Monthly Archives: February 2014

“Is That Your Boy?”

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“Is that your boy?” asked the salty 82 year old owner of the marina as we backed the boat into the slip, with my son, Steve and son-in-law, Greg handling the lines.  “Yes,” I answered, “He’s my son,” and then pointing to Greg, “and he’s my son-in-law.”

We were on a three day boat trip down the Potomac River, across the Chesapeake Bay to Tangier Island, then up the St. Mary’s River and finally back to Occoquan, south of Washington.  It was early October and God had blessed us with absolutely beautiful weather – warm sunshine days and cool nights – picturesque sunrises and artistic sunsets.  We had lunch at various crab houses along the way and anchored out each evening with one of the boys cooking dinner on the boat.  We were all easy to be with.

Tangier Island is like stepping into a time warp, discovered by Captain John Smith in 1608, a population of 569 who still speak with a trace of Elizabethan accent; all connected either directly or indirectly with the crabbing industry.  No cars, only golf carts and walking paths populated with houses and front yards filled with gravestones of preceding generations; lots of docks, marshes and crab boats.

It may sound like a small thing, but for the owner of the marina to see enough resemblance to ask the question, “Is that your boy?” made me feel kind of proud.  Forty-three years separate my son, Stephen and me.  He is 30 and vigorous.  I have white hair and am not quite so vigorous.

In today’s society, families tend to get so disbursed that we can easily lose our sense of family and identity from generation to generation.  We go our separate ways, life full of work, children activities and busyness; seldom doing things together, living far apart, seeing each other only on an occasional holiday.  In prior generations, like Tangier Island, families tended to live together more, or at least in closer proximity, sons worked with their fathers and were a continuation of the father in both work and life.

Tradition tells us that Jesus initially took on the work of his earthly father, Joseph, working as a carpenter before he began his public life. “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.  And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:51-52) In his public life he also took on the work of his heavenly Father, becoming his presence in human form in the family business of salvation, offering the fullness of life from God, the Father to all people.

This is the natural order established by God – man, woman, family cooperating with God’s creative act to fill the earth and to work and take care of the garden of creation, extending God’s plan and leading each generation to God, so that God may one day be “all in all.” (1Cor. 15:28)  Let us pray that God may be as proud of us, his extension in this world, as I am of my son, Stephen, son-in-law, Greg, and all my children, their spouses and families, who are an extension of our family and heritage.

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How Much Confidence Do You Have in God?

In a 2011 Gallup poll, 92% of Americans said they believed in God.  While this widespread belief in God may seem remarkable given what we see in much of our pop culture, a more telling question might be how much confidence do we have in God with respect to our day-to-day actions?  Do we seek his guidance for both large and small decisions?  Do we tell the boss what he or she wants to hear or speak the truth? Do we correct a teenage child even though it may provoke an extreme reaction?  Do we offer to pray with a co-worker who has just learned that he or she has been diagnosed with cancer?

God asked Gideon to lead the Israelites against the Midianites who had been raiding their lands.  Gideon believed in God, but as the footnote in the Community Christian Bible suggests, his confidence in God appeared to be a bit shaky since he asked for a sign not only once but twice.  He said, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor.  If there is only dew on the fleece and the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand.” (Judges 6:36-37)  God gave him this sign, but then Gideon wanted more assurance and asked that the reverse happen with the dew being on the ground, but not the fleece.  God provided this additional assurance and then Gideon, with God’s assistance,  went on to defeat Midian.

In Hope for the Workplace – Christ in You, there is the story of Dr. Sheri Donaldson, a physical therapist whose co-worker, Ashley, was scheduled for an MRI to check on a piece of brain tumor that could not be removed from a prior surgery. Every time Ashley would have an MRI to check on the status of the tumor, she would get very anxious.  It just so happened that Sheri was able to see Ashley right before she was leaving for her appointment. Sheri sensed that the Lord wanted her to pray with Ashley that this time the MRI would show that the tumor was gone.  While Sheri had reservations about whether she should follow what she deemed a prompting from the Holy Spirit, she nevertheless placed her hand on Ashley’s forehead and prayed in the name of Jesus that the tumor would be gone.

Sheri reports, “The next time we saw each other, I was walking down the hallway past Ashley’s office and she yelled, ‘Sheri, THE TUMOR IS GONE!’ Not a trace of it on the MRI, even though it had been present on every MRI for several years.”

