Go with the wind

Six months ago, my wife and I retired, sold our home in Illinois, and moved into my elderly father’s house in Washington to help with his care. It’s a good arrangement and dad’s needs are few. He’s lived alone since the time of mom’s passing the spring of 2003.

ropeknotsOf course, life here has its frustrations. Before moving in, I spoke with my wife and father, to express my concerns about being “ping-ponged” between the 2 people I love. In meeting both their needs, it is possible for my interests to be overlooked with little time left for me. By way of example, playing the guitar, which is something I’ve done and loved since grade school, often falls by the wayside. Continue reading

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For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV) The length of our lives is decided beforehand— the number of months we will live. You have settled it, and it can’t be changed. (Job 14:5 GNB) You saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began. (Psalms 139:16 GNB) You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 GNB) How precious are your thoughts concerning me, O God! How vast in number they are! (Psalms 139:17 GW) For we are God’s masterpiece, created in the Messiah Jesus to perform good actions that God prepared long ago to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:10 ISV)

How many different ways can God tell us that He loves us? He created us with purpose. His intentions toward us are for a life of goodness and mercy. He has a plan for us to live an abundant life and to enjoy His continual presence. Yet despite these truths, human nature seems inclined to take an altogether different view of God: angry, indifferent, punishing,  volatile, etc.
Such was my view of God for many years, when in following my own will, I wandered from the path He had charted for me and alienated myself from Him. Thankfully, God’s plans for me also included a course correction and I ran to Him in the midst of my heartbreak. For several years I was in a kind of “intensive care” with the Lord, who did a marvelous healing work on my soul and restored me to His plan for me. It is with these things in mind that I want to share a smidgen of my testimony concerning the many ways in which God has demonstrated His love.

My mother, whose name is “Joy”, delivered me on December 31st. Growing up, my birthday party was always postponed thanks to Jesus’ birthday party the week before, New Year’s Eve parties and watching the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day! I can’t count the number of times when shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve, the host would shout “I almost forgot! We better sing Happy Birthday to Jack before it’s over!” Sometimes the revelers cut it so close, they had to make a medley of Happy Birthday and Auld Lang Syne. Still that’s better than the disaster of 1973 when my high school youth group tried singing the 2 songs as a round (j/k).

bdaycakeBelieve it or not, it’s only gotten worse since when I was a kid. I remarried in my mid 40’s and moved to Illinois to be near my wife’s large and close-knit family, where my birthday is not only shared with Jesus, but also with my new brother-in-law and 2 nephews whose birthdays are between December 28 and 30th. Picture 4 people crowded around a single birthday cake, lit, re-lit and blown out 4 separate times. As often as we all come down with the same nasty cold on New Years, you’d think we’d have learned to bake 2 cakes; a sacrificial cake for blowing out and otherwise slobbering upon, and another sanitary cake for feeding everyone. Continue reading

Thou hast possessed my reins?

BibleCandleWhile reading this morning, I looked up Psalm 139 in eSword. Normally, I read the ESV version but mistakenly clicked on the ERV (Easy to Read Version). What I read there moved me deeply:

“You formed the way I think and feel.” (Psalms 139:13a ERV)

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, the message I received from the world is that being different, specifically being emotional, gentle, compassionate and artistic, etc., was contrary to expectations for a boy. To make sure I got the message, there were any number of emotional and physical bullies Continue reading

All that remains

A phone call from a high school classmate launched me on a memory tour that led to a web search for the address where I grew up. Among the results was a real estate listing with 2 dozen photos. One by one I clicked through them looking for anything that remained of my childhood home. With the exception of the ceiling light fixture and knotty pine broom closet in the utility room, only the floor plan remained the same.

Mom and dad sold that house the fall of 1977 and so in the span of 38 years, everything my parents had built was scrapped and replaced by those who came after them.

Except for the grape vine they planted in the back yard.

grapearbor

Not only had the vine survived, it flourished. My reminiscing Continue reading

Eye-opener: Sheep or goat?

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. (32)  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (33)  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (34)  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (35)  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, (36)  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ (37)  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? (38)  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? (39)  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ (40)  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:31-40 ESV

sheepNotice in Matthew 25:31-40 (above) there are 3 groups of people: “sheep”, “goats”, and “my brothers.” All too often when people read that passage, they see only 2 of the 3 groups, “sheep” and “goats”. When interpreting it, readers tend to assume that the “sheep” and “my brothers” are one in the same. If that’s correct, then for all practical purposes Jesus is commending the “sheep” for serving themselves, feeding themselves, clothing themselves, visiting themselves, etc.

Let’s begin by looking at the word “nations”; the Greek word is ‘ethnos’ and Strong’s dictionary defines it “a race (as of the same habit), that is, a tribe; specifically a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually by implication pagan): – gentile, heathen, nation, people.” Continue reading

Narrow is the way

There is a notion among believers that we must all walk arm-in-arm, agreeing on all things together, while making our way to the kingdom. Church sign boards and Sunday morning bulletins often boast slogans such as “come, let us grow together.” I’ve often heard proponents of line-dancing into the kingdom cite 2 scriptures in support of that notion:

Can two walk together unless they are agreed? (Amos 3:3 MKJV)

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. (Acts 17:11 NLT)

narrowpathThe way I see it, two people walking together really only need to agree which path to take, how fast to walk, when and how long to stop and rest. There is no need to agree with everything another person believes in order to walk together for a time. There can be agreement in simply marveling at the beauty of God’s creation while walking together.

With regard to searching the scriptures together, during the time of Paul the only scriptures available were from the Old Testament. Bibles were not sold in book stores nor were printed scriptures commonly available. The village rabbi would have possessed a set of handwritten scrolls that were shared in the synagogue. Continue reading

The only good seed is dead seed

And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:23-25 ESV)

seedhandJesus often described the Father’s work in creation through the metaphor of planting seed, growing grain and fruit, and harvest. In John 12:24, Jesus uses the seed metaphor to describe His own death and resurrection and in it, reveals a process repeated throughout all of creation.

The seed is initially a living thing, something pure, undefiled and made in the image of the plant it came from, though obviously not yet revealed while still in seed form. The seed separates from its host and falls to the earth and dies, Continue reading