Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Jon-Mical is our 14 month old grandson and he is so smart. Yesterday Doris and I taught him a new trick in 5 seconds. We were listening to a worship CD and I noticed his little arms up over his head so I threw both of my arms up and said, "Praise Jesus!" You are not going to believe this but he caught it right away. He raised both hands up in jubilee and then clapped. HE IS SMART! The rest of the day every time I was around him I'd say "Praise Jesus" and both arms would go straight up in the air.
I couldn't wait for Josh to pick him up so we could show off this new trick. When Josh came in I said, "We taught Jon-Mical a new thing today." Before I had a chance to show of my toddler training skills Josh said, "Oh yeah? I forgot to show you what he's been doing for a week." He turned to Jon-Mical and said "TOUCHDOWN." Jon-Mical's arms shot straight up in the air and then he clapped and clapped. great.
I wonder how many times we are faced with new and challenging circumstances. Everything looks different and we are frightened. We turn to God in desperation hoping He has some new trick up his sleeve to teach us. Maybe there's some special plan that He has kept hidden for 2000 years until just this minute, just for us.
And I wonder if God is not saying, "I taught you what to do a long time ago. Now just do it. The same old stuff works today like it did then. Consistent prayer. Confident faith. Unwavering trust.
Doris and I read every morning out of a little book we love titled, "Jesus Calling." The verse for yesterday was old stuff. No new, fresh, revolutionary idea. Just the things we learned as kids in Sunday School. Say it with me. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path."
We are facing a new day. There are things in the world, in the economy, in our lives that we have never seen before. I have a new suggestion. Let's get back to the old ways, prayer, faith, trust. It works.


PS The story above may have been embellished by an overly proud grandfather. Hey, what else is new?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hold On

My blog today is actually an email response to a friend in ministry that is feeling the effects of the economy. He is frightened and discouraged over the inability to spin enough plates to takes care of his family and also build a fledgling ministry he feels God has called him to. Maybe his plight strikes a chord with you. If so, read on…

“Don't worry about sounding glum. I appreciate knowing where you are and knowing how I can pray for you. I know these are very difficult days and it sounds like the stress is hitting you doubly hard. We men are wired to be the providers and when that role is threatened nothing is more debilitating. You are in my prayers.

I wish I had a fail proof, "do this and everything will be okay" answer but we both know there isn't one. I can tell you some things God is teaching me in all of this.

First, I am learning to focus. When I begin to panic I start frantically running in every direction. When God has called me to do something I need to maintain that focus and work toward that goal. I can't give every effort to my ministry because I have to work hard to feed my family. My days are short and I am stretched thin. But, that is all the more reason to not give my energy to too many things. I work to provide a living and all my other focus goes toward building what God has called me to build. At times like these the thing I have said to my sons for years is especially true, “You can do anything you want to do. You just can’t do everything you want to do.” Paul said it best in Philippians 4, “This one thing I do.” Examine your activity. Look closely at where your energy is going. Regain your focus.

Second, don't discount what God is doing while you are on the backside of the wilderness, both in you and with you. At one period in my life when Doris and I were just entering “recovery,” I had to go to work for Tractor Supply. I can’t tell you how I felt putting on my little pink striped shirt each day and going to sell lawnmowers to young, yuppy, housewives, half my age and ten times my net worth. It was in those days of sheer drudgery and discipline that God did some of his best work in me. I proved to myself, my family, and everyone watching that I could be counted on. I learned the value of putting the one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing. Both Moses and David had to tend sheep before God could use them fully. That's the "in you" part.
The “with you’ part is that He, in those circumstances is still using your testimony and your talents. Come on, your email said you led someone to Christ. Most believers go their whole lives and never do that. If you starve to death tomorrow (which you won't) you have laid up treasures in heaven. You are a mighty man of God and that is true whether you are sitting on the platform of a mega church or fixing lawnmowers at TSC. God WILL come through in your behalf.

