Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Drought Blooming-Sept 28

Everywhere in South Texas morning glories are showing off. The trumpet-shaped purple flowers climb fence posts and stretch tendrils along barbed wires. They run up flag poles, twist around mail boxes, and climb on anything above ground level.

Near the coastline, because of our unusual moist summer, morning glories dot the countryside. They are known as September bloomers, and they have launched their autumn showy parade. Besides their beauty, I admire that they bloom even after a severe drought. Often, July and August gang up against fall flowers, but the morning glory’s heart shaped leaves keep unfurling and earning their “glory” name.

“[G]lory in the Koine Greek is doxa; it means to give the correct opinion of,” Kay Arthur says in “Lord I Want to Know You.” Speaker and author Doris Black says we bring glory to God when we “make him look good” by wearing his name combined with right-living.

Doctor Luke describes a scene at a home in Capernaum where glorifying happened. Friends carried a disabled friend to Jesus for healing. On that day, a lot of sick people had the same idea. Get to Jesus.

Every corner and niche in the host home was filled with folk. Each window and door of this makeshift clinic had sick folk or rubber-neckers pressed against them. All wanted to get a healing or see the healer. No one wanted to give up their advantage.

The mercy-minded friends climbed to the roof and lowered their friend through the tiles and down to Jesus’ level. Impressed by the group’s faith, Jesus forgave the man’s sins and awoke his paralyzed limbs.

Jesus told the healed man to roll up his bed and go home. Luke says, “At once he rose up . . . took up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God.” The people witnessing this and other miracles were amazed and “also began glorifying God,” saying, “We have seen remarkable things today” (5:17-26). They saw remarkable things because God is good, all good, no evil.

Often, after evil has had a nip at us, that's when God does his marvelous work and we have opportunity to praise him, making him look good, calling attention the One who keeps giving good gifts even when we fail to live right.

My mother is suffering the final stages of a disease and is bedridden at home. Dad’s been helping her for a long time, 24/7 help for the past year. Recently, she said to me, “God promised to do us good, not evil, all the days of our lives.” The essence of her statement is found throughout Bible stories.

Even in her pain, from her much less-than-perfect situation, she is my morning glory. Blooming during a drought, she gives correct praises for God, and she points me to him.

She still makes him look good.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What we may be

“We know what we are, but not what we may be,” said Shakespeare. Tutors in life have a great impact on what we’ll become, and teachers take many forms.
Media, text books, experts, parents, pop stars, Hollywood —- all shapers and molders.

Not all information received is helpful. Destructive models abound, but there is one trustworthy teacher who can lead each person to a higher standard.

Not too long ago, a Muslim clerk asked me if I wanted to buy a lottery ticket. When I responded that I don’t gamble my dollars in the Texas lottery, he asked me if I was a Christian. He told me Allah didn’t like gambling either.

Then he said to me, “This Jesus of yours, I admire him.” Many non-Christians admire Jesus, his justice, his connection with the common man and his hands-on-compassion, and he is recognized as someone to emulate.

What if each person who thinks highly of Jesus decided to become a student and imitate the ways Jesus loved his neighbors. Throughout his ministry, he conversed, helped, and touched those who are often shunned —- those with too many problems.

We sometimes avoid communicating with folks who are drowning in difficulties. It’s easier to not let them into our lives than to embrace them and their plethora of setbacks.

But those with seemingly unsolvable problems, Jesus readily drew into his life. He ate with the hated tax collectors and allowed a prostitute to wash his feet with her tears. He chose Judas, taught and loved him even knowing that he would betray him.

Jesus spoke about his life mission in simple statements: he came to seek and save the lost, and he came to do the will and goodness of God. Good teachers and role models -- there’s always room for more. Far too many lemons are getting into the limelight with lewd lyrics and gyrations that would make Elvis roll over in his grave.

The Lord spoke these words to and through Jeremiah, “If you extract the precious from the worthless, you will be my spokesman” (Jeremiah 15:19). The world needs extractors, workers who are taught by the Master to esteem the precious and recognize the empty activities of life.

