Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Fifty-two? Let’s see, that’s the number of cards in a deck...right? Wait, it’s the number of weeks in a year, huh? It’s also the number of white keys on a piano. Oh, I remember, 52 was one of my best friends number from high school football. Probably there are several other significance usages of the number 52. What doesn’t seem remotely possible is that 52 is the number of years I’ve been alive, as of this coming Friday, July 1st.

There’s been a series of TV commercials that have been on for a few years now that I’ve found quite intriguing In one setting, a young man on an airplane finds himself seated next to himself, only many years older. In another, a young man meets his older self as he peers in on his newborn child in the hospital nursery. I think the commercials are for some investment firm, but what captivated me about the ads was the thought of what would I tell my younger self. How about you? Whatever you age is, divide it by, say, half. Given only five minutes to talk to your younger self, what words of advice would you lend? Now, telling yourself to invest in something called Microsoft or Ebay doesn’t count for our scenario! No, what real words of wisdom would you tell that younger you? Think about it for a minute...

There are many drawbacks to getting older, most of them physical. I can’t dunk a basketball anymore, but oh there was a time... After three knees surgeries, I struggle to walk 18 holes of golf these days, but I can remember my friends and I walking courses from early in the morning till sunset...back in the day. There are other parts of getting older that are bothersome. For instance, the other day I found something that I’d been looking for days earlier, then forgot what it was I was looking for in the first place! Ever walk in a room and can’t remember why you came in there?

As I face my 52nd birthday this Friday, I’d like to think I’d have something worthwhile to tell 26-year-old Allen. Hopefully, with age comes wisdom, maturity. Age is not necessarily a factor in spiritual maturity, though it should be. The Bible tells us how we should be growing, spiritually: Starting at Hebrews 5:11 we read:

11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 6
1Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And God permitting, we will do so.
And down to verse 7...Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. 9Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation. 10God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 12We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Did your parents ever chart your growth on a wall or door frame of the house you lived in? Imagine their concern should you have failed to grow over a significant amount of time. Even more alarming to them would have been if you would have decreased in height from one period to another! Spiritually, we should be able to chart growth over a period of time as well. We should have advanced at some point in time to the "solid food" the writer tells us can more readily "distinguish good from evil." Still caught up in the same bad habits you had, say 10 years ago? Still struggling to break yourself away from those sins that you let into your life back in the 90's? Was this going to be the year you committed to daily Bible reading and prayer, but here it is halfway through 2011 and...?

Physical growth comes to a halt sometime in our late teens. We achieve a certain height, and then, that’s it. But spiritual growth should continue for the entirety of our lives. We should continue to be the "land that drinks in the rain" and bring forth "a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed," having the "same diligence to the very end." Paraphrasing all this, we need to keep on keeping on, whether at 32, 52, or 82.

So, what would you have told your younger self, had you had the chance? I know what I would have said. I’d tell 26 year old Allen to focus his life on spiritual matters. Concern yourself not with the worldly pursuit of money, career success, etc., but rather, invest in eternal rewards. Really get to know God and find His purpose for your life now, not years from now...And the conversation would end with me looking forward to what God has in store for me in year 53 because, in reality, we can’t really look back and change the past. But starting today, we can make the future what God would want it to be.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Image is Everything!

My wife and I have partial season tickets to the Kansas City Royals baseball games...somebody has to support them! Actually, I’ve been a Royals fan for so long, I can remember when they were good! Our seats are on the front row, just past first base, where the Royals come out to warm up, stretch, etc. right before the games. When the players come out to get ready for the game, it’s customary for autograph hounds, primarily kids, to start to gather along the railing, hoping to get a signed souvenir from their favorite player.

A few years ago, we were watching the gathering of the fans at the railing when a very loud adult male barged into the group of kids and started hollering the name of a very popular Royals player, one which the kids seemed to adore more the most. The player, playing catch with another player, turned and seemingly recognized the man. He started over towards the railing, thus creating an excited frenzy amongst the little fans.

The player tossed the ball he had in the direction of the adult fan. In front of the adult fan was a little boy about 10 years old with a glove on. He reached up to catch the ball and just before it landed in his glove, the adult leaned over the kid and snatched it out of the air. The little boy’s look of disappointment was heart breaking. I, along with several other fans in the immediate area, voiced our displeasure at the fan’s actions. The fan said immediately the player was throwing him the ball, not the disappointed little boy.

