAR. Fear of infection. Fear of transmission. Fear of death. Fear of living life. Fear of (you fill in the blank).

This morning during my Encounter Time reading, it seems like God wanted to or had something to say about fear. First, read Psalm 118:6-9,14. “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (v.6  NLT) I encourage you to read the other verses.

Second, Joshua 6: 1-7. It was totally illogical and frankly, military suicide, to do what God told the Israelites to do. In fact, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The details are in the passage. Jericho was sealed up tighter than a drum and they (the Israelites) were told to march? Are you kidding me? What is the sense in that?

God was teaching them to stop seeing things from their perspective and their vantage point; He had a better idea. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 12:9- “My grace is all you need. My power words best in weakness.” (NLT)

When I can’t, God can.

When I’m unable, God is.

When I’m lost, God is my direction.

When I can’t see, God is my light.

It’s a promise. One I can count on and cling to. I am never alone. I am never wandering aimlessly in the desert. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” (Ps.118: 8-9 NLT)

“Father, You are my refuge and my strength; my wisdom and life-giver. I have nothing to fear when I see things from Your perspective. Please help me to see things from Your point of view.”

July 7

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

As my girls were growing up, I/we tried to be good parents. The nature of our personalities and the way we were raised made for an interesting mix. I tended to be more forceful; Jo more docile. I tended to be the one who used physical discipline (God gave a place on the human anatomy for that); Jo not so much. I tended to draw a line; Jo tended to fudge the line from time to time.  All in all though the girls knew we were on the same page as to why they were being disciplined.  There was no pitting us against each other.

We were (and still are) well-meaning parents. We are great grandparents since we can have all the fun and then turn him back over after we have spoiled him. 🙂  (Although living 4-5 hours away sort of short-circuited our opportunities to do that). Anyway, back to earth. Well-meaning parents,-no matter who you are-tend to think the way to mold a child, i.e. shape, control, and regulate behavior is to legislate. We do it by threats, manipulation, and even guilt.

But the truth is that no matter how often we use those different means, behavior cannot be legislated. No matter how much we say, “Don’t do this or that” sin enters the picture. Because we are sinners, sin is a matter of the heart.

Martin Luther King, Jr said that he “longs for the day when people will be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content and intent of the heart.” He was onto something. Not in the area of race (which he was referring to), but in the area of our behavior.

Until hearts are changed, lives won’t be changed.  Until my heart is changed, my life and behavior will not be changed.

I am grateful for God’s change in my life. I just want Him to keep transforming my heart day by day.

“Father, as Romans 12 says may I be ‘transformed by the renewing of my mind.’ May transformation be more than an outward show; may it be in inward heart change.”

July 6

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

Have you ever used or heard used the phrase: “He/she got a taste of their own medicine”? When that is used it’s not meant as a compliment. It is meant to be translated: “He/she got what they gave someone else.”

For example: judging. Often times we judge others with a much harsher eye than we do ourselves. But when we judge we need to be careful because very often it’ll come back on us. Like a monsoon or tidal wave. Matthew 7:1-5 is a perfect example of that.

But I want to look at it another way. Back on June 23rd I wrote a devotion about self-talk, i.e. what we say to ourselves about ourselves. I got a taste of my own medicine this past Saturday.

First, the backstory. Awhile back I wrote about taking my bike to the shop and getting the news that my frame was cracked. Not good. So since Trek is good for their word, I got a new frame free. Very good. The bike shop rebuilt my bike with some old and new components. One of them was a new cable. Over time a cable will stretch and needs adjusted. Usually around 100-200 miles. I’m past that and since I live over an hour away from the bike shop I thought I’d try to do it myself. My gears were slipping and making all kinds of chatter as well as shifting when they weren’t supposed to.

Two words describe my efforts: Epic. fail.

I watched a video. I had a voice call with the mechanic and I still couldn’t get it right. I was frustrated. Then the self-talk started. “Incompetent.” “Failure.” “Loser.” “Why can’t I use my hands like others?” I was able to get it somewhat right but not all the way. I will be taking it to a shop to get it right.

I defeated myself by putting myself down. Calling myself names.

Fortunately, that is not who I am in Christ. I am not incompetent; a failure; or a loser. Maybe I am unable to use my hands like others can, but in Christ I am His. And He has put His stamp of approval on me and given me something far greater than being able to repair a bike.  He calls me His.

“Father, thank you for the reassurance that Your thoughts about me are not dependent on what I can or cannot do.”

P.S. While I wasn’t able to get a complete adjustment, I found out I did okay on some of it. So I guess I wasn’t a total doofus. 🙂

June 24

Thursday, June 24th, 2021

“No man is an island” we often hear and say.

True statement.

I have a friend who has told me that if his wife ever dies before him, he will pack his things and move to TN or some place where he could be a hermit living in his cabin away from everyone. Would he really? I hope not to find out.

Not me. While I enjoy a short respite from time to time of being alone and away from people, I know I do need (I refrained from saying, “Craved”) other people. While some people are introverts, I am not.

