Bible, Life's Moments

Will Your Main Thing Remain the Main Thing

I once heard a preacher say, “There is an old German proverb that says, ‘The main thing must always remain the main thing.'”

Makes good sense to me.

However, what happens when the main thing goes away? We may very well want the main thing to remain. We don’t want to lose it. We cherish it above all else. Yet…there it goes…

…a relationship dries up.
…a business folds up.
…a skill shrivels up.
…one’s drive gives up.
…one’s appearance ages up.
…one’s health withers up.

What then? One or more of these often form the very foundation of the “main thing” for many people. Yet, each of them runs the very real potential of “going away.” It’s at times like these that we really start to understand phrases like…life just tossed me a curveball and it feels like the roof just caved in.

The expression, “I have a heavy heart,” takes on all new meaning because you literally feel like a stack of bricks is lying on your chest.

When you say, “It seems like I’m living in a dream world,” you mean it because to you life literally looks foggy on the edges.

The questions then are these:

  • What can really be the main thing?
  • What won’t ever go away?
  • What is there for us to cling that by its very nature will forever be a firm foundation?

Answer these correctly and adversity receives a whole new look.

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Bible, Life's Moments

Stay Hopeful My Friends

In the face of the Terror at Boston one might be inclined toward despair… please do not do it. Rather be inclined toward hope. Yes evil tends to make a big splash. It erupts quickly. It hurts. It leaves terrible damage in its wake and lingering pain for years and years. Still it cannot vanquish that which is good.

I offer two lines of evidence:

First, watch the videos of the Boston attack. Not ten seconds passed before heroes chased confusion from their hearts and minds. They were true first responders. Some in uniform. Most civilian. Some, I’m sure, acted out of training. Others from instinct. All from character. They are the “good’ who run toward chaos when evil thinks to overcome.

Second, never stop considering the Lord. In the face of centuries of evil–some beyond description–he runs continuously to those in need of rescue. From ultimate salvation to a brief moment in time, he responds. This is why the Apostle John said, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

We witnessed darkness at the Boston Marathon, but we witnessed greater light in and through the heroes of the attack on the Boston Marathon. We have and we will witness darkness in our own marathons, but we can witness greater light in and through the ultimate First Responder. Stay hopeful my friends.

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Life's Moments

A Simple Invitation

Over the years in our youth ministry we have often discussed “God Bombs.” I learned the power of their effectiveness from my wife, Vanita. They are just simple, yet meaningful and timely, name dropping opportunities. Here’s how it works…

Sally, the soccer mom, sees Molly, another soccer mom, by being at most of the practice sessions and soccer games in which their two little girls participate. The little girls become instant friends. Sally and Molly take a little longer. Sally works at a relationship of integrity. The ladies become “soccer mom friends.” Time passes. They talk about many things. They share about their likes, their dislikes. They Facebook. They meet for coffee. Trust levels increase. They become friends, not just “soccer mom friends.” One day Molly seems a bit agitated. Sally, doesn’t pry, but as always she is friendly and encouraging. They sit with one another observing the game. They cheer. They chat about the usual small talk. Molly then says something out of the ordinary. She complains, not terribly, just simply about something her husband did. Sally just listens. She makes no observations. She just listens. She lets Molly be Molly. Maybe the only words she utters are something like, “Molly, I’m sorry things are not going as well as you like.” Something simple like that. Time passes. Days pass. Friendship grows. Molly talks. Sally is a good friend. One day, who knows why this day, maybe it just feels right, Molly once again is discouraged and shares something personal. In response, Sally says, “That must be frustrating. I don’t know what I would do without prayer when I deal with tough times.” She then goes right back to listening. That’s a God bomb.

Over time, Sally refers to her life with the Savior as simply and as meaningfully as she refers to her family, her hopes, her dreams, her daughter’s last game, her work, and what she has cooking in the oven. She and Molly become good friends. She doesn’t drop the entire Book of Romans on Molly as they discuss their lives with one another. However, over time, it becomes rather obvious to Molly how important the Lord is to Sally–and it doesn’t repel, it compels. One day it all falls into place. Sally has prayed and prayed for her friend. Molly’s heart is open to a simple invitation. It might look a little like this brief video…except, of course, it will be far more in keeping with the special nature of the friendship shared between Sally and Molly. It may be an invitation to a concert, to church, a retreat, or, better still, it may be an invitation to the Savior. But it won’t be awkward. It won’t be stiff. It will be a simple invitation…one as simple and natural as an invitation to meet for lunch.

