Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bowing out

So, it's come to this. My office upstairs at my "home' is cleared of everything but a chair, a desk, a computer and a printer. Those will go out tomorrow afternoon. It's the end of the world as I've known it.

We're almost moved. The big truck comes Monday and we enter, Mary and I, into a new world filled with strange possibilities. We will be living in someone else's house for the first time in more than two decades. Strange times, these.

We'll be in a parsonage, which means the house provided by a church for its pastor. Never lived in one of those before. We'll see how all this goes.

Looking back, it seems we leave a bit of us every where we go, do we not? I was thinking last night about how little I knew my own father. I never knew his dreams, his aspirations, his motives, his past really. I didn't really know him. Then I got to thinking, I'm not sure at all that my kids have even read my book, which is the story of how I got to this point. Maybe we all take each other for granted in the long run. Parents don't share enough with kids and kids sure as heck have trouble sharing with parents.

And we die without knowledge of each other, having left behind only nuggets to be picked up at random.

The Bible is a lot of things but one of those is it's a history of parent to child, child to child to child. Heritage and where the people of the Israelites had been was execptionally important.

I'm sure I'm wacky, but I think we've lost some of that. I never knew my grandparents, never met them at all. I haven't seen my dad's family at all but once or twice since he died in 1989. I should. In fact, I think I'll call my aunt elsie this very day just because I can.

This is the last one of these before Tuesday, when I'll fire it up in my office at the church which is about a half-mile from my new "home." I'll keep doing these till I don't. I love you guys out there, whomever you are.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Control issues II

I have the title above because apparently I'm still having control issues and I'm still writing about them.

What are control issues?

Beats me, hence I have 'em.

But what I think it means is I want to take control of all things in my life. I've never been more mindful of this nor have I tried so hard to do it than in the month of moving that has been May.

I've tried to manipulate all things around me so that the move from home to parsonage would be a smooth one. I don't know what is wrong with that, to this minute, but apparently I've bullied and I've pushed and I've tried to get two contractors at two different houses to do my will and I'm exhausted and I'm whipped and I'm wrung out.

I see that I don't know how to relax and let people do their thing. I don't. I don't understand why everyone doesn't see deadline and commitments in the way I see them. i don't understand why everyone doesn't run on the schedule I run on. I don't see. PERIOD.

It take a lot to make me admit I'm wrong, I'm afraid. But I see that I'm wrong here. I do. Oh, maybe I don't see why I'm wrong about people making deadlines. But I see that I'm wrong in the APPROACH I've used in trying to MAKE them do my will.

Even Jesus understood that it wasn't his will that was important but God the Father's. I'm working on that every single day. Not MY will be done, but HIS. That's the important thing.

Ultimately it comes down to will. Whose will run your and my life? I'm desperately trying to give my will over today. But I'll pick it back up tomorrow. I'm that way, apparently. I'm a work in progress.

But God loves the challenge, does he not? He did with Peter who failed Christ miserably. And with Thomas who doubted the whole thing happened. With John and James who wanted to run things from throne-side seats. With Paul who wanted to kill everyone who disagreed with him. With dang near everyone.

If you're having control issues, know that you are not alone. It comes with the territory. All you can do is try. Try to give over you will today. This one day. Right now. Pray for help. You will receive it.

Know I'm doing the same thing.



Thursday, May 27, 2010

The end

I know this will seem slightly out of place, if there are actually readers out there who think I have a place, but I felt I should write about what has been on my mind since Sunday night.

One thing has dominated, and that one thing is the television show Lost.

I'm aware there are people who don't get it, whatever it was. There are people who actually bragged about having not seen Lost. I certainly do not begrudge those folks, but I would ask that those who don't get it simply let those of us who do live our lives.

Seems a bit like Christianity, doesn't it? Those who get it, get it and those who don't, don't. Neither side can successfully bring the other side to its beliefs. That's okay, but again, I ask that the side that doesn't get it stop begrudging the side that does and understand that the side that does is under command of its leader to tell the side that doesn't all about what the side that does get it feels like and lives like and so forth and don't you get it that it is hard to get?

Got that?

That's Lost. It never made real "sense." It always left us with questions. It was about faith versus science, which in some ways is what life is. Sometimes it takes faith to get up in the morning and faith to lay your tired head on a pillow knowing you did nothing really to further the world that day. It takes science to plug a hole in a well of oil while it takes faith to believe there are people who actually understand what they did and how to fix it.

But in the end, the very end, there is "The end." We all get there. We all have to face it. At the end of Lost, that end was discussed and that vision was so clear to the writers and producers and the characters. It was a light that warmed and cuddled and invited.

To see the main character Jack die, lying in a field of bamboo, with a smile on his face an island wide, knowing he had accomplished that which he had been called to do that only he could do, well, that was heaven to me.

A dear member of one of my churches last night said her heaven was one thing and my heaven and your heaven are different things. She said she and her deceased husband had picked out their heaven and he had simply gone ahead to make that ready for her.

I hope she's right. I really do. I want so badly to see my mother, my pets, my aunts and uncles and even my dad, with whom I had issues. I want to walk in fields of clover and feel the peace that only God can provide. I want to see the throne and see Jesus and God on that throne and know them and see their very faces. I want to feel that light, and yes you can feel light, and dance an absolute jig to know that what I believe so badly is indeed truth.

I want to go, let go and let God, and run with Frankie again, watching him bounce along in absolute joy. I want to know that my task, the one He gave me, was done. I want to, I want to, I want to.

In the end of Lost, that's what I saw. A man had a task, he ran away from it for six years, but in the end, he did it and he died and all of his friends who died at one point or another were there when he finally accepted that death.

