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Thursday, January 31, 2013

“He Will Come Back, Won’t He?”

            Yesterday, my oldest daughter, Haleigh, left for Italy. She is going to study abroad with the program from Harding University. After she left, I felt the saddest emotions I have felt since… well, since we dropped her off at college back in 2011.
            I always enjoyed the writings of the late Erma Bombeck. Years ago, when I was a boy or a young teenager, she related a story that psychologists, writers, and even Ronald Reagan have shared with their audiences. It seemed so apropos to what I was feeling that I thought I would share it with you. Warning, you might want to grab a box of Kleenexes before you read!

            When Mike was three he wanted a sandbox, and his father said, “There goes the yard. We’ll have kids over here day and night and they’ll throw sand and it’ll kill the grass for sure.”
            And Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”
            When Mike was five, he wanted a jungle gym with swings that would take his breath away and bars to take him to the summit.  And his father said, “Good grief!  I’ve seen those things in back yards, and do you know what the yards look like?  Mud holes in a pasture!  Kids digging their gym shoes in the ground.  It’ll kill the grass.”
            And Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”
            Between breaths, when Daddy was blowing up the plastic swimming pool, he warned, “They’ll track water everywhere and they’ll have a million water fights and you won’t be able to take out the garbage without stepping in mud up to your neck and we’ll have the only brown lawn on the block.”
            And Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”
            When Mike was twelve, he volunteered his yard for a camp-out.  As the boys hoisted the tents and drove in the spikes, Mike’s father said, “You know those tents and all those big feet are going to trample down every single blade of grass, don’t you?  Don’t bother to answer.  I know what you’re going to say – ‘It’ll come back’.”
            Just when it looked as if the new seed might take root, winter came and the sled runners beat it into ridges.  And Mike’s father shook his head and said, “I never asked for much in life – only a patch of grass.”
            And Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”
            Now Mike is eighteen.  The lawn this year is beautiful – green and alive and rolling out like a carpet along the drive where gym shoes had trod; along the garage where bicycles used to fall; and around the flower beds where little boys used to dig with teaspoons.
            But Mike’s father doesn’t notice.  He looks anxiously beyond the yard and asks, “Mike will come back, won’t he?”
            Next time you feel irritated with your children, remember Mike’s dad.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Who’s the Fan?

            A video clip has been going around showing a fan at a Miami Heat basketball game making a half court shot to win $75,000. The fun part, though, is to watch what happens afterward. Lebron James immediately runs onto the court and tackles him out of sheer joy. It was an unusual reversal: the fan acted like the superstar; the superstar acted like the fan.
            I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Rom. 12:15, Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (NIV 1984.) If ever anyone modeled rejoicing with those who rejoice, it was Lebron.
            Some of us, I think, struggle more with rejoicing with those who rejoice than weeping with those who weep. We should take a page out of Lebron’s book: even though God has blessed him greatly, he did not obsess over those blessings or himself. Otherwise, he would have missed the chance to truly forget about himself and focus on someone else.
            I’m sure the fan, Michael Drysch, will remember winning $75,000 with satisfaction. I dare say he will look back upon Lebron’s spontaneous hug with even more joy and pleasure.

(Here’s a link to the video: )

Friday, January 25, 2013


            I came across this poem, and it reminded me of how risky God’s call of faith must have sounded to the Christians in the book Hebrews:

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
The hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing does nothing,
            but has nothing and is nothing.
He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he cannot learn, feel, change, grow, or live
Chained by his certitudes, he is a slave; he has
            forfeited his freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.
––Author unknown

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Feeling God’s Presence

            I read of a preacher who once ministered to young parents who had a baby isolated in the quarantine section of a children’s hospital in Los Angeles. The infant was dangerously susceptible to infection. To visit the parents, he had to don protective clothing and walk down a long hall constructed of plastic tarps.            
            The baby, a girl, had been placed in a small hospital bed, also surrounded by plastic, and cut off from the outside world. Her parents had not held or touched her in months.
            The preacher wondered how in the world baby could feel the love of her parents. The mother showed him. She inserted her hands and arms into a specially constructed plastic mold, which formed sleeves and hands. The mother then picked up the baby and cradled the child in her two arms. She leaned over, placed her lips on the plastic, and gave the tiny one a kiss. After the kiss, she rocked the baby back and forth. That mother’s flesh never touched the baby; still, the infant felt her presence and her love.
            It occurred to the minister that our relationship with God is like that. We can't see God, we can't touch God, but we can feel his presence and his love, just as that baby felt the presence and love of her mother.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Yearning and Regret

