Wednesday, June 24, 2009


"Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord." Romans 12:11

So you might be wondering where in the world I've been. No? Never crossed your mind? Figures. But isn't it strange that this is the verse that pops up on the day I decide I'm going to give this a go once more. Not that I think this is much of a service for the Lord, because really, it's just for me. But, on the other hand, I figure that everything I do I do in the service of the Lord, whether it be slopping random, albeit scripture-inspired thoughts here or doing my very best work for my clients or being a good husband/son/father/friend or smiling at the homeless guy who pulls his wagon load of miscellaneous stuff back and forth down the boulevard every day from who-knows-where to somewhere else.

I occasionally feel guilty. Guilty because I think I'm not doing enough for the Lord - being slothful in zeal, because I'm not teaching a Sunday School class or going on mission trips or even singing in the choir. But even though there's nothing wrong with any of those things, and it certainly wouldn't hurt me to get involved in something like that, I think what God really wants is for me to "be fervent in spirit" in whatever it is I'm doing, and thus to serve him daily, constantly, continually.

I'm going to think about that today while I'm trying to get caught up with work before our mini-vacation this weekend. I want to serve the Lord fervently today while I work, "working as to the Lord, and not to men," so to speak. And then, this weekend, I plan on serving the Lord fervently by being a good husband - the best husband I can possibly be - while we're away.

The blessings for me from all this will be that I'll get a lot of work done and I'll have a good time with my wife this weekend! Yea, God!

Lord, I give this day to you with fervent zeal. I plan on giving tomorrow to you, as well as this weekend and every day after that. But for now I'm taking it one day at a time and fervently counting on you for the rest...and for the zeal.

Oh, and thank you, Lord, for reminding me about this blog today. It's good to be here again.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for
your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Quite a familiar passage for anyone like me who has been hanging around church for the past 54 years or so, and although it's still a comforting thought, it is easily taken for granted simply because we can all practically quote it verbatim in our sleep. But I took the time to look it up again this morning and to read it in the overall context of what was happening in the ministry of Jesus when he said it, and why he thought he needed to say it when he did.

A few verses prior to this, Jesus was bemoaning the fact (assuming it's okay to say that Jesus "bemoaned" upon occasion, which seems to be the case) that several of the towns where he had performed miracles still refused to accept him for who he claimed to be - they still refused to admit that they were wrong and that their attempts to get right with God via religious exercises didn't cut the mustard. He suggested that Sodom would have repented if he had performed the same miracles for that sordid society and would be better off in the long run than the towns who thought of themselves as so pious but refused to accept Jesus as the Christ.

He then goes on to pray, thanking God for hiding his purposes from the "wise and clever" and revealing it to those who are childlike instead, which leads him into today's scripture.

So it seems clear to me that when Jesus was talking about laboring and bearing heavy burdens he was talking about religion. More specifically, the religion of the day in that part of the world, but I believe the same thing applies to any religion today. Religion, after all, is man's attempt to reach God by following a specific set of rules and/or by performing certain rituals, by perfecting and sanctifying oneself in order to earn an eternal reward.

Or as Paul put it, "If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised on the eight day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless." Paul said that he was "found blameless" under the law, and most people would think that's a pretty darn good thing. But this is what he said about that: "I...count them but rubbish..." Paul realized that religion doesn't work. It's just a heavy burden that nobody can bear, and it does nothing to bring you closer to God.

But the burden we are called to bear as followers of Christ is light. Why? Because he calls us to take his yoke upon us. In other words, he calls us to be yoked together with him - with God himself! Jesus already bore our burden of sin to the cross, so we no longer need to try and sanctify ourselves in order to be good enough for God. Jesus did it for us already. And the yoke we are now called to bear with Christ is love.

Our yoke is love. Simply love.

Lord, I take your yoke upon me. In fact, you might say that the yoke is on me! Ha! Maybe not. But anyway, count me in and yoke me up with Jesus. I love you!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." Luke 6:27-28

Many, many moons ago, I used to be a delivery truck driver, working for a pharmaceutical company delivering to drug stores and pharmacies all over Southern California everything from narcotics to Preparation H. For the most part, I enjoyed the job. In fact, if it had paid more, I might still be doing it to this day. If nothing else, it gave me ample opportunity to eat sunflower seeds and listen to talk radio.

It did have its drawbacks, though, mostly due to the fact that I spent my entire day driving around in Southern California traffic. One particular incident from those days comes to mind when I read today's always challenging scripture.

