Friday, April 25, 2008

The Waiting Room

Book Drawing: Leave a comment here or email me at and I’ll enter your name for an April book drawing to win a copy of The Stained Glass Pickup.

Do you sit next to someone in a doctor’s waiting room? Probably depends on the visit, whether for a contagious cold or a broken toe. Seating choice may depend upon your personality. While some folk will talk to furniture, others prefer hermit-hood, a magazine and a lone chair in a corner.

Once in a doctor’s waiting room, a woman and I began a conversation. In her seventies and a native Texan, she’d lived in the Montgomery area all her life. I recognized a tender heart when she told how sorry she felt for dairy cows when newborn calves are taken away.

In our roving conversation, she reminisced about Sundays and her mother, who took her many children to church in a horse-drawn wagon. My waiting room companion recalled asking her mother why she always carried a “switch and a Bible” into the church house, but said her mother only “waggled” the switch to control her children’s antics.

When services grew long and children grew squirmy, her mother allowed each little one to traipse to the wagon, alone, for refreshment. When her turn came, she found treats under the springboard seat, a jug of water and home made tea cakes—warm as sunshine.

Another day, another waiting room, my Mom and I listened for her name to be called. On that winter day, it became obvious that the flu bug had made many house calls. As the coughing, sneezing, Kleenex-toting crowd gathered, the newbies scanned the room and chose seats.

Through mannerisms, they posted “No Vacancy” signs in their seating zones. Mom had a cold and I paid attention to her that day and didn’t make any new acquaintances either.

One of the reasons folks are drawn to Jesus, the Son of God, is his willingness to hear our stories—to come along side to commiserate, comfort or guide. He describes himself as a gentle teacher, humble in spirit, who knows how to give rest to burdened souls (Matthew 11:28-30).

Isn’t Jesus appealing? I want to sit next to him. We can take turns talking and listening, but I think listening will be most beneficial. The year 2008 finds our nation in a great big waiting room, running over with blessings and illnesses.

People of prayer can be the link between solutions and the mighty hand of God. National Prayer Day is May 1, next Thursday. Across this nation, communities will host public prayer. In my hometown the gathering is at Cedar Brake Park, Montgomery, TX, from noon until 12:30 p. m., organized by Lakeside Bible Church.

Whether you’re chatty or quiet, join your neighborhood prayer vigil next Thursday. You’ll hear a prayer or story of faithfulness that will refresh your life—like a jug of water and a tin of teacakes, warm as sunshine.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Solitude and Silence

April Book Drawing

Leave a comment here or email me at and I’ll enter your name for an April book drawing to win a copy of The Stained Glass Pickup.

I'm giving away a book each month this year.

Thomas Merton calls solitude the most basic of the disciplines, saying, "True solitude cleanses the soul."

Do you prefer quiet atmosphere or noise? Does silence bother or soothe you? Most folks favor one or the other—incoming sounds or near-silence. I use the term near-silence because in homes, true silence is rare—electric appliances hum, houses creak, children make noise. Outdoors, crickets and frogs don’t seem to notice when I declare a moratorium on noise.

When my grandchildren come for a visit, I usually leave the TV off and clear the atmosphere for familial voices. Recently on such a day, three-year-old Jolie played with an acoustic youth guitar and requested paper and pen, saying, “I want to write you a song.”

Without intentional noise her imagination hummed. She drew ten sets of horizontal lines on the paper and placed many dots and squiggles on her scores. Her tune never soared off the page, but she played at “song” writing for half an hour.

If cartoons had been on the TV, would she have wanted to “write” her own song? Playtime without incoming rackets is a good thing, spurring thoughts to creativity. Children’s minds can be stimulated by play and parental guidance when other clamor is blocked.

Pediatrician Sherry Vincent suggests buying early childhood “silent” toys. Let kids learn to sing, beep, burp, and make truck engine sounds by observing the world around them. They really don’t need to hear sounds from toy-tutors. Good toys do exist, but many toy makers produce noise gadgets that rob children of thinking time, developing time, figuring things out time.

A “Reader’s Digest” article about robbing children of imagination says that up to 70% of toys point a child to a commercial site such as TV, movies or internet where writers have scripted play and interaction with make believe situations. And as we know, the dialogue and values presented may not revere God.

Orthodox Jewish families spend seven days each year in an outdoor makeshift shelter during the Feast of Booths. In temporary huts, they entertain guests, eat and even sleep. Their religious holiday removes them from home comforts to a temporary dwelling place, reminding them of the time when they wandered in the desert and God supplied their needs.

Quiet and solitude allow God room to work, to tug on the framework of our hearts, from the inside out. God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us (Ephesians 3:20 The Message)

Lack of silence and solitude is a growing problem in the adult world, too. Many adults prefer fake characters on a TV show to their own family members. Corded and wireless devices bring too much to our eyes and ears. Do we really need to know the mating habits of fish in the Caribbean Sea when we scarcely know our children’s best friends?

