Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Step into the Garden

He who sees what is done in secret will reward you intimately

I once worked with a man in Christian ministry.

He was the titular “head” of this ministry, meaning its chief administrator, CEO and fundraiser. In his language and in his attitude, he made great display of his Christian piety, his commitment to the work, etc.

During my time with that ministry, he arranged a fund-raising dinner, in which he invited several marquee Christian personalities to speak, or to provide music and inspiration. It was a fine occasion, enjoyed by all.

Then came the time when an appeal would be made to all invited to the dinner, to give of their financial resources to help support this ministry. I remember receiving this instruction from this man to the entire staff:

“When the appeal to give is made, take out your checkbooks and pretend you are writing a check. Make it obvious, so that all can see. In this way, you will influence others to take out their checkbooks, and contribute as well.”

I didn’t work with this man for much longer after that.

Mother Teresa came to be known world-wide. But I would like to know, how many children, how many broken people benefitted from her ministrations, with no one except God, knowing about it at all?

It is said, indeed such sentiments occurred in her writings, that Mother Teresa had doubts about her faith, that she had felt abandoned by God. Whether or not she is ever canonized for Roman Catholic sainthood, this is the most believable thing about her; her doubts, her human vulnerability. This is not to be confused with what she has done. What she has done is empirical. What she has done is evidence.

Now, I think, her doubts are gone. She has received her “reward of intimacy” with her Savior and Lord.

How much suffering had she relieved, unheralded!? How many can point to her as the greatest expression of God’s love they had ever known?

Today, the angels sing of her triumphs over suffering and disease. If not always triumphs of healing, triumphs of love and comfort. She is the most recent model of one who does wondrous service in secret, and who now, has received her reward.

May you and I, so serve the Lord that we draw attention not to ourselves, or to our cause, or to our mission, near so much as our lives draw attention to his love.
He who dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
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This is the true SECRET PLACE.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Step into the Garden

Praise the LORD.

My son lives in New Jersey. I live in Atlanta. Last night, he flew into the huge Atlanta airport for several days’ business in the city. My wife and I met him at the airport. [Note: we parked the car and went in and met him as he was coming through the “Arrivals Lobby.” We didn’t just get on our cell phones and make arrangements to pick him up in the car at the white curb, “used for passenger loading and unloading only,” to make it more convenient for us.] We do that because even the few minutes walking through the airport together are treasured. People don’t do that, or think like that much anymore.

We drove to my brother’s home, where we all sat around a table and had Kentucky Fried Chicken, cole slaw, fake potatoes and gravy, corn and one of those chocolate chip cakes for dessert. Family time. Deliciously talking about nothing in the living room for several hours before my son, my wife and I left to take him to the hotel where he would be staying. Just listening to the voices we love.

As we pulled into the hotel my son asked me, “Dad, how much of a drive is it from here to where you live?”

“About forty, forty-five minutes,” I replied.

“Gee, Dad,” he said, “That’s a long drive. Thanks for coming down here and bustling me about.”

“My pleasure, son. Absolutely no problem at all.”

And it wasn’t. But when I got back, I was tired. It was a good tired. I had had a few hours with my son. Quiet joy warmed my heart.

He will understand someday, if he doesn’t already, when his two girls, now teenagers, become adults, marry, have children of their own, and maybe (although for their parent’s sake, I hope not) live far away, how priceless time with someone you love really is.

When I talk to others about my son, as well as my two daughters, I always speak in glowing terms. The same goes for my three step-children. Ok, so I know they are human. They are very much aware that I am, too. None of that matters in the slightest. My heart swells with joy and pride at how blessed, at how fortunate I am.

That, my friend, is praise. One may think that praising God, is singing hymns of praise, or holding your hands high in the air and swaying back and forth. That may be, but if we think that is all there is to it, or even that it is the best and most appropriate way to praise God, then we have reduced praise to a religious discipline, an exercise in piety, like the phylacteries on the heads and arms of the Pharisees, of which Jesus spoke. We have put praise on a par with a good, healthy belch, and seriously missed the point.

Provided one is not trying to impress someone with how spiritual one is, the phrases, “Praise God,” or “Lord, I praise you,” have their place only if they truly reflect the joy of his presence.

Is this a bit of an insight on “Praise,” here? Is praise given because God needs it; or requires it, or even that he is necessarily pleased by it? I doubt that God finds much satisfaction in our praise, in and of itself. And, I suspect it doesn’t contribute much to helping him feel good about himself.

Praise, true praise, may be a bit like a different dimension of forgiveness. It benefits the one doing the praising more than the one praised. Praising God does not enrich him near so much as it enriches me.

Praise is the result of time spent with God. Praise is an expression of gratitude that you and He are spiritually related and engaged with one another.

Plain and simple.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Step into the Garden

May my heart sing to you and not be silent

“Wild thing! You make my heart sing!” (from the film, “Major League,” 1989)

WARNING: Clip contains some rough language. If you don’t want to deal with that, skip the clip.

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Why, you ask, do I put a clip like that in a Christian devotional piece? Well, this may surprise you, but the “colorful” language is not the point. What is the point? You ask again, and why are you offending me? You ask.

Well, let’s see . . . tell you what, let’s drop back a few years, maybe 2,000 of them and ask ourselves a question: Did Jesus ever hear language like this? And if he did, what was his response?

Take a look at the fans in the crowd. Listen to what they say to each other. Definitely not a scene from any church I know. Yet it was from people like this that Jesus chose his apostles!

We are not told too much about the language of the disciples, but we are told that they were fishermen. Ever been around commercial fishermen? You getting the point yet? It is no accident that Peter fell to cursing and swearing when he denied Jesus. He was -- no doubt about it -- comfortable with such language.

Sometimes, not often, but sometimes when I stand to sing in church, I wet my cheeks with tears. Through this, I try to sing, but I choke, my voice squeaks, and I quickly shut my trembling lips so that others may not wonder.

What do I think others might wonder? Perhaps I am embarrassed that they might see a grown man cry over the words and melody of a powerful hymn. Perhaps they might think me spiritual – that would be embarrassing. No one can possibly imagine how hopelessly unspiritual I feel.

But whatever others think, (if they notice at all), I doubt that they think I am singing to them. I am not that good of a singer that anyone would want to listen.

But there is One who wants to listen, and who does listen. Am I too bold and arrogant to think that he understands the tears? There is One who knows why I sing, and to whom. But then, maybe I should amp up the guitar and get the drums thudding.

“Wild thing! You make my heart sing.”

Wait a minute! Listen! This is no longer me singing. It is a sound that comes from the heavens. It is God looking at me and saying, ”Wild thing! I love you. The anthem that is you, the symphony that is your life, puts stimulating, provoking, pounding, drum-thumping, joyous melody in my heart.”

May God help you understand who and what you are. May God show you that you and I are no different from the character standing on the mound in Major League. And those fans in the bleachers are the “great cloud of witnesses” spoken of in the Bible. Ok, maybe not, but you have to remember Abraham, Moses and Elijah were all of them, disciples with feet of clay. They were people, just like us. Their lives were anything but pristine. And the guy standing at the plate with the big bat is whoever and whatever it is that keeps you from being all God meant you to be.

So let your light shine! Show them your stuff. Let’s see that fastball! You need corrective lenses? Then let your faith, your connectedness with God, sharpen your vision and narrow your focus on the strike zone! Find them horn-rimmed glasses and put’em on. You know what you want, now go get it. Let your stomach growl with hunger for “Parkman.” Put him on the tracks and crank up the train.

Wild Thing! You make God’s heart sing!

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