Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The writing's on the wall

One of the more amazing stories in scripture, Daniel 5, says this:

1 Many years later King Belshazzar gave a great feast for 1,000 of his nobles, and he drank wine with them. 2 While Belshazzar was drinking the wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver cups that his predecessor,[a] Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. He wanted to drink from them with his nobles, his wives, and his concubines. 3 So they brought these gold cups taken from the Temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 While they drank from them they praised their idols made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
5 Suddenly, they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, near the lampstand. The king himself saw the hand as it wrote, 6 and his face turned pale with fright. His knees knocked together in fear and his legs gave way beneath him.

7 The king shouted for the enchanters, astrologers,[b] and fortune-tellers to be brought before him. He said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever can read this writing and tell me what it means will be dressed in purple robes of royal honor and will have a gold chain placed around his neck. He will become the third highest ruler in the kingdom!”

8 But when all the king’s wise men had come in, none of them could read the writing or tell him what it meant. 9 So the king grew even more alarmed, and his face turned pale. His nobles, too, were shaken.

10 But when the queen mother heard what was happening, she hurried to the banquet hall. She said to Belshazzar, “Long live the king! Don’t be so pale and frightened. 11 There is a man in your kingdom who has within him the spirit of the holy gods. During Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, this man was found to have insight, understanding, and wisdom like that of the gods. Your predecessor, the king—your predecessor King Nebuchadnezzar—made him chief over all the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and fortune-tellers of Babylon. 12 This man Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, has exceptional ability and is filled with divine knowledge and understanding. He can interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.”

The bottom line to the story is Daniel tells him what the handwriting means and what it means is this new king, Belshazzar, must humble himself before God. Since he had not, his days were numbered. That night Belshazzar died and Darius the Mede took over.

The implications are clear as the, er, handwriting on the wall are they not?

What has been written for you to read lately? How have you humbled yourself before a God so holy and pure? Have you?

It's interesting to me that Daniel had seemingly been rendered in the background by this new king, grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. Yet when God began to pencil in some new prophecy, Daniel was called on again. What did he do during his period of background? One suspects he worshiped the God so pure and holy.

Isn't that our jobs? Isn't that His will for us? Stay ready for that moment when we can make a difference and worship in the meantime.

Couldn't have written it better myself.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dreaded responsibility

Leadership under the reins of God is a serious matter.

The Bible says in the 23rd chapter of Jeremiah, "What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” says the Lord.
2 Therefore, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to these shepherds: “Instead of caring for my flock and leading them to safety, you have deserted them and driven them to destruction. Now I will pour out judgment on you for the evil you have done to them. 3 But I will gather together the remnant of my flock from the countries where I have driven them. I will bring them back to their own sheepfold, and they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord have spoken"

Sometimes that thought brings me to my knees. How on earth did this happen? How did I, me, Billy, become this, this shepherd? Was like all the possible candidates busy the day God called me?

My reflection is built upon a couple of things that happened this weekend. One, my son, Jason, ran into an old, old friend and former co-worker, Rick Cleveland, the long-time sports columnist for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., as well as another former friend whom Jason couldn't recall the name of. When they asked what I was doing now, Jason told them I was a preacher. Their reaction, he said, was priceless. I understand. It was a different time, a different me.

Then Sunday morning at the Louisiana Sportwriter's Convention, I won a major writing award that my ex-boss had entered me in.

All that came back to me yesterday. What I once was, is not what or even who I now am.

God goes on to say to Jeremiah, 9 My heart is broken because of the false prophets,
and my bones tremble.
I stagger like a drunkard,
like someone overcome by wine,
because of the holy words
the Lord has spoken against them.
10 For the land is full of adultery,
and it lies under a curse.
The land itself is in mourning—
its wilderness pastures are dried up.
For they all do evil
and abuse what power they have."

I understand that the tremendous responsibility all pastors have is back-breaking at times. I understand that this world isn't getting better. I understand that I must let the Lord give me vision. And only by looking ahead instead of back toward what I was can I possibly be of service.

O, Lord, give me strength for thy people.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Just DO it

Ah, summer. The wisps of near hundred-degree days.

A woman at one of my churches yesterday, Miss Ruth, who is more than 100 years of age, talked to me a moment about how hot it was without even electric fans, much less air conditioning, when she was a child. I listened, thinking honestly that I can't compare that with what I feel when I go out right now.

