The Dove at the Well

Each morning I retrieve the memory disk from our trail camera to see who or what visited us during the night.  It time stamps the pictures.  Last night at 10 PM a mourning dove took a bath in a water tray on our patio.  Strange.   Why?   We have mourning doves at the water at all hours during the day but not at night.   This must have been an avian woman at the well.  In John 4 Jesus met a woman coming at noon to draw water.  The other women came in the cool of the evening or morning to avoid carrying water during the heat of the day.  She most likely did not feel very welcome when the others were there.  Do I have an outcast dove?
Paul has some very specific counsel for us regarding people who feel left out. “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”  Romans 12:16.   Who do we invite to our homes?  Who do we choose to sit near in church?  Who during potlucks do we seek out?   There is a real danger in following Paul’s counsel.  We just might be condescending.  “Look how wonderful I am.  I eat with the masses!”  Should we feel that way, they will know it.  We can’t hide it.  It is then that we need to remind ourselves that the King of Glory came to be one of us.  Talk about lowering one’s self!  That was the ultimate.   See Philippians 2. 
In almost every group there are those who feel unworthy.  If we really want to be like Jesus we should seek them out and draw them into our circle of love.

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Life isn’t fair.  But you already knew that and didn’t need me to tell you.  I was reminded this morning while getting a haircut.  I could complain about the person who came in with a magnificent white mane while my barber was scanning my head for hairs to clip.  But that wasn’t the thing that really got to me.  It was my barber.  She is a wisp of a thing.  If she sneezed the laws of physics would guarantee she would fly backwards across the room and slam into a wall.  The unfairness was her continued conversation about all the places in the area to get ice cream and which are the best.  It is spring and once again they are open.  She takes her 80 year old mother and together they eat their way around the circuit.  I assumed she only got the kiddy cones but no she assured me she always got large.  Now that is unfair.  My waistline barely accommodates a one dollar cone from Burger King.
Once I had a church member complain that the thief on the cross got a free ride to heaven.  He thought that was so unfair considering how good he, the complainer, had been all his life.  Really?  Somewhere he failed to catch on that a righteous life is the best life.  If there was no heaven or no hell the person who lives righteously wins.  And furthermore, we all get a free ride to heaven.  I do agree life isn’t fair.  How is it fair that someone who never sinned died so the rest of us sinners get eternal life?  No, life isn’t fair and especially eternal life isn’t fair and I am so glad.  See John 3:16-17.

God Loves Our Uniquenesses

When I was very little my father would set up a movie projector in our small living room.  He would attach a white bed sheet to a wall and we would watch orchestras play Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky.  Now via the wonders of technology we can on Youtube watch such wonders with the press of a few keys.  One of my favorites is Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky.  There is a magnificent performance of Pictures with only a piano (no orchestration) played by Khatia Buniastishvili.  After watching I read an online review of her performance.  The reviewer scathed her for playing it with her own interpretation.  There are passages where she rushes and other passages where she is very slow.  Music is best when it flows from an artist and is not exactly like a past playing.
It is grand to attend church and listen to a sermon on a topic we have heard for years because each preacher adds to it the flavor of his or her personal experience. If we wanted it exactly the same each time we could stay home and read it over for ourselves.  Humans are marvelous creatures because we are so very unique.  Each of us brings different feelings and interpretations to experiences.  If God had wanted us to be clones it would have been easy to have done so.  However, while we are created in His image we bring to life an unlimited amount of varied colors.   Meeting new people is a treat because each time is a brand new experience.  As with music and stories each of us radiates a picture of God like no other.  God is revealed to the world with more facets than possible on any diamond.  Best of all, God is delighted to shine out of our uniquenesses.  (Is there such a word?  There is now.)

