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September 2017

Loving God and Hating Evil



What do you hate? What angers your soul?

Perhaps the key to knowing that is to identify what you love most and what warms your soul with life purpose.

The psalmist wrestled with the competing forces of eternal goodness and pervasive evil. He was faced with arrogance of the wicked and it triggered his deepest resistance.

Arrogance is no friend of truth, righteousness, justice, and God. Boasting is no companion of goodness. It attracts the same judgment upon ourselves that we think we want for everyone else. It is egocentric, narrow, distorted, and unbecoming of those given power to exercise for the good of others.

We have all been given power to exercise for the good of others.

Grant, oh God, that I shall not be counted among the evil doers today. This is not a trite request. The potential is ever present for me to be very, very bad and do great damage to Your cause and Your people. Lead me not, into temptation and deliver me from evil for All power, all Kingdom authority, and all glory is Yours. Amen.

They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast." - Psalm 94:4 ESV

We live in a real world where atrocities are as close as our television and computer screens or our radios --- or even a trip across town. We are invited to complain to God. Here is one that is fairly useful even today:

"They crush your people, O LORD,
and afflict your heritage.
They kill the widow and the sojourner,
and murder the fatherless;
and they say, “The LORD does not see;
the God of Jacob does not perceive.”"
(Psalm 94:5-7 ESV)

We are invited to complain, but not to fret. Nations --- any nation and all nations --- only appear to be as potent as they portend. In the end, they also are subject to discipline and rebuke. It is the nations who are gathered for judgment in Matthew 25.

It is the powers of the earth who are evaluated and separated on the basis of how they treated the brethren of Jesus.

" For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’"

"Nations" can be translated "peoples," but implies our collective identities.

So, our powers are subject to higher authority.

"He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge - the LORD—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath." - Psalm 94:10-11 ESV

Reading on, we see institutionalized and legalized injustice, injustice framed by statute.

We must lawfully, respectfully, and peacefully resist statutes and institutionalized injustice.

This is a great tension, but is at the heart of non-violent resistance to all forms of racism and oppression of people. What I struggle with is how much of a price am I willing to pay in such resistance? Just being honest; it gets very comfortable just to go along with things as they are.

What do you think? Everyone will have their own interpretation of who the wicked are - some will say the Democrats; some will say the Republicans. No one will call out the minor "parties" for they are no threat. Some will say the multinational corporations; some will target "the media."

The point is, it is not "them" we should be targeting or concerned about .... IT IS WE!

"Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute?" - Psalm 94:20 ESV

Governments, structures, systems, institutions and people themselves possess power. We are kings in our own realms of influence and position.

How we use power is at the core of the integration of our faith and our lives. Self interest and the interests of our own class, narrow community, constituencies, supporters, friends, and family cannot be counted as a quest for justice and equity. Justice and righteousness call forth a God-perspective on people and especially a bias for those whose voice is least likely to be heard. David was honored, in his time, for the perception that he was a champion of those who were poor, dispossessed, oppressed, and downtrodden.

"The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob."- Psalm 99:4 ESV

Am I ready of this? Am I ready to embrace a God who forgives me, but avenges my wrongdoings? I am when I understand that He absorbs the vengeance upon Himself and executes His wrath upon His own body. Then He counts it as if I have paid. This is the ironic and unfathomable mystery of mercy and grace with atonement and redemption. Jesus recites the psalms and then, like a magnet, attracts to himself, every curse and condemnation to the end that we may be forgiven.

"O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings." - Psalm 99:8 ESV

This seems like a rather logical progression:

Love God; then hate evil.

Anything else would be a contradiction.

But there have been such contradictions in history and one might venture to suggest that we have, ourselves, at times, led contradictory lives.

The opposite is integration of faith and life. Integration = Integrity.

"O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked." - Psalm 97:10 ESV

We get angry and then we get to choose what will become of our anger. Will we let God shape it into a force of loving defiance of the evil? 

Will we let it reinforce our courage and resolve?

Will we let it be for good or will we allow it to create more evil.

Our choice.



When the Land Mourns, Do We?

" ... the land mourns ..."

I often drive around my city.

Often, I mourn. I see all of this and more.

God, please don't stop breaking my heart for the cities. Keep me tender and wounded within for the brokenness I see. Give my soul no complacency or retreat from the nagging call to bring this all before You and bring Your call of steadfast love to the ears and hearts of people.

"Hear the word of the LORD, O children of Israel,
for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
and no knowledge of God in the land;
there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Therefore the land mourns,
and all who dwell in it languish,
and also the beasts of the field
and the birds of the heavens,
and even the fish of the sea are taken away."
(Hosea 4:1-3 ESV)

Shine, Rising Sun!


Shine, rising sun upon these steps I take.
It is a dark world this morning, but it is morning.
Early, comes morning and only hopeful people venture forth.
The world is dark. Is it?
Then why is it that I see the road before me and little obstacles in my path?
Why is it that I can see if everything is dark?
It must be something else because it is not totally dark.
It is in the balance and I can see. Can you see.
Brahms walks with me as I walk, awakening the dawn.
He speaks to me through my ear plugs and God speaks through him and ...
Bounce, step, bounce, I am on my way and the music and the bounce and ...
The slight light of dawning informs my steps and I hope
And hope rises and the sun rises, summoned by Composer and Conductor.
The music of the universe awakens the morning and the sun rises and
All is well.
Look not at the darkness; walk in the light you have and keep walking
As the sun rises.

A Prayer from Distractable Me

Father ... I am a "dis-tractable" soul. You know that and I know that and I am amazed how You have accommodated that in me and taught me to manage within the margins of my "dis-tractability" to find a tract within which I can live and seek you and find traction for my journey.

I don't slip as much as one might expect. I don't wander as far as I might. I don't fall off as many cliffs as I might fear and I don't lose sight of You as much as I would were it not for Your hand upon me.

I live by grace, in grace, and with much grace poured over me.

I swim in it, drink of it, and am refreshed daily by it.

Grace, grace, God's grace.

Father, You know why I am up so early. I need not be commended. I need this to survive.

It looks like I am doing many things .,. many things ... many distractions creeping in ... but in fact, I am up for One Thing.

I am here to meet You.

And I do.

