Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Who knew the rock group Smashing Pumpkins 1995 release named in the title was a Christmas album? It certainly wasn't intended as such but it seems to me to fit. The rocker who wrote most the songs on the album said Mellon Collie spoke to " the human condition of mortal sorrow." Not bad for a rocker, eh? The album sold ten million copies in the U.S. and had seven Grammy nominations but before now it was never used in the context of a Christmas album. I actually know nothing of the album except my son had it and had a cool poster of the album cover on his bedroom wall as a teen. But if you've lived long enough, gone through the Christmas season enough times and you are honest, then you know: there is a melancholy and sadness lurking just below the surface of all the joy and festivities of the season. We don't talk about it, we may not admit to it, indeed part of all our frenetics of the holidays may be a mask to hide it, but it is there and Christmas brings it out. So go ahead, face it, name it, look it in the eye and don't ignore it or sweep it under the rug, Christmas has a sad face of grief under Santa's whiskers. Why is that you ask? It is because this time we have declared as joyous also points out what is missing and the loss we feel. This can't be helped. So you won't take that trip you always make, there's no one at the end of that road anymore. You gather for Christmas dinner and the chair where ______ always sat is empty. No one wants to sit in it but some little kid doesn't know any better and hops in it and you actually are relieved. But that empty chair reminded you of the loss and it hurts. Melancholy moment. Maybe it hits you when you gather 'round the tree to exchange gifts. There's one less this year to give and you pretend not to notice but you do. I still miss the pinky ring my nephew made everyone out of a dollar bill and gave at Christmas. You shake it off and go on but it hurts that the wreck took him from all, especially my sister. Melancholy moment. It may be the trip you planned, the dinner you shared, the toast you made, the cookies you stirred, the reminisces you recalled, but disease, age, distance, finances, broken relationships and death changed everything and Christmas and the holidays act like a magnifying glass bringing light to your loss. You feel like an ant under it. Melancholy and infinite sadness. This is the curse of our fallen world where there is loss, pain, sorrow and death. Christmas just seems to highlight this truth. But Christmas brings an even bigger truth: God has felt the pain and suffering and He wraps Himself in humanity and history to feel that pain and loss through His own human flesh. He knows and so He declares that these losses and separations need not be forever. Indeed, they have one root cause and it is humanity's sin-separation from God. It is His chair at our table we most need filled. It is supper with Him which can fill our empty souls. It is the trip through life with Him made possible by faith in Him that we most need to take. It is receiving His gift of eternal life that we most need to receive and that is why He stepped into history and humanity to deliver us and bring us hope and the promise of eternal life in our Father's home. I know next to nothing about Smashing Pumpkins but I'm learning more about the One who smashed the curse of sin on us all. In spite of the darkness, yea because of the darkness, the Light has come and the melancholy and sadness are no longer infinite nor are they eternal. They are mere shadows fading in the eternal Light of Jesus. So celebrate Christ-mas, the birth of the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior. Merry Christmas, Terry

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Domino Effect

It was a rough start to the last month of the year that was itself a tough one on many fronts. There were some bright spots: the quagmire-building in Afghanistan was moving forward, now nearing its ten-year anniversary. The government set new records in deficits, currently numbering into the trillions (whatever that is) with the promise of even greater deficits to come. Perhaps the best news was the the government bailout of the economy was working in that it only cost five-hundred thousand dollars to create one $8 per hour job. It was probably hard to notice these bits of good news in the wake of losing Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett so close together. These molders and shapers of American culture cannot be easily forgotten despite Octomom , Tiger Woods and Dancing With the Stars attempts to knock them from the headlines. Since I've always been a sucker for the underdogs I couldn't help but feel sorry for the other folks having a hard time this year. The poor Eggo people never stood a chance but to their credit they never waffled. In all the other good and bad news perchance you never heard-there's an Eggo shortage, a story no doubt pushed to the margarines of society. Yes, due to a flood in one factory and some equipment failures in another plant, there will a shortage of Eggo's for a few months. It's a cruel world. Aunt Jemimah and Mrs. Buttersworth were visibly shaken at the news but managed to keep their tops about them. This was remarkable for this pair is known for being syrupy and spilling their insides when pushed over by life's grasping hands. Unfortunately, Eggo hoarding has been widespread so when someone says "leggo my Eggo" you best be on guard. Don't look now, but there is also a pumpkin shortage. We managed to make it through Thanksgiving but the Christmas pumpkin pies may be smaller and more expensive if you can make them at all. Industry analysts have suggested using canned pumpkin pie filling or even sweet potato pie as a substitute. A spokesperson for SPI ( Sweet Potatoes Institute) decried the suggestions saying, "I yam what I yam! As a tuber that has known racial discrimination and profiling for years at the hands of white potatoes, we simply cannot comprehend why a fellow orange vegetable industry would place this burden on us." Perhaps the greatest injustice of recent days has been made against Lorraine Collette Peterson, better known as the Sunmaid Raisin girl. For over 90 years Lorraine was the the sign and symbol for one of America's healthiest snacks. That gig has dried up. Now, at least in advertisements, if not on the boxes themselves, Lorraine has been hung out to dry. A more modern Sunmaid girl now weaves through the vineyards picking raisins. Her features are more defined and she appears to have been working out or visiting her plastic surgeon. One commentator suggested she looked a bit like Julia Roberts with implants. I assumed he meant dental implants. The Sunmaid people thought a more modern looking woman might reach out to a younger clientele (then why did they keep the bonnet?). With our luck the ad campaign might work and we would have a shortage of raisins. That would force us to eat oatmeal-oatmeal cookies. Then we would have a shortage of oatmeal. That in turn would force us to change our breakfast habits and we would have to eat waffles. No, wait there's already an Eggo shortage! We're doomed! In our world there is no shortage of wars to wage but there is a shortage of wisdom on how to win a war we must not lose. Is there a way to wage peace in the face of fundamentalist terrorism? There is in our halls of government a shortage of money or is it possible that there simply was a shortage of discipline and responsibility and a flood of greed and selfish ambition teamed with instant gratification? In our culture there is an acute shortage of contentment, commitment and character. We've let the stars shape us instead of the One who shaped the stars. We place people on tall pedestals and the taller they are the more easier they are to topple. I've yet to hear much talk about Tiger Woods poor soul and the kind of sin sickness he must have to ruin a marriage, break hearts, risk losing those children except for weekends and summers and disappoint the God who so wonderfully blessed him. The questions are all about 'will he lose endorsements' and 'do you think he will still be able to play golf?' There but by the grace of God, a few billion dollars, and the best golf swing in the world go I. What do we do in a world where these shortages seem to have domino effect that topple governments with greed, nations with war, marriages by infidelity, and lives with empty worship? I suggest we embrace the domino effect. Look it up. Domino is a word of French origin taken from the Latin benedicamos. Domino means "let us bless the Lord." It came to be used of clergymen and the hooded robes they wore that came to be known as Dominos. One couldn't tell one clergyman from another in their dominos, they all just blessed the Lord. Could it be that if we embrace this domino effect to invest our lives in blessing the Lord instead of spending so much time, effort, money, emotion, entertainment and worship on ourselves that the shortages that are killing people and our planet would themselves dry up and blow away? Maybe that's the annual call of advent: to re-turn us to the One in whom there is never a shortage of peace, hope, joy and love. And in Christ we learn the world has been given what she really is longing for, a Savior who is in spite of our shortages... Dominus Invictus Terry

