Friday, June 29, 2012

More LIght, Less Noise

When the Civil War began, newspapers gave President Lincoln all kinds of advice. On one such occasion, a New York newspaper correspondent met with Lincoln and proposed yet another plan for conducting the war. For a while, Lincoln listened patiently, and then according to Paul F. Boller, author of “Presidential Anecdotes,” Lincoln told the reporter the following story:

            "Some years ago, there was a gentleman traveling through Kansas on horseback. There were few settlements and no roads and he lost his way. To make matters worse, as night came on, a terrific thunderstorm arose and peals of thunder and flashes of lightning shook the earth and momentarily illuminated the scene. The terrified farmer finally got off his horse and began to lead it along as best he could by the flickering light of the lightning flashes. All of a sudden, a tremendous crash of thunder brought the man to his knees in terror and he cried out: 'Oh Lord! If it's all the same to you, give us a little more light and a little less noise.'" 
            Nearly all have an idea how our government should conduct business, but many among this blessed nation are concerned with only their rights. Clamoring for personal opinions to become law, groups with big and boisterous bandwagons have trumpeted special causes --from saving an endangered toad to aborting a child. 
A friend prayed in a public prayer, "Lord, be a light to our path and a lamp to our feet. You didn't promise that we could see all the way to the end of the tunnel, but give us enough light for today." If more of us sought God's guidance for America, perhaps the fireworks would fizzle and the noise level would drop, and we’d see more clearly.

            I find The Presidential Prayer Team’s weekly guidelines both helpful and a reminder to pray for our nation. This organization remains devoted to seeking God's blessing for government officials -- President Obama and others. The Presidential Prayer Team wants to enroll one percent of the U. S. That’s about 2.3 million to commit to pray daily for politicians to step up and lead our nation in godly paths. You can sign up for weekly updates and prayer assignments on their web site:

            The festive noise on this Independence Day will be a good sound. However, it will die down and the privilege of living, working, and worshiping in freedom can fade into the background of ordinary days. You can be a leader in this nation even though you’ll never rule from the Oval Office. Lincoln's wisdom story offers the key for prayer-leaders, in quiet and humility, to seek our nation's success as we pray for illumination and a God-lighted path.

            Hunger for Humility (26): “God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne” (Psalm 47:8).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

When the Blind Lamb Bleated

“Cheer up! On your feet! He’s Calling You.”

When Jesus left Jericho, a large crowd traveled with him on their way to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. Near the outskirts, a blind man, Bartimaeus, sat by the side of the road and begged coins from passersby. His name meant “Son of Honor.” His station in life meant shame and humiliation—his life collapsed in shambles.

By this time in life, Bartimaeus’ ears were his best asset. He heard that Jesus of Nazareth was among this excited and noisy crowd, and his voice became ally to his cause. He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” However, many in the crowd shushed him with warnings: Don’t bother Jesus. He’s traveling to Passover. Stop your shouting. The lame aren’t welcome. God wants the whole to serve him. Be quiet!

Determined, Bartimaeus shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus had fought the demons of Self Pity and Why Me, too many years to let the crowds’ censorship stop him.

The whole and happy walked with the Shepherd out of Jericho. The discarded sat by the side of the road. A crowd of noises collided around Jesus: shuffling feet, chitchat, donkeys braying, and carts groaning—but Jesus heard the one. So much commotion.  So much clamoring. Jesus halted. There it was again. A blind lamb bleated. Jesus instructed his disciples “Call him.”

Jesus’ compassion became contagious. The crowd did an about face, and they invited the fallen to join the whole, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside, jumped to his feet, and groped his way to Jesus. His heart beat rapid. His breaths came in quick succession, and then a question pierced his darkness.  

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Without hesitation, he said, “My Master, I want to see.”    

“Go. Your faith has healed you.” The instant he pledged allegiance, his gained sight, and he saw Jesus. How could he go away, even though Jesus gave permission? His old life held no appeal. That old cloak was gone; Jesus had draped him with a new mantle. He wanted to follow the one who could turn the whims of a crowd, the one who instantly destroyed demons of Blindness, Self-Pity and Why Me.

Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, could now live up to his name. He could follow Jesus, the Light of the World. Perhaps he trekked all the way to Jerusalem. Maybe he was among those who shouted praises to Jesus later that same week.

 Blind “Son of Honor” hadn’t let bad advice stop his journey to Jesus. The crowds enjoyed the merriment of journey, the impending spectacle of Passover lambs, the presence of celebrity Jesus, but wrenching cries of the needy hadn’t fit into their plans-of-the-day. Blind lambs weren’t fit for Passover. Damaged lambs weren’t fit for service.  

