Wednesday, August 23, 2017


The eclipse was quite a phenomenon on Aug. 22, 2017. I was either driving, at the hospital visiting, or in a store when the moon covered the sun. I also didn't have the safety glasses so I have only seen pics on the news or the NASA tv station. Kinda cool but I was more amazed at how people made such a big deal out of it.

Everywhere people went outside to look. The hallway at the hospital was empty as many of the medical folks were at windows or went outside to take a glance. Young employees at one of the big box stores were standing outside passing their glasses back and forth. People at the grocery store did the same thing. I guess checkouts were longer for a few minutes.

I never even looked. Maybe that was because I didn't have the glasses. Maybe because we had made a pinhole box at school as a kid to watch an eclipse and I didn't this time. Maybe it was because I'm old and have been through a few eclipses. But I was amazed at the news coverage and the millions of people who went to the path of  totality to watch. I can't figure out with all the science known and amazing pics available from different websites why so many wanted to go out and see it. In Texas, we see total and partial eclipses every day. The partial eclipses are called shade trees down here. We plant a live oak tree and in 30 or 40 years you have a great sun eclipser. For a total eclipse we go in the house under a roof and viola, the sun is totally eclipsed.

I do know that the sun never had such good press. It seemed to bring folks together in this divided nation. Maybe the Son needs better press. He sure can bring folks together if they turn their faces, their hearts to Him.   Heck, you don't even need special glasses.

In the meantime, try not to let anything come between you and the Son of God. But even if it does, remember, its only a shadow, the Son will break through with His marvelous light.

Keep looking.

PS In case you missed it.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hiding Jesus

Peggy does a beautiful job. She decorates the tables in our church foyer and the communion table. There is order and reason in what she does. Each season has a color and many times a special Sunday on the church calendar has its own color for decoration. The foyer tables change with the seasons and the holidays. You can count on them always being in great taste and pretty.

But Peggy wasn't here for the last communion. The tables were set and all went well-except for Jesus. We have a crucifix that one of our artists made. It is of the church tradition of several denominations that uses a crucifix depicting Jesus on the cross. Some denominations don't use the crucifix. They are more used to not seeing Jesus on the cross since His work there is finished. A few folks don't like them as they say it is a graven image. Really? I once was told this early in my ministry by an 80 yr. old Sunday school teacher. She said that as she was handing out children's bibles with a full color picture of Jesus on the cover with kids at his feet and sitting on His lap. I pointed out to the teacher that the picture on the Bible could be a graven image. She didn't like me after that.

Our crucifix is carved, Jesus is looking down and to His right. The Jesus carving sits on the communion table once a month for the Lord's supper. Peggy puts him up after the Lord's supper, but Peggy wasn't here that Sunday. I saw him on Monday sitting on the end of the communion table. "I guess I should put him up in the closet where these things go." I approached the table and suddenly became apprehensive. "How do I pick him up?" I asked myself. Do I do it reverently or regularly? But I don't regularly pick up a carving of Jesus on the cross. How do I carry him? Cradled? Hand under the cross or under the base? or both? Since this Jesus is kinda heavy and I'm kinda weak, I went with base and cross.

I took him to the closet where all Peggy's pretty stuff is stored. Now where does he go? Does he have a place up high? In the center? I looked for a Jesus on a crucifix sized spaced and gently placed him there. I hope it is the right place but at least Peggy can find him next month. I felt apprehensive again as I turned to close the door. It just felt odd closing the door on Jesus. Maybe I should leave the light on for him.

No, we need to hide him, to just leave him in the dark, in the closet, looking down and to his right. If we let him out of the closet and into the light of day, what he saw in this hate filled, bigoted, warring, sex-crazed, materialistic world would just break his heart and kill him. already did.

I guess the only place that hides Jesus now is the church.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Sharper Image

My family hunted and fished when I grew up. My dad a little, my big brother more, some of the uncles a lot. I was always more into ball games but did enough to pick up a few truths about life from the little hunting and fishing I did.

I had been told in various ways and differing times that a dull knife blade could hurt you more than a sharp one. In scaling bass, skinning a squirrel or even just opening a seed sack: sharp good, dull dangerous. It seems that a dull blade will bounce rather than cut into a surface.  When my dad or granddad gave a pocket knife if often came with a whetstone to sharpen it. I remember my older brother sharpening his knives for hours on that thing. He completely wore the thing out till it broke in the now thin middle. Being left-handed I did everything backwards so I had to manipulate the blade and\or whetstone to get it to work. And don't tell me that knife blades and whetstones are neutral.
They are not, they are right-handed implements, but that is another story, In the meantime just ask a lefty about other right hand prejudice.