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fighting Demons

We all have them, including me. Those thoughts whose origins are closer to hell than heaven; those impulses to control, manipulate, judge, imply, marginalize, insinuate, or outright destroy; those tendencies to procrastinate, do poorly, disregard, or leave undone; those indulgences of body, mind, kids, friends, prejudices and worse, spirit that deflect responsibility to liberals, conservatives, Arabs, humanists, fast food, and easy gods; those inclinations to throw up the hands, throw in the towel, give up, go the way of the world, and resign to the philosophy of 'that's just the way things are and they ain't never gonna change!' Oh yeah, and maybe a few real demons thrown in for good measure but mostly in less civilized cultures, our made up ones are far more devastating. These demons show up as anger-at the dad for never being around, at the mom for hovering around too much, the spouse who never gave what was needed, at the boss for crazy demands, crazy schedules and ridiculous pay. They manifest themselves as sloth and withdrawal or they go around as their more respectable cousins-workaholism and frenzied activities.You see these demons in the family SUV going to sporting games that fill the calendar and are filled with empty young people with scurrying thumbs and un-stretched souls. In truth they can tell you how to spike a volley ball, throw a curve ball, shoot a basketball and how to have a ball but not how or why to live morally and purposely. All those miles in the back of a suburban and no conversations about Jesus... The demons of modern society goad us on to greed, materialism, apathy, and a brand of moralism that leaves out God and coronates self. With a proper self-image, a good education, a dose of toleration, a proper goal, and a tenacious spirit there's not too much a man or woman can't accomplish in this world. Of course, if someone should happen to have goals beyond this world and its achievements we can just label them as zealots. My demon? Its pretty obvious isn't it. It's name is Cynic. The ancient Greeks birthed its name in a gymnasium extolling virtue and hard work but its history is long, its effects, well, there weren't many positive long-range ones were there? I must fight my demon. I often am beaten down and lost in the fray. It's true, if you don't believe me read the first three paragraphs again. How do I fight this wicked monster and keep it from stealing all joy and hope in a fallen world? The answer is almost too easy. It's so easy it can be overlooked. It is easy to see the effects of a fallen world. We must learn to look deeper or at least differently to see the effects of grace. We who have developed a taste for this juicy demon empty of spiritual calories can find the fullest spiritual feast a bit chewy and the effort to savor that meal a real pain. But if I will but feed my soul this one food, I find myself nourished to dream and fight and persevere while at the same time starving the demon of its power to corrupt. What is this miracle food? It is Truth, plain and simple found in the gospel of Christ. The truth is God has not now nor has He ever abandoned His creation or His people. At this time in our world of war and rumors of war, disease and drought, H1N1 and AIDS, genocide, suicide, and homicide, He still moves. More people come to faith in Christ every day than at any time in history. Estimates are as low as 45,000 and as high as 60,000 people come to follow Christ as Lord each day in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and even several thousand in North America. The church now has over 2 billion who claim Christ as Saviour.* (Rick Warren's mission's website*)The church is so robust in Korea, Africa, and South America that these regions have sent missionaries to the United States to strenghten the church spiritually. Young ministers are sensing the call to ministry in great numbers in many denominations. These young men and women are not enamored with thoughts of power or prestige but will genuinely go anywhere and do all things to advance the kingdom of God and proclaim His righteousness. Their music is different, their methods are unconventional but they are reaching people in places like liberal western Europe that a few years ago was closed to the gospel. As more people are hurting the budgets of churches across our nation have felt the crunch, yet, the outpouring to relief agencies from individuals and churches is keeping such ministries afloat. The Red Cross estimates that during the relief efforts after hurricane Katrina, that 90 % of the meals it served in actuality came from local churches and church relief agencies. The churches responded quickly and effectively while the large agencies and government were tied up in red tape. A large percentage of our kids can expect to live to be a hundred years of age and were it not for lifestyle choices related to obesity and drugs those numbers would apply even greater for our grandchildren. Diseases are being cured or curtailed. Lives are being extended. Limbs can be repaired and joints replaced as never before. The God who said 'be fruitful and multiply' also said to mankind 'fill the earth and subdue it.' That is happening at a rate like never before. The advances will never lead to eternal life by themselves but they may very well extend the time a human has to hear the good news that salvation for eternity comes by no other name than the name of Jesus. So how do you live in such a world where the demons are very real and are seemingly everywhere you look, even internally? Look to the Truth and that Truth is Jesus revealed in His word. Read it. It will help you read the paper and listen to the news with an eternal perspective. We can learn to live with and interpret the times with a faith that is real and balanced. It will see the reality of evil but know the limits of it. It can face the uncertainties of life because it is based on the Certainty of eternity. This faith founded and built on Truth can see the obstacles to living and keep moving forward with joy because this faith enables him to see the end of evil, pain, and suffering in the Kingdom of God. Even a cynic can learn from the Bible truths for living abundantly. When the army of Israel faced the Philistines, the soldiers quaked at the sight of Goliath and effectively said, 'how can we fight such a huge enemy?' David looked at Goliath and said,'How can I miss?' And when you face that greatest of enemies, even the one called Death, and he stares that blank, lifeless stare into your life, stare back with the love of God and watch. It is death that blinks. Still Staring if not Standing, Terry

Monday, November 9, 2009


I have hesitated to write anything about the tragedy of last week at Ft. Hood. So many capable writers, pastors, journalists and politicians have undertaken the task. Many have done so with somber beauty and crystal clarity. 'What could I add?' I thought. I was deeply saddened and enraged with teeth gritting anger. I (God forgive me) was a little miffed when I heard the gunman had lived. Did I really think I wanted another human being dead? I'm still not sure but one thing I wasn't too surprised about is that it happened. Maybe I'm becoming jaded so that even an attack on the world's largest Army post wasn't totally shocking. My lack of surprise had little to do with it being on an Army post, or that a fellow soldier did those people in, or that it was a Muslim that did it. I wouldn't have been surprised too much if a non-Muslim did it either. No it was something else that caused me to be only slightly surprised. Frankly, what surprises me is that there aren't more tragedies. Isn't that horrible to say? What's wrong with me? Am I sick in the heart or something? Maybe I am, but it's for another reason. I've read the Bible. It exposes the heart of humanity with awful honesty. No, there's not some secret prophecy hidden in Habakkuk or some other minor prophet that told me there would be a massacre in Ft. Hood. But the Bible does say this in Romans 3:23: "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." What? You thought that meant we were just a little tarnished but basically good once Jesus polished us up a bit? No, it means we all have the evil that causes us to rebel against God and have the capacity to hurt our fellow man. Not clear yet? How about Jeremiah 17:9: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (The implication from the next verses and all the Bible is that only God can.) I looked up a dozen other "sinful" passages and they are amazingly consistent from Genesis 3 through the epistles of John--we are infected with the same evil and capable of horrific injustice. Lest we think we aren't, Jesus made it pretty clear how insidious, pervasive, and personal this sin is. Remember how He taught that if a man looks on a woman lustfully he's already committed adultery with her in his heart? If a man is angry with his brother he is guilt of murder (Matt. 5:21-22;27-28). The Bible also teaches of an evil loosed in the world who goes by the name of Satan. The Bible describes him as a thief, liar and murderer. Face it folks, the world is broken and we often trip over the rubble of our brokenness and break some more. I'm amazed more evil stuff doesn't happen and why doesn't it happen more? It's not because the human race is basically good. How many wars and massacres will it take to convince us of that? That's the bad news. The good news is that into a broken world where evil lives and breathes and has its being a tremendous power has also been loosed. That power is the grace and love of God manifested in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore our hope is in Him and His power to forgive, cleanse, restore and re-create the hearts of men surrendered to His will. This power still moves and lives in the church, Christ's followers, to share the good news of salvation and hope through Jesus Christ. The hope we have is not just in this life but in the life to come. Our hope is an eternal hope that is not stopped by the bullets of a mad man or the ideology of madmen. Our hope is not defined by the length of physical life but by the quality (think abundant) and quantity (think eternal) of life lived by faith in Christ. Whoa, I went off in preaching mode there didn't I? Sorry about that. Capacity. Is that a full or empty word for you? I suppose that depends on how you answer. What fills you? We all have the capacity for evil, horror, and unspeakable sin. Some of it comes out in some peoples lives very publicly and tragically. For many people, the horror and evil is borne internally, with only the guilt and stress of keeping it in check causing our lives to crack a bit from time to time. Jesus has borne our sin. There is no need to carry the burden, it has been lifted. Nidal Hasan either didn't get the message or chose to ignore it. What was in his heart was exposed, and it came to the surface in a horrific act of cowardice and in a manner exposed the problem of the human race. We need help. It has come. Hasan cried out "Allah Akbar" (God is great in Arabic) before he began shooting. But he really didn't know what that meant. One day he will. What will you do with the good news of Christ? Please continue to pray for the families of those who lost their lives and for the recovery of those injured in the Ft. Hood tragedy. Terry

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters...........Genesis 1: 2 Formless? Empty? The words of Genesis 1:2 are hauntingly cold in their assessment of the world before God's creative activity is seen. The word for formless (NIV) is rendered desolate, worthless, confusion or nothing in other venues. The word used for empty is seen in other works and places as void, a ruin, a vacuity. The world before Genesis 1:3 was a place of darkness, chaos-- nothingness on steroids. But on this chaotic void of dark confusion and emptiness there was nonetheless hope for it also states that the Spirit of God was hovering, brooding, on the waters. That word for moving implies to flutter, to envelope as a hen broods over her nest so the Spirit moves over the primordial waters. Was it waters? The word is used also for urine, semen, and waste. In the wasted, chaotic nothingness that was called 'world' before creation God was present, moving, about to change nothingness into glorious beauty and fill emptiness with Himself. Creatio ex nihilo-creation from nothing, now that is something! Imagination can't soar high enough to capture even a scintilla of the wonder of Creation. We see its results in nature and in people and still marvel. Watching Ken Burns' The National Parks on PBS this week has left me in awe and filled with sadness at the same time. Awe, because the sights are indescribable, sad because I've not seen them in person. The brooding of the Spirit over the lives of people and the creation He still works in them is even more breathtaking. Imagine a soul, a real, living person whose life is filled with emptiness, confusion, darkness and is wasted regarding any thing permanent or eternal. They most likely are not even aware of their own darkness because its all they know and its all they see around them. Then the Spirit of God speaks and the light comes on and the ugly void of life without God in the heart is awakened to its purpose and the journey begins. I recently saw a glimpse of this again with the building of our home and the subsequent move into it. The canvas wasn't blank but it appeared more barren than most places to build a house in our community. It was not on the bluff overlooking the lake with their shimmering vistas. It was not on the golf course with the tranquil beauty those lots afford. It was not heavily wooded teeming with wildlife, although it had a great set of trees out front. That was all, no other trees, just the one big one in front and the lot and those around it were so nondescript that telling people where it was drew mostly blank stares despite the fact that it was clearly seen from the main road. The previous owner no longer valued it much and so the plain, empty lot with a good tree was about to be brooded over. Applied to it now was the creative art of all-world home builder Ron Roberts and his crews of craftsmen. Land was scraped, leveled and forms were set. Foundations went down and frames went up. Rooms became distinct where before there were prickly pear and native grasses. Where darkness exercised its reign now light competes at the flick of a switch. Strength, beauty, and utility were taking over where nothingness once ruled. The land bent and conformed to Ronnie's hand and in a matter just a few months, a house was born. But it was empty, void, looking good on the outside but with nothing on the inside but possibilities. I did my part with the help of the six Seraphim (the men who helped me move). All the accumulations of the ages was now under the same roof. But it was still without form and chaos ruled. Where's my socks? Where's my phone? Where o, where is my life in this mess? Then Pam began to brood and her spirit began to move over the face of the home. Beds for resting and re-creation were placed; dishes filled cabinets; chairs filled rooms, electronic devices to keep in touch with or be touched from the world found their niche. Where weeds claimed squatters rights, now there is grass; where there were vines, now there resides hollies and jasmine; where rocks grew deep now a fence stands straight; where a breeze once moved on nothing now cools the brow of the tired owner who rests on a porch that overlooks a valley from which a steeple extends its spire and a place that once was easily missed in passing now shares a vision of life and its living for miles and miles. It was there all the time, it just took some one to see it, invest in it, and work it. Even this creative process can't compare to what Christ does when He begins to move over the hearts that are choked by the cares of this world and living in darkness without Him. When He moves over those hearts and new life with Him begins, even the angels can't explain its joy (I Peter 1:12) for no eye has seen and no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him (I Cor. 2:9). Your life chaotic, dark, and feeling wasted? Maybe not you but someone you love feels that way? Pray for the same movement of the Spirit of God over the face of your depths and watch what he can do with a Word. And God said, " Let there be light," and there was light. was good... Terry

