Psalms 147 (ESV)
1 Praise the LORD!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The LORD lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
Our experiment planting Snapdragons last year
turned out to be a beautiful success for our flower garden. My
wife Lisa and I decided we would plant them again. We began
the process of planting new Snapdragons.
Things were going well, quickly digging holes,
removing the young plants from the plats, placing them in the newly dug
holes and filling up the gaps with fresh soil; we got into a routine.
By the thirtieth plant we got careless and broke one of the stems
holding up the plants first tender blossom in our dig, separate, plant
and fill routine. Thirty-five healthy young Snapdragons reaching for the
sun and one broken blossom, bent over pointing towards the ground, a
casualty of our carelessness. Being the garden pessimist of the
back-yard garden team, I was waiting for the young blossom to die and
fall off in the days to come.
A week later, on a Sunday, I visited my broken
Snapdragon to see if the blossom had fallen off yet, but I saw the
flower facing the sun, again. Though the stem was still broken,
its flower was healed as it faced the sun, again. It was as if
some invisible gardener had "lifted up" the beautiful blossom on the
broken stem to rebuke my pessimism.
Often we have experienced brokenness because of our
own carelessness and thoughtless reliance upon routine. Sometimes
it is at the hands of others who were equally careless with words or
actions. The world may seem like it was waiting for our hopes and
dreams to be destroyed because we have been broken, but for those of us
who have struggled to keep our eyes fixed upon the Son, the invisible
gardener of our souls has lifted us up and healed us, again and again.
We may still bear some of the scars of our brokenness, but we no less
blossomed in His light. For this we can sing praises to our God.
II Corinthians 4:9 (ESV)
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing
power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but
not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not
forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body
the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in
Corinthians 1:27-31 (ESV)
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose
what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low
and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing
things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence
of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made
our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31
Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the
In Spring, my wife and I always await the blossoming
of our irises in our flower garden. They are always the first of
the big blossom flowers each Spring, beautiful, rich in their color and
reach. After a storm one evening we discovered that one of the first
buds had been broken away, separated from the plant, and it lie dead on
the ground. It was almost as if one of our beloved cats had died,
but not quite. My wife, the garden optimist, foolishly picked up
the bud, placed it back in the plant's pedestal and said, "Let's see
what happens." "It's surely dead," I said to myself. Low and
behold, two days later, it blossomed! Though smaller than the
other blossoms, and a bit withered and deformed, its color was richer
than the others and its miraculous recovery from separation and
resurrection from death made it the most glorious blossom in the garden.
All the other blossoms will soon wither and be forgotten, but the
wounded blossom's glory will never be forgotten because my wife chose
what was dead and "foolishly" brought it back to life.
Ephesians 2:1-7 (ESV)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked,
following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of
the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3
among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out
the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of
wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because
of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in
our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have
been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the
heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might
show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in
As a prison chaplain, I hear the confessions of many a
lost soul...murders, kidnappers, sex offenders, you name the type of
crime, I hear the confession. Recently in one of my faith base
groups, a criminal confessed fantasies of revenge involving a wood
chipper and had found the grace to forgive the fanaticized object of his
revenge after so many years. Like the broken blossom in my garden,
this broken soul, dead to sin, had found redemption in Christ and the
riches of grace to forgive much by giving up the brutal fantasy of his
eternal revenge. It was a miracle that will never be forgotten. The
forgiveness shown by this "despised" member of our society far exceeded
anything I have seen in any Church...God chose what was foolish, weak
and despised to shame the wise and strong.
10:2-5, 16 (ESV)
But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the
gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep
by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he
goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A
stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do
not know the voice of strangers.”
16 And I have other sheep that are not of this
fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there
will be one flock, one shepherd.
My wife, Lisa, is the lover of all things living in our
small suburban neighborhood. Just from our little yard, she feeds
birds, chickens, squirrels, and of course our beloved "kitties".
When it is eating time she can be heard calling our family cats to eat, "kitty,
kitty, KIT - T!" Recently, a new one of God's warm blooded
creatures started listening to the voice of my wife calling, "kitty,
kitty, KIT - T!" "Rocky", as she named him, is a wild raccoon.
Though not fitting the common definition of a "kitty", by responding to
the voice of my wife, he finds love and food, just like the other
kitties. The love and sustenance Rocky was to receive was not determined
by whether he fit the category of a "kitty", rather, it was determined
by whose voice he listened to. Rocky was of "another fold" but he
listened to the same shepherd's (or "cat-herd's) voice. Thus, he
was to receive the same love and care.
Many of us, before we found Christ, were not of the
typical Church fold. Many of us were homeless and lost to the
family of God. But, in our darkest hours, we heard a divine voice
calling, "kitty, kitty, KIT - T!". "Come to me all who are heavy laden
and I will give you rest."
When we responded in the affirmative to the call, we
finally found God's love and eternal hope in the voice of Jesus.
It did not matter who we were or where we came from. What mattered
was to whose voice we listened and responded. We were home, now,
in the family of God, though of "another fold."
Revelation 3:20 (ESV) Behold, I stand at the door and
knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to
him and eat with him, and he with me.
II Peter 1:14 13 Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in
this tabernacle [tent], to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; 14 Knowing that
shortly I must put off this my tabernacle [tent], even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.
Recently, my mother died in the Critical Care Unit of our
local hospital while tenaciously struggling to hold on to life for her last
several weeks. While I prayed and read the Bible to her, she suffered what
seemed a massive stoke that shook her body like a fragile tent in a violent
storm. A few seconds later, her body relaxed in peace as the raging storm
passed. It was as if someone had removed the main stay of a tent and it
slowly billowed to the ground, empty of its former occupants. A few
minutes later the medical staff removed all the tubes and wires that seemed to
tether my mother to her earthly existence. Her life here on earth was
over. It was time to untether the cords that bound her and fold up
the collapsed tent, never to be occupied again. Her soul was now free from
the grip of this world's storms of pain and suffering and grief, unbound by the
cords of this life to enter peacefully into the next. Such was the end and
beginning of her life.
I realized that like the Apostle Peter, this life is only a
"tent" that must inevitably be untethered from the earth and put off like
our day clothes when the night of death comes. Like my beloved mother, we
who have Christ still have hope for eternal life where the storms of life can no
longer molest and shake our earthly tent.
I Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be
ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even
as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose
again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For
this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain
unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the
Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the
archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in
the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
In this we shall find our comfort. Thank God for His
indescribable gift of our mothers and His comfort and hope.
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they
shall be comforted.