Around every corner, You are there. In the thoughts and words of friends, You are there. In the prayer requests that tumble down into my lap. the scriptures that emerge constantly, the thoughts that come and go, the words that linger and are recorded, You are there!

You are there and I get to spend this time with You and some of it with some of my dear and precious friends who, I pray, will share in this blessing.

You are HERE! You are in this space, this large space that I must make for meeting you, this block of time, this TRACT where I can find some TRACTION because I am so dis-TRACT-able.

Keep me on tract today, Lord.

I am Yours.

In Jesus' Name.


Our Dwelling Place

Life is a process. Real life is no shallow exercise of mundane motions, but an interwoven tapestry of threads that journey through, across, and deep within the relationships of many threads and weaves until a unity emerges.

Here is Psalm 90 (KJV) with an Ives setting to listen to as you read if you can read and listen to Ives at the same time.

Charles Ives is not for musical cowards or spiritual wimps. He captures the ambiguities and resolutions of faith at a level that is often contradictory to the cursory view, but is, in fact, in perfect harmony with the realities of divine providence and direction.

Life is not a steady slope. Nor is it always a clear path, but the Lord is our dwelling place in the midst. He teaches us to number our days. He multiples the works of our hands.

He is with us.

Hear the Word of the LORD as sung and reflected upon by the psalmist:

''Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.''

''Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.''

''Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.''

''For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.''

''Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.''

''In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.''

''For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.''

''Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.''

''For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.''

''The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.''

''Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.''

''So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.''

''Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.''

''O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.''

''Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.

''Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.''

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it."





image from
"Theotokos" means "God-bearer." 

Rachmaninov composed it as a tribute to Mary, who bore the Son of God and in whom God was incarnate, appealing to her prayers on our behalf.

That being said, are you not a God-bearer in whom the Son of God incarnates Himself in the world and through whom He shows His love and compassion for humanity?

Therefore, are you, we, and all of us not called upon to pray for one another this morning? (James 5:16)

To be ever vigilant in prayer? (Colossians 4:2-4)

To be grave conquerers? (Romans 8:37)

There are people who are hoping in our intercessions as we hope in the intercessions of others.

Bear God, this morning, to a hurting world. Bear God as light in darkness. Share His love. Do His bidding. Lift the fallen. Bring hope where there is no hope. Feed the hungry. Heal the sick.

Raise the dead.

Freely, you have received; freely give.


It is sure easy to write with the Russian State Symphony Capella in the background singing Rachmaninov.


In Psalm 88, the singer of psalms is distressed and overwhelmed with a sense of alienation. He feels that his condition is so revolting that his friends, loved ones, and even God cannot bear to look upon him. He cannot stand under the weight of his own isolation.

Still, he prays, with more desperation than faith, "But I, O Lord, cry yto you; in the morning my prayer comes before you."

What does the placement of the psalms in the canon mean? Is there a swelling of lament until one works his or her way toward a statement of faith?

That would be much like our spiritual development and journey.

So, a short while later, if singing the psaltery, one would come to old number 91 and faith would take a solid foothold upon the mind as well as the heart, informing the mood of the song:

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “'My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.'”

(Psalm 91:1-2 ESV)

Can we keep singing and seeking when the mood is not right and our hearts are not in it? Can we continue to reach when that for which we reach is far beyond our grasp? Can we receive the invisible, inconceivable, and unatainable from God when we sense no reciprocation in our prayers? God is alreaddy giving more than we are asking.

What we need to do is dwell, yeah, abide.

There Are No Small Assingments

Are you "stuck" in work you feel is insignificant and at the lowest place on the chain of importance?

Are you doing menial work when you feel you have a greater calling?

Look at David. His entire schooling was doing what kids do in a family like his - chasing ewes, shepherding sheep. He had the lowest job status in the family.

Yet David, apparently, grasped the parallels. He realized that the lowest work was really at the heart of the greatest work. To serve, to lead, to protect a great people was really just a larger context of what he had been doing in his youth - shepherding people, like he shepherded sheep.

He emerges from obscurity from among hundreds of thousands who had great potential.

He emerges from obscurity to leadership. His significance was not hindered by his lowly position. He did his entry level work faithfully. The greater work came later --- yet sooner than he expected.

He was taken from the sheepfolds.

"He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand."
(Psalm 78:70-72 ESV)
Keep this in mind when you are tempted to feel like a small person in a small work. You are either doing something that no one else has been called to do in quite the same way at quite the same time and place or you are being prepared for that sort of work.


Either way, it is up to God to assign and up to us to accept the assignment.

I can think of no greater honor than to be ...
a Servant.

Hating Nineveh

image from
When you get to the real reason why Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh, it is not pretty. He hated the people of Nineveh more than he loved God. He did not hate God. In fact, he loved God ... but not more than he hated Nineveh.
That is a bold statement and when I make it, I know the contradictions.
There was a history. It was enough of a history, intermingled with both good and bad religion to justify Jonah's bitterness in his own mind.
He could even rationalize his hatred as love for God.
The Ninevites had been the conquerors and oppressors of his people. They worshiped false gods. They were enemies of God's people. Therefore, loving God and protecting God's honor required hating them.
Not only did Jonah hate those people and want to see them destroyed, He knew some things about God ... things from which he had directly benefited ... things that caused him conflict.
God was a gracious and merciful God. That was OK when he needed grace and mercy, but not when the Ninevites needed it. Hr was a person of privilege, a citizen of a chosen nation.
They were ... well ... they were something less.
They were "those people."
Never mind that "those people" were people. They had children and emotions as well as the capacity for fear and for regret. They also had the capacity to desire to repent.
Jonah knew that God would not back him up in his relentless pursuit of vengeance. He knew that there was a danger that the Ninevites might repent and that God might forgive.
He also knew that he might be wrong and he was overcome with cognitive dissonance - the annoying sound of opposites at war within our own minds and hearts.
It emerged as anger and the anger turned inward and he said it was better to die than to live.
God confronts him and declares he had a compassion problem. More than that, he has a heart that is not aligned with the heart of God.
Job's heart was corrupted by his hate and bigotry and those were shaped by nationalism, feelings of supremacy, and a sense of righteous privilege, and a misguided moral compass.
The story leaves Jonah sitting on the overlook of the city by a dead bush, confronted, but undecided. It is an unresolved story where God has had the last word and we have to decide how to respond.
That is because we are sitting under our dead bushes, looking over the city where we have misrepresented God as hateful and malicious because something inside of us is hateful and malicious. We have done so knowing how merciful and gracious God has been to us, but being unwilling to allow that for others.
We cling to these notions with a confused righteousness that seeks to defend the honor of God while denying the very nature of God.
We don't want to hear it or admit it, but sometimes we hate people more than we love God.