The point is, I think, that comparisions of depths of struggle are not that good for any of us. Or are they?

Take, say, the poor in America and the poor in Africa. You want to say poor is poor, but it really isn't. Poor in Africa means 100 bucks a year in income and no mosquito net just to keep you kid from dying of malaria. We want to talk about poor, but we don't know poor.

How does one deal with all that? How does one deal with the fact that no matter what one does, it will never be enough?

I think all we can do, or perhaps better stated the best we can do, is to do what we can.

And there the comparison should stop. What I can do might be more than you can do which might be more than the other person can do. But the verb is present there for all of us. All of us must DO what we can.

Not talk it. Not think it. Not dream it.

Do what we can for all that we can in all the ways that we can.

A fine gentleman once said something close to that.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Bible is a book of joy, I'm convinced.

Somewhere between the dos and the don'ts and the shoulds and the shouldn's is a dripping of joy.

Let's see just some of it...

In Leviticus we read, "On the first day gather branches from magnificent trees[a]—palm fronds, boughs from leafy trees, and willows that grow by the streams. Then celebrate with joy before the Lord your God for seven days."

In Deuteronomy, it says, "47 If you do not serve the Lord your God with joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits you have received, 48 you will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you."

In 1 Samuel, it says, " 6 When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals."

I think you get the idea. The very thought that God would watch over little ol' us is something that should inspire joy. Joy is, then, in the eye and heart of the beholder.

I want worship to be like this: 28 So all Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant with shouts of joy, the blowing of rams’ horns and trumpets, the crashing of cymbals, and loud playing on harps and lyres.

I want everyone to feel what I think I feel toward God, which is absolute gratitude (when I'm not being fearful) for what He has done.

This Psalm should leave you breathless with joy: 12 The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,and the hillsides blossom with joy.

That's the world we live in, friends. Celebrate today.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

God's time

I had a wipeout yesterday.

Barely moved. Had stomach problems and simply hit the wall. It is still amazing to me after all these years that we can crumble at the least of things. What was my least of things? God isn't moving as fast at my churches as I wanted.

I assumed He needed me. All my gifts. All my graces. All of me. So I gave it to him.


Same folks doing the same things. No new folks. No tv cameras following my every move. Nothing.

So, when sickness came, I crumbled.

The Bible talks about these things (too).

It says this:
1 For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

The thing to note here is that God moves in God's own time. I remind myself of that rather constantly. Maybe God just wanted me to slow down. Maybe God just wanted me to relax. Maybe God just wanted me to know that he's handled it okay so far on his own, he will get past this with me, too.

Then a friend, a dear friend, called this morning to ask if everything was okay with us. Said he had a dream and there were dark clouds over our house. Maybe that's me clouding the issues. Maybe it's me standing in the way of God. Maybe that's me. Period.

God moves in God's time, my friends. The key, I think, is to make ourselves available.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Deep and mysterious answers

Ever think you're wandering?

You know what wandering is, don't you? It's that feeling that you're getting up and getting going but you're not exactly getting anywhere.

So, again, I ask, ever think you're wandering?

I suspect -- strongly -- than many of us think we are. We're trying hard, but we're not getting far. I heard the other day about a man who is considering retirement. He's gotten up every day but once in 38 years to head to work at the same place, same time, same job. He's done his work well, done it hard, done it the best he can. He can retire now. It's not even a case of does he have enough money, for he realizes better than most that you never really have enough.

Nah, the question for him is what does he do with his time if he doesn't get up, have his eggs and head off to the job?

In reading the second chapter of Daniel this morning, I was led to think of this gentleman.

Daniel and his friends were facing an uncertain future because King Nebuchadnezzar had threatened every "wise" person (prophet, astrologer, enchanter, magician, in the land with death because he had a dream and no one was telling him what the dream meant.

Daniel asked for a bit more time to ask God for help, and God answered him. In the second chapter of the book named after Daniel, he prays: "Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars."

Now here's the part that settled on me..."He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light."

Isn't that comforting? Really. Isn't that comforting? I don't have a clue about where I am or where I'm going most of the time, but HE DOES. And when he wants to reveal those deep and mysterious things, on occasion, He simply does.