I Corinthians 15:19-23 (ESV)
19 If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all
people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the
firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came
death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in
Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in
his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who
belong to Christ.
This is my second year of gardening peppers. It is
a much more exciting prospect the second time around for this city-boy
because I know what will follow. The plants grow, then little
flowers bud and finally, the first fruit of my care and anticipation
pushes its way through the dead pedals of the formerly tiny flowers.
It is a pepper, the first! And now I know that many will follow
because my pepper plants are following the Divine plan of God,
established at the dawn of their creation. First the flower, the
flower dies, the first fruit, then many to follow.
I was recently browsing my Facebook page, when I
noticed someone had posted a Youtube video of "Jesus Christ
Superstar", the finale, when Jesus emerges from his grave, alive and
full of glory. Many of the players are dancing around excitedly as
the play's theme is played loudly and energetically. It is a grand
celebration. I wanted to get up and dance, too, in excitement.
The excitement of seeing the first fruit of my home
garden peppers and the excitement of seeing a musical portrayal of the
resurrection of Jesus Christ helped me understand the spiritual
significance of the metaphor of "firstfruits". With the first
pepper comes the assurance of more peppers, I know for sure, now.
With the knowledge I have been given by the Spirit of Christ's
resurrection comes the assurance of faith, that I too will follow Him
when the flowering of my life ends on earth. "Christ the
firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ."
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have
confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new
and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is,
through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of
God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies
washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope
without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us
consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not
neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging
one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Life is much more exciting when you see evidence of
what is coming next. From my first pepper, I know more peppers
will come. From the knowledge of Christ's resurrection, I know I
may follow into eternal life and encourage others with this hope.
(Romans 1:19-20 ESV)
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown
it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power
and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation
of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without
This morning, before Church, I found myself sitting on
my patio looking at a yellow pot with a trans-planted flower given to us
by our friend, Annora. As I looked at the beautifully intricate
flower laced with pinks and whites, I mused to myself, "Wow, Awesome!"
I was transcending the cares of world just meditating on God's beautiful
creation, simple yet intricately created from earth and flower bulb.
I was getting a "spiritual high" from a yellow pot and a flower.
I flashed back to days of my youth in the 60's and
70's when the "flower children" were getting high on pot and saying
things like "wow, awesome" at things of little or no consequence in
life. Today, because of a new life in Christ, I have spiritual
eyes unassisted by any mind altering substance to see and experience the
things that are truly "fearfully and wonderfully made" by God, himself.
The greater miracle is that during times of closeness to God, I see that
I, too, am fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of a loving God.
Even when looking at a yellow pot and a flower.
(Genesis 1:27-28 ESV)
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them.
I must be getting old and sentimental, seeing so much
in so little. Yet some others see it, too. They too can say, "wow,
awesome" when they see a flower on a Facebook page. My hope and
prayer is that they, too, will see that they are wonderfully made in the
image of God, himself. There is no other "high" like it; not even
in the memories of the "flower children".
Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV)
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
Stop, pray, and go get spiritually high on one of
God's wonderfully made creations. You might even see yourself in a
Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things
Flowers have no eyes to see, yet they always seem
to find their way outward and upward until they find their way to
full bloom and glory.
Each spring, my wife Lisa and I plant a Mandavilla
plant next to two trellises. And each spring, the plant
reaches out, inch by inch, suspended in thin air, without fear,
toward the trellises it cannot see until is grasps hold of them and
spends the rest of the summer climbing upward as each new flower
proclaims the glory of its beautiful creation. All this,
without eyes to see where it is going.
Oh, that this were our nature, to reach upward
without sight into thin air without fear. Yet, those of us who
know Christ, do reach out at first with some trepidation each new
season in our life and grasp hold of the spiritual trellis that
leads us upward. After several seasons, it becomes less
fearful because God is faithful to uphold us. We are becoming
mature in our faith and pressing on toward the heavenly prize
as God reveals more of his faithfulness.
13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one
thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to
what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the
upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are
mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God
will reveal that also to you.
If we reach out and press forward and upward, our
hope is that He will give us the blind faith of a Mandavilla
and we too will blossom in His glory without fear. Amen.
20:19-29 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my
hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not
disbelieve, but believe.”28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Thomas gets a bad wrap (pun intended) as the
unbelieving disciple for demanding to see before he believes. Yet when
confronted by the resurrected Christ to see (touch) and believe, he
believes without seeing (touching). Thomas becomes the first to
confess Christ as Lord and God. You cannot make a greater
confession of faith than that. It exceeded that of the other
disciples in scope and depth. Jesus was not only Lord over all
his life, now, but God himself, unwrapped (see
The Gift Unwrapped) for all to
Jesus is not rebuking Thomas when he says, "“Have
you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not
seen and yet have believed.” He is saying, "See, it is
more blessed to believe without seeing because your faith now comes from
John Wesley's Commentary - John 20:28: And Thomas
said, My Lord and my God - The disciples had said, We have seen the
Lord. Thomas now not only acknowledges him to be the Lord, as he had
done before, and to be risen, as his fellow disciples had affirmed,
but also confesses his Godhead, and that more explicitly than any
other had yet done. And all this he did without putting his
hand upon his side.
See, seeing is believing without seeing when if
comes from God. Be a believing Thomas, this Easter.
You will truly be blessed.
John 20:6 Then
Simon Peter came, following him, and entered into the tomb. He saw the
linen cloths lying, 7 and the cloth that had been on his head, not lying
with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 So then the
other disciple who came first to the tomb also entered in, and he saw
The other disciple came, saw the burial clothes
of Jesus unwrapped and rolled up in a place by itself, and believed.
Jesus was God, wrapped in human flesh and crucified to bring us the gift
of forgiveness and thus, salvation from the deadly eternal consequences of sin. (see unwrapping the gift).
The scattered wrappings apart from the gifts on any
Christmas day means the gifts have been opened and received by their
intended beneficiaries. The joy of the gifts are now being
experienced in full. On Easter morning, the other disciple
believed because the gift of God had finally been unwrapped from death
to resurrection. The empty wrappings proved it. The promise
was true, forgiveness is real and life is eternal; the gift has been
wrapped, delivered, unwrapped and received. Oh the joy that floods
our souls, something happened, and now I know, he touched me and made me
Will you become the other disciple and unwrap
your gift from God and believe?
Luke 2:12 And this will be a sign for you: you will
find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”...John
20:7 and the cloth that had been on his head, not lying with the linen
cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave
the right to become children of God--  children born not of natural
descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen
his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full
of grace and truth.
13:1, 5 (ESV) Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus
knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the
Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved
them to the end.... 5 Then he poured water into a basin and
began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the
towel that was wrapped around him.