Good theology? Probably not.

Good feeling? Absolutely the best I've ever been given by a television show.

There had never been, and probably never will be, another show like Lost. It shined, then faded, then came up with a way to right itself at the end of its third season, had a shaky fourth and fifth season then reinvented itself again. Then it ended.

It was like life is, full of ups and downs and mysteries galore.

But in the end. In "The end" we die. All of us. Some before us. Some after us.

Where we go is up to us. Can we accept what is only available through faith? Can we do the task we've been given? Will all the answers be given?

Yes. Yes. No.

That's Lost.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Live and obey

Found myself in Proverbs today, and while prospecting there I found this nugget in the third chapter:

13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
15She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.

The notion here is that wisdom gives us peace. Wisdom, according to the scriptures, is that which comes from obeying God the Father.

In researching just a bit, I discovered that John Wesley preached repeatedly on this 17th verse. He believed that peace comes from surrendering to God and that peace casts out all fear.

Paul said perfect love casts out all fear. Therefore, perfect love is peace.

Do the match, friends.

Giving ourselves in our entirety to God is the only way to be successful in life, truly successful. We don't have to get or gain anything. God provides it all. Welsey said our business is to love and obey -- knowledge is reserved for eternity.

In other words, I don't have any or all of the answers. But what I have is wisdom to know who does.

Nothing is more important. Nothing. Live and obey.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Life is life

The morning was beautiful, like something from a poem on the loveliness of late spring.

The mist curled up from the ditches that criss-cross our neighborhood in Lacombe, playfully dancing toward a light-blue sky.

It was 6:15 a.m. and we were walking, part of the Turner plan for living, going out for two miles every day, throwing in a three-mile walk a couple times a week. Low carbs, high miles...the recipe for diabetic living.

The temps were still playing hookie, but as the workers in the neighborhood found their cars and headed off to their jobs on this bright and shining morning, everyone with half a brain knew that the heat would join us soon. The quiet and stillness of the morning was broken only by the occasional car cranking or a dog taking umbrage at us walking Logan, our terrier mix, through the neighborhood, their neighborhood. At one place, three horses who say hello to us every day, turned and smiled as we walked past. They were waiting to be fed, which happens around 7 each morning. Their focus was on breaking their fast, not on coming to be petted by Mary the horse lover.

We slipped into our walk casually and gratefully, knowing that both our bodies could have begun a protest three months ago when all this began, but our bodies -- knees, hips, backs -- have so far not prevented us from heading out each morn.

This morning Gabe, our six-year-old grandson, remained sleeping in the only bed still standing from my moving and packing. He had a baseball game last night (a triple in the second inning on a well-hit ball that belied the fact he was among the smallest on the team) and he was beat. We explained we would be walking, and he asked what happens if he wakes up and we're not there. We told him to tell Sammie, the broad youngster in our family of dogs, a story. He thought that was neat and agreed.

The point of all this is that life is what you make of it. They told us we had a problem with weight and with our food intake, and after praying for help, lo and behold, we've done something about it. We've lost, Mary and I, close to 90 pounds between us. Our blood sugar is down. Our blood pressure is down. Our stamina is up.

God said to the prophet Amos a couple of years ago, "The days are coming," declares the LORD,when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman
and the planter by the one treading grapes.
New wine will drip from the mountains
and flow from all the hills.

14 I will bring back my exiled people Israel;
they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.

15 I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted
from the land I have given them,"
says the LORD your God."

Oh, doesn't that sound wonderful. A time when a people who had been beaten and brought low by circumstance and a conquering nation would be restored. Things would be swell again.

God didn't mention in that wonderful description, however, that things like the Holocaust would occur as well. God didn't bring up that for every moment Israel spent in rebuilding the temple, some other conquerer would be plotting to overthrow this little nation.

The point is this: At this moment Mary and I have tons of energy, lots of motivation, gallons of hope. God's blessings are evident. Money came in the mail, so to speak, that we weren't expecting and on and on.

But if we simply rely on what we see, we will never understand God's true blessings, which are often completely unseen.

We know a woman who was told that when she received a kidney transplant, she would be in the hospital for three to five days. It turned into a 50-day stay, and the wound is still partially open and still incredibly painful. The question is, knowing now what she must go through, would she do it again? I pray she would, for that is life.

The mist joins the clouds in our neighborhood and the white pesters the blue of the sky. The sun bakes the dew off the grass and spring joins summer in a playfully exhuberant cycle, dealing cards from the top of the deck. Just yesterday a storm popped up and sprayed the area with heavy wind and a bit of hail. But the promise of this day is it will be clear and hot and the sun has heard and reacted.

Life is life, and God blesses it daily, though the humidity, through clear sky and even through the storms. Maybe especially through the storms. When things blow up, He brings restoration for those who request and accept. Life is life, God's best gift to us all.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Not lost now

I watched the final episode of Lost and was amazed at the love the writers showed their characters. Never have I seen such a fitting end to so many wonderful characters. Never have I felt that love is treasured and their is a place that we all go so much as when I watched that show.

I know, I know. It's a television show. But it reminds me of how much homecoming will mean to us one day. Lost told us that, at least I think it told us, that heaven is a non-timed event. That when we die, we come together with those whom we love. Christians believe that to be with not only our human loved ones but with Christ himself. It was terribly fitting that the last 15 minutes of the television show the main character was led around by Christian Shepherd (his real name on the show for six years) and that it ended with a church and a great light at the end of the hall.

You know, the Bible has some wonderful things to say to us about coming home.

Paul's letter to the church in Corinth says this in the Message: "For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we'll never have to relocate our "tents" again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what's coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we're tired of it! We've been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less.

