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October 2017

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What does it mean "to bless?" How do we bless?

Here is an acronym for what it might mean for us to bless others.

B = Being. We first bless by being who and what we are. It is our lives that must be channels of blessing as we are authentic, vulnerable, and transparent.

L = Living Out. We bless others by living out our lives, living out-loud, living in love, and letting who we are find expression in our actions toward others.

E = Expressing. We can bless others by how we communicate with them, verbally and non-verbally. Expressions of grace, mercy, love, and peace can encourage and uplift if that is our intention.

S = Salt. Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth." For these purposes, that is the stewardship of our positive influence in the world. That is what Joseph exercised in Egypt and it resulted in a nation being saved from and through famine.

S = Sharing. We bless by what and how we give as we use our resources for the good of others.

So, the call to bless is a call to authentic being, good deeds, gracious communication, positive influence, and generous giving.

What a difference those five things could make in our communities!

Born to Shine

"We were born to shine ..."
So shine, my friends, shine.
Hearts full of love and laughter and life...
Songs prompting our best and repose
Awaits, rest we suppose,
But life, more life, more love beckons us
And love alone is what reckons us
Believers ... full of love and laughter and life.

My Friends

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"... I have called you friends ..."  - John 15:15

We are a circle of friends.

Barely have we comprehended what it means to be servants, much less children of God, when Jesus rocks our understanding at its very foundations and calls us His friends.

Friends of Jesus we are, for whom He showed the greatest love by laying down His life.

With that is the implication that we are willing to lay down our lives, obey His commands, and share in His purposes. Chief among these is that we love one another. It has been the sad duty of some to go through the motions of worship in a loveless church, even a church filled with animosity and vengefulness.

Such is not the case in this place, but as loving as we are to one another, are we truly being made complete in that love and selflessness to which Christ called us?

On a typical Sunday, we gather to worship and sing God’s praise. When we sing, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” we remember that our love relationship with God is based upon His rock solid truthfulness and unrelenting grace.

When we sing about what it means to gather in the Name of Jesus and experience the Spirit's power within us, we will, in love, declare the majesty of God and be reminded that we are one body in the Spirit, in praise, and in service.

When we ask God to open our eyes in a new way to see Jesus, our friend, savior, and Lord, we also confess that people need the Lord and remember that a love relationship with God that brings about a love relationship with each other, teaches us to love a broken world that Jesus loved and died for - friends who have never met Him.

Finally we will be dismissed with the affirmation that we are one in the bond of love.

Jesus is our friend who has called us to befriend one another.

We are a circle of friends.


Praying Your Pain and Betrayal


"Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me." - Psalm 41:9, ESV

Many years ago, I felt betrayed by a friend.

I thought he had turned against me. I felt what the psalmist felt.

I felt that confidences and trust had been turned against me.

I think that in the same situation today, I would feel differently, but at that time, I shared the same sense of betrayal, hurt, and anger.

The psalmist pours this out to God as we are invited to pour out our souls to God.

Sure, we are immature in our attitudes and emotions as I was. God understands, meets us, and heals us if we will be healed. In the day of my feeling of betrayal, which I have long since ceased to feel with pain, I found this verse and it gave me comfort to pray it to God.

There are prayers in the Psalms that express exactly what you are feeling today and are available to be prayed so that you know that you are not alone in your feelings.





Possible acronyms:

We Act In Time .

Wonder And Invite Triggers.

Willing, Active, Inspired, Training.

We Are In Transition.

I think I will keep looking and WAITING...

I just know that "in the Lord" adds a truckload of meaning to the moment of waiting because it is purposeful, powerful, and potential-laden.



The Tongue in the Cheek!

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My tongue became lodged in my cheek in recent posting ...

It took some doing, but ...

We were able to extract it ...

Though still a bit sore ...

And gravitating toward the cheek ...

I think it learned from its errors ...

And will lead out in a more serious posts ...

Next time.



We Come as Invited Guests


We are homeless, hapless, hungry souls invited to an elegant feast.

