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Blogger, Christ-follower, Encourager, Friend, Husband, Dad

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Could Someone Please Adjust the Thermostat?

Does anyone around here recall a crazier July in terms of weather?  On the morning of July 2, I put on a sweater to drink coffee on my back porch at 59 degrees.  Those few days of cool were followed up by several miserable triple-digit days.  Then we had another stretch of days of cool temperatures and glorious, refreshing rain.  Yep, the old saying is true—if you don’t like the weather in Texas just wait a half hour or so.

Have you ever noticed the way temperature affects people’s moods?  Those cold-natured, reptilian folks who obviously have no blood get downright testy when the A/C comes on.  It can make life tough for warm-blooded normal people.  Ok, I was just kidding with the “reptilian” and “normal” comments, but those who are like me can only take off so many articles of clothing.  For the rest of you, can I get you a blanket?

I’m not sure temperatures contribute to testiness anywhere more than in church.  In my 20 years as a pastor, I used to fantasize about mounting “dummy” thermostats on the walls and really controlling the temperature from one central, secret location.  That way, all those people who come inside and walk directly to the thermostat before their bodies adjust could crank it to their hearts’ content.  Just turning the knob or pushing the button would help them psychologically, but they wouldn’t really be messing with the perfect temperature that I had set so I would be comfortable.  It is, after all, really all about me.

I was texting this morning with my favorite daughter (who is no longer sick, by the way) in India.  This was their final Sunday of their ministry trip before they begin the trek home on Thursday and arrive at DFW Saturday afternoon.  The church they were with has no building.  They meet in the pastor’s home.  This is a three bedroom, one bathroom home where nine people live.  People walk for miles to get there for worship on Sunday.  Some are lucky enough to have a motorcycle or scooter and some of them traveled as far as sixty miles to get there.  The house has one “swamp cooler” window unit and a few fans to circulate the air when the intermittent electricity is actually on.

Two weeks ago, about fifty people crowded into that little house for Sunday worship.  Last Sunday, there were almost seventy. This week, favorite daughter counted over ninety.  Thankfully, they were not there in June when temperatures of 130 are not unheard of.  They have only experienced 118 at the hottest during this trip.  Even days in the 90s with humidity and no A/C feel like, to quote her, “the surface of the sun.”  The worshipers didn’t head for the thermostat.  They couldn’t have pushed their way to it, even if there had been one. 

Humbling, isn’t it?  Maybe they could teach us something about how much our lives matter to God.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Prayer That Never Fails

Last Sunday morning on the way to church, Mrs. Sweetie and I talked about prayer.  Prayer has been central to our lives for many years, but there has been an intensifying of prayers for the past few days.  Our daughter and son-in-law are on an extended visit to friends/ministry partners in the Punjab region of India.  They had been there about six days when they got some sort of stomach ailment and spent several days being really sick.  On day three, they spent ten hours in the local clinic hooked up to IV fluids and receiving injections for nausea, and other related ailments.  As of the time of this writing (after almost a week of being sick) they are finally feeling much better.

When your kids are sick and are over 10,000 miles from home, you realize that prayer is just about all you have.  Oh, we have passports, and could hop on a plane and spend two days and tens of thousands of dollars to get to where they are.  Once there, we could … uh … pray.  The good news is that they are not over 10,000 miles away from God and He loves them even more than we do.  The bad news is that sometimes we don’t know how to pray.  We beg God to keep them safe and make them well.  We ask Him to be glorified in their circumstances.  We tell Him we are scared and helpless.

Our number two child, the newlywed, has us praying too.  He was filling in this week in three performances of the musical drama TEXAS, in Palo Duro Canyon.  He is not in the cast for the entire season.  They have hired him to play one of the leading roles (Colonel Henry, for those of you who are familiar with the show), while the regular actor takes a short vacation.  These three performances were his only opportunity and there was rain in the forecast.  The drought-stricken Texas panhandle is desperately in need of rain, but I want my boy to get to have this opportunity.  Mrs. Sweetie laughed when I actually prayed out loud and said, “God, I can’t bring myself to pray that it won’t rain, but I’d sure appreciate it if he could get these shows in.”  (Update - All three performances happened, along with accompanying rain)

A few years back, I enjoyed a series of novels by Jan Karon.  The Mitford series chronicled the adventures of Father Tim, an Episcopal priest in a small North Carolina town.  Father Tim seemed to always find himself involved with people in desperate circumstances.  Many times he would advise them to pray “the prayer that never fails.”  What is that prayer?  “Thy will be done.”

If Jesus Himself could pray that prayer (Matthew 6:10, Matthew 26:42, Mark 14:36, Luke 11:2, Luke 22:42) then I’m thinking it may be a great way for me to tell the One for whom my life matters most that I trust Him completely.

Can you pray the prayer that never fails?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

And Now Competing in the Floor Exercise ... Dr. Floppy

“When I was a younger man, I would have been able to stop this.”  That was what I was thinking in that moment when the world went slow-mo and I was on the way to one of the most ungraceful public sidewalk tumbles in the history of Wise County.

We were waiting for a table at a popular restaurant and I decided to make a quick trip up the block to check something out.  “Trip” turned out to be the operative word.  There were only three or four little steps to ascend, but I didn't lift my foot quite high enough to clear the top one.  I stumbled forward and tried to get my legs back under me, but the old knees wouldn't support the extra weight from visiting too many popular restaurants and I was soon flopping on the sidewalk.  Fortunately, I didn't face plant.

A few feet away, coming toward me from the opposite direction, was a family headed for the same restaurant. I heard their gasps of horror and/or amusement as the middle aged man in the Hawaiian shirt did his tumbling routine and definitely did not stick the landing.  (I’m pretty sure I won’t be ready for the 2016 Olympics).  I heard someone say, “Are you alright?” The next thing I knew there was a man standing over me in his best umpire pose proclaiming that I was “Safe!”  Finally, his wife complimented me on my form as they headed on by to the restaurant.  I told them that I was happy to provide them with a floor show to accompany their dinner.

When I got back to Mrs. Sweetie and our friends who were waiting inside, I had to tell them the whole story.  It helped them understand the giggling patrons that had walked in just ahead of me.  I got a couple of bruises from my failed floor exercise, but I also got a great story and even got to entertain an unsuspecting family out for an early Saturday dinner.

I’m actually glad someone was there to see my tumble. It would have been a shame to waste the opportunity to brighten someone else’s day.  Even at my expense.

Proverbs 11:2 says, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”  I’m not sure that I gained any wisdom from this particular event, but I have had plenty of other experiences that have taught me the wisdom of not taking myself too seriously. 

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” It wasn't haughtiness, but clumsiness, that caused this particular tumble.  The kind of tumbles caused by pride and haughtiness can have much more devastating consequences.  When we get to the point of thinking that we are “all that”, we are treading into dangerous territory.

Our lives matter so much to God that He sometimes uses a tumble to get our lives back in balance.

Humble wisdom from Dr. Floppy.