Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Be Prepared’ Category

IMG_1876

Winds in the east, mist coming in.
Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin.
Can’t put me finger on what lies in store,
But I fear what’s to happen all happened before.
*

Once upon a time, in a land far away, I dreamed of things being different. “Once upon a time” was both long ago and possibly and unfortunately not so far away. Perhaps it was only yesterday. As the family and I sat down the other night to watch a few minutes of the movie “Saving Mr. Banks”, I was reminded of that and so much more.

Not so long ago, in a land much farther away, some friends and I climbed a mountain. But, things indeed were different: different from my prior experience, different from my visions of the moment, and different in the result. You see, you can’t escape the winds, no matter how hard you try. And, to quote another song, the funny thing is “It’s OK”.
IMG_1889I had been on this mountain before, but the chosen path was changed. In fact, were it not for the winds of change, we would not have been on this path, this day, at all.

It was just about a week ago that my friends were nearing the summit of our climb. I say “my friends were”, because I had long ago lost sight of them, and was beginning to wonder if I would ever reach the summit myself. The path was steep, I was likely not fully prepared, and there was the wind. As I hiked alone, knowing those friends had gone on before me to reach the top, the wind became suddenly and painfully strong.

The gusts were powerful. The sensations were cold. My mouth was dry, and my tongue was numb. It felt as if the wind would fill the very jacket I wore for protection and would sweep me right off the side of that mountain to an unfortunate landing below. I thought I wanted to quit, to sit down, to give up, and to hope my friends would be back for me later, having experienced the summit without me.

But, it didn’t. Quit, that is; the wind didn’t quit.

I didn’t, either. Quit, that is. I pressed on towards the summit, finally reaching it to the buffeted sound of cheering from my friends as they endured that very same wind.

As we descended the mountain later that morning, I reflected on what we’d just experienced, and was reminded about how life can be. Windy, that is. But, enduring the wind makes for a great story. Sometimes encountering that very wind makes the story possible to begin with.

As I said, I’d been on this mountain. My son and I have traversed its slopes twice prior, and the mountain has taught us to expect the unexpected. Fog, snow, lightning, hail, and rain from a sunny sky have all accompanied our experience here. Wind had, as well, but nothing like the wind this day.

Two of my friends from this day were supposed to have climbed a different mountain with us just a few weeks ago, but winds of change prevented that moment. My father entered his last days of life in the very moments that we were to embark on our journey with these friends, and we had to say no that day. But, you see, enduring the wind makes for a great story.

Sometimes, I might suggest, encountering that very wind makes the story possible to begin with.

Those friends went on to plan this most recent adventure, and they brought two new friends with them. Had it not been for one of life’s windier and most uncomfortable moments, we would not have found ourselves together this past week, nor would I likely have been inspired by the outcome.

IMG_1896
As we all drove home together, life’s winds continued to blow, this time in the form of car trouble. It blessed us yet again with the reminder of how other people will go out of their way to help when you need it the most and expect it the least.

Which brings me back to the inspiration from “Saving Mr. Banks”. Long ago I used to dream that life could be simpler, and wished that my days could be more like the 1950’s, when it seemed that life had fewer distractions, fewer interruptions, and maybe fewer hardships. But, as I often learn later in life, I was wrong to feel that way.

Mr. Walt Disney himself even had hardships back in the 1950’s. The demands and fast pace of today have only replaced the equally demanding world of yesterday, and there are things we have learned and overcome today that could not be said of a prior “simpler time”.

Winds in the east, mist coming in.
Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin.
Can’t put me finger on what lies in store,
But I fear what’s to happen all happened before.
*

Indeed. Let those winds blow. Life’s outcomes lie ahead, and I’m sure some great stories are right there with them.
IMG_1879

*lyrics from Disney’s Mary Poppins

Read Full Post »

IMG_0800
We were made to be courageous
We were made to lead the way
We could be the generation
That finally breaks the chains
We were made to be courageous…
*

I have these friends. They are young. They are active. They care. The future is theirs for the taking.

That doesn’t mean they don’t encounter setbacks, just like all of us have, and do. Not so long ago, I was at their house on an errand, and we were dealing with and discussing a mutual life setback moment that had just occured. As we visited in the driveway before I left, I couldn’t help but notice the street signs in the corner of their yard. Half asking permission, half saying “I’m sorry, but… “, I walked toward the signpost and took out my iPhone to snap the picture shown above. One of the friends quickly replied, “Oh, I see a future blog post coming”. Little did either of us know.

Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3

Down on the corner, out in the street
Willy and the Poorboys are playin’
Bring a nickel; tap your feet.
*

Life moves on. That doesn’t mean things are necessarily easy. However, as the song says, we were made to be courageous. As the other song infers, the beat goes on, and the song on our hearts should be playing loudly for all to see, hear, and tap their feet along with.