Ways to be Like the Way

A thousand years ago the forests were so thick in Europe people who wandered too far from home often never found their way back.  There were no signs, no maps.  Actually there were few roads, only paths.  Those paths had no names and the places where people lived had no names.  Often the people themselves only had one name and it wasn’t a surname.  “This is my brother Daryl and my other brother Daryl.”
This morning I needed to go to a place I had never been before.  The car I was using did not have a GPS.  But my phone talked me right to my destination.  Can you imagine the disciples saying to Jesus, “Where is heaven?”  We can hear Jesus answer, “I am the Way.”  (John 14:6)
With my phone in my shirt pocket I got very clear directions where to turn and how far to go until the next turn.  With Jesus, via the Holy Spirit, we get very clear directions regarding our lives.  “Love one another as I have loved you.”  (John 13:34)  “Forgive others.”  (Matthew 6)  “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  (Ephesians 4:2)  “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
By the Way.  The Way to eternal life is a gift.   Items listed above are the ways to be like the One who is the Way.

Hi Def

I think the first color movie I ever saw was the Wizard of Oz.  I have to confess I did not like it then and I still don’t.  (However, it is a wonderful tearful experience to hear Judy Garland sing “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”)  Before this it was black and white Keystone Cops.  In kindergarten in church one of the reasons I loved the Bible story pictures was they were always in color.  But I have to say what I heard about Jesus was in black and white.  If I was a good boy and obeyed all the rules I might be saved.  It was scarier than fake Halloween ghosts.  Jesus was Santa making a list and checking it twice to see if I was naughty or nice.
Then one day I learned the truth about Jesus.  He wasn’t Santa in the sky.  He was my savior and the story turned from black and white into color.  It was wonderful.  “The gift of God is eternal life.”  Now as I have many more miles behind me than in front of me something grand is happening to the story.   It is now in high definition. The colors of Jesus’ story are sharp and clear and densely pixilated.
When I think of my childhood version of Christianity I am horrified at the heresy we often teach children.  It is no wonder so many children leave the church when they are teens.  The world is in color while what we teach about Jesus is in black and white.   The Gospel story, the Good News, really is in dazzling color.  When understood that we have the assurance of eternity because of God’s love, life becomes vivid, almost flamboyant.

My Spider Bite

I’ve had to move my Fitbit to my right arm because of a spider bite on my left wrist.  I have no idea when I was bitten but there is no doubt what it is.  It is classic when compared with pictures of spider bites on line.  Forgive my childish fantasies but for a moment I was hoping I was as lucky as Peter Parker and the spider was radioactive.  Maybe we never outgrow some of our childhood.  I grew up on Superman comic books.  I longed to leap over tall buildings with a single bound.  Perhaps as I aged it became more of wanting to understand.  That has become more interesting than physical feats. 
I have been accused by some as living in a fantasy world when I write about our promised eternity with the Lord.  The accusation is I have a juvenile religious experience.  That’s okay.  I enjoy my hopes and aspirations.  I repeat Peter who said, “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power.”   I wish I could say what follows, “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”  I’m not.  But I then rely on the following statement by Jesus Himself, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
And so my spider bite will slowly heal and will not leave me with Spiderman talents.  That’s okay because Peter Parker was smitten with horrendous existential problems.  Jesus takes care of those issues for us.  We know who we are and where we are going.  We are the sons and daughters of God and we are heading into a glorious future with Jesus as our Brother.  We will never get that from a spider bite.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

Enduring for over an hour the pedantic Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for the glorious triumphal choral ending (Ode to Joy) is like enduring the vicissitudes of life for the glorious beginning.  It’s worth it.  However, if you watch the Ninth on Youtube it is easy to skip the first fifty minutes and get to the good part.  That is obviously something one does not want to do with life.  Even though we are looking forward to being with Jesus, being here with children and grandchildren is a bitter/sweet introduction to what is to come.  Paul wrote, “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”   See Philippians 1:22-23
Robert Frost wrote in his famous poem Birches, “I’d like to get away from earth awhile and then come back to it and begin over. May no fate willfully misunderstand me and half grant what I wish and snatch me away not to return. Earth’s the right place for love: I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.”  Obviously he wasn’t of the same frame of mind as Paul but he was right about one thing.  Earth is the right place for love. It is here that we learn how we will live in heaven. 
When life’s issues become almost unbearable and we are tempted to abandon hope remember Beethoven’s Ninth.   The glorious end is coming and for us it will be a glorious beginning.