Shakespeare said we don’t know “what we may be.” Jesus said if you follow me, you’ll be my hands in this world. He encourages sorting, sorting through the world’s junkyard and mining the worthwhile.
If you are sick of ungodly role models, follow Jesus, become more like him. Read his story. Live out his character. Purpose what you “may be.” He will even come along side of your everyday life and help you mine the world for human treasures.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Life's Amens

Jolie, our barely three-year-old granddaughter, asked me to read to her. She chose a book about a whimsical farm tractor. While I read, she held the book and turned the shiny cardboard pages. The tractor carried on quite a monologue about his “nine–to-five” field work. She skipped some of the pages, not showing interest in mechanical issues. After six pages, the tractor said, “And my dependable motor….”

We didn’t get any further. Jolie closed the book and said, “Amen.” I guess she mixed her closing remarks because she hears us say “Amen” when concluding a prayer and “the end” when finishing a book.

Later that day, she brought me the Little Golden book “Sleeping Beauty.” As I read to her, she tolerated the story line a bit better about a princess, an evil rival and a handsome prince.
Again, when she closed the book, she said, “Amen.” Since then, I’ve contemplated prayer over the “trivial” and larger issues.

In last week’s column I told the true story about a woman who had a pie in the oven and had to leave home to get a sick child from school. The mom had several delays and so she prayed for help to get home before the pie burned.

When small children are learning to pray, they pray about what they know, the intimate details of their family: dad, mom, siblings and pets. When younger, both of my grandsons prayed for their dog Willie long after his demise. At mealtimes, children express fresh faith when they give thanks for rice, water, ketchup, salt, pepper and the dinner plates.

As children-trained-in-prayer grows older, the world encroaches and their knowledge of good and evil grows. As concerns deepen, we’ve witnessed them begin to pray for victims of tragedies. Some adults have told me that they’ve come full circle in their prayer life. While their eyes are open to the rips and tears in the world’s character, they are back in tune with God who also cares about salt, pepper, and rice.

From the Bible, they’ve seen God in the minor details of life. God names stars and numbers hairs on heads. He sees sparrows fall from their nests. He rescues ax heads from deep waters. When he rid Egypt of flies, not a single one remained (Exodus 8:31). When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he asked “give us this day our daily bread.” Far too often, I take the daily crust of bread for granted.

Selfish prayers are described in James 4:3. God is the only true judge of whether a prayer is motivated by selfishness. James says, that type of prayer is not answered “because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

If all aspects of life were governed by good-motivation prayer, this old world might tilt its axis back toward living out the charity of God. What I’m trying to say is that every situation, every moment of every day could use a prayer. If we pray without ceasing and keep our eyes on the Father as he befriends us, we’ll naturally turn to him for big and small praises and requests.

“THE END” would come to many worries if we covered all moments, big and small, with an “Amen.”

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Mysterious Ways-Sept. 7

She put a pie in the oven and heard her phone ring. The school nurse said her son had a fever—could she pick him up?

Mental calculations began. The pie needed 45 minutes to bake. Satisfied, she zoomed out of her driveway to make the ten minute trip to school, run by the pharmacy, purchase over-the-counter medicines, get home and take the yummy pie out of the oven.

When I first read the story in Ronald Dunn’s Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something, I thought, “Don’t do it. Something will go wrong.”

The mother-baker-nursemaid caught all green traffic lights, picked up her son, and drove to the pharmacy. Perhaps the on-schedule mom left the drugstore feeling smug until her hands fumbled inside her purse for car keys. A little sinking spell hit when she didn’t hear the familiar clank of metal.

At the car, Marie peeked in. Her son leaned his feverish forehead against the cool window saying, “Mom, they’re on the seat.”

Her mind conjured an overcooked pie and worse, yet, a charred house. But, she whispered a quick prayer, “Help me, Lord.” To her amazement she saw a clothes hanger on the ground. She unwound the corkscrew neck and set to work.

We’ve been the main character in similar scenes or watched a desperate soul try to lasso a latch. After futile attempts and more silent prayers, a young man walked up, “Ma’am, may I help you?”

Grateful, she handed off the spindly tool. He worked at worming the wire around, and in under a minute her car door unlocked. She beamed a compliment. “What a nice young man you are. You must be a really good boy.”

“No ma’am, I’m not a good boy.” He shuffled his feet, looked down in obvious embarrassment, “I just got out of prison.”

She said, “Praise God, he sent a professional!”

William Cowper (1731-1800), poet and hymnist wrote “God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.” If only the lessons from this mom’s story could sink in and settle.

Whenever God is invited to assist, we can expect the unexpected.

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