"That's why we live with such good cheer. You won't see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don't get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It's what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we'll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming."

Exile for homecoming...what a thought. There will come a time when we get together with our cousin Adam and his beautiful wife Eve; when we get to talk wandering with our uncle Abraham; when we get to hear David tell about the time he stared down a giant; when we get to hear the stories of Paul's travels from Paul himself. Exile for homecoming...this life of pain for that life of gain, this life of sorrow for that life of superior worship, this life of living day to day to that life of living eon to eon or longer.

Exile for homecoming is exchanging hope for viewing clearly, seeing Aunt Nita and Mama 'n 'em and all those dogs and cats and aunts and uncles and my son-in-law Danny and everyone.

There's a song on the radio right now that says this: "Save a place for me, save a place for me, I'll be there soon, I'll be there soon." Seems to me that was the ending of the television show Lost. Seems that's what I so long for in my own life.

Exile for homecoming, resurrected bodies for worn out ones, folded down tents for streets of gold.

I can't wait to go home. I once was Lost, but now I'm found.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Let's build a way of living

I want to tell you a story that you've probably never heard before about a king you've probably never heard about and a method of taking care of clergy you've probably never heard about.

In case you're keeping score at home, it's found in 2 Chronicles, the 24th chapter.

It goes like this: Joash was seven years old when he became king; he was king for forty years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Gazelle (Zibiah). She was from Beersheba. Taught and trained by Jehoiada the priest, Joash did what pleased God throughout Jehoiada's lifetime. Jehoiada picked out two wives for him; he had a family of both sons and daughters. The time came when Joash determined to renovate The Temple of God. He got the priests and Levites together and said, "Circulate through the towns of Judah every year and collect money from the people to repair The Temple of your God. You are in charge of carrying this out." But the Levites dragged their feet and didn't do anything.

Then the king called in Jehoiada the chief priest and said, "Why haven't you made the Levites bring in from Judah and Jerusalem the tax Moses, servant of God and the congregation, set for the upkeep of the place of worship? You can see how bad things are—wicked Queen Athaliah and her sons let The Temple of God go to ruin and took all its sacred artifacts for use in Baal worship." Following the king's orders, they made a chest and placed it at the entrance to The Temple of God. Then they sent out a tax notice throughout Judah and Jerusalem: "Pay the tax that Moses the servant of God set when Israel was in the wilderness."

The people and their leaders were glad to do it and cheerfully brought their money until the chest was full. Whenever the Levites brought the chest in for a royal audit and found it to be full, the king's secretary and the official of the chief priest would empty the chest and put it back in its place. Day after day they did this and collected a lot of money. The king and Jehoiada gave the money to the managers of The Temple project; they in turn paid the masons and carpenters for the repair work on The Temple of God. The construction workers kept at their jobs steadily until the restoration was complete—the house of God as good as new! When they had finished the work, they returned the surplus money to the king and Jehoiada, who used the money for making sacred vessels for Temple worship, vessels for the daily worship, for the Whole-Burnt-Offerings, bowls, and other gold and silver liturgical artifacts.

Whole-Burnt-Offerings were made regularly in The Temple of God throughout Jehoiada's lifetime. He died at a ripe old age—130 years old! They buried him in the royal cemetery because he had such a distinguished life of service to Israel and God and God's Temple."

There are a few things to notice here, I think. One, there was no separation of church and state. Two, Joash became king when he was seven and served for forty years, which means he was 47 when he left the throne. While he was king, things were swell. When he died, the Bible says things fell apart.

Leadership, it would seem, matters.

I've read in the past couple of weeks that this country has begun to fall apart because George W. Bush felt faith was one of his guiding forces. They miss the point. If, and I stress if, Bush led us down a bad path it was not because of his faith but because he was a dunce. Faith in leadership is important, I believe. Faith in lives of those on the throne is important.

Instead, now, we have someone who wants to include all faiths, all beliefs, all religions into some mass conglomeration of, I don't know what.

It won't work.

Jesus said, as clearly as anything is said in scripture, he was THE way, THE truth and THE life. His way. His truth. Our lives.

They paid the clergy what the people felt was the right amount. They put the moneyh into the temple. They worshiped the Lord.

Simple truth.
Simple times.
Simply the way it should be.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A stresser

Let's talk stress for a moment. A quick moment. A moment that takes us away from what we should be doing when we're doing this and we should be doing that and we're..whoa, I'm stressed out, aren't I?

Truth is I have been stressed out for a while. Change does that to me. Perhaps you've noticed that. I know my dear Mary has.

Within a week's time, my favorite television show will disappear, we'll move from our home to a house and life will change again.

King David knew about stress, though he didn't know what it was called. Stress is a modern invention to describe an age old thing.

In the Message paraphrase of Matthew's Gospel, the fourth chapter, Jesus says this: And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it. The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it."

Stress is a killer, literally, science has discovered. Stress strangles what we know to be good for us and kills that which is meaningful to us.

Stress can be overcome by one thing, non-drug related at that. Peace is the great solver of stress-related problems. Peace comes from one thing, and that one thing is a person named Jesus.

In John's Gospel, Jesus says to his friends, "I'm telling you these things while I'm still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I'm leaving you well and whole. That's my parting gift to you. Peace. I don't leave you the way you're used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don't be upset. Don't be distraught."

peace is what he left us. Peace is what he gave us. Peace was his parting gift to us. Peace overcomes stress.

Oh, but that I could find some soon. Oh, but that I could kick back and relax. Oh, come Jesus come.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Revealing finishes

We will finish a study on Revelation next week after about 15 weeks. Life has changed for every person in the study during that period because that is what life does.

