Monday, October 30, 2006

Lessons From a Junk Yard!

CORE THOUGHT: Life is short! Don't waste it!

This past week I got my oil changed. (Oh, be sure to check the website for wherever you take your car for service…sometimes they have coupons!) Now, where was I? Oh, I was waiting on my car to be revived with new oil, so I decided to walk around the showroom looking at the 2007 models.

I was surprised to see a van, a Honda van, with a list price of just under $43,000! A Honda? For $43, 000??? Wowee! And oh the features…satellite navigation, DVD system, lots of cup holders. I did not covet it at all! For that price I could have purchased two Civic coupes like mine with several thousand left to spare. Anyway, today I was looking at cars again…but not in some spiffy showroom with pleasant music in the background and that intoxicating new-car-buy-me-right-now scent permeating the air…no, I was in a junk yard!

A friend was looking for tires and rims for a trailer, and I went along for the ride (an a meal, of course!). I don’t know if I have ever been in a real junk yard. I didn’t even know that the politically correct term is now “salvage yard.” I waited while my friend went on a safari with one of the employees to the back forty in search of steel and rubber. I noticed the cars…all starting out the same way…new…featured in slick, colorful brochures touting their many luxury features or payload capacities or their resale value.

Some had just worn out, but others had been devastated in accidents. Some were so twisted and contorted that I knew that someone had died in the mass of metal before me. That’s life, isn’t it? We’re only new and shiny for awhile, but before you know it, the gleam is gone; reality sets it, and BOOM, it’s over before you know it…No, it didn’t depress me; it just reminded me once again that life is passing by quickly, and we need to pay attention and live well.

I have learned that the best way to live life is to do it God’s way…not that I know perfectly what that is, but I do know that God is real, and that I can trust Him as he teaches me who He is, who I am, why I am here, and as he shows me just how valuable EVERYONE who crosses my path is…not just the people who look like me or think like me, but EVERYONE…Everyone is made in God’s image. He values each one, and so should we, and in my life, it is only through my relationship with Christ that my selfishness is held at bay daily.

No, I don’t know everything there is to know about Christ, my Father in heaven, or the Spirit who is God’s living presence here…but then again, I’m not through with the journey am I?...and neither are you! So how’s the scenery? Who have you met on your journey? What’s going to be the point when you reach your destination? As Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing.” If you’re going in circles, stop it! Life is too short! Don’t live life in a junk yard, you were made for the road, and it’s a great ride with the One who gave you your life to begin with!

Movie Recommendation

Core Thought: Over the Hedge has some nice teachable moments, and looks great, too.

A couple of my Sunday School class members made my day last Sunday when they called to let me know that Over the Hedge had some nice sermon material in it. I was just glad they were looking for teachable moments in a movie. I finally saw it this past weekend on a visit to my mom. She enjoyed it, too.

As with most movies I like, its main theme was transformation. I like transformation (oh, for the better I mean!). There's nothing like a Darth Vader suddenly being turned back to good at the last minute when he had to choose between killing his son, Luke, and the evil emperor. In Hedge, there was no evil Lord of the Sith; just a selfish raccoon named RJ using a bunch of gullible forest critters to collect a huge stash of food to replace the food he stole (and then accidentally destroyed) from a hibernating bear. He has one week before the bear comes to "rectify" the situation by eating RJ.

The "critter family" (a paranoid, anxious turtle, a family of porcupines, a father/daughter pair of opossums, and a hyper-active squirrel) are waking from their own hibernation only to find their forest suddenly invaded by a huge hedge. On the other side is a new development of perfectly manicured homes, all maintaining perfect compliance to the neighborhood's home owner's association. RJ convinces them not to be afraid, but to take advantage of a new, unlimited source of food.

The critters fall in line (except for the turtle who remains suspicious, cautious, and unconvinced of RJ's wisdom or intentions.). To make a long story short, the family decides to follow the newcomer and to ignore the turtle until the truth comes out...and that's where the transformation comes in....RJ has lessons to learn, and is finally convinced that there are more important things in life than playing it safe and being selfish. I don't want to ruin the ending with any more details. For a "Christian" review, check out:

Oh, some of my more favorite "transformational" movies:

* Shrek I and II (III comes out next year!)

