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February 29

Thursday, February 29th, 2024

LEAP YEAR!

The ways of God never cease to amaze me. Who would have known-other than Him-that one of the more horrific times in my life would lead to a friendship that is like “brothers from another mother.”

In November of 2016 I was hit by a hit-n-run driver while riding my bike. It was in the afternoon; I was wearing bright clothing; and I was hit by an SUV’s rearview mirror on my left hip. While I laid in the middle of the highway, I watched as the driver took off, never once putting on a brake or to see if I was okay. (Yeah, I believe it was intentional. There are some idiots on the road. Ask the guy who got so close to me I felt his breeze on my leg then gave me the finger). Anyway…

I had had a little interest in an organization called 3 Feet Please but after this incident my interest ramped up. Its goal is to advocate for 3 feet of distance between car and rider and make it a law. Little did I know the leadership of 3FP had changed from a man in Florida to a man in Arizona. Dave and I struck up an email conversation which graduated to more regular contact. Then one weekend he came to visit. He spent 2 winters in Maine to get out of the heat in AZ (yeah he needs his head examined 🙂 ) and stopped to visit on his way through. There have been multiple other visits, emails, texts, and phone calls until our trip to AZ last week was the icing on the cake.

Both our wives agree we are too much alike in many respects. While I am an extreme extrovert and he’s an introvert whose brain never stops, he knows so much more about certain areas of “life” than me. Our wives would say we are “brothers from another mother.”

As we visited I had decided on the flight there to take an aggressive approach to reading Proverbs. Normally, I take one chapter a day every other month. This time I decided to read the whole book while on vacation, which meant 4 chapters a day. As a result, I read two Scriptures that particularly meant more to me. “There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” (Pr. 18:24). The other says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Pr. 27:17).

True friendship is hard to find, let alone experience, especially for men. At 71 I can look back and see men I’ve been friends with. That tends to be characteristic of my personality. Except for one, they have all come and gone…more like acquaintances. This friendship with Dave is special. Sort of like David and Jonathan’s. We are good for each other.  Our wives agree-even though we can be a bit wacky and off the wall.

I thank God for a much-needed and much-appreciated friendship. Do you have one you can lean on?

February 28

Wednesday, February 28th, 2024

We are back! After a 7-day excursion to Gilbert, Phoenix, Sedona, Scottsdale, and the Grand Canyon, we arrived safely home last night…a 1/2 hour early and ahead of the storm (that didn’t come until around 2:00 a.m.). I suspect you may  be expecting a “book” from me about all the stops and shopping and sights…but words fail me. Surprise! Surprise!

Thanks to the graciousness of a friend and his very longsuffering wife, 🙂  Jo and I had the vacation many people dream of. Having the freedom of a car at our disposal allowed us the ability to just come and go. I had a chance on Thursday to meet a long time blogging friend, Floyd, in Scottsdale where Jo and I were treated to lunch (against my protests). We had some of the best pulled pork I have ever tasted, as well as some of the best BBQ sauce, along with the added enjoyment of meeting Dave and Susan’s family and extended family. We spent two nights in Sedona where the stories of the vortex and the center of the hippie/New Age Movement was/is focused. I stayed away from the psychics, etc. 🙂 We took a 5 hour round trip to the Grand Canyon where I felt like I was going to be blown away by a very chilly 20 mph wind and with the grandeur of God’s creation on display. The only words I could think of were “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship.” (Ps.19:1)  “When I look at the night and see the work of Your fingers-the moon and stars you set in place-what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” (Ps. 8:3-4)  But it wasn’t just the Grand Canyon! Camelback Mountain. “Snoopy Rock.” Tea Pot Rock. Red Rock City. So much more.

You know what I’m praying? That the wonder doesn’t go away. May I be ever mindful of the wonder of God’s creation, the joy of new things, and the value of friendships that will last well into eternity, even when separated by thousands of miles in distance. 

Thank you Dave and Susan for the gift of your friendship and the once in a lifetime trip. And “Thank You, Father, for the incredible display of your creative genius.”

{Note: All Scripture from the New Living Translation}

February 19

Monday, February 19th, 2024

“Like father like son.”

“Well…that fruit didn’t far too far from the tree.”

Those are both statements we use when speaking about how much like a father his son is. It could be his actions. It could be the way he thinks. It could be the way he reacts to situations. It could be the way he speaks. It could be his demeanor or even how he treats others.