I can't help wondering, however, if we understand Revelation any more now than we did when we began the study. I probably don't, I must confess. But I began to read a book last night that tells me one must read John as a poet, as a pastor to the seven churches and as a theologian. I've read him only as if he were theologian. I've tried for all these years to UNDERSTAND the book without giving John such wonderful credit for his writing ability and his imagination.

Imagination? I hear the literalists cry out. I hear those who read it as chronology of the end times singing not in harmony but in heated anger.

I'm no authority, my friends. I can't tell you why the book wanders up and down hills, through strange fearful brooks and around and up mountainsides filled with danger.

I can't answer the questions of one wonderful friend in the class who keeps asking if she should center on this particular detail or that particular detail or not worry about any of the details or what. I don't know what to say to her because I do not know either.

Is it important that heaven is a certain height, depth, etc? I wouldn't think so, but then John must have thought so or he wouldn't have included it.

So what is the answer to all this?

I think the answer is this: Be in that number. Be in the book of life. Be there. Be.

God created. I beieve that is how this all began. God will re-create. That is how all this will end.

In the middle is life, sometimes swell and sometimes stinky.

As we were pulling away last night, the Spirit gave me one last thought. I turned to a couple and said, "Did you notice what wasn't mentioned a single time in our description of heaven tonight?"

They thought for a second and a smile came over one of their faces as recognition set in. "Religion," she said.


No BP oil spills. No serial killers. No bills to be pain on time or later. No worries. No stresses. NO MOVES as we will always be home.


Only God, who cares not for religion but cares greatly for relationship. The Bible closes by telling us God will live among us.

That's the focal point of Revelation. That's the Revelation itself. Jesus and God the Father and the Spirit himself will be with us, not every once in a while but continually. Aint' it special?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sour days

When I was much, much younger, I attended a lot of movies. Nearly every day I would walk from my aunt's house (which I can't believe they let me do now that I think of it), crossing several busy streets (*at the light, always at the light), to either the library or the movie.

When the time was right, I would then walk the rest of the way to my mother's place of business, the Meridian Manufacturing Plant across from SEars in -- you guessed it-- Meridian.

Movies and reading. They were, they are my thing. Had I to do it all over again, and I don't, I don't, I would have done something with or for the movies. But of course that would have led to me moving away to something exotic like Southern California or New York and I was way, way too much of a coward to do that.

I tell you all that to tell you that yesterday, a day in which I was so busy I never wrote, I took a jar of Kosher pickels out of the refrigerator and remembered instantly (see how weirdly my mind works) going to the movies as a child and almost always ordering a popcorn, a coke and (believe it or not) a big, big juicy dill pickle.

I have not done that for years and years. I don't even know if they still sell them. I don't know why they would. But for an instant yesterday I pulled a dill pickle out of a jar and I was transported like something from Star Trek.

Paul, such a fine writer he could have been a screenplay crafter himself, said this of our childhoods in a letter he wrote to a church he helped create in Corinth, "Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Those are very famous words in a very famous and well read chapter of the Bible. But what interests me, particularly for this discussion, is that sentence that seemingly sits among the love talk, the one about being a child.

When I was a child, Paul wrote, I talked like a child and I thought like a child and I reasoned like a child. But Paul says he left all that behind when he became a man. He said he put things that were childish behind him.

Do we still do that? Intentionally. Purposefully?

If so then why does childish anger, childish impatience, childish envy still run through our veins so very often?

I know they do mine, and I try so hard to let them go.

I think Paul is telling us that what needs to happen for those things to go away once and for all is for love to take their place. He said that, for this discussion, there is a progression in all of us from the time we accept Christ as our savior, our Lord, our maker and our master that replaces even our thought processes. We were, we are and we are going to be.

Even those of us who try so hard only to fail (and they are in the billions I suspect), understand in a resonable way that we are not who we were. We simply aren't. Maybe we're not even close to whom we seek to be. But we're better in a fruitful manner.

The mirror doesn't lie.

So where is the truth here? Simply this: the pickles that we are, sour and pocked, are not as sour and pocked as we once were.

I went a long way to get there, don't you think?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Growing older

I got up this morning and it feels like someone kicked me in the behind. I assume that is not something that is supposed to be that way.

I'm working hard to be in good enough shape to be able to live long enough to see my grandchildren graduate high school. It's a modest goal, I'm sure.

The Bible speaks of growing older in modest terms, by the way.

In Ecclesiastes 12 we read, "Honor and enjoy your Creator while you're still young,
Before the years take their toll and your vigor wanes,
Before your vision dims and the world blurs
And the winter years keep you close to the fire.

In old age, your body no longer serves you so well.
Muscles slacken, grip weakens, joints stiffen.
The shades are pulled down on the world.
You can't come and go at will. Things grind to a halt.
The hum of the household fades away.
You are wakened now by bird-song.
Hikes to the mountains are a thing of the past.
Even a stroll down the road has its terrors.
Your hair turns apple-blossom white,
Adorning a fragile and impotent matchstick body.
Yes, you're well on your way to eternal rest,
While your friends make plans for your funeral.

Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.
Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
The body is put back in the same ground it came from.
The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.

8 It's all smoke, nothing but smoke.
The Quester says that everything's smoke."

We come and we go quickly, it says. When I published a book a while back, it was a gratifying moment for any number of reasons but first and foremost because it put me in the Library of Congress where every book published in this country is catalogued. It meant there is evidence I existed. I was here. I did something.

Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over, the Bible says. Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.

I take that to mean sometimes you feel like someone kicked you in the behind.