More than one healing took place at the roadside that day. Even deluded crowds can be steered when they yield to the altar call of Jesus. The crowd saw humility in action when Jesus stopped his journey for the weakest among them. In addition, the greatest surprise of all, the pause in the journey didn’t water down their numbers. No. It strengthened their cause. One more came into the Jesus witness program.

When nothing-to-offer Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside and fumbled toward the voice of Jesus, he asked that beggar, “What can I do for you?”

Bartimaeus plainly spoke his request, “My master, I want to see.”

The humble Jesus still asks that question today. How will you answer: “What can I do for you?”

Hunger for Humility (25): “My Master, I want to see” (Mark 10:51).

Friday, June 15, 2012

Father's Day-Sam Houston's Redemption


             In a sky-towering contest with pine trees, a statue of Sam Houston stands sentinel on I-45 near Huntsville, Texas. It’s 67-feet tall on a 10-foot base. Historians continue to write about this Texas hero, but his spiritual journey, highlighted at Sam Houston State University Web site, teaches lessons, too.

    After re-election as governor of Tennessee in 1829, and separation from his young wife, he “called out to organized religion and it did not answer. He asked to be baptized, twice, and was refused.”

            Today, some still set themselves up as security guards for Christ’s church, to keep the “unworthy” from entering the ranks of the “righteous.” The sanctuary doors slam, the keys to the kingdom jingle on belt loops of the gatekeepers as they walk away from the desperate.

            When Christians start deciding who can come in, then there’s no need for God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit. Jesus, the Great Physician, said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31, 32). 

            Most people pass through life without notoriety, their good deeds and trip-ups never make it into biographies. However, Houston’s life is an open book. 

            After several failed relationships, Houston wed a woman several decades younger. Margaret Lea bore him eight children, and her faith and presence seemed to contribute to his calmer, later life. A milestone occurred for Margaret Lea and Sam Houston when on “November 19, 1854, at Rocky Creek near Independence, Texas, Houston was baptized.”

            A church periodical reported the announcement of General Houston’s immersion. It “has excited the wonder and surprise of many who have supposed that he was 'past praying for...'"

            Good natured, Houston took the ribbing. Marquis James reported a friend saying to Houston, “Well General, I hear your sins were washed away."

            "I hope so," Houston said, "But if they were all washed away, the Lord help the fish down below."

            Houston had most likely learned that lives have a way of dripping onto future generations. “Trickle-down” is not only a political term. At a recent funeral, I heard grandsons speak of a grandparent’s powerful faith taking residence in their current families.

            May God bless all our faithful dads, and may God cause a change of heart for those in need of life alterations. May the men in our generation remain watchful of the ingredients they pour into the river of life. Happy Father’s Day to all.

            Hunger for Humility (24): “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” 2 Thessalonians 3:5.


Saturday, June 09, 2012

Hope of a Good Opinion

Near the beginning of January of this year, I struggled with God. I admit it wasn’t even close to the physical wrestling Jacob encountered with God at the ford of the Jabbok. Nevertheless, it was a struggle. I asked God what I lacked in my life. What could he and I work on this year? What could I do to draw closer to God, who resides near me forever—even when I take a step back from him?  
            The story of Jacob helps explain why I chose “Christ in you the hope of glory,” (Colossians 1:27) as my anchor for this year:
            During Jacob’s sojourn with his mother’s family, he learned a lot about himself. He often saw his past deceit of others mirrored in his father-in-law and his brothers-in-law. Sometimes it just takes a swindler to know one. While there, Jacob gained two wives, two concubines and eleven sons. When he would finally leave to travel back home, he also left with droves of animals.
            On that return trip, God met Jacob at the river ford in the form of an angel. Jacob was on the run from in-laws, on the move toward a brother who had promised to kill him, and on plan to reunite with the dad he’d deceived. What he hadn’t planned upon was a run-in, a skirmish, a wrestling match with God. Guess who won the physical match? God. However, guess who received the blessing? Jacob.
            I’m reading Scarred by Trouble, Transformed by Hope by Benedictine nun and writer Joan Chittister. She speaks of Jacob's s story as a paradigm for a "spirituality of struggle." In Jacob's story, she identifies eight elements of our human struggle—change, isolation, darkness, fear, powerlessness, vulnerability, exhaustion, and scarring. However, Chittister says, God doesn’t leave us there, and in each human struggle a corresponding divine gift becomes available to us—conversion, independence, faith, courage, surrender, limitations, endurance, and transformation.
            The writer of Genesis generously defines the result of Jacob’s struggles, culminating at Jabbok, when he wrote, "God blessed Jacob there" (32:29).
             Propped on my kitchen windowsill, an index card holds the slightly reworded Colossian 1:27: “Christ in [Cathy] the hope of glory.” When I delved a bit further into the study of that verse, I found from W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words that the word, “glory” (doxa) “primarily signifies an opinion, estimate, and honor, the honor resulting from a good opinion.” As you know, I am writing about humility this year. Little did I know how this one verse completely points to humility and hope.
            When Christians worship together, we often confess our Lord through these song lyrics, “My only hope is you, Lord, my only hope is you. Till early in the morning, till late at night my only hope is you.” My anchor scripture has instilled that the only hope I have of a good opinion of self or of presenting God to the world is Christ in me. Isn’t that the lesson Jacob finally learned? God in Jacob caused an ordained plan to unfold. Jacob in Jacob hadn’t turned out so well.
            At my Jabboks when I struggle with God, I’ve found that Cathy in Cathy never works. Conversely, I’ve learned that Christ in Cathy produces hope.
            With half a year to go, I’ve learned that seeking humility caused many struggles and most of them took me to my knees in prayer asking for forgiveness. “My only hope is you, Lord. My only hope is you.”        
Question for Readers: What hymn or praise song best describes your relationship or dependence upon God?