And here’s the thing: sometimes its a compliment and sometimes it’s a putdown.

In the Old Testament, there is a father and son whose stories are different. The son’s fruit was nothing like his dad’s. If the dad was a peach tree, the son’s fruit was an apple. Strange, I know, but let me explain.

Saul was chosen to be the king and Jonathan was his son. Saul blew it…big time. Not once but twice actually. In I Samuel 13-14 we find the first instance. The Philistines were a thorn in the side of the Israelites. Samuel promised victory but Saul needed to wait 7 days for Samuel to show up and offer a sacrifice. The people of Israel were getting antsy and when Samuel didn’t show up Saul offered the sacrifice himself. That was a no-no. Just as Saul was done offering the sacrifice, Samuel arrived and reamed him out and told him he lost his kingdom (I Sam. 13:14).

Meanwhile, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were doing something phenomenal. They were freeclimbing a cliff to go against the Philistines with Jonathan’s words echoing into the valley: “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or a few.” (14:6).

Jonathan was aware he was next in line to rule the kingdom after Saul’s death. But he also knew David was God’s choice and was to be the next king. Jonathan gladly gave up his “right” and ambition for God’s plan with David.

A great story! And what proof that sometimes fruit falling far from the tree is a good thing.

For another story of Saul’s disobedience and foolishness check out I Samuel 15.  (All Scripture from the New Living Translation).

February 14

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

Have you ever noticed that there are typically two kinds of people dealing with Valentine’s Day? There are those to love it. They go all out-flowers, cards, eating out (or cooking a candlelight dinner…since when?). On the other hand are those who loathe the day. Love has left them high and dry. Disappointed. Broken.

Disregarding the love/loathe feelings, the idea behind the day-expressing love-is a good one (although it has become a tad bit too cheesy and commercial).

The very first date Jo and I went on was back in 1971, near the end of our freshman year in college. I borrowed a car and we were off to another town to see the movie everyone was raving about-Love Story-starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. Without researching it I couldn’t tell you much about the movie except 3 things: 1) Ali was a beautiful woman; 2) I think she was dying; and 3) one of the stupidest statements about love came from that movie. That saying was “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Say what? If that’s the case I’ve just wasted 50+ years of being married to the same woman! If I had a dollar for every time I have had to say, “I’m sorry” I could retire and live off the interest! I realize there are bullies and arrogant people who either blame others consistently or cannot look in the mirror and admit they make mistakes. But seriously? Never?

Love is an elusive definition. The Apostle Paul described love in perhaps the most recognized Scripture and description. He described love as being kind, patient, not jealous, not proud, not demanding, not a record-keeper, not a “rejoicer” in wrong but a “rejoicer” in truth. But even that falls short when you consider a cross on a hill when the perfect Lover gave His life for all people so sin can be defeated and death vanquished.

He never had to say, “I’m sorry.” But we who look at that cross should fall to our knees in tears and repentance with those two words flowing from our lips: “I’m sorry my sin put you there.”

After all, “No greater love has a man than this than a man lay down his life for his friends.” Happy real Valentine’s Day.

February 13

Tuesday, February 13th, 2024

On my mind this morning when I woke up; when I rode my bike on my inside trainer; as I took a shower and dressed; and now as I sit and read my Bible at the table is a task-something I will do today…

I will attend a visitation and funeral of the friend of one of our new young ladies in the church.

She drank herself to death. That is harsh to say, I know, but even though only 30, her body said, “Enough.” It came to that point of her liver and kidneys failing due to alcohol abuse and past cancer treatments.

She is not alone. It is almost like an epidemic. People who lose hope. More specifically, young people who have lost hope. I guess we expect it more from an older person who can say, “I’ve lived my life. It is time for me to go.” But a young person? That cuts. Losing hope knows no age limits. It knows no status (Hollywood stars for example). It knows no financial acumen (the rich or the poor).

When did people lose hope? Please don’t fall back on COVID, although I am convinced it may have exacerbated it. Isolation. Loneliness. But I ask again: when did people lost hope? When did they lose sight of what David wrote: “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!”? (Ps. 139:17-18). Maybe a better question is, “Did they ever know they were valuable to God?”

There seems to be no doubt that we are living in a hopeless generation and it is tragic that so many are living in such despair that they either want to end it all, give up, or in the case like this just simply say, “What’s the use?” and stop fighting for life. If we could only get back to what David wrote earlier in Psalm 139: “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.” (verses 7-10). Those aren’t words of lament, of complaining about God’s presence. They are words of triumph. Of joy. Of hope.