We see glory. It is no small matter.

How did we get here?

We come because we are invited.

Holy, holy, holy, we gasp in fear and wonder.

The weight of the glory has fallen upon us and we are crushed beneath its power into a wholeness we could not have imagined.

Broken, we are healed.

Overwhelmed, we are strengthened.

Stripped bare, we are clothed.

Speechless, we are empowered to speak.

Distant, we are brought near.

Wounded, we are wrapped in healing balm.

Scattered, we are gathered.

Lost, we are found.

Cold and disengaged, we are warmed and activated from within.

Doubting, we are endued with faith.

Shamed, we are welcomed. Hopeless, we are infused with hope.

Crude, vulgar, earthy, and vain, we bow down in the presence of holiness and are made holy.






About reformation.

Luther took us down the road a long distance when he posted 95 theses on the door of Wittenburg's church.

His unintended reformation spawned a movement that spiraled, multiplied, morphed, and gradually delivered us to this hour where we continue to need reforming both personally and collectively.

He went further than he thought he would and not far enough for Calvin, Zwingli, the Anabaptists, the Quakers, and the Baptists who would follow, to name a few.

And we have gone back and forth again and again.

Did you ever notice this frustrating reality?

Let's personalize it.

You clean up, fix up, or straighten up and it goes well for a while and then ... you relapse into a worse state than before.

There is a futility in constantly cleaning up and not dealing with the roots of what pollutes us, corrupts us, and manipulates our thinking into even deeper futility. An interruption in a cycle that is empowered by its own forces will only be temporary.

Christian faith and spiritual transformation are not about momentary behavior modification or immobilization of peripheral demons. To repent is to recognize the difference between where we are going and where we can go and to change direction.

We have been invaded by the Kingdom of God and the King Himself has come to invite us into transformation, liberation, and deep significance. This is no passing matter or minor deliverance. The enemy that seeks to entrap and destroy the soul is sinister, persistent, and patient. We can choose a different master and step away from the "generation" bent on destruction.

We need more than subtle reformation. We need re-FORM-ation in all of its implications.

All Luther wanted to do was change 95 things that were currently disturbing his conscience about the church in his day. But the root causes of injustice, addiction, stinking thinking, and warped theological assumptions usually run deeper into the hard pan of our individual and community souls.

He started something he could not contain. Eventually, he was re-FORMED and others were as well.

It does not always happen.

Jesus speaks to the frustration of the human condition and its resistance to transforming grace when He says,

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”
(Matthew 12:43-45 ESV)


Excuse Free Living

So, what is your excuse? Turn it into a reason!
"If you've never failed, you've never lived."
Go out today and live. Do not fear failure. Use it!
Do not fear criticism. Learn from it.
Do not fear discouragement. Let it run off your shoulders.
Do not fear people. Love them and serve them.
Do not fear rejection. Keep reaching out to people.
Do not fear ridicule. Laugh at yourself and dance and be free to be silly.
Dance a silly dance and sing a silly song.
Fear nothing but the Almighty and the awesome, dangerous wonder of a cosmos that is ...
Greater than you and MUCH, MUCH greater than today's problems or worries.
Face that fear with faith and discover the majesty of grace and ...
And, in the face of grace, embrace LIFE!
You are loved and accepted.
You are as awesome as the majestic mountains before which you tremble,
More dangerous than a tidal wave,
More fearful to fear than an approaching army of conquerors because ...
You cannot be conquered. The only ONE you fear has confronted your fears with you ...
And set you free from the power of fear.
You feel it, but it does not own you .... not for one moment.
YOU are a key player in the war on fear and YOU are a winner!
Go forth and help set someone free today and fail a few times and then ....
This is your day.
Go out today and live.


Time Slips By

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Days pass ... weeks, months, years
... decades slip away,
Innovating life,
Invention of our minds,
Intention of our hearts,
... or something else .... confiding ....
Residing in our soul ....
Guiding to some goal?

Is there a whole in the hole ...
A purposeful role 
we play
in the scheming dreaming of these days?

