Return to Radnor Lake

“There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature” (Henry David Thoreau).

Of all the choices and decisions I’ve made of late, precious few were any better than returning to Radnor Lake for a hike.

It’s been way too long since I last had a good long hike into nature and away from the things of man. I relish the quiet calm of nature, listening to my own thoughts, but more often listening to the still small voices of nature.

It almost seems like to speak would be to profane the sacred silence around me, so I often keep quiet and try to pay attention. Those two qualities work well not just on a hike but in any suitable occasion.

I counted 11 deer, plus countless squirrels, some turkeys, a swimming muskrat, and a busy little woodpecker. On the whole, the hike lived up to my expectations.

I often wonder if this current culture isn’t allergic to silence. You never hear dead air in any media format. People will fill any kind of silence with inane talk and chatter. It’s like we’re (me included) addicted to noise.

But there’s something curative and refreshing about peace, silence, quiet, and nature. I’m sure Thoreau was onto something with Walden Pond.

More Good Music

I recently rediscovered the early solo recordings of one Rod Stewart.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of just about everything he’s ever done, starting way back with the Jeff Beck Group and The Small Faces all the way to the present.

But there’s something about the Mercury recordings he did that are magical. I think most people will agree that Maggie May is a classic. There are plenty of other gems from this era, including Reason to Believe, You Wear it Well, and Mandolin Wind, among others.

I listen to these recordings and most of them sound fresh. Maybe it’s because they sound a lot like the Americana/Roots music coming out these days. Maybe ol’ Rod was ahead of his time.

It’s just good driving during rush hour/laying in bed with your headphone on/road trip/anywhere music.

Here’s the link if you’re interested:

Do Thou for Me

“Do Thou for me, O God the Lord,
Do Thou for me.
I need not toil to find the word
That carefully
Unfolds my prayer and offers it,
My God, to Thee.

It is enough that Thou wilt do,
And wilt not tire,
Wilt lead by cloud, all the night through
By light of fire,
Till Thou has perfected in me
Thy heart’s desire.

For my beloved I will not fear,
Love knows to do
For him, for her, from year to year,
As hitherto.
Whom my heart cherishes are dear
To Thy heart too.

O blessèd be the love that bears
The burden now,
The love that frames our very prayers,
Well knowing how
To coin our gold.  O God the Lord,
Do Thou, Do Thou” (Amy Carmichael).

There are times when we simply don’t know how to pray for a circumstance or a loved one. Try as we may, the words will not come.

I think even then God hears the groans and sighs of our petitions and knows what they mean. He hears the deepest desires of our hearts and knows best how to grant them.

Even when we have words, they aren’t always the best ones. Sometimes, we ask without such a limited point of view. Sometimes we ask selfishly. Sometimes we have too small a view of God and ask too little.

In Jan Karon’s Mitford series, Father Tim Kavanaugh always has his go-to prayer, or “the prayer that never fails,” as he calls it. The prayer goes “Thy will be done.”

You can never go wrong with leaving the matter in God’s hands.

The Greatest of These is Love

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentfulit does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:4-13, ESV).

“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always ‘me first,’
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love” (1 Corinthians 13:4-13, The Message).

COVID-19 Check In

How is everyone doing tonight? Are you coping well with the current state of pandemic affairs? Are you stressed out or are you remaining relatively calm?

These are not build ups to some point I want to make. I genuinely want to know how you are out there in the wonderful world of interwebs.

Please let me know how I can pray for you during this time. I know for me the best way to pray is for endurance for this season. I know it’s dangerous to pray for patience because that’s usually when your patience gets tested the most, but I think we all could probably use it right now.

Pray for our leadership at the national, state, and local levels –whether you agree with them or not– for wisdom and guidance. Pray for the coronavirus to go away.

Do let me know how I can pray for you. I’m not being rhetorical. I’m really asking, “How can I pray for you?”

I’m not the best at praying, but I’d like to pray for you.

That’s all.