Jonah 3:10-4:11 (RSV)

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said, "O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live." And the LORD said, "Is it right for you to be angry?" Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. The LORD God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, "It is better for me to die than to live." But God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?" And he said, "Yes, angry enough to die." Then the LORD said, "You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?"


Sowetto Gospel Choir

Khumbaya, my Lord! 
Come by here.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Make a way.
Come and speak..
Come and touch.
Come and lead.
Come and sit awhile among us.
Come, instruct us.
Come, teach us.
Come and correct the errors of our ways ... including ...
Several misconceptions of You and how we have ...
Used you and taken your name in vain to promote our own views,
Our prejudices ...
Our biases ...
Our desires ...
Our angry obsessions and our power plays.
Come, Lord, by here and lovingly squeeze the meanness out of us.
Hug us till all the hurt and anger and bitterness oozes out of our souls.
Come and heal bodies, minds, souls and
Rifts in the fabric of our communities,
Tensions in the streets of our cities,
Dissensions in our board rooms,
Apathy in our churches,
Venom in our national discourse.
Khumbaya, Lord, Kumbaya,
Now,, we need Your Visitation!
Come by here.




Striking the Balance

  Practicing Righteousness to be seen


"Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."Practicing your righteousness before men." - Matthew 6:1 NIV

I struggle with this as I post the devotional thoughts that God gives me in my own daily devotions, but I assure you - none of this is my righteousness.

"... to be seen ..."

That goes to motive!

Motives can be infuriatingly invisible and difficult to discern ... even within ourselves ...

... especially within ourselves.

Where is the balance?

"Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others
to be seen by them. " - Jesus


Where is the balance?


Authenticity and transparency ...
... Humility and reality

 Why write about our spiritual journeys?

I do it as a journal.

See the connection? Journey --- Journal!

When I write about it, is not my devotional life; it flows from my devotional life.

Sometimes, it is gasping and grasping.

I am spiritual loser and an oaf apart from grace.

I must admit that and I must admit it in public. Perhaps it is an encouragement to others.

Perhaps it merely fulfills a function in my own life.

I need this stuff to survive and I need accountability to you and others in order to stay on track.

There must be a balance.

In the secret place, I assure you, I must confess my secret sins.

In the secret place, I must find the intimacy I crave, with God.

In the secret place, I am my most vulnerable, broken self.

I do not show all of that. I admit it, but I do not and cannot display it with the same honesty and authentic intensity that I expose to the One who already knows.

This One already sees.

One I have discovered in secret is that I have no secrets from The Other, the One, the God who fashioned me, observes me, scrutinizes me and ...

... loves me!

All of this preaching is always directed, first,  toward me and a part of my permanent record.

If no one ever reads what I post, I still post.

I must.

But it is what happens below the surface that I can never adequately show, because it cannot be seen by the naked eye.

Still, I must beware that I am not trying to practice righteousness before men ... mainly because I practice so little and that which I do practice, only comes through me by grace; it is not my own.

There is no reward for it... which is fine. What I have not generated requires no reward. The reward is in the doing, being, receiving, and living.

Find the balance and strike it!



Secret Prayer


"But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." - Matthew 6:6

Shutting the door for prayer is simple, but it is not always as easy as it seems.

It brings the soul into an intimate place with the Source of all life. God wants something that we find hard to give - our full attention.

Read the verse again There is a reward.

One or two of my professors must have studied together because I heard the same thing.

"Now, put down your pens and look up from your notes and let me see your eyeballs."

Then they would say something that we could have never gotten down on paper, something that needed to be written on our hearts and communicated heart to heart.

That is what happens in prayer. Prayer is not a scholastic exercise. It is relationship.

There is great reward in that.




There is an hour of calm relief
From every throbbing care;
’Tis when, before a throne of grace,
I kneel in secret prayer.

Oh, that Voice to me so dear,
Breathing soft on my ear:
Weary child, look up and see,
’Tis thy Savior speaks to thee.

When one by one, like threads of gold,
The hues of twilight fall;
Oh, sweet communion with my God,
My Savior and my all!

I hear seraphic tones that float
Amid celestial air,
And bathe my soul in streams of joy,
Alone in secret prayer.

Oh, when the hour of death shall come,
How sweet from thence to rise,
With prayer on earth my latest breath,
My watchword to the skies.

Frances J. Crosbypub.1873


Oswald Chambers on Secret Prayer

Broken Weapons


Break them again, Lord.

Wouldn't it be something if every army and violent fraternity on earth woke up in the morning and none of their weapons worked?

What would that be like? What it their knuckles had no punch?

What if they had to use words and righteous deeds to win the favor of people with justice and mercy? What if?

"There he has broken the fiery arrows of the enemy, the shields and swords and weapons of war. Interlude"- Psalm 76:3, NLB


In the grand opera of the universe, it is God and God alone who sings the aria of the hour,

"Vanish, o night!
Fade, you stars!
Fade, you stars!
At dawn, I will win!
I will win! I will win!"



The Word that Pronounces All Judgment

Not a harsh word, is the word spoken to our condition.

There is no need.

Nor, is it a condemning word in tone or force.

Truth rejected cannot forever be avoided. There is a built-in condemnation when all the Universe cries out, "He told you so."

It is a true word.

It is a decisive word.

It is, even in judgment, a comforting word ... for truth brings a settling peace to the realm of uncertainty.

It is a sharp word as razors are sharp and leave no jagged edges.

It is a surgical incision into the tough veneer of our self-deception and ill-fitting facades.

It is the word that defines and refines.

The Word does all the judging.

That is ... truth stands as the wall that cannot be broken, the rock that will not move.

When faced with that which is other than truth, truth remains and all that is not truth is revealed for what it is.

Therefore, integrity expects to be believed, but when it is not accepted, it lets time settle the matter.

"There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day."  -John 12:48, NIV


#Bad Religion - Not the End of the Story -

We have all been burned by bad religion.

Sometimes we have been burned by good religion wrongly expressed.

On occasions, God's best friends are living examples of the adage, "With friends like that, who needs enemies?"

"Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs." - Psalm 74:4

Tagging God's territory with man's gang signs is not a new thing - not a new thing at all. In fact, we have done it ourselves everything we have tagged our own temples/lives with something unworthy of the high regard in which we are held by the LORD of the temple.

Surroundedby ambiguity and clouded by cognitive dissonance in the realm of faith, we nigh on lose faith and breath the air of exasperation.

My prayer today for those who are teetering on hope, who are longing for hope, who are hopeless, hopeful, or hope-deficient is an infusion of this experience of the psalmists reality with God:

"I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!" - Psalm 27:13

There is a land of living beyond this space, place, and face of time, but there is also a land of living here ... may you find it today and gaze upon the goodness of the LORD and find hope.

Remember that God Himself has been where you are.

There was a definite plan in place.

People, who thought they were right did what was wrong.

They did it by cooperating with lawless men.

And God won!

It is a wild ride sort of story.

"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain..." - Acts 2:23

It was not then, nor is it now, the end of the story.



#Prayer in the Reckless, Restless Fury of Love - Click and Read

Our best prayers are squeezed out of us in the pressure cooker of life.

On troubled waters, we discover the presence and peace of God as we are rocked, rolled, tossed, and whipped by the winds of furious love, reckless abandon, and restless change.

Don't stop reading. There is more.

Of all the complaints evoking empathy this day, the words,"no foothold," resound to the heart of the self-sufficient "doer," who is thrown off-balance by life and must learn lessons of trust and dependence. In many ways. it is only by losing false footholds that we ever learn anything about grounding ourselves in more solid soil or better still, solid rock.


"Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God."
Psalm 69:1-3 ESV


"Make hast to deliver me," is an urgent cry.

It is short of panic, but not quite calm. It is the honest expression of desperation in the awareness that if God does not come through, we are through.

It is prayer on the edge - where fears and doubts intertwine with faith and faithfulness.

It may not be our best and most selfless prayer, but it is prayer and it is sometimes, all we have.

But keep reading and keep letting it develop.

"Make haste, O God, to deliver me!
O Lord, make haste to help me!"
- Psalm 70:1


"Strength is spent."I am sure I have prayed this prayer and part of what is in me prays it unconsciously and sometimes consciousnesses:

"OK, God. I have put all my chips on You. I have emptied all my accounts and invested it all in Your stock because I have taken You at Your Word. I am tee-totally a God guy and I am counting on You to come through. I'm in Your tent. It's up to You; don't let me down."

It seems a bit audacious, bold, and maybe a bit irreverent, but it is real and we've all been in that boat ... or close to it.


"In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me, and save me!
Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress."
- Psalm 71:2-3 ESV


It is a real spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional reality that we or someone we know is living through.

Spiritually Spent Strength Syndrome (SSSS) is the disease that threatens our souls. It's treatment is honest prayer.

Go ahead and pray Psalm 71 with me.

"In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion.
Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me.
Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.
For thou art my hope, O Lord God: thou art my trust from my youth.
By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother's bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee.
I am as a wonder unto many; but thou art my strong refuge.
Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day.
Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.
For mine enemies speak against me; and they that lay wait for my soul take counsel together,
Saying, God hath forsaken him: persecute and take him; for there is none to deliver him.
O God, be not far from me: O my God, make haste for my help.
Let them be confounded and consumed that are adversaries to my soul; let them be covered with reproach and dishonour that seek my hurt.
But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.
My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof.
I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only.
O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.
Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.
Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee!
Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.
I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel.
My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed.
My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long: for they are confounded, for they are brought unto shame, that seek my hurt."


We wonder why God doesn't just wipe out all the influences, temptations, and opposition that comes against us. We complain that we have to deal with it. If if were left up to us, we would not have to deal with anything.

We would enter immediately into bliss. Well .... hmmmm .... wellllll .....

I guess it doesn't quite work that way.

Honest prayer is a gift to us from God and the feeble gift we return to Him in faith. In the tumultuous conversation of faith as we wrestle with faith, we find the peace of purpose. Our Master taught us this by example.

Purpose settles us in the rocking and rolling of life's stormy waves.

"Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour."
- John 12:27

We long and pray for significance in our lives, for "the hour" for which we were born. But we are in the hour and it is often the hour that we are in that we wish to avoid or be delivered from.

"No," faith answers within, "do not deliver me from that for which I was born."

I pray that such will be my prayer as I struggle through such hours.

"The Reckless Restless Fury" is what we have come to know as the love of God.





Encountering God

image from

There is no substitute for encounter.

Encounter is the essence of faith for it is where faith leads us and from whence it comes.

Encounter is meeting God and meeting God is what the fear and reverence of God are about - melting in the presence of God, unveiled face, beholding glory, being reshaped and refashioned.

Encounter is where the senseless make a different kind of sense.

Encounter is where the lights come on.

Encounter is that place of fear that extinguishes fear and makes us fearless, dis-empowering all thoughts that dis-empower us.

Encounter is where we see God with wide-eyed spiritual awakening.

Encounter is where we come to peace with questions and doubts and with the frailty of our own capacity to figure it all out.

Encounter is the place of awe where we, according to the next verse, "despise" ourselves and "repent in dust and ashes.

And .. in that despite, come to see ourselves as beloved, not because of anything within ourselves that we have manufactured and not because of any self-righteousness we possess, but just because we are!

It is a repentance, a turning, and transformation.

It is the grand crescendo of the life of Job from which a new movement of life begins.

"And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning."


May we encounter Him today!






 Job 42:3New International Version (NIV)

You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.

When we are done arguing. When all that can be argued has been argued and every case for every conclusion has been made. When we have spoken all that is on our hearts until we have emptied ourselves and then ... when God has spoken out of the whirlwind, we come to the place where Job was.

"I had not idea what I was talking about."

It is a good place to be.





This little slave girl had powers, but she was powerless. Paul and Silas spoke deliverance to her and she was released from the powers that possessed her. That did not sit well with those who profited by keeping her in bondage.

She had special "gifts" that brought them benefits, but it was at her expense. Now she was free and they did not like that.

There are people in the world who profit, knowingly or, sometimes, unknowingly, from the oppression of others who are in bondage. When the gospel starts to liberate people, the systems that oppress go into spasm.

