Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Night Running: Knowing the Way

The days are short and my seven mile run ran out of time. I was on my trails in the woods and it was dark. All I had was the outline of the beaten path to guide me. Running at night like this is sort of other worldly. Not being able to see my feet that well, it was like running over the earth rather than on it; a kind of magic carpet ride in the dark. I had done this trail many times so without seeing, I knew where the trip hazards were. Two large shapes loomed across the trail just ahead: deer, who scampered off a short distance to watch this crazy human run in the dark.

The path God has set before us is well tread, the hazards well-marked. And, even in the dark times when life seems to run out of light, we still can know the Way.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Leaving a Mark

We all want to leave a mark, a memory, a thought, for all who might remain. But why? Isn't that an ego experience, to leave something of us alive here on earth? Is this just a thinly disguised attempt to avoid death? In the secular and in the long term, we will not avoid death. It is hard to accept our own present, and certainly future obscurity. The song goes, "will all who come behind us find us faithful?" But reality suggests that unless we are one of the very, very few, the ones who come behind us won't find us at all.

Except for a few, what we will leave is a nameless influence. The habits, tendencies and beliefs we imprinted through influence, by our own force of character is all that will remain. And in death there is not ego. We will most likely be given credit for that influence we left. And why should we? The habits, tendencies, and beliefs we left are just echoes of the imprints someone nameless left us. We won't get credit and praise. So if a pat on the back in the grave is what we seek; get over it, not going to be.

I think I will let God keep score and try to work not to gain recognition for my legacy or influence, but do what I can, what I am called to do, for the Glory of God. And if good comes from that down through generations past me, they can say, "Look at all God has done."

Monday, November 14, 2016

God Is With Us

It was such a beautiful sunset. The evening was one of those breathe-in experiences. These are times and weather I love. And, though I have a broken hand, and things could be better for a member of my family, I am at peace. No, it can't be explained or understood, but it's there as surely as the sun sets and rises again. In the night now, out in the woods there are all kinds of sounds. Perhaps the wild hogs, the bobcats, an armadillo rooting into the earth, all kinds of uncertainty are out there in the dark just as they are in the journey of our lives. But God is with me. I know that. I know too, it is going to be exciting; sometimes it's going to be scary, but take heart, walk the dark; Emanuel: God is with us.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Dead On

Have you ever had a message just hit you dead center? This below pretty much speaks to me, dead on. Why should I continue to struggle to do this ironman stuff, knowing I am an old, no talent person, ill qualified for this pursuit? And why is a big question? How can God be glorified by me burying myself in this when, most likely: I will fail. I must confess that I can't see the end of it. Perhaps, what is being trained most is my faith and obedience? Nevertheless

"God isn't looking for impressive people; He wants willing ones who will bow the knee in humble submission. Being weak and ordinary doesn't make you useless. Rather, it positions you for a demonstration of divine power in your life. He takes insignificant ones and delights in making them great.

Have you ever considered that your lack of ability, talent, or skill is the ideal setting for a great display of Christ's power and glory? If you are willing to submit to His leading and venture into the scary yet rewarding territory of faith and obedience, He will do great things in and through you."

This comes from Charles Stanley Daily Devotion, for Oct 1, 2016


Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Child's Tale

My grandchildren love off-the-wall-things. Today, I let them spray shaving lotion on my desk, smear it around, draw in it, and eventually clean it up. My youngest granddaughter drew our house. She had all the parts and even had all of us in it, to include my recently deceased mother. To those that came in, she took joy in naming the parts of the house and the people in it.

Then I asked her, "You love this old house, don't you?"
"Uh huh," she answered
She studied a moment and said, "Because you're in it?"

Sometimes I wonder how much usefulness I have left here in this world and then I hear something like this. I am loved, I am needed, and someone's world is made better because I am in it.

Thanks God. I needed that.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Mother's Story

She was 102 when she died after surviving assisting living residence and two nursing homes for six and a half years. My mother was tough. In the assisted living, at one time or the other, there had been bad food, flies in dining room, roaches running wild, mice crawling all over, cricket swarms, inattentive care, lost hearing aids, heating and A/C units that often failed, and falls from which she lay on a hard floor for hours waiting on aides to find her. In the nursing homes, she survived many wounds to her legs from aides trying to transfer her to her wheelchair. She subsisted on food that only someone with a sturdy set of jaws and teeth could eat. She made it through being left unattended in her wheelchair for hours. She recovered time and again from the blistered bottom and the consequent urinary tract infections caused by being left soaked in her urine for hours. She made it through quarantine for a bowel virus caused by antibiotics.

But finally she could not overcome a broken ankle she incurred by being dropped on the floor. At her age the ankle would not heal. The broken bone began working its way out through the flesh and it became on open wound. She endured the pain and the pain medication. Sometimes we could smell the decay of her rotting flesh. Finally, mercifully, she died.

