Feb 112024

We had a little sparrow taking refuge in our garage during the cold wet winter. I don’t know when it was coming in, but many nights or early mornings in January, I would find it flitting around in the garage when I let the dogs out. My routine was to close the door at night to keep things from freezing in the garage, and open it in the morning to let the dogs out. Somehow, the sparrow would be there.

Upside down bucket
An upside down bucket, as it should be.

I am sure the sparrow was just trying to stay protected from the cold and wet weather. We had a bunch of rain in late January. The ground got totally soggy. I had a big bucket just outside the garage that got about 3 or 4 inches of water in it. A giant rain gauge of sorts. Multiple times over the last few weeks I would see the bucket and have the thought “You should empty that bucket.” But it was kind of interesting to see the rain measurement and I did not take the time to bend over, pick it up and pour it out.

The other day, I found the sparrow, dead in the bucket. I guess he flew to the edge of it on a cold morning, trying to get a drink, fell in and couldn’t get out. He froze, or drowned or both. I was very sad, and I regretted ignoring that “You-should-empty-that-bucket” feeling that had struck me multiple times over the last few weeks.

I took the dead bird out of the bucket, belatedly poured out the water, and turned it over. I tossed the poor sparrow over the fence into the woods and headed back into the house apologizing to God for ignoring the prompt to empty the bucket sooner. Then I remembered something I had done recently. More likely, I was reminded by Someone of something else I had done recently. I had been praying, complaining to God about one-sided conversations and the fact that He did not speak to me. As I walked into the house I didn’t hear a voice, but I got the message from Father God loud and clear. “See, I do speak to you. And I care about the sparrows, remember?”

Nov 262023

November 26, 2023
Today, our church left the building. Next Sunday, we will be worshipping in a different place. The Methodist powers-that-be have told us that we can’t leave the denomination and take our property with us, even though many other churches have been allowed to do so. It would seem their underhanded ways to keep our building have been successful. I guess they will keep the building and we keep the people, God’s church, the bride of Christ. I think we got the better end of the deal. – jms

 Posted by at 6:05 pm
Nov 262023

The Jesus I know cares about me.
The Jesus I know sees everything I go through.
The Jesus I know stands in the gap for me.
– He has my back.
– He leads in front.
– He laughs with me.
– He cries with me.
– He never leaves me.
– He understands me.
The Jesus I know, knows me.

 Posted by at 5:29 pm
Oct 162023

Marshall and me sailing Marshall and I went sailing this past weekend. It’s a recently new experience for me. Even though the wind was in our face, we managed to make it out of the little cove where we launched without too much trouble. Marshall’s skill at tacking and adjusting the sail got us out on wind power alone. Once in the main body of the lake, we were at times moving so fast we were making a wake in the water. I was amazed how fast we could go, even when keeping the bow of the boat pointed just a few degrees off from straight into the wind.

We sailed in the lake for hours, despite the big waves and gusty wind, always keeping the sail pointed into the wind. What nearly got us was coming back into the cove at the end of the day when the wind was at our backs. I thought “This will be easy compared to getting out of the cove.” I was wrong. With the wind at our back, one slight turn in the wrong direction could send the boom flying around with amazing force, suddenly pushing the boat in the opposite direction. It happened to us, and we nearly capsized. I had to lean way out on the other side of the boat to keep us from going over. At one point I could see the keel rising toward the surface. I leaned farther out, Marshall quickly adjusted the rudder, and the boat settled back down in the water as it should. It was exhilarating to say the least.

Now that it’s over, I realize there are really two lessons I learned from the experience.
1 ) Having an “almost” catastrophe can be very exciting and can be a teaching moment. I’m glad we had an “almost catastrophe.” I would NOT be glad if we had an actual catastrophe. I might still learn a lesson, but I would also be very cold and wet.
2) In life as well as sailing, having the wind at your back is not always a good thing. You can quickly become complacent. Then when you are not paying attention, something catastrophic can happen. Life, like sailing, is probably much more interesting, fruitful, and enjoyable when you have to show a little skill and finesse by dealing with headwinds now and then.

Just keep sailing, and be ready to quickly grab the tiller, turn the rudder, and lean the other way should you take a wrong turn.


Feb 112023

There once was a man who raised mice. He was a very special man, because he was very powerful and very wise. He knew all about the past, and he could even see five minutes into the future. What he could not do, was force the mice he had raised to respect and honor him. So, he decided to do an experiment.

He started by building a big table. It was very long and wide, and taller than the clouds, so that it was impossible to clearly see what was beyond the edges of the table. He placed a large cage with a remote controlled door at one end of the table then spread delicious cheese all over the table. As he gathered his mice and put them all in the cage at one end of the table, he already knew the result of the experiment. In five minutes, it would all be over, and he knew how it would end.