Daniel tapped into something wonderful. God is the one who knows these things and God is the one who waits for our inquiries and God is the one who answers when God wants to.

Our job is to ask, wait and then thank him.

Daniel completes his prayer this way: "I thank and praise you, God of my ancesters, for you have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of you and revealed to us what the king demanded."

In other words, thanks God for saving my life.

Our prayers need be no less. God gives. God saves. God loves. God is there.

I thank him today for that same wisdom and strength. I don't have to wander or wonder today. I have but to cling to that powerful, life-giving vine and wait for answers. Keep moving, but keep asking. That's God's formula.

Monday, June 21, 2010

He is our home

Psalm 90 says this: Lord, through all the generations you have been our home. Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God. …For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours. You sweep people away like dreams that disappear. They are like grass that springs up in the morning. In the morning it blooms and flourishes, but by evening it is dry and withered.

We are, it seems to me, such fragile creatures. We are unsettled when things don’t go our way, and things don’t go our way often. But God has always been, is now and will always be.

He watches us, enjoys us, is unbelievably attracted to us. He is our God.
He is our love. He is our Master and our guide.

The Bible tells us it is good to give thanks to the Lord. When the joints sing a mournful song, and the bank account wails along and things simply aren’t going that well, it is difficult to do that praise thing sometimes.

But always, before the mountains were born, He was God.
Today as the sun rises in the east and the humidity blossoms like a summer flower, give thanks to our God.

Thank him for good and for challenge. Thank him for the fruits of labor and the labor of fruit. Thank him for giving and for taking. Thank him.

Through all the generations of your family, He has been our home.

He is our God. What more need be?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Blessings abound

I was reading last night from a book called The Good and Beautiful God, a remarkable work by James Bryan Smith.

Just the feeling that Smith gives the reader, the feeling of absolute love for God and by God is remarkable.

One of the things Smith asks of the reader is that the reader fashion a list of what blessings God has given him or her.

While thinking that through, I began to see just how much God has done for me over the years. It is remarkable. God has been incredibly patient with me when I had no patience. God has loved me when I thought little of him. God has watched over me when I was so selfish.

He's given me a super wife, chjust toildren who have little fault and grandchildren who make me smile just to think of them. He gave me a careeer that was filled with days of joy. He now is using me in ways that give me so much pleasure.

Blessings all around. Breath to keep me alive. Eyes, ears, voice, all of which work. I've never had bad health that kept me in tears.

Pets who have brought me joy upon joy.

And then there is Jesus.

Is everything perfect? No. Is everything always great? No. Do I suffer with my back? Yes.

But my problems are but a period on an 81/2 inch by 11 inch notebook paper of blessings.

Take some time this evening and count those blessings. See how much He's given. Thank him. Praise him. Smith while you're doing it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stormy weather

It's a fairly long trip across the lake, the Sea of Galilee as it is called. You see mountains, or at least very tall hills, all around the lake and in the morning you see the mists rise like hands of praise to heaven.

Many years ago, Jesus said to his disciples, 'Let's cross to the other side of the lake."

When he said that, the disciples and our master were on the Jewish side, near the Roman town of Tiberius, which still exists. He was talking about going to the Decapolis, which was a group of Gentile villages on the far side of the lake.

They got into their amazingly small boat for such a lake and the number of people in it and began to cross.

The thing about the weather in Galilee is it comes up quickly over those mountains, so that when Jesus settled down to take a nap as they made their way across the lake, a storm came up quickly.

The disciples were terrified. The boat was filling with water. The disciples went to Jesus and asked for help.

Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves and suddenly the storm was stopped and all was calm. Then he asked them, 'Where is your faith?"

Don't know about them but my first reaction would have been, "We came to you. What faith are you talking about?"

See, what Jesus is talking about happens all the time in our lives. Our faith is called upon when the storms come up quickly, and he's basically saying, "I'm in the boat with you, do you really think I'll let you sink?"

We don't have to worry, fret and cause uclers when the storms come. We know they will. But we have Jesus in the boat with us, not watching from a distance. Our faith is that he will not let us sink, not that he will make everything calm. He could do that with but a rebuke of your problem. What good would that do you? How would that stretch your own faith?

The disciples answered, instead of mine, "Who is this man?"

