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
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.


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?

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.

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.

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?