See, God has a purpose for us all.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Adoration flows both ways

How important is it to you to know, absolutely know, that you are loved?

A few samplings of answers....

"Love is the great mystery. Love is pure and simple as an infant's smile. Love is vast and unfathomable as the far reaches of the universe. Love is the force that connects us and that breathes life into all things. Love is the silent invisible tidal wave washing through the consciousness of humanity, awakening us to who we are and why we are here. We were love at birth and love is who we are becoming. Love lives in the magnificent house of wisdom and truth. So, love your enemies. Do not condone their actions; simply invite them into the house of truth and wisdom, offering healing to their souls. Embrace and ride the tidal."

Dan Walker of St. Louis writes "Somebody once sang the phrase “Love makes the world go round.” Although it’s not a verse in the Bible, it’s true. Now the love that really makes the world go round, the love that created the earth and put the stars in space, is God’s love. The Bible says that God is love. Since God is love and He created people in His own image, then love is at the heart of every human being. Without love, our world won’t go round, it will come to a screeching halt. Everybody instinctively knows that is inside themselves. That’s why most of the songs on the radio are about relationships and love of one kind or another."

And a man named Paul wrote "1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

"Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Look at it this way: An automobile is still an automobile without gasoline in it. But it can not move properly without gas. Oh sure, we can push the vehicle. But for it to run smoothly, without problems for us, it must have gas.

Love is that way. We can live lives through to our deaths without it. We can even be somewhat productive without it in our lives, succeeding enough to build our bank accounts and our resumes.

But as Paul says: "When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." To me that says the better way is to love. Love so deeply you sweat love. Love so completely the person you're loving completes you, makes you a better person, makes you who God meant for you to be.

Ultimately, of course, God's love is the most important and meaningful and complete of all types of love.

John wrote, "Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love."

Get that? Love comes from God.

My dear songwriter friend Rich Mullins once wrote that we didn't know what love was until He came, He being Jesus. I think that's right. I think till we saw what true sacrifice was, we didn't know what sacrifice was. I think till we saw what true love was, giving up one's life for a friend or even an enemy, we simply didn't know what true love was.

Now we do.

I believe that God adores each of us. Loves us enough to put our pictures on His gimungus refrigerator. He looks at your pic each morning and smiles a rosy sunrise. He looks at your pic in the evening after a long day's work of cleaning up our messes and smiles a purple sunset.

God adores you. He adores me. Nothing we've done enhances that love no matter how hard we try. He simply loves because, as John wrote, He IS LOVE.

Forget the judgment for a moment. Forget all those tales of going to Hell.

Wallow for just a second in the absolute adoration of God Almighty. Let the new day wash over you, refreshing you, giving you mercy and a new dose of love.

You don't have to please a human on earth. Not one. You don't have to run through hoops trying to make a boss like you, or a friend change his mind about you, or even a spouse love you more.


Because the being who controls it all absolutely adores you.

And what does adore mean?

"To regard with deep, often rapturous love." Rapturous love? The kind that takes you away, cuts off gravity so that you can sore up to the one who loves you most?

You are adored. Enjoy it today.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wasted days

Have you felt lost lately?

I don't mean the television show. I mean a sense of, uh, being without. Not connecting. Not feeling. Sluggish. Without hope, at least momentarily.

If so, you have some famous company.

This was written by a man named David, a king once:
4 Let those on the hunt for you
sing and celebrate.
Let all who love your saving way
say over and over, "God is mighty!"

5 But I've lost it. I'm wasted.
God—quickly, quickly!
Quick to my side, quick to my rescue!
God, don't lose a minute.

David, king of all of Israel, defeater of giants, killer of thousands and he's lost it.

Does that give you, what, comfort? A realization that everyone hits the wall. An understanding that nothing is permanent. That all the good feelings that sometimes bubble up also bubble down?

This morning, before dawn, I walked into a sultry, humid morning and I smelled oil. I live a couple hours from the oil slick that still is developing in the gulf and I smelled oil. What must the people of the gulf be smelling, feeling, experiencing?

How do they make a joyful noise unto God when hurricanes keep bashing them and now oil is slicking them?

I really don't know, except, except, with the new dawn comes new opportunity for new grace and mercy. I really believe that. I believe that God adores us and will do whatever he can for our needs. I don't understand all the mechanisms of that. I don't get why we have to go through some of the things we go through. But that's His business, not mine.

Come quickly, God, indeed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Morning will break

What does you faith mean to you?

Is it an active faith? Is it the kind of faith that means everything to you? Sometimes I wonder if I have that kind of faith. The rest of the time I wonder why everyone else doesn't have the same kind I have. Makes me the nut that I am, I guess.

The Bible tells of a man name Elijah, who was such a man of God that he defeated scores of prophets of Baal in a kind of supernatural shout off, setting fire to wet wood simply by calling it down from heaven.

But later, God told him this: Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.”

So Elijah did as the Lord told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook"

But here's what gets me about this whole thing. Elijah did EXACTLY as the Lord told him. In direct contact with God, he did EXACTLY what he was told.

The next sentence says this: "But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land."

He did EXACTLY what the Lord said the the brook dried up anyway.

Sometimes it's hard to see where the Lord is taking us and our natural reaction is to question him first, then our faith next. "Maybe I got it wrong. Maybe that's not what he wanted. Maybe, maybe, maybe." And finally our faith is tested.

Two things can happen. Our faith is strengthened, or it snaps.

All we have to do is wait.

The next sentence after the brook dried up is this: "Then the Lord said to Elijah, 9 “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”

The brook dries up, the Lord moves you again. Your faith is not merely restored, it is greater than it ever was.

Oh, there's more.