One of the problems faced by the human race right now, and it doesn't seem to matter if you are of the American branch of the human tree, or the European, Middle Eastern, Asian, or African is that the value of humanity has gotten very dull. This holds true for many, many individuals as well as the governments that govern them. There is no really sharp focus, other than rhetoric, as to the value of human life nor to humanity's purpose. We serve ourselves, our nationality, our religion and in general "our side" even if acquiring soul blindness is the price paid. It is almost beyond imagination, and it would be except we see the reality of it every day, that people derive pleasure in terrorizing, profiteering, murdering, enslaving (often sexually now-a days), abusing, and directing the pleasures of this world to self. It could be that power has seduced some, noble starts change to selfish control  for others, riches engulf some, winning still others, and a sick arrogance that does these things because they figure they can (think bully, Stalin, Hitler) to prove themselves or their ideology superior.

Our dull bladed view of the human race and its humans, jabs when it should slice, bounces into the innocent, and no longer penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart ( Hebrews 4:12) no longer. Well, some think it doesn't.

What do we do? We need a sharper Image. Thankfully, we have one: "And God said, lets Us make man in our own Image..." Gen 1:26. That Image, scarred, marred, broken, (dull is the least of its problems) God sets out in Christ to resurrect. When we begin to view life and the people living it with the same view as God things change. Anyone ever needing glasses but not knowing it for a long time, can attest to the difference corrective lenses make. People who have had their view of humanity dulled with the ways and cares of the world will notice a similar change on the soul level. You never liked or understood "those people" (you know, cat people) but now you do. Another group was viewed with suspicion or prejudice but not you see them more as God does. It goes on as Christ continues His transformation of our character to conform to His very image.

Even what pleasures you changes or it should. There are many things you no longer do, not because you can't, but because you recognize it brings no pleasure to the heart of God. You do things now you enjoy that you couldn't imagine doing 20 years ago, but they bring pleasure to God and now to you also. You pursue the things God pursues:  a relationship with you, freedom, justice, righteousness to name a few. Gary Thomas in his book Pure Pleasure said, "If my pleasures don't give pleasure to God then eventually I will have to choose either to change my pleasures or change my God."

We do our part as the church with pleasure. We must view as pure pleasure to have God sharpen us until we conform to His Image.(James 1: 2-4) When the church does that, it gives the world its only real alternative- the Sharper Image that elevates every life to the purpose for which it exists: to glorify God, bring joy to His heart, and in so doing to ours also.

Still Whet  Behind the Ears,

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A New Normal

Hi! Remember me? No reason you should but I've been out of it for a bit. I don't want to bore you with old man surgery stories but I haven't had the energy to write on this blog. Thought I'd try one today about my new normal.

I will never be what I was, physically speaking, but truthfully none of us will be will we? I just accelerated the process. So, I have to adjust to a new normal. I haven't figured what all that means yet, that part of the new normal is still in process. I do know that the new normal is slower, weaker, a little foggier in the mind at the end of the day and gets fatigued more easily. The new normal can't touch folks as readily as I once did. But these may change again to a new, new normal in time.

My new normal is smaller by roughly 50 lbs. Clothes don't fit and the world doesn't yield to my touch as it once did. Some doors are very heavy to open now. Some packages I cannot lift. My new normal takes a lot of medicine and supplements. My old life was pretty simple- when I ate and what I ate; when I slept and how I slept; what I enjoyed and took for granted; what I wore was grab and go, now I have to find what kinda fits; when I went and how I went and how I got there.  I am so much better off than so many with deadly and debilitating diseases, but I still grieve my old, simple normal life. I had a presence in many places with many people that is no more.

Is there anything good about the new normal? Yes, as a matter of fact there is. The new normal requires intentionality. I have to think about what to do and if I can do it and how long I can do it.
The new normal requires a different way of measuring time and commitment especially with people, work associates and doctors.

This is often a frustration, but when applied to one's relationship with Jesus the new normal and its priorities actually enhance the relationship. In fact, all relationships benefit with the new normal causing you to prioritize time, energy and focus. My new normal helps me see more people struggling with their own new normals. It has helped me see the struggles of others through my own struggling eyes. The new normal hasn't added time to my prayers but it has added  a width and a depth that wasn't there, at least I didn't see it.

And that is the bottom line, the new normal helps me see things differently, not always better, not worse necessarily, but differently. I see that the Lord Jesus is the Lord of all our normals but our normals are not His normal. He obviously works in, through and with our old ones and new ones but his normal for us is Him; His character as ours; His love as ours; His service and commitment to justice as ours.

There is much about my new normal I don't like but even Jesus has a way of using it to get me to His normal and this is how it should be.