Instead of giving your family updated electronics, why not gift them with a quiet hour in your home—no electronics or incoming noise is allowed. Try it. Allow children and adults the opportunity to read, play quietly or be alone to mull over ideas.

They may resist at first, cause a really loud ruckus, but persist and nail down quiet time for your home. Family solitude and silence allows members to notice each other, and as Merton says—that alone-time may well cause some soul cleansing.

Do you have a quiet place in your home or outdoors where you relax and draw near to God?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Kinfolk Tree

Book Drawing: Leave a comment here or email me at and I’ll enter your name for an April book drawing to win a copy of The Stained Glass Pickup.

Jimmy C. won the book last month. It’s in the mail, Jimmy.

If you enjoy the columns, please help me spread the word about them by forwarding them on to friends and family. Thanks, faithful readers!

Gorgeous lime green color is decorating tree branches this spring as new leaves bud out on dead looking limbs and twigs. Within the year, crape myrtles will sprout pink chiffon frills and pecan trees yield another crop of nutmeats for chocolate chip cookies.

When Montgomery County mulberry trees beckon bluejays and squirrels to a one-course meal, I fondly remember Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918) and his famous poetry line, “Only God can make a tree.”

Trees also furnish “shade” blessings for humans and habitation for the birds and the bees. Although I’ve never actually stood in its shade, there’s another tree that especially fascinates me – the family tree. After the waters settled into the seas and mountains stretched their stony muscles skyward, this tree took root. A portion of dust and a few basic minerals were genetically engineered to begin the family tree.

Today, we humans live in the shadow of eons-old branch ancestors. Statisticians believe all humans are kin by no more than a 50th cousin relationship. All those 50th cousins are surely difficult to keep up with. It’s tough just keeping up with first and second cousins, Sonya in Zimbabwe, Dorothy in California and Jean in Houston.

God blessed humanity with physical families and also with the church family. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians he told them how every nationality could be one in Christ saying that Christ “himself is our peace” and that he “destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,” the old law. Paul went on to say that Christ is able to reconcile all to God “through the cross” (Ephesians 2:14-18). Those who come to Christ are “no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (4:19).

The church family is as varied as family trees -- many personalities, many races and many occupations. Family skeletons, yes, the church has some, but its design is to be a place of refuge just like physical families were meant to be. Often the church is referred to as “the body of Christ.”

Just as a physical body responds to commands from the head, the church has one head, Jesus Christ. The church is privileged to have a gentle leader and the genuine love of Jesus.

On a tree at Calvary, Jesus dissolved the relationships of family-tree-distant-cousins. Paul said, “We are God’s children” (Romans 8:16). In the church, discrimination is removed and fiftieth cousin relationships are dissolved. In the body of Christ, one of the best family trees, there are only brothers and sisters.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Bread Basket

Book Drawing: Leave a comment here or email me at and I’ll enter your name for an April book drawing to win a copy of The Stained Glass Pickup.

If you enjoy the columns, please help me spread the word about them by forwarding them on to friends and family. Thanks, faithful readers!

She kept coming into her own kitchen offering to help. The women who worked at her sink said, “Go sit down . . . get some rest.” She needed relief. Besides her job and running her household, her family had kept a vigil at bedside of a terminally ill parent.

Now, because of the parent’s death and funeral, her household “runneth over” with out-of-town extended family. She and her husband had little energy to expend. So, women from their church “commandeered” their kitchen and cooked for their large family.

Folks who share food join Christ in ministry. On one occasion in an isolated area, a hungry crowd numbering in the thousands gave Jesus’ disciples an opportunity to wait on tables.

Of course, this became a picnic on the ground not formal dining. Aware of the crowds’ hunger, Jesus said to his disciples, “You give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37). On that day, Jesus’ mission was at least threefold –- teaching the crowd, providing supper, and clothing his disciples with aprons for this no-charge event.

The Lord of Harvest had a storehouse full of fish and bread and his disciples became his middlemen, pantry workers in the food chain blessing.

This spring in the USA, folks who file an income tax return will receive a one time economic stimulus from the government. The government is counting on citizens’ greed or need. Some who receive a check will need to buy food. Others’ avarice will guide their spending.

If refunds aren’t a must have for food or other necessities, why not donate the money to a charity and let them stimulate the economy with their needed purchases. Food banks, orphanages or churches would love to boost the economy through your donations.

One of my pleasures is cooking for others. Whether it’s homemade sourdough bread, chicken and dumplings, lemon meringue pies, or old fashioned tea cakes, giving the gift of food is a really pleasant thing to do, in person or through donations.

In March of this year, the world population reached 6.6 billion. God gave us an abundant earth, a big bread basket, but many go hungry. God calls compassionate people to be the middle link in the food chain, the gap between God’s benevolent hand and the poor. Jesus’ words echo into 2008, “You give them something to eat.”