The only way we’ll ever stand
Is on our knees with lifted hands
Make us courageous
Lord, make us courageous

Seek justice
Love mercy
Walk humbly with your God

In the war of the mind
I will make my stand
In the battle of the heart
And the battle of the hand

In the war of the mind
I will make my stand
In the battle of the heart
And the battle of the hand

We were made to be courageous
And we’re taking back the fight
We were made to be courageous
And it starts with us tonight

To quote the fictional wiseman, Forrest, Forrest Gump, “that’s all I’ve got to say about that”.

The beat goes on.

We were made to be courageous.

I suspect my friends will not remain down, on the corner, for long. After all, they live at the corner of Liberty and Courageous. What better crossroads could anyone ask for?

* Courageous lyrics by Casting Crowns

* Down on the Corner lyrics by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Read Full Post »

There is a Biblical verse for every moment in life, so it seems. Today, I wish a verse existed that began with “Here’s the scoop…”

Working at Oklahoma Christian University, we often quote Isaiah 40:31: But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.They will soar high on wings like eagles.They will run and not grow weary.They will walk and not faint.

Other translations begin this verse with “They that wait upon The Lord…”.

As a family who believes and trusts in Him, waiting seems to be the better fit in this moment.

In a world plagued by the babel we brought upon ourselves at Babel, the interchangeable nature of words in translating our languages provides a beautiful mixture of meaning and metaphor as we try to make sense of our lives on this broken creation called The Earth.

As I made the early morning drive today from our temporary sleeping abode at my sister’s to the medical suite that has emerged at our Mom and Dad’s, a song by Switchfoot was playing on the radio:

Fumbling his confidence
And wondering why the world has passed him by
Hoping that he’s bent for more than arguments
And failed attempts to fly, fly

We were meant to live for so much more
Have we lost ourselves?
Somewhere we live inside
Somewhere we live inside …

Dreaming about Providence
And whether mice or men have second tries
Maybe we’ve been livin with our eyes half open
Maybe we’re bent and broken, broken

We want more than this world’s got to offer
We want more than this world’s got to offer
We want more than the wars of our fathers
And everything inside screams for second life, yeah

We were meant to live for so much more
Have we lost ourselves?
We were meant to live for so much more…

We were meant to live …

The medical experts have told us, daily, there are less than 24 hours remaining, and they’ve proved it by the level of medical and comfort care resources provided. And 24 hours later, they have re-approved the same assessment for yet another 24, and we remain as both “those who trust”, and “they that wait”.

A night or two ago, in this ever rambling week, a conversation I had with one on a blanket on the floor became a conversation among many, and ultimately a prayer I found myself offering with and on behalf of us all. We asked God to allow us to let go of our agenda, our understanding, and to rely on His timing. I’ve never wished to be in a patriarchal place in life, and yet, here we are.

In his final lucid and not so lucid conscious moments almost a week ago, our Dad proclaimed to all present for me to be “Second in Command”, and I wonder now if there is not an analogy in even those late moment words.

God is in command. We are His children. We were meant to live for so much more.

We have not lost ourselves, or each other.

And so, we trust.

And we remain “they that wait”.

20140705-100101-36061113.jpg

Read Full Post »

It’s 3:00 in the morning, and I’m still awake,
so I picked up a pen and a page,
and I started writing just what I’d say,
If we were face to face…
*

Those words from a song are with me now, along with so many others. I’ve been sitting quietly here with my father this night, and the sands of time are sinking.

As I’ve been with Dad tonight in his room, listening and watching, I’ve had the blessing of reflecting and noting some of my two sister’s more poignant memories and mixing them with my own as we prepare for Dad’s upcoming memorial.

As I emailed a draft of those memories to those two special ladies a few moments ago, I found an email of a blog post from a former colleague and teacher, speaking to the beauty of a song by Anne Ross Cousin, and it seemed the perfect gift from God in this moment. It is a beautiful song, and no doubt is one of my Dad’s old favorites. Thanks to a man named Mark for sharing them earlier.

The words to this hymn are below. I hope you enjoy them as I have tonight, as we await our Dad’s opportunity to be with Christ, where He is throned where glory dwelleth…

The sands of time are sinking, the dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for—the fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark hath been the midnight, but dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

O Christ, He is the fountain, the deep, sweet well of love!
The streams of earth I’ve tasted more deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

The King there in His beauty, without a veil is seen:
It were a well spent journey, though seven deaths lay between:
The Lamb with His fair army, doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory—glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

With mercy and with judgment my web of time He wove,
And aye, the dews of sorrow were lustered with His love;
I’ll bless the hand that guided, I’ll bless the heart that planned
When throned where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

O I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved’s mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner into His “house of wine.”
I stand upon His merit—I know no other stand,
Not even where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

*These Simple Truths lyrics by Sidewalk Prophets

Read Full Post »

photo (1)
Greetings from the Heartland, where there’s a whole lot of shaking going on. As if life was not already enough to be awakened by, and for, many of us “in these parts” were shaken out of bed not once, but twice, early this A.M.

