Thursday, January 30, 2014


This Biblical shepherd of some forty years has been learning a lot about "ruminants" in retirement.  Four years ago I had never heard the word and now there are eleven of them grazing in our pasture.  Ruminants are cud chewing animals.  While there is much to learn about cows, I have learned they have four stomachs and spend a good portion of their day chewing their cud.  Like a lot of folks, cows eat in a hurry, do not really chew their food, but swallow it down.  Unlike humans, cows later burp it up and sit down somewhere and chew on it for an hour or so.  Then they swallow it again for its journey to another stomach where it is converted into nutrients and energy.  With a different schedule to follow, I have become a "cow watcher" and from them I have learned more than just a few lessons.

While watching them peacefully chewing their cuds the other day, I suddenly realized I was looking at a picture of meditation.  The scripture constantly tells us to meditate on the Word.  There is a difference in reading and meditating.  Reading is calling words.  Meditating is ingesting the words and then chewing on them.  Meditating involves going over the words repeatedly, slowly with thoughtful deliberation.  Meditating is taking in the Word, chewing on it for a time, and then letting it become a source of spiritual strength and energy.  Those cows have it figured out.  They take their time chewing on their cuds.  Most of us are in far too big a hurry when reading and meditating on the Word. 

Try chewing on the Word next time the Bible is opened.  Forget what needs to be done next.  Sit down quietly and slowly chew on it awhile so that it can truly be a source of spiritual sustenance.  Meditate.  Ruminate.  Chew on it.   Learn from the cows.  They never hurry.   They just chew and chew and chew.  All of us could do with more chewing on the Word. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Table Talk

The earliest praying I learned to do was at the table before meals.  For as long as I can remember each meal was preceded by a word of thanks to God.  The prayers were not very spontaneous, but recited from memory.  Most of us can still remember some version of the "God is great, God is good"  tradition.  It was an important prayer discipline.  It instilled within me an awareness that being grateful to God for the things before me is always an important response.  Surely, our grateful spirits please God.
Sometime last year in a secular magazine, I ran across an article on praying at meal time.  I don't remember the name of the publication, but I remember some of the direction given on praying at the table.  Before saying, "Thank You, God, for this food," the writer made some suggestions.  First, he said take a moment to think about the process of getting the food to the table.  Give thanks for all those who in some way touched the food on its journey from the dirt to the table.  He also offered the suggestion of remembering those who suffer from not having anything or enough to eat.  Such moments enable us to say thank you with far more meaning than we might do, otherwise.  And his final suggestion was for what happened after offering thanks for the food and saying "Amen."  Eat more slowly was the final word.  Remember the cost of getting the food to the table, remember how blessed you are to be at a table with food, and remember, divine providence.  Eating slowly shows appreciation and respect for all that the food is and all that it represents.
Of course, most of us do not have time for those kind of spiritual moments at the table.  After all, table gatherings are about food, getting it into our bodies, and then getting on to something more important.  It is sad that we allow life to so consume us that we cannot really take time to be thankful for the ordinary blessing of something to eat and someone with whom to eat.  Our hurrying suggests that we forget that not everyone sits at a table like ours.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Remembering Frank

