Saturday, July 25, 2009

Recipes to Live By

I like to eat. I've had fancy foods which I thought were "good" at best, and I've eaten things I couldn't pronounce from ingredients I won't tell you about at this time, but my all time favorites are just plain old down home country meals prepared with more heart than fancy recipes. With that thought in mind let me share a "bite" with you.

Any one who knows me, will have to admit I'm not one much for fluff and the fancies of life. What you see is pretty much what you get and I generally gravitate to the simplicities with more of a country aspect, so let me tell you what I've learned about the chuck wagon cooks from the cattle trail drives. They, and their chuck wagons, were the life blood of the trail drive. Not only was the cook "The Cook", he was also the tailor,dentist, doctor, banker and usually the most surly of the bunch. You learned early on not to criticize his fare, even if you had a hard time swallowing it. It could be hazardous to your health in more ways than one; you probably wouldn't die from his cooking skills, but an insulted cook could insure your demise by lead poisoning from a neatly placed round in a heart beat.

The cook was the first to arise in the morning making breakfast for the entire crew, and the last to go to bed at night after all the pots were cleaned and the next meal set in order and ready for the fire. But the most important thing the cook did was to move the tongue of the chuck wagon and point it in the direction of the North Star. The reason being was so the trail boss would have a type of compass to point out the direction he was to move his heard that day in relation to the star. Again profundity is found in the simplistic. Direction once again coming from the Heavens.

Isn't is ironic the tongue of the chuck wagon, the rolling store house of daily sustenance, always started out pointing in the direction of the North Star up in the Heavens? There might be a lesson in this. The one individual who was responsible for feeding the entire crew knew and understood daily direction was more important than any other aspect of his job because if he couldn't provide the correct direction, after looking to the Heavens, nothing else mattered because the destination would never be reached and he only carried enough supplies to get from the starting point to the trails end. Matthew 2:1-12 tells how wise men, no number given, started out following a star that lead them to a baby in a feed trough, who would grow to feed not only 5000 men, not counting women and children, but eventually all man kind through his broken body only 33 years later.

I've found when I rely on my own instincts and "level" my gaze at temporal things in this life I'm always disappointed and my view eventually falls to the dust of the earth. If I heed the example of the wise men, and a chuck wagon cook, making sure my first thing each day is knowing, and more importantly, understanding where I'm headed in a true upward direction, I set myself to be ready to ride when time presents itself. Wise men and chuck wagon cooks have a lot in common. They know where they're headed and prepare themselves to "present" to others in need, whether supplying gifts from afar, or serving up biscuits and gravy with a strong cup of coffee to clear the cob webs.

When Jesus was led of the Spirit up into the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days is when he faced his first temptation as the Bible says "he was afterward an hungred." Old slew foot was waiting, challenging His authority by tempting Him to turn stones into bread. The Devil knows when we're at our weakest. He'll wait until we're hungry, not having been back to the "Chuck Wagon" before he plays his hand. I love what was written next..."It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Matthew 4:4. Wise words from the wisest man to ever live. It wasn't an example of turning stones into bread in question, it was an example of how and when we're at our weakest, we know we're going to be tested and tried. Hangin' round the camp fire, close to "The Chuck Wagon" will ensure we're always "filled" and ready to ride at the dawning of that great gettin' up morning.

Mount up. You're burnin' day light and we've got a lot of strays to round up. Come on. Let's ride.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Just a Stone's Throw Away

Ever been "caught with your hand in the cookie jar?" Not a real comfortable situation to be in, especially if The Boss catches you. While reading my Bible this morning, I was loaned another treasure and I'd like to pass it on to you.

The story of the woman caught in the act of adultery takes on a whole new meaning in my continuing relationship with the Lord. I found something I've never heard preached before and there it was right in front of me, all along!

