Martyrs Among Us

the_entombment_of_st_stephen_martyr_XX_museo_del_prado_madridWhen I read the news from France early this morning, I was reminded of the words of Jesus: “a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God (John 16:2).”

The truth of Jesus’ words is crystal clear in the spiritual climate in which we live.  The twisted theology of radicalized terrorists compels them to murder in the name of their god. While it’s true that there’s just a minority of the population who engages in these inhumane and atrocious attacks, the partisan silence of their fellow acolytes is deafening.

This morning, two men armed with blades entered a church in northern France and held several people as hostages. French media is reporting that the attackers cut the throat of the priest.

Please pray for the citizens of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray and the grieving people of this church.

A Tribute to Mom

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Three years ago today, I walked into my mother’s room and said: “Mom, today is your birthday.  Do you know how old you are?”  She thought for a moment and said:  “No Stan, I don’t think I do.” “You’re 101,” I said.  My statement revived her spunky and independent spirit, and she informed me that, “I might not know how old I am, but I know I’m not 101!”

Mom died about a month later form the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Since today is her birthday, I’m re-posting this blog as a tribute to her. . .

Times were tough in 1930. The stock market crash in 1929 had knocked the economic wind out of the United States and left it gasping for survival. Some 1,350 banks would fail and close their doors. The newspaper headlines reported on financial failures as well as world leaders like Mussolini, Stalin, and Herbert Hoover.

Times were tough in 1930. The stock market crash in 1929 had knocked the economic wind out of the United States and left it gasping for survival. Some 1,350 banks would fail and close their doors. The newspaper headlines reported on financial failures as well as world leaders like Mussolini, Stalin, and Herbert Hoover.

At this time in our nation’s history bread was 9 cents a loaf, gas was 10 cents a gallon, and a movie ticket was 35 cents.

On Friday, June 20th, about halfway through 1930, Buzz Aldrin was born. At the time of his birth, the idea of space flight was just science fiction; however, Aldrin would join Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969; and, they would be the first two people to walk on the moon.

Buzz Aldrin wasn’t the only person born on June 20, 1930. A baby girl, who would never experience his fame and notoriety, was also born. Her family had little money but a lot of love. Her fragile world was shattered a few years later when her mother died. She quit school in the 8th grade because her dad needed her to help work the fields—the fields of a farm he would later be forced to sell.

As a young lady, she married, but heartache found her again. At the age of 35, she became a widow when her husband was killed on the job, and she was left with three young sons. A short time later she married again. Five children came with her new husband. His 5 and her 3 made for a memorable life that could be as harried as it was happy.

When her second husband died, the truth was exposed: She was weaker than any of her family knew. Her cognitive skills were becoming cobwebs; Her sense of direction failed her; and, she was often lost.

On Monday of last week, my siblings and I had to stand toe-to-toe with the toughest woman we’ve ever known to break the news: “Mom, you can’t live by yourself any longer—we’re moving you into assisted living.”

Mom’s independent spirit has served her well for most of her life. She kept going and remained positive when she had every right to be negative and quit. It’s that same spirit that keeps saying: “I’m not staying here. I’m going home.” But with the next sentence, it’s evident that Alzheimer’s has a befuddling grip on her once vibrant mind and spirit.

Buzz Aldrin may have walked on the moon, but he stands in the shadow of my mother, Evelyn Lou Lacy–the girl who was also born June 20, 1930. She’s been a loving and loyal daughter, a faithful wife to two fortunate men, and a sometimes fearsome force who molded the life of her children.

Thanks for reading this annual tribute that I share to honor the memory of my mother.

Chief Joseph Medicine Crow

Grandpa_JoeChief Joseph Medicine Crow died yesterday at the age of 102, and an era of history died with him.  He was the last living War Chief of the Crow Tribe of Montana.

To be considered a War Chief by the Crow Tribe, an Indian must complete four tasks:

  • Lead a successful war party
  • Disarm an enemy
  • Touch an enemy without killing him
  • Steal a horse that belonged to the enemy

Chief Joseph Medicine Crow did all four of these and more during World War II; however, instead of stealing 1 horse, he was able to sneak behind enemy lines and steal 50 horses that belonged to the Nazi SS.

