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As I drove home last evening, I reflected upon my last three appointments of the day. Two were in homes, one was at church. Each one was totally different from the other two, in people, circumstances, and conversations. Yet, I believed, God was at work in all three (though, again, in quite different ways). Crazy!

I turned on the radio to listen to the Red Wings, remembering that Monica was down at the LCA. Glancing at the clock, I figured the game should be in the second period. Did I hear that score right? It couldn't be! I listened closely for the next few minutes, waiting for it to be mentioned again. Sure enough, the Wings were ahead 5-1, and the game was not even half over! Crazy!

Once home, I turned the TV on to watch the rest of the game, and discovered that the craziness had just begun. The final score was 8-2. Mantha even had a "Gordie Howe Hat Trick!" For a recap, I recommend you go to the Free Press, rather than the AP, to get an accurate account of the rest of the story. Like I said, "Craziness!"

This morning my mind is back on those three appointments. One relationship developed through the reference of a member of STL. One through someone who has never been a member of STL. The third simply because, out of the blue, they called STL looking for help.

Some words that God gave us through David came to my mind. "Lord, your faithful love reaches to heaven, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your judgments like the deepest sea. Lord, you preserve people and animals. How priceless your faithful love is, God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They are filled from the abundance of your house. You let them drink from your refreshing stream. For the wellspring of life is with you. By means of your light we see light." (Psalm 36.5-9)

Each of our lives are crazy in different ways, and often in differing levels. We can go from "crazy busy" to "crazy bored" in an instant (though I certainly seem to encounter far more people on the "crazy busy" side of life). Before the Wings had gotten my attention, I had functioned as baby-holder, prayer-partner, referee, and a few other things in the matter of just a couple hours ... and that was not a half of the craziness.

Which is exactly why I need to live in promises like the one above. It calms my heart to be reminded that his "faithful love reaches to heaven" and his "righteousness is like the highest mountains." The pressure is totally off of me, and all, as he reassures us, "People take refuge in the shadow of (his) wings." In the midst of the craziness around us and within us, he empowers us to say, "How priceless is your faithful love, God! By means of your light we see light."

And that, I believe, is the real craziness. Through no merit or worthiness of our own, but simply because of his love for us, Jesus enters into our craziness to bring us refuge that can be found nowhere else. He enters our darkness and, "by means of (his) light we see light." Somehow, as he abides in us, we are eventually able to reflect upon the past and realize he was in control the entire time.

And, if that was true yesterday, it certainly will be true again today. In fact, whether I end up behaving like a human or an animal in the new craziness that today will bring, I know that I will be able to continually "drink from (his) refreshing stream." Why, because his Word assures me: "Lord, you preserve people and animals."

Like I said, "Craziness!"

Monica and I became grandparents this past Friday. Brooklyn Marie was born at 2:43 p.m. She came home from the hospital on Sunday. All is well, and this certainly is one of the most exceptional events a family can experience. With the choirmaster of old we say, "Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds!" (Psalm 66.1-3). ... BUT

Oh, I know I am entering into the danger zone with that word. I have no intention of tempering the joy and excitement (and I know I couldn't even if I wanted to). Nor is my joy any less than anyone else's in the family, but ...

But other realities of life continue in the midst of all the joy! And another reality that is facing me this week is that many things in our world are broken, and I cannot fix them. For instance, the shooting in Texas has people across the country talking about Christians bringing guns to church to, I presume, "shoot the bad guys!" For instance, just as it appeared that Tuesday's Text was blossoming into a very special blessing, the app on my phone started malfunctioning (Three or four different attempts have been made to fix it, but, so far, to no avail - it continues to insist upon functioning like a typical group text). For instance, rather than catching up on the calls I really should be making, I see myself falling farther and farther behind. Not only is the world broken, so am I!

And then, just when I needed it most, God used Jim Leyland (of all people) to rescue me! There, on page 9C of Today's Free Press, he was quoted to say, "When you're high, never get too happy because you know you'll be going down. And when you're down, never get too low on yourself or mope and pout because it will go back up. It's a roller-coaster. And the people who can remain steady and even are the ones who end up at the top when it's all said and done." New babies bring 24-7 responsibilities. Technology glitches get updates. God gets people touched by the Gospel in many different ways, and by many different people.