"So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”

But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her son continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah."

Not only was Elijah's faith strengthened, but he strengthened someone else's.

Look, no one is saying this is easy. No one is saying you won't have dark moments. But hang on, the morning is coming.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Go where God sends us

I doubt I'm much different than most.

I had another of those moments yesterday. I looked at our house, which is mostly empty now or at least much more than it was, and I had a moment. You know those moments? The moments where you just stop and wonder, am I doing the right thing? Those moments often come way, way too late to do anything about them, but they come.

Jonah had one of those moments, and this is what he did:

1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me."
3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.

Do you get that? God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and Jonah split for ...Tarshish. The other way. He ran from God. He looked at his house and said to himself, "I'd rather live here Lord."

I know the feeling. I know rationally that it's only been four years, almost to the month, but sooner or later I want to feel like I'm home. I've had no home it seems since we left the West Bank where I thought I would die. I said to God, "use me," and the next think I know, he did.

Jonah's problem from the beginning was he didn't mind being used, he simply wanted it to be in the manner he deemed it best. In other words, he didn't want to preach to those Ninevites because they weren't worthy of grace. I thought God could use my writing. Surely that was what he wanted. Surely that would be my windfall, my way, my path. Surely I was wrong.

When one says to God, "Use me," one turns over the keys to life. One must go where God says go, stay where God says stay, do what God says do. He decides which gifts and services would be best in what situation. I have learned I never know what's next.

I just pack and go.

Jonah has the audacity to have this argument with God himself. Permit me a bit of your time:

1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."
4 But the LORD replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"

5 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live."

9 But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?"
"I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."

10 But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"

See, it's important you see this (if there are readers this day). God picks and chooses to place you where he wants you. If you've dug you a space and decided this is it, then what leeway does God have?

This is so important. I know churches that exist because people have always gone there through generations. They never give themselves the opportunity for God to use them because they've set up rules for which He must operate.

I know this: I'll miss this house. I'll miss the yard Frankie loves do much before he died (my dog). I'll miss the time we spent outside with the grandkids. I'll miss the time upstairs on my computer. I'll miss and miss and miss...

but the greater opporunity for God is always around the next bend because that's where he's sending us. I must understand that. God is concerned about even the Ninevites. So should I be.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The bigness of God

Every been so tired of, well, being tired that it's actually hard to go on?

David, before and after he became king of Israel, felt that way. There were times he simply wanted to give up; times he wanted to find another way. But never did he give up on the one constant in his life, his God.

Listen and learn:

1 O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.

5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.

7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.

8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

9 They who seek my life will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.

10 They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.

11 But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God's name will praise him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced

Saturday was my time. I was so tired and so weary and so worn that I went to bed at 7 p.m. Just too much lifting, too much trying, too much doing, too much worrying, too much, too much.

But God lifted me up enough to enjoy Sunday. God preached through me. God used me, again.

I love the line: my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you,in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Is that where you are today? As you read this are you in a dry and weary land where there is no water? Are you living a lie? Are you living a life you simply don't want or can't do any longer? There truly is only one solution. It's not a divorce, or a job-change or any of the things one thinks of first. It's a God change. Take a moment and simply ask God to change you, not thing around you, but you.

Then sincerely thank Him.

It's one. David knew that no matter how things looked, God was bigger.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

STUFF for sale

Ah, the blissful sounds of Saturday. A do-nothing kind of day. A day wherein I watch a baseball game or perhaps play a game of golf and certainly listen to the birds sing that song of whimsy that is drifting through the tree limbs this morning before dawn.

Or maybe it's a spectacular day to have have a garage sale, a yard sale, a moving sale, a sale of STUFF.

Yep. The Turners are selling their stuff. It's an upset right up there with the Jets over the Colts in 1969, Super Bowl III, way back when I knew what Super Bowl it was before the roman numerals (which by the way make no sense now that we've gotten in the 40s ... I think). The Turners have hauled, pushed, picked up and sorted. The Turners have everything for sale except the sign that says "The Turners." That's only because I didn't figure there are enough Turners around to make a sale on that sign or it, too, would be up for sale.

We've already sold big-ticket items like the riding lawnmower, a queen-sized bed, mattress and frame both and some things like that tent fold-up mattress holder thingee that we used, oh, once. And of course, the tent itself. We also sold some things that we weren't sure what they were, but at some point in our history, we had purchased them. I think.

We have books galore. One would think that with all the books out there for sale, books that we've read supposedly, we would be smarter. But I digress.

We have coolers, big and small. We have clothes, mostly big that I'm happy to say no longer fit and in a pithy moment of faith will never fit again. We have dress clothes and casual clothes and even some belts that, again, do not fit. We have shoes that do fit but were deemed inappropriate wear or ware depending upon your viewpoint.

We have a blue recliner that graced my mother's living room for more years than I care to rememeber. We have baby clothes (again in a pithy moment of faith that we will never need them again).

In a category that most of America will understand: we have STUFF. All cheap as a houndstooth hat at Auburn, Ala.

We are hoping it all goes and that all that millions of dollars helps fund the re-doing of our home's floor. We have shuffled things in and out of rooms this week, taking stuff outside and taking up flooring so that we can rebuild and rejeuvinate and eventually rent.

We've done all this so that we could have a fresh, newish new house that we can leave, without our stuff, of course.

The parsonage we've moving is so small it might as well have a sign that reads "No room for STUFF in the inn."

Jesus had a thing about STUFF, by the way. He said this of it: Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.

At a glance, that might not seem to be about STUFF, or at least about only bird STUFF. But look more deeply. Jesus is saying that our STUFF should not matter to us that much because God will look after our STUFF while we look after the things of God.