We may not know how to love as Jesus loved. Most of us cannot
even conceive of it enough for it to be recognized as His love
in our interactions with others. But, we can start at the other
end of His love by doing the most simple deeds of kindness, like
washing dirty feet, carrying your mother's purse or letting
someone in front of you at a grocery line. You will be beginning
where Jesus left off. He has already taken care of the harder
Matthew 25:22 (ESV) 22 And he also who had
the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to
me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His
master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You
have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.
Enter into the joy of your master.’
Now go and look for some dirty feet or someone
behind you in a grocery line...maybe your mom wants to go
(Numbers 11:4-6, 18-20 ESV) Now the rabble
that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of
Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! 5
We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the
cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6
But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all
but this manna to look at.”
18 And say to the people, ‘Consecrate
yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat, for you have
wept in the hearing of the LORD, saying, “Who will give us meat
to eat? For it was better for us in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD
will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall not eat just
one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days,
20 but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and
becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the LORD who
is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come
out of Egypt?”’”
My wife and I recently went on a cruise and
boarded the next generation of cruise ships' maiden voyage for
our vacation. The ship was called "The Dream".
Beautiful ship, beautiful accommodations, beautiful people and
gourmet food without end. After the first day of travel, I
mused to myself, "I wonder how much it would cost to just cruise
around the world for one whole year?"
It wasn't until the fifth day of the cruise,
"Chocolate Day", eating my chocolate covered banana fritters,
that the formerly "beautiful people' around me started looking
like just so may hogs at the trough. And I was right there with
them; "pigging out" on the infinite variety of chocolate covered
Oh, let me return to my simpler life, to the
love and fellowship of my church, my family and even the
uniformed faces of those in the prison I serve as chaplain.
I want my spiritual food, again. Keep the escargot,
château breon, and chocolate covered banana fritters. I
want the bread of life!
John 6:31-35 (ESV) Our fathers ate the
manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread
from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly,
I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from
heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33
For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives
life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to
me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never
I thank God, it only took me five days and not
40 years to wonder around in the desert of this world's luxuries
before I became hungry again for the things of the Spirit.
Two days later I found myself home, back in church with my
family. Today, I am truly satisfied.
6 ESV) “Blessed
are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they
shall be satisfied.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And
behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20
This past Thanksgiving Day, I realized why I had carried
around that little brown bottle of Nitroglycerin tablets for thirteen
years, never needing to take one. They were waiting to save my
life when the "big one" came by surprise. It was during the climax
of the disaster movie, "2012". How prophetic? During the
movie, just when the end of the world as we know it was taking place,
the theater was rocking with special effects, and the hero and heroine
found themselves "outside" the modern day Noah's Arks. How would they be
saved from the "Big One?" I did not find out!
I was busy dealing with my own personal confrontation
with death...a heart attack! Right there in the middle of the
theatrical "end of the world", I was facing my own end. Into my
pocket went my hand, then into my mouth went those little white pills I
carried for thirteen years, never needing a one. Then, to the
hospital for more nitroglycerin and five stints to snatch me from death
by MI (Myocardial Infarction).
The "Big One" came, but, I was ready because I had
carried with me that little bottle of pills I had no use for thirteen
years. The day I needed them to save my life, they were there
because I had carried them with me always, even to the day I was rocked
by my end of the world.
Jesus said, "But concerning that day and hour no one
knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
37 As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38
For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the
ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all
away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." Matthew 24:36-39 ESV
This experience made me realize the day I will need Jesus
Christ the most will be when I stand in judgment and face eternal death
or eternal life. And that will come by surprise! What will
determine the outcome will be, did I carry God's Nitroglycerin Pill,
Jesus Christ, those many years I did not seem to need Him?
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on
it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was
found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing
before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was
opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by
what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades
gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each
one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and
Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second
death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found
written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of
fire. Revelation 20:11-14
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
- Hark the Herald Angels Sing, vs. 2, Charles Wesley
"Jesus is the reason for the
season" is only part of the story of Christmas. What we see
represented in art and story of Jesus' birth in a manger is only
the wrapping on a much greater gift of God's love, mercy and
grace...Jesus' death and resurrection.
The hymnist, Charles Wesley, has
captured this great truth in his Christmas hymn, "Hark the
Herald Angels Sing". Jesus' human body is only the "veil" of
God himself, the wrapping. Jesus becomes "God with us,
Emmanuel." The reason for his wrapping himself in Jesus is to
shed his blood on a cross for us to be close to God, again, and
to have all our sins washed away in His sight. We can now be
friends with God because he hung his gift of forgiveness on the
tree of Calvary (the cross) wrapped in Jesus who gave his life
for us who were so far away.
Col. 1:19-22 (NLT)
For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 
and by him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace
with everything in heaven and on earth by means of his blood on
the cross.  This includes you who were once so far away from
God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil
thoughts and actions,  yet now he has brought you back as
his friends. He has done this through his death on the cross in
his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the
very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you
stand before him without a single fault.
Like the gifts under our
Christmas trees, they remain only wrapped boxes with our names
on the labels until the gifts are unwrapped and
received. Then the gifts our truly ours. Will you receive the
gift God wrapped in Jesus and hung on the true tree of
Christmas, the Cross. If you do, you will know the true "reason
for the season."
(John 1:12-14 NIV)
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God--  children born
not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's
will, but born of God.  The Word became flesh and made his
dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One
and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward
they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to
those who love him.  And remember, no one who wants to do
wrong should ever say, "God is tempting me." God is never
tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else either.
 Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires.
 These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions
lead to death.  So don't be misled, my dear brothers and
The latest fuzzy creature to visit us
has been a little field mouse. As the temperatures outside
are getting colder this cute little rodent has found a way
inside our home and has enjoyed of all things, our cook book (I
guess he likes the delicious pictures). We found portions
of it reduced to confetti like shreds mixed with the sure
evidence of a mouse--droppings! What to do?
The slightest hint of a broken mouse in a
mousetrap was out of the question for my animal loving wife,
Lisa. Having to trap and dispose of a live mouse glued
to the floor of one of those little mouse motels, out of the
question, too. What to do?....Hire a professional
Low an behold the
commercial exterminator was scheduled for his regularly contract
visit in a few days. Ask the exterminator. He arrived,
Wednesday morning, full of political commentary and conversation
as he toured my home with the spray tank at his side and the
spray wand swinging about like some famous symphony conductor.
