The Silhoutte of Truth

basketballLike many other sports fans, I spent much of last weekend in front of a TV watching college basketball. While I’m happy that four of the teams in the Sweet Sixteen are from the Big 12, I’m disappointed that Wichita State was knocked out of the tournament in the first round.

It was either the success of Kansas and Kansas State or the failure of WSU that reminded me of coach John Wooden. The coach was a man of character and wise words, and he once said: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

Wooden’s words remind me of the self-portrait Paul painted in Philippians: If it were right to have such confidence, I could certainly have it, and if any of these men thinks he has grounds for such confidence I can assure him I have more. I was born a true Jew, I was circumcised on the eighth day, I was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, I was, in fact, a full-blooded Jew. As far as keeping the Law is concerned I was a Pharisee, and you can judge my enthusiasm for the Jewish faith by my active persecution of the Church. As far as the Law’s righteousness is concerned, I don’t think anyone could have found fault with me (Philippians 3:4-6).

As a Pharisee Paul thought he knew it all, but when he met Jesus he underwent a life-changing transformation: But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith.  My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).

Let me paraphrase the verses above in just a few words: I got rid of my worthless-self-righteous-know-it-all attitude so I could know Jesus.

Stephen Covey said that “In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.”  The “what-we-are” communication of Paul, was the harsh restrictive, and punitive mindset of the Old Testament.  Paul knew the nitty-gritty essence of what it took to be a Pharisee, but he didn’t have an itty-bitty speck of “what-we-are” grace. Paul was a know-it-all theologian, and at his core, he would abhor the grace-themed principles of Christianity.

Paul’s pace was slowed on the Damascus Road, when he had a personal encounter with Jesus. Up to this point in his life, Paul had tried to find fullness in a silhouette of truth. When he met the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Paul couldn’t ignore the majestic mercy and the grace galore that Jesus offers.

The arrogance of what Paul was, was quickly overshadowed by the eloquence of what he became. He became a Christian of significance because he was not content to just talk-it-up.  He knew he needed to live-it-out.

The Covey quote I shared earlier seems to be based on the teaching of John: “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  If “what we are” determines the effectiveness of what we say, how influential is your life?

More Super Than The Moon

MOONThere are those times that a person can become so self-absorb, that he acts as though he is the center of the universe.  Then again, there are those cloudless nights when you seem insignificant in comparison to the starlit sky and a brightly shining super moon.

There are a few times each year when the proximity of the moon is so close to the earth, that every star and constellation is dim in comparison to its shimmering beauty.

According to Andrew Fazekas, January1, 2018 might be such a night. Tonight, the distance between the earth and moon will be only 221,559 miles, and Fazekas has said this is why the moon will appear to be so large.

To keep things in perspective, 221,559 miles is well beyond the lifetime of most vehicles.  It is also the distance between Wichita, Kansas and the North Pole; that’s 30 roundtrips excursions to the North Pole and back.

When I witness the beauty of the night sky or I’m mesmerized by a glorious sun that signals the dawn of a new day, I’m reminded of David’s exclamation in the Psalms: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork (19:1).

I encourage you to step outside tonight and to take a peek at the “handiwork” of god that He has painted on His celestial canvas; then, step back inside and read from Psalm 8. As you read from this Psalm, you may realize that you’re the most beautiful part of God’s magnificent creation. And, from God’s perspective you’re more super than the moon.

Rise and Shine

sunflowerfeild.jpgOne of the many features that I love about Kansas is its population; it’s small in number compared to many states.  I also have a fond affection for the diverse landscapes of the Flint Hills and the bumper crops of sunflowers that adorn the roadsides that lace their way through the Kansas prairies.

If you’re one of the less than 3 million people who call Kansas home, you may know the sunflower was designated as the official state flower in 1903.  This long-stemmed flower with petals of golden yellow is classified as a turnsole plant, a word of French origin and one that means to “turn towards the sun.”

The sunflower, like all plants, is not self-sufficient—it depends upon the sun for essential nourishment. 

Health-conscious individuals are learning what botanists have known for many years:  In proper amounts, there are some benefits associated with exposure to the sun.  There’s ample research that’s easily available, and it indicates the sun’s rays are beneficial to your health.

While the sun is important to you physically and mentally, it pales in comparison to the Son, who is vital to your spiritual well-being: “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him (John 3:36).”

I encourage you to cultivate the habit of rising in the morning, facing the Son, and following Him throughout the day.  When you practice this routine you will develop a God-focused regimen of strength that recognizes that it’s, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord (Zechariah 4:6).”

When you arise in the morning,  why not give the Son a chance to shine on you?

Sweet Words or Bitter Breath?

bluebonnets-793x526Even though I’m Kansas born and Kansas bred, I was a resident of the bluebonnet state of Texas for about ten years. Texans are proud of their state’s scenic beauty, its abundant natural resources, and the tasty Tex-Mex cuisine.