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Bible, Life's Moments

Protection From Above

I’m not sure, but I think my son, Daniel, once had shades of Snoopy lingering in his thoughts. You know, that particular image of Snoopy perched in a tree like a vulture keeping watch over everything below. Ready to pounce. Ready to provide. Ready to protect.

It’s okay. I got this.

It happened during that period of time when a mom and dad begin to nudge the responsibility and self-discipline training to the next level. Daniel was about 10 years old. Vanita and I had discussed some timing issues and some method issues regarding Daniel’s training. One of the items we chose was to leave him at home alone for a half hour or so.

“Daniel, we need to run to the store real quick. Matthew wants to go. Of course, Jessica is coming with us. Would you like to go or would you like to stay here and look after the house?”

Now all ya’ll know where this was designed to go. And it did.

“Really? I can stay here,” he asked.

“Yes. You’ll need to be very responsible. You know the house rules, right?”

“Yeah, I can do it!”

“Right, we know you can. So, okay, we won’t be long.”

Driving away produced no small amount of stress, but drive away we did. Training goes like that. A little older…a little more instruction…a little more responsibility…a little more autonomy to achieve success…a little more grace for the slips…and a whole lot of praying. We drove away with the stress and moderated it with the praying.

All these years later, I’m happy to report success. Back then, well, let’s just say I wasn’t always so sure.

We were anxious to get home, but we gave Daniel the time we had predetermined. We pulled into the drive way…and the excitement began. Daniel came on the run…not from the front door, not from the back door, but from up in a tree.

The tree was one of his favorite toys. It was one of those classic climbing trees. Situated just off the front porch and overlooking the front door, it provided a low branch for a swing and a tall climb for rambunctious kids. Apparently, it also provided Daniel with a fantastic ninja position.

“Dad, Dad…Mom, I saw this lady. I saw her.”

“What lady, Daniel?”

“The lady, the lady walking up the street. I could tell she was gonna come to our house.”

“Did she come to the house?”

“Yeah, I knew she would.”

“Oh, Daniel, did she knock on the door or anything?”

“Uh-huh, I knew she would.”

“You didn’t answer, did you? You know you’re not supposed to do that.”

“No, no, I didn’t. I couldn’t.”

A little bewildered, we just kind of stood there looking perplexed.

“I couldn’t answer the door. Instead, I said, ‘Who goes there!?’”

“What,” his Mother asked.

Daniel answered, “I said, ‘Hey, who goes there,’ and the lady jumped and screamed. I took care of it, Dad.”

“Daniel, wait, wait. What are you talking about,” I asked.

“Well, when you left, I was kinda scared, but I wanted to take care of everything, so I decided to climb the tree. That way I could be safe and watch over everything. So, I grabbed the hatchet…”

“The hatchet? Daniel, what? Why the hatchet? You know it only has certain uses and I need to be around when you use it,” I said with a nod to authority. On the inside, though, I knew where this was going and my Father/Daddy/Papa/Dear ‘ol Dad pride meter was climbing at break-neck speed.

“Yeah, the hatchet, Dad. (Breathing kind of fast) I was a little scared, but I knew I had to protect everything, (breathing a little harder) so I got the hatchet, (taking a gulp of air) turned everything off, locked the doors, put the key in my pocket, and climbed to the top of the tree. (Big breath, from corner to corner his smile stretched as far as the east is from the west). I did it Dad. Everything’s okay.”

“And the lady,” we asked.

“Oh, after she screamed and asked what I was doing in the tree, she left.”

Just like that, it was okay. It was okay.

Mom gave him a big, long hug.

I gave him a high five.

It was okay. Still is.

In just less than two weeks, Daniel will marry the lady for whom he has been praying, hoping, and looking for since he was a teenager. Her name is Abby. Daniel will perch over her. He will protect her and provide for her. He will pray with her, play with her, plan with her, and parent with her. He will be passionate about her. peaceful for her, and patient with her. Because he has such a wonderful Dad. No, take it easy, I’m not talking about myself. At night, before falling asleep, he’ll check in with Dad. After each long day he will say, “Dad, Abba Father, I did it. Everything is okay. The house is locked up. Abby is safe. (One day, hopefully) The kids are okay. I did it, Father. Everything is okay. Thank you. Amen.”

Here’s the important part…

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Update: Daniel and Abby, happily married, love one another and our Lord more and more everyday, help others and their little Rachel to do the same thing, and expect a brand new little baby boy any day now!

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Bible, Life's Moments

Where is he? Where am I?

Saw this spoken word by way of a random search. Awesome.

Think I’ll get a coach and learn how to do this. I really like what young people are doing with different forms of communicating the hope found only in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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Bible, Life's Moments

Memories

Memories. Sometimes sweet. Sometimes bitter. Almost always instructive.

