Category Archives: Commentary

Stylish bomb shelters

CNN reporter Elizabeth Stamp did a feature on billionaire bunkers in April. She discovered a developer who had turned two abandoned U.S. Army Corps of Engineers missile silos into condominiums. For the prosperous survivalist, one can choose a 900 square foot half-floor residence or 2-level penthouse with 3600 square feet. The latter starts at $4.5 million. There are other available comforts in the complex – like a pool, general store, theater, bar, and library.

If you want to get away from it all, why not do it in style?

Talk of apocalypse is on the rise. Volatile and divisive politics, increasing and worsening violence, erratic and deadly weather events … the list of factors that create a pall over the future grows by the day. Are we on the brink of nuclear war? Are there strains of bacteria we cannot fight off? Will terrorism become the irresistible force? Will an asteroid collide with the earth? Does humanity have a realistic chance for survival?

I don’t remember when I heard it first, but I’m glad I did hear it: “I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know Who holds the future.”

There are indeed many reasons for concern. I am not naïve about the myriad dangers that lurk nearby. But I refuse to live in fear. You won’t find this exact quote in Scripture, but there is truth is these three words I can hear the Father saying: “I’ve got this.”

NFL

Controversy continues to swell over the protests at pro football games. Will they stand? Will they kneel? Do they have the right? Why do politics and sports have to mix with such volatility? According to ratings and attendance, people are paying attention or they are flat ignoring what is happening. “I’ll never watch another game, not because I care about multi-millionaires pouting, but because I can’t stand the pro game,” said one 60 year-old guy.

Ah, the NFL. The National Football League or …

The No Fun League … The No Future League … The Not For Long League

The last one strikes a chord. We know that is true for all of us.

  • “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.” William Shakespeare
  • “Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forget about those who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it.” Harvey Mackay
  • “The greatest surprise in life to me is the brevity of life.” Billy Graham
  • “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (James 4:14)

We can do a great deal with the time we have been given, but wasting it shouldn’t be an option. I hope your day is full of challenge, surprise, joy, and fulfillment … because we all live in the Not For Long League.

Whoops!

The guys were pretty young. Big brother decided to give little brother a haircut. For some reason little brother agreed. Do you have an idea how this turned out? We had a pair of clippers that big brother thought he could use. Little brother was sitting still, listening to the buzz until he heard from behind one word: “Whoops!”

There was no blood, just less hair … in one spot. It was like you could peer into his brain. Not really. You would have thought so for a moment. Another crisis at the Wilbanks house.

Things worked out. They usually do. Little brother’s hair grew back … by the time he graduated from high school. If you look closely, you can still tell. Not really.

Families go through “whoops” times. Friendships go through “whoops” times. None of us is perfect. We make mistakes with words and actions. We hurt each other and sometimes the hurt lasts and lasts.

There is a reason that Jesus wanted us to understand the essential nature of forgiveness. We know that God is a loving, forgiving God but Jesus made it clear. To fully experience God’s forgiveness we have to be willing to forgive.

A good way to look at God’s forgiveness is to realize that God chooses not to remember all our stumbles. The Bible says He casts our sin as far as the east is from the west. Could He call up all our wrongs if He wanted to? Certainly. But He chooses to not remember, to cleanse us, to give us a fresh start.

Forgiving is not always easy, but the cross reminds us that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. The next time we hear “whoops” we should remember that.

Maybe, maybe not

Do you ever have trouble making up your mind? You don’t? How about the guy in front of you at the doughnut shop … or the fast food store … or the perpetual lane-changer on the highway? Sometimes it’s not easy to come to a decision. Jimmy Buffett once said: “Indecision may or may not be my problem.” Another guy admitted: “I used to be indecisive, but now I am not quite sure.”

We were visiting friends in the North Georgia mountains recently. They had a neighbor who had a family wedding. The woman’s nephew was the groom. The ceremony was on Saturday. As of late Friday night, the groom wasn’t sure if he was going to go through with it. Makes you understand what a shotgun wedding might be.

Some things don’t matter much. I was standing in my closet trying to decide what shirt to wear. After staring at the rack for way too long, I gave myself a mental kick in the rear – “Pick a shirt for crying out loud!”

There are much more serious issues that confront us that require careful thought and consideration. We know that life is full of challenges when the way forward isn’t always clear. The apostle Paul gave this advice: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).

Another sage recommended that we should reflect on questions like these when we try to make a decision:

  • Who will it help?
  • Will it hurt anyone?
  • Are there acceptable risks involved?
  • What do I hope to learn from my decision?
  • Will my decision honor God?