* The Elephant Man (People are transformed from seeing a freak, to seeing a beautiful person)

* The Lord of The Rings (Even Merry and Pippin, through struggle, become brave and noble)

* The Incredibles (A family finds its joy and passion in being who they were meant to be.)

* Finding Nemo (A fearful father faces his own phobias to find his son.)

* October Sky (A father learns to love his son for who he is and not for what he wants his son to be.)

* The Mighty (You might have to look for this one. A kid who has given up on himself is transformed by the disabled kid who moves nextdoor and teaches him a thing or two about chivalry and embracing life.)

* Pay It Forward (One kid with one idea transforms thousands of lives)

* You Can't Take It With You (Best film of 1938 with Jimmy Stewart; friendship wins out over material wealth.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Recommended "Old, Old" Movie

Core Thought: I used the best movie of 1938 (Academy Award), this past Sunday night during evening worship. If you can find it, "You Can't Take It With You" is a great flick with a lot to say about investing your life in others versus living for the almighty dollar!

Basically, this is the story of two wealthy men: Grandpa Vanderhof who is rich in the love he has from family and friends, and Anthony Kirby who is very rich in money, but very poor in love. Kirby needs Vanderhof's house to close the biggest deal of his life, but Grandpa doesn't care about money, but wants to stay in his house with his amazing family members who are...well...happy being who they are.

The main plot thickens as Kirby's son (Jimmy Stewart) falls in love with Grandpa's grand-daughter Alice (Jean Arthur) bringing the two opposite philosophies into open confrontation. It's worth finding and watching!

Monday, October 23, 2006

They're All Dead!

Core Thought: Every physical "thing" we think we own has to stay behind when we're gone!

We're in the middle of a stewardship emphasis which puts me in a stewardship frame of mind as I am out and about in the world! On a recent trip to Charleston, I did something I rarely do. I walked around in the historic section of town...mainly as an excuse to use my new camera. It's always a challenge to take pictures of things photographed so frequently by other tourists.

It was a nice change of pace, and a great day to do it. I noticed something. As people were touring homes that have been around for centuries, I thought about how wealthy those original owners were. Behind one of Charleston's signature churches, there was a stark reminder of what happened to every one of those old cemetery. My guess is that not one of those owners escaped that final moment of being divested of all their material wealth.

Think of the most wonderful, memorable, or life-changing moments in your life. How many of those moments were mainly the result of something you bought? Probably not many...those amazing moments usually revolve around significant moments with God and/or others...hmmm....sort of like what Jesus said were the two greatest God, love others. You can't buy that in a store.

Yep, those people in Charleston a couple of hundred years ago, had some mighty fine houses, and now they are tourist attractions! Since you're not going to get to keep all your stuff at the end anyway, why not have more fun with it now and invest in loving others with it. It's the only investment that has returns that you can take with you when it's time to go!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Taking Time to Notice

Just wanted to share these two pictures I took at the 150th annual meeting of our local Baptist association. We obviously took communion as part of the service. I noticed the bread and cups arranged like this, and took the shot...just to remember that communion is not just "remembering," but also it is committing ourselves to continuing to follow the One who paid such a price that we might have the privilege of following Him in the first place!

The Power of a Simple, Good Life

Core Thought: Success is when on the day of your funeral, people can say, "He loved me, he taught me that God loved me, and that the best life possible is one that loves God and loves others."

Years ago when I was doing some pre-marital counseling, the husband-to-be shocked me by asking me a question, "Pastor, how do you define success?" The shock was not in the particular question, but that he would ask anything as most grooms endure this part of the long march to the altar.

After I gathered myself, I told him, "Reid, success is when on the day of your funeral, you kids can say, "My daddy loved me and taught me that God loved me, too." Since that day, I've expanded that definition a little as you have read in the core thought.