It is not universally popular to set people free. It has economic consequences that threaten the oppressors.

This has been a reality from day-1 and has its manifestation in every generation and context.

The details change, but the reality is always the same.

Random Ramblings

Deep Thoughts

Deep thoughts ...

I have them ...

They are quite deep ...

And, they are covered with hard pan ...

Many pounds ... tons of hard pan ...

I need something stronger than a shovel to get to them ...

Never mind.


The Tongue in the Cheek

My tongue became en-lodged in my cheek recently...

It took some doing, but ...

We were able to extract it ...

Though still a bit sore ...

And gravitating toward the cheek ...

I think it has learned from its errors ...

And will lead out in a more serious frame

of mind ...

Next time.

Remembering Birmingham

Four little girls dressed up for church as pretty as could be.
Four little girls show up to worship in the land of the free.
Four little girls bowed down in peace and closed their eyes in prayer
And when their eyes were opened they didn't have a care,
But here among the living the weeping, wailing faces
Mourned the loss of innocence and four dark, empty spaces.

We remember Birmingham and pray for those, who today, still feel the pain.


The date was September 15, 1963

But it is never too late to remember and always too soon to forget.




Big Day

God has a very big day in store for you tomorrow.
You will conquer fear, despair, and sorrow.
You will rise to heights you've never known.
You will sigh and laugh, and sing and groan.
You will live and celebrate your inspired humanity.
You will rise above the dull, monotony of senseless insanity
To soar, to roar with the voice of the lion, to score.
The door is before you, the voice of God whispers, "There is more!"
Tomorrow is yours to face and embrace with wonder.
It is for your voice to shout the victory, to thunder,
"I am here and I have come to conquer this day!
There is no fear that can sway me or turn me from this way!
I am a soldier or love, a warrior of peace, a child of God.
My strength is from above. My joy shall not cease. I stand on the sod
Of a new day ... tomorrow.

Job never prays for his own restoration or prosperity. He desires only to know the mind, heart, and ways of God in the midst of his suffering. When he does encounter God in face to face meeting, he turns, repents, and humbles himself. Then, he prays for the friends who have misjudged him in their own ignorance.

"And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before."

(Job 42:10 ESV)

Love someone today that you have not taken the time to really love before.

You might need some help with this project.

You might have to reach down to a pretty deep place inside of you.

It might hurt. It might disgust you. It might alter you.

It won't be easy.

It may require extra prayer and will require extra effort.

But you will discover something about yourself and something even more about love and love's source.

You may even find something wonderful in the one you love.


One More 9-11 Reflection

There are always things we do not want to forget. There are always people that we always want to remember and honor. There are always lessons from the past that we want to build upon. There is nothing in our past that is tragic that we want to define or confine us.

9-11 was one of our collective travesties and tragedies and it brought to light the best of those folks who united across all sorts of lines to make a positive difference in the darkness.

Tragedies and travesties continue around the world. Our past is cluttered with them. We have perpetrated some as a people. Our ancestors from most every culture have done so, likewise.

We do not live in shame or regret. But we do not forget our shame or regret. We find redemption, reconciliation, and resolve to be better people individually and collectively by the grace of God.

We look for areas where we, in agreement, can stand together and work together.

We are human. We are frail. My theology teaches that we a "mark-missers (sinners in translation)." But we are also beloved and called.

Grace, mercy, and peace are God's gifts to us in the gaps that our resolve cannot fill. As a follower of Jesus, I am always looking through the lenses of God's desire for the redemption of everyone and everything, the call to a possibility and necessity of mind/life change (repentance) as good news, and the message of the rule of God (the Kingdom) as always present and imminent in every situation.

That is my bias and leaning and it opens doors to vast possibilities of love in the presence of hate, peace in days of war, hope in times of despair, light in darkness, possibilities at the place of dead-ends, handshakes and hugs when the gloves are off, and salt on the unseasoned mundanity of humanity.

9-11 was a day and is an emergency number.

We do not live in a world dominated and ruled by emergency, but possibility.

Let us live!




We have a ministry of life and resurrection, initiated and modeled by the one who is ever present as resurrection and life. A few observation on that from a remarkable encounter with death in John 11:

First, Jesus waited for the right moment to arrive and everyone else considered, as any person driven by logic would, that it was too late.

Martha felt it was late, but not too late. She has a sense that God would answer Jesus' most outlandish prayers.

Jesus tells her that her brother would rise again. She thinks he is speaking about the future resurrection of all the dead. He knows he means today.

Does she think he is being dismissive or hyper-spiritual as some folks receive us when we are being, well, dismissive or hyper-spiritual ?

Is she saying something like this?

"I know that, but it only helps a little bit now. I want my brother back."

Jesus does not, immediately, clarify or correct that misconception. Rather, he refers to the power and hope of his presence and turns death on its head, spins it around, and sucks all of the power out of it.

"I am ...." is present, now. It is a present reality.

It is not yesterday, or tomorrow when spiritual life ignites a fire of life and obliterates the ultimate power of death to disable us and lay us in the ground of despair and hopeless termination. It is not even today; it is a deeper, more powerful, "NOW!"

I am THE resurrection and THE life!

Such an audacious claim he makes. Eternity is present and to prove it, he is about to do something amazing to human eyes, but relatively trivial from an eternal perspective. He will restore physical life to his friend.

Nothing is trivial to God when God incarnates Himself into our experience of sorrow and mundane pan. He incorporates all that he is into a package of vulnerability and transcends.

He weeps.

Here is how A. T. Robertson exegetes verse 25:

"I am the resurrection and the life (Egw eimi h anastasi kai h zwh). This reply is startling enough. They are not mere doctrines about future events, but present realities in Jesus himself. "The Resurrection is one manifestation of the Life: it is involved in the Life" (Westcott). Note the article with both anastasi and zwh. Jesus had taught the future resurrection often ( Luke 6:39 ), but here he means more, even that Lazarus is now alive. Though he die (kan apoqanh). "Even if he die," condition (concession) of third class with kai ean (kan) and the second aorist active subjunctive of apoqnhskw (physical death, he means). Yet shall he live (zhsetai). Future middle of zaw (spiritual life, of course)." (…/roberts…/john/john-11-25.html)

Then, Jesus makes a claim that requires something beyond mere ascent, "Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die."

Never die? Live when dead?

"Do you believe this?"