A recent conversation brought this to mind. It gave me cause to reflect on my “days on the farm.” What an awesome, incredible, joy-filled experience… especially for a city boy.

There is nothing quite like waking up to the sight of five or six cows on the loose and running down the road. Nothing much can prepare you for the frightful moment a turkey decides to lunge at your midsection. And the yard work…oh brother, forget it! The weeds never go away.

If you are familiar with farms, then you know what I mean. If not, you have nooooo idea.

Neither did I. In fact, I thought it would be everything my childhood imagination insisted.

Bare feet.
Fresh milk.
Omelets every morning.
Horseback riding.
Sipping lemonade on the porch.
Dangling hot feet in cool streams.
A dog for the front yard.
A dog for the back yard.
A dog for the truck.
And a dog for Mama’s lap.
Mice keeping the crumbs away and cats keeping the mice away.
Roosters crowing.
Sheep braaaing.
Cows bawling.
Children playing.
And grown-ups talking.

Well, I guess it’s all of that and quite a bit more. Some I experienced. Some I still dream about.

During our first church ministry, my young family and I were invited to live on a farm with some members of the church. They had just built a new home on the farm leaving the old farm house empty. We could hardly believe our fortune. The scent of hay filled our senses from a hundred miles away. We could barely contain ourselves. Graduating from school, packing our household items and tying up loose ends became mere formalities. In our hearts we were already on the farm.

The arrival only reinforced the expectations. And four years on that beautiful farm confirmed our expectations were right. We built friendships stretching to heaven and memories that seem like heaven.

One in particular still gives me reason to giggle. My wife, Vanita, was out weeding her small garden. Remember, we were city folk living the country life…always willing, not always as wise. As she kneeled, pulled, dug, and rearranged, our first child, Matthew, played around her, on her, under her, and sometimes over her. He played with the tools…well, he managed to lift a handle or two, seeing as he was just two years old or so. He picked up the discarded weeds…put some of them back in the ground. He dug deep in the soil with his bare hands. He chucked a few small stones. All in all, he was becoming the little boy I once longed to be.

Playing behind Vanita, Matthew said, “Mama, is dirt good?”

“Yes, Sweetheart, the dirt is good,” she answered.

“Mama, is the sky good?”

“Yes, Honey, the sky is good.”

“Howbout the rocks, Mama? Rocks good?”

“Uh-huh, rocks too, Matthew.”

“Grass?”

“Yes, grass too.”

“Mama, are worms good?”

“Yes, Baby, worms are good.”

And for just a little bit our son fell silent.

… … …

Then,

“Puh, yecch, blech, puh, puh, splech, khu-poo…uh-uh, Momma, worms not good!”

Turning, my beautiful wife witnessed Matthew spitting the last remnants of a large earth worm from his mouth. He turned, lips and cheeks all covered with dirt, smiled and said, “Uh-uh, Mama, worms are ugh.”

Memories are awesome. They bring back good times…sometimes not so good times. They give us a reason to pause…slow down…reflect…and learn. You can fill in the blanks regarding the lessons we learned from that little episode. Even more so the many lessons learned during a not so successful transformation from city folk to country folk. Perhaps for me the lesson is this: children want to learn. They are born with the who, what, where, when, and how questions ready to explode from their minds and their lips. More importantly, the why question is just begging to be fulfilled.

“Why is dirt good, Mama?”

“Well it helps us grow food.”

“Why, Mama?”

“Because, it has the right stuff for growing the food.”

“Why, Mama?”

“Because, it’s always been that way, darling.”

“Why, Mama?”

“Because, that’s how God made it.”

“Why, Mama?”

“Oh, Baby, sometimes I just don’t know why.”

“Why, Mama?”

If you are a parent, you’re saying, “Been there, done that,” right?

Most often their questions make us proud. Often the questions stump us. Sometimes exasperate us. Hopefully they do not anger us.

It’s the way God designed us. The human being is a question producing, information gathering, idea synthesizing product of an all-knowing, never-changing, wise and creative God. We learn. He teaches. We’re made in his image. So we get to teach also.

Be careful, then, Mom. Be careful, Dad. Be careful, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, teacher, preacher, counselor, mentor…be careful. In the Bible we read this:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Deuteronomy 6:4-7

and this

My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.  Psalm 78:1-4

and this

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

Be careful that you help your offspring not only know about God, but come to know him. The last thing you want to hear from your son or daughter one day is, “Puh, yecch, blech, puh, puh, splech, khu-poo…uh-uh, God’s not good!”

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