Hunger for Humility (22): “I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Ephesians 3:14).

Friday, June 01, 2012

Three Good "Nevers"

A wise person told me to avoid using the words “never” and “always” in negative ways when talking to family members. That worthy advice has served me well. Those damaging words “never” and “always” if used in the heat of a word-tussle can inflict harm because they leave no wiggle room for exceptions.

            An angry mom might address a tweener’s failure to put away her wet towels, “You never pick up your towels.” The almost teen has probably put them on the towel rack a few times. If the exception had occurred, that daughter may think poorly of her mom’s word choice. A dad might correct a son’s bad table manners and exaggerate, “You always chew with your mouth open.” You get the drift. If the son had even ONCE chewed with his mouth closed, he’d remember and feel hurt by the overall labeling of him as an open-mouthed muncher.

            Conversely, I read three excellent uses of “never” in the Bible. They astounded me. I’d read them before, but here I am at a different time in life, and they mean more. I love the absolutes that these “nevers” represent: Jesus declared himself the bread of life, and whoever comes to him will “never go hungry,” “never be thirsty,” and he “will never drive them away” (John 6: 35-37).

             The feeding of the 5,000 preceded Jesus speaking these unconditional “nevers.”  A miracle outlined in John 6 (and the three Gospels) reveals the power behind Jesus’ “never” promises: The setting was when Jesus fed 5,000 people (that count didn’t include the women or children). The late afternoon sun glowed. Suppertime neared. Stomachs rumbled and yet, there were too many mouths and not enough food.

            Then, Jesus asked Phillip “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip didn’t have deep pockets, and replied, “Eight months’ wages would not even buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (v 5-7). He clearly saw that needs far outreached the resources.

            That’s when the Creator of wheat and all the little fishes in the deep blue sea speeded up processes to bypass the usual seasons of growing and harvesting and baking. God sidestepped around fishing, cleaning, smoking, and drying of seafood. The disciples had found a lad with five meager barley loaves and two small fish, and when Jesus prayed over the skimpy meal, he created fast food that was good for them.

            What a fish story! If kids today eat alphabet soup, the kids that day ate a numerical meal. How can five plus two add up to over 5,000 meals? Pay attention to the crowning glory of that story found in Matthew’s closing remarks, “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish” (Matthew 14:20). After those leftovers were stored away is when Jesus spoke three “nevers.”

            The supernatural growth of bread and fish displayed God’s power that backed up  all of Jesus’ claims and promises.  Imagine yourself in that crowd with a family of eight to feed. Remember, family chefs, your entire family had eaten supper, and you did no shopping, no cooking, no dishes, no cleanup. Besides that, no whines were uttered, “I don’t like miracle bread and fish,” because “all ate and were satisfied.”

            Then Jesus spoke three breath-taking promises: never hungry, never thirsty, or never driven away. The temporary gift of bread fed the hungry for that day. However, Jesus offered more than casual dining; he offered to feed them for an entire lifetime. He could become to each a lifelong feast instead of a supplement. He wanted the position of chef and life-healer to individuals and nations.   

            Needs often stretch beyond resources. That’s when humble people look to gracious Jesus because he takes care of physical needs and offers soul-deep sustenance. We can’t do it on our own, no matter how much we stress, worry, or try to make things happen. He alone nurtures nations and souls as they trust in his power-backed three “nevers”: never hunger, never thirst, and never driven away (John 6:35-37).

            Comments welcome at

            Hunger for Humility (22): “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).