Showing posts from April, 2011

Hero or Zero

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through the one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Romans 5:12, 15 My son Jeffrey is a musician. A couple of years ago he wrote a song called “Run.” On the surface it is the story of one man, a deadbeat dad. Listen closer and you find a second man, the hero so to speak who takes up where the first man failed. Digging deeper still and knowing the songwriter I hear and see a picture of a couple of different events and people from his own life. The details are changed to protect privacy but the feelings are certainly there. To the deadbeat Jeffrey sings, “go on ya’ bum, go on and run.” Later as the man picking up the pieces he sings, “I gotta’ go. I gotta’ run.” The first is running from a

My Own Worst Enemy

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. James 1: 16-17 Sometimes in life we encounter enemies that just won’t go away. We name them. We curse them and then eventually we attempt to deal with them. We can fight or we can walk away. We can choose to have nothing to do with that enemy, whether it is a thing or a person, unless of course, we are our own worst enemy. I have heard the expression used in various ways, “we have met the enemy and they is us.” At one time I even knew where that originated but that isn’t important here. What is important is freedom. I want to be free from being my own worst enemy, causing my own nightmares and producing spoiled fruit. It is time for me to live fully under the grace of God, in complete recognition that i

A Lesson from Faith

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” Deuteronomy 5:6-7 Yesterday my granddaughter, Faith, was very excited about a lesson she learned in pre-K. Faith attends a Christian school and the lesson was about Jesus. She told me all about how Jesus was accused by the “bad guys” and how he answered “calmly and without disrespect.” She took me through the whole story from accusations to heaven. When she was finished, I realized it was not their chapel day. So I asked her if she had heard the story from her teacher and she said yes. I then asked if she thought the pastor would talk about the same thing in chapel. “Yes.” She said, “And I can’t wait to see what Father Hall says about it!” I told her that I would like to hear what Father Hall said and she told me to call her as soon as I was finished at work; which I did, only to be told, by Faith herself, that she was busy and couldn’t talk right then. Her mothe

Two Sides to the Story

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not here, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “let us also go, that we may die with him.” John 11:14-16 I love to read the Bible. Wait a minute… before you give me a pat on the back or judge me for being pretentious, wait for the whys. Of course there is the faith aspect. The Bible is my rock, but that isn’t exactly what I’m talking about here. I love the Bible because of the characters, who aren’t in fact “characters” at all but real people with real lives. Unlike other historical figures, we don’t know a lot about some of the most important people in the Bible. Many of them we see in snapshots. Yesterday our pastor, Sam, spoke about Thomas. Sam is very well educated, especially in terms of spiritual matters. This is the second time in recent weeks that he has referred to Thomas as sort of an Eeyore. The first time was in

Follow Through

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the fist and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will sir’ but he did not go. “Which of them did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” Matthew 21: 28-31 I missed a golden opportunity yesterday. While out running errands I saw someone who carries the scars of injuries caused to her by someone near and dear to me. Given that set of circumstances I have no idea how an approach from me would be received and that is what stopped me from approaching. It’s been years since we’ve seen each other. In fact, I don’t know that she would recognize me right away. Still, all that was necessary was a few words of greeting and poss


Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” Luke 24:4-6a My friend Cindy told me the other day that her church has changed their Holy Week tradition. This year she said they are going to have a Tenebrae service. She stumbled over the pronunciation of the word and then began to describe it to me. I told her that in my denomination that service is the norm. That opened up all kinds of questions. What is quite familiar to me is foreign to her. The biggest question that she had was what would happen if a person came into the church on Good Friday but didn’t come back on Easter. A few years ago I had written an essay about a man who comes to a Tenebrae se

An Ordinary Man

“Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him.” But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the fist fish you catch; open its mouth and your will find a four –drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” Matthew 17:26b-27 This passage, to me, is such a great snapshot of Jesus’ humanity. Here he is just trying to pay his taxes. We see so few of these fully human moments in the Gospels but the apostles were with Jesus every day. While it is odd to me to think of Jesus as just another tax payer, it kind of helps me see where the people closest to him could still be amazed and surprised by his power. Put yourself in Peter’s shoes. One minute they’re walking along discussing where they will sleep that night and the next minute Jesus is pulling coins from the mouth of a fish or giving someone their sight. For us, the ordinary moments stand out but I wonder if it was the other way around for the disciples. Lately I have been revisiti

His Will

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8 “Formerly it had seemed to me that His will was the terrible instrument of His severity and that I must do all I could to avert its terrors from swooping down upon my devoted head.” Do you find that quote funny? It was written by Hannah Whitail Smith and I’m fairly sure she was not trying to amuse. Mrs. Smith was a woman ahead of her time. The Beth Moore of her day, I suppose you could say. She was quite a faithful woman and very wise. I have read many things written by her and learned from them all. Reading that quote above however, just cracked me up! Here is a spiritual giant who died eight years before my mother was born, not exactly a contemporary of mine and yet to her sentiments I say a hardy, “Amen!” Look at the quote in today’s vernacular. If I had written it, it would read more like, “Before I thought of God as the big daddy in the sky, not so much watching over me, as