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Terminal D Gate 22


Tuesday, September 8, 2009


He's gone and I understand why which isn't to say I like it one bit. We talk about spoiling our grandchildren but the truth is I was the spoiled granddad or as Kaden was learning to call me "Grandcos." Mimi and Grandcos were spoiled to see the little feller every two or three weeks. Now it's going to be every three to four months if we're lucky. Better job, more help with an active 2 yr old for Melissa, nicer home, better future, yeah, yeah, yeah, etc, etc. Like I said, I know why they left and they have our blessing, I just wish it wasn't so far. I've never been separated from Kaden for more than about 70-75 minutes. It hurts. It's all normal. I'm now going to be a normal parent and grandparent who sees the kids and grandkids on special trips, vacations, and some holidays. I hate normal. Our previous normal was meeting in Ft. Worth for lunch now and then, our going to Weatherford for the afternoon here and there, or their coming out to our home. Kaden had been here enough to know when Mimi was baking something to run into the kitchen for a "bite, bite" of something "numa, numa" (yummy). He knew where the basketball was, where the dvd's were, and the drums were (pots, pans, long spoons) and that Grandcos would let him play on the computer or with his phone. Now the computer and phone are our main ways of communication and keeping in touch and the separation hurts. I could no more explain the feeling Mimi and Grandcos have for their grandchild any more than any other grandparent could for theirs. It's all but impossible to explain but the experience is life-changing and enriching like no other. Mimi would hum Vivaldi's "Spring" since he was really little and he learned to hum it back and wave his arm like he was leading the orchestra. Since he learned to walk at about nine months, Kaden has wrapped his hand around Grandcos' finger and led him anywhere he wanted to go. Grandcos rarely said "no." We laughed, giggled, chased, tickled, hid, played "giddy-up horsey," played "ba-ball" with a golf club, and walked "side'' (outside) and when he wore Mimi out he would switch to Grandcos or vice-versa. My finger aches to be wrapped by a tiny hand, my ankle longs to be banged with a plastic golf club, and my knee saddle is missing its rider and the separation is killing me. Separation. God knows what I feel. It occurs to me, to an exponentially small degree, that I now know what God the Father must have felt when the ones He loved were separated from him, not by a moving van but by their own sin. We shall end our separation from children and grandchild when time, money, and schedules allow us to travel to Farmington or have them come to us for visits. God, who spared no expense, scheduled in the fullness of time the Visitation to end the separation and thus we have become the visited planet, and now nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Oh...ouch, but Oh.... Separation. Its a bad thing. But thanks be to God, it's not an eternal thing. Terry

Back to Blogging

Yes, its been a while since I last wrote. To both of you who read these things, my apologies. Hopefully, in the twenty-eight days since I last posted an article you've found better things to do with your life -but I haven't so its back to writing a bit. With last minute details on finishing the house, to making plans to move, to the move itself, to helping my son and family load for their move to Farmington, NM, to the hiccup with the closing date, well I just didn't feel like writing anything. Too, I was and am still pretty melancholy about my grandson moving to NM and I didn't want that to dominate whatever I said but it will anyway so I might as well get that out of the way. It's back to work on these little treatises so pray for me and I'll certainly pray for those of you who read them; you'll need it. Cos

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

And Then It Hits You

I had gone into our church's fellowship hall a few weeks past to sign up for something or see how many had signed up for something when I saw them. Over at the end of the row of tables sat a box of camouflaged toboggans. At least that is what we call those knit hats we pull over our cold heads down here. I understand a toboggan is really a sled. We don't do much sledding in Texas but our heads do get cold, especially the bald ones. Our Critter ladies had obviously knitted them. Critters is a group of ladies who meet and sew little animal critters for children's hospitals, nursing homes, and various other people and places who might be cheered up with a stuffed animal and a message of God's love. These "critters" have gone all around the world with various groups and missionaries. The latest group went to Vietnam last week. The Critter Ladies also stuff stuff into care packages that are sent over for the troops from time to time. These camo toboggans looked good. I tried one on. It felt nice, too. It was an extra tight knit and it fit just right. I wore it back into the office. Various comments about it covering my bald spot and how it looked better than some toupees were voiced. I took it back into the fellowship hall and put it back into the box. It was then I saw the packing list. They weren't toboggans. They were helmet covers destined for our troops in Afghanistan. And then it hits you again, we are at war. This is a crazy war. It's lasted longer than the Vietnam war, the Revolutionary War, and longer than WWII. It's killed fewer American soldiers but cost more than the others. It is rarely on the front page and rarely leads the evening news. The economy and Michael Jackson take those places. That seems weird too. It appears that most Americans ignore the war unless it's their child or grandchild or it's someone you know over there fighting terrorism. We seem to forget we've been at war with terrorism for nearly thirty years in one way or another. Maybe that's part of their strategy, a little here a little there, a big something now and then and back to the cultural, ideological, and slow war. You see a report of a truck bomb, a market blown up, a drone taking out a cave of terrorists, an IED explosion, and this war has become a routine line of information. We aren't called to sacrifice much, someone else is doing that for us. And then you try on a toboggan in the church hall and it hits you: we are at war and someone is paying a terrible price for me to remain free. And it hits you again, Some One has done that before. He, too, is ignored too often and the spiritual battles we are called to engage in for the souls of men terrorized and held captive by sin are fought by others. So I prayed over the box of camo knit caps. Would that they were bulletproof until Is. 2:4 is fulfilled. Would that I would remember my own battles and engage the enemy below with the love of God above. Terry

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Boogie Woogie Wedding

If you haven't seen, heard, read about, tweeted, blogged or received by ESP the dancing wedding party then the rest of this article will make no sense. If you have been on another planet, say like Arkansas, you may have missed it. Two weekends ago a couple getting married in Minnesota (ehh) eschewed tradition and had their entire wedding party dance into the church to the strains of a modern pop-rock song. The video set records for hits on Youtube, caught the attention the nation and was re-enacted on NBC's Today show last weekend. It was quite a show to say the least. It was fun, maybe even hilarious and a real attention getter. Young people strutting their stuff and really enjoying the moment. Some had rehearsed a little bit and did the same dance moves down the aisle. One groomsman did handstands. The groom turned a summersault down the aisle and the bride boogied down with the best of them while the minister swayed at the alter. And why shouldn't they have fun? It's a celebration and hopefully the most joyous day of their lives, so go for it. But hold on just a moment. Let me think about this. Something catches in my spirit. I've always prided myself on not being an old fudddy-duddy (see I'm not sure how to even spell "fuddy-duddy, maybe its 'ie.'), quickly adopting new things and not writing things off just because no one ever did it that way before. Maybe I'm just getting old and too set in my ways but something was missing in all the fun of the "unwedding" march to matrimony in Minnesota and I needed a few days to put thoughts together. What was wrong? What was missing? What kept me from all out endorsement with a view toward duplication? It it this: it was a wedding, with vows to God, to one another, and yes, even to the community of witnesses. This most joyous occasion is also one of the most serious. It is one of worship and of giving and receiving the blessing of God. One could see the joy in the dancing down the aisle but where was the reverence for the vows and the main One in whose name the vows are given? Can the shift from Watusi to worship be made that quickly? And perhaps the bigger rub is this: God is left out or at least horribly hidden in the antics of the wedding party. Almost no one heard the vows given after that entrance, no one was moved by the prayer of the minister, few probably worshipped the Lord God for the blessing of marriage He provided. Their minds were flooded by the sights and sounds they had just experienced and the focus was squarely on the wedding party, not the Honored Guest of God's Spirit. The Minnesota Mambo merely highlighted what has happened to marriage in general over the years. The focus has shifted, if it ever was there, to the bride and groom instead of the God who brings them together for companionship, pleasure, and a Godly linage. The focus has become the wedding ceremony instead of the marriage. Families spent thousands and thousands of dollars on the wedding and almost no time or money in preparing for marriage. A few years ago when I pastored in Burnet, the average wedding in Austin was $32,000.00. Average wedding! Will the half of those marriages that are statistically headed for divorce spend any where near that in counseling to hold it together? Probably not. Where God intends the marriage to be the soil in which greater love and commitment grow, it has become merely the vehicle for personal fulfillment in our society apart from the spiritual designs Christ intended. The deadly reversal in marriage is that society treats God as though He existed to bless the married with no reciprocation in the hearts of the man and wife. Ideally, in the commitment of marriage the couple learns more of who the Trinity is and how the true community of the Trinity can be learned and lived out in the growing community of the home. The intimacy and the ecstasy the Godhead enjoys with one another is to be learned, enjoyed and shared by the couple in marriage and the resulting strength, beauty and love will both point the greater community to the greatness of God and transform the culture by its true strength of joy and blessing. So dance back up the aisle at the end if you must. Turn it loose at the reception and dance the night away. But for God's sake, and really your marriages' sake, focus on Christ's presence in Holy awe and reverence as you seek His purpose and blessing in your vows and live them in your marriage. Then the high point of your marriage won't be had coming down the aisle, but in your enjoying the dance of life lived to glory to God. Cos