He drives the arrow of faith inquiry into her heart of grief and probes for her "buy in."

In Greek, the probe is two words, "pisteuei touto."

She buys in, hook, line, and sinker - with more than he even asked of her, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world."

Yes. Lord (Nai, kurie).

Yes, Lord!

Again, Dr. Robertson observes, " She had heroic faith and makes now her own confession of faith in words that outrank those of Peter in Matthew 16:16 because she makes hers with her brother dead now four days and with the hope that Jesus will raise him up now. I have believed (pepisteuka). Perfect active indicative of pisteuw. It is my settled and firm faith."

Heroic faith!

It is all about who he is and who he is when he is present makes a huge deal in any circumstance.

Where he is present, there is life.

Be present!

Mary comes and there is a crowd of consolers, well meaning, good hearted, and he is touched by grief and agitated by their howling.

Something powerful happens. Knowing what he knows and who he is, he enters into the crowd of mourners and groans in spirit (v33).

Robertson observes his own reaction and the word for groaning as, "to snort with anger like a horse. It occurs in the LXX ( Daniel 11:30 ) for violent displeasure. The notion of indignation is present in the other examples of the word in the N.T. ( Mark 1:43 ; Mark 14:5 ; Matthew 9:30 ). So it seems best to see that sense here and in verse 11:38 . The presence of these Jews, the grief of Mary, Christ's own concern, the problem of the raising of Lazarus--all greatly agitated the spirit of Jesus (locative case twi pneumati). He struggled for self-control. Was troubled (etaraxen eauton). First aorist active indicative of tarassw, old verb to disturb, to agitate, with the reflexive pronoun, "he agitated himself" (not passive voice, not middle). "His sympathy with the weeping sister and the wailing crowd caused this deep emotion" (Dods). Some indignation at the loud wailing would only add to the agitation of Jesus.

He has a deep, emotional response to everything that is happening, all the pain, confusion, misconception, hopelessness --- all of it. It is an inner upheaval and he struggles with it and expresses it.

So, in verse, 34, he asks, "Where have you laid him?"

We have started with the very present, eternal reality of life that transcends death. We have passed through the crowd and experienced the emotions that are so overwhelming in the hour of despair and death. Now, Jesus confronts the physical reality of death. he wants to be taken to the tomb.

Then, Jesus wept!

"... (edakrusen o Ihsou). Ingressive first aorist active indicative of dakruw, old verb from dakru or dakruon, a tear ."

It was not wailing. That would be cultural and sometimes, contrived. Anyone could be employed or recruited to wail and howl with or without emotional engagement. Everyone in the community showed up and did that. It was expected.

Jesus' weeping was real. It was deep. It was personal. It was engaged. It welled up from within and flowed out through his eyes and his voice.

It was with strong crying and tears that he confronted the tomb.

It is the shortest verse in the Bible, but it is never short on meaning.

We have one to weep with us. His weeping and engagement in our humanity is in light of the reality of his life-giving presence. He knows our hope, but also our feelings of hopelessness and enters in. He avoids nothing of our human experience - spiritual, emotional, physical - He is present for us and with us.

The observation of the crowd was how much he loved Lazarus (epilei) with depths of affection and brotherly love.

Is that, perhaps, how we might be present for others in their pain?

We must be present in love.

Jesus said very little that day, but he said so much.

He used few words.

He did much.

He loved much.

"Lazarus, come forth," was a pretty powerful statement - short, sweet, and to the point.

He prays. It is a powerful and "desperate" prayer of faith to his Father to whom he defers to exercise the power through him and his words. But he does not wrestle in this prayer. in fact, he gives thanks for being heard, which indicates he has probably been praying all along.

In fact, his groaning was a prayer (See Romans 8:26…).

Surrounded by doubters - legitimate doubters, one might argue, he steps out on faith. After all, Lazarus was a fourth-day dead man. That was the tradition point of no return. He was grave-yard dead and beyond hope.

It must have been by design that Jesus allowed his friend to get to that point. His Father would make a similar sacrifice of His Son in a a few days.

He calls us forth to life where there is no expectation or hope of life. We may also call life forth from the tombs of despair all around us.

"Again groaning in himself ..." in that context, he calls for the stone to be removed ... still groaning, still praying, still experiencing the pain and doubt around him.

That is always the context of the priestly ministry of presence in a doubting and despairing world.

" 'Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?' So they took away the stone."

He wants people to see the glory of God!

He wants us to experience glory in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death.

He calls us to be an embodiment of his very presence of life in the world show forth the glory of God.

""Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."

Robertson says there is a "purpose clause" here embedded in the Greek. (Of course, he is speaking Aramaic and we don't have that quote as such).

"Lazarus, come forth!"

" (Lazare, deuro exw). 'Hither out.' No verb, only the two adverbs.

Quickly! Out of there!

It does not take many words. It doesn't even take a complete sentence! It takes much presence and engagement.

He says it with a loud voice.

He wants to be heard now by the crowds.

It can drain us, but it can also fill us.

" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'"

Living people need not be wrapped in grave clothes.

There is still work to be done to help people realize that they have life after resurrection.

There is a process to realizing freedom and walking around in it. The liberation process is an ongoing ministry.

We are told that a polarization was the response. Many believed, "but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done ..."

Their reaction had nothing to do with whether or not they believed in what had happened. Their reaction was, "What will this do to our position of power? How will the Romans react? Will we lose our status? Will we lose our favored position?"

In the ministry of liberation, life, and resurrection, many will be believe, many will be set free, and some, in power, who do not care about the dead and dying, but only their own power, will react and try to kill the movement of life.

Count on it and do it anyway!

"Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?' She said to him, 'Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.'"

(John 11:21-27 ESV)



So many expressions have been offered with deep feelings and deeper prayers. We've grown; we've; learned a lot; we've learned that we need to grow and learn more.

I heard the very first report on Interstate 5 as I was driving to the Bay Area. I heard it and my heart sank. I suspected the worst and it was the worst .... but immediately, I thought the death toll would be at least 50,000.

It was not 50,000 and that is part of the heart of the story of bravery, sacrifice, and determination.

What shocked us to the socks of our souls also inspired us in ways we cannot have imagined. Horror and Honor walked hand in hand through the rubble of the towers.

My worst fears were not fully realized -- that we would live in fear and suspicion. We've balanced that. We know it does not work and cannot be sustained.

