Sep 092021
 
An inhabited spider web

The spiders have taken over. Last year, we told the exterminator not to kill the spider that had made a home just off our front porch. We liked to see the web and enjoy watching nature do its thing. Well, nature did its thing. A lot. This year we have a zillion garden spiders all around our house. And it’s fascinating.

If I am honest, I have to admit that just like most everyone else, the spiders scare me. They are small monsters hanging in a sticky web, ready to pounce. I suppose I could take a big stick and knock them into oblivion. Or spray them with some powerful bug spray and watch them shrivel and die. But I just can’t do that. I respect them too much.

A strong strand of spider web

When I see their web, I marvel at the design and wonder at the accomplishment. How did this spider get a single strong strand of fiber to stretch from the peak of my roof to one corner of his front porch pearch. Another strand stretches all the way to a single leaf of a green bean plant, growing in my front yard. As I picked the green beans a few days ago, I touched it, and was amazed at the strength I could feel in that tiny taught strand.

So, when I walked out the front door on my way to work this morning, I said hello to the spiders, and with a little fear and trepidation, quickly ducked around their webs and headed for the car. As I drove away, I contemplated the odd combination of fear, adoration, and wonder that these spiders inspired. It occured to me that it could be a small example of what it means to fear the Lord, which the Bible says, is the beginning of wisdom. And if the “fear of the Lord” is where wisdom starts, maybe respecting a spider is not a bad way to get started.

Proverbs 9:10

Aug 102021
 

My computer keeps showing me pictures. Every time I wake it up from sleep, it shows me a beautiful picture and even asks if I like it, and would like to see more like it. I always say yes to the nature ones, so it keeps showing me lots of nature pictures. Beautiful icy landscapes. Tall cliffs blocking the advance of tumultuous ocean waves. A crystal stream rambling its way through a green tropical forest. You get the idea. You probably have similar pictures popping up on the screensaver of your computer, or your TV, or Roku, or smart speaker…. these days, they are everywhere.

There is a downside about seeing these pictures of beautiful places. For me at least, it plants a little seed of discontent. I look at the beautiful place in the picture, then I think about where I am, and I wish I could be there instead of here. I’m sitting in an office building behind a desk while some lucky photographer got to be sitting on a rock, behind a camera, taking a picture of a waterfall. I want to be near the Amazon waterfall, not the office water fountain.

The truth is, most of my life I’ve dreamed of being somewhere I’m not. What would it be like to live in Alaska? How about living on a boat near the ocean? Maybe I could move to the mountains. These are mostly dreams that are only fantasies. They will never come true. Just like many of the pictures on my screensaver, they are places in life where I will never roam. It’s sad in a way. But it’s also not a complete story.

When you think about the guy sitting on the rock in the Amazon taking the perfect picture of the beautiful waterfall, do you also think about how hard that rock gets after a while? Or how many mosquitoes are gnawing on his skin? Or the 100 degree temperature and 99% humidity the guy has to endure perhaps for days just to get to and from the place where he can take the picture? Would you rather see the icy landscape? I wonder how cold it is there? How many long dark cold snowy nights would I have to endure to enjoy one day of sunshine on clean fresh snow and ice?

I know what it IS like where I am. I know what it can LOOK like some places where I think I want to be. But I also know that the way something looks and the way something is are almost never the same. I just have to keep reminding myself that. About a lot of things.

Jul 222021
 

One thing I am learning through the trials: Enjoy the peaceful nows. Tomorrow, or yesterday, the previous hour or the next minute may have trouble. I might even see the possibility of real trouble in the future, but if there is no trouble right now, I’m learning to enjoy that. To enjoy the peaceful now. The moments when everything is ok, at least for now. Those are the “peaceful nows” I am finding scattered here and there among the trials and tribulations of life. And though I wish they were numerous and extended, perhaps the very fact that they are not has been a major part of teaching me to relish them more when they do happen. No matter how far between and fleeting they are, enjoy the peaceful nows.

Apr 182021
 
Two of the helicopters that landed in my neighborhood

I went for a walk this morning, just through our neighborhood. It was amazing. There were thousands and thousands of helicopters everywhere. It was like helicopters were growing on trees. Who could design that? A tree that manufactures helicopters?

Jan 012021
 

I helped my son move to Knoxville this week. It was a bittersweet experience. I was glad for the opportunity to help, but sad to see him go. He and his family are now four hour away instead of 20 minutes.

After we finished unloading the U-Haul trailer, I was getting ready to come back home when he asked me if he could pay for the gas. I told him “No, but there is one thing you can do for me.”
“What’s that?” he asked.
“Promise me that if you ever need help, you will call me.”
“I promise.” he replied.

Fighting to maintain our macho guy image, we both got a little glassy eyed, gave a quick hug, then quickly turned and walked away. The emotions were strong because I am his father, and it gives me comfort to know that my precious son would not struggle alone when he needs help. My love for him stretches way beyond the four hour drive to Knoxville. I want him to know that if he needs me, I will be there for him. I might not always see or do things the way he wants, but I want him to always, always, always, know that if he needs anything, he should talk to me about it, because we love each other.

