Chad* called me and asked if I would meet with him and a criminal investigator. When I arrived at the meeting, Chad explained that a former leader, Pat, he had worked with, had moved to his hometown and was lobbying to join a historical organization of which Chad was a member. He then went on to explain how decades earlier, this member had badly hurt him professionally. As he described the events his body stiffened, his face contorted and it was obvious that he was under stress just retelling the story.
Joe works hard at work and by the time he gets home he is exhausted. Too often he is impatient with his children and snaps at his wife. When he loses his temper and yells at her it is not because he wants to be a jerk or to act in such an unloving manner. The fact is his willpower is nearly sapped. Unfortunately, because of this, he is also insensitive to the fact that his wife, Alice, is also exhausted from watching high-energy children and operating at the tail end of being sick. Her willpower and ability to understand his feelings is also at a low end.
On my way to Kuwait, Kathleen dropped me off at the Colorado Springs airport. As I prepared to go through security I realized I forgot to pack my laptop. Quickly I calculated how long it would take Kathleen to get home and retrieve it. I then checked with security and the United ticket counter to see how much time I actually had before the plane departed. Fortunately, despite heavy traffic, my wife was able to get my computer to me and I arrived at the gate seven minutes before it was supposed to close. Ironically, the flight was delayed.
Paulownia kawakamiis are the fastest growing hardwood trees in the world. Mine grew over 15 feet in one year. Their roots extend deep into the soil. Their green leaves are like elephant ears and aside from providing excellent shade, make superb fertilizer. Kawakamiis produce flowers that are sapphire blue with yellow centers and for this reason are sometimes called sapphire dragons. When our tree bloomed people would park their cars just to get pictures. The tree also produced pods with sticky seeds but this became a problem. In a heavy wind, the overburdened limbs snapped causing all kinds of havoc. After years of enduring falling branches I had to have our tree cut down for fear that someone might be injured.
As hurricane Irene approached the eastern coast of the U.S., the media were concerned the category 3 storm would inflict catastrophic damage from North Carolina to New England. My quiet time passage for August 26, the day before the hurricane was to hit, was Psalm 107. Verse 29 reads, “He made the storm be still and the waves of the sea were hushed” (ESV). Reminded of God’s awesome power, I prayed, Lord, You have many people who love You in that region, please calm the storm and hush the waves, spare our country the enormous damage that large hurricane might inflict.
All of our family met together in northern Idaho to celebrate my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. One day a bunch of us drove to a remote lake to fish for rainbow and brook trout. The fishing pole one of the grandkids used broke and we could not fix it. But Sandy’s daughter, Kimmy, asked if she could just take some fishing line and with her hook baited with worm toss it out to see what she could catch. She was bored watching an inactive bobber and her idea seemed much more fun.
Vicki and I asked her to walk further down the shoreline so as she thrashed through the water she would not scare away the fish near our lines. Vicki pointed to a good spot for her to throw her line out. We also hinted that it was unlikely she would catch anything because she was too noisy and too close to her bait. We didn’t want her to be discouraged when nothing happened. But Kimmy was quite content to fish her way. Of course, you know what happened. Kimmy caught a brook trout! Go figure.
Mote worked in the building for years. As I got to know him I was amazed at his disdain for women—particularly his own wife. He would ridicule her at every chance and belittle her publicly. He made her seem stupid. He complained of her shortcomings yet seemed clueless to his own failings. In fact, the more I got to know him the more I could appreciate the pain his wife must have endured. Perhaps most grievous, was knowing that he was unfaithful to her and completely uncaring.
Angel started her job in July. She looked forward to the opportunity to share Christ with her new coworkers and to utilizing her cooking skills in the popular restaurant on the busy street of MG. A month later, she fought back tears—work was not going as she had expected. When the other girls on her shift learned she was a Christian, many were curious and began to ask her questions, but not Varuni, a tall, woman from Pune. She let Angel know in no uncertain terms that she did not care for Jesus chatter.
Pity the stuffy religious leader who wears frowns as a badge of maturity and looks down upon those who laugh as frivolous contenders for God’s eventual wrath. He has missed the divine engineering of our marvelous Creator, misused the ministry of role-modeling and will most likely die the premature death of one repressed instead of blessed. The human capacity to laugh is a God-given gift and for good reason.
By June of 1997 our church was $11,000 in debt to a property owner who raised our maintenance costs. Because of the $3000 monthly property bill I went six months without a salary as the pastor. God sustained my family through the generosity of a senior citizen who attended Horizon Community Church. An opportunity arose for us to merge with another wonderful church that served in a nearby community and, like ourselves, was about five years old. We prayed. We held several meetings. I championed the plan and was supported by many people who eagerly shared Scripture and a sense that the Holy Spirit was directing us. It seemed that God had given us a great opportunity. So we dissolved and were absorbed into a larger, healthier body of believers.
Nicolo Paganini, (1782-1840), ranks as one of the greatest violinists of all time. One night while playing a difficult piece of music a string on his violin snapped and hung down from his violin. Surrounded by the orchestra he continued to play. Then a second string broke. Still, this clever musician improvised and continued playing. A third string snapped forever worthless. Undaunted, Paganini played magnificently on the one remaining string before a stunned crowd. When he finished they jumped to their feet screaming and cheering “Bravo! Bravo!” Paganini waited until the noise abated then as everyone sat back down he raised his violin high for everyone to see. The violinist nodded to the conductor to begin the encore. He placed the single-stringed Stradivarius beneath his chin and played one final piece. Can you imagine the buzz of that crowd as they returned home from that concert?!
Vanadium stared at the brawny sweat-laden arms of Dowson as he slammed the pick repeatedly into the soil. All she wanted was a nice hole. But he was getting nowhere. Finally, frustrated and tired he motioned for her to come outside. “It’s no use! This hill is made of granite. Are you sure we can’t put this feeder somewhere else?”
Shannon’s desperate eyes spoke volumes. She told me she’d walked from Albany to Salem with her backpack and handbags to get away from her husband. She’d had nothing to drink all day, was overheated and felt ill. Thirty years old, she described herself as a misfit mother whose own mother watched two of her children while despairing of her incompetent daughter.
Psalm 28:2--Listen to the sound of my pleading when I cry to You for help, when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.
Have you ever studied the Psalms? A most interesting phenomenon occurs with the poet David. He often begins his psalms by telling God of some distressing circumstance he is anxious about. Sometimes he frets over his wicked enemies. Other times his heart is convicted of personal sin or he longs for the taste of God’s mercy and strong presence. Curiously, towards the end of these stress-permeated laments a shift takes place. The poet who is troubled becomes a troubadour extolling his love for his Lord. What began as an imbroglio ends as praise!
I was driving down Lombard when a red light illuminated my dashboard with the words “Check Engine”. Now I’d be the first to admit I’m a mechanical dummy but I know that when that light comes on it doesn’t mean to pop the hood and check to see if there is still an engine in there! That cerise glow is a nonsubtle directive to get to a mechanic who can run a diagnostic test and hopefully discover why the warning message is activated without charging me an elbow and a thigh.
I wish everyone could take a seven-day hiatus into the wilderness. There are no phones to ring. Trees do not hold ticking clocks. The ground may be uncomfortable and the weather may be cold but the air is clean and perspectives change. Sitting around a campfire for hours, the mind begins to clear. Beads of stress from a culture of busyness evaporate under stars without competition from neon lights. The sound of a rushing river soothes the soul. The cries of a vigilant falcon pierce the air with the anthem of freedom.