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.

Nov 262021
The blue sky view out the window

Friday, November 26, 2021

I’m sitting in the hospital with Tammy, the sound of the ventilator clicking away like a slow second hand on a clock.  It’s hounding me with Time’s relentless push through another painful day.  I stare out the window at the blue sky and ponder the reality of a day lost. What a lousy way to spend what looks to be a perfect day.  A day that could have been spent walking and holding hands under the blue sky, or talking with family, or enjoying a meal and a TV show.  Maybe popcorn and Hogan’s Heroes while we lay in bed and wind down the end of the day.

Instead, we are in the hospital.  I’m waiting, watching, praying and trying to muster faith.  She, hopefully, mercifully, is sleeping and won’t even remember these days.  But as soon as I thought of these days as wasted and lost for us, I heard a familiar voice inside my head.  God can give me back these days ten-fold or more.  I know it’s true. Maybe these days in the hospital are like seeds.  Days spent here will reap many days later.  For every day we spend here, perhaps we will get 100 more added to the number of our days. Wouldn’t that be just like God?  

The doctors, nurses, and hospital workers are all a part of this day too.  So who knows, maybe the intersection of our days spent in the hospital with their lives here may be something of eternal value.  Then it would certainly not be days wasted.  It would be days invested in order to reap eternal rewards.

Any day that is spent in the center of God’s will cannot be a day wasted.

Oct 242021

The Hubble telescope has seen a star so distant from us that its light took 9 billion years to get here.  Nine billion years, traveling at the speed of light.  It’s an unimaginable distance, yet God put that star there, and about 200 billion trillion others, all for one reason.   

I used to think God created the universe, maybe even spending a lot of time on it, designing galaxies and stars and planets just to keep himself busy and fulfil what must be an enormous creative impulse.  Sling a star here, plop a planet there, different colors, different sizes, different designs.  Who knows.  Maybe he even created other beings on other planets, then one day decided, “Hey let’s try this again.  I have some ideas for a place called Earth.”  

Well it didn’t happen that way.  Not according to the bible.  This is what the bible says in Genesis chapter 1:
God made two great lights – the greater light to rule over the day and the lesser light to rule over the night. He made the stars also. God placed the lights in the expanse of the sky to shine on the earth,

Even if you take the creation story as allegorical, surely you must at least accept the reasons for God’s actions as given in the bible as truth.  Otherwise why would you believe the reason for Jesus any more so than any other story in the bible?  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…”  Is that allegorical too? 

It’s true.  God gave his son as a sacrifice for our sin because he loves us.  And he made a universe of 200 billion trillion stars, just to shine on the earth.  So next time you are out on a dark clear night, look up.  All those stars in that unimaginably immense universe  were put there by a loving God  for one simple reason.  To shine for you.

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.