Something there is just too little of these days. But something offered to us by the One who gave and gives us life.

February 6

Tuesday, February 6th, 2024

Have you ever heard of Judson Van Deventer? Neither had I. Or so I thought. It was not until I read -as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story”-that I knew more about him than I thought.

Born on a farm, JVD learned to paint, studied art, and became an art teacher. God, however, had different plans for him. Encouraged by his friends, Judson also felt called to evangelism. But it was hard for him to give up teaching art. He finally made his decision.

Following God is not always (like hardly ever) easy. Sometimes we are challenged to make tough choices. Our comfortable, sedentary life is uprooted. Even though we make the choice to follow Jesus and His call, there may still be moments of doubt and even anxiety.

Judson heeded God’s call. Later he went back to teaching. His decision to surrender even led to a song you may heard or sung: “All to Jesus I surrender/All to Him I freely give/I will ever love and trust Him/In His presence daily live/I surrender all, I surrender all/All to Thee my blessed Savior/I surrender all.”

Oh…and one more thing: remember when I said that Judson eventually went back into teaching? One of his students was a young man who name was…wait for it…Billy Graham.

I was speaking with someone yesterday about God’s plan for our life. About how His surprises are endless. And how His timing is impeccable. We never know…only He does.

{My thanks to Our Daily Bread for the story of JVD. The filler is mine}

February 5

Monday, February 5th, 2024

I was sick last week. Sick as in I slept a lot. It all started Sunday. By the end of the second service, I was losing my voice. That Sunday night at our small group, my voice was raspy. Monday morning saw me with barely a voice but also coughing some. Not a lot but enough to say, “Hey! Something is going on here.” So I went to the office Monday morning and after staff meeting (in a large room) I went home. I slept most of the afternoon. I NEVER do that. I slept the night with help from that “sneezing, stuffy nose…medicine.” I went to the office in the early morning but left before anyone got there. I came home and slept for 2 hours. Ditto for Wednesday morning except I felt a ton better. So much so, I rode my bike inside for 50 minutes. Thursday was much of the same. Early morning office. Go home. I went to the Y at lunchtime to work out some stiffness then went to the quiet office in the afternoon.  I stayed away from people as much as possible because what is going around is some kind of virus/flu that is passed on rather easily. I call it the creeping crud. I say all that to share with you some lessons I learned.

First, I’m not young anymore (as if…). I can’t burn the candle at both ends and not run out of steam. Jo kept asking me to slow down but it was like talking to a deaf man. My thinking was I riding my bike inside; I was going to the Y; I was sleeping (somewhat); I was taking my vitamins and immune supplements; that should keep me healthy. No, sometimes the body says, “No more.” Mine said that plus “You are now going to sleep.”

Second, sometimes if you don’t listen to your body, there are stronger forces to deal with. Namely, God. Sometimes God slows a person down because He needs us (me) to listen. Sadly, in my burning the candle at both ends lifestyle, I was failing to listen to Him. Not only did He need me to take time with Him, I think He also was giving me some time to read an all-important book I had been waiting for over 3 months for. (I pre-ordered it last year). I got it read and it knocked my socks off. The book, by the way, is The Deconstruction of Christianity by Alisa Childers and Tim Barnett.  253 pages of a phenomenal read. With my previous schedule it would have taken me weeks to read it. With being at home, not having a TV in my ManCave, I was able to read. The only interruption was an occasional snooze here and there. 🙂

Third, you learn the value of others.  Chairs and tables that had been set up, but needed to be taken back down because I had to cancel class, were done by my two co-workers. I’m grateful for them picking up the slack.

I’m back to work this Monday morning. I’m still not back to normal (whatever that might be). Rumor has it this thing hangs on awhile. Hopefully, I’m a little wiser. At least just a smidge.

February 1

Thursday, February 1st, 2024

I read a heartwarming story of a college basketball star (no name given) who stayed behind after the game to help with the clean up of empty cups and food wrappers. A fan posted a video and more than 80 thousand people viewed it. One person commented, “[The young man] is one of the most humble guys you will ever meet in your life.” It would have been more expected of that young man to go out and celebrate rather than to do clean up work.