It was late in the afternoon and I was closing in on my last few stops before heading home for the day. Traffic was getting heavy, as is normal later in the day, and I needed to turn left into the parking lot for the hospital pharmacy that was next on my route. I sat there waiting for an opportunity to turn, and finally took what was probably a bit of a tight squeeze, jetting across lanes and jolting up the driveway before making my way to the loading zone where I normally left my van while I made my delivery.

Once in place, I was organizing my paperwork and reaching for the bag of drugs I was dropping off, when I saw a small, hopped-up, bright red pickup truck barrel into the parking lot and screech to a halt right in front of my van, blocking half of the driveway. At first I figured the guy was going to the ER or something, but then he jumped out of his truck, slammed his door and stomped right over to the driver's window of my van. The guy's face was as red as his pickup, but it wasn't sunburn; the guy was livid with me. With me?? I had no idea what he was upset about, but he didn't hesitate to a voice they could probably hear two blocks away.

"You f___ing c___sucker!! You almost f___ing killed me!! My kid fell of his f___ing seat!! What the f___ did you think you were f___ing doing, you m_____ f___ing idiot??!!!"

Apparently I had cut him off with my speedy bat-turn, although I had no recollection whatsoever of having even seen his truck. And as a result, he had to slam on his brakes, causing his young son, who had been sitting in the front seat, to slide off and land on the floorboard, smacking his little tushie in the process. I could see the lad's forlorn face peering at me through the windshield of his truck.

The guy then reached through the window of my van, grabbed the clipboard I was holding and threw it to the ground with all his might, scattering my paperwork all over the parking lot. He was completely out of control and I actually thought he was going to hit me right then and there. I was unprepared to fight, never ever having faced that kind of blind fury focused at me before and never having actually fought anyone in my life at all (unless you count the time I met Walter Bates in the church parking lot after school when we were in the seventh grade, although that hardly counts since neither of us ever landed a punch - it was more of a reluctant wrestling match than a fight).

But I kept my cool, more or less, and also kept my mouth closed. I got out and started to pick up my papers while he stood there fuming, hoping (I think) that I would strike the first blow so he could finish me off. But I just tried to go on with my job, and mumbled a "sorry" to the guy before I started to head toward the entry door of the hospital. With a violent kick to the air in my direction, he finally turned and started back toward his truck.

That's when I made my mistake.

As he was heading away, I asked him, "Just how fast were you going, anyway?"

"The f___ing speed limit, you f___er!!"

"Ah, I think the speed limit is only 35 there. You had to have been going at least 50. Maybe you ought to be more careful when your son is in the car with you, and maybe he ought to be wearing a seat belt." (This was back in the days before kids had to be in car seats, but all cars did have safety belts at least.)

Before I knew it, he was back in my face, grabbing my clipboard again, hurling it into the nearby bushes. I really thought I was a goner this time, but I guess I had either made a little bit of sense to him or else he decided that I was just a wuss and wasn't going to actually fight him. He spun around, jumped back in his truck and gunned the engine before burning rubber all the way out of the parking lot.

I made my delivery, but I was shaking all over. When I got back into my van, I just sat there for a long time, trying to calm down. I was so angry at that guy that it was giving me a stomachache. I was so angry that I simply and thoroughly hated him. I hated him with everything that was in me. At that moment I was completely consumed by hate and anger. I had never felt that way before, and I had no idea how to handle it. But I think God was there that day, and he whispered this verse to my spirit:

"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you."

And so I did the only think I could think of: I prayed for the guy. I hated him with everything that was in me, but just ignored that and started praying for him instead, asking God to deal with him. I also asked God to deal with me and my anger and hatred, and you know, God gave me a vision of sorts. I pictured myself giving the guy a hug, believe it or not, and holding him as he began to let go of all his anger and hate. I realized that he must be simply filled with anger and I began to feel sorry for him and yes, to even love him, to begin to see him the way God saw him, and I prayed that God would heal him...and heal me in the process. And in that moment, I was able to forgive that angry, angry guy, and to genuinely begin to love him.

I never saw him again, of course, but I learned something that day. Love is the only way to confront hate. Forgiveness is the only way to deal with anger. And I'm not talking about dealing with that other guy's anger, I'm talking about dealing with my own anger and hate. If I find myself hating, I need to let God turn it into love. If I find myself angry, God can help me forgive.
It was a terrible, painful experience - not physically painful, but emotionally so - but I truly believe that God allowed it to happen, just so I could see what he's talking about when he tells me to love my enemies and to bless those who curse me.