That's the question for you today. Who do you say he is?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gree day

It's been a glorious day. I slept till 7,got my walk in, weighed and got a good result. I was at the office by 9 a.m. and I worked till noon. I delivered four meals to a home of shut-ins. I took nap. I went back to work by 2 and worked till nearly 5.

I'm still not done with bulletins, power point, planning for next sermon series, taking a first look at the sermon series in July on the Holy Spirit.

The point is, didn't I uaed to do all then on a part-time schedule?

God gives us all we can handle, then we run out and put more on ourselves. See, the reason I must finish early is I'm doing another Kairos prison ministry Friday night and Saturday. I'm rushed, therefore, to finish by Thursday to get any sort of dat off this week.

The Bible says:

18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.

20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
listen closely to my words.

21 Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;

22 for they are life to those who find them
and health to a man's whole body.

23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.

24 Put away perversity from your mouth;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

25 Let your eyes look straight ahead,
fix your gaze directly before you.

26 Make level [b] paths for your feet
and take only ways that are firm.

27 Do not swerve to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.

I especially like the line that says the words of the wise man are like health to the body.

Tonight I had stuffed green pepper and squash/zucchini. I like none of those items, but I understand the benefits they have for me. I understand I can eat these things and live a day longer or I can eath Pizza and ice cream and perhaps not make it to see3 the end result of my work for the Lord.

Makes you wonderr.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Trust is not purchased

It's such a straight-forward little sentence that one might miss the significance if one isn't looking....hard.

The sentence is "During the third year of King Jehoikim's reign in Judah, King Nebuchacdnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and beseiged it."

The follup sentence is just as devastating: "The Lord gave HIM victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah..."

God's chosen people, what's left of them, were defeated for a number of reaons, not the least of which is that the Lord allowed it. Think of that for a moment. Let it perulate. Let it ferment.

God was so tired of the chosen people's faithlessness that He allowed them to be defeated on the battle field, allowed them to be beaten. takrn. allowed them to be taken hostage and made into slaves.

God even allowed their religious "stuff" to be taken.

It was over. Centuries of worship were wiped awat in an instant.

But God used King Nebuchdnezzar, used him to help keep the royal service, used him to keep the blood lines, used him to rebuild the temple HE, Nebuchdnezzar, had destroyed.

Maybe you remember the story of the food, how Daniel convinced the the attendant to test them for 10 days,and at the end of that peiod the four Israelites were in better health than the others who had eaten normal food and drank normal liquid.

The point of the story, Daniel 1 and my own, is that God will take care of you. As we walked this morning, it was made aply larified God is quite capable. Trust him. Trust God to make the way smooth. Trust him.

On my office wall at home is the phrase Oh, that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that your hand would be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain."

That is the prayer of Jabez from 1 Chronicles 4:10.

The 11th verze reads: So God granted him what he requested.

We are going to spend a month or so in the book of Daniel. We are going to stewaa "trusting God even in captivity."

Be strong.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Worshiping in Spiri

The Bible tells us, "Every year his (*Jesus') parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover."

I've taken that trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem. It's just about straight up hill, and walking it would take a day I would imagine. With the 5 o'clock traffic of walkers, it might take two days.

And every year they went.

They would get a group together and trudge up that hill, through those gates and they would go to worship at the temple.

Oh, for that dedication today.

I wonder how many are preparing for worship TODAY. That's what scripture says we should do. We should prepare for worship. We should not go on the spur of the moment. We should not race out of our houses for the services on Sunday morning. Certainly we should not "sleep in" because we had a rough Saturday night.

To these folks, Jesus' parents included, worship wasn't something you did on a whim. It was some serious business.

Paul puts an emphasis on worship in his letters to the church in Corinth. He says this: "Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head..."

What I want you to notice is not the fact he was hung up on what you wear but the fact he thought that there should be respect and preparation for worship. He thought that enough to write a memorable letter dictating what worship should be. A prayer. A Word. Hymns. A tongue (speaking in).

Worship is giving more than you get. Worship is serious, even when it's funny. Worship is simply pouring instead of receiving in the cup.

This week I've been inspired, as I am nearly every Conference. I've been deep into the sermon. I've been deep into the Word. I've been deep into redesigning worship to make it more accessible.

But ultimately it is about the Spirit coming to us and chaning who we are. Can it happen every Sunday? I don't know why not.