We see in Sheri’s story someone who not only believes in God, but also has the confidence in God to step out and boldly offer to pray with her friend that God would heal her and take away all trace of the remaining piece of brain tumor.

In John 14:12, Jesus says, “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these…and I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.”

The Bible has hundreds of promises like this one.  How much confidence do you have in them?

How Long Will You Live? Perhaps Longer than You Think

One characteristic common to all living things is that they eventually die.  People, animals, birds, microbes, plants, even the giant redwoods that can live a thousand years, die at some point.  The cycle of birth, life and death may vary, but the sequence remains the same for all. Three score and ten has been consigned to human life for much of history, although the Psalmist says, “You have made my days a mere handbreadth.” (Psalm 39:5)

But then Jesus says, “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25, 26)  This, of course, runs counter to what we experience in being born into this physical world, living the life we see, hear and touch.

Many years ago a secretary with whom I worked was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer.  Her name was Rita.  She went through multiple surgeries and treatments.  I watched her as she went from this vibrant woman in her prime, full of life, grace and happiness, literally shrink physically before my eyes as the cancer and treatments sapped the life from her.  In visiting her a few days before she died, I was shocked at her physically deteriorated state.

That evening, while reflecting on her condition, the thought came to me that while the cancer was destroying her physical body, it could not destroy her because who she was, included so much more than her physical body.  Yes, her physical nature had a part in defining who she was, but the most important part of her was her personality, her gracious and loving manner, her kindness, her willingness to listen to a co-worker with a problem, her diligence in her work, her quiet peace and joy when our office was experiencing a chaotic moment, her inclination to love no matter who was standing in front of her.

These non-physical characteristics of Rita were what really made her who she was.  They would not die with her body.  They would live on.  As physical beings we struggle with defining the non-physical.  We use words like soul and spirit that have the potential to transcend the physical realm. The writer of Ecclesiastes observes, “He has set eternity into the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Eccl. 33:11)

Job asks, “If a man dies will he live again?” (Job 14:14) Jesus answers the question.  We die to this physical world in the current age, but if we believe in him, the best part of us lives on, soul and spirit. Furthermore, just as God raised Jesus to new life with a different kind of body after he was nailed to the cross, he promises to do the same for those who believe.  “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?’” (1 Cor. 15:53-55)

Are You Patient with God?

We live in a fast-food, express lane world. We have instant cash machines in grocery stores, drive-through banking, one hour cleaning, jiffy lubrication for our cars and overnight delivery of mail. We seem to be in a constant rush. The virtue of patience and waiting holds little value, considered more a distraction than an attribute.

In the Exodus 23, God is giving instructions to the Israelites about how he is going to help them overcome the people who occupy the land he has prepared for them. He says he is not going to drive out the occupiers in a single year. “Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” He explains that if he drove them out immediately, the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for the Israelites to handle.

God designed us to grow little by little from infancy to childhood, from childhood to puberty, from puberty to adulthood, from early adulthood to maturity. Shortening the process will not lead to the desired outcome of maturity and wisdom. How often have we seen the fame accompanying a child actress or the instant wealth accruing to a gifted collegiate athlete gone professional lead to a disastrous result?

Our daughter Emily was born with Down syndrome. One of the characteristics of children with Down syndrome is that they experience delays in their development. That first step takes a little longer. First words come a little slower and physical coordination can take time, but each milestone is accompanied with much rejoicing and a sure sense of achievement.

Ironically the Lord calls each of us to seek him eagerly, but then often has us wait to see the fruit. St. Paul acknowledges that even “creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” so that “it [creation] may be liberated from the bondage of decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19, 21)

We who accept God’s offer to dwell in us are the sons and daughters of God being revealed generation upon generation to liberate this created world from its bondage to sin and decay. It is a long term process, but the benefits can last an eternity — for us, our families, our colleagues, our workplaces and the world around us. It is noteworthy that of the fifteen characteristics St. Paul uses to define love in 1 Corinthians 13, the first is patience. He says, “Love is patient, love is kind…”

The question is can we abide by God’s timing of what he wants to accomplish through us? While we are looking for instant success, God realizes that we often need preparation to do what he has put before us. “Little by little” he prepares us, or the hearts of the people he wants us to reach, so we need to be patient with God to provide the circumstances for us to act.

Several years ago, one of my daughters made a plaque with beautiful calligraphy for my den. It reads, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) I gaze on it each morning while I meet Jesus for coffee and wait on the quiet whisper of his will.