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tranquility Base

I was fourteen and a half when America landed two astronauts on the moon forty years ago. I remember watching the gray, grainy scenes on our old, gray, grainy black and white tv. It was a surreal, fascinating, magical, mysterious, and miraculous. To that moment, it was the greatest and may debatably still be the greatest engineering, scientific feat mankind has produced. I'm not sure young folks really know much about it. It ranks somewhere below iphones and text messaging in their view of wonderful accomplishments. When the lunar module landed Neil Armstrong said, "Houston, tranquility base here, the eagle has landed." They called the area of the moon on which they landed the Sea of Tranquility. They left a plaque on the Sea of Tranquility that read " we came in peace for all mankind." It was so remarkable it was more than some folks could believe so they made up stories about the whole moon landing\walking being a hoax staged by the government in the Arizona desert or on a sound stage in Arkansas. For a few hours, the world virtually stopped to follow the progress of Aldrin and Armstrong. For a few moments the world was "together." It didn't last long. Bullets starting flying again in Viet Nam. Egypt and Israel were rattling sabres soon enough and the USSR was holding its power over eastern Europe. If mankind were going to find tranquility, they'd have to go to the moon. The truth of the matter is that there was a tranquility base on the moon because there is nothing there but a bunch of stinky rocks (moon rocks, moon dust smells like spent gunpowder). The progress came in the Herculean effort to get to the moon and back. Computer advances, communication advances, engineering advances with adhesives, metals, and materials that play into our lives now were made possible by the progress NASA made over forty years ago. For those reasons I hope we can one day go to Mars or where ever and explore it for all its worth. Maybe by then mankind will have figured out that our base for tranquility isn't found on the moon or on Mars or in politics or secured with armies or oil or any other created thing. There is a much closer, deeper space which must be explored. What is there can be terrifying for sure. Yet there is a Guide who knows that tranquility is not something discovered "out there" or landed upon by spacecraft but is created within. Is your heart open to exploration? Terry

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

I've been in hiding until he was safely in the ground. Is it ok yet? I decided to help all my friends and relatives that I don't outlive to beat the rush. I'll be selling chances for a lottery ticket to my funeral for $25 a pop. No limit. That way we will know what size venue to rent for my memorial service. So far the the back room at Sister's diner is a good fit, actually, the restroom is probably a better fit. Speaking of decisions, we all make hundreds if not thousands of them daily. It starts before we get up (bathroom now or can I wait 20 minutes?)and continues throughout the day. Boxers or briefs? Coffee, black or flavored? Cereal or toast? Honey-nut Cheerios or Total? Well, you know the routine. It goes on and on, most decisions you hardly even think about and rarely second guess. Some of us have careers that require decisions all day that aren't always easy. But in a sense, you even get used to making tougher decisions because that just becomes part of your life. The better balanced ones can make decisions without getting paralyzed and still have a sense of humility about themselves that keeps them from becoming obnoxiously arrogant. I have an unscientific theory that based on a person's education, training, gender, experience, personality, and genetics, a person has a certain capacity for X number of decisions daily. Let's say Bob's make-up allows him to make 2,000 decisions a day while Larry (yes those are the Crocs from Pearls) can only make 1500. When Larry starts to reach his peak, he starts forgetting, slowing down, and become irritated. Bob still going strong for a while longer. I also think everyone pretty much fills his\her decision jar to full capacity leaving little or no margin when life is thrust upon us in unexpected ways. One example of this would be the decisions men and women make at bars late at night. Exceeding one's decision quota can be disastrous. I also think Satan uses this theory to his advantage in the world. In this materialistic world the choices and selections we have are measured exponentially. Blame Baskin-Robbins. It all started with the name even before the 33 flavors. Why couldn't it just be Baskins? or Robbins? or just BR's? No we have to get both names and give you the choice of 33 flavors. Now even the local snow cone stand has combinations into the hundreds. When I was small there were four flavors of snow cones to choose from along with three tv channels to watch. There's probably a snow cone channel, I just haven't found it yet. We end up using our decision capacity with inane choices by 1o in the morning and the rest of the day we make poor decisions like watching too much tv or eating snow cones. As most know, we are in the process of building a house. Our builder is really great. I think he was a marriage counselor before he went into building. He takes a lot of the decisions out of our hand so there is less stress. He simply says, "no, you can't afford that." That helps a bunch. But unfortunately, we can still afford paint in the new house. We decided a pale yellow would look nice in some rooms. Did you know that each paint store, there are only 47 within 50 miles, has 22 different shades of "pale" yellow? You don't even want to know about the other rooms and their "beige" scheme. So if there is no sermon for the next few weeks its because the devil had me thinking "cuddle" yellow and "biscotti" beige and there was no room for Bible study and dealing with salvation, righteousness, guilt, freedom, meaning, sorrow, loss, grace and all that other stuff that has to take a backseat to picking a paint color! Life can get terribly complicated, from the silly to the surreal; from the mundane to the monumental. The sheer number of decisions, not to mention their gravitas, can stoop a man's soul more quickly than time can his shoulders. It was rare genius and oh so kind of the Savior, that when he calls a man like he did His disciples, He simply says, "come, follow me." (Matthew 4:19). Of all the decisions a man has to make, Jesus made the most important one the most do-able. When you're lost--follow Him; when you're lonely--follow Him; when you're hurting--follow Him; when you're confused--follow Him; when you've got a decision to make--follow Him. This will not make all the decisions go away but it will put them into perspective. Following Him closely will also take away many of the lesser decsions we face. How we spend our time, follow Him and He will fill it with good and meaningful things. Money, follow Him and He will guide you in giving and serving others with it. Snow cones, take a kid and watch her delight in the bright color and sweet coolness on a 103 degree day and it won't matter if it's Cherry or Passionate Mango Delight. Your delight will be found in simply deciding to follow Jesus. Cos

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I don't get it. I'm sorry I just don't get it. It's sad anytime someone dies "out of order" whether too young or too needed by those around them. But the media attention given to Michael Jackson's death is a mystery to me. I understand Gail Storm's death. She was old. I understand Ed McMahon's, he was kinda old. (He had to go first so when these other's came out from behind eternity's curtain he could say, "heeerrres' Farrah.")It's sad but Farrah Fawcett had battled cancer a long time and was worn out. Michael Jackson was an entertainer and since news is now in the entertainment business more than the truth business, I can see the hype a little bit. But it has been like the Michael Jackson Death as Reality Show for five days now. Come on, he never found a cure for cancer, though he did give some money to Elizabeth Taylor's Aids relief. He was not a chemist, physicist, inventor, doctor, teacher, writer or coach. He will not have an endowed chair at an institute for higher education named after him nor a wing at a children's hospital either. I guess that could happen but I wouldn't put my kid there if it did. His legacy, according to a CBS reporter was that he perfected the music video and paved the way for Madonna and MTV. I wouldn't want that on my tombstone. I read he was very generous at one time to people and charities which is commendable. But anyone who went through billions of dollars probably should have been able to set up foundations, trusts, and charities that could be funded for generations. Instead, he may have been pretty well broke when he died except for royalty's from Beatles songs he purchased. I know this sounds terrible of me. I tried to be magnanimous and cut the man some slack. I freely admit he had a great talent for dancing and singing when he was still black. I heard people on the television say that he changed their lives. So I looked up the words to several of his hit songs and videos to see what depth of wisdom, passion, joy, and truth were contained therein. Bupkis. Nada. Simply not there. Nothing to even write on his own tombstone. Not all of this is his own fault, in a sense. In our world, at least this part of it, entertainment has become one of, if not the chief value. Entertainment has taken over for truth, justice, righteousness, morality, and servanthood on so many levels. From the classroom to the pew, from the bedroom to the boardroom, keep it moving, keep it feeling good, keep the laughs coming, and the money rolling and all shall be right and all shall be forgiven. You can be a thug, just don't drop the pass; be a nasty dude and long as your jumpshot kisses the glass. Here's what's even sadder to me: this man died at age 50. He was purportedly 5'10" and weighed about 115 lbs. He was pretty well broke and was in ill health. The news talks about his music, his legacy, his family, his records, his dancing, singing, his creepiness and his weird if not sinful episodes with little boys. And you would think by all the news coverage he was one of the greatest men since Lincoln. A man died at age 50. Broke. Sick. Probably Lost to eternity. But we don't view things in those terms. It's bad for ratings. It's too eternal sounding. It requires an evaluation of life beyond its entertainment value and in this world there is little value beyond entertainment. Michael Jackson was called the King of Pop. He once bought a place and called it Neverland. It had circus animals and circus rides. It was a place for fun and fantasy- a place where you didn't have to grow up just like Peter Pan. It didn't last. The animals are gone. The rides are gone. The fantasy has been replaced by the reality of death. There was another one designated the King from a generation ago. He died prematurely too. He sang a song maybe the King of Pop should have listened to: It's Only Make Believe. All he built his life on is destined for neverland, it was only make believe. There is only one King, and He does not share power or glory. But He will share His life, His home, His eternity to all who will receive Him. It's not found in a place called Never, but in a place called Ever. Everlasting to everlasting- A reality far better than the greatest fantasy we can imagine. Maybe that's what killed Michael, the lack of imagination. He couldn't imagine a place better than the fantasy he could build. But his fantasy couldn't overcome the reality of death. Maybe the church can help others with their imaginations by showing folks the Reality that overcomes even death. Terry

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Day No Dogs Will Die (sorry Mr. Peck)