With the mice all in the cage, he moved to the other, far end of the table and sat in a chair beneath it. His lap was spread wide under the edge of the table, and was big enough to hold the world. As he sat there looking at his mice in the cage at the other end of the table, he grabbed the remote control for the cage door and thought about pushing the button. He knew what would happen if he did. Was it worth it? He knew it was, so he pushed the button.

Immediately, the mice ran out of the cage and began to go in every direction. He called them to himself. “Come here and I will take you home with me for a delicious dinner with all kinds of wonderful foods.” Some of the mice heard the man and came running toward him, falling off the table into his big soft lap. Others wandered around the table, fighting over the cheese and becoming so distracted they eventually fell off the side of the table, tumbling to their death far below.

In five minutes, the experiment was over. The man looked down in his lap at all the happy mice who had chosen to come to him. They were all looking up at him with great respect. “I knew all of you would come to me.” he said. “I knew it even before I pushed the button.” Then he gathered them up and carried them into his home where they feasted on unimaginable delights.

Because he knew what would happen before he pushed the button, some would say he caused some mice to die and some to live and share in his blessings. Others would say, the mice could make their own choice and so it was their decision to come to him. Both would be right. And the amazing thing is, that knowing what would happen, he decided to push the button.

Oct 182022

Timing is everything, or at least so I have heard.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s true, and sometimes I wonder what part God plays in the timing of our lives.

I remember during my college days, my roommate and I somehow found ourselves registering for the same class at the same time.  Given our different class position, schedules, and career goals, it almost never happened.  But this time, the stars aligned, and we found ourselves taking the same early morning class for one semester.  The class was called “Man’s Aesthetic Experience.”  It was a class designed to give us an appreciation for classical music, Greek sculptures, Danish paintings and such, but in truth, such a class scheduled for 7:30AM in the morning was perfectly designed to put students to sleep.  In fact, it did it very well.

That being the case, and Joey and I being the enterprising and adaptable students we were, we devised a plan. Most mornings, we would both go to class (attendance was part of the grade) but would take turns paying attention and taking notes.  So, one of us would stay awake, listen, and take notes while the other would put his head on the desk and sleep.  Or in Joey’s case, snore.  Later on, at a reasonable hour before a test, we would share notes.

It was a perfect plan, but it wasn’t long before Joey modified the plan and started pushing the limit a little bit.  Since at least a few absences were tolerated, why sleep with your head on the desk when you could remain comfy and warm in your own bed?  Thus, on multiple occasions when it was my turn to take notes and his turn to sleep, Joey would utter a groggy “Go on without me.”  Which I did.  Sometimes he would miss something important, like a quiz or a presentation, but for Joey, the extra sleep was worth the risk.

For me, it was a different story.  I’m not saying I didn’t trust Joey’s note taking, but for some reason, I couldn’t do much sleeping in class, and I almost never skipped a class.  Joey would encourage me to stay in bed some mornings, promising to go and take good notes for us both, but I never did . . . except once.

I remember the morning when we were maybe two-thirds through the semester and Joey got up to go to class.  It was his turn to take notes.  I woke feeling an undeniable urge to skip class, so I told Joey to go without me.  “I’m going to skip class and sleep in this morning,” I said.

Joey looked at me like some alien had taken over my body.  It was so uncharacteristic of me.  But I assured him I was still in my right mind and told him he should go on without me, which he did.  It was the one and only time I decided to sleep in and skip that class, which makes it even more amazing that ten minutes later, Joey came shuffling back to the room, threw down his books, and said, “Class was cancelled.”  I had unknowingly picked the perfect time to sleep in.  Maybe timing is everything.

Now as far as God is concerned, I wonder, did He cause class to be cancelled?  Did He prompt me to relax and sleep in?  Or was it just a crazy, very unlikely coincidence?  I can’t pretend to know anything about God’s class skipping strategies, but I do believe he is involved in the timing of our lives.

The Bible says there is a time for everything.  It says we should “wait on the Lord.”  It also says, “now is the time.”  I think we Christians often spout the “wait on the Lord” timing, but we are not so crazy about the “now is the time” moments.  God’s timing isn’t always about waiting.  Sometimes it’s about moving forward in life even though we would rather stay where we are.  Maybe we are comfortable.  Or maybe we are afraid of something in the future.  Or maybe we see something coming that we want to avoid.  But that stuff is all a part of God’s timing too.  

Think about Jesus.  He was the Messiah.  He said so.  He proved it.  But the Pharisees said, No, you are not.  We are still waiting for the Messiah.  Even so, there was a right time for him to go to Jerusalem to die.  Peter tried to postpone it.  He was working against God’s timing.  Jesus recognized that “timing rebellion” as the devil’s work and went on to Jerusalem despite the suffering in store for him there.  Now was the time, for the hard part.

In every life, there are good things that happen, and bad things that happen.  Or maybe I should say, there are fun things, and not so fun things.  There are happy things, and sad things.  But God’s timing applies for both.  If there is a best time for that good thing to happen, then there is also a best time for that “bad” thing to happen.  And a “bad” thing happening at the right time, can be a good thing.  That flat tire in my driveway may have kept me from a bad wreck on the interstate later.  The layoff now may be God’s push toward finding a better job.  The timing is part of the way in which God works all things for good.

