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    There's Hope

    The few bookstores that are still open are bulging with self-improvement titles that have certainly paid off for their well-heeled authors.  Their tempting promises include “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” and “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”  I get it -- if I have good fortune, these happiness hucksters contend that I myself must make it happen.
     
    The late George Carlin got it: “I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, 'Where's the self-help section?' She said, “If I told you, that would defeat the purpose.” 
     
    Hope is a many splendored word.  There’s aspirational hope, as in “I hope I win best-in-show.”  There’s emotional hope, as in “I hope she’ll say ‘yes’ when I propose.”
     
    And there’s biblical hope, a well-grounded expectation that relies on God’s promises, as in “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11
     
    What are you hoping for?  How sure are you that it will come to pass?
     
     
    “And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?  My only hope is in You.”  Psalm 39:7
     
    Posted February 15, 2020

    Almighty Shadow

    Standing in a batting cage, your heart starts racing when that faceless pitching machine begins launching SAM (surface-to-me) baseball missiles at your ill-prepared sense of timing.  One after another, here they come, ready or not.
     
    Email had a similar effect on me today when it delivered the bad news that yet another friend has cancer.  They say the number of new cases is declining, but if your family has been touched by this dreaded disease, one is one too many.
     
    When you hear “shadow,” you’d rather it come from your photographer than your physician.  But best of all, from that Old Testament songwriter:
     
    “Whoever goes to the Lord for safety remains under the shadow of the Almighty and can say to Him, ‘You are my defender and protector; You are my God; in You I trust.’  He will keep you safe from all hidden dangers and from all deadly diseases.  He will cover you with His wings; you will be safe in His care.”
     
    Next time you’re thrown a killer curve, where will you turn for safety?”
     
     
    “God says, ‘I will save those who love me and protect those who acknowledge me as Lord. When they call me, I will answer them; when they are in trouble, I will be with them.  I will rescue them and honor them.  I will reward them with long life; I will save them.”  Psalm 91:14-16
     
    “Even in my suffering I was comforted because Your promise gave me life.”  Psalm 119:50
     
    Posted January 31, 2020

    Wise Guy

    “Is there any of you who is wise and understanding?”  The setting could be Gasworks Park in Seattle.  The audience is consummately diverse.  Business types wearing “casual Friday.”  Students with backpacks.  A scattering of pup tents, grocery carts and their transient residents.
     
    Standing in their midst is a late 20-something man.  The cut of his jib is ordinary.  But his dancing eyes and commanding composure have you waiting for his answer to his question.
     
    A few hands go up, likely in sarcasm, implying, “Okay, smart guy.  I s’pose you have a corner on the mental market.  What’s your point?”
     
    Our moderator makes room for a long, pregnant pause.  Then continues. “You are to prove it by your good life, by your good deeds performed with humility and wisdom.  But if in your heart you are jealous, bitter and selfish, …  such wisdom does not come down from heaven.”
     
    What filters will you trust in 2020 to wisely determine what is real and what isn’t?

     
    The wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.  And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace.”  James 3:16-18
     
    Posted January 14, 2020

    Beth L'chaim!

    “Oh, by gosh, by golly,
    It’s time for mistletoe and holly.”
     
    This season may be for you, as Dickens wrote, “the best of times.”  You have a job, there’s harmony at home, and you’re in good health.  But sadly for others it’s “the worst of times,” wracked by shattered dreams, plagued by infirmity, with no hope.
     
    Long ago a young couple found themselves in a strange, humanly inexplicable dilemma.  He was a typical, hard-working guy, headed for a bland, anonymous existence in a dusty, backwater village.  His heart belonged to a quiet lass, with child and in her early teens, about to be his bride. Hardly candidates for “The Bachelorette.” No honeymooning at a 5-star resort in the Greek islands.  No, they settled for a manger.
     
    Surely, this was the worst of times.  But their story gets even worse before it rises to heights loftier than even the best of times.  Stay tuned, world! 
     
    Where are you in this epic drama?
     
     
    Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:11,12
     
    Posted December 31, 2019

    Attention, Shoppers

    Do you know the origin of Black Friday?  In today’s contentious climate it could be a dog whistle, triggering who-knows-what. But it’s a marketing ploy -- the day of the year when a retailer goes from red P&L numbers to profitable black ones.  Black Friday is positive, not pejorative.  Sellers rake in a windfall; shoppers pocket the year’s best deals.
     
    Another famous Friday has an equally confusing name.  Good Friday commemorates history’s most heinous act:  nailing our own Creator to a wooden cross, left naked and bleeding to die a hideous death.  Yet, ironically, Good Friday marks mankind’s most profitable transaction, i.e., trading our sins for God’s forgiveness.
     