I couldn't really understand it until someone actually hated me and cursed me!

Father, I still pray for that guy to this day...probably almost 30 years later, and hope that one way or another, he has come to know how much you love him. Wherever he is, I pray that you will help him let go of his anger, and to turn to you. Help him to bless those who curse him...or who cut him off in traffic. And help me to never forget the lesson you taught me that day. Hate and anger are real in this world, and I need to be prepared to face it when it rears its ugly head - to face it with love and forgiveness and blessings and never with more anger, never hate for hate. Thank you for that guy, Father. I love him. I love him because you love him. And that's good enough for me.

Oh, and bless that little boy, too. Bless his socks off!

Monday, February 2, 2009


"This God--his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him." 2 Samuel 22:31

When you stop and think about it, it seems almost ludicrous to say that God's way is perfect. It's a bit redundant, you know? Same for his word being true - God's word is true because it's God's word, isn't it? That God's way is perfect ought to go without saying simply because it is God's way...and God is perfect and true, right? God is the very definition of perfect and true - if he says something, it must be true because he said it.

It's sort of like what I used to tell my kids after assigning them some disagreeable task, when they pestered me ad nauseam with the old "WHY?" question: "Just because I said so!" The fact is that the reason I couldn't always answer my kid's "why" question is that I knew that they often would not understand nor accept the answers. They might even question whether I really knew what was best for them or if I even had their best interests at heart.

The same is true for me now. If God really did answer my "why" questions, I have no doubt that I would often not be able to understand nor accept the answers. For instance, if God appeared before me this very moment in all his glory, carrying a golden platter with a parchment scroll on which he had written in gold letters the answer to my question as to why my first wife had to suffer through the trauma of brain cancer only to die, even when literally hundreds of friends and family were praying for her healing, and why my kids had to lose their mother at such a tender age, well, even if God let me read his reason for allowing that to happen, I undoubtedly could not accept it. I wouldn't be able to understand it. Asking God why something like that has to happen is a useless exercise because there really is no acceptable answer to the question.

You know, even though they sometimes grumbled about it, my kids usually accepted my "because I said so" answer. Why? Because they have always known that I love them. Even when things weren't going their way, deep down inside they knew that they could trust me to do the right thing for them, because I had proven to them that I was a trustworthy and loving father.

Same goes for me now. God has proven his love for me beyond a shadow of a doubt on the cross of Christ and sealed it with his Holy Spirit in my life. He has proven that he has my best interest at heart and is willing to put himself on the line for me. He has proven that I can trust him even when things aren't going my way. He has proven that he is a trustworthy and loving father, and I put my faith in him no matter what.

Even when I don't know why something has to happen the way it does, I trust my Father just because. Just because his way is perfect and his word proves true.

His truth is my shelter, his perfect word is my shield.

I give myself to you, my loving Father, and lay all my cares upon you. I rest in your truth, secure in your perfect love. No matter what happens today, I will trust you, I will worship you, I will take refuge in you. I love you, Father.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.." Ephesians 4:31-32

This verse always makes me think of my late wife, because we used it as the basis for the vows we said to one another when we were married, so very many years ago now. It was that last part we used, about being kind to one another and tenderheartedly forgiving each other, and it made for some pretty decent vows indeed, now that I think about it. For such a young couple (I had been 21 for 11 whole days on our wedding day) it seems rather profound.

The first part is good, too, but doesn't make particularly good wedding fodder, if you know what I mean. A little negative, I guess, although if we could actually put away with all anger and bitterness it certainly would make for a better marriage.

Don't you think it's interesting that this verse says "Let put away from you..." rather than "Put all...away from you..," as if I can't do it myself, but it has to be done for me? And it's true, too. Bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander and malice are all typical human experiences - things into which we all fall occasionally, to one extent or another. And try as I might, it seems like I can never be rid of it altogether. I'm actually pretty good at it, too, but I just can't always control it though my own effort, no matter how hard I try.

Thank God I don't have to. I don't have to try harder, I just need to "let" more - to trust God more and to give myself to him more. More and more every day. That's my prayer.

More and more every day, Lord. I want to give myself to you more. Moment by moment, more. Today, right now, right this very moment, more. I am yours. Take all my bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander and malice. I lay it down at the foot of the cross and trust you to fill me with kindness and to make me the most tenderhearted guy I know. I accept your forgiveness. I really do. And as a result I want to forgive. More.

Oh, and thank you, Lord, for a wonderful marriage...two of them! I have been doubly blest.