I know this because I have a gazillion Bibles, none of which are for sale today.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Setting your eye

It has come to my attention that we have violated the rights of a certain sect of our community.

We've slandered dogs everywhere. How so, you might ask?

Have you ever watched a dog swim? Do they not move easily in water? Do they not move?

Then why do we call this thing that young swimmers often do, dog paddling? Do these young swimmers not stay pretty much where they are? Not moving except for hands doing their things and legs flailing away?

Dogs slandered, I'm telling you.

This came to my mind because I slept late this morning. I slept late this morning because I was, well, exhausted. My hips are screaming. My legs are legless. I'm just plain old-fashioned tired. Why? Because I have worked and worked and worked. I've thrown away and I've burned and I've moved and I've picked up and I've loaded and I've prepared for a garage sale and a move and all those other things.

And yet this morning when I looked back on the week, it looked like I had done exactly, uh, nothing. I've dog-paddled (sorry Sammie, Logan, Tweety, Paris and all those millions of dogs in the world) this week.

There's no new fence at our new place of residence. There's one room of new flooring while other rooms are torn and waiting. I've moved some things but it seems there are mountains to be moved. The moving sale is tomorrow, but I've had three or four persons already coming to buy things (and what exactly do these people do for a living that they can come on a beautiful Thursday afternoon to buy "old" things, as if we were selling "new" things?)

So we've worked so hard my hips don't work and yet after all this time it appears that we've not made it very far. All we've done is not move very, very hard.

In Ezekiel 21, the first couple sentences we read: "And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the holy places..."

I love thy expression: Set thy face toward Jerusalem. In the New Testament, Jesus did all these things then when it came time, he "resolutely set out for Jerusalem."

Sometimes in our lives, we need to resolutely set out for" or we need to set our faces. We need to make a plan and accomplish it. We need to quit paddling and start swimming.

Have you been paddling lately?

Have you wondered where you're going lately and you're going nowhere?

It's time, my friends, to set your eye, your mind, you bodies on the Jerusalem's in your live and get 'er done.

Dogs everywhere will applaud you.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What are your blessed by?

Paul writes to the folks he knew in Corinth (folks being a perfectly good word in Greek whether you realize it or not): I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in everything you are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge.

That's King James for I thank Jesus for your breath, for your smile, for your eyes, for your early morning moments and your late evening seconds.

I thank Jesus for you.

This is a hugely significant thing we all can learn to do, by the way. I thank Jesus for you...

I thank Jesus that you understand how you are saved, so that you do not go around wasting valuable seconds on trying to work yourself into heaven...

I thank Jesus that you understand how much you are loved, so that you do not go around working toward somebody caring for you...

I thank Jesus that you understand how much trouble God went to so that He could run down that road toward you, with clothing hitched up high so that His sandals were clipping along at their maximum speed. ...

I thank Jesus for you.

I look at my wife, Mary, and it is true that she is not the woman she was 25 years ago. Time and, well, me have etched her face and made her back hurt and have strained her, uh, patience. But she is every bit as lovely and compassionate and gentle and kind and self-controlled as she was the day I met her. She is, for lack of a better example, Mary.

I thank Jesus for her, daily. She is everything a wife could be, should be and if I get out of the way and do not mess things up uncontrollably, she is everything a wife would be.

I thank Jesus for most everything in my life, but Mary is clearly atop that list. She is my constant (to steal from Lost).

Jesus didn't bless me with outstanding looks or a great athletic body. He did bless me with Mary.

I thank Jesus for her.

What do you thank him for?

Isn't it about time you began?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Namely speaking

In rummaging around in boxes and such for our move later this month from house to parsonage, I discovered my "original" birth certificate. Long story short, I was adopted when I was about three months. For three months, my name was Peter. I never heard or I don't remember why I was called Peter, but I remember my adopted mother telling me that.

I was named by her and my adopted father, Glenn (with two n's), William (for my dad) Vise (for Dr. Guy T. Vise, who saved my premature infant life) and, of course, Turner.

I was rummaging around in Acts this morning, and I came across this passage in the third chapter, the 16th verse: And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him his perfect health in the presence of all of you."

Just the name itself has power, scripture says.

That's not the way it is with most names today. Names for the most part today are meaningless and they're cheap. It used to be different. Names had a specific purpose. If he was the son of John or Gilbert he was named Johnson or Gilbertson. Or they would call her Bauer or Miller depending on what her father did. If he had a crooked leg he was called Cruikshank. If he lived in a certain place, he was named Hill or Kufeldt. If he was a builder, he was called Zimmerman. If he was a teacher, they called him Schull.

But today names have little meaning. Some are given because we love Grandma or Aunt Mary. But most today name their children on the basis of how a word sounds. It's cute or popular and turns up by the thousands on our elementary rolls. 70-80 years from now our nursing homes will be filled with Ashleys and Caitlyns and Madisons. But the noble names of Walter, Howard or George, of Helen, Rose or Florence, will have disappeared into our memories.

In Biblical times names were closely tied with the person. Often a name was given in the hopes the child would live out its meaning, so he was called Benjamin (son of the right hand) or Abraham (father of many). Or she was to have a certain personality, such as Naomi (pleasant). Or he was to be a messenger of God, so they named him Elijah (Jehovah is God) or Johanna (God is gracious). Thus, when Joseph (May God give you children) called Him Yeshua (God saves) it was for a reason, a true and noble purpose, for He would save His people from their sins.