Texas is also a state that is rich in history. Long before cowboys herded their cattle across the vast expanse of West Texas, and the ancient trails became the thoroughfares of highway 84 and Interstate 20, the Kiowa Indians cherished an enclave for its water. Because the water at this oasis was much more refreshing than the bitter-tasting gypsum streams that surrounded it, the natives christened it Moabeetie—their word for sweet water.

Whenever I drive through Sweetwater, the city’s name reminds me of the words of James: Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth . . . these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening?

While the answer to this question is obvious, people live as though it’s dubious. In a matter of seconds, some people proclaim the sweet water of God’s goodness with one breath and profane His name with salty language with their next breath.

I encourage you to think about the words of James, and this companion verse in the Psalms” Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer (Ps 19:14).

Are the words of your mouth and the thoughts of your heart acceptable or detestable in the eyes of the Lord?

Graduation: Another Step in Life’s Journey

IMG_0133Last week I attended two celebrations that involved two of my grandchildren; one was promoted from 8th grade to begin her high school journey, and the other said goodbye to high school and Gig ‘em as she looks forward to four years at Texas A&M.

While many students were involved in these ceremonies, many more people were assembled in the stadium seats to applaud their accomplishments and to cheer them on as the pursue their dreams. The parents, some teary-eyed, and all proud, were witnesses to the academic successes of their young graduates.

Each family member took on the role of the great cloud of witnesses of Hebrews 12. They can testify of their son’s or daughter’s accomplishments to this point, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. The wise parents will nudge their children forward and remind them that the milestone they have just reached is not the finish line—it is a significant step in the marathon of life.IMG_0106

Most of this year’s high school graduates have expended 6,570 days of an average lifespan that is about 29,200 days long.  There’s not a single one of these grads who has lived their life exactly life one of their peers, and this is because each of them are unique.

The words of  Max Lucado are a fitting conclusion to my thoughts: You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the Earth by the Master Craftsman

Grace: God Is Able

water-from-wellWhen I lived in the farming community of Hazelton, Kansas, I enjoyed the slow pace of life, and the many wonderful people I met there.  One of the few negatives was the water. Because it was so bad I carried a water jug in my truck, so I could fill it at an artesian well.

When I read 2 Corinthians 9:8, I think of that refreshing free-flowing well of cool water:

God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.

Grace was a theme of emphasis with the Apostle Paul, and it’s one of the feel-good doctrines of the Bible that people like to discuss.

Grace is a small word, but its five letters contain truth of epic proportion; and, its spectrum is as colorful as the rainbow.  Consider a few of these:

  • Grace is available to help you grow as a Christian—2 Peter 3:18: Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.
  • If you have the can’t-do-blues, God provides empowering grace—2 Corinthians 12:9: My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
  • There is an extra portion of grace available to the humble—James 4:5-6: He gives grace to the humble.
  • You can confidently ask for it—Hebrews 4:16: Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

The most important aspect of grace and the one on which the preceding stand is saving grace—Romans 5:1-2: Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory.

The grace that offers you peace with God, might be the missing peace that will solve your life’s puzzle.

Amazing Grace is a beloved hymn that was written by  John Newton, and he spoke of the power of grace: I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am.

 

 

 

State of Emergency Declared: Heart of America Aflame

fdireSeveral years ago, Barber County, Kansas was home to me.  I lived in a spot in the road called Hazelton, and I was a frequent visitor of Anthony, Kiowa, and Medicine Lodge.  When I needed to stock up on groceries, I would drive to Alva, Oklahoma. Alva also had a tasty hamburger served at a café on the town square.

As I watched the news yesterday, I followed the raging prairie fire as it devoured rain-starved pastures and some 72,000 acres. I thought of my old friends in this rural pocket of Kansas, and I prayed for their safety and well-being.

The voracious appetite of a fire is a graphic illustration of some scripture found in James 3:6-10:

 A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!  It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.  This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!         ~The Message

The words you speak are ripe with the potential to be either healing or harmful. 

Think about the way you have spoken to people this week:  Have your words beaten them down and left them battered and bruised, or have you use the gift of language to encourage, instruct, and build them up?

If your tongue is in need of taming, it might help to ponder the principles below:

  • Foolish words cut like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18)
  • Pleasing words are like honey. They are sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24)
  • A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth causes ruin (Proverbs 26:28)
  • Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29 ~The Voice).

Give some thought to the brute strength of your words: They can be as devastating as they are delightful, and even though they may be forgiven, they’re rarely forgotten.

Will people remember you for your soothing words that helped them to heal, or for language that was so heated it left them scorched and scarred…like the fires that have swept across the Kansas prairies?

Hessston, Kansas: Tragedy Strikes Rural America

Tigger-Eeyore-Winnie-the-Pooh-WallpaperOn February 23 at 11:27 AM, Cedric Ford made a post to his Facebook page: “Woke up this morning vibing God is good.”  Last night, channel 12 news identified Ford as the shooter at the Excel Plant in Hesston, Kansas. I’m not sure how a person can post those words on a Tuesday and then take a weapon on Thursday, and kill 3 people and shoot a total of 18.