You Still Matter

“It is easy enough to write and talk about God while remaining comfortable within the contemporary intellectual climate. Even people who would call themselves unbelievers often use the word gesturally, as a ready-made synonym for mystery. But if nature abhors a vacuum, Christ abhors a vagueness. If God is love, Christ is love for this one person, this one place, this one time-bound and time-ravaged self” (Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss).

I probably mentioned this in an earlier post, but I wanted to repeat it in case you might have forgotten in all the chaos and pandemonium. You are important to God and your individual life matters to Him. Even if you’ve given up on the idea of God and no longer believe in Him, He is still for you.

His desire is still that you should not perish but that you should come to true repentance and faith. His desire is to see you become all that He created you to be, a fully alive son or daughter of God.

You still matter.

Happy 4th of July (with Baby Sloths in Pajamas Thrown in for Good Measure)

Right now, people are blowing stuff up outside in the middle of a thunderstorm. That’s right. Nothing says “Happy Independence Day” like drinking alcohol and playing with explosives.

But I give you a picture of a baby sloth wearing pajamas. It may just be the cutest thing you will see all day. I guarantee it will be the least divisive thing you will see all day on the interwebs.

That’s it. Just baby sloths in pajamas. You’re welcome.

It’s Not Your Job

It seems like there’s an awful lot of anxiety and stress out in the world today. I am aware that there’s a pandemic going on, but I think there’s more to the worry factor than that.

I truly believe that a lot of people have taken it upon themselves to be the enforcers of whether people do or do not wear masks while out in public.

People have also decided that they must call out every single instance of injustice of any kind anywhere in the world and must be offended for everyone to whom there is a perceived insult or injustice.

Social media is full of people who feel that they must always correct anyone whose theology and ideology doesn’t line up with theirs. Many of them come across as rather self-righteous and condescending.

Can I lift a burden off your shoulders?

It’s not your job to save everyone.

It’s not even your job to save anyone.

God in Jesus is the one who does the saving in every sense of the word.

If your eschatology doesn’t make room for the righteous reign of God to right the societal wrongs of the world, then it is too limited.

You are supposed to be against injustice because God is against injustice, but only God is big enough to make wrong things really right.

Your job is to love God and love people. That’s what Jesus said.

The way you love God is to do what He says, grow in His image, seek Him daily above all else, and make His name glorious wherever you go.

The way you love people is to be a good neighbor, see them as God sees them, treat them like God treats you, and to display the image of Jesus to them in everything you do and say.

That’s your job. God will take care of the rest.

Be Different

When you give in to the pressure of the world around you to fit in, you give away the one thing that makes you unique. You give away the one thing that when the moment comes people will need from you. The world doesn’t need you to be like everybody else. The world isn’t mad because you as a believer are too different from them. They’re mad because you’re too much like them. The one thing you can give is you coming alive to who you are in Christ and shining in the dark places.

That’s something I wrote a few years back after hearing a Kairos sermon about how the world doesn’t hate Christians because they’re too different but because they’re not different enough. Or maybe I heard someone else say it. I can’t remember. It doesn’t matter because the truth is that the world needs believers to be set apart and different.

When believers compromise away their convictions and confessions to accommodate the world, they trade away the hope they offer through Christ, the only hope the world really has.

When you deconstruct your faith, you are trading away living water for broken cisterns that can hold no water at all. When Peter confessed to Jesus that He alone had the words of eternal life, he meant it. There is no where else to go.

Be different. Be willing to risk being hated just as much as Jesus was hated during His earthly ministry. For some it will mean public ridicule and scorn. For some it will mean loss of possessions and family and friends. For some, it will mean death just as much as it meant Jesus going to a crucifixion.

But it is worth it. Jesus endured all the agony for the joy set before Him of seeing all sorts of people transformed from despair to hope, from darkness to light, from death to life.

We have the ministry of reconciliation between people of every language and nationality and race and ethnicity. The hope of the world is the hope of the Gospel, that Jesus came to die for and to save sinners like me and you.

It’s not popular or politically correct, but it is still the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. It’s John 3:16. It’s Ephesians 2:9-10. It’s 1 Peter 1:18-19. It’s the truth that no one is too lost or too bad or too late for God to redeem and make right and restore.