So, that brings me to this morning’s bible study. It was from Luke chapter 11. It’s the story where the disciples ask Jesus how they should pray and he gives them an example, and a story about always asking, seeking knocking. Those christians who would make me feel guilty for making my prayers mostly about asking God for things should read their Bible more closely. It’s exactly what Jesus told us to do. Our Heavenly Father wants us to ask him when we need help. Why? Because we love each other.

Dec 302020
 

Yesterday was a nice day, especially for December. The temperature was above normal and the Sun was shining bright, so I stretched out my hammock in the back yard and enjoyed a rare December day, relaxing on the hearth of God’s bright, enormous fireplace. While listening to the birds singing joyful thanks to the Creator for such a beautiful day, I looked up at the trees that were holding my hammock. I realized that the same trees that provided shade from the Sun in the Summer were now clear of leaves so that the Sun could shine through and warm the Winter ground below. What a marvelous design. And believe it or not, while laying there in the hammock, I actually got to talk with the Designer.

Dec 282020
 

Here’s a crazy Bible story for you:
Joshua son of Nun sent two spies out from Shittim secretly and instructed them: “Find out what you can about the land, especially Jericho.” They stopped at the house of a prostitute named Rahab and spent the night there.
Joshua 2:1 NET

When I read a snippet like that from the Bible, my imagination goes wild.  How in the world did this happen?  Joshua sends two spies out on reconnaissance.  They are about to tackle a major battle with a fortified city and they need intel, so these two guys sneak in, then decide to visit a prostitute… and spend the night??  Who’s idea was that?  Did they know she was a prostitute when they picked her house?  Or did they just pick her house at random, find out she was a prostitute, THEN decide to spend the night when she seemed friendly?  And even if a prostitute acts friendly, wouldn’t you guess her motive was more in line with her career than her character?

Here’s more of the story:
The king of Jericho received this report: “Note well! Israelite men have come here tonight to spy on the land.” So the king of Jericho sent this order to Rahab: “Turn over the men who came to you – the ones who came to your house – for they have come to spy on the whole land!” But the woman hid the two men and replied, “Yes, these men were clients of mine, but I didn’t know where they came from. When it was time to shut the city gate for the night, the men left. I don’t know where they were heading. Chase after them quickly, for you have time to catch them!”
Joshua 2:2‭-‬5 NET

It would seem, “visiting a prostitute” was the perfect alibi. Even so, wouldn’t you love to hear how this went down when these two guys got back to camp and gave their report?  I can hear the questions now.

“So what happened?”
“You did WHAT??!!  You stayed where???!!!”
“Did you really think she would help our cause?”
“What did she do?” 
“Just who’s idea was it to spend the night with a prostitute anyway?”

 I wonder what their answer was?

Nov 302020
 

The day you came, you brought joy and laughter, and love. Your arrival marked one of the best days of my life. You made me feel so proud and so blessed to have you in my life, and so it has been for 35 years.  Now a new life has come to you, and all those feelings come rushing back, some for the new arrival, but mostly, for you. Watching you become a mom has made me the proudest father, all over again.

Oct 132020
 

Pilate addressed them once again because he wanted to release Jesus. But they kept on shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done? I have found him guilty of no crime deserving death. I will therefore flog him and release him.” But they were insistent, demanding with loud shouts that he be crucified. And their shouts prevailed.
– Luke 23:20‭-‬23 NET

Some things never change. Those who yell long enough and loud enough usually get what they want… or at least what they think they want.

Aug 282020
 
A Beautiful Place to Walk

I’ve never really liked the story from the Bible about the two guys on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24) Something about it just didn’t seem right. These guys were disciples, Jesus comes along and walks with them, and they don’t even recognize him. It makes them sound clueless. Dumb. Like not sincere followers. If you read the story carefully though, you will notice it really wasn’t their fault. The Bible says that their eyes were kept from recognizing him. So was Jesus playing a joke on them?  That doesn’t sound right either. These are the reasons I never liked this story, until this morning. 

This morning, it was different. As I read through the story again, I gained a new perspective on the blessing Jesus shared with these guys. He wasn’t playing a joke on them.  He was blessing them. They were kept from seeing him as Jesus. But why? 

Imagine two walks, the one they had, and the one they would have had if they had recognized Jesus from the start. If they had recognized Jesus when they met him on the road, they would have been in awe. They would have worshipped him. They would have feared his power and praised his greatness. It would have been wonderful for sure, but it would not have been at all like the walk they had. What if Jesus wanted something different? 

Imagine the walk they had. Three guys met on the road and walked along together talking about their experiences. The new guy taught them about the scripture in a new way. They listened, they discussed, they questioned and contemplated together. No one felt on edge, on their guard, off balance or unworthy. They were just three guys walking and talking together as friends, discussing the recent events and the history of their faith.  Perhaps that is exactly what Jesus wanted.  

After all the events he had just been through, a quiet walk and talk without all the hype was the way Jesus chose to relate those events to his disciples.  He was Lord and Master choosing to relate to them as equals. As friends. And because he kept their eyes from seeing him in all his lordly glory, they experienced him as friend and confidant.

I wonder, could it be this very story that provides a hint as to why God doesn’t make himself more visible? Why does God not powerfully show himself to the world and prove he exists? Maybe, possibly, could it be that the unapproachable blinding holy light of his glory would keep us from seeing the close companionship of a loving friend and father?