Ultimately for people of faith, it always helps to turn to God’s Word: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5,6).

Present

I remember roll call in school. I had to wait a while since my last name started with a “W”. Not that I’m complaining or have issues, but why couldn’t they start with the “Z’s” just once? There was a time when I fervently hoped the teacher wouldn’t read out my whole name. I had classmates that would snicker if she read my middle name, Oliver. As I grew up, I realized that name was something to be cherished, not regretted.

You had to answer when your name was called. The correct response was “present.” I sometimes wondered why “here” or just a hand-raise wouldn’t have worked.

Being present hopefully referred to more than just a physical location. Perhaps our teachers wanted to know if we were ready for a day of learning, or she just wanted to check off the list. Perhaps she was wishing that certain students weren’t present.

There are a lot of clichés that refer to being present in life:

  • Bloom where you’re planted.
  • Seize the day (Carpe Diem)
  • Be where your feet are
  • The only easy day was yesterday

The apostle Paul wrote that he had learned to be content (Philippians 4:11). Jesus encouraged us to live one day at a time (Matthew 6:34). There is a reason why the last commandment in Exodus 20 forbids coveting. It was intended to liberate us from wanting something we didn’t or couldn’t have. The grass may look greener on the other side, but is it? Art Linkletter once asked one of his young guests what that saying meant. The boy answered, “The grass is greener because that guy uses better fertilizer than you.”

Be present today. Live in your moment. Appreciate your life. Count your blessings.

These guys are good!

What is it about golf? I gave up the game years ago. I don’t need the stress. I relate to:

  • Golf – an endless series of tragedies occasionally interrupted by a miracle.
  • Golfing etiquette: hit the ball, swear, look for the ball, repeat
  • “It took me 17 years to get 3000 hits in baseball; I did it in 1 afternoon at the golf course.” Hank Aaron
  • They call it ‘golf’ because all the other four-letter words were taken.

It’s not that I don’t admire great golf. I watch two tournaments a year – the Masters and the US Open. I cannot wait until the next idiot screams “Get in the hole!” They used to call golf “the game of kings” – if that’s still true the galleries then consist of something less than royalty.

Imagine if other quaint traditions found their way into golf. Like:

  • Cheerleaders prancing in cute pro-shop attire to rev up a crowd
  • Squirrels or chipmunks hurled on to the course after a successful putt
  • Guys standing near the tee box, yelling, “Swing, golfer, swing!”
  • Sideline blondes interviewing players after a triple bogey
  • Commentators speaking in their normal voices

I respect the skill required to play the tour – male or female. In some ways, the game reflects the vagaries of life. Even the greatest golfers can hit a bad shot, make a bad judgment, or blow a lead. Even the best cannot win every tournament.

What I like best, however, is that golf, like a few other sports, is a one-player game. You might be playing against the course or other players, but your skill, knowledge, experience and mental toughness matter most. No one else can hit that shot for you. You have to finish what you started. The game is on you.

Life is that way. You have to live your life. You have to use what’s in your bag. God made us with unique abilities and personalities. The stakes are high in the game of life. We have to run our race, finish our course. By the grace of God, we can walk up that last fairway with our heads held high. We did the best we could.

 

Grave Crisis

They are running out of room. At cemeteries around the world, space for burials has been a real problem. In New Orleans, the additional problem of a high water table has made it difficult to keep up with the number of graves needed. In Arlington National Cemetery, more plots are needed to honor America’s fallen. In London, a newly instituted practice called grave sharing has been implemented. Graves are opened, caskets are removed, a deeper hole is dug, the first casket is reinterred, and the second casket is placed on top. Many countries have been dealing with this problem for over 200 years.

2000 years ago, a new tomb was needed. A wealthy man in Jerusalem owned a family plot. Someone needed a grave. A man had come to a violent end, another victim of the barbaric Roman form of execution – crucifixion. On many occasions, bodies nailed to a cross were just left there as a grim reminder to anyone who dared oppose the Empire. Sometimes the dead were thrown into the city dump, a place called Gehenna, to make room for the next condemned to die. But on this occasion, the wealthy man appealed to Roman governor Pilate. He had an unused tomb. Could he have permission to bury the battered body in his family tomb? Permission granted.

A borrowed tomb. Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb. It was  temporary loan. When you borrow something, it is expected that you return it. He wouldn’t need it for long.

From The Message: “Death swallowed by triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)