It was Congress this, the Administration that, spray here, spray
there. I finally interrupted, "We have a mouse!" "No
problem, I will get some 'drop bags' after I finish;" the
symphony of politics and poison continued unto completion, a
masterpiece, never a wand beat or a political point missed.
"What are drop bags?" I asked. "They are
great," he said, "The mouse will think these are the 'tastiest
treats' he has ever tasted." "He will eat and eat and then
he will get thirsty and leave your home looking for something
more to drink, and the more he drinks, the thirstier he gets
until he dies outside in the cold."
there's a message there! Many of this life's "tastiest
treats" lured us into a life that consumed, but never satisfied
us. The more we consumed, the more we wanted until we, by
the grace of God, saw what lay at the end of this path of
consumption...our own demise, outside the love, comfort, and
protection of our God.
Each of us have
our own particular "drop bags;" they are all equally
harmful or fatal to our life here and eternally. Pray for
help each time they are placed in your path. Then, look
for the way through them.
For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the
strength I need.
John 8:34-36 (NLT)
Jesus replied, "I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave
of sin.  A slave is not a permanent member of the family,
but a son is part of the family forever.  So if the Son sets
you free, you will indeed be free.
"Bobby" our new bob-tailed cat (Manx)
returned from his first trip through the required "valley of the shadow of
death"......The Vet...to get neutered. When we
arrived home in our driveway, we opened the car door, opened the
"kitty casket" (pet carrier) and Bobby sprung forth with an
energized new spirit and began rolling in the grass, rolling in the
sand and finally, rolling in his favorite spot in our bed...set free
from his imprisonment in the veterinarian's cage and home rolling
in his freedom, shedding the scents of his captivity and rolling on
the loving scents of his home. "Free at last, Free at last, thank
God Almighty, I'm free at last." Bobby became our new little
Those of us who have been imprisoned by our
former passions and have faced the dark abyss of our captivity
can well understand the biblical metaphors of darkness
and slavery to sin. For those who have been set free by
the Son, we can even identify with "Bobby", rolling in the joy
of being "indeed free," washing off the foulness of our old life
and rolling in scents of a new holiness. We were made
clean. Not by grass or sand or our favorite place at home, but
by the blood of Lamb. This experience is enough to make a
"holy roller" out of the best and the worst of us.
It may even make you want to shout here on earth and eventually
Rev. 7:9-10, 14 (NLT)
After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every
nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of
the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white and
held palm branches in their hands.  And they were shouting
with a mighty shout, "Salvation comes from our God on the throne
and from the Lamb!"
 And I
said to him, "Sir, you are the one who knows."
Then he said to me, "These are the ones coming out of the great
tribulation. They washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb
and made them white."
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I
will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff
they comfort me.
"Bobby" our new bob-tailed cat (Manx)
made his first trip through the required "valley of the shadow of
death"......The Vet...to get neutered. I guess from a cats
point of view it is like some ghoulish horror story. First he
was snatched from the comfort and stability of his care free cat
world, our yard and home. Then, he was placed in a small
casket like device called a "pet carrier" and whisked off to the
dark valley of the veterinary's office to be drugged into total
unconsciousness while the Evil Vet does unthinkable things to
Yet, he did not go through this terrible
ordeal, alone. "Stick Monkey", his favorite inanimate
companion went with him to provide comfort and remind him of the
familiar smells and touch of his heavenly home under the
care of the neighborhood's greatest lover of animals, my wife,
Two days later, he made it back home, alive
and well, though a little changed, to sleep, play and become a
kitty "Holy Roller" (the next Fuzzy Theology). Both
"Bobby" and his companion, "Stick Monkey", returned to their
former place of rest and peace--the recliner in my office.
They made it through the "valley of the shadow of death,"
Life seems to require that we go through our
own dark valley at least once, mostly several times.
Jesus did not promise a life of perpetual rest or peace; He just
promised that if we stay close to Him he will send his "Stick
Monkey" with us, the Holy Spirit, to remind us that we are not
alone and He has prepared an eternal home for us. The
experience will even change our character for the better.
Several years ago, I had a heart attack and
had to have open heart surgery. The surgeon said I only
had a 50/50 chance of living and did I have anything I would
like to say before the surgery. I waited for the rush of
fear to overwhelm me, but it did not come. I remembered
the words of Jesus, "And be sure of this: I am with you always,
even to the end of the age." I looked up at the surgeon
and said, "Let's go."
John 14:15-17 (MsgB)
"If you love me, show it by doing what I've told you.  I
will talk to the Father, and he'll provide you another Friend so
that you will always have someone with you.  This Friend is
the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can't take him in because
it doesn't have eyes to see him, doesn't know what to look for.
But you know him already because he has been staying with you,
and will even be in you!
Thank God we do not have to walk through our
required dark valleys alone!
1 Cor. 15:8-10
Last of all, I saw him [Jesus], too, long after the others, as
though I had been born at the wrong time.  For I am the least
of all the apostles, and I am not worthy to be called an apostle
after the way I persecuted the church of God.
 But whatever I am now, it is all because God
poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For
I have worked harder than all the other apostles, yet it was not
I but God who was working through me by his grace.
You can learn a lot from peppers!
My recent experiment in pepper gardening keeps
teaching me lessons (see Too
Many To Count). The latest lesson is that "it is
never too late in time" and sometimes in nature "late"
can produce more.
My pepper garden has four different kinds of
peppers, tabasco, jalapeño, red chili, and habanera (hot!). All
but the red chili pepper began to bear fruit in short time.
Not much, but my labor was not a complete bust except for the
red chili. Because the red chili did not bear any peppers
the first time around, I considered it genetically defective and
began figuring out a way to uproot the plant, toss it and plant
another jalapeño plant. At lease I knew the jalapeño would
grow. Don't want to make the same mistake, twice, with
another red chili plant. Sloth and perseverance in
watering the plants brought signs of new hope for the red
chili...it finally flowered the second time around, meaning the
possibility of some peppers.
And then the miracle happened. Many more
tiny blossoms, and, the plant began to grow...one half, twice,
three times the size of the other pepper plants. And, even
more little baby peppers than all the other plants combined.
It was as if, late in time and facing the possibility of being
uprooted and tossed into the dumpster, the red chili plant took
on a new and fruitful life that exceeded the other ordinary
Like so many of us who have faced the
possibility of our own eminent extinction, we discover the true
meaning of life, "late in time." Because of the grace of
God, our eternal gardener does not uproot us from this life and
toss us into the eternal dumpster of death before it is too late
to bear some spiritual fruit. We are given another chance
to find true meaning in this life, a little older, wiser and
later...but not too late. Thank God it is never too late see
things and be things, differently. Amen.
often than not, late in time, for those of us who have faced the
possibility of our own mortality, we will produce more
fruit than your average pepper plant.