That young man learned two words which are rapidly becoming non-existent in our culture: humility and service. And they go hand in hand. While beating the chest and wagging hands and fingers as though asking for and collecting applause are what is seen (and expected from the player), humility and service paint a different picture. While “thug-ball” and “stop-em-in-the-ground ball” and “how-much-money-can-I-make” ball is all the rage, off to the side is the humble one quietly doing his/her job with an attitude of a servant.

Oops, I said that wrong. I’m not allowed to call myself or anyone else a servant these days. It is demeaning. It is a slap in the face. It is misogyny. My one word response? Hogwash. It is not demeaning to be a servant. In fact, I’ll venture so far as to say we need it more now than ever. We have gone so far…down I might add…when we consider being called a servant is demeaning or any of the other adjectives you can use.

Me? I want that. After all, the One I gladly serve and call Lord, the Greatest Man who has ever lived or ever will live (Jesus) once said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Call me a humble servant. Please. There is no greater compliment.

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Please don’t forget to check out my review of Granger Smith’s book Like a River at my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin.

January 30

Tuesday, January 30th, 2024

I’m celebrating today. My bride of 50.7 years has a birthday today. They say it is not wise to ask or tell a woman’s age so I won’t. I’ll just it is somewhere between 72 and 74. You do the math. 🙂

Just to show you what kind of woman she is: I was going to surprise her with a trip to Ohio to see our daughter and grandson. Things didn’t turn out so well. He is with his dad this week so after baseball practice (over at 8 p.m.) he will head off to his dad’s. Janna’s significant other has to work so that would leave the three of us (which would have been okay). Braden has baseball practice until 8 Wednesday morning then has to be back at school by 10 for class. That would make for a very short “wham-thank-you-ma’m” breakfast. Then Jo saw it was supposed to snow in Ohio (90%) and that scared her off. So I cancelled the hotel reservation. To top it off, I started losing my voice by the time the second service was done and I ended up with the creeping crud. Coughing. Sneezing. Aching. Lots and lots of sleep. (I haven’t been like this in years so it is a strange experience). So…not much of a birthday.

But she took it all in stride, much like she has during our 50+ years of marriage. While there have been moments of frustration (as in all marriages), I could not have asked for a better helpmate. I read the following this morning:

Adam was created first, then Eve was made to fill a void in his existence. Adam was the head; Eve was his helper. Adam was designed to be a father, provider, protector, and leader. Eve was designed to be a mother, comforter, nurturer, and helper  (40 Lives in 40 Days- MacArthur- p.62)

Jo has always been there. The above words fit her to a “T.” They are not misogynistic or any other “istic” or “phobic” you can come up with. I can give her no greater compliment that to say she was just like Eve: a filler of empty space; a helper who stuck with me through thick and thin; a mother who gave her all to our two daughters, but also allowed them to fly (and she is still there if they need her). Well done, my dear, well done.

Now…if I can only get her to read what I wrote about her I might win some brownie points. 🙂

January 24

Wednesday, January 24th, 2024

I’ve been thinking…about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is an important aspect of everyone’s life, whether one is a Christ-follower or not. It comes into play seemingly in about every relationship we have. For the Christ-follower is it important to know we have God’s forgiveness. On the human side, it is important for us to either forgive or be forgiven.

One vitally necessary component of forgiveness with God or with another person is knowing unconditional forgiveness. None of us want to hear, “I’ll forgive you if…” We certainly feel unloved or, at best incompletely loved, if say a spouse says to a partner, “I’ll forgive you for the affair if…” or a father says to a child, “I’ll forgive you for the breach of conduct or break of trust if…” How disheartening that is! Why? Because that type of forgiveness has strings attached to it.

The story of the prodigal son is unusual because it is not the father who puts the conditions on the relationship, but the son. Check out the story in Luke 15. The son says, “I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned and am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as your hired servant.'” (Verses 18-19). Basically, the son says, “If I do this and this then…If I show adequate repentance, become a servant then maybe my dad will forgive me.” It wasn’t the father but the son who put conditions on his love and acceptance. And what happens? The son doesn’t even get out his whole spiel before the father is bending over backwards to forgive and welcome him home and basically say, “My son! Welcome home!”

Do you see it? The father (God) is not the one with the conditions.  It is the son who hamstrung himself. How many times have we not seen and accepted God’s complete and absolute forgiveness because we don’t think we are good enough or done enough or repented sufficiently enough or been sorry enough? It’s not God; it’s us!

Stop putting conditions on God’s love and acceptance of you. Instead, bask in the glow of unconditional love and forgiveness.  Thinking done. 🙂