Monthly Archives: May 2011

Consider the Lilies

You know that Scripture verse that says, “Consider the lilies of the field how they toil not…”—How come that doesn’t happen in my backyard? We have been working in the flowerbeds around our house. We pulled weeds and grass, planted begonias and marigolds, took pity on the lovely winter pansies and let them stay in full bloom until the heat takes over for good. With much help from our son-in-law, we mulched the six beds and two large flower pots. Our little vegetable garden has the two items I can usually grow: tomatoes and onions. Maybe next year I will add something daring like bell peppers. But if I want tomatoes in July, I must plant them by late April. This year we had some interesting weather, so it was mid-May by the time our tomatoes were planted. Now all I have left is to plant this year’s Easter lilies so they can blossom next spring.

It is the growing season. The grass needs mowing, pollen is blowing, and my eyes keep watering. Beauty is all around us. A large toad lives in my vegetable garden and a smaller one lives out in the front yard. I’ve gone to no expense on insect control. Most nights the neighborhood opossum is digging in the flowerbeds looking for grub worms, and now the community ducks have learned to recognize my car, expecting more birdseed in the dish out back. We have a nest of red finches hatching in the birdhouse on the patio. They do not like us to linger too long outside.

It is the growing season for Christians and churches as well. Easter, Mother’s Day and soon Vacation Bible School all represent the spring/summertime opportunities to work the soil, plant new seed, nurture tender lives, protect the fruit and prepare for the harvest. But there is much for the gardeners to do. How is your garden doing?

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Help grow your church. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Code Black

“This is a Code Black. I repeat: This is a Code Black. Code Black,” said the voice through the overhead speakers. Most of us are familiar with a hospital’s “Code Blue.” We have seen enough medical shows or spent enough time in hospitals to know that a Code Blue means that a life-or-death crisis is underway and a specialty medical support team has been summoned to action. I was serving as a relief hospital chaplain at Tulsa’s Hillcrest Medical Center the night they called a Code Black.

If you ever hear a “Code Red” declared it means there is a fire. Usually the location of the Code Red is announced, and automatic doors will close throughout the facility, whether hospital, nursing center or medical building. The staff will give you instructions—do what they say to do. It amazes me that some people always dispute the trained staff in time of crisis.

I served as a relief chaplain at Hillcrest for 10 years, staying at the hospital each Thursday night from 5 p.m. until 7 a.m. the next morning. Code Black meant that a tornado was possibly headed toward the hospital. The Nursing Supervisor, the executive officer for the night, paged me to meet her in the Emergency Room. It was to be a long night. Most patients like rooms with a view. Every patient had to be moved out of their rooms into safe areas on every floor. This included intensive care units. Visitors had to be rounded up and sent to their designated shelters. We went to the top floor of the hospital and visited every floor, seeking to calm staff and patients alike. Back in the ER, families were desperately searching for loved ones; the injured and dying seemed to be everywhere. The hospital and downtown Tulsa were spared, but the April 26, 1984, tornado struck Skiatook, Broken Arrow and Morris. Eleven people died that night; then one more person died as Mannford and Prue were struck three days later.

Already this has been a record-breaking year for tornado deaths and destruction. Our prayers are with all of these families, communities and emergency personnel.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Thank a first responder. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Don’t You Just Hate It When That Happens?

As I was reading the early chapters of Proverbs today, a passage seemed to stand out as something I needed to pay attention to. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? The verses were, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow’—when you now have it with you.” (3:27-28) One way to keep Bible verses from standing out is to quit reading the Bible. I know some people like that.

As I was walking to the local diner to have lunch a few hours later, a man sitting in the shade asked me for some loose change. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? He asked for the change so that he could have some biscuits and gravy for lunch. I think it was some sort of heavenly “set up.” So I invited him to join me for lunch. What else was I supposed to do? He decided to take me up on my offer. As we walked in the diner, he asked me what I did for a living. I told him and felt him pause for a second. So I gave him the choice to either join me at my table or eat by himself.