Matthew 20:13-16 (NLT)
"He answered one of them, 'Friend, I haven't been unfair! Didn't
you agree to work all day for the usual wage?  Take it and
go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you.  Is it
against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should
you be angry because I am kind?'
 "And so it is, that many who are first now will be
last then; and those who are last now will be first then."
13:2 KJV) Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have
entertained angels unawares.
The unexpected blessing that came from adopting an abandon kitten we
named, "Bobby" (see Despised to Be
Loved), turned out to be that "Bobby" is a great
hunter of grasshoppers!
For two years, now, my wife Lisa has
succeeded in "renewing" our yard with gardens and flowers and
daily "policing" of sticks that may have fallen from the many
trees that bless our property with much shade and an endless
supply of pine straw for the gardens.
But, for years, the great nemesis of the "perfect yard" has
been the "cursed" grasshoppers that have been feasting on the
leaves of our largest and most beautiful flowers. The
flowers are breathtaking in all their beauty and splendor, but
the wide green leaves are scarred by the giant insect pest's
last family feast. Try as we might to chase them off, they
would always sneak back, unawares, and leave another beautiful
long green leaf scared for all to see and detract from its
World renowned American psychiatrist Karl A. Menninger said,
"Money-giving is a very good criterion of a person's mental
health. Generous people are rarely mentally ill people."
Like the scarred flowers in our garden, we try to renew
ourselves through our own efforts to little avail, sometimes.
It seems the harder we try, the more the personal nemesis of our
character defects sneak back to create more scars in our best
efforts to beautify our life and make it whole. It is only
when we turn away from our "personal makeover" efforts and reach
out to help another in need, that a miracle begins to
happen...It is as if the person we were helping turned out the
be an "angel unaware" who blessed us by capturing the day's
grasshopper and preventing it from devouring another leaf in the
garden of our new life.
And like the unintended blessing of loving and caring for an
abandon kitten, we have to do it, "daily", to continue to
receive the blessings of our "angel" grasshopper slayer,
Slay the grasshoppers in your life, daily,
By showing kindness and care.
Because you my be entertaining angels,
Almost certainly, unaware.
(Matthew 10:42 NIV)
And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones
because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not
lose his reward."
Luke 6:38 (NLT)
If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in
full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for
more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving—large
or small—it will be used to measure what is given back to you."
For this "city-boy", growing food was a mystery better left to
the equally mysterious class of people called farmers. It never
occurred to me that maybe I could join this special of class of
"food growers" by planting a garden in my back yard until I
noticed a barren square of my neighbor’s yard. It had been
cleared of all grass and vines and various other growing
"whatnots" that I regularly mow down in my yard. I watched
carefully to see if my neighbor was trying to grow something.
Low and behold after a few weeks of watering and care, strange
green things began to emerge from the ground. They grew taller
and began to sprout pitifully small flowers that you would not
even give to a child. "What a bust", I thought. That is why
such things are better left to farmers...no "green thumb" for us
city folks to make things grow.
the weeks continued I saw the miracle...little green things that
looked like tiny vegetables growing where the flowers
were...food! And it was growing in my neighbor’s back yard!
"Man, I got to try this." If my neighbor could do it, maybe I
could, too! Off to the Home
Depot, garden section, to buy four pepper plants. I
was going to be part of a miracle by eating the "food of my very
After weeks of care and watering of my "mini-square" of a
garden, the first fruits came forth....six peppers, and two of
them were already on one of the plants when I bought them, one
plant had no peppers, and some phantom garden thief stole one of
my biggest peppers! Not quite a "bust", but not very much to
brag about...a lot of care and pitifully little fruit. However,
I continued to water the pepper plants because I could not bear
to see them die at the hand of my neglect. Maybe they would
survive the mild winter here in GA and produce another six
Low and behold, four weeks later, all four plants "exploded"
with those "pitiful little flowers." Another week later,
PEPPERS!! So many peppers, they were too many to count. I was
now part of that special group of people that can bear fruit you
can eat. All because I was faithful with my pepper plants, even
when they did so little the first time around, I experienced the
miracle. I was faithful with a little and it grew too many to count.
Jesus promised he would measure back what we would give and the
measure we receive back would be "too many to count." But, he
did not say it would be easy or immediate. It might even be
disappointing for a season. Later on, however, it would produce
an “abundance,” if we would be faithful to His promise with the
little measure he gave us at first.
faithful with what ever He gives you.
You can learn a lot from a pepper!
"After a long time their master returned from his trip and
called them to give an account of how they had used his
money...To those who use well what they are given, even more
will be given, and they will have an abundance.
1 Cor. 1:28-30 (NLT)
God chose things despised by the world, things counted as
nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world
considers important,  so that no one can ever boast in the
presence of God.
 God alone made it possible for you to be in Christ
Jesus. For our benefit God made Christ to be wisdom itself. He
is the one who made us acceptable to God. He made us pure and
holy, and he gave himself to purchase our freedom.
"Bobby" our new bob-tailed (Manx) kitten is the latest member
of our loving family of cats. He was tossed away in
the alley behind our home near our garbage dumpster.
Despised by his previous owners, he was tossed out like so much
trash to make it on his own. Alone, frightened and
abandon, all he knew to do was to cry out piteously under a bush
near the trash.
Little did he know his cries were being heard by the greatest
cat lover in the universe, or at least the
neighborhood...my wife, Lisa. She responded according to
her nature, to love and protect kitties, and followed the
cries to "Bobby". What was formerly a despised kitten, treated
like trash, immediately became acceptable...a part of a
new family filled with love.
Just like so many of us who were rejected and despised by a
world we held so dear, Jesus was listening through our tears as
we cried out from a life that had so quickly turned to trash.
If we let Him pick us up, love us according to His nature, we
too will become acceptable, again. Only this time it will
be in a much better family. We will become children of God
and members of His Christian family on earth with the hope of
eternal life in heaven, where there will be no more tears or
sorrow. What was rejected and despised by this world is
now acceptable and loved by God.
Rev. 21:3-4 (NLT)
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, the home of
God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they
will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will
remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or
sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are
Philip. 3:14 (NLT)
I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for
which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.
My first attempt at amateur horticulture, four years
ago, was to replant an Easter Lily in my back yard under a hedge
row of overhanging foliage sunken in a ground cover of leafy
vines. In other words, the darkest most crowded section of
my yard. Little did I know that
"sun to full sun" to grow. For the following three
summers...no lily. The symbol of Christ's resurrection
died in its darkened corner, amidst the choking vines.
