Sunday, August 25, 2013


Sometime when praying, I will pray, "Lord, how do You want me to pray?"  I started making this a part of my prayer discipline a few years ago when I found myself in a situation where I thought prayer was needed for someone's healing; yet, up upon asking and listening for a time in the silence which followed the question, the one word which came was, "Peace.  Pray for peace."  Over the years I have learned that this prayer question usually has a response of one word.  I have also struggled with the difficulty of listening for the voice of God in the recesses of my heart and separating that Word from some word I want to be the answer.
This morning as I prayed, the one word which surfaced in my spirit was the word, "Loss."  Maybe it came in part from seeing a congregation of folks and knowing that all of us have been overwhelmed at different times in different ways by loss.  Maybe it was the Holy Spirit giving direction and help in this day.  Maybe it was not one, but both, and maybe even something more being experienced at a sub-conscious level.  It is true.  We all have some kind of loss in our lives.  Some experience it through divorce, others through death.  For some it is the loss of dreams, or a job, or maybe, even hope.  And, some experience it as a loss of faith in God.  Regardless of how it is experienced, it is a devastating moment for anyone of us.

So, it is understandable that we should be directed to pray for those who endure and suffer loss.  Telling someone else that experience has taught us there is life after loss is not much comfort to one overwhelmed by it.  Barging into someone else's personal struggle with our own formula for dealing with it is not nearly as good a thing to do as praying for the one who is overcome by the loss in their life.  We can all look around us and see someone hurting from loss and we can all bow our heads and lift their name before the Father who not only knows about loss, but also is the One who can lead those struggling to a different and better place.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mrs. Evans

When I realized my last blog posting was number 300, I almost immediately thought of Mrs. Evans.  She was my English and literature teacher at Wheeler County High School.  From her I learned how to use words, write sentences, and put them together into paragraphs, essays, and term papers.  She also introduced me to Shakespeare and made us memorize sections from Julius Caesar and Macbeth.  Some of it I remember to this day.  And for some reason, she pushed me out of the classroom setting to write essays and debate in literary events.  I did not see it then, but what she was doing was preparing me for a lifetime of crafting words.  When I preached some of my first sermons at the Alamo Church, I remember that she was present and offered encouraging words to a very nervous young preacher.
All the writing I have done over the years of ministry goes back to what she did for me in and out of the classroom.  My only regret when I think of her is that I realized too late the way her lessons had impacted my life.  By the time I got old enough to look back and see how much she had given to me, she was gone from this life and on to the next.  Whenever I go back to Alamo now and pass by her yellow house I quietly call her name with thanksgiving.  As I noted blog number 300 and thought, "A lot of words," I knew I needed to call her name once again.

For all of us there are people like my high school English teacher.  None of us make anything of our life without the silent and often unseen undergirding of others.  The fact that God has placed them in our lives is a reason for us to be thankful.  It is good to remember such folks and if, it is possible, thank them.  But, as is always the case, every coin has two sides.  Consider for a moment that God may be using us in this very moment to help someone else along their journey.  It makes you want to stand a little straighter and live even closer to the Father God who is the Grand Director of our lives.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


A few days ago I started another read of the Bible from cover to cover.  I have always been one to read a good book more than once.  Certainly, the Bible qualifies as a good book.  Some call it "The Good Book," and it is.  For a long time it was something I did every year as I led Disciple groups through the scriptures from beginning to end.  I started leading those groups back in the early 90's and with only a few breaks, I led a different group each year which meant reading the whole story once again.  Retirement has created a different environment for me and I realized not long ago that it had been awhile since I had done a Genesis to Revelation reading.
So, I got started.  I am not too far into the journey as I have just started the Abraham story.  Reading the Word is something I have done for a lifetime.  Always another reading reveals things not seen or noticed on earlier readings.  It also causes thoughts to arise from within which seem like something totally new.  In those moments I wonder why I missed it on all those other readings.  But, then such is no surprise because the Word is a living Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, that has the power to interact with our life where we are in the present moment.  The Word is unchangeable.  It always remains the same.  The circumstances of my life are always changing which means that every reading is through a different lens. 
Anyway, I am on this spiritual journey of reading the Word again.  Maybe some who read these words are at a point where God might be doing some nudging to do likewise.  I share my beginning with you as a way of being accountable.  Along the way I intend to write some blogs about the journey to let those who are reading know how it is going.  If you would like to join me in reading the Word from Genesis to Revelation and have some sense of accountability, I would be glad to hear from you via email at