Is there more in gleaming rays to our ways 
that doth
Unfold as the story's told?
Am am I bold ...
or just old?

I cannot, will not, shall not fade away in this story.
I cannot, will not, shall not wade away from glory.
I cannot, will not, shall not get stuck in a rhyme.

Not this time!

Yesterday seems so long ago.
And many yesterdays like recent past 
and present ... but it does not last.
Nothing lasts but That which Is and ...
In that Isness nothing passes, nothing is lost.
Flowers wilt as do the grasses, great the cost,
Mass the masses, lads and lasses move in great procession

Through our memories but ever present
In the heart of That which, He which Is and In that
Isness I reside for that same Isness resides in me.

Grace, peace, joy, love, and wonder, from God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be with you all, this day and always and forever more.

May the Great "I Am" be within you. Amen.

- Tom Sims



How Dare I Ask?


How dare i
How dare I ask for such mercy?
How dare I be so audacious as to suggest that I be spared?
How dare I come as an errant child to a forgiving dad?
How dare He so graciously lavish mercy upon me?

The grand dare.
The grace of God.


"O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath!
For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.''

''There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.''

''My wounds stink and fester
because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.''

''O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off.''

''Those who seek my life lay their snares;
those who seek my hurt speak of ruin
and meditate treachery all day long.''

''But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
I have become like a man who does not hear,
and in whose mouth are no rebukes.''

''But for you, O LORD, do I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me,
who boast against me when my foot slips!”''

''For I am ready to fall,
and my pain is ever before me.
I confess my iniquity;
I am sorry for my sin.
But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty,
and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
Those who render me evil for good
accuse me because I follow after good.''

''Do not forsake me, O LORD!
O my God, be not far from me!
Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!''

(Psalm 38 ESV)

Mere Men

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"Put them in fear, O LORD! Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah" - Psalm 9:20 (ESV)

Money, pleasure, and power are what nations suppose they possess and they are intoxicated by the vapors that emanate from the altars built to these false gods.

It was not just the ancient imperial cults that were lured into self-importance and nationalistic superiority, it is the trap that any political entity, nation, or state is drawn to.

The antidote is reverence ... at least enough to know that we ("we" because this nation is if us, the people) are mere men.

We must walk humbly before God and among the nations.


Signing Up

Lately, I've been signing up for things - mostly free, but not always.

You have to sign up first; then you can sign-in whenever you like.

I have noticed that if I don't sign-in for a while, I sometimes have to sign-up again.

It is really nutty ... I am trying to find parallels to participation in the Kingdom of God here and the easy ones come easily ... but the really hard ones ... are really hard.

Something about the whole thing of an easy sign-up and a simple sign-in seems in-congruent.

Something about that long list of affiliations sitting somewhere in my in-box and data-bases ... many forgotten, just strikes me as qualitatively different than the call to oddity that is the essence of holiness.

If being a disciple is nothing more than signing up and signing in, then I am reading a different four gospels.

Do you remember the night and the waltz?


What does this have to do with anything?

Absolutely nothing.

I just came across this fun and familiar song while looking for something else and there she was, "That singing rage, Miss Patti Page" singing "The Tennessee Waltz."

But what might you have "lost" while they were playing a beautiful waltz?

Do you remember the night and the waltz?

Do you know how much you have lost?

Listen up and listen well:

We've all lost some things and we've lost them while there was beauty all around, but beauty can come out of it if we choose.

So, listen to the waltz and start to sway.
Troubles you have won't go away,
But neither must they move in to stay.
Stand up for joy and have your say.
Let your feet keep moving; let the music play
And let the skies turn blue from gray.
Don't wait till tomorrow; today is the day!

OK - I didn't expect to get a ditty, but when the ditty hits I let it dit!

So get up and get!!

I know I've lingered here too many hours, but I think God and I are ready to hit the road now!