I was going through some old articles I'd written looking for a quote I seemed to think was in them somewhere. I never found the quote but noticed that I was more personable then, more vulnerable. Was that a good thing or bad? I pondered. The pondering had as much success as the quote hunt. I don't want to write about myself all the time-- it's boring, its egocentric, and arrogant. Writing about yourself can easily get the subject or spotlight off the weightier matters of the kingdom, namely the King. Writing about yourself can tend to make the good, better than it is, the worse, worse than it is or go the other way and make the good, worse and the bad, good and get as confused as this sentence. A lot of things on my mind are really no one else's business or problems. Most of the time, I don't need "fixers" coming in to fix things or merciful folk showing up to sympathize. I need prayer but you only need to listen to a few sermons, play golf with me or talk to me about any thing a few minutes and you know that I need prayer without me opening heart and soul in a newsletter article. But there are times and weeks when it seems that "me"is the only thing on my heart so I guess it's better just to get it out there, maybe for the catharsis of confession or to wring out the mind of all the accumulated thoughts much like you wring out a mop of its grey slurry. So I didn't ever say much or write anything about my mother-in-law's back, my daddy's stroke, Cody the dog, or my two sons. Oh, I asked for prayer for them in prayer rooms, prayer circles and small groups but it was all on the information level. I never told you how I felt about watching my 88 year old mother-in-law struggle with a cracked back and bulging discs. You didn't see her thirty four years ago doing round offs in the living room for the grandkids. You never saw what unbelievable stamina she had for doing whatever she had to do after her husband died. Taking care of four daughters and their grandchildren, (even a set of twins,) fixing meals, and the huge Christmasses she put on. Now, instead of round-offs, its round up the walker. The daughters and grandkids are taking care of her, cleaning, cooking, driving. The contrast is gut- wrenching. ( I once had an article rejected from a magazine because I used the word "gut." I use it as often as I can now. The mag. is out of business) But you know this stuff, you've been through it and worse. I suppose that's why I never said anything much beyond info and prayer request about my daddy's stroke. It has left him legally blind and imprisoned him to some extent. He can watch a little tv and read a little. He doesn't drive so he can't check the cattle or other people's crops like he did his own crops until he retired two years ago. He was the one who rarely got sick, never stopped, and was the tall, strong, silent type of hero who was always "just there." Now he's just there in the house or the yard or the workshop, probably kinda lost. No longer the artist-farmer who used blackland prairie as his canvas, tractors and plows as brushes and living plants for paint. The rows were always the straightest when they needed to be straight. A perfect, long, slow curve to follow the terrace an eighth of a mile away when they needed to curve. His paintings were alive and were marked with the changing hues of light green to dark green; changing later to rust colored maize, golden wheat and the browns and bright white of cotton. The artist has retired and can't see so very well even the paintings of others offered on the same canvas. The contrast is gut-wrenching but you've been there in one form or another. So I also didn't bother you with too many details about my son Clay and his mission trip. I wasn't too gung-ho for this one. He's gone on them before but I felt, and was probably wrong, that this mission trip to Italy was just not the right one at this time. I felt he was just manufacturing a break from a job that isn't very rewarding and hardly pays the bills. But in this economy its a job and he has health insurance and I felt he might jeopardize it if they saw they could do without him for the two weeks he will miss since they have already had several cut-backs there. So I wasn't as encouraging as I should have been. He raised all the the money. He's got the vacation time coming. We found some angels to let us bring our dogs back here to White Bluff. He was keeping them until our house was finished. So we last talked to him while he was laid over in Newark yesterday afternoon and at 5:45 this AM I was on the computer reading headlines to make sure no plane crash was reported in Europe. Some kids go to Cancun and get drunk for a break. My kid goes on a mission trip to encourage missionaries and clean up after earthquakes, and still his dad questions it. You probably don't do that with your kids so why tell you about how goofy my parenting is? So I won't bore you with tales of my other son, my grandson's dad. He is seriously underemployed selling cars. But he hangs in, and keeps hoping customers come in, and his back aches from standing too much with bad arches. I didn't teach him how to hang in like that but he's doing what he can to provide for his family. If he whines it is to his wife and not me. I did probably teach him that. If I could snap my fingers and make things easier for the boys, I would. But they are beyond my control, unlike when they were home and I used game-boys, ice cream, spankings, car keys and wish-filled promises to get them to do what I thought was right. The contrast is, well, this one was needed. I bored you longer than with any blog I've ever written with this personal stuff. It usually doesn't take this long to bore you. I didn't even have time to tell you about the loss of Cody, my mentally handicapped little sister-in-law's Shitzshu. ( I always feel fuilty pronoucing that breed.)He's been a big part of Kim's life for nearly fifteen years. But its was his time to go this week. I can't remember a time he wasn't around their house but the next time I go I'll have to face what Kim is facing today. It's a day without____and there are a hundred of those blanks to fill in when you lose your dog-friend. But it's a dog and not a person and you try a dozen other rationalizations like that that don't work because it was a relationship of love between Kim and Cody, one that I believe was God-sent. Having it end is gut-wrenching for her and seeing it is so for the rest of us. So there, now you know what I think about when not thinking about sermons or bs (bible study), or visiting the hospital or playing golf. Now you won't have to ask and I won't need to tell you my melancholy musings . You've been through worse no doubt and have hurt far more deeply but do yourself a favor. Don't get so busy doing all that other bs to keep you from really feeling what life does to you, that you never wring the melancholy out of your mop-like mind. Go ahead, think the thoughts, sigh the sighs, let the tears come and then wipe 'em quickly before anyone sees. Tell someone what you are feeling and thinking. If for no other reason that they might remind you that there is coming a day when no dogs will die. On that day God will wrest away His own from blinding strokes, bulging discs, aching backs, bad jobs, past failures and a thousand other ______(fill in your own blank, I'm not doing all the work) people have experienced in this fallen world. And on that day, the contrast between what was and what in Christ, truly is, will no longer be gut-wrenching but soul releasing, soul refreshing, and soul finding. And what we will have found is what we sought from the beginning: Him and home. Cos

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I don't recognize my world as much anymore. The roads have changed, the old landmarks are gone, the old leaders are, well, old. Skylines have changed and nostalgic markers of what some call better days are harder to find.

You can still see the Lucas B&B sign for the old Dallas deli, but the deli is gone, Pappadeaux is there now. And these are very minor changes. I don't recognize a world where a beauty queen is vilified for saying marriage should be between a man and a woman. I thought that was normal and right. In this world I guess not. She has been called a bigot, a racist, opportunistic, a bitch, and hate-filled. Its all ok for someone to say those things about her without being bigoted and hate-filled I guess, at least in this new world I don't recognize.
 I don't recognize my world much anymore. It's a world where a beauty queen says shes a Christian and takes a stand for traditional marriage and then we find out she had nude photos made when she was 17. (Where was her mother?) She says shes not perfect but models have pictures made of themselves in swimsuits and lingerie and stuff. It's part of the business. I don't recognize that business world.
 I no longer recognize this world where "porn" is openly discussed on TV shows and joked about by comedians and talk show hosts. We don't even blink anymore let alone blush. Movies rated "X" thirty years ago are PG-13 now. Most Christians wouldn't attend an "X" rated movie, Hollywood fixed that, they are just "R' rated now. My grandparents generation had qualms about even going to the "show." We all thought that was so antiquated and silly. Maybe they recognized something coming we didn't want to see.
 A old pastor friend and I played golf late Monday evening. He asked me if I was on Facebook. No, I said. I aked him if he used Snapchat. He asked me if I  tweeted on Twitter. No, I said. I'm not sure either of us knew what we were talking about.
The Westwinds Church in Jackson, Mich. encourages its young audience to Tweet during the sermon and talk to each other in the process. They even have an associate pastor feeding ideas and questions to those tweeting during the sermon. I get flustered when I lose my place in my notes I scribbled on my sermon napkin. I haven't learned all the old secrets of communicating in this world before a new way to talk about myself is introduced. I don't recognize all the ways to connect in this world now, but I have the sense that everyone is more disconnected than ever.
We can find out what we all wore to work today on Facebook. We can invade each other's MySpace and know when we go to the mall, the gas station and what we ordered at Sonic. I can Tweet and in 140 characters help you keep up with me. We can now stay connected 24/7 and still feel alone, separate, and isolated. We don't recognize how to connect heart to heart anymore, its all device to device.
We won't recognize our world when all the machines take over, at least I'm ahead of that curve. I don't recognize my own body in this world at times. It is so much weaker. It can't pick up what it used to nor move as fast as it did even just a few years ago. My arms and legs are so small now. I can't bench press a third of what I did years ago. I can't hit a golf ball nearly as far except when its going out of bounds. It even hurts in some places now that never bothered me before. Nearly every week I ask it, who are you?
 So what can I do when so many of the old signs, landmarks, morals, and mores for living life have changed? Well, I can learn to read new signs, travel new roads, and adjust where I can to the new devices made to make my life simpler. In the weightier matters of life, the realms of faith, righteousness, justice, hope and love,  I must recognize something else when I don't recognize my world. That something else is: this world is not my home.
 As I grow closer to my true home then the old one becomes less familiar. The apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:20 that our citizenship is in heaven. Jesus said in John 14 he was going to His Father's house to prepare for us a room. But even as the world becomes less recognizable then Jesus should be even more real and recognizable to us. The longer we walk with Him in faith the more we can see who He is and where He is heading.
 It may be harder in coming days to recognize this world, but this world and its glories are fading. The key is to recognize the Saviour of the world and follow Him. He will slowly and gradually break the bands of this world that have a hold on us and make us ever more free to truly live.
 One day we shall see Him as He truly is, let's not be surprised.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Flu and You

