Birthday in the Bathroom

This morning I asked the Lord for something special.

Just a little love verse, or inside joke, or whispered song,
commemorating my entrance into this world on
Sunday, November 1, 1959 at 4:34 p.m.

I flipped open the Bible and searched for a word,
but there were no goosebumpy moments.

I picked up a pencil and wrote the date in my journal,
but no wise contemplation broke forth.

I sat in my chair, listening in the silent, dark morning,
but I didn’t hear a thing.

I gave up on a “special something” and got on with my day.

Little did I know,
the birthday party was waiting for me in my bathroom.

As I stood in front of the mirror looking at my year-older self,
I saw something in the reflection — gifts galore.

bathroom

That Psalm I’ve been living with for ten months,
the one I can almost recite all the way through without peeking —
called to mind my 21,000+ days and my future, better Day to come.
“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”

Those two toothbrushes standing at attention,
brought to my attention that thirty eight years and three bypasses later,
I still get to see two toothbrushes in my mirror every day.
“I am my beloved’s and he is mine.”

The straightener that I use every day but have never noticed,
says Nu-Me, and I am reminded that I am
renewed daily by His mercies.
“They are new every morning; great is his faithfulness.”

Those little pearly earrings, cheap imitations of the real thing,
speak of the real thing — the kingdom pearl of such great value
that everything is worth trading for such a gift.
“When he found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had,
and bought it.”

All my birthday gifts were hiding in the bathroom.

Party on.

Harvest

Elmer_2

This is my favorite picture of my grandpa.

He loved the feel of an ear of corn in his hands.

I wrote about him last spring. (Find it here.)

It only seems fitting to write about him now, at harvest time.

I have fond memories of late fall evenings in the seed house, watching my grandpa and my dad fill bag after bag of dried seed corn. Those kernels had soaked up sun and rain all summer long. The cobs had been picked and shelled, and mountains of corn had gone through the drying process. The fields had done their job, producing hundreds of kernels from every single seed planted. Father and son had done their job, cultivating and reaping. They poured in the produce, weighed each bushel and sewed every bag shut. In the spring, those bags of Trelay corn would go out on trucks to waiting farmers.

I wish we could see a turn-around like that for every spiritual seed that was planted. The truth is, we might not see any harvest for all our efforts. We simply do our best and have to leave the rest to God.

Paul gives us an encouraging word in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

    Don’t give up.
    That’s the key.

Don’t give up on studying the Bible.
Don’t give up on meeting together.
Don’t give up on praying.
Don’t give up on loving people.
Don’t give up on living for Jesus.
Don’t give up on believing.

“The harvest is great, but the workers are few.”
Luke 10:2

Let’s get to it.

Rustling

I’ve heard lots of rustling in the woods lately.

leaves

Maybe it’s because the leaves on the forest floor are crispy and crunchy,
skittering and tripping over each other.

Maybe it’s because the woodland creatures are getting ready for winter,
digging holes and burying acorns.

Maybe it’s because the wind is rattling the trees while leaves hold on,
shivering together.

Or maybe I’m just listening harder.

Something is happening out there in the woods.
There is movement.
There is activity.
There is life.

autumn-path-in-the-woods

I’ve heard lots of rustling in my heart lately.

Maybe it’s the hint of a change of seasons.

Maybe it’s a reminder to prepare for what’s next.

Maybe it’s a whisper to hang on, or let go.

Something is happening.

Movement, activity, life — I’m listening harder than ever.

The Wind of the Spirit is out there.
And in here.

You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that.
You hear it rustling through the trees,
but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next.
That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’
by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.” (John 3:8)

Captive Audience

Albert Pujols is a first baseman for the Angels. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, to be exact. They pay him $250,000,000 to play baseball, which is not a bad gig. It’s hard to like a guy who makes that much money playing a game, but not Albert. It’s hard not to like him. He’s an upstanding, respectful. big-hearted man who loves Jesus.

first

When an opposing player gets a single, Pujols makes the most of the few minutes they stand on first base together.

“Hey man, do you know where you are going to go when you die?”
“Huh?”
“Have you thought about what’s going to happen to you after you’re dead?”
“Ah…not really.”
“You should think about it.”
If the same guy happens to get another base hit later in the game, Albert will say, “So, have you thought about it?”