You see, the adult fan claimed about the player, "I’m his pastor." He then departed for his seat, snatched ball in hand...Now, let me say this, the player might very well have been tossing the man the ball. But the image he created that evening was of a grown man grabbing a token souvenir from a kid. To make matters worse, he then proclaim it all okay because, after all, he was his pastor. The image of Christianity took a direct hit that evening.

Several years back, there was a ad campaign which declared "Image is everything." For Christians, it might not be everything, but it’s a pretty darn important concept. More and more, Christians are under the magnified viewing of a increasingly skeptical world. The old saying "the only Jesus some people might see, is the Jesus they see in you" is one that we should heed daily.

1 Timothy 4:12 tells us:
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

Think of your Christian life receiving a report card, and the five areas in the scripture are your subjects...give yourself a grade in:

1. Speech
2. Conduct
3. Love
4. Faith
5. Purity

I don’t know about you, but there have been periods in my life that I wasn’t exactly on God’s
honor roll. This is really a school that we’ll never graduate from either. The expectations we assume as Christians are life long. As Paul told the elders of the church of Ephesus in Acts 20:24
"...I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me..."

My challenge to you is this: look into your spiritual mirror and check your Christian image using the 5 subjects above. Does the speech you practice reflect the Christ you profess? Does your conduct cast light on Christian values? Is your life pure and full of faith? Do you love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind? How’s it going in that "love your neighbor as your self" class? You might give yourself a failing grade, but the school year never’s a new semester!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blooming Where You're Planted

Upon the encouragement of my wife, I'm starting this blog with the hope of encouraging other Christians in their daily walks.  For those of you that read my posts on Facebook's "The Chaplain's Corner," much of the material will be repeated.  Thanks to all who join me here and your comments and questions are greatly appreciated...

My wife and I conduct pet therapy sessions at a couple of local nursing homes. Our two eight year old dogs, Belle and Georgie, visit the residents and are made over lovingly. The residents call out Belle or Georgie’s names when they see them. I don’t think more than one resident knows my wife or my name. Belle and Georgie are the real stars! That’s okay, though. The dogs give unconditional love and the residents reciprocate. It’s neat to watch...That one resident that knows our names is a lady named Millie. She’s an amazing illustration of the notion of "blooming where you’re planted." For some, the nursing home can be a rather depressing place. For Millie, it’s an opportunity to serve Christ. More on Millie in a minute.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us:
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might........

And in Colossians 3:23 we read
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.....

In 1Chronicles 28:9, King David says,
9 "And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion..."

So, not only are we to bloom where we’re planted, but we’re to do it with all our might, all our heart, and with wholehearted devotion. Not sure about you, but I often find myself lacking in all three areas. I usually find myself wanting to serve God when I want to, how I want to, and where I want to. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind blooming, but it’s going to be on my terms. You know the feeling? I don’t think that’s what God considers wholehearted devotion. My friend Millie is a much better example.

Millie is in her mid-70's, has a heart condition and has little or no use of her legs. That’s about all I know about her physical condition. She stays at a nursing home that the dogs visit every other week. Most days we enter her room to find Millie sitting in her wheelchair, pouring over an open Bible on her neatly made bed. Alongside her Bible, Millie generally has a notepad and pen for taking notes, inspirational cards she’s writing to encourage another, and other tools of her trade. Millie always greets us with a radiant smile and excitement in her eyes. Without fail, Millie wants to share with me a scripture passage that she’s been studying, or a prayer concern that she’s having about another resident. Other times, Millie wants to tell me about something exciting that’s happened during one of the Bible studies at the home during the week. She punctuates every bit of good news with a high five. She always asks if there’s something I would like her to be praying for. On our next visit two weeks later, she’ll unfailingly ask about those same requests. She knows which of the nursing home staff are "believers," indicating that she’s done her research on her community much more than we do in our own neighborhoods. Millie’s blooming where she’s been planted. She exemplifies wholehearted devotion. Quite frankly, she puts most of us to shame...

This week, Georgie and I went to Millie’s room to find her laying in bed. I was surprised and concerned to find her in that position. We were met with that same Millie smile. She explained that she’d had some heart palpitations earlier in the morning, and the medical staff had ordered her to stay in bed for a time period. It hadn’t deterred her one iota. You see, alongside Millie’s bed was another lady, Betty, sitting a wheelchair. Millie had summoned to her room via one of the nursing staff. Millie explained that she been wanting to talk to Betty for a long time and was excited to get the chance. Can you guess what Millie was talking to Betty about, laying flat on her back, due to medical bed rest? Of course, Millie was telling Betty about Jesus...still blooming where she was planted.