A good way to work at becoming 'steady and even' is to follow the Philippians 4.4-7 Formula: "Rejoice in the Lord always" PLUS "Let your gentleness be known to all - the Lord is near" PLUS "Don't worry about anything, but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." The net result? "The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus."

Or, as it was expressed in our Wednesday morning men's FHL, "Abide in God's Word. Be yourself. And know that the correctives will come."

Jesus puts it this way, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8.31-32). Neither the truth that Jesus speaks of, or the freedom, are of the type that the world runs after. However they do connect to 'the ones who end up at the top when it's all said and done.'

The bifocals I wear are very helpful. They help my eyes to see clearly things that are both far and near. What I need, though, is a second pair that helps everything behind my eyes see things just as clearly ... to remember that in the midst of life's joys and blessing that "the Lord is near" ... and to likewise be assured that, amidst the brokenness he remains "an ever present help in trouble." (Psalm 46.1) ... for this is the truth that sets us free ... the peace that passes all human understanding ... and what Paul speaks of as he writes, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." (Romans 15.13)

And, by the way, I know you are just dying to see the pictures I have in my phone ...

Sometimes an old dog needs to learn new tricks. Sometimes the dog's old tricks still seem pretty good. And at other times the old dog just goes along for the ride. This week I am not sure if this old dog is wagging his tail or panting at the other end.

In light of last week's texting fiasco, I started all over from scratch. Over the weekend I went through my entire contacts list and generated a totally new list for Tuesday's Text. It was probably 5 times longer than the previous list. My logic? Anyone who does not like it can tell me so, and I will remove their name from the list.

I sent out a trial text on Monday morning, and received positive comments from more people than were on my original list. With Tuesday's transmission even more comments came my way ... along with some requests to add a few more names to the list. It is now Thursday morning and I still have not heard a negative comment! Wham - the old dog learns a new trick.

In the conversations generated around the texts, I have been gaining additional feedback on this weekly epistle of spiritual encouragement. Last week I also experimented with a 'resend' option that Mail Chimp offers. At my request on Monday, I had it resend last Thursday's note to all who had not opened it last week ... or at least to those Mail Chimp thought had not opened it! The responses I received all said basically the same thing. "We like reading it once each week - but we saw it the first time! Why did you send it out to us again?" Wham! Wham - the dog's old trick is OK as it is.

And then the old dog just goes along for the ride. Did you know that STL's Sunday worship is now on FaceBook Live? Become our friend and you can watch it at 9:30 a.m., or any time after that. This is all happening because a few creative people said, "We can handle this. You just keep doing what you are doing." Now that it is up and running, they already are working on revisions to improve the quality! Triple Whammy in the technology ring.

The real Triple whammy, though, comes to us in the Pauline Benediction." "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (2 Corinthians 13.14) As we receive this blessing we are reminded that it is by the "grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that we are saved" (Ephesians 2.8), and that it was "God who so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3.16), and "that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; you were called by him into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Corinthians 1.7-9)

Or, in other words, because "God so loved you" he saved you by the "grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" and brought you into an intimate relationship (fellowship) with him by the power of the Spirit.

That's the Triple Whammy message that he is sending out to you via texts, email, FaceBook Live and whatever means available. And, if you are still wondering why, perhaps you need to read the previous two paragraphs again. Wham! Wham! Wham! Triple Slammed with his love is what we are.

One of my favorite hymns of praise is "Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise" (LSB 802). The first verse goes on to say, "In light inaccessible hid from our eyes, most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise."

In the epic movie "Rudy," Father Cavanaugh speaks the sage phrase, "There is a God, and I am not him." I am sensing this very thing today ... or more so. My hymn of self-reflection is a dirge, "Mortal, imbecile, what a fool am I."

I am at the cottage for a couple days of personal retreat and leaf raking. I arrived in daylight, cleared the leaves off the roof, and connected the internet and tv ... all was looking good. And then the dirge began ... Try as I did ... with the conditions looking so good ... I could not get a fire to stay lit. Leaves, twigs, wood, paper, gas ... each fire burned for a good 90 seconds ... and then died. I needed a fire person ... and I am not him. Then I tried to figure out how to put oil in my new leaf blower, but could not! I took it to the local mechanic, and ... I'll keep it short ... the solution was one that a kindergartner could have noticed. I needed a person with a little bit of practical know-how ... and I AM NOT HIM! (And that is only half of the story)

Or, in the words of the dirge, "Mortal, imbecile, what a fool am I!"