But what about the really bad things?  Is there ever a good time to get cancer?  For my house to burn down?  For my child to die?  For me to die?  I can’t answer that.  What I can say, is that sooner or later, I must die.  And I don’t want it to be later if God wants it to be sooner.  Even if I could somehow postpone God’s timing on that, I would be terrified to do so.  What horrible things could I cause or do, maybe even unintentionally, in the days, months, or years I was on Earth when I should have been in Heaven.  If God had allowed Hitler to die from some disease at the age of six, those who loved the child would have thought it a horrible thing.  That he had an “untimely” death.  Would it be so?

I am not saying that everyone who dies young would have grown up to be a Hitler or Charles Manson, or that every house that burns down would have harbored a future gang of evil.   What I am saying, is that in every play, there is a perfect time to exit the stage.  In every game, there is a right time for the coach to pull his star player out.   There is that moment when the very best that could happen has happened.  When “goodness” is at it’s peak.  To wait longer, to refuse to move on, is to allow things to stagnate and rot.

The timing is part of the way in which God works all things for good, right?  I may not like it.  I may protest and scream “Why now?  Not yet!  I wasn’t ready.”  Or like Jesus, I may even fall on my knees in the garden and pray to skip it altogether.  But in the end, if the Kingdom of Heaven is my ultimate concern, I must accept it.   I must believe that a perfect God has perfect timing.

So, what if we screw up and miss God’s timing?  In that case I suppose we may miss some opportunities and bring some unnecessary hardships.  However, we can’t let that cause us to give up in despair.  For God, timing isn’t everything.  It’s just one thing out of everything in an everlasting, infinite universe over which He reigns supreme with absolute control.

Jul 202022
Waiting for a delicious bite.

My dogs like steak. I think. They crunch and chew their dog food, but swallow steak bites in one big gulp. They don’t even taste it. They swallow it whole, then they look at me like “What just happened? Did I eat that already? Is there more?” Meanwhile, I’m standing there shaking my head and wondering why I bothered to bless them with a bite of my delicious, expensive steak.

Now I’m wondering, do I live the blessed days God gives me that same way?

May 292022

The book of Revelation promises blessings to those who read it out loud, so that is what I am doing.  It’s full of visions and imagery, scenes of countless multitudes gathered around a throne in eternal worship of God. Doesn’t that sound boring? Maybe when I get there, I’ll feel differently. I can imagine that. I can also imagine something else.  

Imagine I get to Heaven and after spending a few hundred years seeing the sites and meeting the saints, I decide I want to go exploring. I set out to explore the galaxy God has made. In an instant I zip to the edge of the Milky Way and visit the farthest planet circling the farthest star. I get there, step out on the farthest ledge, and look up. Guess what I see? My glorious Father God. From here I can still see Him in all his glory. I can still worship him with all the multitudes.  

I must be crazy. I thought I was leaving Heaven. I thought I was moving far, far away from the throngs worshiping God. How amazing it is that I can be so far away and yet still worship God in concert with all the rest of his children. I decide to leave the Milky Way and find the farthest galaxy I can find. I’m there in a blink, but He is already there when I get there. I look up, see my wonderful God, and in that distant and beautiful galaxy on the edge of the universe, I worship with my brothers and sisters.  

Here’s the problem.  I pictured a god sitting on a throne with crowds around, me standing in the back, stretching my neck and straining my eyes to see him way, way far away.  Peter, John, Paul, and the saints on the front rows, and me, way back in the cheap seats. God’s not like that.  He’s bigger. Just like the sun can be present and seen by millions and millions of people at the same time, so can God. Yes, I suppose we will all be able to worship God together no matter where we are. No matter where we go, no matter how far away we explore, even if we go to the vast edge of the universe, we can still look up and see God. Because the entire universe is His throne, and He’s big enough.

Apr 122022

Oh great God, please watch over me as I walk today’s path. I humbly ask that you take control of everything I encounter. If it be trials, hardships, or disappointments, use them to make me better; to make me more like You. If it be blessings, then help me to recognize them and rejoice in them with a grateful heart. Whichever comes my way or crosses my path, may I lay down in peace tonight, and be thankful.

Jan 012022

The very first day of the year is almost over. I’m ending this first day of the year much like I spent the previous year: At the hospital. I’m waiting outside in the parking lot while my precious wife fights through some recovery challenges from her liver transplant. Because of Covid, I can’t go in with her, so I sit in my car and wait. It’s starting to feel routine.

I am so grateful she received the transplant. It was a life saving procedure. Now, the path since the transplant has been a bit rougher than I thought it would be. I keep hoping for the green pastures and still waters. In the meantime, I just keep on moving forward and do my best to trust the Good Shepherd will get us there.