He chose my table. He ordered biscuits and gravy and a big glass of milk. I encouraged him to order the eggs, potatoes and sausage also. We ate together and he began to relax and tell me his story. He spoke in generalities, surface things first, then a little deeper, and finally as the trust level grew, even more confessions. He guided the conversation; I mostly listened. At the end of the meal he thanked me two or three times over. I prayed a prayer of blessing for him. Then we parted. One way to deal with pan handlers is to ignore them hoping they will go away. I know some people like that.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Don’t hate it when it happens. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Pre-Planning Might Have Helped

We never had the talk. You know, the “What we would do if he dies” discussion about our bird. It might have helped. So here it is a few days after our cockatiel Dini has died. We are still discussing funeral arrangements, looking for a proper burial site and asking about the right kind of headstone. Dini has been a part of the family for a very long time. We knew he was getting old but we had never discussed these sorts of things. On Thursday he suffered an apparent stroke affecting the left side of his body. He died on Saturday, May 7, as I was holding and comforting him in my hands. It was a bittersweet time. And yes, he was the very same bird that I set loose in church one Sunday morning in 1981. He became the object lesson of the longest running children’s sermon ever. You can relive that story here.

Dini was present for every meal in our kitchen since the day he was hatched, September 7, 1979. His cage has been by the kitchen table where he saw and heard everything. He always sang every time I came home. Recently, when we returned from a trip to Texas, he sang as loudly and vigorously as ever, to the point Dorothy and I both commented on it. But we knew that old age was catching up with him. He would lose his balance while sleeping and fall from his perch, or be suddenly startled and fall from his perch. He would always climb his way back up, but he took to spending more and more time on the cage floor resting. Pre-planning might have helped, but he never told us his wishes.

I taught him to talk and he added a few words on his own. The phone would ring and he would say “Hello.” He mostly talked about himself, “He’s a pretty bird,” “Dini’s a good bird,” and he also changed “bird” to “birdie” whenever he wanted. He could imitate any whistle and learned to whistle the phrase “Jesus loves me this I know.” He was an ever-present companion. We miss him. I just wish we had talked through this final part.

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

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Roller Coasters and Parachute Drops

When we were courting, Dorothy and I rode a roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas. I had never been anywhere like a Six Flags in my life. She kept mentioning that it was an unusual day because there were no lines for any of the rides. We saw some shows, wandered throughout the little shops, and rode just about any ride whenever we wanted. We stayed that day until the park closed. It was as if the time together at the park was tailored just for us. Later we learned most people stayed home because of the record-breaking July heat (107°).

Dorothy and I rode only one other roller coaster together after we were married. She quit riding sometime after coming to Tulsa and watching people ride the Zingo at the old Bell’s Amusement Park that used to stand near the Tulsa Fairgrounds. Dorothy quietly said to me that I could ride as many coasters as I wanted, but she never wanted a newspaper headline to read, “Pastor’s Wife Dies on Roller Coaster Ride.” She hasn’t wavered, even when our family, along with Dorothy’s parents, spent a day at Six Flags—the day her 80+-year-old father rode both a roller coaster and the parachute drop! The secret to an enjoyable ride is to lean forward and trust the operator of the ride.

The week between this year’s Easter Sunday and May Day was a current event roller coaster ride. I found watching the news channels try to cover the Royal Wedding and the tragically disastrous storms throughout the South akin to media whiplash: “I’ve never seen this much damage and loss of life.” “Here’s the couple kissing on the balcony.” “Here’s the president landing in Alabama.” “Who wore the best and worst hats?” Then on Sunday night the news ride took an unexpected turn when we watched 30 minutes of “There’s major BREAKING NEWS but we can’t tell you what it is yet.” The announcement of Bin Laden’s death brought another lap around life’s roller coaster to start a brand new week. Don’t let the ride scare you away.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Lean forward and trust the Operator. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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