Like one of my favorite theologians, Rosanne Rosanna Dana, used to say "its always something." Truer words were never spoken. Today's something is swine flu. A few years ago there was an avian flu crises. Every year we have to worry about regular flu. When the mosquitoes are bad, like they may be after these recent rains, we have to be aware of equine encephalitis and west Nile virus . ( How do the mosquitoes on the east side of the Nile know not to carry the virus?)Today's pandemic strain of flu virus apparently has some aspects of swine, avian, and human flu. That's why I like dogs, they never give you the flu. When today's "something" hits you, what do you think about God? Is He to blame? Is He punishing society or you in particular for past sins? Is He unaware or just unconcerned about your pain or hurt? It seems that way at times. How can God remain so silent when your hurtful circumstances scream so loudly? Yet, His silence can be deafening. How do you reconcile your beliefs about a loving God with the horror of wars, the seeming arbitrary nature of disease, and the often seen cruelty of man, supposedly made in God's image, to other men? Forget all that big stuff-- where is God when my wife, my kid, my grandchildren, my job, my bills, and my life are squashed by life? I have no easy answer. Allow me to share some mental gymnastics I do to get me through when times I wonder, question God or get down right cussing mad at Him. When going through a tough time I remind myself of these things: His purpose for my life-Jesus' desire is to make me holy, wholly righteous and totally His. My purposes for me are most often less or at least tainted with self-serving thoughts. I must admit that ofttimes I prefer health, wealth, and comfort. If God thinks I need those for Him to make my character to conform to His and have me available to always do His will, then so be it. If He chooses to use something else not as pleasant then I need to learn to trust the Master teacher in His classroom and submit. All those scriptures about being "a living sacrifice," "take up your cross and follow me," "we are counted as sheep for the slaughter," be holy even as I am holy," " He saved us and called us to a holy life," "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to the day of completion," "walk in a manner worthy of your calling," well, guess what? He meant them and will not stop working on, in, and through us until His character and will are formed in us. Remember where you are- you and I live in a fallen world. Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, life has been broken. That doesn't mean it is totally rotten. There is love, joy, laughter, and companionship. There are also spouses, children, grandchildren, ice cream, basketball, Danny's barbecue, and Pam's pie. Slices of heaven for sure. But in this broken world are hatred, fear, loneliness, disease, and pieces of hell all over. We tend to wonder if there is a God since there are these evil things. Couldn't we just as easily say there must be a God or we wouldn't have these wonderful things in life? The fact that the good things from God's grace show up at all is a testament of His love for this world and it's people. Do the math--A day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day to the Lord. I checked with Bill McKee an Sara Edwards, a couple of people very much smarter than me on this one for the math. I don't do math. It has numbers in it. (see pieces of hell above) In heaven's time then, twenty minutes is about 13. 8 years. (there are 24 hours in a day---which translates to 1440 minutes in a day. Twenty minutes is 1\72 of a day or 20 divided into 1440. Using the same formula of 1\72, dividing 1000 years by 72 you get 13.88) So I might have to endure something 14 years, maybe even 20 years, it's only 20-30 minutes in heaven time. Surely, you can hang on and hang in for half an hour or so. I seriously don't mean this to be trite and I know that the bible numbers aren't always literal. Our problems can wear us down eventually but I do this heavenly math as a way of gaining perspective. The problems will not persist into eternity, but in Christ you will. Listen to the saints- the truth that we need to hear has probably been addressed by the church in some way or form in history. You are not alone in your struggles. I whine because I've had to bury 300 or so people from my churches. No, none died during my sermons-yet. John Donne ("ask not for whom the bell tolls") buried them by the thousands because of plague. It hurts to lose those you've gotten close to and it messes with the attendance figures. But the truth is that our worst day of saying good-bye to those we love is their best day, the day they were brought to salvation for in Christ. Hear what John Calvin wrote in "Institutes of the Christian Religion" in 1536: "God's sovereign rule cannot be separated from His saving purpose. The providence of God watches for our salvation, even when it most seems to sleep. Just as we find God in the "low places" of this world--a dirty feeding trough in Bethlehem, weary on the road to Jerusalem, and crying in dereliction on the cross-- we trust that He is most present in our lives precisely where He seems most hidden. It makes a tremendous difference in our lives when we trust that the same God who wounds, also heals." Amen, John. Watch Him- When you want to know what God is like and what He is about keep your eyes on Jesus. Don't look at the circumstances of your life to see where God is and what He is up to, look to your Saviour. It is not primarily by your circumstances, but in spite of them that we see God's love and grace. Look always to the cross, there above all our worldly circumstances, good or bad, we see that God loves us. I don't know what might bite you this week- viruses from a pig, a bird or a mosquito (but not a dog), or something more sinister, but this I know, God will never leave you nor forsake you in this world or beyond. And when I forget this myself, would you kindly remind me? Cos

Friday, April 24, 2009

Odds and Ends

Local intellectual and author Jim Browder stopped by for a visit the other day. As we briefly discussed writing, Jim mentioned how much harder it is to write a monthly column than a weekly or daily. I concurred. I'll try to get into a better groove. I miss it when I lay off too long and ideas pile up and its hard to sort them out and remember the inspiration if I wait too long. We also had computer trouble at the church so today's offerings are just odds and ends to get me typing again and catch up a bit. --Do you remember A Man Called Steve from Jaunary's blog. His name is Larry. I ran into him at Wal Mart not too long ago. He is content but physically he didn't seem to be doing too well. I'd appreciate it if you would pray for him. He probably more so. --If you have the Sheerluck Holmes Veggie Tales dvd. be sure and watch the "Gated Community" song. It's also on YouTube but its in German. I think our church's music director, Cynthia, should get the choir to do it. Good message. White Bluff folks would get a kick out of it. You can always use the excuse that you're buying the dvd for your grandkids if you feel awkward buying a children's dvd. --Speaking of church staff, our Associate Pastor, Ann, dropped in the office one afternoon. She looked like she had been on the golf course. I asked, "what did you shoot?" She didn't want to respond. I said at least I didn't ask her her age or weight. Later, as she was leaving, she called out "107". I'm still wondering if she meant her weight, age, or golf score. --On a recent visit to the nursing home I passed a resident sitting in a wheelchair in the doorway to her room. She had a beautiful, almost angelic face and very smooth skin. She had obviously been to the beauty shop as her hair was nicely coiffured. On my way back from visiting my church member I thought I'd speak a "hello" to this lovely lady. As I approached her I slowed down and went over to speak and with a voice out of The Exorcist I heard an emphatic "Keep Moving!" Oops, I'd found the nursing home's self-appointed hall monitor.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Can't See the Forest for the Golfballs

I am cheap.

This comes as no surprise to those who know me even moderately well. Part of this thrift comes from growing up in rural Texas the son of depression era parents trying to make a living on rented farm land. Another component of my cheapness comes from the necessity of being so due to the relatively modest salaries of pastor's of small churches and mission churches, especially in my younger days. Another part is I think I'm just stubborn and won't easily admit defeat--I take it as a personal defeat that I can't get one more glob of toothpaste out of the tube or wear that tee-shirt from 1977's summer camp at least one more time before it shreds in the washer.

 It's not that I don't have areas where great improvement might be made in stewardship of earthly goods but I'm for the most part just cheap. This serves me well most of the time, is an irritant or an embarrassment (see their reaction to my $9.95 sunglasses) to the family or others, and a spiritual weight around the neck at times. As it is, I've missed some wonderful blessings looking for golf balls.
I walk some, not as far or as fast as I used to but as the winds die and the temperatures heat up I am getting out there a little more. I walk about 2.5 miles and look to move that up to 3.5 - 4 miles by June. I use the golf courses to walk, mostly the New course but a couple of times the Old. While walking I'll edge over to the rough where hooks and slices go and keep an eye out for balls left by golfers as bad as me. I usually find at least a couple of balls if I'm diligent. I don't pick up Top Flight balls. I know I'm not good enough to be picky but I am. My favorite are Srixon balls but few people play with them yet so they are harder to find and cost $40 a dozen. I like a challenge and playing with a ball no one can pronounce. I, for some strange reason, hit them straighter. I've actually finished a whole round of golf on the New Course with the same Srixion ball. I lost it the next round. I also like Bridgestone really well. I find quite a few Titleist Pro-VI's. That's a good ball too and more folks play that one so they are easier to find. I scuff them up pretty badly.

 So what's wrong with finding a few free golf balls while walking? Nothing except I miss something worth more that a $3.50 golf ball. With my eyes on the ground to the right or the left I can easily miss the beauty of the golf course, the sights and sounds of God's wonders around me or even people who might need a wave and a walking prayer. There are wider vistas to see, bigger pictures to take in, beauty happening all around me and I'm flirting with rattlesnakes and cottonmouths trying to save a few bucks by cashing in on others' waywardness. It makes me wonder if I do that in other areas of life. Am I so bogged down in the details of living that I'm missing it's beauty and wonder. If the goal is to find golf balls then playing in the rough is ok. If the goal in walking is to pump the blood, get the heart rate up and finish the course then I need to keep my eyes up and forward.

If the goal in life is to just pay the bills and to keep myself entertained, then I guess wandering around is just fine. If the goal is a higher, more nobler call, then I best keep my eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith and press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

 Where are you walking this day? On course or roughing it?