Over 44,000 Native Americans, Indians like Chief Medicine Crow, served during the second world war.  The story of their service is one of bravery, and I give thanks for their sacrifice.  Several of these men were awarded the Medal of Honor. NavMar

Herman Viola, curator emeritus at the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian, said it was hard to overstate Mr. Medicine Crow’s value as a link to history: “Joe personally knew four scouts that had been with Custer . . . it was unbelievable to meet someone who could really give you insights into that time period.”

As I read Viola’s statement, it reminded me of another eyewitness to historical events—the Apostle John:

[I am writing about] what existed from the beginning, what [a]we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life [the One who existed even before the beginning of the world, Christ]— and the Life [an aspect of His being] was manifested, and we have seen [it as eyewitnesses] and testify and declare to you [the Life], the eternal Life who was [already existing] with the Father and was [actually] made visible to us [His followers]— what we have seen and heard we also proclaim to you, so that you too may have fellowship [as partners] with us. And indeed our fellowship [which is a distinguishing mark of born-again believers] is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.  We are writing these things to you so that our joy [in seeing you included] may be made complete [by having you share in the joy of salvation] ~I John 1:1-4 Amplified

Historians like Viola get excited about Chief Medicine Crow’s “eyewitness” account, and rightly so, but shouldn’t they also give credence to other “eyewitness” of history like the Apostle John?

The Journey From 36 to 63

b86b37a33a5544e8d823e5af1984dbbeIf 36 is old, how much older is 63?   A dyslexic would find this to be a challenging question, and it was one that has set my mind to thinking.

On the 18th day of this month, I’ll be 63.  It dawned on me a couple of weeks ago that 63 is the dyslexic version of 36—my dad’s age when he was fatally injured while working in the oil patch.

That was 1965 and this is 2016.  In 1965, I thought 36 was old.  Now that I’m 63, I realize how young Dad was when his life was snuffed out by an explosion. I began to reminisce about this while I was meditating on the first verse of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, and I shall not want.”

To be honest, for the first third of my life, I wanted nothing to do with the Shepherd.  I was a black sheep who lived in a perimeter outside of the Shepherd’s fold.  I thought I didn’t need Him and was just fine without Him, but that all changed in 1972—I got real close to seeing Dad again.

As the ambulance rushed me to the ER, the scream of the sirens was muffled by the power of  the dark shadows of Death  as they began to close in on me.  I guess the Shepherd was just getting my attention.  He had to overwhelm with the darkness before I could be over-joyed by the light of His presence, and it was a life-changing experience.

Several years ago my Dad’s older brother was succumbing to the ravages of cancer, and I visited him almost daily.  Kenneth would drift in and out from being very lucid to a state that was both mysterious and delirious.

As Kenneth was crossing back and forth between the boundaries of heaven and earth, he’d see his loved ones, and say: “Well there’s Mom and Dad.”  When he drifted back into the reality of his room for a few minutes, we’d discuss what he’d just seen.

One time Kenneth drifted away and as he walked the streets of gold, his face lit up with a smile, and he said: “Look at that!  There’s Eddie.”

Since Kenneth had just seen my dad, I asked him for a favor: “Kenneth, when you cross over and get to heaven, tell Dad ‘Hello,’ for me.  I haven’t seen him for a long time, and I still miss him.”

Kenneth barely had time to honor my request before he began to drift away again.  This time was different; he became calmer than I’d seen him for weeks, and he said, “Well there’s Clara Mae,” and he was ready to die.

Clara Mae was his wife who had died a few years earlier.  Along with her, Kenneth had also found his parents, his brother, and his wife, but most importantly the Shepherd had found him.

Jesus has been a good Shepherd to me.  He once said that He came to “seek and to save the lost.”  I’m glad He kept pursuing me and that I finally heard the Shepherd’s invitation to join Him.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 ~The Message

The Book of Ralph

ralphBooks like The Book of Ralph are seldom found on the shelves of libraries.  If you do an online search at book sellers like Amazon or Barnes and Noble, you find very little.

The reason for the scarcity is the rarity of the subject matter and the classification of the book—biography not fiction.  There are too few people who are as genuinely gentle and gracious as Ralph Lilley, the main character of the book.

I have had the privilege of knowing Ralph for over 25 years.  I have been his pastor, and he has willingly served his Lord as an elder, deacon, janitor, painter, teacher, greeter, volunteer, advocate for children, champion of the poor and needy, meals on wheels, and Chairman of Christian Service.

