Friday, June 29, 2007

Prayer and Citizen-Siblings

The Fourth of July, Independence Day for The United States, will arrive and fanfare will commence. A 231st birthday celebration is next week. Most will agree that citizenship involves more than just showing up at the birthday party each year.

What makes a country great? The laws of the land? Have perfect societies ever existed? Only in fiction. Look under “M” and read about Sir Thomas More’s island of Utopia.

Do we expect faultless legislation from men and women, imperfect beings like the rest of us? They eat their cornflakes one spoonful at a time. They do great some days and stumble before noon on others.

The good news is that we can do more than hope for better living conditions. First, pray for the rulers of countries. Paul wrote to Timothy: “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,” and he called for Christians to pray for “kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2).

Also, Paul said praying for rulers opens avenues for folks to know about God. Prayer is the locomotive that precedes the arrival of truth.

The second thing is citizen-to-citizen respect, reflecting familial love. A sham-question in Genesis chapter 4 and Ruth Bell Graham’s rebuttal lead to understanding about respect for one another. After Cain killed his brother Abel, God came to Cain with a question:

“Where is your brother Abel?”

Cain lied, “I don’t know,” and then he asked this sham-question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Ruth Bell Graham wrote these words in reply to Cain’s travesty:

“'AM I my brother’s keeper?'
No. He was his brother’s brother.
Zoos have keepers.
Bees have keepers.
Prisons have keepers.
Only families have brothers."

What makes countries exceptional? Better birthdays, more confetti, more fireworks? Two things will help: prayer and a sense of family from sea to shining sea.

Most likely we’ll never rule a country or county, but each day we can bring about change by praying for our leaders, and choosing to respect our “siblings.”

Here’s to a Happy Fourth of July and year full of prayer and brotherly love.

Visit Cathy at

Friday, June 22, 2007

Holy Hill Living

Looking for creative ways to teach your children? Leonard Pitts, journalist for the Miami Herald, taught his child a lesson when his son watched a banned television show. Pitts described it as “a sleazy talk show.”

If you walked into his kitchen right after the offense, you would have seen his son standing over the kitchen garbage, head bent, watching “moldy leftovers and empty cans.”

Mr. Pitts told his son, “If you are determined to look at trash, then here it is.” His teaching method was better than a tongue lashing, better than chalk on blackboard.

A common problem in homes is that outside forces come in through media. We wouldn’t think of literally opening our front doors and welcoming in active murderers, the profane, tattlers, or persons who displayed improprieties, those who conducted themselves in ways not considered moral or appropriate. However, the same sinister characters are sneaking in through the media backdoor.

Perhaps it’s a good time to revisit Psalm 15 where David gave a list for holy living. In verse 1, he asks a question of the Lord, “[W]ho may live on your holy hill?” I think he’s asking: what does it take to sit right up next to you and not feel dirty? What has to happen so I am not tainted when I talk to you?

David must have meditated and talked to God about this question because he reveals answers in the next four verses: First, he calls for a blameless walk and a righteous life. A blameless life doesn’t mean a perfect life, but it does mean one relies on the help of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. We all sin, but the blameless seek forgiveness from God and man when offenses occur. Those who remain clean – they keep making corrections listening to God’s correction as life unfolds.

David’s second bit of advice is to “speak the truth” from the heart and to not slander (not all news and talk shows slander, but many do). Third, do no wrong to your neighbor and don’t cast slurs on your fellow man.

Fourth and fifth, despise the wicked and honor those who love and obey God. Do we really despise the wicked? Or, are we entertained by programming, nonfiction and novels that glorify the wicked?

Sixth, keep oaths even when it’s painful. Seventh, lend money to your neighbors without interest, and never accept bribes against the innocent.

We can’t produce a tasty picnic from the contents of a garbage can. The old adage is true, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Looking to move your morals to a better neighborhood? Try “holy hill” living. David says we can be God’s neighbor and a better friend to our in-the-flesh neighbors when we incorporate these seven strategies for better living.

Visit Cathy at

References: Making Life Work by Paul Faulkner page 275

Friday, June 15, 2007

Dads and Roads

Daddies aren’t perfect. None are. But sometimes there are perfect moments with dads. The favorite memories my children share of their dad are not about manufactured moments of fun or expensive gifts.

Over the years, two recollections get retold at family gatherings. One involves a parfait, and another is about a spitting contest. On both occasions, the children thought they might get scolded, but you can read the outcomes.

When we treated our young children to ice cream, they usually ordered something gooey. Once, our daughter had a peanut butter and chocolate parfait. It arrived in a tall, very thin plastic container. Seated in the booth — her parfait half finished half melted — she squeezed the fragile goblet, shattering it like an egg shell.

Parfait launched. Most went the direction of her dad’s face. We froze. Creamy goodness frosted his brows. After a quick swipe with a Dairy Queen napkin, he unveiled a smile. How do you spell relief? S-M-I-L-E.