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Cross as Irony

Irony-4. Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs...-The American Heritage Dictionary 1971
Ironies on the Cross Ironic isn't it that He who spoke the world into existence speaks so little from the cross? It words are filled with meaning, its silence even more.
 Ironic isn't it that He who planted the world with seed-bearing plants and trees on the land is Himself planted on a tree and bears both the sin of the world and the fruit of righteousness?
 Is it more than irony that He who would never need to experience forgiveness offers it to every dumb sucker working for the system that put Him on the cross; every mean sucker hiding behind religious custom who pulled strings to get Him there; and every other person from that day forward who was sucked into sin?
 Is it not ironic that He speaks of finding paradise for a man who should have by all means found hell while at that moment He is Himself experiencing it? Can it be that He who could pack clouds into His hands like snowballs and throw them at the back of angels halos is alone as no other ever experienced alone-ness? Could He whose kinship with Father and Spirit that was as close as a notion be totally alone and shrouded in heavy darkness? Did Father really turn His back on Him? Did Father cover His Son with darkness to hide the shame? Did the light of the world simply go out? Was this why He who felt so utterly forsaken so as to despair of even the presence of God promise that He would never leave nor forsake you?
 It is not ironic that He who scooped out the depths of the oceans with the palm of His hand, who could trace out the rivers with the tip of His finger, and by pressing His thumb into the earth and form every lake cried out, "I thirst." With just a twitch from His bloodied brow to command it, every body of water on the earth would have gladly changed its course to the foot of the cross to sooth their master's tongue and every cloud would have wrung itself dry of its precious nectar to relieve the fire in His mouth.
But the command was never spoken, for it was not His thirst He was quenching that day, it was ours. 

Vox Dei

You probably wondered why I didn't start the "voices we need to hear" series with this one. You knew it was coming sooner or later, I simply chose "later." Indeed if you listen carefully, you can pick out some of the voice of God in the other voices I've mentioned and a thousand I didn't. Evangelicals get a bit squeamish when you start talking about hearing the voice of God anywhere other than scripture. I understand, it opens the door for the unorthodox, weird, sentimental, irrational, too rational, gooey, goofy, heretical voices to jump in. Its a chance I took. I haven't grown any horns yet, heck, I can't even grow hair. Hebrews, chapter one, verses one and two declare that "in the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe." God's ultimate, final, most complete speaking to man was\is through Jesus. And the picture of Jesus, who He is, what He taught, what He did is in the bible. We need to hear the voices of nature, our parents, our neighbors, our children, our government, those saints from Christian history, the contrarian, the pacifist, and those whose voices are rarely heard: the poor, the outcast, those with no political or economic power. God may very well speak through them but the message must always be consistent and true to the person and character of Christ as revealed in the Bible. I'll conclude this little series now and move onto something else but do a couple of things for me, if you would. Listen to your own conversations. Around what or who do they center? I did this the last week or so myself and found a rather depressing truth. Most of my conversations centered around me. My time, my calendar, my schedule, my hook, my weight, my family, my enjoyments, my, my, my.... I suppose this is somewhat normal but I seek a new normal. It can be shaped by listening more. The other thing I'd invite you to do is find those who have no voice and speak up for them. I can't tell you who that might me but you can pray and ask God for whom you may speak, at least in prayer at first. He will show you, He will speak to you. He may direct you to orphans in Europe or children scarred by cruel dictators in Africa; He may remind you that the unborn have no voice and the young girls having those babies aren't heard in the volleyball match of politics. He may flood your heart with concern for lonely college kids connected in every way electronically but in no way to God or other lonely hearts. You may develop a heart for the exploited in the gambling\sex industry or for coal miners in China. But is there not somewhere, some people for whom you can pray, or write a letter for, or be involved in missions for those who need a voice? Vox Dei, the voice of God. Hear it in the Bible, but hear it calling to us to from those with no voice or power. There may be many voices we need to hear but One we definitely need to share. Vox Cos

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Longings---Voices We Need to Hear IV

If I Could Tell You Time will say nothing but I told you so, Time only knows the price we have to pay, If I could tell you, I would let you know. If we should weep when clowns put on their show, If we should stumble when musicians play, Time will say nothing but I told you so. There are no fortunes to be told, although, Because I love you more than I can say, If I could tell you, I would let you know. The winds must come from somewhere when they blow, There must be reasons why the leaves decay; Time will say nothing but I told you so. Perhaps the roses really want to grow, The vision seriously intends to stay; If I could tell you I would let you know. Suppose all the lions get up and go, And all the brooks and soldiers run away; Will time say nothing but I told you so? If I could tell you, I would let you know. W.H. Auden If you push your head in the pillow at night just right, you can sometimes pick it up. Cupping the hand over the ear and pushing the little flap in the opening of the ear makes it appear too. It's harder to do when you are trying, its just kinda happens and then you are aware of it. You are hearing the steady rhythm of your heart beating. You are hearing the sound it makes keeping you alive. First comes the hard beat, then the echo. THUMP-thump, THUMP-thump, THUMP-thump. To hear your own heart beat is a good thing but its a thing we take for granted. If we hear it too loudly or think about it too much we change the pillow to the cool side and forget about it. Maybe we shouldn't. I remember when Clay, our youngest suffered with asthma as a child. It was pretty severe. The doctor had us purchase a stethoscope to listen to his lungs to catch the wheezing as soon as possible to start treatment. But that little, cheap stethoscope also picked up the heart beating. As a father this fascinated and took me to a place of awe at the same time. This is my son's heart beat. It keeps him going, it keeps him alive. It was sometimes slow and steady, at other times, depending on the asthma and the medicine, it fairly raced in his chest. It could assure me, it could frighten me. Have you heard your heart lately? Has your Father in heaven heard your heart's slow, steady beat or the one that is racing trying to keep up or catch your breath? And I don't mean the physical one either. I mean your heart as more defined by your longings, desires, hopes, dreams, where all these are hatched and nurtured to maturity. There's the rub. We don't hear that heart. We get so busy living life that there is little life in our living. We haven't heard our hearts lately. We've forgotten to dream, to hope, and when we did it was too little, too hurried. We mistook those beatings as a disturbance and flipped over the pillow and went on with our lives. And we are neither assured nor frightened. So, what is it for which you truly long? Have you settled for survival? Have you decided that just making a living, having some money, enjoying a hobby is enough? What cravings does the voice of your heart speak? What meaning for your life have you sought? Have you heard your own heart? Better still, have you heard God's heart? How about His desires for your heart? There are two ways to read that oft quoted scripture from Psalm 37, verse 4: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." One way to see it is to delight yourself in the Lord and the things you want\need will come your way. That's a nice middle class, materialistic and popular way to look at it. Another way is to delight yourself in the Lord and He will put the right desires, His desires in your heart. In typical fashion we get to wondering about the second half of the verse and forget the key which is the first part of the verse: delight yourself in the Lord. Auden's poem at the beginning of the essay talks about the fickleness of time. It says that time only looks back to say "I told you so." "Time will tell," we say. What will time say about our longings? Were they fulfilled but found empty? Or will we learn to listen to the heart of God, allow Him to fill our hearts with his desires for life and have the visions that truly intend to stay? If I could tell you, I would let you know. Terry

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Voices We Need to Hear III

You won't like this one, I don't either but it doesn't mean I don't need to hear it. It's the voice of dissonance, it's the counter-intuitive, you-can't-be-serious voice; its the "that's quaint but impractical" voice. Let me be a little more specific since there are probably dozens of dissonant voices desirous of your attention each day. I'm not just talking ideological, political, economic or even religious voices. Let's find a specific voice so different that hardly anyone wants to listen, at least not anymore. Let's try on this voice as one we need to hear: the voice of the pacifist. (I think I just heard the click of a dozen computers turn off.......) When is the last time you heard or read anything from a real live pacifist? Can you name one? Do you know one? Can you think of one from history other than MH? Where would you look to find one? I'm not just talking about an anti-war voice or a leftover peace-nik from the late 60's. I mean an honest to God, non-violent, Bible quoting, lover of all humanity, true believer that pacifism is the proper way to approach life from a personal, economic or diplomatic viewpoint. Maybe that's why we don't know any or can't name one. A true Christian pacifist believes that the Biblical teaching of turning the other cheek applies to nations as well as individuals. They believe that "vengeance is mine saith the Lord" means to let God take care of the evildoers in His way and time. Pacifists take seriously the warning that "if you live by the sword you will die by the sword." The beauty of the day of the Lord described as a day when men will no longer teach each other war, a time when the lion will lie down with the lamb, and men shall beat their swords into plows (shares) and their spears into pruning hooks is to actually be lived by the "people of the book" from whence the teachings come. I'm sure there are varying degrees of pacifists, some ultimate, uber pacifists and some, shall we say, more liberal. I recently finished reading Doris Kearns-Goodwin's Team of Rivals about President Lincoln's cabinet during the civil wars. His secretary of war was Edwin Stanton. Stanton had a Quaker background and at an early age had written, " Why is it that military generals are praised and honored instead of being punished as malefactors? The work of war is the "making of widows and orphans--the plundering of towns and villages--the extermination and spoiling of all, making the earth a slaughterhouse." Goodwin writes that three decades after writing this, Stanton was himself responsible for an army of more than 2 million men. There were also few pacifists advocating total non violent approaches to Hitler after 1940. Nevertheless, I believe we should hear them. I've only heard, in person, two pacifists, both at seminary. I've read writings of two, both seminary assignments. I don't think I've seriously read or heard much other than an occasional article since. But we should hear their voices if for no other reason than to keep us humble and searching for better answers. In Isaiah 55 we are told by God that "my thoughts are not your thoughts... " and we would do well to listen humbly and try to discover what God's thoughts are before we respond to the insults of men and nations before we with irrevocable violence. We too easily jump into war in this world and too easily seek a violent answer. Even in the micro world of the home pacifism should be heard. Maybe domestic violence would be lessened if we learned pacifism's lessons. I could personally never be a pacifist. I would defend by family physically if they were physically attacked (see Harrison Ford in Witness) and I believe the Hitlers of the world have to be stopped. But in not listening to the voice of pacifism, we probably lose some reasoning, negotiating, diplomatic and especially spiritual power that we aren't even aware exists. The voice of pacifism takes seriously the Bible's injunctions against violence in the New Testament and beckons us to follow Christ's example when he was confronted with the violence of religious zealots and Roman executions. Should not also His people? Its a hard voice to hear, but pacifism's lessons are for the home, the marketplace and the potential battlefields of the world. The alternatives haven't worked so well after all. In the recorded history of mankind, there are only about seven years where there wasn't a war being fought somewhere. I personally think those seven years scattered around history were just for reloading and letting little boys grow old enough to fight. We must be careful in these hard economic times. People(road rage?) and nations(vital national interests?) often go to war to fix their perceived problems. There will always be principles, people worth fighting far, but there may be other ways to respond that build up rather than destroy. Let's at least hear some dissonant voices who might could help. "Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus said. Ironic isn't it that the name for the Colt 45 pistol in 1873 was the Peacemaker. Is that really what Jesus meant? Terry