As I reflected on Ralph’s life yesterday, I spoke of seven lessons from The Book of Ralph, and I share them with you now:

#1—Remember your place in the line of life. 

He that will be first shall be last, and he that is last shall be first.

#2—Pick up the burdens of others, so you won’t let them down. 

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

#3—Display your manly meekness.

  Galatians 6:1:  If anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of meekness.

#4—Mind your manners.

  Ephesians 4:2:  Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love

#5—Let the Spirit guide your speech.

 Colossians 4:6:  Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

#6—Share the grace of God.

  Ephesians 4:29:  You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.

#7—Do more than just talk the talk:  walk the walk.

  James 1:26-27: If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.  Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Remembering Ralph’s work of faith, his labor of love, and patience of hope in his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 

I Thessalonians 1:3

Cousins Afar

berylYesterday I said goodbye to Beryl Frye Lacy.  You may have not known Beryl unless you knew one of her children; knew her as Nurse Lacy from Dr. Shield’s office; or, knew her through First Christian Church where she attended.  Beryl was a good wife to her husband Earl, a good mother to her three children, Gene, Sandee, and Greg, and a devoted, grandmother, aunt, and volunteer at the hospital.

When I spoke to Beryl, I called her Auntie.  She was mom’s sister-in-law and a big part of my life. She was something else; she was a source of confusion whenever I tried to make sense of my family lineage.

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This isn’t a good picture of Dick and Don. They rarely look this good.

When I was a kid, the Lacy family reunions would include Don and Dick.  I was always perplexed when I tried to decipher how we were or were not related.

Beryl was my aunt and she was also an aunt to Don and Dick.  To muddy the waters a bit more, Don and Dick had an Uncle Wally.  Wally was neither a Lacy nor a Seymour, but he was my mom’s cousin and Beryl’s brother-in-law’s brother.

Since Beryl was a Frye and Mom was a Pugh/Lacy, the only other possible link was Mom and Wally were linked through Mom’s Pugh side; but, there were always too few Pughs to find clues to the riddle of Don and Dick.

While family history can be confusing, it can also be reassuring.  The Psalms remind us that just as “An earthly father expresses love for his children; it is no different with our heavenly Father who shows His love for those who revere Him (Psalm 103:13).”

And, after reading Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome, I guess it’s possible we’re cousins together in Christ and joint-heirs with Him:  “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him (8:17).”

Bless you Auntie, I’ll see you again some day in Heaven, and then you can explain this riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

More Than Conquerors

conquerorsHe had to know it was going to happen at some point in time, and he may have thought what life would be like without him; however when he heard the thundering voice of God, he was still shocked:  “Moses my servant is dead.

Joshua took a deep breath and began to reflect on the life lessons he had learned from this mighty man of God.  He wiggled his toes as he thought of his pilgrim journey—the past as well as the future. The one had been the geography of the land and the escape from Egyptian purgatory, but the other was just ahead and was the long-awaited “milk and honey” territory.  One had been miles of pain traveled by foot, but the other would be acres of promises claimed by faith.

His thoughts were interrupted by the unmistakable voice of God:  “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not abandon you or leave you alone.  Be strong and brave! You must lead these people in the conquest of this land that I solemnly promised their ancestors I would hand over to them . . . Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do (Joshua 1).”

Like Joshua, you have an inheritance to claim.  It’s more than a piece of dusty real estate, it’s a regal estate:  It’s a relationship that promises victory.  Paul said, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37).”

When you read other translations of this verse, they speak of being “completely victorious through God; experiencing an overwhelming victory;” and, being “triumphantly victorious due to the one who loved us.”

There is not a single instance where God promised that the road of life will be completely smooth and detour free.  Moses and Joshua both experienced some trials and heartaches, and you will as well.  This is why Paul said, “We do not despair . . . even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person is being renewed day by day.  For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison  because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).”

When the hard times come, “be strong and brave,” and “don’t despair” the eventual victory is yours because you will be “triumphantly victorious” in Jesus.

Those Between-A-Rock-And-A-Hard-Place Moments

toadLife is filled with those between a rock and a hard place moments. You know what I’m talking about:  You see a light at the end of tunnel and then discover it’s a train bearing down on you.