One of my very best friends called me yesterday to tell me about an "amazing" (his words) funeral he witnessed for one of his very good friends. A quiet, humble, good man in his early 40's who died suddenly of a heart attack. His friend left behind a devoted wife and three great kids.

God's will? Only in that He allows heart attacks and other tragedies in life. As a bonus "aside," I tell people when they ask me "why" did God "take" my child, husband, etc....well, I respond that I don't envision God "taking" anyone. I see Him as a rescuer. For whatever reasons (and I'm sure they are good ones), God chooses not to violate human freedom as a else can we explain his standing by when drunk drivers hurt and kill innocent people, child abuse, rape, etc....but you've heard me go on about that haven't you?

I believe God hurts when we hurt, and that He knows every "appointment" we have with death, and He is there to rescue, to guide us home, to show us in the instant we wake up on the other side, that in eternity's eyes, death is no big deal.

In our eyes, however, it is the ultimate deal...especially when we lose someone we love. Yes, the death of this young father was a tragic one, but the tragedy would have been much greater if he had not lived his life so well...actually taking God seriously, and actually living out the best life spent loving God and loving others.

His life was marked by humility, gentleness, goodness and service. He worked in the family business, and in the church as a deacon, Sunday School teacher and children's worker.

Some people couldn't even get in for the funeral as the church sanctuary only seated 500. Those who came represented only a fraction of the number of lives this one life had touched. I love this quote by Helen Keller: "With every friend I love who has been taken into the brown bosom of the earth a part of me has been buried there; but their contribution to my being of happiness, strength and understanding remains to sustain me in an altered world."

What will people say about you when your time comes? What kind of legacy, or what kinds of seeds will you leave behind? In Romans 12:9-18 we have a pretty good description of a life that will not only be remembered long after a person is "gone," but a life that will leave behind seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (See Gal. 5:22,23) In this passage, Paul describes a life that is possible through our relationship with Christ, a life that "gets specific" in its impact on others... a life described like this:

9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

This is the life that is successful - not just now - but forever!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Evolution By Random Chance? Get Real!

This is one of my favorite shots of Tom, my brother's dog, and brother of my late dog, Dave. Tom loves getting pounded in the chest by a strong stream of water on a hot summer day. This picture was taken at the millisecond before he barked for another "shot."

I find it impossible to look into the eyes of a dog (especially exceptional dogs like Golden Retrievers!), and not believe in a benevolent God!

Dog quote for the day...

We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment. George Eliot

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Big Preacher vs. Tiny Roach! Roach Wins!

CORE THOUGHT: Distractions can come in small packages, and can deter big plans!

One of the few verses in Song of Solomon that preachers don't mind preaching on is this one: Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom(2:15). In this dialogue between the lover and his beloved, there is the desire to rid their relationship of anything that might threaten their love...those little foxes. Tonight, my "fox" that threatened my relationship with my hearers (this happened during my Wednesday night Bible study) was one, lone roach, who must have been the black sheep of the family since he was not adhering to the strict roach protocol of staying in the shadows, and not coming out until it's dark.

No, I didn't have the luck to have a law-abiding, this guy was a daredevil...crawling above my head on the chandelier (I was oblivious to his acrobatics until some of my members couldn't contain themselves any longer, and had to let me know. ) I didn't freak...I looked up, and made some comment about, "Well, my point must be a good one for Satan to send a roach to disrupt our train of thought.

I was making a particularly strong point about stewardship being fused with loving God and loving it's not about giving money to the church, but about learning how to value things the way God does...which is the same as valuing things the way they TRULY are valuable...

That's when the roach caught our attention...I didn't my best to ignore him, but then he swooped at me (again, I was oblivious) causing a stir among the front rows...hmmm...I wonder how many people went home discussing the relationship between our love for God and others, and the value we put on our stuff as dictated by soceity, or were they making comments about that roach!?

I wonder how many times God tries to show us some wonder right in front of our eyes, and we're either watching, or running from, or chasing to catch a roach (or a fox for that matter!)? Don't let anything derail you from the important stuff!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Dead Ends and Absolutely No Exits!