We created an entity and gave it a nationalistic name that made me cringe and gave it lots of power and, for a while, we seemed willing to surrender much of our freedom for safety. But we are coming out of that cloud and that is good. Safety is worthless if we are not free.

We have started to look each other in the eye and have tried to understand each other.

We still stand in awe of those who served and bow in grief over those who were lost.

Not all stories would go into the Gospel According to Readers Digest or Guideposts for their metaphorical thunk! Many would, but many lives were ordinary ... decent ... loved ... valued ... quiet and unremarkable.

All sorts of people died.

Too many people died.

I joined the throngs who spouted chauvinistic mutterings and pronouncements for a time.

"Don't mess with America!"

But it was, at the top of the tower, "Windows on the World" where the wheel turned and diners were always moving in every direction and the nations gathered at the tower.

They died from so many nations and religions and persuasions. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Humanists, Buddhists, Hindus, Republicans, Democrats, Anglo-Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, First Nation Americans, all died.

And people are still dying from the repercussions of that days --- many, many thousands, tens of thousands of men, women, and children.

We've gone to war and it has not always worked out so well and now we want to think very, very carefully before we go to war. That is good.

Successes and failures as we count successes and failures are on the books.

911 -- another Tuesday ... just another Tuesday and a few people with an evil plan and a perverted understanding of their own book (We could concoct a rationale from our book and books too!), those few changed the day and the world in a few short minutes.

We have learned a deeper appreciation for those who offer themselves in service - our military personnel, our police officers, our first responders and all those who walk into the fire while others are escaping.

Heroes! They are not heroic every day, but they are ready to be heroic. They don't emerge on ordinary days or in safety. They shine in the darkness.

Every traffic stop, every fire call, every patrol, every moment is a potential heroic moment that no one wants. Every day heroism and bravery is in the willingness to be present in the moment "in harms's way."

What is America? We asked it and are still asking it. America is a very big idea born of big ideas and rooted the fertile soil of potential and opportunity.

We have a "Welcome" sign posted over our door and we are trying to figure out what that means.

Randy Sparks sang, "On September the eleventh, we became just Americans. " ( Listen and read the lyrics in the link:…/02/just-americans.html)

911, 12 years later.

We were glued to television and radio. Something died inside of us and much was born. Even that which died was reborn.

We were shaken but we did not come off our foundations.

So many moments.

On Saturday Night Live, Paul Simon sang, "The Boxer" surrounded by a company of heroes from New York's police and fire fighters.

Lorne Michaels asked Mayor Rudy Giuliani a little later if it was OK to be funny again and the Mayor, smiling asked, "Why start now?" And we got back to business.

It is hard to be one people as a nation. We have to work at it, but we must.

May God bless this day. May it always be sacred and reflective. May my tribe of fellow travelers who follow Jesus be out front with others who walk the path of peace and understanding. We have a witness and part of that witness is that we join in prayer for the peace of the city for all who come and go.

God bless America and all that America was intended to be even when we did not fully understand or appreciate all of those intentions.

The Screeching Cry of Urgency

Urgency - There is a lot to be said, that has been said about the power of urgency to motivate, expiate, and eliminate. In fact, sometimes, it is necessary ....

.. but it is a poor substitute for sustained action.

And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men. (Exodus 12:33)

Immature people act upon urges and are, thus, moved by a spirit of urgency. It is the inner prompting of the flesh to act in haste or panic. Like the Egyptians, we are tempted to react in horror to the manifestations of God’s power rather than respond in faith and obedience.

Urgency is a poor substitute for priority. When we establish an understanding of what is truly important based upon God’s abiding principles and mission, we need to stick with it. The reality is that the moment we prioritize our ministries, diversions will emerge, distractions will appear, and urgency will shout in our ears, “Stop and take care of me NOW!”

We need to be able to say “no” to urgency any time it steps outside the boundaries of our priorities. Yes, there will be emergencies that must be faced as they arise. There will be extraneous details that must be handled. The problem arises when every urgent matter presents itself with the same emergency motif and ministry life becomes one great series of emergencies. We have fire departments to put out fires.

What is your focus? Make sure it receives a prominent place on your calendar and that you do your best to follow your calendar. Leave time for incidentals. Leave cushion for emergencies. Live by grace because you won’t meet all of your goals. But, know this, if you heed every urgent cry, you will meet none of them because your life will be controlled by something far less than your God-given priorities. Let us live lives that are driven by God’s purposes through us. Let us patiently and with great determination, allow everything else to fall away.

 do need to balance what I have said with this lest you misunderstand me:



God's Pleasure

“For the Lord taketh pleasure in His people...” – Psalm 149:4a

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast!
And when I run I feel his pleasure.”  - Eric Liddell

Again, God cares for your soul, Do you care for the souls of others? Do you care for your own soul?? Sometimes the way we treat our physical, emotional, and spiritual health is an affront to God. The soul is the totality of a person and God takes pleasure in all that you are. For you to decide that some aspect of your life is not worthy of being nurtured is not an act of sacrificial worship but of negligence.

We have seen that God cares for our souls and that we must exercise care as well – for our own lives and for the lives of others. Now we see the reason: God takes great delight in His people. He receives pleasure from His relationship with His children. It is had to fathom, but it is true.

Have you ever given someone you love a precious gift, something that you have received from another generation and a passing on through that person to subsequent generations? That gift is not really the possession of the person holding it as much as it is the heritage of the family line. You expect the recipient to care for it, protect it, and pass it on with care. You delight in seeing it displayed and honored. You are offended when it is treated with careless disregard for its significance and handled with common contempt.

It is a very imperfect example, but it points to some truth. We are not our own, the scripture sys, but bought with a price. We belong to God and have been made trustees of our lives in time and space. God’s purpose is to enjoy us and have a love relationship with us. He expects us to care for our own lives and nurture our souls with His Word, with fellowship, with healthy food and habits, and with life affirming relationships.

It grieves the heart of God when we do not take care of ourselves.

It also grieves the heart of God when we do not nurture and take delight in His other children. He expects us to see the loveliness other people. When we find that difficult, He promises to help us and to love them through us.

Let us worship God by taking pleasure in Him, in our own lives as consecrated to Him, and in His children.



We Have Not Forgotten


We have not forgotten what happened on September 11 in our recent past.