Strange as it may seem, this incident reminds me of a critical moment in the life of Tigger in a Winnie the Pooh story.  Because his stripes washed off while bathing, Tigger was facing an identity crisis.

The usually boisterous and exuberant Tigger grew solemn and sullen as he mulled over his dilemma.  Because tigers are recognized by their stripes, Tigger isn’t sure who he is without his. In an effort to discover his identity, he tries being a rabbit, a bear, and a Christmas tree.

His problem is resolved when Eeyore tells Tigger, “You’re always the same person on the inside.”  The wisdom of Eeyore may have been comforting to Tigger, but it also presents a discomforting truth.

When you contrast Ford’s actions with his “God is good” words, you see the constant battle that rages between the stripes of your flesh and your spirit.  Paul spoke of this turmoil in Romans 7:

Here’s an important principle I’ve discovered: regardless of my desire to do the right thing, it is clear that evil is never far away. For deep down I am in happy agreement with God’s law; but the rest of me does not concur. I see a very different principle at work in my bodily members, and it is at war with my mind; I have become a prisoner in this war to the rule of sin in my body.  I am absolutely miserable! Is there anyone who can free me from this body where sin and death reign so supremely? I am thankful to God for the freedom that comes through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! So on the one hand, I devotedly serve God’s law with my mind; but on the other hand, with my flesh, I serve the principle of sin.

The tragic shooting of last night brings a harsh reality to light; the potential of committing horrendous and evil acts lies deep within each of us.

A fog of horror and disbelief hangs low over the city of Hesston as her stunned residents wonder: “What happened to the stripes of Cedric Ford?” Did he suffer a psychotic break?  Was it a violent outburst of anger? Was this a sudden emotional explosion or has his fuse been smoldering for weeks?

It’s too early to have the answers to all of these questions, however, it’s never too late to pray.  I hope you will join me in praying for the employees of Excel, the citizens of Hesston, the first responders, and everyone who has been touched by this tragic event.

Facing The Sun

7036268-sunflower-field-sunsetThere are less than 3 million people who call Kansas home. If you’re among this number, you may know the sunflower was designated as the official state flower in 1903.  This long-stemmed flower with petals of golden yellow is classified as a turnsole plant, a word of French origin and one that means to “turn towards the sun.”

The sunflower, like all plants, is not self-sufficient—it depends upon the sun for essential nourishment. 

Health conscious individuals are learning what botanists have known for many years:  In proper amounts, there are some benefits associated with exposure to the sun.  There’s ample research that’s easily available, and it indicates the sun’s rays are beneficial both physically and mentally.

While the sun is important to you physically and mentally, the Son is even more vital to your needs spiritually: “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him (John 3:36).”

Cultivate the habit of rising in the morning, facing the Son, and following Him throughout the day.  When you practice this routine you develop a God-focused regimen of strength that recognizes that it’s, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord (Zechariah 4:6).”

So, when you rise in the morning,  why not give the Son a chance to shine on you?

Thanksgiving: A slice of Americana

macySince it began in 1924, Macy’s gift to New York City has become a time-honored tradition.  Macy’s miracle of 34th street is a festive celebration that runs for 2 ½ miles.  Some 3.5 million people will line the parade route to watch this amazing display of giant balloons and unique floats, and another 50 million will watch it at home.

For many people, this is the image they have of Thanksgiving, and it is what they think of as the start of the holiday season.  My thoughts are a bit different.

While I do think of the Pilgrims, the inaugural feast with the Indians and the giving of thanks.  This year, I find myself thinking of January 6, 1923, the year before Macy’s began their parade.

A record of the event was recorded in the pages of Eureka’s newspaper, The Democratic Messenger on January 11, 1923:  Harold Seymour, age 17 and Berta Hughes, age 18 were married by Probate Judge S.L. Chase in Reece, Kansas.

Harold and Berta would move a little east and a little north to Sallyards, a town that is now barren foundations, railroad tracks, cattle, and the Kansas wind blowing across the Flint Hills and through the Bluestem grass.

The white house where Harold and Berta lived is my slice of Americana.  My first memories of Thanksgiving are framed inside this house.  I can still smell Grandma’s cherry pie and chicken and noodles.  I can still see that big smile that lined the wrinkled face of Grandpa Seymour.

Even though I’ve forgotten the name of the songs, the vivid memory of Grandma sitting at the piano is fresh in my mind.  As she played, the family sang, and the clearest voice was Dad’s—a voice that was silenced by an untimely death 50 years ago.

Even though my grandparents, parents, and all but one uncle and one aunt are gone, I still have my slice of Americana.  Every time I pour myself a cup of coffee and eat a slice of cherry pie or dig into a heaping helping of chicken and noodles, I remember what I can’t forget, and I give thanks.

What are some of your memories and your slice of Americana?