Friday, August 9, 2013

Shelf Maintenance

Shopping is not one of my favorite pastimes.  But, it remains one of life's necessities, particularly for those of us who still want to eat.  The other day I found myself in Wal-Mart looking for some kind of fancy juice thing my youngest grandson loves to guzzle.  A clerk was working on the aisle where I was searching.  As I searched for the apple banana juice, I watched her as she  straightened up merchandise on some shelves consumers had wreaked havoc.  Meticulously she was gathering together all the same products and arranging them in good order.  Her boss would have been proud.  So, not finding what I needed, I asked, "Where is the apple banana juice?"  Without making eye contact or stopping her re-arranging work she said, "All the labels are facing out now.  You should be able to find it."  She kept on with her shelf maintenance.  I looked another moment and left exasperated that my search for the apple banana juice was fruitless.
As I walked away, I kept thinking about this clerk who was so busy with shelf maintenance she could not really respond to someone's need right in front of her.  It was nothing new.  I have seen it happen too many times in a lifetime of ministry in the church.  The church is a spiritual community known as the body of Christ, but it is also an institution which demands a steady diet of shelf maintenance.  Those of us in leadership as well as the average participant who warms a pew have become masters at doing the maintenance ministries which keep the institution well fed and thriving.  Staying busy, paper work, reports, endless committee meetings, maintaining a building, and constant navel gazing at every action keep us busy with shelf maintenance.  At times we even pervert the Great Commission as we allow it to become the justifying mandate to get new members at any cost.  Instead of being dismayed at the paltry number of baptisms, we take delight in all the folks who give us membership numbers from other churches. 

Yes, we really do the shelf maintenance thing well.  I know.  I have seen it.  I have even participated in it.  In the beginning of ministry, it did not seem so obvious, but the larger churches toward the second half seem to amplify the problem until not seeing it happening was impossible.  Staying focused on our identity as a spiritual community and living as one is one of the real challenges of our church in this age in which the secular society keeps saying, "Do it my way!"  When we do, we end up like the clerk moving things around at the expense of those seeking a moment with a transcendent and all powerful God.

Friday, August 2, 2013

An Epic Battle

While I was on my knees in the blueberry patch, I saw it.  Had I not been so close to the ground pulling weeds, I never would have seen this epic battle.  What caught my attention was a little green  pencil thin worm no longer than a half an inch.  He was being attacked by small ants who seemed rather minuscule compared to him, but I knew right away I was watching a life and death struggle. The ants kept darting in and out attacking his thin green body.  In response he raised the upper half of his body like a snake looking for something to strike.  I thought about rescuing the worm, but I decided to simply be an observer.  After a minute or so the worm ceased to move and then the ants came and actually started moving his lifeless body toward the mound of dirt so that others could share in the spoils of the battle.  There on my knees I saw this battle and watched as tiny ants joined together to actually move a much larger creature. 
It occurred to me that I never would have seen this epic battle had I not been on my knees.  Being on bended knee puts one closer to the object of attention.  It also occurred to me that when I am on my knees in prayer, I may be putting myself in a position of closeness that will help me see more of the One I am seeking to experience in my prayers.  I wonder if there are things I miss because my praying is done too much from a sitting position instead of a kneeling one.  I wonder if I might be able to see more clearly the epic battle for my soul if I was on my knees instead of seeking the comfort of a good chair.
Of course, there is a battle raging for each of our souls.  Paul, the Apostle, makes it clear that this journey of faith is a battle with the powers of evil who seek to undermine our every step toward God.  As he reminds us, it is not just a flesh and blood battle, but one with spiritual powers that seek to undo all God has done in us.  I saw this very clearly today while I was on my knees in the blueberry patch.