Or it might go like this:

“Hey man, what’s the most important thing in your life?”
“What?”
“What’s the most important thing in your life?”
“Uh… baseball, I guess.”
“So what are you gonna do when you can’t play baseball anymore?”
“I dunno.”
“Hey man, baseball is not going to last forever. You need something more in your life than baseball.”
If the same guy happens to wind up at first later in the game, Albert will say something like, “So, do you want to know what the most important thing is in my life?”

albert

The runner cannot take his foot off the bag.
He cannot escape into the dugout.
He is stuck with Albert.
Albert has a captive audience.

This makes me think of the Apostle Paul, tethered to a Roman soldier in a prison cell. One chain connected the two men to ensure that an earthquake or angel didn’t miraculously spring the prisoner. Every six hours a new guard showed up at Paul’s door to take a shift. Every six hours for two years. That’s 2,920 six hour shifts. I’m guessing there were a few repeat customers.

You and I both know that Paul wasn’t going to waste that opportunity. If he couldn’t be out on the streets preaching, then, by golly, he was going to give an earful of the gospel to every one of those guards. And then do a little discipleship training on their return visits.

The Roman Empire thought they were holding Paul captive,
but really they were giving him a captive audience
that made its way into Caesar’s household
and across the known world.

Howdy Pardner

“Gunsmoke” was my favorite TV show when I was a kid. Every Saturday night, I would sit with my bowl of popcorn and watch Matt Dillon restore order to Dodge City while my mother did up my hair in pin curls. I loved Matt and Miss Kitty and Doc and Festus. Especially Festus.

cast2

Long before cowboys shortened “How do you do?” to “Howdy!”, and centuries before Louis L’Amour turned “partner” into “pardner”, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to his friends in Philippi saying, “Howdy, pardners!” That’s a loose translation. He actually said,

“In all my prayers for all of you I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Phil. 1:4-5

Paul was no Lone Ranger. He knew he needed partners in this endeavor to win the world for Christ. One reason Paul loved the Philippian church so much was because they were all-in — they participated in the mission, they contributed to the cause, they were committed and involved at every level. They didn’t start strong and then wimp out. They didn’t call themselves partners and then leave all the work to somebody else. They had signed on the dotted line — with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.

The word “partnership” has reverberated in my soul.

The question begs to be asked:

What kind of a partner in the gospel am I?

Am I a hang-on-the-fringes-show-up-when-it’s-convenient partner?

Am I a hot-when-things-are-going-good-but-cold-when-things-aren’t partner?

Am I a someday-I’ll-get-involved-when-I’m-not-so-busy-with-life partner?

Or am I a get-in-the-trenches-and-give-what-I’ve-got-even-though-it-doesn’t-seem-like-much-but-I-can’t-be-half-hearted-about-this-because-Jesus-gave-his-life-to-offer-me-full-partnership kind of partner?

howdy

In the words of Festus,

“The onliest thing you get from stradlin’ the fence is a sore backside.”

Incomplete

incomplete

I got a C once.

It was in Geometry.

I got along fine with acute angles and isosceles triangles,

but struggled with postulates and theorums.

Otherwise I was an A-B student.

I never got an Incomplete.

Until now.

“He who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

I am incomplete, unfinished, weighed in the balance and found wanting.

But there will come a day when the trumpet will sound,

and every loose end will be tied up,

every to-do item checked off,

all desires satisfied.

Complete.

compass

Don’t Deride the Bride

wedding

PB and I have officiated over, participated in and paid for enough weddings in the last 29 years to be semi-experts. Over the years we’ve learned that it’s okay to poke fun at the groom, it’s permissible to kid around with the groomsmen, and you can even tease the bridesmaids (a little bit). But you never, ever, ever deride the bride.

Deride: (v.) make fun of; insult

Never. Why? Because she is the bride. Because her husband wouldn’t stand for it. Because she is the dearest thing in his life. Because if you diss the bride, you are automatically offending the groom and inviting his wrath.

ring

The church is the Bride of Christ.

He gave His life for Her.

I think we’d better be careful how we talk about His Bride.

The word “church” conjures up all kinds of emotions for people. Some have fond memories of early Sunday school flannelboard lessons and singing “The B-I-B-L-E”. Others have an indifferent attitude about what they consider to be a boring, outdated cultural institution. Many walk away from church and carry painful experiences with them.

The church is messy and imperfect.

It struggles to be relevant while maintaining its integrity.

Yet, the church is Christ’s Beloved.

Don’t deride the Bride.

“For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready.”
Revelation 19:7