            Tim Archer shared a link on his blog today to the New York Times and an article concerning the fallout from adultery. Written by a woman who confessed that she knew all too well the consequences of an affair (she had one earlier in her life), this writer expressed clearly the pain resulting from such a poisonous decision.
            She frankly acknowledging that illicit sex, by its very nature, appeals to one’s carnal desires and is stimulating and exciting… in the moment. She adds, however, “What you don’t know, or perhaps what you don’t allow yourself to think about, is that your life will become an unbearable mix of yearning and regret because of it. It will be difficult if not impossible to be in any one place with contentment.”
            Her words serve as an experiential reminder that God’s way is the best way. He calls us to a lifestyle that is not meant to hurt us, but designed to help us. Adultery adulterates what is meant to be unadulterated. It mixes two people together in a relationship that should not be created.
            God designed and equipped us to focus on one person of the opposite sex to love emotionally, mentally, and physically—in marriage. That is all we can handle. To add another to that mix “blows our fuses.” It fragments what was to be unbroken. No one can find contentment under such circumstances.
            While it is true to say “it’s God’s way or the highway”, I prefer to say something equally accurate, “God’s way is the best way.”
Here’s a link to the New York Times story “A Roomful of Yearning and Regret”--

Friday, January 18, 2013

Baby Boomers: The 60's and revisited in 2013

           I thought this was a pretty humours look at my generation, which someone compiled:

Baby Boomers: The 60's and revisited in 2013
Then: Long Hair. 
Now : Longing for hair. 
Then: Acid Rock. 
Now : Acid Reflux. 
Then: Moving to California because it's cool. 
Now : Moving to California because it's warm. 
Then: Trying to look like Marlon Brando or Elizabeth Taylor. 
Now : Trying not to look like Marlon Brando or Elizabeth Taylor. 
Then: Paar. 
Now : AARP. 
Then: Rolling Stones. 
Now : Kidney stones. 
Then: Being called into the principal's office. 
Now : Calling the principal's office. 
Then: Parents begging you to get your hair cut. 
Now : Children begging you to get their heads shaved. 
Then: Passing the driver's test. 
Now : Passing the vision test. 
Then: "Whatever" 
Now : "Depends"

      All I can say is that time has flown by, and I agree with the writer of James: Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14. NIV)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

“My Very Dear Sarah”

            When Judy and I traveled home for our first furlough, Ken Burns had just released his epic film series on the Civil War. As I recall, we rented the first episode from Blockbuster and took it to my mom’s house, where we were visiting, to watch.
            Of course, Burns captured our attention immediately with his groundbreaking effort. However, it was near the end of the first installment that we were hooked. The narrator read a letter written by Major Sullivan Ballou of the Union Army.
            Ballou was a young lawyer and politician who had served as Speaker of the House in Rhode Island. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he left politics and his law practice behind to volunteer.
            Ballou was anticipating a battle that we refer to today as the Battle of Bull Run. Aware of the dangers, he penned a letter to his wife, Sarah, to whom he had been married only a few years.
            I have copied the words and share them with you here. As you read, I hope you note the deep love Sullivan holds for Sarah and his two small sons:

My very dear Sarah:
            The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days–perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
            Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American civilization now leans on the triumph of the government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing, perfectly willing to lay down all my joys in this life to help maintain this government and pay that debt….
            Sarah, my love for you is deathless: it seems to bind me with mighty cables and nothing but omnipotence could break, and yet my love of country comes over me like a strong wind, and bears me irresistibly on, with all these chains, to the battlefield.
            The memories of all the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most deeply grateful to God, and you, that I have enjoyed them so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up, and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood around us.
            If I do not [return], my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless, how foolish I have oftentimes been….
            But, O Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth, and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you in the gladdest day, and in the darkest night, amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours–always, always: and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath: or the cool air cools your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
            Sara, do not mourn me dead: think I am gone, and wait for me, for we shall meet again.
            As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters…. O Sarah, I [will] wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.