You know the possibility is real.

You know the danger is out there.

Sometimes you can hear, and feel, what is coming your way.

You hold on.

Your heart skips a beat.

You brace yourself.

You hear the rumble and feel the vibration, then the hard stuff starts, and you sometimes find yourself praying for it to go ahead and stop.

If it’s an “aftershock”, you might even break out in a bit of a cold sweat.

Not only that: we have been having some earthquakes around here the past few days. Rumor has it they’ve always been around. The same can be said of life’s more predictable unpredictable moments.

“Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18)

We studied a little about King David with our church family yesterday, and his prayer sums it up pretty well. But, if I was in a questioning mood this morning, I might ask you the following:

How is the weather?

How are things at work?

What’s the song on your heart at the moment?

What’s on your “to do list”?

How’s the family? How are your friends doing?

Are you spending time in The Word?

Where’s your compass pointing at the moment? North, or South?

photo
At the center of it all, you try to take measure of what is going on around you, to see where it is coming from, and to better understand the magnitude of your issues. If only life had a “QuakeFeed” application.

I’m left to wonder: why did God create earthquakes, among other things?

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19: 11-13)

There are storms.

There are deadlines, and disappointments, and stress.

There are moments of “Amazing Grace”.

The list seems to be never ending.

Friends and family are a blessing, even in times of hurt and hardship.

There never seems to be enough time. We should make it: force the issue, even.

My compass is a floater, and seems to always be spinning wildly. Thankfully, the needle always settles down, at least momentarily, to point the way North.

We are at the epicenter of life. This much is true. The question is, or should be, “what are we doing here?” Life is not to be lived out in a cave, where no one can harm us, and things won’t break, including our hearts from time to time. The beauty, the majesty, and the moments are to be lived out there.

The shaking won’t stop, but we have to not only be prepared for it, but to respond appropriately, even if the “QuakeFeed” aspect of life is retrospective, not predictive. We know where the fault lines are, what the risks entail, and that we live on earth shaken ground.

“And now, O Lord God, I am your servant; do as you have promised concerning me and my family. Confirm it as a promise that will last forever.” (2 Samuel 7:25)

Welcome to the heart land, where there’s a whole lot of shaking going on. We even have an earthquake or two, from time to time.

Read Full Post »

download (1)I’m not a perfect person. Truth is, none of us are. Accordingly, life, this life, is lived under a curse. But we are created to be so much more. And we are becoming that, or at least we are put in a position to do so, but we have to make the choice.

Sometimes, the choice is to simply endure. And understand or accept that “it is what it is”, to borrow a phrase: we have to choose to understand, even when we really don’t.

I’m not a perfect person. Accordingly, there’s a lot I still don’t understand.

One of those things I don’t understand is why we suffer. I understand the curse, and I’m accepting of the fact that we are a sinful people. I am a sinful person, far from perfect. And yet, God has called me, He tells me He loves me, so I’m left to wonder “why”. If you have ever watched someone you love age and endure some of the challenges that come late in life, you might understand a bit of what I’m asking here. My wife summed it up well in a recent conversation by saying “death is just a waste: you are born, you grow, you make something of your life, you have people who love you, and then it just ends”.

In this context, I’ve spent some time thinking about new life coming into this world. Babies are beautiful to behold. There are few who would debate that. They are peaceful. They are dependent. They truly don’t carry an agenda. And, for at least a time, their infancy is likely the only time in this life that their form is without any blemish. It is just as it was created to be, and it is a beautiful thing.

But, if you’ve ever watched the process of childbirth, it’s not pretty. Truth be told, the process is indeed a byproduct of the curse of man dating back to our earliest ancestors, Adam and Eve.

Adam and Eve were created full and whole, and God saw that it was good. But, a few bad decisions later, God told Eve that there would be pain in childbirth. Pain, and risk, and blood, and loss. He told her that shortly after they realized that, in fact, they would “surely die”.

But, therein lies some wonder, and pain, today. Pain, and risk, and blood, and loss, but followed by joy, and relationship, and life. Death is a sad and ugly thing, but it doesn’t have to be, and maybe we can see it in a new context. It’s not about the right now. It’s about the soon, and very soon, and going to see the King.