Morning Prayer


Morning Prayer Ein Gedi
God of all that is without Whom there is not,
God of all that was, without who nothing has been,
God of all that can be and should be and might be,
God of all that shall be.
God of unfolding wonders and unfathomed waters of wisdom,
God of all who live, who have lived, and shall live

God of me .... my God, our God,
God of Jesus, Savior, Friend,
God revealed in Spirit and in Flesh,
You are here with us, and for that, we are ever grateful.

Hear our morning prayers.
Hear our heartfelt cries for mercy.
Hear our burning, yearning groans for those deep needs we cannot express with words.

You know our wounds, our open, oozing sores.
You know our stubborn, egotistical ugliness, but ...

You also know what beauty lies within us, that which is of You, that which You would nurture inside of us.

With penetrating eye and skillful hand, root out our sin and heal our shame.
With gentle hand, guide us into Your purpose for our being.
Arrange our lives today and supersede our presumptions.
Grant us divine appointments and the spirit of serendipity to embrace them.

Laugh with us today; weep with us; look with us upon your world with love.

Oh, Master Designer, design our lives, my life, to conform with your vision.
Fill our hearts with peace, with joy, with holy love that we might serve you in serving others.

May not a moment be wasted of this day, not a thought lost, not a word vainly spoken.

I come, Father, referred by Jesus, Whose name I gladly take as the banner over my life.
I come willing to die to self today, but weak in the flesh, I identify with Jesus and express my desire to You, to follow Him ...'
Wherever He leads.

I have no other agenda worth attending to ...

IF the Foundations Are Destroyed - IF

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It is a big IF. 

I have heard the first part of this often quoted, but It is not an open ended question. It is answered in the next sentence.

The statement cries out for context and the context is given almost without a breath.

The fact is, the real foundations are not and never have been destroyed.

The foundations do not consist of our laws, constitution, corporate morality, cultural norms, or anything else over which we have power and authority. The real foundations are eternal and defined by God's presence in His holy temple, on His throne in Heaven.

If the foundations could be destroyed, there would be little the righteous could do.

Since they are intact, there is much we can do.

" if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”

The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD's throne is in heaven ..."

(Psalm 11:3-4 ESV)

Reporting on My Fall - I'd Fall for That - Blog Edition!