St. John Chapter 8, verses 1-11 pretty well tells the basic story, but let me tell you what I found in reading between the lines. When the Pharisees brought the woman, "taken in adultery" to Jesus they had pretty much decided her fate, but wanting to "kill two birds with one stoning" they'd see what Jesus had to say about it all. They immediately started quoting to Him the law, according to Moses. Pretty impressive credentials to say the least. I mean, when you're talkin' THE LAW, you really don't need to say much more once you mention the name of Moses. He was the first to bring it down the mountain. (Come to think of it, he was the second too, but I digress)

When her accusers brought her before Jesus and the rest of the crowd, I love what He did next. Verse 6 ..."But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not." Now I don't know where you come from but for someone like that to ignore me would just about burn my biscuits! But I love the way he treated the woman. A true gentleman in every sense of the word. After he spoke the immortal words "he that is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her" He went right back to writing on the ground again. Now the words or pictures he drew on the ground have been the subject of debate from that time to this. I don't know that what he wrote is as important as that he wrote. Stay with me here.

The God of all creation, just visiting for a 33 year incarnate stint, stopped by one day to hear a case which by virtue of the law of the land, in that time, was pretty well sealed and delivered. However, because of who He was, He "stooped down" and touched the ground with His finger, writing something that would affect the lives of everyone there. The judges, the jury and the accused all stood with bated breath waiting for the verdict. When you can't figure out which way to run, or in her case, with nowhere to run, you go back to the basics. He touched the same element from which you and I and every living human being, since Adam, was formed and made a difference, the dust of the ground. The law was presented, but it took divinity wrapped in a cloak of humanity to make a difference by stooping down to touch our base element, and when the accusers indictment was brought forth is seemed to fall on deaf ears, because the Bible says, it was "as though He heard them not." I know he could hear them. He just didn't justify their taunts. This is where true Grace appeared. Mercy would have granted the woman in question imprisonment or perhaps a lashing, instead of a death sentence. Grace on the other hand makes the offence disappear, as if it never happened, and she was free and uncondemned to "go and sin no more." But it took the hand of God, once again reaching down to fallen man, or woman as the case may be, and a simple touch of the base element from which we're all created to exact change in a life.

Jesus stated that He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. He proved it that day by setting the woman free, forgiving her and allowing her to become a new creature with all the benefits of righteousness. By His stooping down to touch the ground, paying no heed to the voices of doom, and setting an adulteress free he fulfilled everything prophesied about Him. Pretty amazing in my Book.

Now put that rock down. You might hurt somebody with it...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The eyes of a true friend...

Interesting how we find companionship in our dogs. Lately I've been giving it a little more thought, but in a Spiritual vein. Stay with me a moment... I've been contemplating the scripture of 2nd Chronicles 7:14, "If My people, who are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face..." Welp, there you have it! Seeking His face instead of His hand will always bring greater rewards. The thing I'm pondering is just what does Jesus really look like? Greater minds than I'll ever meet have debated this down through the centuries and yet no one really has a definitive answer.

Back to the original idea of companionship with dogs, I look into the eyes of our Border Collie, Ranger Walker, (don't go there about the name), and I always see a facial expression of #1. Trust and #2. Expectation. Those deep milk chocolate colored eyes cause me to ask, "is this what Jesus would look like?" I don't mean like a dog, and I'm not denigrating my Saviour to that of an animal, but really, stop and think with me for just a moment. The facial expressions of the one's who love us unconditionally and always must be something similar to that of Jesus. I mean, who else gives us such trust and unconditional love on an unending basis? The spirit of love, beyond measure, is found in Jesus. When I'm the most unlovable, Jesus is is always the first in line with outstretched arms welcoming me back, with a smile and and expression of expectation. Ranger is pretty much the same way. They've both seen me when I pretended to be something I really wasn't yet they both loved me unconditionally. Quite a concept.

Next time you look at your dog, look a little "deeper" and see if you don't notice the same thing. You might be surprised at what you can learn from "seeking a face."


Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Homicide of Hope

Far too often the trials and temptations of life today seemingly engulf us in situations which appear hopeless. It seems there's no way out and a suicidal kamikaze last ditch effort remains as the only avenue of relief. This is what I call the homicide of hope.

Hope is defined as Trust, Reliance. A desire accompanied by expectation of fulfillment. When that hope is lost, death, whether natural or spiritual is inevitable. Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding." I have recently come to read more from the amplified Bible and I like the wording there as well; "Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding." How ironic that the very center of the Bible is found in Psalm 118.8 "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man." These two scriptures are intertwined and bring about the same thought. Trusting in the name of Jesus and the power of the blood will calm any storm of life and see you safely to shore.