I had lunch today in a restaurant with Snow White.  Really.  I first saw her on the way back to the table from the water refill spot.   When I was seated, I asked my wife, "Did you see Snow White?"   Dressed in a perfect costume, there was no question in my mind about the identity of this young woman who was attracting the attention of every child who came along.  Some adults, too.  I watched as the kids saw her with eyes wide and mouths open.  Each one went to see her and Mommas had a field day with their telephone cameras.
After a moment, I found my mind going in a different direction as I thought, "I wonder what reaction folks would have if someone was seated there dressed like Jesus?"  And then, I remembered Frank Roughton Harvey.  He was a perfect Jesus look alike.  I first saw Frank when I was a teenager in Alamo and my Dad who was the pastor invited him to come do his Sermon on the Mount presentation.  Frank had on a robe that day, had a full beard, and hair that flowed down over his shoulders.  He made that sermon real for all of us.  When I became a pastor, I invited Frank on six different occasions to come and share his ministry with my congregations.  Dressed in Biblical costume, he dramatically opened the Bible for all of us to see and experience not only Jesus, but others like Peter, Pontius Pilate, Paul, and the Roman Centurion.  When Frank died in 2006, the church on earth lost a powerful messenger of Jesus Christ.
Frank would have attracted a crowd in a restaurant, too.  But, he would not have been content for it to be a picture taking moment.  He would not have missed the opportunity to say a word about Jesus.  Frank not only caused us to see a visual image of Jesus, but he also helped us see what a man looked like who was allowing the Holy Spirit to shape his heart into the spirit of Jesus.  May those like him increase in number and may you and I be one of them.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A New Bible

I had been thinking about it for a long time.  This past week I did it.  I bought myself a new Bible.  It has been a little over 15 years since I made my last purchase.  Back then I purchased two copies of the New Revised Standard Version.  One was black.  One was blue.   In case you have not figured it out, I can fall down on the conservative side very easily.  My intention was to use one as my study/pulpit Bible and then to replace it with the other one when the time came.  I retired the black one a few years ago and am in the process of wearing out the blue one.  Who knows?  Maybe it will outlast this old preacher. 
Anyway, last week I saw it, The New Jerusalem Bible, on the shelf and took it home.  Why this one?  A year ago while reading The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle, I was impressed by the richness of the scriptural references she used from the NJB and decided to get one.  And so, I have this new Bible in hand and find myself reading with some reluctance.  As I thought about this reticence in reading, I decided I have become like those old timers I knew as a young man who insisted on reading the King James Version.  After having trusted the New Revised Standard Version for a life time, it is easy to view any other translation as suspect.  I am telling myself to get over it.  I am telling myself to trust the translation.  I am telling myself to trust the Author of the Word.

I do not like that part of me that requires this kind of conversation with myself, but it is there, nonetheless.  Fortunately, I am also aware of a sense of excitement within me about reading the Word from a different translation.  What I am not going to be doing is constantly comparing it the NRSV because I want to hear what God is saying through this new window to His Word that He has brought into my life. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Rekindled Faith

When Hudson Taylor was 17, he shared with his hometown minister that God wanted him to go to China as a missionary.  When asked how he proposed to go, the youthful Taylor replied that he would need to follow the same pattern that Jesus had established for His disciples, "...going without purse or scrip, relying on Him who called me to supply all my needs."  Trying to help Hudson to live more realistically, the minister said, "Ah, my boy, as you grow older you will get wiser than that.  Such an idea would do very well in the days when Christ Himself was on earth, but not now."   Despite these words of the "older and wiser counselor," Hudson went to China and lived and worked with this youthful, radical, and unrealistic faith.  ("Rhythms of the Inner Life by Howard Macy)

Macy goes on to write that too many who possess this radical unrealistic kind of faith have been smothered by the embrace of older and wiser voices who have said, "It's wonderful to dream and to want to live with radical trust, but it doesn't work in the real world.  At some point you must be practical."  Over the years I have been blessed by knowing some who heard this wise counsel to be practical and sensible, but chose to ignore it because the call of God was too heavy upon their hearts.  They modeled a kind of radical abandonment to the security systems of life that surely frightened parents and caused the pragmatic to shake their heads.

This place of being sold out to do whatever God wants us to do is where most of us started out with Christ.  The power of His love, the reality of His presence, and the joy of faith in Him caused us to believe that in Him nothing was impossible.  Too many of us allowed the bumps of adversity to weaken our resolve instead of strengthening our will.  Too many of us started out to change the world only to have the world change us.  It is an ever present danger for those who seek to follow Christ which is surely why the Apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy, "...rekindle the gift of God that is within you..." and who among us does not need our faith rekindled?