    Attention, shoppers! Is this Blue Light Special in your shopping cart today?  Sale ends soon.

     
    “For sin pays its wage – death, but God’s free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23


    Posted December 13, 2019

    Partly Cloudy, Mostly SONny

    Summer’s soothing warmth and blue skies play hide’n’seek this time each year.  Neighbors escape to sunnier climes and rub it in on Facebook or text a smiling selfie from some sandy beach. But what’s so bad about clouds? 
     
    When Moses and his friends roamed the Arabian wilderness, the Lord went ahead of them in a cloud to guide them.  After He rose from the dead, Jesus ascended to heaven in a cloud.  And any day now, when He returns to transport His followers to heaven, He will meet us in the clouds. Next time you’re teased about our clouds, remember, God often hangs out in them.
     
    Are you planning to join Jesus in the clouds?  Have you gone through early check-in to confirm your reservation?
     
     
    “Those who have died believing in Christ will rise to life first; then we who are living at that time will be gathered up along with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will always be with the Lord.  So then, encourage one another with these words."  1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
     
    Posted December 1, 2019

    In A Word

    How many times have you written or spoken “November?”  Do you know its history?  About 1200 A.D. the French came up with Novembre.  Novem-  is Latin for “nine.”  It stood for the ninth month of the Roman calendar which had only ten months.  (No doubt those crazy Romans wanted to rush their New Year’s partying two months sooner.)
     
    Such a backpack of information, stuffed into a single word.  Like November. What comes to mind when your name comes up?  The ancient prophet heard God say, “Do not be afraid because I have reclaimed you.  I have called you by name; you are Mine.”
     
    What do you want God to think when He hears or speaks your name – not just in November, but forever?
     
     
    “The Lord called me before my birth, from within the womb.  He called me by name.”  Isaiah 49:1
     
    Posted November 17, 2019

    Face It

    Folklore in Ireland tells of a blacksmith named Jack who’s waiting at the pearly gates. Denied admittance, he hollows out a turnip and places a burning coal ember in it for a lamp to light the way in search of a final home.  When the Irish came to America during the potato famine of the mid-19th century, they swapped turnips for pumpkins and carved scary faces on them.  With a name like “Jack O’Lantern,” you knew the Irish were involved somehow.
     
    As you carve your pumpkin this month, follow Broadway’s pop prescription:
     
    “Gray skies are gonna clear up;
    Put on a happy face.”
     
    Graham Cooke recalls hearing someone tell his grumpy friend to “Die quietly.  Nobody likes to hear you scream.”
     
    Better still is the Old Testament’s admonition to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”  That’s hard to do masked by a frown.  So, if you’re happy, tell your face!
     
    What gives you joy today?  Real joy?
     
     
    The LORD make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you and give you peace.”   Numbers 6:25-26
     
    Posted November 1, 2019

    Out On A Limb

    Redwoods can top out at 400 feet and live 2,000 years. But they’re saplings alongside a certain Great Basin bristlecone pine in California’s White Mountains. Dubbed “the oldest-known living tree in the world,” Methuselah is 4,851 years old.
     
    If these old-timers could talk, they’d tell about discovering fire, inventing the wheel, generating electricity and countless other breakthroughs. Yet no Einstein equals the wisdom of the Creator who made those seedlings eons ago.
     
    That Creator compared His kingdom to a tiny mustard seed that grows up to be a tree where birds make their home. That seed is the news that Jesus Christ, who spoke the universe into existence, proved His love for us by dying on a tree for us. And He offers us permanent refuge in the safety of His strong arms.
     
    Upon whose reliable branches are you nesting?
     
     
    Not one sparrow … can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t worry! You are more valuable to him than many sparrows.”  Matthew 10:29-31
     
    Posted on October 14, 2019

    September's Song

    Debuting in 1938 in a Broadway musical, “September Song” put a few more coins in the pockets of Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra.  Its lyrics liken a calendar year to one’s life span:
     
    “It’s a long, long while from May to December,
    But the days grow short when you reach September.
    When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame,
    One hasn’t got time for the waiting game.”
     
    Procrastination or, as my mother put it, “a hard head” describes those who delay putting their trust in Jesus Christ’s payment on the cross for our sin.  Like a driver careening down a mountain, unaware that he won’t survive the next curve at this speed, many refuse to admit and act on their need for a Savior.
     
    The Bible calls today “the day of salvation,” the day for a soft heart, not a hard head. 
     
    “These few precious days I’ll spend with you.”
     
    Will September be your time to sing that sweet, sweet song of salvation?
     
     
    “You’ll welcome us with open arms when we run for cover to You.
    …  You are famous, God, for welcoming God-seekers, for decking us out in delight.”  Psalm 5:11-12 The Message
     
    Posted September 30, 2019
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