Quote for Thought

“Here is the mystery, the secret, one might almost say the cunning, of the deep love of God: that it is bound to draw on to itself the hatred and pain and shame and anger and bitterness and rejection of the world, but to draw all those things on to itself is precisely the means, chosen from all eternity by the generous, loving God, by which to rid his world of the evils which have resulted from human abuse of God-given freedom” (N. T. Wright, The Crown and the Fire).

That’s it. God in Jesus took on all the sin of the world on the cross.

That’s the hope for the world.

Our final hope is not in some radical upheaval or climate change or social justice or anything man-made. While we work toward true justice and peace, we know that ultimately the victory comes not from us but from Jesus.

Some say that others should pay for what their forefathers did long ago.

But when you look to the Bible, specifically the Old Testament, it says that no one pays for the sins of his or her father. Each one must pay for his or her own sin.

But then you look to the culmination of history in the Cross that says, “Jesus paid it ALL!”

That’s the hope of the world.

Happy 3rd Gotcha Day, Peanut!

I’m going to tell you a story. If you’ve been following these posts for a year or longer, you’ve probably heard it before, so you can skip this one if you want.

Three years ago, I went into the Williamson County Animal Shelter looking for another little cat to love nine days after I said my last goodbyes to Lucy.

I knew I could never hope to replace Lucy, but I needed a place for all the love to go that was still in my heart. I had no idea what this new cat would look like.

I did hope that the cat would more or less pick me. I prayed that the right cat would choose me to be her human rather than me choosing the cat.

It hadn’t worked the way I planned. I looked at a few cats that were nice (if not super affectionate or friendly). I even had one picked out that I thought I could grow to really love in time.

But then I turned around to see a little kitten paw reaching out from a cage behind me. Actually, it was my nephew who pointed her out to me, I think.

She was all alone in her cage, crying for me to take her home. She had picked me as the very human she wanted to spend all her nine lives with.

Her name at the time was Marcie, but that name really didn’t fit. I don’t know what inspired the name Peanut, but it seemed to fit (plus it got three votes from my nephews and niece).

So three years later, I have this quiet and gentle cat who loves her belly rubs. She’s mostly black, but she has this one peanut butter colored foot that she’s rather proud of (or at least you’d think so by the way she shows it off).

Thanks, Peanut, for three years of joy. You are the best.

Monday Quote of the Day

“Lord, all that I long for is known to you, 
my sighing is no secret from you… 
I put my trust in you, and leave you to answer for me” (Elisabeth Elliott).

Of course, that works for any day of the week, but it seems especially appropriate after another Monday has come and gone.

I believe Mrs. Elliott also said something to the effect that God gives the very best to those who leave the choice with Him.

May this be the day that you worry less and worship more, panic less and pray more, try harder less and trust more.

May this be the day that you rediscover that God and God alone is enough, and if you have nothing more, you have enough and you are enough.

May this be the day that you remember that all the days of your life are written in God’s book, and He knows every one of them by heart.

May this be the day that you know in your deepest heart that God has already written the last page of history. You can read it in the last chapter of the last book in the Bible and rest in the fact that it will be fine in the end, and if it’s not fine, it’s not the end.

For John

Recently, I found out that a man that I greatly admire and respect has passed away. His name was John Oden, and he was one of the most kind and faithful men of God I have ever known.

He was a steady stalwart and a friendly face at Room in the Inn for around 20 years. His was the face you could always trust and everything about him reflected Jesus to everyone he ever met.

I found this old Wordsworth poem that seems appropriate for the occasion:

“And O ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,  
Forebode not any severing of our loves!  
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;  
I only have relinquish’d one delight  
To live beneath your more habitual sway.  
I love the brooks which down their channels fret,  
Even more than when I tripp’d lightly as they;  
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day  
Is lovely yet;  
The clouds that gather round the setting sun  
Do take a sober colouring from an eye  
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;  
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.  
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,  
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,  
To me the meanest flower that blows can give  
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears” (William Wordsworth).