However, in spite of what seemed like worldly indifference, despite all she had had to endure, she never lost the ability or the will to smile. I think that was because she never lost faith or that sense of God's presence that touch of the Master's hand holding hers as she struggled in her seemingly endless storm. She may have often been left unattended but not forgotten or unloved by God.

I had been reading a scripture; I Peter 1:4, and thought of Mother with her beaten and aged body and found the verse, "to an inheritance, incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you." Yeah, that is Mother defiled, subject to corruption and decay, but yet possessing an inheritance in heaven. Through it all, and to the end, she lived like she knew that.

My eight year old granddaughter sat down beside me.

I had a dream last night," she said.

"You did? Tell me about it."

"It was about MawMaw. She was in the house here and she was all different. She was healed. She wasn't sick any more, and she was walking up the stairs to us and she said, 'I've been watching over you.'"

After witnessing first mother's example of enduring faith, I believe now more than ever that we are called out to take up our crosses and carry them well as she did: to live like we know we have reservations in heaven that are confirmed by the Blood of Jesus. Mother is watching over us; smiling. Jesus is too.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What Difference Has God Made?

My mother is old, quite ill, incoherent, in pain, and still she lingers partly in life; partly in death. In response I fret, eat too much, worry, remember, and become conflictive to incompetent caregivers. What a time to go through; sick at heart and mind.

But, in the midst of this haze of despair there is opportunity for witness. What difference does my faith have in how I go through this? What difference has God made? It is a time, an opportunity, to prove; to witness, that indeed, He is able: able to keep me from falling though I stumble. And some who have heard me proclaim my faith will be watching to see if faith fails or is lived out, to see what difference God has made? My troubled times could be my best witness; my finest hour for God. Do I "know how to be abased and how to abound?" Or, do I just know how to talk about it? Do "I know how to be hungry and how to be full?" Or is my allegiance just a Christian tattoo that I wear on my skin but not hold in my heart? Can I live it right now, showing not telling that "I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me?" What difference has God made?

My witness to live out during this opportunity is that God has made all the difference. Because of Him I can let go of myself and go forth in faith relying only upon His unwavering love. And though my own strength is far too weak and though there is a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and though the ache in my heart cries out for this to be over: yes! I can hold on. Yes, I can hold on to Him until He says again, "It is finished."

What difference has God made? All the difference in this world and the one hereafter. Praise God in the storm.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Unexplainable Hope

Just like the resurrection, Hope rose with the dawn. The Texas weather is at its worse as far as I am concerned: heat and stifling humidity for at least the next eight weeks. But Hope survives the heat. And I feel good about the future though it be quite uncertain. Perhaps that Hope is spawned by what I have prayed for most recently: a closer walk with God. I sense that in a way I cannot explain. I know it with a certainty beyond mere reasoning. Ah yes, there it is: Faith; I can know but not understand; "the peace that passeth all understanding." When God comes close so does an unexplainable Hope

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Best Versions of Myself

Self concept is important and I see in pictures. So, I have pictures in my mind and on my computer of the people I like best. Below is a photo of my swim exit; all in pushing toward transition to "run the race set before me." I like this guy. He is purposeful, committed, and all in for life.

The other picture in my mind is of myself in an attitude of thankfulness, humility, and reverence to the God who has allowed me these moments of purpose, commitment, and high points in life. In this photo the race has been completed and I am complete; all in for life with God, now and forevermore.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Broken and Mended

Have you ever had some event or behavior put distance between you and a friend, a spouse, or family member. Conversation is tentative and strained. Communication is rigid, almost formal, lacking substance and real meaning. What if that kind distance has become between you and God? What is you can't pray and stay focused? What if you pray with no faith in that prayer? What if prayer seems to "echo empty down the hall?" What if you know your prayer went nowhere?

What went wrong between God and I? Where is the unconfessed sin, the sinful habit I am unwilling to acknowledge and give up? Why can't I clear the communication lines between me and God? Why do I feel like I have been forsaken? Now I sense a small piece of the agony Jesus felt on the cross when He said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

But that thought turned me around and started to bring me back. It was not God that moved. I had. With a dying mother and prayers that were answered "not yet," I had become a petulant child wanting it now. I had not been forsaken. I had let pride and anger make me forsake my faith that "all things work together for good for those are called according to His purpose."
Prayer and tears came easily then. I had been broken. I had been mended.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Launching Our Faith

Luke 5:4
No when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught."

Jesus had been talking to the crowd by the seaside. The crowd pressed upon Him so that he entered into a fishing boat, thrust out a little from land, and taught from there. But, when He was finished talking, things happened. The fishermen had caught no fish after fishing all night. Jesus told them to do two things: launch out into the deep, and let down the nets.

