Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Carpenter

I've done a lot of remodeling in our home. I'm not the best carpenter, but I try. My carpentering is hard on my thumb because I often hit the wrong nail. Nevertheless, I've learned that drywall and paneling can cover a lot of mistakes. Wide trim can even cover mistakes in the drywall or paneling. Frequently, we mess up our lives. Things get out of square. We get on the wrong line. Some of our attitudes and behaviors are too short while others are too long. I'm grateful the Lord, who was a carpenter, can finish out our lives with beauty. He is after all the master carpenter and that's good news.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Our Energy Account

I have several tasks around our home on Saturday mornings. One of those tasks is to wind our clocks. We have two old timepieces which chime on the hour and half-hour. The springs in those old clocks are their source of energy. However, they have to be wound-up; otherwise, the clocks are only correct twice a day and they are silent. By being wound-up I don't mean becoming anxious, nervous, tense, etc. Rather, I mean securing the energy to keep on ticking and chiming-in appropriately. When I've run out of energy, I'm usually not very reliable, make mistakes, over-react and I chime-in at the wrong time. My source of energy or being wound-up is a daily time of meditation/silence. It is a good practice to discern what deposits energy into our energy accounts and what debits or drains our energy account. Failure to make this discernment and practice regular energy deposits, may cause our energy account to become bankrupt.

Monday, July 10, 2017

What Do You See?

"Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been? I've been to London to look at the Queen. Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you do there? I frightened a little mouse under her chair." Can you imagine going to London to see the Queen and reporting seeing and frightening a mouse.  A cat will focus on a mouse because that a cat's nature  Often what we see and report tells us more about ourselves than we realize.    A person with a negative spirit, in almost any situation, will report a negative thought, evaluation, etc.  My mother called them "crape hangers," i.e., those who hung black crepe paper on the door indicating a death.  I think we need to pay attention to what we see and talk about, it may open our eyes and hearts to the kind of person we are becoming.  In Zachariah 4 the angel asked "What do you see?" (vs 2).  At first he only saw the menorah but with some help from the Angel, he saw the word of the Lord, "'Not by power, nor by might, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord." (vs. 6).  I think a good question for all of us, especially in difficult times, is "What do you see?"

Choose Your Rut Carefully

In his book, To Dream Again, Robert Dale tells a favorite story. As numerous wagon trains left St. Joseph, Missouri, during the 1849 gold rush days, for a trip across the prairies which were already rutted by the tracks of earlier wagons, they read this sobering message at the western edge of town, "Choose your rut carefully, you may be in it all the way to California. It seems that we need to be careful about the patterns and habits which we develop in our lives. Patterns such as, attitudes, habits, thought patterns, behaviors, etc. We may be in those patterns or ruts for the rest of our life.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Moving On Up

"Moving On Up" was the song in the TV series The Jefferson's. I like that song as well as the concept of moving on up. I also liked that TV series. When asked about the secret for his military success, a Commander responded, "Go to higher ground and the enemy will retreat." I think that's good advise, not only for the military, but also for living. When we sense some type of an "attack" we need to move to higher ground. Move up to higher values, nobler thoughts, elevate our sights. On of my favorite hymns sings, ""I'm pressing on the upward way, new heights I'm gaining everyday. My heart has no desire to stay with doubts and fears dismay. I want to live above the world, tho Satan's darts at me are hurled ... Lord, lead me on to higher ground." I think any of us can be better today than we were yesterday. We can move on up to higher ground.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Embedded Thinking

"Freedom is a life lived outside the straight jacket of fear and anxiety that controls most of us."  That quote is from Saving Jesus From the Church, by Robin Meyers. I bought the book because I liked the title. I also like the idea that we've trapped Jesus in our institutional and embedded thinking. The author's theology proved too liberal for me. However, one of my reading practices is to read some authors with whom I think I may disagree. I want to know how they think and explain their ideas. Too often we only give attention to those with whom we know we will agree. This is called "embedded thinking." It is the thinking, ideas, beliefs, etc. with which we grew up and which are mentally and emotionally safe. Perhaps it is our fear and anxiety that causes us to become controlled and trapped by our embedded thinking; maybe, we've even tried to trap Jesus by our embedded thinking into whom we want Him to be and say. Embedded thinking wants Jesus to be "safe."