This was the case with the servant of Elisha and the problems they were having with the Syrian army.  One morning Elisha’s servant went outside to discover that they were surrounded by an army with horses and chariots.   He asked the prophet:  “Elisha, what shall we do?”

In answer to his servant’s question, Elisha said: “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:15-17).”

When the enemies of sickness, death, and the trials of life surround you, consider some of these eye-opening truths:

  • Jesus bore your sorrows and carried our griefs with Him when He was nailed to the cross (Isaiah 53).
  • You can approach God boldly and ask Him for mercy and grace when you are in need (Hebrews 4: 4-16).
  • God is not blind to your needs (2 Chronicles 16:9): “Certainly the Lord watches the whole earth carefully and is ready to strengthen those who are devoted to him.”

In those times when your heart aches the most, you may think of God the least. God has never promised an answer to the “Why me” trials of life, but He has vowed to walk with you.

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.  ~ Isaiah 30:18 

What I Should Have Said

whisperOn my drive back from the cemetery at St. John, I thought of something I wish I would have said:  “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” This simple statement from Proverbs 22:1 offers a profound description of Roger Taylor.

When I spoke at Roger’s funeral yesterday, it was easy to think of good things to say about this extraordinary example of humanity.  Decent, kind, and generous, are three words that offer an honest estimation of the genuine life Roger lived as a husband, a father, and a Christian.

Ben Franklin once said that, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”  Roger lived a life of good deeds.  As I reflect on his many years as a member of First Christian, I remember his willingness to serve as a deacon, an elder, and the chairman of the board—always unassuming and never wanting to ruffle any feathers.

Because they would make Roger blush, I’m a little reluctant to close with the next line or two; however, they are so true, I shall.  D.L. Moody said, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.”  Roger has been a man of character, and he developed the reputation of being a man of “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, and longsuffering (Colossians 3:12).”

A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich; a gracious spirit is better than money in the bank. The rich and the poor shake hands as equals—God made them both! A prudent person sees trouble coming and ducks; a simpleton walks in blindly and is clobbered. The payoff for meekness and Fear-of-God is plenty and honor and a satisfying life. ~ Proverbs 22:1-4 (The Message)

The Misery Index

close up of a heart shape with bandage on white background

Whether you call them “parting comments” or “footnotes,” Paul makes some interesting statements as he concludes his letter to the Thessalonians.  The first of these statements is, “Be at peace among yourselves (5:13).”  Paul is urging the members of this church to be at peace with fellow members of the church.

If you’re not at peace with yourself, it’s difficult to be at peace with another person; and if you’re not at peace with God, it is difficult to be at peace with yourself.

Paul also urges these people to “rejoice always (5:16).”   Joyfulness is an important component of life, and Paul linked it with love, peace, longsuffering, and kindness when he spoke of the fruit of the Spirit.

The greater your inner joy, the more likely you are to love people, to be kind, and to be longsuffering—Even Nehemiah knew that “the joy of the Lord is your strength (8:10).”

The third statement that Paul makes emphasizes the importance of prayer:  “Pray without ceasing (5:17).”  Obviously you can’t pray continually, but you can go through the day in an attitude of prayer.  There can be miniscule moments of time when you praise God or give Him thanks for a blessing.  There will be times when you find yourself thinking of some person or a specific need, and you can offer a voiceless prayer that only God hears.

There’s another item that Paul urges these people to do:  “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (5:18).”  To understand this verse, you need to comprehend the difference between “in all” and “for all.”  Paul didn’t say that you’re to give thanks for “all things,” but “in all things.

When you give thanks “in all things,” you’re embracing the hope you have in Jesus Christ; and, your focus is not so much on the here and now of your pain, but on the there and then of future blessings.

The path of trials and tragedies was a route that Paul often traveled. If you’re following in his footsteps, you might find some comfort in his practical theology for life:

Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For he gives us comfort in our trials so that we in turn may be able to give the same sort of strong sympathy to others in theirs. Indeed, experience shows that the more we share Christ’s suffering the more we are able to give of his encouragement. This means that if we experience trouble we can pass on to you comfort and spiritual help; for if we ourselves have been comforted we know how to encourage you to endure patiently the same sort of troubles that we have ourselves endured. We are quite confident that if you have to suffer troubles as we have done, then, like us, you will find the comfort and encouragement of God.  ~2 Corinthians 1:3-5