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

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


There was a time if you heard voices you'd be considered crazy, touched-in-the-head, or at the least quirky. Now, if you are not hearing voices you are out-of-touch, uninformed, disconnected, and so twentieth-century. With our technologies reaching out and touching us with iphones, myphones, IMs, wireless networks, cable, satellite TV and radio, broadband, GPSs, and even old-fashioned cell phones with personalized ring tones, you could be hearing voices nearly 24-7. And if you're not, why not, what's wrong with you? Silence has become an enemy to be banished from your kingdom forever. Careful, silence may one of the sounds we need to hear. The good news is that you can keep in touch and be touched; the bad news is that you can keep in touch and be touched. With so many voices clamoring for your attention, how do you filter all the noise and voices? To whom do you choose to listen and let fill your heart and mind with their offerings? So many of the voices and noises promise to fill our lives in so many ways-to fill our garages, our closets, our pantries, our homes, our stomachs, our bank accounts, our young days, middle days, and our waning days. If there are so many voices trying to fill us up, why then are we so empty of heart and soul? Dr. William Hendricks once prayed before his seminary class, "...Father, forgive us for building men with the bodies of whales and the minds of minnows." Ouch! I suppose we need a good editor, a filter, to help us tune into to those voices that can fill us with the true manna of spiritual growth and service. So I will suggest a few voices we may need to hear more from in the days ahead. These voices may be hard to hear. Their volume is small but their impact can be magnificent. You won't like all the voices. I didn't say you needed to like all the voices I suggest. But I believe you may need to hear them. Hopefully, they will help us think, feel, and process differently. Maybe they will stretch us where we need stretching and sooth us where we need soothing. Hopefully, we can learn to hear differently and listen in places we never thought we might hear the truth we need to hear. And I pray that even in the times of silence, we will not fear the silence but learn to discern the still small voice of the One who still beckons us to come; to come to His side and live in His kingdom. So listen, listen, listen....