Isn't He telling us that as well. Reading His Word, hearing His message, and being a follower will reach a maturity point where Jesus tells us to step up our game. The nice warm fuzzies of fellowship, comfortable pews, inspiring music, and the accumulation of Biblical knowledge are expanded when Jesus tells us to launch our faith out into deeper water. Nodding ascent, raised hands, and loud amens will now be accompanied by higher personal risk. All we have tried to accomplish on our own will be left to our faith that God knows and God will. We may have to leave the comfort of congregation on the shore; push off into the deep and cast our nets, as fishers of men; fishers for God. But, we can't do that until we get in deep - in the deep water in a small boat; "looking to God, the author and finisher of our faith."

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

It Is Well With My Soul

Cool evening, beautiful sunset, orange through the tree, the evening still: Peace outside. Peace inside. It is well with my soul. After all the ups and downs, the trials, the successes, and the pain, tonight, I praise God for all of it and for bringing me to this place with myself; this place with Him: It is well with my soul.

This moment is one of those I think I always seek for, and I know the noise of the world will pollute this connection and it won't be as clear any longer. Tonight I could die and just move from here to there. It is well with my soul. I will sleep well tonight because all the days headaches and heartaches, all the meanness the world can throw at me, has had this peace thrown over it like a blanket. I can't truly explain it. I surely cannot define or adequately describe this closeness with God I feel at this moment. What else can I say but, it is well with my soul.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Fix It

Visits to my aged mother are tough duty now. One factor is that it drives me out of feel-good, rah, rah and forces me to confront the truth about the realities of life - not just those of an aged mother, but those of my own as well.

Confrontation with truth could be one of the reasons there are not a lot of visitors of residents in a nursing home.
Another may be that when we experience our loved one baffled, confused, half aware, blind, deaf, and fumbling for words she can't remember, we want to fix it. But we cant'. Again, our own limitations, our own mortality, our own feeble humanness becomes painfully apparently. Oh yes, I have it all together yet my mother is laying there, a mental and physical invalid, and my poor powers cannot help. I am not able to fix it.

"I want to go to my home," my mother said.

"You are home. You are not at the hospital anymore."

"I know, but I don't like it here. I want to go home."

"Mother, we sold your house years ago when you went to the nursing home.",death She studied me for a minute.

"I don't have that, but I don't like it here."

"Mother do you know where you are? You are in the nursing home."

"I know I am in a nursing home."

"Where is home then, Mother." She fumbled with her sheets and mumbled, trying to put together thought and words locked apart in her mind. She looked up at me with sad,fretting eyes in apparent frustration of failing to articulate meaning.

Finally she said, "I am no good for nothing here. I am not doing anything good here, like this." I didn't answer. She looked up at me with a stern and steady gaze, which I thought meant, "Can't you fix it." Like a wave, helplessness curled in upon me, and covered me up. The vivid truth humbled me. As I looked into her eyes I thought: I can't fix it. Past all I can do to hide and deny, past all the propaganda, I am just a man. I just can't "fix it." I can't even fix it for myself. I need Jesus for that. I was empty. I could be filled now.

I could see much more in her intent gaze. As we continued to study each other's face, her look seemed to say something more, something more eternal than "fix it." The eyes seemed to say, "I want to go home. I want to see Jesus."

"Do you want to go see Jesus, Mother."
"Yes." A smile came into her eyes.

-Come Lord Jesus - Fix It.

Mother died peacefully July, 20, 2016; once broken, now mended: once part, now whole, restored and renewed; fixed by Jesus.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

But, It Is

My mother will be one hundred and two in July. She is in a nursing home. She is losing her mind - something that she has always hoped wouldn't happen. But, it is. And I don't like it that she can't walk, has a broken ankle, is bedridden, sleeps all the time. I wish it wasn't so; but it is. That is the way things really are - a bitter pill to swallow at the end of it all. But, it just is.

End of it all? Yesterday, I was sitting by her bed, trying my best to carry on a conversation with her. She mumbled sounds that were unintelligible, and I smiled and nodded in agreement. Conversations with her are real work now. She said she had sandwiches for breakfast, and that she had heard a wonderful sermon that morning. Where did she hear a sermon: she has no TV. She doesn't go down to the lunch room when they have Sunday services in the home. Besides, it was Saturday. No services were scheduled. Where did she hear a sermon? She didn't say it was on the television. She could only say it was "here."

Conversations have to improvised. "What was the sermon about that you loved so much?" She fumbled and stuttered for words. "What? Eternal life?"

"Yes eternal life." I heard that clearly.

"Do you believe in eternal life."
"Uh-huh." She shook her head yes.
"I do too, Mother. Jesus said, 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish----" She broke in.