It was a comedy yesterday - or at least a moment of comic relief in the midst of a very serious day.
The summation of the story is that I accumulated some bruises. How I got them is the rest of the story.
I was sitting in the city council meeting, mainly to be supportive of friends who would be speaking and of the issue they were addressing.
It went long enough so that I was going to get a parking ticket.
So I hurried to the meter to feed it. I actually started running. I wanted to get back.
Around the corner, the tip of my foot must have hit an uneven place in the sidewalk.
That became a launch pad for my body.
You know that feeling. You have been projected into the air and time moves more slowly in your perception. In spite of the slow down, you know you cannot correct this and that you will land.
All you can do is try to land well.
The descent is rapid. The landing is hard.
Lessons Learned:
1. If you are going to fly, figure on a descent.
2. If you are going to descend, figure on a landing.
3. If you are going to land, prepare to obey several natural laws.
Profound. Isn't it?
So, I did what any right-minded, self-respecting, pride-injured male would do.
I assessed my situation and then, bounced up, checked the condition of my clothes, and looked around who might have seen it.
Sure enough, someone did and I was able to announce that I was fine.
He went in the direction I had come from and I traveled toward my car, fed the meter, and hurried back to the Council chamber where I was able to pass the concerned citizen and announce that I was fine one more time.
He responded in a friendly way that was somewhere between deep disdain and indifferent amusement.
I went back into chamber and realized I had not missed much of the meeting, As I sat there, I felt some inner conviction to stand and speak as the only white, male, Christian pastor standing with my brothers and sisters on this issue of racism and our subtle and pervasive narratives that perpetrate myths that advance an altered perspective of reality.
Racism is not about individual racists. Even people who are not overtly racist as we might define it, can participate in a racist narrative and perpetuate the historical movement.
This is not about individualism nor about individual reform.
If I could have said that better, my 2 minute speech would have been better.
Instead, I fumbled feebly though a disconnected story and I am not sure I made my point.
But I stood up.
I was neither eloquent, coherent, nor prepared.
But I made up for it by being disheveled and in a minor state of shock.
Meanwhile, back at the office because I ran out of coins after another hour, I noticed that a lump on my hip was growing. It was like a third cheek.
I was not in overwhelming pain. Everything ached and still aches, but it was not impressive pain.
Nevertheless, because I am on Warfarin and because hairline hip fractures, I thought, could be present in ambulatory souls, I consulted the advice nurse at Blue Shield.
Next lesson - The advice nurse will always tell you to get an XRay!
So, at about 3:15 PM, I walked into a very familiar place, the St. Agnes Emergency Room where I immediately saw friendly and familiar faces.
I was discharged at about 10 PM.
I had an EKG, complete blood work-up, a chest XRay and an XRay of my hip.
The doctor remembered me from past excursions.
He said, "Your XRays look good except you have a funky esophagus."
A funky esophagus is a given.
Whispers in the halls and offices outside of radiology have become a common experience for me. At UCLA, they always bring in a professor to tell them what I could tell them.
"What is that?"
That is one of the questions.
I have a funky esophagus.
I met some interesting people. I saw some people I knew. I did play-by-play reports on Twitter and Facebook. I did business through text and email. I missed two meetings and a work-out.
Other than that, a normal day was had.
I am at the office today, sore, but with no broken bones.
The doctor gave me the criterion for differential diagnosis of a hip fracture.
"If you are walking, it is not fractured."
"But I have seen people walking with hairline fractures," I interjected.
"Yes and radiology can't really pick them up, but when and if they finish cracking, you will not be able to walk."
"That is good to know."
Blood pressure was 111 over 77. Good stuff. Pulse was a steady pacemaker beat of close to 70. Oxygen levels were good.
Esophagus was still funky!
It is nice to be special in a city where many medical professionals have never even heard of Achalasia; more have never seen it; few have seen my "funky" version of it with my exotic complications and surgical manipulations.
It was nice to go in to ER with a more common complaint and ailment like a 62 year old man running to feed the meter, taking a flying leap, a rapid descent and a hard landing --- and --- sustaining the bruises to show for it.
You see, it really was comedy.
What is not comedy is that we live in a country where racism still persists, where privilege is not acknowledged, where whole "classes" of people are marginalized, where dominant cultures circle the wagons to protect their narratives and reinvent history to redeem their pseudo righteous myths, and where we ostracize those who dare to protest that.
That is not a bruise on the hip. That is a bruise on our nation.
I love America - not the mythological America that can do no wrong and has done no wrong, not the America that is defined by its symbols and songs, not the America that has never gone to war for the wrong reasons, oppressed peoples, or engaged in colonialism, conquest and suppression of human rights. I love the America where we can talk about that ... the real America
I love the America that is bruised and flawed and can admit it, the America that has codified a process of addressing and redressing its issues, the America that is multi-cultural, the America with multiple strains of historical narrative, the America that is in process, that is not finished, whose ideals are developing from core ideals not fully understood by their authors. I love that America.
I love the America that has the ability to fix our our problems and that is made of people some Americans don't like and often mistrust.
I love the America where they are just as American as me.
I love the America where we can be friends with people who do not agree with us about much of anything except the value of our humanity and work from that point toward a better understand.
I am willing to run and jump and fall down and get back up for that kind of America and city and world.
I am willing to look and feel silly for that.
I thank God for protecting, healing, and delivering me yet again from my own foolishness and I am very grateful for my many friends and their support.

Worth the Climb

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There are several bald spots on my metaphorical head from metaphysical head scratching. Mind baffles have frequently made me drowsy to the point of stupor. Not everything adds up because, to embrace everything, one must also embrace unknowns and unknowns challenge our sense of control and self-sufficiency.

"Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it." - Psalm 139:6

"Yet in the midst of my madness, God had been making himself known to me in profound ways. In my drunken prayers, God's presence was ever-captivating. My journal would reveal tears of desperation and longing for God. I couldn't reconcile the fact that I was doing something wrong and the fact that God was showering me with love. I have a tendency to view life in terms of black and white, good and bad, happy and unhappy.. I was finding life to be filled with shades of grey and God ruled over it all. I was starting to come to terms with the fact that I didn't have all the answers." - Nathan Foster, "Wisdom Chaser - Finding My Father at 14,000 Feet"

I am captivated by Foster's story of hiking high peaks with his famous father and spiritual "giant," Richard Foster. The authenticity and raw honesty have drawn me into his story of hiking 14,000 foot peaks with his dad and the lessons both were learning. I was drawn into the story of this young man's spiritual growth ... gradual and steady ascent.

I was not prepared for turning the page to 105, chapter 13. You'll have to read it yourself, but you may find your story there. You didn't know anyone else had lived it. You were making such progress with God, in so many areas, but there was something, a drag, more than a drag, something yanking you down.

Not all progress is steady and it is seldom neat ... usually very messy.

Mystery. What sort of God is this? Job thought he knew Him but realized he knew only OF Him. When they finally met "face to face," it was not to impart all the answers to this faithful servant. The truth was in the encounter. The reconciliation was in the relationship.

Every day of our lives, we are surrounded on all sides by knowledge we do not possess, swimming in a sea of wonder, marinating in questions we do not know to ask. We possess less understanding than we will have tomorrow, but vastly less than the universe holds -- much less the God of the universe.

We can skip some steps and slip through a spiritual wormhole emerging, through folds in space-time continua to that lace on the other side of the creation where we can meet the God who knows and bends reality to His own purpose.

But we still won't know everything.

And cllimbing willl still involve struggle.

And we will have some bad days, some very bad days ... and some good days ... and some that don't seem to fit any category at all.

But if we keep climbing we will find we are going somewhere. Along the way, some of the answers will be clearer. At the summit, there willl be a very clear perspective.

I am convinced that the Somewhere and Someone of it all are worth the climb and I have chosen to continue. Who will go with me?

It Has Made All the Difference


And it has made all the difference ...

Certainly and absolutely, one of my favorite poems since youth, my musical knowledge was deficit in not knowing that one of my favorite choral composers, Randall Thompson, had created a musical setting for it.

So here it is, with text below. May it make all the difference in your day. 

"TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;"

"Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,"

"And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back."

"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
- Robert Frost

Deliver Me


Psalm 140
If you live in this world, you have a calling - to find some way to function with the other people who live in this world. The challenge is that some of them - God bless them - are never happy unless they are stirring something up. Then, they are not really happy, just less unhappy.

Their words are sharp. Their demeanor is critical. Sometimes, their ways are violent physically, emotionally, or in some other subtle ways.

Sometimes, their subtle or organized schemes threaten our welfare. Sometimes they plot against us.

Even paranoids sometimes have real enemies --- or so the saying goes.

God reminds our hearts that:

" ''I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted,
and will execute justice for the needy.
Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
the upright shall dwell in your presence.''

Whether you must rub shoulders with the aggressive or the passive aggressive souls of the earth, you are not the first and you are not the last. The psalmist's enemies were personal and institutional forces that figuratively and literally attacked and threatened.

So, if you went to congregational worship on a Sabbath in days of old, you might have prayed this hymn of heart-cry, expressing a common condition and longing:

"Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men;
preserve me from violent men,
who plan evil things in their heart
and stir up wars continually.
They make their tongue sharp as a serpent's,
and under their lips is the venom of asps. Selah''
''Guard me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked;
preserve me from violent men,
who have planned to trip up my feet.
The arrogant have hidden a trap for me,
and with cords they have spread a net;
beside the way they have set snares for me. Selah''
''I say to the LORD, You are my God;
give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O LORD!
O LORD, my Lord, the strength of my salvation,
you have covered my head in the day of battle.
Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked;
do not further their evil plot, or they will be exalted! Selah''
''As for the head of those who surround me,
let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them!
Let burning coals fall upon them!
Let them be cast into fire,
into miry pits, no more to rise!
Let not the slanderer be established in the land;
let evil hunt down the violent man speedily!''
''I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted,
and will execute justice for the needy.
Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
the upright shall dwell in your presence.''
(Psalm 140 ESV)

Three Secrets of Singing to God

“Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.” – Psalm 33:3

There are three things that God reminds us of today that He would like for us to offer Him in worship.