Last thing, I didn't mean to preach but I care about you guys, God will honor the prayers of His people. You know that better than I. I will put you on our prayer list. This Tuesday 279 people around the country will pray for you. You have a network of prayer warriors. God is going to provide. You have the privilege of being a great example of faithful living. Some people God can't trust so He keeps them hedged about and protected. You He loves enough and trusts enough to know you will stand strong in the face of seemingly insurmountable opposition so He lets you be at the forefront of the battle because He knows He can use you for His glory. Somewhere He is whispering to another struggling soul today, "Look at my man over there. He doesn't quit." And that soul is encouraged through you. You are Hebrews 11 material. This season in your life is You are Hebrews 11 material. This season in your life is Hall of Faith kind of stuff. If God is who He says He is, (and He is) and you are who He says you are, (and you are) then we know that “all things work together for good.” Don’t even think about giving up. We who are watching you need you to hold on because it gives us strength.

Enough rambling. We will get through this. We will look back someday (face to face) and laugh at how wonderfully God came through. Doris and I will pray for you all today and each day in our devotions. Thank you for your friendship.”

And for the rest of you, “Take your stand…and after you have done all, stand.” You are an inspiration to someone, (someone like me.)


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Geriatric Jesus

“I wish Jesus had lived to be 60.” Isn’t that a strange thing to say? But a former pastor of mine, a man I worked with for several years used to say that all of the time. He was a little eccentric so I just chalked it up to terminal weirdness. Now, at 55, I’m beginning to see the wisdom in such a musing.

There are some things I would like to have seen in the Son of God. Every chapter of life brings new challenges. Every curve in the road opens new vistas. Wouldn’t it be nice to see how He would have walked some of the paths that we face?

For example, how would Jesus have handled the reality of a diminishing voice? Every time I turn on the television and see what’s in vogue, what is being talked about, where the interests of the populous lies, I am reminded that the older I get the less likely I am to be heard. Now I’m not complaining mind you. There is something nice about not having to solve the problems of global warming or economic meltdown in every conversation. I am at the place in my life where I enjoy talking about my grandson and that’s about all that is expected of me anyway. But let’s face it a younger world is listening to a younger voice. From Wall St. to Hollywood Blvd. it is a youth driven culture. Music, money, and mission are all dictated by the leaning of the young. In the most recent presidential election the political pundits touted what the “youth vote” was doing. Like I want the fate of the nation decided by someone who has barely survived puberty. (Ok, maybe I am complaining a little bit.)

The point is, would we listen to a geriatric Jesus? Would we have followed a Savior who shuffled along with an old man’s gait? Now I know we are all quick to say, “Well of course, it’s Jesus.” But I don’t know. We have been pretty fast to turn to the latest fad or give credence to the newest gimmick. Even in the church. Maybe especially in the church. All I’m trying to say is it would be neat to be able to get on Facebook and read the blog of a gray haired Messiah. Did I catch my pastor’s weirdness?

Well, here’s an idea. Maybe Jesus does live at 45 and 60 and 83. Maybe as He breathes in me and you, maybe as He gives us a voice, He is teaching a younger generation how to live with and in grace. Maybe my job as a rapidly maturing old codger is to speak for Jesus to all those young whipper-snappers and say, “He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” The same Jesus that called me to arms at 20 calls me into his arms at 70. The Christ that drove me with fire in my eyes to win the world is the Master that teaches me with a whisper to love it. Maybe His voice is not diminishing, nor is mine. Maybe the work He has for me is as vital and as vibrant as ever. It has just changed its focus.

Well enough rambling for now. I’m going to go Twitter.