Low and behold, four years later,
stretching two feet just above the dirt was the stem of a
beautiful lily pressing forward along the ground through the
darkness and clutter of vines to a patch of light. There was the
blossom, in all its glory, hanging over the edge of the wooden
border of my yard. It had found the light! It was alive
again and in full bloom.
Jesus promised that the seed of
his Word planted in "good soil" would produce much fruit.
But he did not promise it would always be easy. Darkness and the
choking cares of the world would try to overcome it. My
Crawling Lily taught me that the Good News planted in a
fertile heart can overcome the darkness and cares of the world,
if one just presses forward towards the light. We may have
to crawl our way through for many seasons, but our resurrection
to a new life here and in eternity
is assured, whether lying close to the ground or standing tall.
John 16:33 (NLT)
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here
on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart,
because I have overcome the world."
Romans 6:6-8 (NLT)
"Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin
might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to
sin.  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the
power of sin.  And since we died with Christ, we know we will
also share his new life."
Evil Cat, formerly the neighborhood's feral "Topcat",
has entered into a new life as Blackey, our beloved
family pet (see "Saved by the
Blood"). The transition was not easy at first, because
it required his "neutering" by the Vet, which surgically
crucified his feral nature. After his recovery,
Blackey was unaware of his "new nature" because of the years
of "Topcat" status in the neighborhood.
I watched his first confrontation with the aspiring new "Topcat"
who crossed into his former neighborhood territory. As in
the past, he lowered his haunches, growling eerily and stalking
his new enemy. Blood, biting and wrestling on the ground
was to be the natural outcome of this vicious new dual for
But, to my surprise, after a few moments of staring at his
potential mortal enemy, Blackey stood tall and relaxed
and just walked away, returning to his yard as if nothing had
happened. The old power of this former "Topcat" was gone.
He just did not have it in him to fight any more. Content,
he returned to the safety of his own yard and enjoyed the peace
of living among his new family of Kitty, our older and wiser "neutered" family cat, my wife, son, me and the family of
Christians who worship at the Chapel on our property. The
habits of years instinctively sprung him into deadly action, but
his new nature would not carry him into the bloody battle for
dominance. He is a new creature, with the "neutering" of
his old combative drives.
Over time, even the
neighborhood confrontations ended, except for occasional
scuffles with his fellow pet, Kitty, for the dominance of
a lap or a place on the bed with us at bedtime. He is even
finding out that grooming Kitty with a few licks to his
older and wiser face in those hard to get places to clean can
make a place for him on a spare lap or spot on the bed.
Blackey is gradually finding his place in our family
of beloved pets. The old nature is gone and the old habits
they formed are gradually disappearing from his instinctive
behaviors because they have "lost their power." He is also
learning to operate in the power of this "new life."
Strife, violence and dominance have been "neutered" to make a
place for peace, love and finding his place in a loving
Like so many Christians, who have crucified the "old sinful
self" with Christ, the "new life" is not automatic or without
conflict with the habits of the former way of life. The
good news is that, like Blackey and so many other
Christian who have struggled to grow into their new nature,
Christ takes the power out of our sinning. It drives us
less and less and brings us dissatisfaction more and more. The
new nature takes the fun out of sinning! Life seems more
peaceful and loving when we love each other as a family of
Christians. We even discover that serving each other in
love helps us find our place among the children of God,
instead of competing for it.
After much struggle, we will discover, like Blackey,
it is better to stand tall and relaxed and just walk away from
sin's confrontations and return to the place in our new family
and "lick each other's faces" (greet and serve each other in
2 Cor. 13:11-14 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last
words: Rejoice. Change your ways. Encourage each other. Live in
harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with
 Greet each other in Christian love (Greek: sacred
kiss).  All the Christians here send you their greetings.
 May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love
of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
"So as I
laid on the table, I'm coming back into my body; and I told one
of my doctors to move his hand because the thorns are making me
bleed on his hand. And blood started running down my face. And I
told the other one to move his hand because on my hands and on
my feet there was blood. All of the places where Jesus had blood
when He died."
never had believed in Jesus; I wasn't going to go for it. I
never would have, but let me tell you Jesus is alive. And I
started screaming 'Jesus Christ come to life!' And I walked out
of that room...jumped off of that table...and headed for a cold
shower 'cause that's the last thing you would ask me to do after
started screaming words like 'hallelujah I've been born again.'
They thought I was crazy and hurt, so they took me to the
hospital. They thought I was losing my mind. And they ran all
kinda tests on me for two or three days, and nothin' was wrong
with me. But I saw the glory of God...I saw it! And let me tell
you that Jesus is alive...there's a living God, and I didn't
even know it. I was wondering about it before, but now I'm not
wondering. I know!"
are the words of George Foreman, former heavyweight boxing
champion after a bloody battle for the title against Jimmy
Young. Exhausted from the fight and covered with his
opponents blood, he saw the blood of Jesus Christ and was saved
in his moment of greatest weakness. He was brought to a
saving knowledge of Jesus Christ's blood by the wounds of
Recently, we discovered the neighborhood's feral Topcat, Evil
Cat was our nickname for him, near unconsciousness under one
of our bushes next to the house. He was shaking and weak
from his latest battle for dominance of his territory and
covered with blood, crying. Unlike other encounters with
EC, he did not dart off into the neighborhood fleeing our
attempts to reach out as in the past. He just faintly
cried, paralyzed from his latest battle.
gently pet him through the blood that covered his body,
searching for his wounds and trying to comfort him in his dying
moments. As we continued to minister to this wild cat we
discovered that the blood was not his, but the wounds of the
another tom he had earlier fought. We nursed and fed him
outside for several days until he recovered his strength.
Our kind deeds to this wild tom was complete, or so we thought.
the next few days, EC would peer into our side door window
and cry for us to feed and pet him. He sought us outside
each time we came home to be loved some more. Gradually,
we let him come inside for food and affection. He was a
different creature after his battle with death and the covering
of the blood. We called him NC for "Nice Cat".
He was a new creature who has joined our family of loved cats
all because of the blood of another.
Ephes. 2:13 (NLT)
But now you belong to Christ Jesus. Though you once were far
away from God, now you have been brought near to him because of
the blood of Christ.
Heavyweight boxing champ George Foreman, EC, and so many
battered human souls before have been snatched from death to new
life by the blood of another, Jesus Christ. We truly have
been healed and brought into the fellowship of love and God's
eternal care. Thank God, that through His wounds we were
Isaiah 53:5 (KJV)
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for
our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and
with his stripes we are healed.
