Saturday, August 4, 2018

"I Weigh More Than the Orangutan"

We were watching Tommy sit in the corner of his home, getting groomed by his friend, picking away at the bugs hidden in the heavy fur coat.  We read the information sign which informed us that Tommy likes yogurt, nuts and popcorn. I talked about how I could live with Tommy and be quite happy. I love yogurt and nuts, and especially popcorn.  There’s a nice hammock to sleep in, and you get lots of visitors. What a life I could have with my buddy, Tommy.  We laughed about scenarios of me living with Tommy at the zoo.

And then my twelve-year old grandson read out loud how much Tommy weighs and, without missing a beat he asked me, “how much do you weigh?” (Slight pause, as a wave a realization comes over me) “Well Wil, I weigh more than the orangutan.”  He looked up at me with a face that said something between ‘wow’ and ‘you’re kidding, right?’

Moving on toward the dinosaur exhibit we came across a popcorn stand.  You cannot walk past a popcorn stand in the middle of an hours long excursion through the animal kingdom.  I shared my popcorn with Wil, and after we got through about half of the bag he commented, “You should go back and give the rest to Tommy.”  I don’t know if his concern was more for Tommy or for me.

The Milwaukee Zoo is home to over 1800 species of animals and fish. According to one source, scientists have recorded 20,000 species of fish, 6,000 species of reptiles, 9,000 birds, 1,000 amphibians, and 15,000 species of mammals. According to another scientific estimate there are about 8.7 million species of life on the earth.  The numbers are overwhelming.

I find it easier to just think of the fact that God made Tommy, and me, and we both like yogurt, nuts and popcorn.  And that on the New Earth, I will be able to share my popcorn with an orangutan. And there will be no scales.

“God made the wild animals according to their kind…” Genesis 1:25a

Saturday, July 28, 2018

"I Want To Be A Fireman!"

One of our grandsons was among the millions of little boys who was fascinated by firetrucks.  I recall clearly the private tour our firefighter friend set up for us so that Wil could sit try sit behind the wheel of the big red truck of his dreams.  Trying on the firefighter’s hat, he had this almost dazed look on his face, as if it was more than he could fully comprehend. If asked what he wanted to be when he grew up he would join the chorus of children declaring, “I want to be a fireman!” 

The early life fascination with the ‘uniformed’ professions, especially those who get to drive big, shiny vehicles, passes away in time as the same boys and girls instead dream of becoming famous athletes who get their pictures on the cover of video games. Yet some of the little boys and little girls do become ‘protectives’ as adults.  They do this, not because they get to wear cool hats and ride in shiny trucks, but because they care about saving people from danger.  Firefighters, police officers, first responders, they and so many more accept danger every day because they can make society a safer place, literally saving people from burning buildings.

People devote their careers to protecting others not for fame or fortune but because they love humanity.  As we are so tragically reminded every week, firefighters die fighting fires, police officers die taking the bullet which otherwise would kill someone else.  They accept the fact that in an effort to save others they expose themselves to giving up their own lives.

Why? The love of God spills out of the hearts of people called to protect society.  Thank God today for the little boys and little girls who grow up to become, to borrow Henri Nouwen’s phrase, ‘wounded healers’ for God’s children.
“Who can save a child from a burning house without taking the risk of being hurt by the flames? Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: Who can take away suffering without entering it?” -Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society (Source:

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Exodus of the Wild Boars, Part 2

The rescue of the Wild Boars was not without tragedy. But it is in this tragedy that we find the definition of ‘courage’ and the meaning of ‘hero.’

Saman Kunan was a former SEAL who volunteered to return to duty in the rescue mission. In what turned out to be a prophetic moment, as he waited to board the airplane which would take him to the cave, he promised, “We will bring the kids home.”

The world was saddened to learn that he died after he was returning from placing air tanks along the roughly 3.2km route to the boys, the method for replenishing the air supply in the cave.  He died from a lack of oxygen, showing the necessity of his mission and the danger that lurked in the cave for the team and the rescuers.  He death could have served to frighten or discourage the rest of the rescue team.

Instead, as news of his death became public,  Arpakorn Yookongkaew, Commander of the Navy SEAL Unit was seen declaring, “I can guarantee that we will not panic, we will not stop our mission, we will not let his life be in vain”, as he sharply raises his right hand, piercing the air thickened with grief, an emphatic exclamation point on his resolve to bring the kids home. Still more prophetic words.

To Saman Kunan’s family, of course, he is still lost too young.  But, as with all those who carry in their being the courage to go where others would not go, to truly risk life for the sake of others, we pray that his family will see that, indeed, his life was not in vain. His life will live on forever in the memory of a world which witnessed prophecy become reality.

For reasons we cannot understand, sometimes sacrifice is the necessary factor to the success of a life-giving mission. Miracles often come at a great cost to one for the sake of the many.  While we cannot explain the ‘why’, we can continue to honor those who have the courage to ‘bring the kids home’, by remembering their sacrifice. These heroes model life’s perfect example. Romans 5:6-8.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

"The Exodus of the Wild Boars", Part 1

“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave.” Thai NavySEAL Facebook post (July 10, 2018, 7:11 a.m.)

I clicked the ‘heart’ symbol, along with 343 thousand others from around the world.  This was an event which captured the minds and hearts of people, truly, ‘from every tribe, tongue and nation.’  The act of saving a team of boys and their soccer team coach from a cave literally took the cooperation of humankind in a way which is rarely seen. What was not to love about this story of human beings acting to save other human beings just because they are members of the human race. If we could capture the spirit which led to this act of international cooperation and sprinkle it like dust over the leaders of the nations perhaps peace would prevail perpetually.

The picture of the helpless boys floating through the cave toward the light at the end of their journey, with one diver before them and one behind them, is a modern-day reminder of the moment when God’s people, the Israelites, are passing through the waters with the ‘pillar of cloud’ moving in front and behind them. The LORD, Yahweh, was in the pillar of cloud and fire which protected the people day and night. The lesson of the Exodus was and is, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.” (Exodus 14:14, NIV)

To people who can see with the eyes of faith there is no question. Our God, the God of the people of Thailand and the world, still carries people through the waters.

What remains for the people of God to do?

“They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” (Ps. 22:31)


Saturday, July 7, 2018

The 'Wall' Still Stands

Paul was afraid to speak.  The religious folks wanted him beat and imprisoned, if not killed. The local courts heard the case against Paul, but they dismissed the case because the complaints were about religious laws, not civil laws.  As far as the government was concerned, if Paul wanted to say that Jesus was God, well, that was of no concern to the city of Corinth.  And so the gospel spread. The freedom to speak religious ideas without government interference helped Christianity spread from cult status across borders and oceans.

Not to be missed was that though Paul was afraid to speak, he overcame his fear because the Lord told Paul, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10)

What should the church celebrate at the birthday of the United States? That the famous ‘wall of separation’ still protects the ‘church’ from the ‘state’.  The President cannot make a rule telling me, as a Minister of God, what I may or may not preach. The Congress may not pass a law restricting the manner in which any religion practices its faith.

The phrase originates with Thomas Jefferson’s writing,  “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” (Source: Wikipedia, quoting Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, 1802)
Do not be afraid to speak, friends. Love God. Love your Neighbor. Praise the Lord! No one can stop you from speaking the Truth.

The Wall is still standing. Now, that is something worthy of fireworks.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

"The Earth is Flat..."

My first thought this morning: “When I consider the moon and the stars…who am I that you are mindful of me.’   How God, is it, that you make room in your Being, the Being that made the heavens, that painted the stars and the moon and pinned them to the black canvas, how is it that this hand made me and blessed me and preserved me?

My second thought: Is Polaris still the north star in Australia? Last night was a very warm night, and the bugs were manageable, so some friends could enjoy time staring at the stars. We followed the patterns which led to Polaris, that ancient star which guided ships for centuries, keeping them on their bearings since it always showed them ‘true north.’  My friend wondered whether this was true in Australia. I responded that it must be: I mean, sure the toilet water flushes in reverse, but North is North!  He wasn’t so sure. Which led to my morning musings and a discovery: you cannot see Polaris in Australia.  North is still North, but most places from the Equator into the Southern Hemisphere cannot see ‘up’ to Polaris because the Earth blocks the view.  (Don’t worry, they get to see the Southern Cross.)

Which led me to find that Polaris is central to the proofs offered against the theory that the Earth is flat.  Meet the cleverly-named The Flat Earth Society which believes that the earth is not a sphere. Those picture of the Earth from outer space? Just more ‘fake news’.  Some hold to this belief because ‘the Bible tells me so.’  (Which is yet more evidence that some people still don’t understand that God was not writing a science text book.)  I don’t know which troubles me more, that people insist the earth is flat, or that there are people who writing long papers about Polaris to refute them.

I mused on this until the first light appeared and the stars receded. I thought, well, they’ll be back in 16 hours.  Sounds simple. But it’s good to have something so simple to count on in our ‘world gone mad’, that Polaris and the God who made it will still be for all the ‘tonights’ of my life, holding the spinning sphere, and me.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Whose Child is This?

I changed my Profile photo on my Facebook page to a picture of me holding a newly baptized baby boy.  It was our Vacation Bible School Sunday, so instead of the usual ‘church’ background, there is a backdrop of an ocean beach where the children were ‘shipwrecked’, waiting for Jesus to rescue them.  When my wife, Jill, saw it she commented, “People are going to wonder whose baby that is?” 

A short time later I met with a woman who had lost her young son, and the verse the Holy Spirit led her to was, “’Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 1:8, NIV)  Earlier that day, while searching for new music take away the monotony of my morning walk, my music service selected the Talley Trio singing Orphans of God  (Twila J. Labar, Joel Lindsey).  The lyric is powerful, and you should listen to the whole song, but here is the part that got caught in my throat:
There are no strangers.
There are no outcasts.
There are no orphans of God.
So many fallen, but hallelujah,
There are no orphans of God.

The pictures and sounds of the immigrant children at our border, separated from their parents, is a political problem with varying views of who is at fault. The parents? The politicians?  But the picture that keeps coming back to my mind is that some priest or pastor probably baptized those children and put a mark of the cross on their forehead, saying, “You have been marked as God’s own forever.” It is for the politicians to assign blame for the children’s plight. It is for the Church to be the presence of God who rescues these ‘shipwrecked’ lives.  It is for me, as a follower of Christ, to make sure these children know that they are not abandoned orphans of God.

The disciples restrained children from approaching Jesus. “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me….”  (Mark 10:13-14) 

Whose child is this?