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Truck's Check Engine Light

My father, prior to his death, gave his 1995 Chevrolet S-10 pick-up to our son. That son recently purchased a new car so the pick-up will now be mine. The pickup has a lot of miles on it. I'm sure that I don't ever want to get too far out of town with it. The truck has a lot of rust spots. The spare tire, which used to be kept by a cable under the truck bed, fell off in the middle of a busy intersection a few weeks ago. Rust had finally eaten through the cable. The pick-up has a clutch and stick shift so neighbors who've asked to borrow it, come back to the house saying, "I don't know how to drive that." For sentimental reasons as well as my belief that every family needs an old truck--you never know when you, family or a friend might need it, so I'll keep it. A colleague and I recently used the truck to carry some furniture to his Church. As we loaded the furniture two small rusted parts seemed to fall out of under the bed, but we couldn't see what they were so we went on. As we drove to his Church, the truck began making a squeaking noise but it stopped by the time we reached the Church. On the return trip the "Check Engine" warning light came on, so we slowed down. That warning light went off before we got back to the house. Maybe the old truck fixed itself or perhaps it was just reminding me to slow down because it didn't want to go so fast. Most of us need a personal "Check Engine" warning light to remind us to slow down. Maybe we already have those "Check engine" warning lights but we don't recognize them. Anger, anxiety, confusion, forgetfulness, hurriedness, obsessed with work, too much time on the phone or computer, etc., could these things possibly beT a "Check Engine" warning light?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Innocent and Sober Trust

Trust is one of those words and concepts that we seem to use regularly and without much clarity or distinction. We trust our spouse, the bank, the car to start and we trust Jesus.  Some folks seem to trust easily whereas others expect someone or an organization to earn their trust.  I have come to think of at least two types of trust.  The first is what I've called "innocent trust."  It is that trust that comes most easily.  It is trusting someone or some organization because they have given us no reason to be suspicious or not to trust them.  Some folks have so much innocent trust that they get hurt easily by their naivete.   The other type of trust, I call "sober trust."  This type of  expects someone or an organization to earn their trust.  It is the type of trust that must be earned when someone has given others reasons to be suspicious of them.  If a spouse has had an affair, for example, there will no longer be any innocent trust.  That type of trust is gone and can't be recovered.  However, if the offending spouse will work at being trustworthy, he or she may earn sober trust.  Sober trust has lost its innocence. However the person may be willing to trust again, but with a much more sober view of reality.  Sober trust is hard work and will involve the grief of loosing innocent trust.   How does one earn sober trust?  It may be earned one day at a time as the offending person gives evidence of his/her trustworthiness and the other person must be willing to take the risks that are part of trusting.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Having a Future Story

I spend a lot of time in the counseling room with couples whose youngest child is about to leave or has left home.  The issue with most of these couples is that there has been some type of an affair, emotional and/or physical.  Most of these affairs have been with a colleague at work, a friend, a church member, etc.  These affairs almost always begin with trying to help the other during a difficult time.  They've attempted to help but didn't recognize appropriate boundaries.  The couples in my counseling room seem to spend a lot of time trying to figure out the past which involves finding a "cause" or blaming the other, a circumstance, etc.  They have a difficult time focusing on the future.  They've worked well together raising their children, establishing a comfortable home and life-style, supported each other in their education and career development.  However, it is as if their "job" is now finished.  They are partners, but without a common task.  Those common tasks are the building blocks of intimacy along with communication, conflict resolution skills, financial responsibility, mutual accountability, affirmation, affection, etc.  Whatever hope may be, surely it involves having a future story.  The couples I see in the counseling room usually have no significant future story.  Maintenance of the status quo may be important, but it isn't a significant future story.


Monday, March 13, 2017


On our recent trip to southwest Oklahoma, we recalled again an important lesson about identity.  No one asked me what I did until I prayed prior to the meal provided the family and friends at the Church.  After the prayer, a couple of folks asked me, "Are you a Preacher?"  I said, "Yes" and then realized no one asked where I was a Pastor or to what denomination I belonged.  Many times, however, we were asked how we were connected to the family.  Identity was family oriented, not work related.  We were Melvin and Alma's oldest daughter and her husband, the daughter that moved away.  We were E.R. and Jackie's niece and husband.  Back in central Oklahoma where I grew up, I was always Russell and Irene's oldest boy.  It didn't matter that I'm 75 years of age and they died in 1986 and 1997, I was always their boy.  I was either Russell and Irene's oldest boy or Hade and Alice's middle grandson.  On my mother's side of the family, I was Ada's second grandson.  My identity was related to the family and birth.  I think it must be like that in God's Kingdom.  It matters whose we are, not so much what we do.  What we do, i.e., vocation, ministry, etc., is important, but it may not be as significant in determining our identity as we often think.  Was something like this what Jesus had in mind when he said to those who've worked for Him, "I never knew you, depart from me" (Matthew 7:21-23)?  My identity is intimately related to my relationship with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.  What I do is important, but it isn't the main thing.