If a story begins, “it seemed like a good idea at the time,” it probably wasn’t. This is today’s cat story. I’ve written before about our cat, Doll. I received her as a Father’s Day gift in 1996. I believe her to be part cat and part squirrel because of her tendency to climb great heights around the house, and then take great leaps of faith. She rests during the day so that she can hunt for her toy mouse after we go to bed, and then she brings it to us with triumphant howls around midnight, and/or around 3 a.m. and again around 4:30 or 5:00. A very close relative of mine began rewarding this effort with a flashlight shining on her victorious capture and with words of praise. She loves words of praise in the middle of the night.
So when this close relative saw there was a free cat game available for download to a smart phone or mini-tablet, it sounded like fun. The game, by the way, is for the cat. Just as partaking in word and skill games is supposed to keep aging minds active, this cat game is designed to help elderly cats stay alert. Doll loves to play her game. All she has to do is tap the moving red dot on the screen and she gets 100 points, and a beep, for as long as she wants to play. If this sounds like something your cat would enjoy, I have two suggestions when handing expensive electronics over to your cat: make certain your cat has been declawed; and, have a tight-fitting case for the occasional screen licking. Doll loves this game so much she wants to play it whenever her humans get out their electronic devices. This can get annoying.
This all reminds me of that Bible verse in Galatians 6 which points out that people reap what they sow. This passage cautions us to be mindful of our actions, for we must live with the results. And sometimes the results may keep us up at night.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Sow well. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
August was designated “birthday month” by our daughters many, many years ago. August is their birthday month; August 15, the day. (That makes February 15 their half-birthday, which they never successfully managed to officially get recognized as a gift-receiving day.)
It started like this:
At 3:15 a.m. on August 15, Dorothy woke up to announce a baby seemed ready to be born. After some profound questions like, “Are you sure?” and, “Really?” I got up, got dressed, and took her to the car. We leisurely arrived at the hospital with plenty of time for our baby to be born. Dorothy and I were somewhat surprised that her on-call doctor was her friend Saundra’s husband, Corky, who had recently joined the partnership of Dorothy’s obstetrician. Dorothy had known Corky since their high school days. After the brief awkwardness passed, they settled down to business and Donelle was born at 11:55 a.m. Corky could not wait to call Saundra and tell her the news.
At 3:15 a.m. on August 15, Dorothy woke up to announce a baby seemed ready to be born. After some profound questions like, “Are you sure?” and, “Really?” I got up, got dressed, picked up Donelle, carried her to the car, and then got Dorothy. On the way to drop Donelle off with a church family, Donelle prophesied, “I’m going to have a pink birthday.” This was before the days of ultra-sounds. When we arrived at the hospital every labor room was occupied and other women in labor were waiting on gurneys in the hallway. Dorothy bumped to the head of that line, and was quickly placed in a delivery room that was still being cleaned up. The nurse asked her to wait a few minutes until the doctor arrived, but she respectfully declined. The doctor appeared just as he was needed and Dayna was born at 6:14 a.m. Donelle celebrated her third birthday that evening with a “pink party.”
Do you know your birth story? We all have one. If you do not know, ask someone who might remember. You just might be surprised at what you learn about yourself. Our birth stories have the power to demonstrate just how strong, inside, we really are. What about your other birth story? The one about the time you were born into God’s eternal family? What do you remember? What has it shown you about yourself? How do you celebrate it?
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Celebrate your birth. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
We have a master gardener who lives next door. James’ idea of a fun thing to do every evening is mow and edge his front yard. He is passionate about his flowers and plants. Spending time at Tulsa’s Linnaeus Teaching Garden has opened his eyes to the possibilities of beautiful things everywhere. This year he decided to have a vegetable garden featuring tomatoes, peppers and strawberries. Of course he added other fruit and vegetables just to see how they would do. His sunflowers were spectacular. We ate some of his tomatoes at supper last night.
He began as a toddler watching from a front window as his father mowed the grass. Soon he started using sticks and brooms to imitate his dad trimming and edging. Someone got him a toy lawn mower. This summer James turned seven. He checks his garden every day—watering, fertilizing, weeding and harvesting. He knows more about my in-ground sprinkler system than I do. He can identify every sprinkler head and its spray pattern. He can diagnose every sprinkler problem and knows how to repair or replace it. He has a personal collection of sprinkler heads in his garage. He keeps asking his parents to get a trencher so he can lay out a sprinkler system of his own. James has a passion and a focus, yet like every kid he loves to act silly, tell jokes, make people laugh and play with his little brother.
James is a remarkable boy because his eyes and heart are open to the beauty and wonder of creation. Our hearts are the garden of our soul. What do you see when you look upon your heart? How well are you tending it? What have you planted within it? How do you nourish it? What needs trimming or weeding or pruning? What is your heart producing today?