May we live for and aspire to the day when we are all normal like Jesus.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Just In Case

I blew it. No excuses, no justification, no getting around it, I messed up.

Now let me tell you how I messed up, again not to give an excuse, just to explain the anatomy of a mess up. When my recent health crises started, I began to think of things that needed some attention.
Knowing that my upcoming surgeries would prevent me from doing things as normal with household chores, yard work, dog work, bill paying, and other odds and ends,  Pam and I got busy getting ready. The night before the big liver surgery I got to thinking there was one detail I hadn't discussed with anyone: what happens if this surgery doesn't go well? I could die and I haven't told anyone how to send me off. So I wrote a letter late the night before with funeral details, you know, just in case.

Here's where I messed up--I didn't tell Pam. I didn't want to put that on her at the last minute so I just put the letter in an envelope and stuck it in my miscellaneous drawer of my dresser and labeled it 'just in case.' I whispered its existence and location to my son just as they came to take me down for surgery. I told him of the 'just in case' letter and I knew the moment I told him I had messed up. I thought he would faint but he hung in there. Well, there were lots of complications and set-backs but I survived that surgery and another and the letter just laid in the drawer.

Then she found it while straightening and cleaning, "what's this?" she asked. "Well, I, uh, wrote out my funeral. I put in which preachers, what songs, and such." "And you didn't tell me?"

Well, like I said, I blew it. I had never written a 'just in case' letter before. I suppose if every one wrote a 'just in case' letter every one would be different. Mine focused on funeral details someone else might focus on family finances and another might say, "I'm sorry. Forgive me," and another might seek to express love to family and friends that he\she could not verbalize. If you're lucky you've said everything that needs to be said and all you have to do if tell where you hid the fortune you secreted away.

What would your 'just in case' letter contain? Maybe you should think about that, a least a little. Jesus taught that we should "not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both the soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28) He also told the parable of the rich farmer who had so much he had to build bigger barns to hold it all. The rich man said let's eat, drink, and be merry but Jesus said "you fool, this night your soul shall be required of you, and the things you prepared for yourself, whose will they be?" (Luke 12:20)

We need to think about our finances, final wishes, and funeral ideas and share them with loved ones. It's more important to think about what comes after that. It's one thing to mess up occasionally with your spouse by not telling them something important. It's an eternal thing to live a life that is not right with Jesus. Take care of that relationship first, you know, just in case.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Visit From St. Nick

*Dear Readers,
       I must ask your indulgence for a few weeks. Hearing other people's surgery stories can get monotonous. As many of you know my life changed in the fall of 2016- unexplained  illness, prayers,cancer diagnosis, surgeries, prayers, loss of 2\3 of liver, prayers, no cancer but auto immune disease. I was in and out of the hospital all fall with the surgery, fluid weight gain to 295 lbs, loss back now to 238 lbs and then a hematoma. My body is tired. 
       But God is here and He has something to say in all this. If He is doing something I want to share it. Finding the right words is difficult. Miracle is one of them as the mass, the tumor that killed my bile duct and caused ruination of my right side liver was gone when the pathologist went to work it. The doctor had no explanation. God, working through the prayers of His people is my working theory. Yet complications followed and how is God also in the hard part as well as the good? In all I want Him to receive His glory. The out pouring of love, support, prayers, resources, encouragement, and care for Pam and I has been overwhelming and I have no words to express the depth of our gratitude and how humbled and blessed we are to serve the congregation of White Bluff Chapel. 
       I will write a series of blogs on these themes and hopefully add a Christmas twist to them--tis the season you know. I will try to explore in various little stories some of what happened as I seek for myself the words to express the inexpressible love of God as I saw it these past few months. This I know: to God be the Glory, Great Things He Has Done!

                                                           A Visit From St. Nick

    And He has made them a to be a kingdom and priests to our God.    Rev. 5:10
     But your are a chosen people, a Holy nation, a royal priesthood, God's special                                      possession that you may declare the praises of God......   I Peter 2:9

      I am lying in a hospital bed. People are looking down on my body poking, picking, and prodding.  I do not like this side of the bed, I usually look down and smile, visit, read a verse, and pray. So this is what it looks like from here. I feel strange, an alien.