In the book of Acts chapter 27 we read of the Apostle Paul's journey to Rome aboard a sailing vessel which encountered a storm of hurricane proportions called "Euroclydon." Curiously, having not followed the instruction of the man of God, the captain of the ship went his own way and the vessel was in danger of being lost for 3 days. When finally, on the third day, the crew began to lighten the load of the ship by throwing all of the tackle over board. They realized the weight was too much and of no further use, and to be saved, they needed to get rid of it. All of a sudden, the words of the man of God took on a new revelation. Trust in man made things only weighted them down and brought them to the brink of death. The hope, trust or reliance in what were once considered tools, now became their down fall. In a final act of desperation they jettisoned the unnecessary in exchange for one last gasp of life giving hope. They had nearly committed the homicide of hope through their disobedience.

I find it interesting that the storm did not abate for many days afterward and the ship was literally adrift without anyone at the helm. When neither the sun nor the stars were visible for many days afterward, indicating no point of reference was available, the Word says "all hope that we should be saved was taken away."

It was on the third day after having fought through the hardships of death, hell and the grave that Jesus won the final victory and arose from the dead for our salvation. All humanity had given up, because The Point of Reference, our Compass in the time of turmoil, was not visible. He was busy, none the less, on our behalf, but because mankind could not see him, the world felt all was lost. How easily the newly weds, in Cana of Gallilee, had forgotten the miracle of water turned to wine in the midst of their need. Under the law, in the time of Moses, the waters of Egypt were turned into blood. Because of Jesus coming to dwell among us, he was able to turn the waters of the wedding into fine wine enabling us all to be partakers with Him. Hope was not lost, even in the crucial moment. A crisis, (Chinese word for dangerous opportunity), was not only avoided, but transformed into the first of many miracles. The beauty of the ceremony for the bride and groom were somewhat lessened by the rescue of the Righteous One in the time of need.

As Paul's vessel foundered on a natural sea of life the example was made evident that our reliance and trust in God, at all times, not just when the ship is sinking, is paramount. Even though the third day is upon us, and the point of reference is not yet visible, trusting in the Word and in the Lord, always keeping him at the very center of our lives, is what will keep us from committing the homicide of hope.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What Would I Tell My Children If I Knew I Didn't Have Long to Live?

What would I tell my children if I knew I didn't have long to live?
I've often wondered what lasting bits of advice could I leave my children that would make a difference in their lives, but just as importantly, the lives of others.

When I reached the age of 40, I began to notice a few things differently. I no longer could move and run as fast as I could before. Suddenly there were new aches and small pains I'd never had before and they seemed to last longer. Then a decade later, I found the aches and pains were becoming constant companions, relieved only for the duration of the over the counter medications I began to ingest. Time, truly had become my enemy. With that thought I began to realize my mortality was as real as anything else I'd ever experienced. I needed to do something(s) and I needed to do them in a hurry. Yes, I am no longer bullet proof!

I'd wanted to write for years. Now my opportunity seemed ever closer yet slipping away by the day. I needed to act now. So, here goes.

Live an honorable life.

Basically, think of it this way; Live your life so the preacher won't have to lie when he preaches your funeral. Do the right thing, every time you can. Go out of your way to make someone else have an easier time. The rewards will always be worth it.

Don't worry about who gets the credit.

Do what needs to be done, before hand whenever possible. Don't wait for others to ask, or even worse to tell you to do something you know needs to be done, if it is at all within your power. When you do it, try to be as inconspicuous and anonymous as possible. You'll come away with a healthier attitude knowing something others don't, and it's not necessary to share the information that you did it.

Learn everything you can about everything.

There's no substitute for education in any situation. I've come to understand that just because I have a college degree doesn't mean I really know much of anything. It looks good on a resume' but in reality life is an ongoing learning process. If you're not learning, you're back tracking. The old adage "what you don't use you lose" is more than apropos for just about every situation in life. When you don't know something, don't be afraid to ask, but when you ask, make sure you learn. Take notes if you need to. No one's going to fault you for making sure you understand and remember what someone else took the time to help you with.


