Friday, May 27, 2016

"What has Jeanelle Learned?"

Jeanelle and Walt were wonderful next door neighbors in Houston. I spoke to Jeanelle last week. She has been under treatment at M.D. Anderson for stage IV bladder cancer. She said that it has not been fun! She wears a bag. She has tried to stay engaged with her family and friends. However, the chemo has been tough and there are days that feel very dark! I assured her that Linda and I will continue to cover her with our love and prayers.

What has Jeanelle learned through suffering? It has taught her gratitude. She has been overwhelmed with the affection and concern from her circle of love. She has been buoyed by memories of joy-filled moments.  Pain is inevitable but misery is optional. Suffering exposes the superficial. Pat narratives are shattered. Introspection is on the agenda daily. Appreciation for personal and professional care by the medical community is enhanced in every hospital encounter.

How do we redeem something bad by turning it into something redemptive? Jeanelle celebrates the resilience of the human body. There is something holy about that. Finitude demands that we look it in the face and pushes us to prayers of adoration, confession, supplication, intercession and thanksgiving.

Recovering from suffering is not like recovering from a disease. Most of us do not come away from suffering healed; we come away different. Instead of recoiling from loving commitments that are painful, we invest ourselves more deeply in them. Vulnerability is not foreign to Christians.

“My grace is sufficient for you and my
strength is made perfect in weakness.”
II Corinthians 12:9


Friday, May 20, 2016


During World War II, Andre Malraux met a Roman Catholic priest. He said, “Tell me, father, what have you learned after listening all these years to all those confessions?”

The priest replied, “I have learned that people are not as happy as they appear to be, and that none of us, finally, really grow up.”

How true! How wise! Jesus called a child into a circle of discussion with his disciples and said, “Unless you become like children, you can never enter the kingdom of Heaven.”  I think Jesus was distinguishing between childish behavior and childlike behavior. To violate the trust in a child’s eyes is evil!

What I see in children is a sense of wonder. Chesterton wrote, “The world does not lack for wonders only for a sense of wonder.” The wide-eyed wonder of children is a source of joy.  I enjoy their squeaks of amazement and delight. Aristotle said, “The world begins with wonder.’ I am certain you would add to that statement, “and ends with wonder too.”

In Philippians chapter three, the Apostle Paul is cognizant of God’s call to us – that of maturity.  Grow up in Christ. His letter says, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already achieved perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be.”

Yes, I keep working on it – less childish and more childlike.


Monday, May 16, 2016


Fifty days after the Passover Festival in Jerusalem, the Feast of Pentecost was celebrated by the Jewish community.  It is also known as the Feast of Harvest or the Feast of Weeks.

At the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13), there was a dramatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The number fifty points to a harvest when Jews bore baskets of grain to the Temple to thank the Lord for their success. The Acts 2 event describes the 120 faithful followers of Jesus receiving a visitation of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit descends on these people apart from their deserving. There was nothing staged about it.

What an outburst! There was the sound of a violent wind. There were tongues of fire, the fire of Jesus’ love poured out by the Holy Spirit for us and the proclamation of God’s Word in a variety of tongues. The result? Three thousand joined the Church that day. Now, that’s evangelism!

There are three radiant festivals of the Christian faith; Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. Pentecost is a reminder that the Trinity consists of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Another view suggests God revealed as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

The work of the Holy Spirit is not always linear, logical and rational. The Spirit affirms, convicts, disciplines and directs. We are not locked-in. We can dream holy dreams.  There are no limits to God’s revelations.

The Holy Spirit is not only our comforter but also our disturber. The Holy Spirit is not ours to command but ours to receive. The Holy Spirit transforms what we ought to do into what we want to do.

Question…could it be that our cooperation is necessary for the Holy Spirit to act transformationally?

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.”


Tuesday, May 10, 2016


I have read a lot of self-help books. They all start with myself, my ego and me. They tend to be predictable:
  • Aim high
  • Be disciplined
  • Believe you can achieve
  • Clarify your values
  • Consider your dreams
  • Figure out what you are good at
  • Involve others
  • Never give up
  • Set your goals
  • Manage your time, and more!

Will these efforts lead to success? Maybe. However, being successful and fulfilling your life’s purpose is not the same thing. You may achieve all your personal goals, become a raging success in the eyes of our culture and still miss God’s purpose for your life.

The Psalmist does not start with self.  “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?”   That Light dispels all kinds of darkness.

Somebody said, “Why pray when you can worry?” When worry works its way to the top of your agenda there is a pretty good chance that God’s purpose for you has been shoved to the sidelines of your life.

To discover God’s purpose for your life is to discover peace. Speculation steps aside for revelation.  The Holy Spirit turned the ordinary into the extraordinary. The Spirit turns what we ought to do into what we want to do.

Maybe God delights in our admission of vulnerability? Maybe it is in those moments we get the opportunity to experience the Lord’s strength. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.”


Monday, May 2, 2016

"Owner's Manual"

When that red light flashes on my car’s instrument panel, I know to go back to the dealership or to consult the Owner’s Manual. In life, when warning lights flash – how about turning to the Owner’s Manual – the Word of God?

1 Peter in Chapter 2 says, “You are a chosen people.  You are a kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

Faith in Christ is not something we produce but a gift of God.  The quantity of our faith does not induce, prompt or seduce God to act.  Faith is our response to the love of God, the Light of Christ and the goodness of the gospel.  Grace is God’s unconditional love for those who don’t deserve it.

I don’t need more faith to get more from God.  I want my faith to be a catalyst in making me more Christ-like.  It is no surprise that the Christian faith is not a retreat to safety.  To be faithful to Christ is to risk alienation in a culture that embraces the pleasure game, the money game and the status game.

Jesus Christ took the broken pieces of our lives and put them back together.