    Not more than a 2-3 miles from the hospital lives Pam's sister Sue and husband Nick. Nick, my funny, story-telling, loud, generous,Italian- Catholic brother-in-law is one of a kind. He has also had many, many illnesses in his life. We couldn't be any different. He is city, I am country. I am comfortable around cows. He prefers Dallas Cowboys. I'm a old Texas Baptist. His Catholic roots go back to Sicily, Italy. Somehow being in this brother-in-law business works for us.
  Whenever we lived close enough when he was ill and having his gut surgeries, I'd try to go see him and pray  with him at the hospital. These last 10 years have had us close enough we have probably been to 5 or 6 of his ongoing surgeries. But now it my turn.
    Right on cue in walks Nick. His smile is large but his eyes show something else, as do mine. This is awkward. We talked a bit. He offered encouragement on getting through this stuff. And then he did it. I was not prepared in any way for what happened next. This man did what he had seen and had done with him. He said, "Let's pray!."  He reached out that hand and touched my head and began to pray. That hand that had rather run a computer mouse, adeptly find a auto part number in a four inch catalog that he already knew and now in retirement would rather click a remote was on my forehead.
He prayed and we said the "Our Father..." and then he prayed the Rosary and in a few minutes he was gone.

   In that moment, Nick was a priest. No official church would recognize his priesthood. I understand. But I also know that from Exodus to Matthew to Ephesians, to Peter to Revelation that this priesthood of all believers is the calling and we are to be a kingdom of priests to each other. We offer the comfort, love, encouragement, even sometimes rebuke to one another from a loving God. At other times we take the burdens, cares, pain, and grief to the living God on behalf of other believers. We are indeed a kingdom of priests.

     So a few weeks before Christmas, I was visited by St .Nick. As Jesus is the Good News of salvation through the incarnation, St. Nick visited me in the hospital and God was incarnate. No, no official church will recognized his priesthood but I believe Jesus did in that moment of flowing grace.

   And so did I,



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hitchcock Halted; Spiritual Warfare Continues

It was a nice quiet summer's morning at the Chapel. The meditative trance was soon broken by a rap, rap, rapping on our kitchen door. Actually, Mr. Poe, it was more of a hammering, so much so that Glenna and I assumed that John, our saint fixer was hammering something back together.

It wasn't. We were being invaded by crows. Having seen their reflection in the kitchen door they began attacking their image with gusto. They were relentless, mean, determined to extinguish their rivals, who in this case just happened to be them. Running at them and screaming like a banshee had the affect of chasing them off for a period of 7.4 seconds. Before I could walk the length of the hall back to my office they were on their maniacal mission again.

This can't continue. No one can work. No one can study. No one can pray. No one can think. No one can write sermons. No one thinks about anything but the crows. How long before they give up? How many pecks per minute on the door can three crows execute? Will they break their beaks? Will they break their necks? We can only hope....

Action is demanded, action I take. I proceed to place a large trash receptacle in front of the door. They still see their reflection on the side and continue their onslaught even getting behind the trash cart to continue their war on themselves. Round 1 goes to the crows.

Not to deterred I find a trash sack and cut it to the appropriate size and tape over the door\mirror. The crows apparently now determine that the other crows they are trying to dispatch are now behind the black curtain of the trash sack. They begin to tear it to pieces. Round 2 goes to the crows.

 I rescue the trash bag and tape it on the inside of the door. The reflection returns enough for them to see and escalate their battle. Noise, noise, cawing, cawing....oh did I mention their steady, relentless battle is only matched by an equal amount of bowel movements right by the chapel's kitchen door. Round 3--to the crows.

I have now battled the crows for an hour. For the past hour creatures with a brain the size of my thumb joint have bettered me. Glenna doesn't seem surprised. I am insulted on several counts. The rap, rap, rapping on kitchen door continues. Let them kill themselves, no wait, another thought occurs---if they want in church so badly, take church to them.

I search the cupboards and find a boom box. I set it up outside the door and have 2 cds of our worship services ready. I pop one in and the crows leave in a hurry. They stay away as long as the worship recording plays. Round 4--Cos!

A dispute arises within the staff, the chasm may well split the church. I say the crows didn't like the traditional choir music; Tom defensively believes it was the announcements that Betty made that drove off the crows. Betty says it is the sermon that keeps them away. Larry says it is having an effect on them as they are lining up in rows like pews to listen. Mike P. wonders if they are sleeping as they listen. God please save Betty and Mike.

The recordings work but we can't play the worship service 24-7. I bring in the boom box at lunch and when I return after lunch the crows are at it again. Ron W said to try a stuffed cat  or lion positioned looking out the door. I look, we don't have a cat or a lion or a tiger or bear at the chapel. We've got a

                                                                        and a
That's right, the chapel now has an attack sheep and attack camel.  Laugh if you want, but they are cheap and effective and they don't poop by the door.  Round five--sheep and camel. I've named them Walker (as in Walker, Texas Camel) and General Schwarzkoph for his shock that awes the crows.

God often uses the small and seemingly insignificant to accomplish His work so don't ever count yourself out or doubt He can use you. There are spiritual battles taking place right and left of which we have little knowledge but can play a great role. In fact, if Walker and Schwarz lose their touch, you may be called on very soon.