Today we call Him Jesus but His family called Him Yeshua, or Joshua. "Christ" is a title meaning "chosen one", and its Hebrew equivalent is Messiah. Jesus Christ really means Jesus the Christ, the "Chosen Savior." And of all names, there is no other name greater than Jesus Christ, for there is power in the name of Jesus.

The Bible says: "God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,..." The meaning here rests on what Jesus has done, for, "He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!" Though He was humble, there is power in the name of Jesus.

Jesus is the name above all names because He is our Savior. If you and I are rescued from certain death, we will value our rescuer. If we are saved from injury, we will be grateful. But if we are saved and then turn our backs on our Savior, how ungrateful and foolish we are. Yet we seem to do it every day.

Jesus is the name above all names and there is power in His name. His name is love and forgiveness. When we speak His name, the devils cringe in terror. But too often we profane His name, using it to curse or swear. We publicly praise His name, but privately use it for cursing. Or we demean His name by not worshipping Him. Jesus the Christ forgives us for that. He is Lord and He is our Savior.

He loves us and forgives us even when we don't love and forgive each other. He loves us just as we are, but He won't leave us that way for long. He forgives us but He wants us to change for the better. There is power in the name of Jesus. It's a name we respect and honor, a name we worship and adore. Let us always honor the name of God by our actions and words towards others Christ has also forgiven and loved.

I'm not sure if I was a different person for those three months that I was unofficially named Peter; probably not.

But I'm sure I have been a different person since I've accepted the power that is in the name of the one who saves, this Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus, name above all names, precious redeemer, Lamb of God.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Seek the light

Isaiah looked into the future and saw hope.

He wrote, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness -- on them light has shined."

Do we understand how important that message still, STILL, is?

We all need to know that what we walk through on a daily basis, this dingy day, this deepening darkness at night, is not all there is.

Have you kept up with all the bully things happening lately? Kids seem to be much more likely to bully others than perhaps they used to be. Deaths have happened because of it. The ones most likely to be bullied, by 63 percent, are those who have a few extra pounds on them. The ones who have a few extra pounds are most of our kids, frankly, as we live in a french fry world.

By sixth grade, teachers reported that 34 percent of the study children had been bullied, and mothers reported that 45 percent of the children had been bullied, while 25 percent of the children themselves said they had been bullied.

Previous research has shown that boys, minorities and children from low-income groups are more likely to be bullied, so the researchers took these factors into account to see if they made a difference. The study authors also considered a child's social skills and academic achievement in their analysis.

I think it's merely another manifestation of a world that is not getting better, but instead is spiraling out of control.

We need to see a light, a great light, a light that will shine into the corners of the deep darkness and run those who stand behind it into the open.

We need a light house, in the shape of wonderful, life-giving hope.

We need, in a word, Jesus. I know what Isaiah knew..."For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

If we give our children a strong foundation, all of them, if we give them the love of Jesus in our lives, in our family structures, in our days and in our nights, we are much, much, much more likely to eliminate the very need someone would have for bullying.

Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus taught us to love our enemy. Jesus taught us to surrender to others.

One can't do all that, or any of that really, and be a pompous, little bully.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Keep on Keeping on

In some of the most poignant writing in all of the Bible, the apostle Paul from house arrest wrote: "As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has dome. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."

"I have fought the good fight," he says.

Sometimes that's all we have, all we can do. It's not glamorous faith. It's not spectacular faith. It's not pie in the sky where everything is rosy. It's gritty, it's determined, it's one dragged step after another.

I've been that way recently in terms of the latest book I've written. I've sent it to, I believe, 20 agents. I have been turned down by, I believe, eight thus far.

One of the latest replies wrote this:

Thank you so much for your recent book proposal. Unfortunately, we must respectfully decline the offer to represent your work.
Due to the volume of proposals we receive, we are not able to give you individual feedback on your work or why we concluded we must pass on the project. There are a number of reasons why we may not move forward; some are related to the book concept and writing, but many are due to factors outside of your control.
We hope you'll press on. Consider:
John Grisham's first novel, "A Time to Kill" was rejected by 16 agents and a dozen publishers. Madeleine L'Engle's Newberry Award-Winning "A Wrinkle in Time" was initially rejected by 26 publishers. JK Rowling was turned down nine times for the first Harry Potter book. Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind," 38 times. "Chicken Soup for the Soul" was rejected 134 times. Even "War and Peace " and "To Kill a Mockingbird" struggled to find a publisher.
You get the point.
We wish you well as you continue to seek literary representation and a publisher for your work.
Thank you again for thinking of us.
All best.

Did you get the main point there? Press on.

In Paul's letter to the church in Philippi, he put it this way: I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[a] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."

Life, even the abundant life that Jesus talked about, doesn't come easy. It simply doesn't. We must press on through rainy storms and through desert conditions. We press on when things are good and when things are bad. We press on.

When books are picked up and when they are not.

Pressing on means we don't quit and we don't give up. Paul nearing the end of his life, with perhaps days left, maybe hours, wrote, "the Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom."

For Paul, there was always the next letter to write, the next church to establish, the next moment to preach the gospel. For Paul, all of life was about this man named Jesus who touched him deep in the recesses of a Pharisee's heart. For Paul, life was about continuing the fight, and it was most certainly a fight.

I understand.

If I never sell the book, it's okay. By God's grace I wrote it. I did the best I could. I like what I accomplished through Him who saves me. I don't see where Paul ever congratulated himself for how a church was going. He never basked in the limelight of a church plant. He never took roll. He never did anything but fight that which would stop the gospel from being preached. Life for Paul was about effort, not success.

That, ultimately, is all we have.

We press on, fingernails clinging to the cliff at times, till we see His face. We are survivors -- spiritually, mentally, emotionally and sometime physically.

We press on.