CORE THOUGHT: Discouraging words are all around us so there is no need for us to add to the atmosphere of despair.

I went to a nursing home this week and as I was leaving that particular hall, there was a sign on a door leading to the outside made to look like a traffic sign with the simple phrase: DEAD END! As if that wasn't bad enough (and I am not making ANY of this up...), this door had a window which revealed a chain-link fence gate with a bright red sign with white letters saying ABSOLUTELY NO EXIT!

I had seen an aide walking with a resident who was moving very slowly with her walker...slowly enough to have no trouble reading these warnings. I wonder what they think when they see the words...DEAD END or ABSOLUTELY NO EXIT...and then make a U-turn to go back to their rooms?

No, I'm not going to make some rosey statement about heaven waiting for them, or anything else that overlooks a real need. I just wanted to put a reminder out there that people are struggling in ways we can't imagine, and we just need to pay more attention to them. Without exception, everyone in a nursing home is valuable, and many of them have amazing stories to tell, if you will just take time to ask them!

I remember visiting a veteran years ago, whom I had visited many times before, but this time I decided to ask him about his memories of World War II, and I came to find out he was in the Battle of the Bulge! For anyone too young to know, care or remember this battle, search for it at
It was one of the last big battles of WWII in Europe involving over 1,000,000 soldiers (600,000 Americans!)...

Anyway, we need to take time to really listen to folks...and not just people in nursing homes...plenty of people feel caught in DEAD END situations with a sense that there is ABSOLUTELY NO EXIT. They need encouragement, not pat answers...maybe they don't need any answers, just someone willing to listen.

PS...if you want to read a really great story...a true one...about a very special nursing home lady...get John Ortberg's book, The Life You Always Wanted and find the story about Mabel (pp. 22-25), or search for Mabel's Story, Ortberg at The following blog has the story posted...don't know how long it will be there, but here it is:

Monday, October 16, 2006

Good Grief It's Hard For Me To Listen!

CORE THOUGHT: At a recent workshop on crisis intervention, I was reminded of how difficult it is to really, really listen!

One lesson I know I need to learn, but haven't is that I need to talk less and listen more. This weekend I went to disaster relief training and attended a wonderful workshop on crisis intervention. Part of the exercise included a simulated disaster (My group chose a multiple school shooting.) in which I was the pretend facilitator.

One of the "parents" of a victim started out by saying, "I'm going to get my rifle and kill the guy who did this." Sure, I wanted to say in a simulated way of course, "Now, calm down...let's dissect that...blah, blah, blah." One problem...our instructor told us that it was important to give group members real opportunities to ventilate, which meant we were not to comment much, or critique or respond too much for fear of shutting down honest expression. The "instruction" part of the process was to occur later in our simulation...

Those of you who know me know how hard this was to just be quiet, but it was worth it. The group really "got into it," and we even processed some real feelings ('re not supposed to use that word...I meant to say he had some "reactions.") against the exercise saying it was a waste of time.

At any rate, I learned that I must continue to fight that all-too-common tendency we have to be formulating a response to a person's words as he or she is speaking them, instead of focusing on what they are saying, how they are saying it and why they are saying it. It is shocking to some people when you reflect back to them what you heard, but I have seen it work lots and lots of times. Something as simple as, "What I hear you saying is..."

James 1:19 states, "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry..." Sure, it's hard to learn how to be quick to listen, but it is worth it, and if I can get better at it, anyone can! May you find hidden treasures today as you learn to listen BEFORE you speak!

Example Four - A Parent's Love is a Parent's Pain

CORE THOUGHT: The following is an episode that happened a couple of weeks ago. I delayed posting it to get "clearance" from my friend, the parent. It is about how love can be painful, especially with regards to raising kids. God understands that pain, and is our ultimate resource in dealing with it!

