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

Spinning

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” Luke 12:27

When my brother was in college, he rode his bike from Wisconsin to Texas. I’m not talking about a motorcycle here — I’m talking about a 10 speed bicycle. He and two buddies pedaled 970 miles in June of 1972 to attend a Christian conference for young, radical “Jesus people”.  It was worth it, though, because he came home with a great girl and married her six months later.

bike wheel

I don’t know much about long distance travel on a bicycle. My cycling experience is more like the monotony of pedaling a stationary exercise bike in the basement. I can pedal all the livelong day and never get anywhere.

That’s what worry looks like.

Lots of energy and sweat for no progress.

Lots of fussing and exertion, but no destination.

Lots of spinning, but the same old scenery.

When I l give in to anxiety, I’m riding the wrong bike.

It’s time to come up out from the cellar, pump up my tires and feel the wind in my face.

That’s what trust looks like.

bike

One Tongue Too Many

Charles Wesley had a good sense of humor.

He wrote lots of hymns, but my favorite is “O, For A Thousand Tongues To Sing”. It’s the first song in the red Methodist hymnal I grew up with and it’s full of rich phrases that I have grown to appreciate more and more. I used to think Mr. Wesley was dreaming of a Sunday attendance of 1,000 people who would all praise God together. But now I think Charles had something else in mind.

My paraphrase: “If only I had one thousand tongues in my mouth! I would use each and every one to sing of my great Redeemer’s praise! I would wag all those tongues and declare the glory of my God and King! Just think how much talking I could do about the triumphs of His grace with 1,000 tongues!”

But I see a problem here. I have enough trouble with the one tongue I have. Controlling my only tongue is often more than I can handle. How would I ever get one thousand tongues to unite in praise when I can’t even seem to get my one tongue to consistently speak of God’s glory and grace?

tongue

The Psalms are full of references to the mouth, lips and tongue and most of them are negative.

  • “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.” Ps. 34:13
  • “His mouth is full of lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue.” Ps. 10:7

Psalm 71 is different. The writer resolves to use those muscles in a positive way.

  • “My mouth will tell of your righteousness.”
  • “My lips will shout for joy.”
  • “My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long.”

Sometimes I have to show my tongue who’s boss and resolve to use it for the good stuff. All day long.

o-for-a.jpeg