Friday, February 27, 2009

It Has Happened (not in the "voices" series)

I didn't want to go. Pam pretty much made me, as much as a 5'3'' sprite of a woman can 'make' a man do anything. They have their ways. Anyway, the conclusion of a great day off, which is any day off with my grandson, Kaden, Pam makes me go to the mall to look at some pant sale they are having. I thought she said "plant." I'm not sure at what point I realize it's men pants we will looking at but a sweaty fear caused my brow to begin beading. Several fears roll in to one. The fear of malls, shopping, spending money, spending too much money, getting lost in the store, having perfume sprayed on me by a female wearing three pounds of mascera and having to try on clothes in any place other than my home led to a spike in blood pressure and a slight fainting spell. To no avail, Pam had me in the store quickly. She parked me in front of the sale rack of men's pants. This may not be too bad. The prices were closeouts on old stuff marked down from $65\$75 to $20\25. "I can handle this," my shopping naivete reasoned. They had my size. I could pick one and be gone. About that time Pam showed up. Before I knew what happened, I had three in my hand and was told to "try them on." Then the real fear set in. I've tried to study why men fear this trek to the dressing rooms. It's not as bad in really expensive stores or the rooms where you try on suits. But in the average middle-of-the-store dressing room, it's horrifying. There's the fear of thieft. There is the fear of discovery. There is the fear of locks not working. Mostly, I think men fear getting jock itch or an std from some dude who previously tried the same pair of pants. I was petrified but I tried not to show it. So I took three pair of pants into the dressing room, locked the door, checked it again, looked for hidden cameras, looked for pins on the floor that could contain the aids virus and then began the humiliation. It was at this point I discovered it and was none too happy. Most folks are glad when their pant size goes down. I'd been in the same two sizes of pants for most of twenty-five years. It was always one or the other. In times of health, diet, exercise, and the summer it was one. In times of stress, after moves, after Christmas it was the other. In twenty-five years it only had a blip over or under for a couple of months a couple of times. I tried on another pair. Same thing. The third pair brought the inescapable conclusion: My pant size had dropped into another range and brought with it the range of emotions that could barely be contained in dressing room D. I dried my tears, put on my 'game face' and went out (did I put my other pants back on?!? Who cares anymore) and annouced to Pam what had happened. I had to get a smaller size. The import of the occasioned seemed not to affect her as it had me. She immediately went back to the rack and retrieved three more pair. The process repeated and yes, these did fit better although a size in between what I was and the smaller number I now submit to would have been best. But those sizes aren't to be found on the sale rack in the middle of the store, only even numbers here. Still dazed, I could not even muster much of a fight when she made me buy all three pair. I think on another day I could have fought off one, maybe even two extra pair of pants. I was not in the frame of mind to do so. I admit to her wisdom when the price tags of $20\$25 were reduced at the check-out by another 70% and I paid $39 for all three pair. Still, they were smaller. I'm not as big a man a I always have been. I tried to be Biblical, "He must increase, but I must decrease.'' But I knew John the B wasn't talking about pant sizes. I'm just smaller. I felt less vibrant, less vital, a "no, not tonight, Honey" mood. It was bad. Today I have some more perspective. The sun did come up. Life goes on and I must adjust to the fact that my pant size is smaller because I am smaller. I have shrunk! My inseam had decreased. My runt-of-my family status at 6'2'' had worsened. I must be somewhere down around 6' and 3\4" to 6'1.'' There I said it! It's out. It's over. I'm shorter. There comes into all life and every life the fact that one day we will be something and do something for the very last time. We usually don't know it when it happens. On occasion we know some last times. We know the last time we go to the office before we retire or drive that old car we're trading in. But the last wave to an old friend, the last kiss from a sweatheart, the last card of thanks we send or receive or the last time you'll see a love one alive, well a lot of "last times" just sneak up on us. They pass as any other moment and we realize later, often too late, that was it. Charles Poole, Southern pastor, says that to try to live each day as if it were the last will drive you crazy. It's best to live each day as if some day, one day will be the last. He is right I believe. I suppose one can't help but grow shorter in leg, but our faith can contiune to grow longer, stronger, and deeper. And this thought also crosses my mind: There is coming a day when shrinking hopes, dimenished dreams, and last times will give way to hope fulfilled, dreams expanded, and each day as new as Genesis' dawns. It's not a day marked by tape measures, spending, savings, or trips around the sun. It will be marked by trips with the Son and his eternity of ever growing joy and love. So keep stretching. Terry

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Voices We Need to Hear -- Nature

Of all the voices vying for your heart's and mind's fealty my I suggest you grant the voice of nature a larger degree of consideration. May I say from the start that any pantheistic or animistic tendencies should be dismissed as the soul-thwarting heresies they are. God is the Creator and is above and separate from His creation. One does not worship the true God by worshipping nature and His Holy Spirit fills not the trees, leaves, waters, and animals but the hearts of men made in His image and surrendered to His will. Yet, He has filled His world with joys, wonders, fears, powers, and mysteries that grant us glimpses into His very own nature. In watching, experiencing and "hearing" the voice of nature we will find ourselves more in tune and better able to hear even greater manifestations of the Voice of God through scripture. Why is this so? First, the very act of hearing the voice of nature requires a "coming out from" the ordinary routines and sounds that fill our modern world. To hear the voice of nature requires some degree of separation from the ordinary, at least from what has become the ordinary in our fast-paced, technological, digital, and connected world. Those of us living at White Bluff have a distinct advantage over our counterparts inside the loops of concrete ribbons. Yet, even in the city there remain parks, trails, golf courses, and backyards filled with the sights and sounds of God's wonders. But whether on limestone bluffs or in concrete canyons an effort is required to touch, to experience and hear the voice of Creation. To step outside of the ordinary, to observe with anticipation, to still the heart and truly listen for the unfamiliar with the hope of it becoming more familiar is the first act of worship. While we seek not to worship the voice of creation we can employ some of the same disciplines used to get in touch with nature that also help us in reaching out to the Creator to whom all worship is due. Another 'why' this is so is found in creation itself. We are part and parcel of it. The God who created us on the sixth day was busy the days before. Our role is given to rule and subdue, which has been misinterpreted to our disadvantage too often. God intended mankind to use nature wisely as faithful stewards to better all of creation. When done properly it has produced medicines for health, abundance for life and wealth, and beauty for enrichment. When abused and neglected nature has its own built-in consequences of death, disease, destruction and soul-withering disorder. The Old Testament is replete with references to the God of Creation for this very reason. If somehow, we can see, experience and hear the voice of nature we then have a strong hand pointing to the God who brought nature into being. In that hearing of the voice of nature we can experience power, beauty, majesty, imagination, joy, playfulness, abundance, even destruction and mystery which should all point us to God. So the Psalmist uses nature over and over again to make his points about God. The writer of Proverbs appropriates the natural world to illustrate truth. The answer Job receives from God is not a direct response to his questions of unfairness, pain and suffering but a consideration of the behemoth, leviathan, the storehouses of snow, the names of stars, and the way to throw a lightning bolt. Our Lord taught us to "consider the lilies of the field..." and the assurances of victory in Revelation come with the images of raging rivers, powerful stallions, gold, pearls, healing leaves, and peaceful waters making glad the city of God. How is this so? I'm incapable of saying with all authority. Yet this much I know: when I stand on the tee box of the sixth hole on the new course at White Bluff, golf can become secondary. Around the tee are a few pine trees. The sound of wind through the pines cannot adequately be explained, at least for what it does to the heart. The wind through the pines magnifies and muffles the wind at the same time. The New Testament word for Spirit is peuma. It means wind or breath. Is the strong, yet subtle sound of wind through the pines an accurate reminder of the voice of the Spirit? I can't say for sure but I like to think so. All I know is that on the sixth tee I am always remarkably calm for someone about to baptize my golf ball. How is this so? Nature somehow, if you take the time to notice, experience, and hear it will grab your heart. A few weeks ago I stood in my backyard, which is all concrete. But my backyard is literally on eye level with a dozen trees of thirty or more feet in height. It has started to rain--just barely. It was more than a mist or even a drizzle but much less than a downpour. I stood in it to enjoy the rain a minute and began to notice something I hadn't experienced for ten or twelve years. I couldn't even identify it at first. I walked over to the edge of the drop off of my yard and listened. Then I figured it out. The sound of light rain gently falling on tree leaves in the the tree and at ear level was mesmerizing. It was distinct, and yet oh so subtle, not unlike the way God speaks even in the midst of our rainy days. How is this so that when we hear the voice of nature we can better hear the voice of God? I don't know for sure but when I hear thunder that shakes and frightens and my rational mind thinks, "it's just sound waves"--can we not dismiss the voice of God that easily and miss the point? The sunsets enjoyed from the bluffs overlooking Lake Whitney are spectacular. Yet the ever changing colors, hues, and combinations are driven by at thirty miles per hour and forgotten too easily. The ever present God who shows His grace in multi-colored hues in life is driven by us at seventy miles per hours and is He any less forgotten? One solution, hear the voice of nature. Listen carefully and the voice will direct to a greater Voice that is more beautiful and as mysterious as any lover. Terry