This is the last of my posts concerning how often examples of love popped up with in a recent two day visit to my mom's. Examples one through three can be found by scrolling down!During this time, I talked with a father in the midst of a struggle with his teen-ager. Now this kid is not into major "trouble" as many define drugs, illegitimate kids, etc. She just likes pushing the envelope...not calling when she should when she's out late; breaking curfews; being disrespectful or non-communicative.

Like so many teens, she knows which "tone" can get the most effect out of her parents. She's a very smart kid in a lot of ways, talented in a lot of ways, and popular. She has a very, very bright future ahead of her. She is not smart, however, in one major area. At this time in her life she appears to have forgotten a simple fact. She has forgotten, or at least acts like she's forgotten that of all the human beings she knows, or ever will know, that no two human beings on the planet love her and have her best interests at heart more than her two parents.

I have known this couple for some time, and they are at the tops of my list of parents who parent well. Their faith is consistent, deep and abiding. Their love for their kids is the same. But this past weekend, my friend didn't feel like a parent at the top of Andy Hunter's coveted "List of Remarkable Parents." No, he felt like a failure. The fact is, however, that he is not a failure...anymore than God is a failure for the way His earthly kids have turned out (see notes in Pt. II about God's first kids and grandkids!). God never lied to any of His kids, loved them completely and perfectly, and provided for all their needs... yet they forgot in the beginning, who to trust and opted for a snake's lie instead.

Theologically, I don't have the space to delve into exactly "when" the fall happened (i.e. as Eve's lips first touched the fruit)...but Adam and Eve were already on the slippery slope when they did not check out what the serpent said with God. No, they took the easy (so they thought) way out...the lazy way out...they acted on impulse and suffered the consequences.

We've been acting on impulse ever since. My friend's child isn't thinking clearly, she's acting on impulse: the impulse to be free; the impulse to be like her friends; the impulse to do what feels good. Contempt is the farthest thing from her mind, but that is what she's dishing out to the people who I have said...loved her the most; told her the truth the most; and sacrificed the most for her well-being.

Contempt is to treat something of value as if it has no value...being indifferent...sort of like what happened in the garden...choosing a sneaky serpent over the one, true, loving God, who even then had proved his love by giving life...and not just any in the midst of great with provisions freely given for lived in unhindered relationship with the Creator.

Still, impulse won out, and Adam and Eve lost....reaping what their lack of trust had sown...a much, much more difficult life than they had bargained for.I believe my friend's child will one day wake up and realize just how great her parents are. It might not be tomorrow, but I believe it will come. Until then, my friend will have to suffer with the continuing mine field of raising an adolescent.

He is suffering for the same reason God suffers when we ignore Him...because he loves his child!I'm reminded of what Christ said in Matthew 23:37: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." At least my friend knows that when he prays to his Father in heaven, that God understands what he's going through. Yet,God keeps on loving us, disciplining us, and forgiving us, and He's going to keep on giving my friend all the love and wisdom and power needed to keep on doing the same with his child!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Love is the Theme - Part III

Example Three - Tom's Seizure (Scroll down for Pts. I and II)

Someone once said, "No amount of money can buy the wag of a dog's tail." That is SO true. My family has been blessed by two dogs of extraordinary caliber...Tom and Dave. I still miss Dave who died almost four years ago, but Tom is an important connection for me, and as he ages, his color reminds me more and more of Dave.

This past Saturday, my brother, mother and me were getting in the car to go eat and shop (a Saturday tradition), when I saw Tom by the fence, having a seizure. He has them every several months, and is especially susceptible during extreme changes in the weather. It is a pitiful sight to be so helpless when he's having one of these episodes. All you can do is pet him, and be there.
The vet says these seizures are much harder on the owner than on the dog, and I believe it. The episode reminded me that sometimes love means "just being there."

As a bonus thought for those interested in the age-old question, "Do dogs go to heaven," I am including a wonderful quote from Joni Earickson Tada from an article on the subject in Christianity Today. She says, "If God brings our pets back to life [in heaven], it wouldn't surprise me. It would be just like him. It would be totally in keeping with his generous character … Exorbitant. Excessive. Extravagant in grace after grace. Of all the dazzling discoveries and ecstatic pleasures heaven will hold for us, the potential of seeing Scrappy would be pure whimsy—utterly, joyfully, surprisingly superfluous. … Heaven is going to be a place that will refract and reflect in as many ways as possible the goodness of joy of our great God, who delights in lavishing love on his children."

