Monthly Archives: March 2011

A Good Cup of Coffee

I love a good cup of coffee—it’s my drug of choice. I love the aroma of freshly ground and freshly brewed coffee. I love it whether it is regular, decaf or an espresso blend. But instant coffee, not so much. I can spot a bad pot of coffee when it is coming my way. In my thinking there is not much worse than three inches of coffee that has been warming in the pot for an hour or more. It takes on the industrial-strength look, feel and aroma of hot diesel fuel. It is my preference to have fresh, hot brewed coffee.

I was rewarded recently with a free drink from a bakery and told to pick a coffee, fancy coffee, fancy tea or soda. I chose a non-fat, no-whip, extra-hot espresso café mocha. When the barista handed me the receipt, I saw that this drink usually costs $4.29. I was impressed. Then he handed the fancy coffee to me in a Styrofoam cup. I was a bit surprised, but the coffee was the important part. My preference is a cup or mug to hold my coffee.

I keep an emergency stainless steel insulated coffee mug in my car—I never know when the immediate need for a cup of coffee might suddenly appear. I want to be ready. I have a nice collection of coffee cups and mugs, but it does not much matter which cup I might use. It’s the coffee not the mug, paper cup or grandmother’s English porcelain beaker that counts. It’s the stuff in the cup. Your preference might be china, crystal or glass, but what’s inside the cup is what makes the difference. I needed to remind myself that my preference for the type of cup is less important than what is in the cup. Or, as Jesus pointed out to His religious adversaries: “Why do you only wash the outside of your cup? It’s what’s inside the cup that matters.” (Luke 11:39, paraphrased)

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. What’s in your cup? And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Small Voices in Church

I have always held that it is good for God’s people to take some time during Sunday morning worship to actually pray. So I invite everyone to a time of reflective prayer right in the middle of the worship hour. Things get very quiet. A little organ music points the way. Last Sunday a 3-year-old boy, I’ll just call him Deacon, cried out “No!..No!..No!..No!” as he was being escorted out of the service by his mother. He had been restless all morning, and she had threatened to take him to the nursery. He protested vigorously and continually. They had a chat in the foyer, and he returned in time for Children’s Church – that was what he really did not want to miss. We continued with our reflective time of prayer, and I thought about God hearing the No! No! No!s while we prayed.

This reminded me of the Sunday morning prayer time some 16 years ago when we totally lost our seriously reflective composure as a 5-year-old, I’ll just call her Whitney, stood up in her pew and announced, “Booorrrring!” Have you ever tried to suppress a laugh and pray at the same time? She had some quiet reflective time with her mother that day also. All of this was going through my mind as I was preparing to lead the pastoral prayer. So I spent nearly all of the silent prayer time last Sunday thinking about the No! No! No! going out to God, and the Booorrrring! breaking through the silence of the past. I needed to take a little extra time to offer my own prayer to God to help me focus on the praying that was at hand.

Is God hearing Booorrrring! when we pray? Or No! No! No! from us when He is seeking to answer our prayers? Sometimes the little voices in church are from God.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Listen to your prayers. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

P.S. The above stories are used by permission of Whitney and the mothers involved.

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A Very Close Shave

I did not even know it was something I had always wanted to do. There it was right in front of me. So I thought about it. Checked with my wife about it. And finally went for it. After my new friend Cory explained what was involved, he told me the cost, half expecting me to walk away. I did not.

I had seen this done in countless movies and TV shows all of my life, but I had never done it. They did it in westerns and gangster movies, in comedies and mysteries, even Andy Griffin and Barney Fife did it. Looking through the shop window, I suddenly realized I wanted to have a barber give me a shave – in the old barber chair, all lathered up, with the old-fashioned razor. I had not shaved that morning, so the whole process took about 30 minutes. It was a very good shave.

When we were finishing up, I asked the barber what he might have learned from shaving my beard. He said my skin was sensitive and kindly gave me some pre-shave and after-shave oils to try. Then he pointed to the places that were hardest for him to shave and said that this is where I needed to be very careful. I knew both of those things, but the lesson still holds true: the sensitive places will always be sensitive and the hardest places will always be the most difficult. Just like my everyday life. I am tempted with the same temptations, frustrated by the same frustrations, sensitive to the same issues and battling the same conflicts over and over again. It was a very close shave, and the oil does make it easier on my skin, and the hard places are soothed, but I still have to shave again tomorrow.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Use the good oils of kindness and grace. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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The Tattooed Heart

I once paid a dollar to step behind the curtain at a carnival to see the tattooed man. And there he was, sitting in lawn chair next to a table filled with silver things. He wore shorts and no shirt so you could see that he was tattooed from head to foot, with even some designs on his cheeks and forehead. He never spoke but reached over to his table and picked up a long silver nail and a hammer. He pounded the nail up his nose then produced a long sword which he wiped with a solution before he put it down his throat. He removed those items then proceeded to push a long spike through one cheek and out the other, a big needle through his tongue, and concluded by eating (and swallowing) a light bulb. All very impressive to someone who did not understand body piercing and the arts of the tattoo. This is a tattooed and pierced world.

Most people seem to love their tattoos, although tattoo regret is creating its own little industry. (Career Opportunity Alert: become a certified tattoo remover, also known as dermatological technician.) I’ve known those who got their tattoos during the war, while in service or out of peer pressure. Some hide them with bandages or heavy makeup. Most wear them with pride. Tattoos are known to sag with time and inflate with weight if not applied in just the right place. The most popular tattoo seems to be the heart—either flowered, inscribed or broken. The prophet Jeremiah understood tattoo regret when he wrote of his people: “(Their) sin is engraved with an iron tool, inscribed with a flint point, on the tablets of their hearts.” (17:1)

Jesus understands tattooed hearts and body piercings as well. He still bears the holes where the nails were driven through bone and all, and a spear blade cut to His heart. (See John 20:27) That old prophet Jeremiah said there could be something else tattooed on a heart besides sin: the Word of God. (31:33)

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Take a look at your heart. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Read Any Good Books Lately?

I came across an old photograph of a Christmas morning when I was in elementary school. There in the photo was one of my all-time favorite books, The Solar System. It’s filled with large pictures of the sun and all of the planets and even the asteroid belt. It gave the best thoughts of the day concerning each object, and tried to convey the great distances. I believe there was a small telescope to complete the gift. (My brain changes from sunny to partly cloudy when it comes to Christmases past.) That science book taught me to appreciate the heavens above. The first real chapter book that I read was Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson. I think I had seen the movie with Wallace Berry and Jackie Cooper and learned it was based on a book. I never wanted to be a pirate, but I did begin to yearn to see the world. One of my favorite book categories continues to be biographies of interesting people from all walks of life.

Two biographies I have been suggesting lately are Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story by Ben Carson and Cecil Murphy. Unbroken recounts the life of Louis Zamperini whose remarkable story traces his impoverished childhood through the track events of the 1936 Olympics, on to WWII where he survives a plane crash in the Pacific, weeks on a life raft and years in a Japanese Prison Camp. His story of spiritual redemption and forgiveness following the war can only be described as amazing. At 94 Zamperini continues to share his story as an inspirational speaker based in California.

Ben Carson was the second son of a teen-aged mother in urban Baltimore. His father abandoned the family leaving his illiterate mother to raise her sons alone. Filled with intense anger Ben discovers the real call of his heart, born out of a persistent, encouraging mother, a spiritual encounter with God and the amazing power of books. Dr. Ben Carson, now 60, is a neurosurgeon and Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University, a position he has held for almost 30 years. Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story has been made into a movie starring Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Read a really good book. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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