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Look to the Master Gardener. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
I was asked to bring a reflective meditation for Tulsa’s Will Rogers High School Hall of Fame Ceremony. It was held on November 4, 2013, Will Rogers’ birthday. It was also the inaugural event for the high school’s 75th anniversary year of celebration. I began by imagining what it must have felt like to be a teenager in the fall of 1939 as the first students sat in that magnificent 1,500 seat art deco auditorium. Students and teachers alike found themselves in a million-dollar building on what had been a cattle pasture a couple of years earlier. The Depression, the Dust Bowl and clouds of war were daily topics of conversation. Today there are two very senior alumni left from that first graduating class. Looking back from the future is all about learning the stories.
For the past few years I have been hearing stories from some of the attendees of the high school’s 50th Anniversary. For months some of those same people have been planning the 75th Anniversary Gala to be held on April 12th. (Go to www.WillRogersFoundation.net for details.) It will be a grand reunion with hundreds of former students and faculty. I encouraged the class of 1989 and others to take good notes because 2039 and the 100th Anniversary of the school is not that far away. I ended my part by asking God to continue to bless the legacy of those who dreamed of a future shaped by inspired teenagers who would go on to do great things.
The future is always closer than we think. I remember as a boy trying to figure out how old I would be in the year 2000. That was impossibly far away, if I even lived that long. Now it is 2014 already. What will your life be like in 2020? That’s just six years away. Do you have a future vision for yourself, your family and your church? Do not give up on your future. In our ever-changing times, the future is still built on our life stories and relationships, guided by God’s Word and redemptive love.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Discover the future. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
How does an airliner land at the wrong airport? The recent misfortune of the Southwest Airlines flight headed for Branson, Missouri raises the question. They landed eight miles away from the appointed runway. The pilots apparently noticed their mistake, hit the brakes very hard and stopped their plane at the very edge of a disaster. Everyone was shocked. The pilots were not only shocked; they were embarrassed as well. They soon learned that the runway they had chosen was too short for their airplane to take-off to fly to the right airport; it eventually had to be toed away.
The pilots landed in the wrong place because they insisted on their own way. When preparing to land, the Branson control tower told them they were 18 miles away from the right runway. Recognizing the light configuration, the pilots insisted they could see the runway in front of them and requested to override the control tower and their instruments. The passengers were not happy about taking a bus with all of their possessions to the correct airport.
There is an old saying, Seeing is believing. But not everything we think we see is real. Some people reverse the saying, Believing is seeing. But not everything we may believe is true. The pilots needed to trust the control tower and their own instruments. The pilots decided to trust what they were seeing up ahead. They made an embarrassing mistake that could have quickly turned tragic. Did you know there is a verse in the Bible that speaks to these kind of situations? It is found in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a person, but in the end it leads to death.” It comes down to trusting what is real and true. Trust God. Trust God’s Son. Trust God’s Spirit. Trust God’s Word.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Land in the right place. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
Last Sunday, February 23, was an historic day in the life of our church. There was a positive, energetic and prayer-filled spirit. There was a strong attendance for our very first 10 o’clock worship service. The new monitors worked like they were supposed to, Dr. David Willets brought an excellent message, and the new Pastors’ Class was well received. Our 11:15 Sunday School hour more than doubled our Bible Study attendance. The Monte Los Olivos congregation filled the two center sections of the Sanctuary for their 11:15 worship service. About 40 children and teenagers were welcomed to their new Sunday School classrooms. To God be the Glory.
In 2012, by faith, we invited GracePoint Church to minister with us. The People’s Pantry was relocated to our building and our Clothes Closet ministry was reestablished. Last year we began a deeper Wednesday evening ministry with the Pantry and our neighbors. Ben Shepard offered to provide a Wednesday evening meal for anyone who participated in the Pantry ministry. The effort has expanded with a number of faithful workers coming along side to help with the meal for our neighbors. We work together delivering Meals on Wheels, singing in the choir and worshiping together. On Wednesday evenings Monte Los Olivos has added a 7:00 p.m. Prayer Service, and Youth and Children’s Bible programs. Great things He has done.
There continues to be lots of preparation work behind the scenes to allow God to use our church to proclaim a greater witness to our community. By intention there are three things that we are not doing: 1) we are not merging churches; 2) we are not combining budgets; 3) we are not changing any church names. We are networking together. We are working alongside each other to promote our common ministries and mission efforts. We are launching more intentional discipleship training and evangelistic efforts across the congregations and into our neighborhood. So loved He the world that He gave us His Son.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
Have you ever stepped in a hole? Hopefully you recovered quickly and had the presence of mind to look around to see if anyone was watching. Stepping in a hole is not a first choice. Bad things can happen when you step in a hole, even a little one. It is never done on purpose.