P.S. NC, now named, "Blackey", was
recently neutered to change his feral nature. But,
that will be another "Fuzzy Theology".
Jesus replied, "The most
important commandment is this: 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God
is the one and only Lord.  And you must love the Lord your
God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all
your strength.'” (Mark
Life changed with the adoption of
“Kitty”. Kitty is an over sized gray tabby cat with a one track
mind. Love me! Outside he is the king of his domain. Inside,
we are his domain and his one and only demand is to hold
him, pet him, scratch his face, be his nap time cradle, the
taster of all our food, the center of our attention...to love
him. In return for all this devotion and love we learn how to
love “Kitty”. As months, and now years have gone by, he has
become part of our daily living routine within his domain. We no
longer object to loving Kitty; it is our habit, now.
Recently, Kitty has developed a
new way to say, “Love me!” After his morning love routine, he
vocalizes what seems to be a protest, Meow! If we ignore this
new feline command, he begins to nip our ankles until we respond
to him in light our discomfort. It seems as if through
inflicting pain upon our vulnerable bare feet, he is saying,
“Love me, more!” We now find ourselves in a new dilemma, daily:
Love Kitty more or suffer the discomfort of this demanding pet.
Of course we are forced to love Kitty, more!
My wife picks up Kitty in the
mornings, now, and says, “Look at 'Kitty Boots', he loves me.”
He just got a new name, “Kitty Boots!” God is telling us
something about the nature of His love though the example of His
creation. He is saying, “Love Me, more!”
When we first come to know the
love of God, it is fresh and personal. As the months and then,
years pass, our love and devotion become routine, even forgotten
for short periods of time. Life seems to fill, again, of painful
reminders that all is not well with our soul. God is nipping at
our vulnerabilities to remind us that we still need to love Him
– Love Him, more!” For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes those he accepts as his children. (Hebrews 12:6, NLT)
When we finally do respond with a
renewed and personal love to His painful nips in our life, He
reveals to us His new name, “God is Love”
Dear friends, let us continue
to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves
is born of God and knows God.  But anyone who does not love
does not know God—for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8, NLT)
Lee State Prison the other day, I saw a menacing hawk soaring
ungracefully through the sky as a tiny starling was attacking
the hawk from above to protect her nest from this predator. The
formidable hawk is the natural enemy of this frail little
starling. I asked myself, “how does this little bird have such
power over her deadly enemy?” The answer came quickly.
The hawk’s sharp talons and deadly beak are always below him. As
long as the tiny starling remains above her mortal enemy, she is
safe and effective against the treat to her family. As soon as
the starling lowers herself to the level of the hawk, she
becomes his next meal along with the nestlings. She is safe and
successful against this deadly threat to her very existence as
long as she remains above her enemy.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans 12: 18 If possible, as
much as depends on you, keep peace with all men. 19 Beloved, do
not avenge yourselves, but give place to wrath; for it is
written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. 20
Therefore "If your enemy should hunger, feed him; if he should
thirst, give him drink; for by doing this, you will heap coals
of fire upon his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but
overcome evil with good.
The lesson is, as long as we remain on “higher moral ground” (or
sky) and not become like those who have hurt us by “getting
even,” we will ultimately prevail against those people, places
and things that seem to have hurt us. Like the little starling,
if I should lower myself to the level of my enemies, I will
ultimately be harmed or even destroyed along with my loved ones.
Are you above or below your “hawks”? Seek the higher path and
protect your soul, your life, your peace and your loved ones.
is a 30 plus pound oversized gray tabby cat who joined
our family several years ago because friends of ours could not
take him to their new retirement home. He is the most
strong-willed pet we have ever experienced. He always gets
his way by hook or crook.
When he wants to sleep on our bed and we firmly push him off,
he bounces like a fly-back ball and paddle from the floor to the
bed, again. He never gives up. He sleeps on his side
of the bed, now. He can make his will known. He
knows how to use others to get his will, too.
When he wanted to go outside in the morning, he would meow in
front of the door until I would have to put my coffee down and
go to the door. I resolved to let him meow until I
finished my coffee. I will not be mastered by a cat!
It is my house and my morning coffee. "Kitty" did not
agree with my resolve. He just changed his tactics. He
would use my wife to get his way.
My wife, Lisa, takes great pride in her house, inside and
out. She is a meticulous decorator and house keeper.
Everything has to be perfect. "Kitty" seems to know this.
Now, when he wants out, he no longer uses his ineffective
"meow", he takes his oversized claw and slowly scratches it
vertically down our freshly painted wall next to the door.
The terribly irritating noise it makes communicates to my wife's
home pride-he will blemish the "perfect" decor of the den.
"Look what 'Kitty' is doing to the wall!, Go, let him out before
he ruins it!" Like "Kitty", my wife's will is strong, too;
too strong, especially in the area of our home. "Two is
greater than one." "Kitty" wins again in the test of wills.
"I am undone!"
Now "Kitty" just calmly goes to the door in the middle of my
morning coffee break and looks over his shoulder at my wife.
I know the message of "Kitty's" immutable will. I
surrender, again, daily. I do the will of "Kitty". I can hear
him, now, load and clear, in the stillness of the morning.
"Open the door and let me have my way." The door is opened
and the rest of the morning remains to be enjoyed in peace and
harmony in my home."
I have even found the secret of enjoying my coffee break,
uninterrupted and in peace. All I have to do is go to the door,
first, open it and ask, "Kitty, do you want to go outside?"
"Kitty" gets his way with me, and he doesn't even have to ask
any more. I know his will, now, because it is part of my life,
every morning. I am at peace.
"Kitty" has taught me how to know the will of God without him
having to force it on me through disturbing my peace and the
peace of others close to me because of my selfishness. Listen
before he speaks, open the door, first, and enjoy my peace
after I have submitted to His perfect will.
P.S. My wife loves me more for loving "Kitty"; so does
John 14:14-17 (MsgB)
Whatever you request in this way, I'll do.
 "If you love me, show it by doing what I've told you. 
I will talk to the Father, and he'll provide you another Friend
so that you will always have someone with you.  This Friend
is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can't take him in
because it doesn't have eyes to see him, doesn't know what to
look for. But you know him already because he has been staying
with you, and will even be in you!
morning, the change is this...I see now, how I really do belong
to him. First, He says that He knew me before I was formed in my
mothers womb (Jer 1:5) And all my life I have felt that
connection. Then in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, I can identify.
(With what He reveals to me). How I went through these sinful
ways but the blood of Jesus cleansed me.