Let go and let God move us. That's the remedy for a week of worry and woe. Only Jesus.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Follow the leader

Have you ever given some thought as to what leadership is? How difficut is it to lead people who sometimes do not want to be led?

I can't imagine, really imagine how difficult it is to be president, for example. I can't imagine how difficult it is to lead people to where you believe they should be.

There's a leader in the Bible who impresses me for those reasons. Nehemiah was someone like you and me, a cupbearer to the king. Granted he had access to a leader, a king, that you and I might not have. But he was blue collar at best.

He heard terrible news one day. The walls of his city, Jerusalem, had broken down and its gates had been burned. For a Jew in exile in Babylon, this was excruciating news.

Nehemiah, the Bible says, fasted and mourned and prayed for days. He was not moved a little. He was crushed.

Then the Holy Spirit makes an early appearance.

Nehemiah prays: O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my fathers, have committed against you."

Nehemiah confe3ssed, asked for forgiveness then called on God to "gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name."

This is a cupbearer reminding God of his promises.

The most amazing thing happens. God allows it. The cupbearer is allowed to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the city.

This notion that we are born to privilege and leadership is nonsense. With God as our backer, we are capable of leadership that will build walls and hearts. Maybe we will never be president, but maybe our calling is simply to make a difference in one heart at a time in our own neighborhood.

Nehemiah mourne3d, fasted and prayed, studied scripture, listened to the still small voice of God's spirit in his heart and then he acted on it. That's a leader I will follow.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A glorious morning

The Bible says in the 106th Psalm: "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endues forever; Who can list the glorious miracle sof the Lord? Who can ever praise him enough?"

This morning we walked along the Red River in Shreveport, La. It was a pleasant morning, even with the temperatures here during the day seemingly a few degrees short of hell itself. The mists rose above the river as we walked a path along the river.

At one point, I looked up and the sun was blazing a path across a building ahead and as the morning wind blew softly, I was reminded that I needed, had to, praise the Lord.

This praising thing is a dual blessing, by the way. Not only do we please a loving and most powerful God when we do, but we are raised to a new a loving stature as well.

It is one thing to be mired in pain and suffering and take it grimly. It is another to see what the Lord has done, with beautiful and bountiful trees lining an old, flowing river for example, and praise Him for it.

When you spend a few moments with Him each day, just a few moments if you have no more time, you are raised. You are picked up. You are changed, from the grump your DNA might tell you to be, to the persons of praise that God wants you to be.

As praise music is set to flow and our annual conference's second day is a out to begin, I'm reminded one more time: "There is joy for those who deal justly with others and always do what is right. Remember, me, Lord when you show favor to your people; come near and rescue me."

Life is short, but it is good. Please praise.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Storm driven

We spent time with some old friends this weekend, and I was honored by being able to baptise their one-year-old on Sunday.

We talked about how much we missed each other, and how much we missed the times we had together when we were together at Gretna UMC. It was a time that the Holy Spirit moved greatly upon the land for us. Bible studies were marvelous. We did great, great mission work, with a feeding program at the Wall in the French Quarter. We had a wonderful contemporary service with a great band. We had a $2 million new facility that was drawing 300 persons per Sunday.

Then came Katrina.

And nothing has ever been the same.

Those friends moved to Missouri, one of about four couples who did. We were moved to the Northshore. Eventually our senior pastor, Trey Harris, was moved.

The church stumbled. We were scattered. I've never felt worship like that again.


We go on. We can't duplicate that time, that feeling. But maybe there is some good to come out of all that. There always is, scripture tells us. Romans says that God turns all things to the good of those who love him. That clearly means even Katrina. Maybe especially Katrina, the hurricane of all hurricanes.

We have had, all of us from that cluster of great friends, a chance to spread the gospel in the manner that the apostles were scattered by persecution and had to leave Jerusalem. Would we ever have left otherwise? No, probably not. Neither would the apostles.

So our splitting up should be seen as an opportunity.

Would Mary and I be living 60 miles from our grandkids? No.

But everything is turned to the good.


Even when it is hard to see.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Can you go home again?

I've been exploring deep themes, at least in my head, lately.

Themes like: Can I really not go home again?
Can I not duplicate or replicate the happiness we once had?
Can I clone a Frankie?

