Archive for June, 2016

A Matter of Time

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

635926994092832926-AP-People-OJ-Simpson.1When I was a little boy, I stole a plum from H. G Hills at 20th and Charlotte. Now  over sixty years later whenever I pass the plum department at Publix, I recall that heist.  As far as I can remember, the plum caper was my first “official” sin; there have been many more since that day.  Most of them I prefer not to write about.

God is pretty up-front about what he blesses and what He doesn’t.  From one end of the Bible to the other, it is as obvious as dirt that He never blesses behavior that is contrary to his will.  He never has and never will, because He can’t. It is against his nature.  If a person lies, cheats and steals to get to the top, but does lots of good stuff in the process and prays every day for God to bless him, I’m betting that the blessing will never come.   Sooner or later, the chickens will come home to roost.  It is just a matter of time.

I watched ESPN’s five-part series about O. J. Simpson. I was amazed at how a guy who looked so good was actually so very bad. I believe that he got away with a double murder. But he did not get away with a two-bit incident in Las Vegas. Instead of a slap on the hands he got 33 years. In life often it is just a matter of time.

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Isolation

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

distracted-parents_wide-5694743d781df652a2c5811e7c46e94211e0ab5f-s900-c85I am having lunch at the City Limits in Bellevue. Across from me, there is a couple with a little girl about five; they are waiting for their order number to be called. The girl has been looking around and now she is getting in and out of her chair. Her mom and dad are both zoned into their Smart Phones.  Occasionally, one will show the other something on their screen and they will laugh and  resume their separate “Smarting”. The entire time, they have ignored their beautiful daughter, who is now touching mom’s right arm. I think she is doing that trying to get mom’s attention away from her phone. The little girl looks sad and left out as her parents continue to be enmeshed with their screens.

Full disclosure requires me to tell you that I have been guilty of the same thing. If you spot it you’ve got it, I guess. There is no question but that one of the greatest causes of social ills in this country is the lack of personal communication. Until recently one of the few places folks actually talked to each other was when eating together. With the near universal preponderance of digital communication devices, that bastion is now gone.

Several years ago, my former church split. I wrote a book about why that happened (see link below). There was no single cause or simple answers. However, I’ve come to believe as I worked on the book that a contributing factor  was that my co-pastor, who was also my best friend, and I resorted more and more on digital communication over personal communication. Today 88.5 percent of Americans have cell phones. Because of that fact many of us have sentenced ourselves and those we love to a life of isolation.

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Dads

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

DadsRead_Logo_FINALnewA woman told me a story of a dad who made his son run home after football practice because his hustle wasn’t up to dad’s standards. At the time I was busy so I didn’t think a lot about her comment. Later I came to the conclusion that the father probably did that because he loves his boy. Of course there might also be some vicarious living involved.  Dads love sons; that is the way God set up the relationship.  Growing up I never doubted that my father loved me.  Although we were never close, his love was always a given, albeit rarely exhibited.  I do have some vague recollection of him kissing me on the forehead once when I was a small child. But past that I do not remember my father as being a warm and fuzzy man at all (my sister has a different recollection).

A few days before he died, I was alone in the room with dad as he labored to breath tethered to a perpetual oxygen tube. Suddenly, he looked up at me with piercing brown eyes and said, “John, I am proud of you and I love you”.  At the time I was in my mid-twenties. Prior to that day I had never heard those words.  I recall that emotional moment of time as a highpoint in my life.  That day I made up my mind that when I had children I would tell them I loved them every day.  I have a grown son; I am confident that when Michael was growing up that I didn’t entirely live up to my commitment, but I did tell him I loved him a lot.

In twenty-six of ministry I expect that I’ve had dozens of men tell me that their dads never told then that he loved them.  Years ago one of my dear friends came to me one day so depressed that he mentioned taking his own life.The problem was that he felt he was odd man out.  His younger brother had been a standout high school athlete and his older brother had followed in his dad’s footsteps professionally. My friend had done neither.  He felt that as far as his father’s love was concerned that he had fallen through the cracks. As he sat on my couch weeping, he told me of his hurt. When I suggested that his dad surely loved him, his retort was a familiar one – “He’s never told me.”  A few days later the three of us had lunch together; toward the end of our meal the father looked at his son and said “I love you”. It was obviously a special moment. I’ve never forgotten that day and I expect they haven’t either.  Dads your sons know you love them, but knowing isn’t enough. They need to hear you say it.

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Hay

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

6047538327_00786a6a12_bRecently while biking on Old Hillsboro Road we passed a tranquil valley farm framed by golden pastures containing perhaps several hundred rolls of freshly cut hay, scattered about like cloned works of art along a half mile of road frontage and four-rail Lexington fence. It was an incredible sight and it put a top hat on an early morning bicycle ride. From my vantage point, atop a bicycle moving at 20 MPH I thought, “Gee I’ve never noticed the bravura beauty in a roll of hay before”. Perhaps that was the key, I was moving at 20 MPH, much too slow when I’m driving, but perfect when in the saddle of my bike.

The next day I drove back to the farm to take some pictures. After asking a farmhand if I could get closer, I noticed that the rolls that had looked so uniformly identical from the highway actually had their own individual characteristics. One had remains of a tree branch and another a paper sack. On one the roll itself did not form correctly and it was a bit loose. I was reminded of the unshakeable uniqueness in all of God’s creation.

From a distance we all look basically the same. Oh, our skin might be lighter or darker, but until you get up close we are all seemingly more or less homogeneous. It is when we dare to venture near that we see each other for what we really are —- works in varying degrees of progress. God is never early or late. His timing is perfect, as is His inimitable plan for you.

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Trash

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

trashWhile waiting for an oil change, I recently overheard one side of a phone conversation. The woman on my end referred to somebody as “common trash”. She then said, “He is like somebody you would see on ‘Cops’”. Hearing her brought me back to my childhood.

Growing up, my momma frequently bounced around the term “Common Trash” as a putdown of folks whom she didn’t like or approve.  At first, I didn’t have a clue what it meant; although, from momma’s tone I knew it wasn’t a compliment. At some point, perhaps around age nine or ten, I began to sense a link between trash and hairstyle — particularly my brother Bill’s ducktails. Momma was always gripping about them. Once she said he “looked like common trash”. I recall as she said that, she had an emotional quiver in her voice.  I have never forgotten than night because it was about a 9.9 on the Richter scale of Bill’s hurling of the F Bombs.  When Bill was later expelled from Father Ryan High, momma was afraid the people at church would think we were all common trash. Finally, with all the dysfunction and shame in our family, there came a point when I thought perhaps I was common trash too. That bothered me greatly. Somehow as I grew older, I figured out that I wasn’t; but for the life of me, I still didn’t have a clear understanding of the term until the day at the oil change day.

When I heard the woman talking on the phone, it was like clicking the mouse in my brain.  For the first time, I was able to get a handle on “common trash”. It has nothing to do with standard of living, jacked up cars, F Bombs, education or crimes committed.  It absolutely hasn’t anything to do whatsoever with hair!  Any of us can choose to do trashy things and many folks do; but the truth is, momma was wrong. No person is common trash. The only thing you can do with trash is throw it out, because it has no value. The Bible says that God made humans in His image. There is nothing common or trashy about God and there is no person beyond God’s love —-none!

Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again