The first is newness. He wants a new song.

Now an old song can be a new song if it is fresh and quickened by new awareness of God Himself or of some spiritual insight that has captured our hearts. He is not interested in innovation; He is concerned that we are being born anew in every act of worship toward Him.

He wants us to come to Him today with the same sense of wonder as when we first knew Him.

The second thing is He wants us to play skillfully. That means He wants the best we can offer.

God is not impressed with mediocrity when we can do better. He is not enamored with improvisation when it substitutes for preparation. He loves spontaneity, but He also loves and desires our full engagement of all our abilities and senses in truly worshipping Him as One who is worthy of the best we can offer.

The third thing is volume. That does not mean being loud for the sake of being loud. Nor does it mean fake volume of the sort that can be artificially produced by turning up the dial of our amplification systems.

It means engagement of the whole instrument in praise whether that is a piano, harp, guitar, or vocal mechanism. If we sing, we are called to sing with our whole bodies and souls.

It is for God and it is to God. Let us hold back nothing.


There is no tangibility without vulnerability. That is the down side of incarnation. The message must be delivered to tangible thinkers in flesh as embodied truth. The upside is that vulnerability invites tangibility like no other force.

By Our Side


Where are you going?
We ask ourselves.
We ask the same of Jesus.
Shall we skip the road with Him, dare ourselves, and walk with pebbles in our shoes?

Call the pebble, "dare."

How about it?

What is the new road?

Where is His hand?

None of that matters as much as this:

He is here by my side.
He is by your side.

We are side by side with Jesus.

What is Real?

We have raised a generation on "reality" TV who believe that it somehow, actually represents reality. Some, young and old, have bought the notion that meanness, pettiness, ruthlessness, narcissism, lack of civility, and vindictiveness are norms for human communities to be emulated. At the same time, they have adopted the attitude that truthfulness is not subject to verification, that negative reports are the most likely to be accurate, and that fact-checking is a conspiracy against their cherished opinions.

That is the bad news.

The good news is that there is a large contingent of thoughtful young adults from the same generation who have a healthier way of thinking and have rejected the "reality" TV mentality. They ask a lot of questions, do not settle for simple slogans, read the fine print, dig deep, work to build cooperative relationships across ideological lines, and seek truth.

I take great courage and hope from them.

So, when I say, "We have raised a generation," I am not actually referring to the Millennials or any other chronologically defined generation. I mean that broad generation of citizens from 8-80 who have bought into one of the great families of fallacy of our times - which today, I am calling, "the reality TV syndrome."

Tomorrow, I will call it something else.



An Excerpt from:

Velveteen Rabbit


by Margery Williams
Illustrations by William Nicholson

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

Do I worry? I confess that I fret. I get in a hurry ... to worry ...

Do I worry?
I confess that I fret.
I get in a hurry ... to worry ...
And what do I get? I forget ..
Or should ...
Or would if I could.
If would be good to leave it where it belongs,
Buried beneath and within these heartfelt songs,
All my frets and all my wrongs,
Deep regrets and resolutions for which my aching heart longs.
It would be good and it would be great.
I could take that course and it's not too late.
I can worry, yes. I can cogitate and take the bait ...
And play the line and scheme and state and restate ...
The "problem" and multiple soul-lutions (solutions too),
Expected allocutions and resolutions few ...
... of which might come to pass and
None of which form critical mass.
In other words, from far away or close at hand ...
I waste my living by living in the gray and barren land ...
.. of worry.
In the hurry to worry I get nothing done,
Solve no problems under that gun.
So, I run to One who handles it all,
Drop every burden and let them all fall ...
At His feet.
This thought is now complete.