The other memory is from our son, who proposed a reckless spitting contest on a summer day. The kids, now young teens, had worked alongside us building our hay barn. We waited for my husband, about ten feet away with his back to us, to put away his tools.

Our son said to his younger sister. “I bet you can’t spit to where daddy is.” Dry-mouthed she came up short. Then, practiced, husky son made his attempt, but at the perfect-wrong-moment, his dad turned to face him and was hit square in the chest. I saw the horrified looks on both the kids’ faces, and so did their dad. Their looks so comical, he had to laugh.

Kids of every age will mess up, and many problems can’t be swiped away by a Dairy Queen napkin. I believe that’s why Jesus told the story about the young man who left home and family, the prodigal son and the waiting father. Vacationing from family values, the son spiraled into life-threatening sin.

But God granted repentance to him, and he trekked toward home. He planned to ask his father to hire him as a laborer. Ashamed, he knew he didn’t deserve to sleep in the guest room or to be welcomed back into the family.

But it seems the dad’s eyes had never wandered far from the last place he’d seen his son, the road that took him away. One day, there was no mistaking the silhouette on the road. The father knew his unique son. He ran to meet him, wrapped his arms around his boy. Initiating a celebration, he said, “[T]his son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24).

Family misdemeanors and felonies will happen. Rifts or healing can follow. Many thanks to fathers who let children know that the road near your house is not a single lane but a two way street, one that leads home.

Happy Father’s Day.

Visit Cathy at

Friday, June 08, 2007

God's Command

The lack of rain, the visible withdrawal of God’s favor, had not caused repentance in Israel’s King Ahab, who “did more evil in the eyes of the LORD” than any kings before him. Everyone suffered from animals to men.

The thick-as-dust air caused prophet Elijah’s tongue to stick to the roof of his mouth. Each journey-step sent a flurry of dirt to the hem of his garment.

Nerves taut. Food supplies short. Leaves of trees and limbs of men longed for cleansing rain. At least twice during this three and one half year drought, the prophet Elijah heard from God.

On two occasions, the Lord used similar language, command language. God told Elijah to live by the Kerith Ravine, “I have commanded the ravens to feed you.”

For quite awhile, Elijah’s needs were met by birds and God’s flight plan. Elijah watched the glossy sheen of black wings fly toward him mornings and evenings—their payload meat and bread. How did ravens bring edible food? Those answers aren’t in 1 Kings 17.

Ravens were birds of prey, unclean, ate carrion, and sometimes neglected to feed their young. While we might have chosen a delivery dove, God commanded ravens to bring food to Elijah, perhaps sending a subtle message that good can come from any source. God has authority over all.

When the brook dried, God gave Elijah another itinerary using familiar words: “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon . . .. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.”

How did the command arrive to the widow? Again, that information is not supplied, but it came during her very dire personal circumstances. At the city gates, she gathered sticks to make a fire and cook her last meal for herself and her son. Tired, Elijah arrived and asked for a little water, when she turned to get some, he added, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

That’s when she outlined her poverty. All she had left was a handful of flour and a little oil in a jug. Elijah’s next words rained God’s favor. He told her not to be afraid, prepare a small piece of bread for Elijah, then herself and her son. “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD brings rain on the land.”

The widow trusted and obeyed, and because of God’s mercy the threesome made it through the drought.

I like knowing that the world is under God’s “command.” He directed ravens, a widow, a flour bin and oil jug. His multiplication powers are always above human efforts, and his arithmetic is above the calculations of men.

Visit Cathy at

Friday, June 01, 2007

Red-Letter Lives

General Omar N. Bradley, a veteran of World War I and II, said, “Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.”

This week, I wrote the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount on a card to carry in my purse. The beatitudes will give me something more worthy to read than billboards.

“Beatitude” means happiness of the highest kind. One day when Jesus’ disciples came to him, a mountainside became his pulpit. Because Jesus had God-resources, he shared truths that could stamp out selfish will — truths that caused self to melt, leaving a hollowed out place for God to live. These are his blessings:

· Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
· Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
· Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
· Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
· Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
· Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
· Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
· Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:1-10).

As a child, I remember seeing red letter words in my parent’s Bibles and asking them why some sentences were written in red ink. They told me the text singled out by red noted words spoken by Jesus, and I later learned the method eliminated the use of so many quotations marks.

Tony Morgan, minister, meditating on the red letter portion of the New Testament, noticed 16 significant action words, words of instruction to followers: believe, turn, follow, thirst, give, forgive, ask, agree, serve, love, pray, worship, obey, seek, trust, and go. These are written on the other side of my index card (in red ink).

The beatitudes and action words of Jesus written in this column are not in red ink, but perhaps you’ll be inclined to meditate on these today and allow God to scoop out a place in your life, a place where he can grow happiness of the highest kind.

Nuclear giants still abound. Ethical infants have clones. However, practiced beatitudes and commanded actions of Jesus can become remedies. They are words to live by.

Visit Cathy at