Whatever your passion is, read about it. Stay current. Even if it's ancient history, you may become an expert on a subject, but you'll never know it all and the only way to continue to learn is to read everything you can on the subject of your interests. Don't limit yourself to this one area. Read things that you're not even really interested in. You may come away with a different perspective, or better understand why you feel the way you do about that particular subject.


There is a reason God created human beings with two ears and only one mouth. We have twice the capacity to hear and understand that which is presented to us. When you're talking, you're expressing your opinion about something you may or may not fully understand. Abraham Lincoln once said something to the effect that "it's better to remain silent and be considered a fool, than to speak, just once, and forever remove all doubt". Have you ever noticed when you sing along with the radio, you're not really enhancing the song? There's nothing wrong with expressing yourself through song, but if you're so great, why are the recording artists the one's receiving the royalty checks and you're the one singing off key? (If you don't believe me, the next time you're going to "sing along" cover just one ear and listen to yourself, to see if you can carry the key and pitch as perfectly as the professional).

Never forget where you came from.

You may have come from humble beginnings and climbed the ladders of success to a status others can't even imagine, but the heights you reach could've only been obtained while you stood on the broad shoulders of someone who had the strength, and more importantly, grace to allow you there, while they remained the silent and most often unpaid supporter of your dream. Your family may be your heritage, but what you become will always be a direct reflection of a relation who loved you when you were oft times unlovable and unable to see your own faults.

Give until it hurts and then give a little more.

If you look at any American coinage or paper money you will, thankfully, still find the words "In God We Trust" engraved or printed on each denomination. If this is true, and I whole heartedly believe it to be so, then no matter how long, and hard, you worked for this money it's not really yours anyway and if you truly trust in God with and for this money, it must belong to Him! You are only a temporary steward of the money and you have the controlling power to use it wisely. If you don't, you won't have it long. How many times have you purchased something, or just blown your money, and shortly after in a time of real need regretted your philandering? Give the money to those who are in need and make sure you don't short them in your giving. If you hold a dollar in a clenched fist, refusing to let it go, God can't fill your palm with another dollar because there is no opening to receive anything else. Money can be a powerful thing but only if used wisely. You don't give to get, you get to give.

Send an occasional hand written letter of encouragement.

If you've had someone on your mind stop and send them a quick note letting them know of your appreciation for their friendship. I've found there's usually a reason you've been thinking about them and they'll appreciate the support.

Support our country's military men and women.

Even if you don't support a current military action, remember there are men and women from every corner of society, living on wages comparative to poverty, who literally fight and die every day for you to enjoy the freedom of our great country. These are individuals who were not forced into action, but signed willing on the dotted line to protect and defend our country, the constitution and every person within the confines of the United States of America. You owe them - big time! Shake their hand when you see them in uniform in public. Tell them you appreciate the sacrifices of family, time and all too often life. Be genuine in doing so. They deserve it and so much more.

Get involved.

If you don't like the way things are going in our country, you're of voting age now, do something about it. Go to the polls and let your voice be heard. Become active in your community. I once heard of a man who went down and had 8X10 color photos of himself taken, printed and mailed to his congressman with an attachment introducing himself. In his letter he then proceeded to remind the congressman that he, the congressman, worked for him, the citizen. I think that needs to be done a lot more often and with more force. Regarding American politics, I've never seen an eagle that could soar on one wing. By that I mean it takes the genuine heart felt application of both parties working together, for the good of the greater cause. No one person, nor party has all the right answers. But if you don't become involved at some level you're bound to accept what our "leaders" give you. If you're going to be led, at least have a say so in who you're leader is and where you want to go.