For first time or new readers, Frankie was my dog, my best bud, my other side. He slept a lot, liked to gnaw and what we've found out was he was the culprit whenever there was a mistake or accident in terms of puddles on the floor since they have less-than-mysteriously disappeared.

But since he died on Jan. 19, I've found myself drifting to a site called Pet-Finder on my smart phone. I look at little dogs that look something like Frankie more than I like to say. Yesterday, there was Dottie. Dottie was the very image of Frankie, and she is at a shelter not far from where we are currently living.

I am so very tempted. I really am. Can I recreate the joy, the happiness that Frankie brought me?

I think the answer is, well, no.

We are gifted, blessed if you believe, to have what we have when we have it. We go through seasons of joy and through seasons of difficulty and that's just what life is.

Love that God gives is always available, however. It is there that the strength we gain is resourced. It is there, and only there, that we can continually replicate what we have in times of joy -- even if the current physical circumstances aren't that joyous.

I'm thankful beyond knowledge that I had the time with Frankie that I had, but I don't believe even rescuing Dottie would recreate that time any more than playing and practicing baseball with my grandson Gabe can replicate the time I had playing and practicing softball with his mother Shanna.

Clones are not the future. You truly can't go home again, till you go home to heaven again.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The drink offerin g

I'm a bit reflective today.

I was doing my morning reading and I came across Paul's last words, or those that we have in any case.

He was nearing the end. A tired, old body was giving out. He had been under house arrest or worse for more than two years. He was basically imprisoned and the thing he loved most, establishing churches and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, had effectively been taken from him.

He writes to his young charge, Timothy: "1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."

See, with all humility, that's what we strive for. We do all what we do -- and I trust that you are out there doing things for God -- so that one day when the Lord appears (and He will appear) -- we can have the crown of righteousness.

It's more important than new clothes or new cars or new houses or new anything. It's more important than anything you can imagine, and I'm sure you can imagine quite a few things.

We've given up a lot to do this ministry, but not nearly what Jesus gave up so that we might have life. I'm poured out like a drink offering indeed.

But God is with me, God is for me and if so, then who or what can be against me.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Boxed in

Ah, I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but maybe it's just a reflection on the tape on the 3,471 boxes we have in our new "home."

We have gotten to the bottom of the barrel and we have found sox, and shoes, and uh, other things.

It is amazing what we collect over time. We have collected, well, drawers.

I've seen devices I never knew existed, much less that we have. How often did I say, "what is this and what does it do?" over the past couple of weeks.

The Lord speaks of this when He says he will take care of our every need, not our wants. Uh, oh. I've bowed at the foot of the idol of want, I'm afraid. I've thought too much of buying instead of giving. I've spent too much time analyzing what I don't have and trying to obtain it than see what is around me in need.

My prayer today is that all of us give something to someone today. I paid the toll for a person behind my in line at the causeway tollbooth yesterday and it was exciting and fun to watch in my mirror how long it took for the person to understand before they left. Giving is the way, the truth and it is God's life in the kingdom.

Look in your drawers and your cabinets and your heart today and give. It's the Kingdom way to go.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Home again

Ah, we've moved. We spent the night in a new house, a new environment and blessedly on our thera-pedic bed for the first time in almost a month. Despite being as tired as I've ever been, I slept well.

I'm writing from my newest office on my netbook and I'm finding my fingers too big for the keys and the sound doesn't work on the computer because, I'm sure, of something I've done.

But I'm writing.

Mary and I went for a two-mile walk that turned out to be a 1.9-mile walk this morning in the cool brush of spring/summer. It was envigorating as we walked hills for the first time. The brush and the trees were as lush and green as someting in the northeast, and we were briks in our walk.

I've got boxes where my boxes were yesterday and we don't know where my shaving stuff is and this and that and that and this.

But this, dear reader, I know.

Let us pray:
Eternal God, bless this hgome provided as a parsonage to asssure the domestic comfort of all those called of God and appointed by the Bishop to serve this congregation.
Msy those who reside here experience the love and support of this congregation as very special persons in this family of God. Help us to love each other as you have loved us and help us to live in the peace of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord help Mary and I live in this parsonage as a sign of your love and devotion and care.

(*and may our house, which one day will be our home again I pray, be rented soon.