True or not, I like the quote, especially the phrase about God, "It would be just like him." Where do we ever get the idea that we have the right to limit God's expressions of his own generosity!?? As for me, the very existence of Golden Retrievers (and a few other "select" breeds) is evidence of a God's generosity and love!!!!

Oh, here is the link to the Joni/Dog article:

And a link for "dog quotes":

Love is the Theme - Part II

Example Two: Love Grows A Family

I'm still new at the blog thing, and I am kidded a great deal about my pastoral "paranoia," so I am going to be very general with this story so as not to invade the privacy of someone else. My church family knows who I'm talking about, and I don't want everyone to think that anything that happens to them will end up on my blog. Also, I got the "go ahead," from the mom in this entry.

I know this wonderful couple who have adopted three boys, all of school age. They thought they were "through" adding to their family, but then the phone rang informing them that their boys' birth mother had given birth to another boy. The husband is between jobs (though his prospects are good!), and the mom doesn't make a huge amount of money in her job as secretary.

After a painful 24 hours of prayer and consideration, this couple decided that this baby was "one of their sons," and that the only option they had was to go and get him! They would figure out the nuts and bolts of paying for (adoption is still pretty expensive, as are feeding, clothing and educating kids!) their new son later.

They have to go through the typical paper work before they can bring their new son home, and in the mean time, the child is in foster care with a delightful family who have helped over fifty newborns over the past 10 years. Yes, a lot of people may think this couple is nuts to adopt another child considering finances, etc. I know this couple, however, and I know what is motivating their in the best of interest of their new baby and of their three boys at home.

Their decision reminds me all over again that God's love for us is...well...unreasonable. It doesn't make a lot of sense does it? He knew from the beginning that we would be a lot of trouble. After all, how long do you really think if took Adam and Eve to do the ONE thing God told them not to do? And grandkids are supposed to be a specially blessing to grandparents, but God's two grandsons...well, one of them turned out to be the first murderer. Still God did not abandon his first family, and he hasn't abandoned us either.

It is "unreasonable" that God "demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) As I told my Sunday School class yesterday, "God loves us because...God loves us!" It's not because we're good, or because we're better than someone else...but it's in God's nature to love us. And God wants us to learn to love others, even our enemies, with this kind of unreasonable love. Our world says is someone is evil to you, then you should be evil to them.

God's word has a better way. Romans 12:21 says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Another way to put this is, "love wins!" Evil by its very nature is not the opposite of good, but the absence of it. Evil is a vacuum. We can get mad all we want at the evil in the world, but before we do, we need to ask ourselves if we are filling the world with more and more love? Are we acting in the best interests of others?

So this couple may not have made a logical decision, but they made a love decision, and how could that be wrong? May you find an opportunity this week to be unreasonable in your love toward another!

Love is the Theme...Of This Past Weekend

Did you ever have a teacher who taught you specific truths that have stayed with you? Rick Yount was one of my professors in seminary who defined love as "acting in the best interest of another PERIOD." This simple truth is the central thought of one of my favorite passages in Scripture, 1 John 3:16 which states, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." John then goes on in verses 17 and 18 to describe this "acting" love very specifically..."17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

This past weekend, I have seen this truth played out in several ways, none of which presenting the Hollywood idea of love as feelings, oh, oh, oh, feelings (aren't you glad you can't hear me singing that!). It began on Friday.

Example One: The love that hurts, but still reaches out to others. (Note: I let my mom read this before posting it for all the world to see!) My mom is doing amazingly well just six months after my father's death...getting out, visiting homebound folks, eating out with friends, going to church, visiting relatives, etc. Friday we finally got around to getting rid of a lot of my father's clothes. We would have done that earlier, but had to wait until his brother could come down and get some of them. Anyway, he took some, and the rest Ma is donating to charity. She still gets down sometimes, we all do, but our grief is a simple one. We miss my father, and that's okay...we forget that feeling down is not always bad.

