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Paul Harvey, loved for his heartwarming tales and unique style, told this story: “One summer morning as Ray Blankenship was preparing his breakfast, he gazed out the window, and saw a small girl being swept along in the rain-flooded drainage ditch beside his Andover, Ohio, home. Blankenship knew that farther downstream, the ditch disappeared with a roar underneath a road and then emptied into the main culvert. Ray dashed out the door and raced along the ditch, trying to get ahead of the floundering child. Then he hurled himself into the deep, churning water. Blankenship surfaced and was able to grab the child’s arm. They tumbled end over end. Within about three feet of the yawning culvert, Ray’s free hand felt something hard; possibly a rock protruding from one bank. He clung desperately, but the tremendous force of the water tried to tear him and the child away. ‘If I can just hang on until help comes,’ he thought. He did better than that. By the time fire-department rescuers arrived, Blankenship had pulled the girl to safety. Both were treated for shock. On April 12, 1989, Ray Blankenship was awarded the Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal. The award is fitting, for this selfless person was at even greater risk to himself than most people knew. Ray Blankenship can’t swim.”

This Sunday, the featured hymn was written by Lydia Baxter, a woman who was invalid for much of her life. “Take the Name of Jesus with You” is a testimony of courage in the face of suffering and difficulty. During the great Moody-Sankey evangelistic campaigns in the late 19th century, the song with lyrics by Lydia Baxter and tune by William Doane was popular with the great crowds.

The human condition is often one that affords us opportunity to rise above our circumstances. Paul wrote, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” The key is found in those two words: through Christ. The One who displayed the greatest courage in history offers His presence and power to us daily. When we appropriate what Christ gives, we can indeed take the name of Jesus wherever we go.

He should’ve looked up

When my dad was a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, he had a friend who was asked to officiate at his first funeral. The young pastor was understandably nervous and sought help and advice from his more seasoned colleagues. One particularly helpful classmate lent him his minister’s manual that contained suggested readings and comments for such an occasion. The service at the church went well. After arriving at the cemetery, the young minister took the customary position at the back of the hearse and began leading the procession toward the grave. He was so intent on reading the right words in the right tone of voice that he forgot something. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust …” then he walked into the hole. He should’ve looked up.

Are there times when we are so focused on things that we don’t pay attention as we should? Distracted driving is a huge and sometimes tragic problem. I’ve seen people so absorbed in their phones that they walk into wall or poles or other people. They should’ve looked up.

We can find ourselves so consumed by the minutia of life that we give in to worries and cares that rob us of the vitality God desires for us. The psalmist spoke about this: “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.”

Here are a few takeaways:

  • We could all use some help from time to time
  • The Person to whom we can turn is the One who created all of life, including our own
  • He promises to protect us
  • He is paying attention
  • We should look up

Missed Opportunities

People write letters to advice columnists that can be heart-breaking, confusing, heart-warming, or … stupid:

“Dear Abby, while I was eating lunch the other day, I saw the image of Abraham Lincoln on one of my potato chips. I got so excited, thinking about how I might be able to share this wonderful news (and how much money I could make), I popped the chip in my mouth before I could stop myself and ate it. Is there anything I can do about this?

I don’t know how the columnist answered, but I’ve tried to come up with several appropriate responses but none seem very dignified:

  • Buy more chips, maybe there’s a presidential series.
  • Quit eating chips, there’s too much salt and it may be affecting your brain
  • Have your stomach pumped and have some glue nearby
  • Sift through your …. No, that’s gross
  • It’s too late so move on
  • Have someone take all of your electronic devices away so you cannot communicate again ever

When I think of missed opportunities, this bozo is not what I had in mind. I think of those moments when I could have said the right word … or when I did say the wrong word; when I did the right thing or when I did the wrong thing. I think of that moment when I could have noticed God at work but was too busy, distracted, or clueless. I think of when the prompting of the Holy Spirit was ignored and a divine appointment was missed.

It is wondrous when we pay attention, when we actively listen, when we slow down and open our eyes and ears and hearts. Today you and I will have opportunities. I hope we don’t miss them!

Hey, look at that cloud. Doesn’t that look just like Abraham Linc … Sorry.



A Tribute to those who grieve

We take so much for granted we think time stands still for us;

Then life takes a painful turn and there’s one less this Christmas.

We think of words left unsaid, there are things we could have done;

The empty ache deep inside, hard to hide from everyone.

‘Round us the pace rushes by, folks too busy to pay heed,

But there are those who can know how great our loss and our need.

They have walked where we now walk, they know the depth of our grief.

Their strength and understanding offers much needed relief.

Their love holds us ‘cause they know, it won’t be the same this year.

No matter how hard we try, the one we miss won’t be here.