Once Dorothy and I were walking down the sidewalk in Baguio City, Philippines. Our ultimate destination that day was the Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary. We were with a mission team from our church which included Mrs. Avo Boes, our church’s Woman’s Missionary Union Director. We had been serving a church in the northern Luzon area and were invited to take this side trip up near the volcano. Typical of most tourists, we were walking, talking and looking around at all of the sites and shops. Suddenly there was a squeal and Avo disappeared. When we looked down, she was shoulders high in a hole. She had stepped into an uncovered manhole in the middle of the sidewalk. Miraculously she was not hurt. We somehow extracted her from the hole and helped her assess the situation. Some scrapes and bruises were located; then she said she was ready to go on to the seminary. The infirmary there gave her a couple of Band-Aids and let her rest for a little while, but she didn’t want to miss a single thing. For the rest of the trip and for some time after, she noticed every manhole.
Temptation is like an open manhole in the sidewalk. Step in it once and you might just blame the manhole. Stepping in that same hole in the sidewalk again? Well that is a different story. How many times are you going to purposefully step into that open hole before you realize it’s you, not the hole that has the problem. A couple of solutions come to mind: take a different sidewalk, or get someone to help you put the lid over the hole.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Watch where you step. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
After completing the macramé phase of my life, I turned to cross-stitch, with an occasional adventure in needlepoint. After all, you can only make so many hanging flower pot holders for all of your friends and relatives. New friends and more relatives were gifted with little pictures, sayings and Christmas stitchery. Some were graciously received. I stitched one piece that is framed and hangs in my office. It is about four letter words.
English is a very rich language consisting of approximately one million words,* yet a handful of vulgarities seem to lace daily life with too much regularity. Why does it seem to take weeks and weeks to teach a child “please and thank you,” or “Yes, ma’am or No, sir,” and only one time for a misplaced ugly word to be instantly memorized and utilized by that same child? It is probably time to upgrade our use of the four letter word.
“Four Letter Words that Change the World”
Love. Hope. Care. Help.
Heal. Work. Play. Feel.
Duty. Home. Good. Kind.
Pity. Rest. Seek. Pray. Live.
“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Speak true and holy. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
We seem to be the only house in our neighborhood with an outdoor nativity. Most of the houses around us are decorated with all kinds of lights and displays, with an occasional star mounted up high. Santa and the reindeer are everywhere. So are snowmen and miniature Christmas trees. But the display on your lawn or in your window does not mean much unless Christ is in your heart. So I look to some of my favorite carols to point the way to the newborn King.
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. The unsuspecting town, filled with grumbling taxpayers and weary travelers, becomes the focal point of God’s divine plan of redemption. The King is coming.
Come Thou long expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free. From our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee. The King is born with a kingdom mission of forgiveness, salvation and grace. Cast your deepest, darkest burdens before Him, and He will give you rest.
O come, desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind. Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease; fill the whole world with heaven’s peace. The King, who is the Prince of Peace, longs to heal the broken hearted, mend broken relationships and fill the world with Good News of great joy. Trust His word. Trust His love.
Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break, for a slave is our brother, And in His name all oppression shall cease. The King’s life example, His unmatched wisdom, His cruel death on our behalf, and His resurrection overcoming all sin, guilt and even death itself, cause us to bow before The King of Kings on this O Holy Night.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Rejoice! Rejoice! And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
How well are you doing on your goals for 2013? Looking back over my notes from last year, I discovered I did pretty well in most of them, but slid backwards and into a ditch on a couple of others. I did a couple of rewarding things I did not know I would do when 2013 began, like deep sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and fly fishing in Virginia. I completed two complicated community assignments that have turned out well. (New goal: No new community assignments in 2014.) Dorothy and I discovered an amazing thing about goals—if you write down 5 or 10 goals and put them in a drawer somewhere, at the end of a year most of your goals will be achieved. It is not magic. It is inspiration. How do you set goals?
Broaden the definition of a goal. Some goals are wishes. Others are challenges. Do not limit your goals to finances, health and fun times. I use areas like family, projects, learning, spiritual growth, adventure, work and relationships. Naming a goal or two for each category gives me more than enough for a new year. What do you really want to do with your life? Pray about it. Write it down. Dream a little more about it. Then start living on purpose.
Narrow the target of a goal. The secret to having accomplished a goal is to make it very specific. Set a goal like, ‘Go fishing four times this year,’ ‘Read three books’ or ‘Have a family reunion.’ Lose weight, exercise more and earn more money are not goals. They just burden you down with guilt. Give up soft drinks, park the car farther away from the store, and have a spring yard sale are goals. Do not be afraid to launch out into the deep.
Review your goal. At some point it is good to take a look back to see where your life has gone in the past few months. Things happen. A crisis or two or three may show up. Are you spending your days battered by the winds, or resetting the sails? Press on toward the ultimate goal, the prize of the high calling of your life.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Set sail. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.