Too much to say in one missive, but the intentions of my heart are pure and whole. Learn from great quotations and hold them in your heart and mind. I could quote you scripture, chapter and verse, but at times like these the heart of a father must be heard and understood for what it feels, knows and sees to ensure the success of his children in the days to come.
I love you,

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dreams left and lost by the side of the road

Some time ago I was driving down the expressway and as I took my usual exit I noticed something up ahead just off to the side of the road. As I came closer I saw it was a small, inexpensive looking "jewelry" box which had once been in the shape of a wooden treasure chest. It appeared to have fallen from someone's vehicle and most of its contents were strewn in a careless pattern all around it. As I was in a hurry, to go no where of significance, I passed it off as someone else's misfortune and never stopped to see if there was any type of identification which should allow it to be returned to its rightful owner. That was strike number one. The next day, I passed the same scene but it looked a little worse for the wear, having been out in the elements along side a busy high way, but, again, I was too busy to stop. Strike two. Finally after several days of coming and going, I no longer noticed the box and its contents. Eventually it was gone. Strike three, I'm out!
I didn't care about possessing the contents, regardless of how valuable any one of the trinkets might have actually been. They really didn't appear to have much significant value, and in my quick glances I continued to shrug them off as mere worthlessness on the side of the road. But there's something about this little box that I can't get off my mind. I'm guessing it probably belonged to some young woman who had collected each item, a piece at a time, as gifts or perhaps "investments". When they adorned the owner's ear lobes, neck, wrists or fingers they created an illusion of grandeur, or a step up above and out of the ordinary. In other words they transported the owner to a temporary land of dreams where she, no doubt, felt important, accepted, noticed and in the end perhaps valued and loved because of something she possessed and the way she enhanced herself.
Too often, now, I wonder how many times I've passed similar opportunities in life and never stopped to help someone, such as in the Biblical story of the good Samaritan? (Luke 10:30-37)
The treasure chest, in my scenario, represents the possessions or dreams of the "certain man" or probably young woman in this case. I, unfortunately, became as the priest who first saw the dreams, but didn't bother to pursue them on behalf of the dispossessed. Next time, I became as the Levite, when I slowed down, and took a closer look, but once again did nothing and passed on by. Finally, as in the Biblical passage, an unknown person(s) came by and the treasure chest of hopes and dreams was picked up and taken away. Perhaps my analogy is not in perfect keeping with the scripture, but my intent is to show a missed opportunity for service in anonymity.
Did you ever notice that in the 8 verses telling this story, in the Bible, not once is a single name given? At least 2 of the 4 people mentioned are Jews, or "religious people", who would normally be thought of as ready, willing and able to give help and support to a wounded person. Ironically, the Bible says the wounded person was "stripped of his raiment, wounded and left half dead" by the side of the road. Without his clothing, he became unidentifiable. Today we couldn't tell if he, or she, was a banker because his Armani suit and Rolex was missing. Could he, or she, have been a doctor or nurse? Who knows, without their scrubs and missing stethoscopes? Perhaps a professional pilot, now missing the dark uniform with its impressive stripes upon the sleeves. All items of identification. All missing; hence leaving the person unidentifiable, half dead and worst of all, alone.
The Middle Eastern area in which this account takes place is one between Jerusalem and Jericho. This is a 17 mile distance noted as a treacherous"short cut" trade route between the two cities. (Ironically, that's about the same distance I was traveling) The wounded man was more than likely carrying an assortment of goods to be traded and/or sold in the markets of Jericho. Now, he was penniless, near death and naked. Without a dream, how often have I found myself feeling much the same as this man?
But an anonymous benefactor showed up on the scene and cared for this wounded individual, binding up his wounds, (gathering up what's left of value in his life), pouring in oil and wine, (the oil being a healing balm and the wine an antiseptic), providing him safe transportation and caring for him. He gave the wounded, unidentifiable man hope. Perhaps the dreams and possessions originally lost to the thieves were gone for ever, but at least there was hope and more importantly the benefactor promised to return to repay the inn keeper for anything needed above and beyond in the care of the wounded man.
Isn't it interesting that the benefactor, is anonymous. He knows who he is. He knows he has wealth, as he immediately paid the inn keeper in advance with a promise for full restitution of anything else needed. He had power, because he told the inn keeper "take care of him." But, still he remains anonymous. I like it. When we know who we are, it's unimportant that anyone else know our names. When we identify with the One "from whom all blessings flow" our providence is as assured as was the wounded man, and in the end our dreams are not really left and lost by the side of the road, but actually replaced with newer more important and certainly more valuable experiences because of the generosity of One who cared more for us and our futures.
Hopefully, the owner of the missing treasure chest styled jewelry box has by now started recollecting more valuable items - stars in her crown...