            Major Sullivan Ballou died seven days later at the First Battle of Bull Run. Sarah died in 1917. She never remarried.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Mighty Mesquite

            When I lived in West Texas, I hated Mesquite trees. For one thing, I was allergic to them. For another, I thought they were ugly!
            Having said that, James Dobson helped me appreciate one quality about them. He compared them to a tree in the rain forest.
            A typical tree in the rain forest has an easy life. Water is always available. Consequently, the tree does not have to grow roots very deep. Unfortunately for the tree, a mild storm can blow it over to its death.
            On the other hand, a West Texas Mesquite tree is lodged in that region’s dry and unwelcoming land. The adversity leads the Mesquite to drive its roots at least thirty feet down into the soil on a water finding mission. As a result, the most terrible winds of West Texas cannot force the tree to topple. It is anchored to the ground. Adverse conditions actually energize the tree to create a strong survival mechanism.
            Perhaps that is one reason God allows us to face adversity. Mull over what our brother James wrote, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way (James 1:2-4 THE MESSAGE.)
            Nothing like hard times to help us grow deeply rooted in Jesus.
Source: James Dobson, When God Doesn’t Make Sense

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Hands of Jesus

            I read about a city in England, which lay in ruins thanks to the destruction of World War II. Before the war, the city had previously enjoyed the blessing a large statue of Jesus in the city square. The statue had symbolized that Jesus was ever present and available to help. The war severely damaged the sculpture.
            The citizens of that municipality desired to restore the statue. Before the war, the sculpture portrayed Jesus standing in the city square, his hands reaching out and inviting the people to come. Beneath the statue, a sign repeated Jesus’ words, “Come to me.”
            City leaders brought in the best artists and sculptors to reconstruct the damaged artistic work. Unfortunately, the image has so disintegrated that workers could not find enough pieces in the rubble to reconstruct the hands of Jesus.
            A debate ensued. Several advocated that the sculptors create new hands on the statue. Others stated that they should leave the statue without hands.
            If you travel to the city today, you will see a restored statue of Jesus—without hands. But beneath are these words, “Christ has no hands but ours.”
            I appreciate the symbolism of that statement.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What a Pig Can Teach us About Federal Debt

            A parable tells of a pig who ate his fill of acorns under an oak tree and then started to root around the tree. A crow told him, “You should not do this. If you lay bare the roots, the tree will wither and die.”
            “Let it die,” said the pig. “Who cares as long as there are acorns?”
            I have known a lot of people who have had the same view toward life as that pig. I wonder how many of us think like that pig when it comes to federal spending and the federal debt.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Man of Sorrows

[This week, in honor of the popular movie Lincoln, I am sharing my favorite stories from the past three years of TMAS on Abraham Lincoln.]  

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not
 (Is. 53:5.)

I take that passage for granted. What does a “man of sorrows” look like when he is not the son of God?

Years ago, I toyed with the idea of writing a book entitled, THEY WERE PEOPLE TOO. My motivation was to address the tragedies, so many of our nation’s chief executives faced.

Abraham Lincoln knew tragedy. Before the White House years (known then as the Executive Mansion), he and his wife, Mary, lost a son. Then, as president in 1862, during the dark days of the Civil War, Willie, age 11, contracted "the fever." Tragically, he died. Lincoln stoically mourned his loss.

Almost two years later, in February 1864, a fire alarm rang out. The Executive Mansion’s stables were on fire. A tall man dashed out of the mansion and vaulted over a hedge calling out, “Have the horses been taken out?” Seeing they had not, he used his strong hands to rip open the stable door. Inside, the stable was an inferno. In spite of the hellish conditions, the man prepared to sprint inside.

At this point, it dawned on bystanders that the man hurrying inside was the president of the United States. Furthermore, the thought occurred to the captain of his bodyguards, the fire might be arson, set to lure the president outdoors for an attempted assignation. Taking control of the situation, a Captain Bennett of the Union Light Guard, along with some of his men, seized the president and hurried him back into the Executive Mansion.

The night was controlled pandemonium as dozens of men sought to contain the fire and minimize its damage. Sadly, the stables burned to the ground. All of the horses inside perished.

Throughout the night, the president maintained a solitary presence in East Room, standing at the window watching the fire systematically destroy the stable. One of the guards noted the president weeping the entire time. Why? And why had he so foolishly risked his life attempting to rush inside?

Another of Lincoln’s boys, Tad, offered an answer. Inside the stable, was Willie’s favorite pony and constant companion. The president willingly risked his life to save Willie’s pony.