Talking to My Dog

A few days ago I wrote about walking in my yard on a moonless night looking for my black lab.  All the while she was invisibly walking around right behind me.  Last night we had a quarter moon as I once again went out to bring her in for the night.  It wasn’t long until I saw darkness following me around.  Considering myself to be a quick study and not to be fooled again I headed back to the door talking to her.  Then I reached back to pet her.  Emptiness – it was my shadow!!  My dog was still sitting in the corner of the yard watching me talk to nothingness.

It would have been saner had I been talking to myself.  This time I was talking to thin air.  This happens to be the reason God gave us the first commandment.  “Thou shall have no other gods before me.”  Since there is only one real God, placing other gods before Him would be praying to nothingness.  God is trying to keep us from wasting our devotion and intellect.  Praying to nothing isn’t going to get us anything.
God is so wonderfully practical.  Each of His commandments has a practical application for enhancing the quality of our lives.  There isn’t a selfish bone in His body.  His total focus is on our wellbeing.  He instantly hears all our prayers and answers not according to our requests but according to what is best for us.  Often we misjudge His actions but someday He will make it all clear and we will rejoice in His wisdom and grace.  He never makes mistakes.  Our talking with Him is never talking to shadows.


The word is synecdoche. It is a literary term meaning a part of something representing the whole. In a way we can apply it to our human tendency to generalize about something using very limited data.  If we have a bad experience with a particular person it is not uncommon for us to paint with a very broad brush all the people of that particular person’s group.  With very limited exposure to something we often speak about it with great authority.  It is equally easy to make assumptions about the world we live in by hearing or watching a few news stories. We don’t think about the fact that news organizations pick the most radical, most gruesome events to talk about so as to attract us to watch their network.  It is easy then to think the whole world or our entire country is like those stories.  Politicians don’t help because they want us to think things are bad so will elect them so they can fix the horror they have made up.
We are so anxious for Jesus to come we often exaggerate (not consciously) how bad the world has become.  But if we only stop to remember our history lessons or the history of only the 20th century we cannot think we are now worse off.  World War I and World War II killed scores of millions of people.  Polio and other diseases were rampant.  Crime is not worse now than it has been in the past.  History reveals to us the world has always been a mess.  Furthermore, surely the second coming of Jesus is not dependent upon the amount of evil in the world.  Perhaps it is just the opposite.  Perhaps God is waiting for a people to have grown so much like Him He just has to come to take them home.  Isn’t that what happened to Enoch?

On Taking Responsibility

Spring semester is waning. Projects are coming due. Procrastinators are not yet panicking; that will happen in about ten more days.  Last evening I made an impassioned appeal for my undergrads to PLEASE get their assignments turned in. (This is something you never have to do with graduate students.)  After class three students stayed after to ask how to do the assignments!  When I explained (for the umpteenth time) they accused me of never having told them before this.  I felt like I was in the Garden of Eden hearing Adam blaming God, followed by Eve blaming the serpent.  I would have been so much more sympathetic if they had said, “I never heard” instead of saying, “You didn’t.”  Perhaps that was asking too much.  That would have meant they were responsible.   (I’m sure they would have taken responsibility if something good had occurred.)
Taking responsibility when there is blame to be had (manning up) is a key factor in living a successful life.  It is THE key factor in being saved.  “If we confess our sins He is able to forgive.” Confession is manning up.  No going to therapy so we can blame our parents, no playing Flip Wilson by saying, “The devil made me do it.”  Life is choices.  Unfortunately not all of them work out so well.  The good news is God is eager to save, eager to forgive, eager to give us fresh starts, even if we need them on a daily basis.  When describing love in I Corinthians 13 Paul wrote, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” 
My students will make my day when they turn in their assignments.  We can make God’s day by saying, “I did it.  I’m sorry.”