One day heaven will be home, the pain of our parting o’er.

We’ll see the one gone ahead, our delight worth waiting for.

Now we must go on living until that great day arrives.

Our dear one safe in God’s hands, hope and faith brightens our lives.

Thanksgiving Musings

The first thanksgiving occurred in November, 1621. The meal was a combined effort between the Pilgrims, who set the table and provided the napkins, and the native Wampanoags who brought everything else. No, wait. That’s not right. The Pilgrims began a new tradition that day – somebody made a casserole. I bet it had those small marshmallows. Those people were from southern England.

While we don’t have the exact menu, we know they had plenty of meat. The governor of the colony sent four men on a fowling mission to provide enough game for the planned 3-day event. You think it’s tough preparing one meal for all those relatives. The meat would have included wild turkey, duck, geese, and swan. Can’t you hear it now? “Hey, please pass the swan.”

There would have been fruits and vegetables native to the region. All kinds of berries – blue, cran, goose, and rasp – were collected. One Pilgrim had a bright idea – “Hey let’s mash all this fruit into a brick-like cake.” A kind Indian pulled him aside and said, “Let’s wait for a month and send it to people we don’t like.” Okay, I’ve offended all the fruitcake lovers out there. My bad.

Vegetables like onions, beans, spinach, carrots, kale (another word for seaweed), and arugula (just kidding) would have been served. We know they had corn but not like we know it. The corn would have been shucked and turned into cornmeal, which was then boiled and pounded into a thick mush or porridge. Should have left it on the ear.

Right after the meal they had a football game between the Patriots and the Indians (can’t say the R-word). For dessert, they all went to Baskin-Robbins with its one flavor – pumpkin.

Whatever you may have this Thanksgiving, may it be a time for relishing what matters most. Let’s make that “who” matters most. Blessings.



The Hard Sayings of Jesus

Let’s be honest. We would rather not deal with some of the things Jesus said. We prefer to dwell on more palatable words like love, grace, and mercy. The stories of miracles and expressions of compassion stir our souls. But Jesus was anything but safe in His words or deeds. Why else would His enemies be so intent on His extermination? Do we, His followers, understand that following Him is risky, even dangerous?

F.F. Bruce was a professor and author noted for books and biblical commentaries like New Testament History, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? And Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. He also penned the book, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, in which he explored seventy of the sayings of Christ that challenge the idea that we can only think of the Lord as gentle Jesus, meek and mild.

In the preface of his book, Bruce wrote: “His yoke is easy and His burden is light, but His sayings are often hard because they run counter to well-entrenched presuppositions and traditional assumptions about life and human relations. It is all too easy to believe in a Jesus who is largely a construction of our own imagination – an inoffensive person whom no one would really trouble to crucify.”

We have introduced a theme for this season in our church life – “Going Deeper.” To go deeper is not just an attempt to gather more information or to be busier with religious activity. At some point as we take responsibility for our own spiritual transformation, we have to take the Gospel seriously. We must center our lives on our relationship with the One who promised abundant living (John 10:10) but also asked us to pick up our cross to follow Him (Luke 9:23).

Don’t know where to start?

  • Reading, studying, praying Scripture – begin in the Psalms or the Gospel of John
  • Invest time in reading helpful books –Practicing the Presence by Brother Lawrence; The Common Made Holy by Neil T. Anderson & Robert Saucy; The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
  • Investigate the Daily Examen, a powerful way to develop a life of prayer

Jesus never promised an easy road, but He did promise to walk alongside each step.


From the Orlando Business Journal: “David and Jackie Siegel, the king and queen of Orlando-based Westgate Resorts, are both well past ready to see the completion of their massive Isleworth home, Versailles — but there’s still a ways to go.

The 90,000-square-foot Versailles mansion has been under construction for more than a decade and has its own celebrity status, thanks to the 2012 documentary, ‘The Queen of Versailles.’ But one thing the house doesn’t have yet is tenants, as construction has been off and on for years.”

It seems the house isn’t big enough with 30 bathrooms, 15 bedrooms, 11 kitchens, 6 pools, 2 movie theaters, 8000-square foot master suite, spa, bowling alley, indoor skating rink, underground parking for 30 cars, and a stadium tennis court seating 200 spectators. “I think I may want a bigger house with a couple more guest houses and a bigger closet,” said Jackie Siegel. The Versailles home is slated to be finished before the end of the year after almost 15 years of construction.

Good luck Siegels. We all hope you will be able to manage. I don’t know anything about these people, but at first glance I’m a bit nauseated.

Paul wrote to his friends in Philippi: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have” (4:11).

Being content is never about having enough or more than we need. Being content is a state of soul, living in a deepening trust in our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. I hope the Siegels find contentment. Something tells me it won’t be found in a bigger mansion.