For example, yesterday I watched this tape about God's
creations and they were describing the caterpillar's eating
habits. How it ate of the leaves of a poisonous plant yet it
doesn't harm the
Caterpillar it only serves to protect the butterfly as
she's laying her eggs because the butterfly lays her eggs on
that same plant and the birds stay away from her. It's the
poison that the
Caterpillar digested that ends up serving a far greater
purpose. I know some how that all that I've been through all
that I have digested, so to speak, is for an even greater
also know deep inside that when the Spirit of the Father moves
in all sin must leave the body. I too, must go through a
metamorphoses (dieing to oneself). I know all of these concepts
others have had, and are written over and over again. But to me
they are becoming part of the way I think, see the world, and
view others. And most importantly, the way I view God. All is
becoming personal. I see clips of revelations all day. I asked
God to give me the words to describe some of the things but He
hasn't, yet. I've asked God to show me how to love Him more and
I feel it is happening all around me. Maybe all that's sounds
simple, but remember I have but a simple mind.
"I'll pour robust well-being into her like a river,
the glory of nations like a river in flood.
You'll nurse at her breasts,
nestle in her bosom,
and be bounced on her knees.
 As a mother comforts her child,
so I'll comfort you.
You will be comforted in Jerusalem."
 You'll see all this and burst with joy
—you'll feel ten feet tall—
As it becomes apparent that God is on your side
and against his enemies.
1:20 (NLT) And God said, "Let the waters swarm with fish and
other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind."
My new life, my new walk with God is enhanced with a vision
of God's most beautiful creatures.
Some months ago just as spring had begun, my granddaughter
was begging me for a bird feeder. Well just as those
precious gems do so well, she wore me down. (It only took
an hour.) Off we went, on a mission. We returned
from the store with a humming-bird feeder and the liquid to fill
it. We sat outside, and together we put it together, hung
it and filled it. Ok, Mission Complete!...So I thought.
Not so, God in his most infinite and endearing love knew all
One day as I was sitting, on my couch in the living room,
worrying and fretting, absorbed in all I didn't have, it
happened. My eyes were fixed on the feeder just outside
the window. And God began to speak to me, just not in
words. There was this feeling of kindness and gentleness
as I had never felt. He said, "Now, right here, you have
everything." He wowed me! He made this creature just
for me. It was perfect and it was loving the nectar we
placed there for it.
At that moment, I couldn't want for anything else. It
was God talking to me through a humming bird. Now every
day I wait for his love to shine once again and He does, every
morning and every evening.
A few minutes ago I looked out my kitchen window and saw three
deer- two does and a young buck - munching away on the squirrel
food I had just put out in my back yard. They were alert, of
course, but were not afraid to come close to the house where the
So as not to frighten the animals, I remained as still as I
could and watched them. What a sight! Even as I type this, they
are still in my yard eating to their hearts' content.
I was not looking for them. I hadn't seen any deer in over a
month, so I was surprised and enchanted to see these three. I
didn't know what they ate, so I also learned something today. (I
also learned they don't like to share their claimed pile of
food. Twice when one of the deer approached another one, the
second one raised her head and somehow communicated to the first
one it would be in his best interest to back off.)
In the midst of my everyday life, I get caught up in the
sameness of it, the routine. For that reason and others, it is
so wonderful of God to occasionally toss in something different,
something beautiful that I wasn't expecting. That's serendipity.
I am grateful for the gift of the deer for even a few precious
minutes. The wonder of their presence and beauty still lingers
in my mind. Thank you, God, for your unexpected gift.
I expect God has other surprises scattered about, but do we see
them for what they are? Or do we miss them because we're blinded
by our daily routines and don't look for his blessings?
God, forgive me for those times when I'm so focused on my plans
and my routine that I fail to see you. I don't want to miss any
of the pleasures you have for me; help me to put you first in my
life and to think of myself last. Amen.
I have another bag of squirrel food. I think I'll put it out and
see what else God has to show me.
week I left a meeting and noticed a female cardinal flying
around my car. As I approached, I expected the pretty bird to
flee the danger of a human as most birds do. Instead the bird
kept flying around the passenger window of my car. "How odd?," I
thought, this bird is not afraid of me. I thought maybe God was
giving me some kind of sign. Within a few moments I realized
that God was saving my "sign" for another occasion. The mother
cardinal was attacking its own image in the side view mirror and
leaving a lot of "bird droppings" on my passenger door.
I realized that the confused little red bird was trying to
protect her nest, not from danger, but the imagined danger of
her own image in my mirror. All the time leaving her nest
unprotected from the real threats. God was giving me a message
How often have we fought useless battles that are in our own
mirrors, the fear and worry of our imaginations. All the time
neglecting the real issues challenging us and making a mess for
others to clean up.
If God can take care of sparrows, how much more will he take
care of us.
Matthew 10:29-31 (NLT) Not even a sparrow, worth only
half a penny, can fall to the ground without your Father
knowing it.  And the very hairs on your head are all
numbered.  So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to
him than a whole flock of sparrows.
Now go, trust God, and don't make messes for others to clean
up because of things that happen only in your imagination.
Recently I adopted a fluffly gray cat who won my heart by his habit of
wanting me to hold and cuddle him constantly. I cannot do much
crocheting when he's around, and I have to pick him up quickly when he
starts to climb my leg. Neither do I mind, for my love for him is
unconditional. Perhaps I love him even more because he has feline
leukemia and may die within two years if God doesn't heal him.
Several months ago I lost to leukemia a beloved cat I'd had since his
birth. I stayed with Charlie at the vet's when the doctor gave him a
shot to sedate him and left before the final euthanasia injection. By
then, Charlie was not aware of anything, anyway. His last awareness was
of being in my arms.
This morning during my devotional time, Fluffy settled down in my lap
and went to sleep. Instead of moving him so I could reach my devotional
books (I had my Bible on my bed already), I contented myself with
reading the Scriptures only (at least until Fluffy moved).
Afterwards, I meditated on Fluffy's behavior. He was curled up on my
lap with his head on my left arm. He was perfectly content and went to
sleep - no worries, no troubles of any kind to keep him awake.
Isn't that the way our Father wants us to be? Fully trusting him,
resting in his big arms of love, and not worried about anything? Letting
him hold us, not just in the bad times but in the good ones, as well?
Reaching for him, seeking his face, and yearning to hear his voice?
When Fluffy sleeps in my arms, he exposes his soft underbelly - a sign
of vulnerability and trust that I will not hurt him. Just asFluffy trusts me, it is my prayer I will trust my
heavenly daddy with all I am and have, leaving the outcome of every
situation in his capable hands.