"But have eternal life." I was floored that she could finish my scripture. Moments before she was confused about her breakfast; didn't know what day it was; couldn't form words or speak coherently. Now, she was speaking quite clearly and finishing off a scripture quote. Perhaps she had heard a sermon. Perhaps God was trying to reassure her here in her last days that, indeed, this miserable life she is living now will transform into the blessed eternal: eternal life. Perhaps, God, through Mother, was trying to reassure me as well, because "now more than ever I cherish the cross. Now more than ever, I sense the reality that is eternal life. I may not understand it. But, it just is. Praise God.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

I Want to Look Like You

At the pool where I sometimes swim, there is often a man there who is, what may be considered, morbidly obese. One day he just sat in the chair on the side of the pool and watched me swim lap after lap. The next time that we were both there H did a sort of dog paddle to one end of the pool, then rested and dog peddled back. He did this a few times before quitting. That is what he did every time we were there together, but each time he did more laps. I did my best to encourage him, and he seemed to appreciate it and take it in the spirit it was offered.

Just the other day he dog paddled many more laps than he had ever done before. When he finally got out of the pool, I stopped to compliment him on his long workout. He said he was trying; doing the best he could. Then he said, "I want to look like you." I was sort of taken aback, not knowing what to say but thanks.

I didn't think I really looked all that good, so I felt especially honored by the compliment. I was glad that at 72 years of age I could still do something that might inspire someone. However, wouldn't it have been great if he had been talking of the Jesus he had seen in me? Sure I try hard not to miss my swim/bike/run workouts, but am I working out hard enough, often enough, intensely enough in my walk with Jesus that others might see that faith and say, "I want to look like you." Help me be that person, Lord.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Care Through Prayer

We often go through our lives with such focus that we don't fully see the pain and trials of others. Cancer is a life changer. It effects the victim and the those that are close to the victim in a deep and profound way. I can't believe God would not want us to care through our prayer for those hurting under the weight of this dread disease.

I began wearing a yellow wristband to remind me to pray for a particular person and family, effected by cancer. When I am riding on my bike, running, or even swimming, I see the band and pray right then for someone. But, the prayer list for my yellow band reminder has grown substantially. It is amazing how the number of the people I needed to pray increased as I opened up my heart and life to give voice to my concerns for cancer victims. The more it seems I care; the more I am at prayer; and the more I am aware of the hurt and torment this disease causes. I can't cure cancer, but I can be reminded by my yellow band, and apply a dose of love through prayer to a God bigger than cancer.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

We Read Our Bible Too

The other day some firewood fell off the rack and cut me on the arm and one large piece landing on my foot. The top of the foot turned blue. While sitting in a chair my seven year old granddaughter brought an ice bag, put it on my foot and tied it down. I was warmed by that and told her so.

She said, "Pop-Pop, I'm a Christian and Christians help people and I read my Bible too."

That simple faith. That childlike faith. That is what Christians do. We help people. We bring a bag of cold water to a sore foot in His name. And, we read our Bible too.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Pruned by God

Pruning one's life hurts. Sometimes it looks like the pruning has done us in. Wounds on our tree are everywhere. Nothing but the limbs that make us beautiful in God's eyes and grow remain. The wounds heal over. We do not die. We are only pruned to look more like Jesus. And, when our tree is pruned we can bear more fruit that before when our lives were burdened with cares of the world and our fleshly appetites. Yeah, I have been pruned. Haven't you? Didn't it hurt at first? Aren't we better off and growing more toward Jesus and bearing more fruit for the Kingdom because we have been Godly pruned.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Our Only Hope

We are recognized by our hope. We seemingly have hope in a hopeless world. Seeing this, the world wonders, "how can that be" Are these people insane? Haven't you heard the news? Only a fool would have hope in today's world." But today's world is not really different than yesterday's world. There were no "good old days." Even those from the supposedly "good old days" sinned and fell "short of the Glory of God." In our time and in the times before there is , and has not been, any hope in this world aside from Jesus Christ. Our "only Hope, God's only Son."

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Going To My Father's House.

My granddaughter was playing on big pile of dirt, enjoying the simplicity of things that children seem so easily to enjoy. We were on my road that lead through the woods. I was there with her, dozing in my truck to protect and defend if necessary, or just to watch and care. We were safe here in this part of the world; this little island of security in an insecure and unsettled world. My eyes opened when I heard a voice. It was my granddaughter's voice; a quiet tone, singing I am going to my Father's house. There in the woods on this dirt pile, with her grandfather being near, she felt safety,security, and comfort in the midst of all that is wrong in the world.

We are His children, and even in this place and time, our Father "neither slumbers or sleeps." He is watching over us as we play out our lives on our little hills of this world. We are HIs: "in this world but not of it" and our ultimate security is not our little islands in a forest but within His everlasting arms. In the same manner that I was standing watch for my granddaughter, our Heavenly Father is standing watch for us as we continue on our journey through this world, going to our Father's house.