Flat Earth Society

“Modern Flat Earth societies consist of individuals who believe that the Earth is flat rather than an oblate spheroid. Such groups date from the middle of the 20th century; some adherents are serious and some are not. Those who are serious are often motivated by pseudoscience or religious literalism.” (Wikipedia)

Some people claim the Bible posits a flat earth. Ancients believed in a three-tiered creation. The heavens formed the canopy over the earth as a solid firmament. Some believed the stars were windows into heaven. The earth was not regarded as a globe, but as finite and flat. There are many stories of mariners who were terrified they might sail over the edge of the world. The underworld was just that, the mysterious place of shadows.

Most recently, some claimed that the total eclipse proves that the world is flat. The Flat-Earthers questioned why they were told not to look at the eclipse directly. What was being hidden? They also questioned how an object could cast a shadow smaller than itself.

Yes, and there was a time when humanity was convinced that the sun revolved around the earth, that the earth was the center of the universe. The human mind is an amazing creation, but sometimes it isn’t engaged as designed!

The psalmist wrote: “When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are mere mortals that You should think about them, human beings that You should care for them?” (Psalm 8); and “The heavens proclaim the glory of God, the skies display His craftsmanship” (Psalm 19).

Creation of the universe is astounding, but the greatest miracle is the gift of life and relationship we humans enjoy. The Westminster Shorter Catechism reads: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

Conspiracies aside, we were created by a gracious and generous God to experience and explore His love. Let’s go deeper into that love!

Coke what?

Trying to take my mind off the misery of devastating weather …

  • Coke has a learning problem. Perhaps they have a short memory. Remember what a hit New Coke was? Now they are messing with Coke Zero.
  • Then there was the guy who robbed the convenient store wearing his motorcycle helmet. He must have forgotten the nameplate with his name on it just above the visor.
  • At church one Sunday, we lost power and the sanctuary was very uncomfortable. A couple of our guys had a bright idea. They brought in electric fans to cool the room. Think about it.
  • When an attempted robbery at a Lowes Home Improvement store went awry, Milton J. Hodges fled across the street and jumped a fence … right into the Cypress Cove Nudist Resort & Spa. As the Orlando Sentinel pointed out, “As one of the only folks wearing clothing,” Hodges was easily spotted by police. You think.
  • A 12-year-old boy adamantly denied having stolen an iPhone when questioned by police at his home. And then the iPhone rang in his closet. Whoops!
  • In July, he turned 104. This November, she will be 93. They have been married for 75 years. It’s a first for this Washington state couple: Two hurricanes slamming two different parts of the United States bearing their names, Harvey and Irma Schluter.

This has been a tough stretch for people in the Islands, Mexico, Texas, Florida, and other places. Lives have been lost. Families shattered. The economic impact will be felt for years. We see the worst in people who descend to scams and looting, but we also see the best in people who come to the aid of others. Irma is starting to fade but still brings damage and difficulty. Let’s keep praying for those who felt nature’s wrath and those still in the path of high winds and rising waters. First Responders, as always, are doing what they do best. God bless each one.

Lost in all the coverage of the storms is the sad reality that we observe another anniversary of the attacks on 9/11. We may have moved on or have become distracted, but for thousands of people this day will always be a nightmare. We must never forget.


A Season of Storms

The Sea of Galilee was known for sudden, ferocious storms. The people who plied those waters understood the risk as they cast their nets or traveled from shore to shore. In Mark 4, Jesus accompanied the disciples as they left the crowds behind, heading for the other side of the lake. “But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat and it began to fill with water” (v.37). Panic ensued. Too be caught out in the open could have been a death sentence. The disciples, several of them seasoned fishermen, flipped from panic to fearful exasperation when they saw Jesus still asleep in the stern. “Teacher, don’t You care that we’re going to drown?”

We know how the story ends. Jesus calmed the storm and alarmed the disciples. “Who is this man? Even the wind and waves obey Him” (v. 41).

Chris Cadenhead made this observation: “The key to understanding this story may lie in the fact that Jesus was even in the boat with them at all. That means He put Himself in the path of the same storm that threatened them.”

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). God is not some distant observer. When Jesus entered the world, He came to experience life with His creatures. He felt pain, knew fatigue, got angry, grieved, wept, and suffered. Storms are nothing new to Him.

There are times when He silences the storm, but there is never a time when He isn’t in the boat with us. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). We need to cling to that when it would be easy to panic or get discouraged.

Harvey has left a trail of devastation. Irma brings terrible destructive power. Jose is not far behind. Who knows what is coming next? More than ever, we need to seek the presence and peace of the Lord of the storm.