This particular message is a rerun from a couple of years ago. The facts remain, those three ladies are among the best people I know. Today one of them is in a literal sturggle for her life. My hope is that more people than ever will read this blog today and that each of them will lift Susan Tongol in prayer. Thank you all in advance for the prayers you will pray for my dear friend . Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1-4 Today I wish my mother had named me Susan. I’m sure you are wondering why. Don’t worry, I’m about to tell you. This morning I was fervently praying for humility, not humiliation but true spiritual humility. I was pleading with God to remove all my pride and replace it with humility. “Lord,” I asked, “please make me humble.” It was one of those moments in prayer where I wanted an example, just in case the all mighty, all knowing God of the univ

Say a Prayer

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you; Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44 Sometimes God speaks through the oddest things. Many of us are familiar with the Old Testament story in which he spoke, literally, through a donkey. While I have never received a message from livestock, often I hear things in the strangest places. At times the message is immediately obvious. Other times I need a little time to sit with it. Yesterday I had a bit of both. I heard a snippet from an old song that made me stop and think. Later after receiving some hard news the idea gelled. The song is written from the prospective of the bad boy trying to woo the good girl. He mentions that he knows her mother doesn’t like him. But, he asks, did she ever pray for me? Hm…? My first thought was of a friend of one of my children who I really, really don’t like. Have I prayed for him? Thankfully I can say yes but I still got the poin


When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God whose word I praise, In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? Psalm 56: 3-4 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” Isaiah 30: 15 T o R un U nhindered S traight T o God There has been a lot of talk about trust in my world lately. Trust between friends, spouses, siblings, parents and kids. It seems that just about everyone has some reluctance to trust the people around him or her. I get that. It is hard for me to trust some people. It doesn’t help that I have trusted again after solemnly vowing not to, only to be hurt. People, no matter how well meaning, no matter how much they love you, no matter what relationship you have, people will let you down. That is not condemnation. I am not sitting in my lofty white tower writing to you about those darn people. If you are my spouse, ch

Sister Act

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. John 11:20 Martha and Mary, the sisters. Have any other set of sisters caused as much discussion to as many people (read women!) as those two? I highly doubt it. In the first story we see Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet while Martha is busy making the food for the reception after the talk. Jesus admonishes Martha, saying that Mary made a better choice, a choice to sit at his feet and learn. He doesn’t say that what Martha was doing was wrong. He just says that what Mary was doing was better. That statement has caused so many discussions, so many disagreements and so much guilt. I don’t doubt for a minute that Mary made the wiser choice. Still, what would happen later? Everyone would be hungry

How Strange

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, Nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hid their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not. Isaiah 53:2b-3 Does it ever occur to you that there are people who live their lives totally unaware of the saving, protective, merciful presence of Jesus? I don’t mean third world citizens or people who speak in clicks and ticks. I mean flag waving or burning, primary voting or election protesting US citizens. That annoying woman next door or the sweet guy that delivers your mail may very well be living their lives with no recognition of the facts of life. They may get up in the morning and lay back down at night without ever one time thinking about God. I find that very strange. I have known about God my entire life and I have known him, intimately, for 28 years. The other day I was listening to one of my favorite song


Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73: 25-26 It is hard for me to admit but there are days when earth has a lot that I desire. Granted I can’t remember a day when I clearly desired something more than I desired God but still there are things I desire. A lot of times, those are the things that get me in trouble. If I were asked if I would give up on God to get whatever I want at that moment the answer would be no. I wouldn’t give up my salvation or my relationship with Jesus for any thing. Unfortunately I rarely see my choices in those terms. I see them as wanting what I want. Wanting in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is what I will go through or compromise to achieve the desired object or outcome that can be problematic. Earth should not have anything that does not pale in comparison to God. The Psalmist goes on to say that God is his st


“Man looks at the outward appearance, buy the Lord looks at the heart.” 1Samuel 16:7b As for those who seemed important—whatever they were makes no difference to me. God does not judge by external appearance— Galatians 2:6a “Character is chiseled into beauty by the daily discipline and daily duties done.” My children would be quick to tell you that my definition of what is beautiful is quite often downright odd. I find beauty in places where other people see none. This quote is not about physical beauty. It is about the beauty that comes from being fully devoted to Christ. The discipline spoken of here is the daily yielding to the movements of the Holy Spirit. It is the cheerful handing over of the reins of our lives to the One who is far better equipped to steer us. The beauty spoken of here is what comes after flint faced resignation has given way to wholehearted devotion. Can we still backslide? Yes! Can we still stumble and even fall? Certainly! But character, built by dail


“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12 On humble people, Christian writer Brennan Manning says, “Following the counsel of Jesus to take the last place, they are not shocked or offended when someone puts them there.” It is important to know your worth to God but to know also that while no one is better than you, neither are you better than another. Our Father sees us all as equal. Though it is difficult for us to understand He sees all sin in the same light as well. We often fall into the trap of the Pharisee who compared himself to the tax collector, forgetting that our Father loves each of us as if there were only one of us. Self- promotion is never effective. Only God’s promotion counts. The way of the world is to shine our own light. Take a look at any political campaign. Such paragons of virtue and people of immense strength and widespread accomplishment are running for office. It is hard to believe that such