I remember where I was when the first hint of news came across the wave via NPR. I remember my thoughts.'

I remember how we came together and put our differences aside. As Randy Sparks wrote in a song, "On September the 11th, we became just Americans."

I remember how some folks said that nothing would ever be the same again ... but they are in most ways except the ways that time and progress change everything.

Then, we started using the tragedy to move from being a people who valued freedom above everything else to being a people who would surrender freedom for safety and security.

And we started a couple of wars, at least one clearly in response to a very real threat of terrorism in the world.

And we started rethinking the meaning of our Constitution - not that we shouldn't from time to time. We just need to hold on to what is true and just and good.

And we started bickering again.

Yet, we have not forgotten.

We are not exactly sure what the lessons were, but we learned what it meant to share a common heartbeat and a common heartbreak.

We remember what it was like to deeply care about one another.

We remember what it was like, for a moment, to respect our leaders and give them a great deal of leeway and trust along with much prayer.

What stands out for me in my memory is a heightened value for the heroes among us, in and out of uniform who are willing to lay down their lives for others. Many of these are still placing themselves in daily harm's way.

We flew flags.

We sought the comfort of God and of one another.

We sang together, mourned together, and worked together.

We can remember, but we cannot be defined by tragedy. Nor can we live in a perpetual state of emergency.

The world is dangerous. Horrible things could happen. We could all die -- but that is not the most important thing.

The most important thing is whether or not we will choose to live, and to live as free people until we die. Will we love each other? Will we pray when we are not in crisis? We will show each other respect? Will we be "just Americans" and not blue or red or whatever that is and whatever that means?

If we will remember, then we can commit to being our best as Americans and working together for common good.

For now, let us pause to remember.


Our ongoing task is to flesh out the ideals of the American dream that the first dreamers neither completely understood, yet glimpsed in truth, that they restricted to a few, but could not contain, that they believed, but could not fully envision in  all of its implications. It is ours to bring to the next stages of completion. It makes us a part of a whole and a community among many communities whose yearnings for freedom are deeper than their impulses for comfort and safety. Let us move it forward and never forget.

One Word

How is it that a small word or two of encouragement can make all the difference in a person's day?

One compliment can turn the tide for another person's day or week.

One blessing softly and sincerely spoken can lift a downtrodden spirit.

A brief prayer can evoke the release of a flood tide of emotion cleansing the soul of a broken life.

One "You can do it" can be heard and acted upon to catalyze change in an entire community or world.

One hand placed gently and firmly on a shoulder can transfer courage and strength.

One compassionate gaze into the eye of a lonely heart struggling to express what is hidden deeply inside can bring relief and hope.

One word or two. That is all it takes. One moment of caring. One pause to refresh another.

It costs us so little and gives so much.



How many long for a day when they felt more needed and useful? Others long for such a day in the future. We measure our significance by how much people need us. It is not that we are not to do the things that Job longed to do again. It is that our ability to do them in a way that we measure as significant does not define who we are.

" because I delivered the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to help him.
The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me,
and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy." - 
(Job 29:12-13 ESV)

Whatever else we do today ...


We are driven by conscience and compassion to do all we can, while we can, with what we have

In the end, it will be, for these deeds, we are remembered.

Whatever else we do today, let us live a life that counts while we can.

Our lives are best salvaged as they are spent.

Our safety is most secure when we care nothing about it.

"If I perish, I perish." (Queen Esther)

Our days shall pass.

Our times are limited.

Our moments are few.

Our influence endures.

Lives lived for others flourish and multiply in them.

Lives lived only for ourselves perish with us.

Let us live beyond ourselves.

Let us agonize over the suffering and act upon our agony with the passion of love and mercy.

Let us do what we can while we can.

Oskar Schindler taught us that a life can make a difference.

We need the courage of our convictions and of our love in these days of darkness, greed, anger, hatred, and contempt.

We need to be willing to stand along as we stand with those who are most vulnerable.

We can leave a mark.

We can and we must.

Let us make a difference today,




He does not say, "Heal me because I am a good man," here. Nor does he suggest any qualities of his character to make him deserving. Rather he pleads his own sin as the reason he requests healing.

It gives me hope.

On that basis, I certainly qualify!

" The LORD sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness you restore him to full health."

"As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you!”"

(Psalm 41:3-4 ESV)

Ready for the Storm


In stormy times, one can expect storms to continue.

In the eye of the hurricane, we ready ourselves for what is next.

The pauses short, the respites, few. Our hands are braced, our muscles flexed.

We ready our hearts for whatever's new.

A storm is coming. Some sort of storm is welling up, building in intensity, readying itself to test our readiness ... but that is OK.

We are where we are. We are readier than we think. We are not alone. We go nowhere where none have gone before. We are ready for the storm.

Be of good courage.

Fear not.



Can a man be of benefit to God?



"Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:

“'Can a man be of benefit to God?
Can even a wise person benefit him?
What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous?
What would he gain if your ways were blameless?'"
Job 22:1-3

It is a good question. He answers it from a pretty limited perspective, but this is more than the external voices confronting Job.

They also represent all the voices inside of him, inside of each of us in every existential crisis we face.

In our transitions, troubles, faith-shakes, life upheavals, and doubting times, one of the questions we ask is about our own usefulness, to God, to ourselves, to the planet, and to history.

Am I here for any reason at all? Is there any significance to my existence?

These are the questions and you cannot skip the questions in the eager desire to resolve them with easy answers.

Job is not for the faint-of-heart.





A Shepherd's Prayer


Father, as an under-shepherd of your flock, may I be willing to lay down and lay aside my life for the sheep.

I am not sure what that means, but may I never abandon the vulnerable, the weak, the lame, the wounded, or the chronic wanderers.

I will go where you lead me and take any assignment you give, but I commit to be in that place and love that flock for as long as your assignment dictates it.

I am not a hired hand serving my own interests.

Help me to remember that as I too, am also among the sheep, following the Good Shepherd.

In His Name. Amen.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." - John 10:10-11



From Fainting Onward

We have to get from fainting away in unfulfilled longing to exhilarating praise

It does not come with a finger snap, but it may come with a good night's sleep and a movement from one verse to the next.

We look upon God. We behold. We experience His unfailing love.

We praise. Keep moving through those verses and living them.

" O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands."

(Psalm 63:1-4 ESV)