Last night I spent some much appreciated and much needed time with a friend. Since my schedule is far more flexible than his, I drove to his town and met him for supper. Mexican. (It was actually pretty good). But even better was the 2 hours or so we spent eating chips and salsa, our main course, and talking. Laughing. Emotional. Opening up some. It was one of those A-a-a-a-h times for me.  I didn’t have to put up a wall with which to guard myself. The opposite. A “de-walling” process took place. We even texted each other later and said, “Let’s do this again soon. Like once a month.” So I suspect we will make the time to do that.

Proverbs talks a lot about the importance of friendship. I’m grateful for mine. But remember: to have friends you must also be one. People don’t come crawling saying, “Oh please! Be my friend!”  Least that has not been my experience. No. Friendships develop over time. One step at a time. I have one friend I have had since college (that was many, many moons ago…trust me). This current friendship started when he and his family moved from Florida in 2007 (if my calculations are correct) and began attending the church I pastor. My life has been richer since.

“Thank you Father for friendship. Earthly. One with skin. And thank you for that heavenly friendship with You. One who will always be my friend.”

Note: I wrote this yesterday (Wednesday-6/23/21) and posted it for today. Jo, Tami and I are leaving for Ohio for a couple of days to watch our amazingly, fantastic grandson/nephew play some baseball.  No prejudice there. 🙂

June 17

Thursday, June 17th, 2021

I learned a valuable lesson last night.

Let me explain. Jo and I had a great day together. It was our 48th anniversary and we just took our time and did different things. I’ll not waste your time with that but by the end of the day things had changed. No, I didn’t get mad at her or she me. A glaring checkbook mistake colored my evening. Again, I ‘ll not bore you with details.

But it clouded my evening. That, and a few other “dumb” things, changed my mood. And I’m not a moody person. I went to bed extremely agitated (again highly unusual). I was at fault for the mistake. But so was a local business. I told Jo two things as we lay there waiting for sleep to come: 1) Smart pills are needed-for me for the bone-headed mistake- and also for  them for not seeing it and calling; and 2) I told her I was going to have trouble sleeping and may end up going to my chair (which also broke last night). Her words to me were calm and spot-on words, words I needed to hear. As a result of listening I. SLEPT. LIKE. A. BABY!  Except for when I needed to turn over to my other side to relieve the hip which now hurts as a result of the hit-n-run while riding back in November of ’16. That pain was also another fun part of my day.

The Bible says not to let the sun go down on your anger. I’d also say we should not allow the sun to go down on our fretting and stewing and worrying. The Bible even speaks to that: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7)

It is true the situation is still in front of me, even as I sit here this morning writing this. But even then I cannot even begin to do anything until the business opens in 3 1/2 hours.

“Father, I have a choice: Stew or Trust. With your help, I’m going to trust. Wait. Rely. Give my worries to You.”

June 11

Friday, June 11th, 2021

It was one of those “WOW!” moments as you read the Bible. It wasn’t one of the earth-shattering or ground-breaking moments. There were no explosions or neon lights. Just a simple, but essential, reveal.

I was reading Proverbs 10. I’m going to write it down for you with emphasis mine as you read:

“Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. The words of the godly are like sterling silver; the heart of a fool is worthless. The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense. The lips of the godly speak helpful words, but the mouth of the wicked speaks perverse words.” (verses 19-21,32)

I’m sure you notice the common thread- OUR WORDS. Elsewhere in Proverbs it says, “Well-spoken words are like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Pr.25:11)

We must not kid ourselves.  Our words carry weight-sometimes more than we would like to think. That careless word. That cutting word. That word spoken in haste. That malicious word. All devastating.

The front part of verse 21 should be our guide: “The words of the godly encourage many.”

Those of us who are Christ-followers should be the encouragers. We ought to be the one who builds people up, not tear them down. Psalm 141:3 should be true of me and of you: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

“Father, may my words build people up, not tear them down. May my words encourage, not discourage. May they bless, not curse. Let Psalm 141:3 be true of me.”

June 10

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

We are forgiven to forgive.

We are given grace to give grace.

Those are just a couple of sayings that we will hear and that ran through my mind this morning.

Tragedy: it is too easy to forget and too often done.

My thoughts were piqued this morning because of the Scripture in Matt.18:23-33.  (I’d like to suggest you stop now and read that passage). However, just in case you are short on time, here is a summary: Jesus tells the story of a man who owed a massive, unpayable debt; begs forgiveness; the debt is cancelled; and he moves on. He moves on to a fellow slave you owes him a small debt-payable over time- who asks for the same grace and forgiveness just offered to the other. The other man refuses to forgive and throws the man in jail. (I’ve always wondered how that will help pay the debt). Anyway, the result was not good.

It is important to remember that the grace I have been given is to be given to others. The massive “forgiveness project” which took place from God to me should stand as an example for me to follow when dealing with others.

Think about this with me for a moment. The best person to reach an addict is a recovering addict. The best one to show forgiveness is the one who has been shown forgiveness.

“Father, help me to learn from Jesus’ parable.  Help me to be the one who shows extraordinary grace and forgiveness to someone else because I have the recipient of that same grace and forgiveness.”