There are two sides of this coin for all of us. 'Heads are up" and we are able to see the good things about ourselves. And there is "Tails are down" in which we see our inadequacies, faults, and failures. And, all to often, the ratio. as we see it, is equal to - or worse than - the 3-1 favoring "tails are down." We recognize only the first verses of Isaiah 6, as we say with the prophet of old, "Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Armies." (Isaiah 6.50)

In the midst of this dirge, it was revealed to me that I need a revelation ... an opinion coming from a new and different voice ... the very same voice that announced to that ancient seer, "Your iniquity is removed and your sin is atoned for." (Isaiah 6.7) This alien voice assures all of God's people that "though your sins are scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are crimson red, they will be like wool." (Isaiah 1.18). It is none other than the 'other worldly voice' of Jesus that announces to me (as he did to the woman caught in adultery) - and you, "Your sins are forgiven." (Luke 7.48)

To this the 3-in-1 voice of the Holy God - after his voice speaks tenderly "that our time of forced labor is over, our iniquity has been pardoned, and we have received from the Lord's hand double for all our sins." (Isaiah 40.2) - adds "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2.9) With this, and in spite of the "Mortal, imbecile, what a fool am I" dirge that my inner voice sings, I am given a new, louder voice that shouts "I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4.13)

Thus today - and every day - the Immortal, invisible, God only Wise speaks to me - and to you, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4.4-7)

Or, in what what Father Cavanaugh and all of God's baptized people - including you and me - aught rightly to conclude, "There is a God, and I am not him ... but he lives in me." And that makes all of the difference in the world ... and in our eternity ... for, in Christ we are both immortal and invincible!

AND HOW ABOUT THOSE ASTROS!

I had my iPhone updated this week (You don't think I would attempt that on my own, do you?). As with most updates, the changes seemed to come in three categories: 1) "This is nice - a good idea;" 2) "This is OK, but it will take a little time to get used to;" and 3) "OH NO! Why in the world did they do this and how am I going to get around it?" The third category usually seems to be discovered at less than opportune times.

Tuesday morning arrives and I decide that I am going to send out 'Tuesday's Text' much earlier than usual. I go to the app on my phone, and what do you think I discovered? The 'update' eliminated nearly all of the names of the people who had asked to receive it! And, of course, as organized as I am, I had not saved the list anywhere else. My remaining list was terribly 'outdated.'

So much for an early sending of the day's Bible passage with God's encouragement.

As the day went on, I realized I would just need to use any open time I found to scroll through my contacts and add names back to the list. This is when my second problem occurred. Quite simply, I had almost no recollection of who had asked to be on the list.

So phase two of the strategy was developed. What I decided to do fell into the category of "Do I ask for permission or forgiveness?" Risk taker that I tend to be, I think you know what my decision was. Before the day was half done, I had gone through my entire list of contacts and added to the list of Tuesday's Text recipients everyone that I thought might benefit from receiving it, and the passage for the day (2 Corinthians 5.15) was sent.

As the text was sent, I prayed, "Oh Lord Jesus, keep your Isaiah 55 promise." "My word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do. You will indeed to out with joy and be peacefully guided." (Isaiah 55.11-12)

It was sometime later that I noticed another problem. The app that I use for sending out Tuesday's Text had a new category entitled "NoGroup". And any names on that list that I had attempted to add to the TT list were automatically excluded. As you can imagine, by the time I discovered this it was too late in the day to do anything about it.

As it often is in our earthly story, the bottom line has good news and bad news. First the good news: A variety of 'first time receivers' thanked me for the text - some even gave me names and numbers of others to send it to. The bad news: Most of the people who had specifically asked to receive the text did not! To you I express my apologies, and ask that we work on a solution together: Please resend your request to be included. At the same time, I will be transferring names from the NoGroup group to the Tuesday Text group.

And with this comes a word of the Lord that he is constantly updating (and is never outdated), "The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; he gathers Israel's exiled people. He heals the broken hearted and bandages their wounds ... Our Lord is great, vast in power; his understanding is infinite. The Lord helps the oppressed but brings the wicked to the ground." (Psalm 147.2-3, 5-6)

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