Saturday, March 7, 2009


Twelve years ago Josh and Jacob decided to get me the Christmas gift of my dreams. I have always wanted a chocolate Lab, a beautiful dog, as noble in its stature as it is gentle in its demeanor. Just before Christmas in 1997 the boys came walking in with a brown bundle of fur, complete with red bow on its head, and my heart was captured. We named her Coco. (Okay, so we’re not the most creative people in the world.)
If you know anything of my story you know that Coco has been an integral part of it. It didn’t take long for us to recognize that this cute little puppy, a refuge from the local dog pound is about as much Lab as I am British rock star. Her face lacks the strong, bull-like stockiness of a Lab. Her chest doesn’t have the broad, confidence. She is brown and she is big. Beyond that she looks a lot like an 80 pound Chihuahua. But she is mine and I have loved her for 12 years, as much for where she came from as who she was. She was a loving, thoughtful gift from my sons.
Now I confess it has been kind of a love/hate relationship much of the time. Coco has been the topic of many sermons and a number of fits of rage. She has eaten at least a dozen shoes, three tennis rackets, a gas grill, and the engine of a riding lawnmower. She has managed to escape from the most detailed (and expensive) backyard security systems you could imagine. And she is a master of the “I look like I’m coming when you call, no, I’ll runaway” maneuver. She can take me from patting her head and rubbing her belly to screaming obscenities that would make my mother cringe faster that any living creature I know. (She’s kind of like golf in that sense.)
Those of you (all 14) that have read my book, Failure and How I Achieved It, know that Coco was the topic of an entire chapter and has become for me a metaphor for grace and second chances. She was hit by a car 10 years ago, left to die, and I nursed her back to health. From that moment on our relationship changed. She lies on the deck on lazy summer afternoons with her head in my lap and we talk (well, I talk) for hours about things that need to be talked about but never heard. On really cold nights, when we can shame Doris into it, we let her sleep on the kitchen floor and I sleep on the couch in the family room so that she can see I’m close. (And so she won’t pee on the carpet.)
It’s been 12 years, one car wreck, and a lot of miles. Last summer it became obvious that I had to pick her up to put her in the truck to go for walks or out to the cabin. She has been getting slower and slower to move. And last week we took her to the vet. Severe arthritis. Bulging disks. Creeping paralysis. And that was just me. You can’t believe what he said about Coco. I’m not going to go all “Marley and Me” on you but the time has come to say goodbye to Coco.
A couple of nights ago I found her in the corner of our yard, unable to get up to come to the house. This morning I had to pick her up and hold her while she got her wobbly legs under her. She stumbles more than walks now and is starting to vocalize the pain when she moves too quick. Jacob is out of town. We’ll let him get back and on Monday we’ll take her back to the vet for the last time.

Now I can think of a thousand lessons in Coco’s story. I want to write about changing your ways, being accepted even when you don’t look like what others think you should, or learning to trust the heart of the one who takes care of you. Heck, I’ve preached on most of those and used her as an example. I could talk about grace, loyalty, and perseverance. She is a treasure of illustrations and object lessons.
I think what I need to say though instead is just thank you. Thank you Josh and Jacob for tapping into your allowance and your hearts to give me a gift that has lasted 12 years and will live with me forever. Thank you Doris for gritting your teeth and forcing a smile when Coco tracked mud on your carpet and wallowed dog hair on the sofa. Thank you neighbors for being kind and understanding when you called for the hundredth time to let me know she was out. (Except for that one jerk that lives at….oh, I got sidetracked.) Thank you Coco for unashamed enthusiasm and unabashed love, licking my face when I shed unseen tears, for listening to my stories when I was afraid to tell the truth, and for laying at my feet when it felt like I was alone in the world.

And by the way, thank you Master for loving me in the very same way, no, in a far, far greater way than I loved Coco. You have overlooked my messes, indulged my escapes into fantasy, and always, always brought me back home. You have picked me up and held me when I couldn’t get my wobbly feet under me. You have carried me from the pit of my paralysis to the warmth of your chest. You have lifted me up and taken me places that I could never have imagined existed without you. “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” Psalm 8:4

So Monday we’ll do the deed. I hope Josh and Jacob don’t get any ideas about where to take me a few years from now when my joints ache and I fall face down in my food bowl. But, when that time comes, as it will, whatever it looks like, I imagine they will tell funny stories and remember some of the frustrating times that I put them through. Maybe they will try to decide what object lessons to draw from my life and what illustrations to gain from my journey. There will be a lot of things they can say I’m sure. I hope they’ll remember the change, the grace, the transformation. I hope that they feel compelled to just say, “Thank you,” to God and everyone around them. That will be enough.