Scripture tells us that “In the beginning was the Word”, and we have come to understand that God’s plan for redemption was always there. That redemption was not pretty, in its occurrence, as scripture tells us He was disfigured, and some could not look upon Him. Pain, and risk, and blood, and loss, but followed by joy, and relationship, and life.

So, if the plan for redemption was always there, maybe our passing from this life is but a type for the pains of childbirth, as we pass from this womb, this earthly existence where our souls have been given life and have been nurtured and developed into creatures that are fully prepared to exist in the new world that we are created to live in.

When I think about it that way, all sorts of images shared years ago by CS Lewis in “The Great Divorce” are brought to mind, and I begin to be able to better ignore the pain and the discomfort of the journey for the beauty that is before us.
download
As I close these thoughts, the inspiration to that opening phrase comes from a song appropriately called “The Reason”. It was likely penned under a slightly different mindset, but maybe with the “Y” in you capitalized in a few appropriate places, one could argue this love song as a prayer to our God. Take a listen and see if you might agree. In the interim, here we find ourselves, laboring as in childbirth, and longing for the light of a new day. It’s OK, because it’s a great day, indeed. We have the promise, and maybe we better understand “the reason” for it all.


http://youtu.be/ZADpco6Zn9I”

20140608-103152-37912022.jpg

Read Full Post »

Unknown

Plumb: a lead weight attached to a line and used to indicate a vertical direction.

out of plumb or off plumb:  out of vertical or true.

So defined is the term by Merriam-Webster online.

As one who has done a little wallpapering in my day, I’ve learned the value, sometimes the hard way, of being out of plumb.

Is it straight?   Is it true?    Does it stand tall?   Does it risk falling over?   Or, much less risky but much more visible, will the condition call attention to itself for years to come?

My first experience was as a teenager helping my mother re-paper our dining room in Shreveport, Louisiana.   Having never done the job before, we just jumped in.  While the work was done quickly and the wall surfaces felt nice and smooth, it was soon evident when standing back a few feet that the vertical stripe pattern had a distinct tilt to it, even though it looked like we were putting it up straight.   Fortunately, the china cabinet just happened to fit nicely in a place that would hide our error, and on we went.   Undoubtedly, it was noticed by others in the years that followed.plumb

The building I office in at my employer is vintage 1950’s, and is the product of a noted west coast architect from that era.   It recently underwent a major gutting and renovation, and only at that time did we discover one of the most visible outer walls, leading from the ground up to a 7 foot window ledge and bounded by ground to ceiling windows on each side, is far from plumb.   The error was hidden in the past by a particular sub-wall and door facing, but cannot be hidden any longer. The tilt is now prominent for all to see, and makes for an interesting story.   And yet, it is still a great building, with wonderful history and an impactful legacy.   So, being “out of plumb” is not always equivalent to fatal failure, even if less than desirable.   Sometimes great character comes from such flaws.

I recently attended a concert event with some friends.   One of the opening acts was a singer who calls herself “Plumb”.   Her most current hit song seems to hit the nail right on the head, or maybe more appropriately to be straight and true.   Consider the lyrics for yourself and see if you agree:

Well, everybody’s got a story to tell

And everybody’s got a wound to be healed

I want to believe there’s beauty here

‘Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on

I can’t let go, I can’t move on

I want to believe there’s meaning here

How many times have you heard me cry out

“God please take this”?

How many times have you given me strength to

Just keep breathing?

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

Standing on a road I didn’t plan

Wondering how I got to where I am

I’m trying to hear that still small voice

I’m trying to hear above the noise

How many times have you heard me cry out

“God please take this”?

How many times have you given me strength to

Just keep breathing?

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

Though I walk,

Though I walk through the shadows

And I, I am so afraid

Please stay, please stay right beside me

With every single step I take

How many times have you heard me cry out?

And how many times have you given me strength?

How many times have you heard me cry out

“God please take this”?

How many times have you given me strength to

Just keep breathing?

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

I need you now

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

I need you now

I need you now

I’ve reached a place in life where many roads are converging.  Some call it the sandwich generation.   Our parents have aged.   Our kids somehow suddenly reached a point that their actions are more impactful.   I look in the morning mirror, and am starkely reminder that both statements are true of myself, as well.

Some call it mid life, and refer to it as a time of crisis.   I believe all of life presents moments of challenge and crisis, but may I suggest our response and reaction is every bit as important, even more so, as finding out we may have been “out of plumb” to begin with.   Maybe it is in mid-life that we are better equipped to reflect and respond to the inherent flaws in our prior efforts.

There’s another word called grace, and even another called forgiveness.   They remain with us, even if the evidence of a tilt remains.

Nothing says it better than Hebrews 14: 12-16:

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.  

 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »