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Aug. 11, 2016

Back in 1990 I accepted a position as a chaplain in a hospital in Corbin, Kentucky. While serving there my family and I took some vacation time to explore the various sights and sounds of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I recall the morning in Somerset, Kentucky very well. My wife and I and our two children, a son age nine and a daughter age five had stopped to get some breakfast at a local fast food restaurant while we waited for my wife's parents to rendezvous with us. 

The weather that morning was cloudy with misting rain. My son had asked permission to go outside the restaurant to watch for his grandparents. We said he could go outside so out he went carrying my blue and white umbrella. After a few minutes we went out to check on him and he was no where to be found. I went all the way around the restaurant looking for my son but I could not find him anywhere. To say the least I was in quite a panic. I told my wife, who was also freaking out, to call the police and to stay here at the restaurant in case he comes back and that I would go looking for him.

It is an interesting encounter we as humans experience when we lose something of value. Because I was in an unfamiliar place all I could visualize was someone picking up my son and taking him away and I would never see him again. I kept running down the four lane highway that led toward the Kentucky Turnpike praying with every step and stopping along the way to ask if anyone happened to see a little boy passing by here carrying a blue and white umbrella. No one seemed to notice.

I recall reaching the entrance to the turnpike and looking up that road I noticed a vehicle coming toward me. I waved the driver down and as they stopped I asked this man and his wife if they had noticed a small boy carrying a blue and white umbrella walking on to the turnpike. They indicated that they had not seen a little boy walking on the turnpike. Then I told them that I have lost my son. I'm sure the shear panic expression on my face let them know that I was serious. I thanked them and went on to a service station and asked the attendant if he had seen my umbrella carrying son and he said, "Yes, as a matter of fact I did see a young boy walk by here a little while ago carrying a blue and white umbrella." 

The service station man had a wrecker and I asked him if he minded driving me to the surrounding department stores to see if my son was in any of them. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I was encouraged that this man had seen my son but there were so many places he could be. As we continued to drive around the vicinity all of a sudden I heard voices calling out to get my attention. It was the man and woman that I had waved down as they were exiting the turnpike. There parked in front of a small furniture store was their vehicle and a police car and several people that unbeknownst to me had been assisting in the search. I walked in to the furniture store and there sat my son. To say the least, I was very glad to see him. 

My reflection today consists of my newfound understanding of the meaning of the word lost. To be lost never decreases the value of that which is lost nor does it depreciate identity. My son never stopped being my son the whole time he was away from me. As a matter of fact my awareness of his value increased enormously. In the gospel of Luke chapter fifteen Jesus tells the three famous parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son in order to point out the value of the individual. The object in all three parables were found safe and sound indicating that you cannot be lost unless you belong. This raises the question as to when and to whom do we belong? It is my belief that we as humans were loved into being within the fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Because of our beginning in God he waits patiently for each of us to awaken to the revelation of our identity in Him. I can imagine God saying to us, "You are because I AM!" God's I Am-ness abides within each of us. When we become aware that each of us were sourced in God by his doing then it will not be difficult to realize just how much we are loved and how much we belong!

Aug. 6, 2016

The Bible is full of stories and accounts of conflicts and situations that brought about death and destruction to those who entered into such places. As a result of these conflicts people have either become the victors or the victims. I recall reading the story of Jesus being arrested just before his crucifixion. One of his disciples, Peter I believe, drew his sword and attempted to decapitate one of the men that came to arrest Jesus. I'm sure if someone was swinging a sword in your direction you would probably try to get out of the way of it as did the man to whom Peter was swinging his sword. The story goes that due to the man's reflexes Peter missed his neck and because he didn't get completely out of the way of his swinging sword cut off the man's ear.

Can you imagine this scene? Its around mid-night, there are hundreds of temple guards not to mention the Roman soldiers present and in the middle of all these people coming to arrest just one man Peter has taken hold of his weapon to defend Jesus. Now in my imagination I see this man grasping the side of his head, blood flowing everywhere and Jesus tells Peter to put up his sword, for those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Then Jesus picks up the man's ear and places it back on the side of his head and heals it. No more blood and no more pain. I've often wondered about that man. He didn't asked to be healed but I can't help but wonder how such an encounter with Jesus must have affected his life.

There are other kinds of conflicts that the Bible speaks of as well. In Ephesians chapter six Paul says that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Paul goes on to say that there are weapons that we have at our disposal that can assist us when we encounter such evil. He even lists the various pieces of armor; truth, righteousness, the good news of peace, and above all the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and particularly the sword of the Spirit. Just a word about the shield of faith: faith as I am beginning to understand it has everything to do with Jesus who is the author and perfector of faith. In Galatians 2:20 Paul says that we live by the faith OF the son of God. In other words, its not my faith that saves the day its the faith of Jesus. So if I substitute the name "Jesus" in Hebrews 11:1 for the word "faith" all of a sudden the words of that verse take on an amazing new meaning. Think of it, "Now Jesus is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen." He is the visible representation of the invisible God!

Now I don't know about you but I have wrestled with various kinds of temptations that would seem to come out of nowhere and before I knew it I was yielding to them. I can certainly agree with the Apostle Paul as to what he communicates in Romans chapter seven. Let's pick up his letter in verse fifteen, "This is how the sell-out to sin affects my life: I find myself doing things my conscience does not allow. My dilemma is that even though I sincerely desire to do that which is good, I don't, and the things I despise, I do." He goes on to say in verse nineteen, "Willpower has failed me; this is how embarrassing it is, the most diligent decision that I make to do good, disappoints; the very evil I try to avoid, is what I do." 

Paul cries out in desperation, "Can anyone deliver me from this body of death?" I believe this struggle that Paul so well describes is exactly what each person living on this planet encounters. Reflecting upon my own struggles and in the desperation of many dark nights of the soul, My encounters with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have revealed a weapon that I was not aware of until recently.

This reflection is centered around 2 Corinthians chapter ten verses four and five. From the Mirror Bible it reads, "The dynamic of our strategy is revealed in God's ability to disengage mindsets and perceptions that have held people captive in pseudo fortresses for centuries! Every lofty idea and argument positioned against the knowledge of God is cast down and exposed to be a mere invention of our own imagination. We arrest every thought that could possibly trigger an opposing threat to our redeemed identity and innocence at spear point! The caliber of our weapon is empowered by the revelation of the ultimate consequence of the obedience OF Christ." 

In other words I can't be obedient enough. The more I try to live a life that I feel would be acceptable to God the more I condemn myself when I mess up. I recommend you give this a try. I am using it everyday. When you are being bombarded by temptations that, as Paul describes, "the sin that doth so easily beset us" simply present the obedience of Christ to the temptation. Say to the temptation, "The obedience of Christ is what makes the difference in my life." That is the "spear point" that arrests the temptations and sends the principalities packing. They will come back but as you become increasingly aware of this power of the Spirit and you continue to present the obedience of Christ you might just be amazed at the results!

Jul. 30, 2016

Not long ago while engaged in hospital chaplaincy ministry I entered a hospital room to introduce myself to the patient. She was a warm and caring person and we seemed to hit it off right away. It is usually my custom to share my hospital business card with patients in case there is a need for them to get in touch with me later during their hospital stay. I placed the card on her tray table and continued to visit with her. I noticed that the patient's nursing light was on indicating that she had requested her nurse to come check on her. While I stood next to her bed chatting with her the nurse knocked on the door to enquire as to what she needed. 

It was a simple request. The patient indicated that because she could not see anything without her glasses and her purse was on a table across the room could she please retrieve her purse so she could put her glasses on. The nurse politely walked over to where the patient's purse was and brought it to her. She then asked if there was anything else she could do for her while she was there. The patient said she was fine for now so the nurse excused herself from the room.

As we continued our conversation it was certainly evident to me that this African-American woman was very spiritually minded. Our conversation turned toward her deep concern for all the violence and blood shed being reported in the news. I told her that I too shared her concern. Then I said to her, "A lot of people tend to look on the outward appearance but if they could see what we share within us they would know that we are kin." The expression on her face at that moment was remarkable. It was one of those Holy moments that words just can't describe.

She asked me if I would pray for her. She requested that I pray for her home to be safe while she was in the hospital and she also requested that I pray for the safety of her family too. We held hands as I voiced the prayer. Upon the conclusion of my prayer something happened that I can only describe as Holy Spirit.

The patient began to say over and over, "I can see! I can see! I can see!" With her hands raised she continued to express herself. I didn't exactly know what she was talking about. She reach over and picked up the business card I had placed on her tray table and she began to read aloud every word on the card. Then it became clear to me that she was reading my card without her glasses on. I had never witnessed anything like this before and it did not happen as a result of a prayer request, at least none of which I was aware.

As I have reflected upon this encounter I am being made increasingly aware of the awesome presence of the Holy Spirit. I am also becoming aware of my desire to want to be present when the Spirit moves within a given situation. I came back to visit this patient the next day partly because I wanted to see if she could still read my card without her glasses and sure enough she could!