Our culture is filled with products to help us not to feel bad, and these medications are needed when depression, etc., become chronic and debilitating. At other times, however, our pain and grief should not be so quickly erased (or covered over with medication). Grief, like it or not, is love...that's the deal. In a strange sort of way, the pain we carry from our losses are testimonies of how deeply we've been touched.

I thank God that my mother's pain is only the pain of missing my father, and not the pain of regret, or anger, or confusion that some people experience when a loved one dies tragically. My family agree that we have much to be thankful for in how long we had my father; for his quality of life; for being given the gift of avoiding some of the ravages of old age like Alzheimer's or having to have my father in a nursing home as an invalid.

Our gratitude is never far from our grief; and our grief, and especially my mom's, is appropriate and, yes, loving. I'm not worried about her, and am grateful for having such a great mom who has such a heart for others, on days when she's "up," and even on those days when she's not. She learned a long time ago that loving others is truly about acting in their best interests! Pray for her, as she is probably embarrassed as she reads this, but I can't help it, she is a great mom, and I want the world wide web to know it!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Defenseless Little Old Ladies? Give Me A Break!

In my congregation I have a good many senior adults, and the majority of them are vibrant, sharp, fully embracing life! A couple of my older ladies, far from being defenseless, are actually a pair of rattlesnake wranglers! This past Monday, Mantha called her former deacon and left a message that she had a BIG snake in her yard. When he called back an hour and a half later, she told him that she and her friend Peggy had taken care of it! She had called Peggy who made the 20 minute drive to Mantha’s while Mantha held the snake at bay with a stick, not wanting to let it back in the woods.

Peggy brought her double-edge axe, an axe that had beheaded many a serpent…she has had more than her share of reptile invasions when she lived in the country. With one strike, the snake was dealt a fatal blow. I called Peggy to tell her that I had heard about her heroism, and she dismissed it saying she had killed more than her share of snakes. I asked her, "How many strikes did it take?" She said, "One...that's all you strike."

This whole episode reminded me of something these two wonderful saints have in common. They have a tough faith. Both had had more than share of heartache including the loss of children and husbands. Still, they have not let life rob them of their joy or faith. Their faith is not some wimpy, pie-in-the-sky thinking happy thoughts kind of faith. No, their faiths have been tried again and again in the valleys of adversity, and have come out stronger. No wonder they can take on a rattlesnake with no fear; compared to what they’ve experienced, it might as well have been an earthworm.

I am reminded of Hebrews 13: 6 So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" Mantha and Peggy have the same confidence, and it shows! Oh, and the next time you are threatened by a rattlesnake, call Peggy!

Tom’s Advice – Stay Focused

I got a new camera this year, and I enjoy taking photos of my brother’s dog Tom. Tom, brother to my late dog Dave, has his own unique set of neuroses (He won’t come up the back steps into the house unless you walk down and escort him up!), but has many of the typical Golden Retriever qualities. He wants to be in close proximity with whoever is present. Though he’s ten and a half years old, he’ll still pretty active. Like most goldens, he has a big range of emotions, and from time to time, I want to share them with you. This picture was taken with the ball in flight toward Tom.

You can tell that the most important thing in his life at that moment is that ball heading toward him. His brain, at this moment, is calculating speed, trajectory, angle of descent, anticipated joy of making contact with the ball. At this moment, his brain is preparing a set of neurological instructions that will be sent to muscles in his mouth, neck, and the rest of the body…creating an elegant symphony of movements, perfectly coordinated to intercept the incoming projectile!

God must have some engineering department to have put so much work into allowing a dog to catch a ball! There is wonder and mystery all around us! Pay attention and live will be a lot richer for you! The psalmist reminds us, Psalm 40:5
Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. I totally agree, and I’m glad that God had time with all the wonders He has made to allow a dog the indescribable joy of catching a ball!