The Tantalizing Tease - Jesus, A Loud Woman, and a Big Faith

Jean Colombe (1430-1493)


Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.  But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.  But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.(26) But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.  And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. - Matthew 15:21-28

The Canaanite woman only wanted help for her daughter. She avoided the niceties of traditional greetings and came with desperation to Jesus blurting out the problem and request. Since she was not in the demographic of His initial mission, it was TARGETED strategy to at first ignore her. She persisted and it was TRUTH He spoke when He said He had come to shepherd Israel. Then it was possibly a TEASE when He said that it was not right to give the children's food to dogs - an example of the twinkle in His eye and His bantering humor.

She agreed and the upshot was that she passed the TEST of faith with flying colors in front of all the onlookers. Her request was granted and the mission of Jesus to the whole world was foreshadowed.

TARGET - We have to narrow our focus in life and ministry if anything is going to be accomplished. The strategy of Jesus was attuned to the purpose of God for the entire world. However, the baseline and starting place was with the Covenant people. He had come to fulfill what had begun and there was not skipping steps. This was not Jesus' only positive contact with Gentiles, but it was the only one where He appeared rude and unresponsive. She was loud, rude, and pushy and He tried to ignore her. But, in the end, it becomes impossible to ignore those who persist.

You have to admire her. At first she was met with silence and many of you feel you have been met with the utter silence of God. Some of us give up and that point, but not the Canaanite woman! Then He excluded her. He told her that His ministry at that point was not for her. Some of us who hung on after the silence would have slipped away dejected and offended then. Many have left churches for far less. Finally, He insulted her. Calling her daughter a dog might do that for many. This may have been humor, but she agreed and was ready with a comeback. She didn't want anything other than a few scraps. Jesus' words and her response were would not quit. You have to give her a high five for that.

TRUTH - Jesus was not lying when He explained that He was not called to spread Himself too thin during His earthly ministry. He had come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. i wonder if some of the Pharisees caught that subtle jibe. After all, wasn't it the Canaanites who were the lost and they were the included? You can find lost folks everywhere - even in church.

TEASE - I think Jesus was teasing this woman along. In the tease, He was teaching her and everyone else - including us - about persistence and the largeness of God's mission to the world. In Merriam Webster the fifth definition of " to tantalize especially by arousing desire or curiosity often without intending to satisfy it." He was certainly doing that and she was certainly exercising the third definition, " to disturb or annoy by persistent irritating or provoking especially in a petty or mischievous way b : to annoy with petty persistent requests : pesteralso : to obtain by repeated coaxing c : to persuade to acquiesce especially by persistent small efforts : coax d : to manipulate or influence ..." What is Jesus teasing out of you today? In what ways is He challenging and tantalizing your DESIRE for more of what He has to offer? How are you responding?

TEST - In the end, it was a test and she passed.  I think Jesus knew she'd pass. Perhaps the real test was of the way this would be received by the people watching through their jaundiced eyes of nationalism and religious supremacy.  He was going through a process and he was voicing their arguments. In any sort of training including sports and military, there is a time of initiation and what you might call harassment. During that time, those without desire to succeed (among other things) are eliminated, and those who persevere move on. The time of testing produced elimination or confirmation. In faith, we can come back when we are ready, but we will not move on without deep desire and perseverance through obstacles. Jesus will not do us the disservice of removing the requirement of personal and spiritual development from our lives. He is more interested in us becoming all that we can be than in anything else for us.

This is not about a dislike of Gentiles. He came to draw all men and women to Himself and He certainly remembered Grandma Tamar, Grandma Rahab, and Grandma Ruth, his Gentile ancestors. It is about identifying a target, respecting the truth, teasing out faith, and passing the big test of great faith. In the end, that was the message. She had great faith and that faith transcended any "accident" of her birth and heritage.

It was her faith that saved the day. It was her faith that both Matthew and Mark hold up as an example to the rest of us who would otherwise be excluded from promises of God apart from grace.

God grant us great and persistent faith through every trial of life.