IMG_1746The world of academics, especially in higher education, climaxes every year with commencement. Every student, faculty member, staff, administrator, family and friend has this same date circled on their calendar. It is the target date to unleash the greatest celebration and ultimate relief all at the same time.

That special occasion is now over. The pomp or circumstance has been completed. Photos now are in high-capacity review.

Graduates are scattering all around the world. Students have geared up for their summer schedules. Faculty has climbed aboard planes for parts un-known to practice what they teach.

A few of us are left on the grounds of our campus. I walked our empty halls. Quiet classrooms lined my walk like hollow cauldrons hungry for purpose again.

This was a wonderful time of personal reflection. God had given a great year. It was the best year in the history of DTS-Houston.

Our largest graduating class in the history of this extension campus walked across the stage this year. We celebrated 58 graduates from our Houston campus. Three of our graduates were lifted up by the entire DTS faculty with Commencement awards. They were the best among all 400 plus graduates from all of our campuses.

In addition this was our 25th year of operation here in Houston. Since 1993 DTS has had classes offered in the 4th largest city of the nation, the most diverse city in the USA, the home of the largest port of America, site of a world-class medical center, and a theater district with seating second only to New York. We who live here love our city and pray that our small part will be a part of making this city a hub for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Names and faces and testimonies swirl in my mind. The graduates whose laughter, tears, conversations, sermons, and prayers serve as a cacophony of memories while I wander our empty halls. This will always be a special class from a special year with a force in numbers that may never be rivaled any time soon.

It has been a privilege, an unparalleled honor to have served these delightful souls. Being a part of their journey to answer God’s call on their lives was a treat. I love them all. This is what God has called me to do and I treasure serving in this ministry.

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26788125528_645c2d09b1_n-1It’s another “Christian movie.” Uh, oh…is that the “kiss of death”? Descent story with horrible acting, confusing complicated  back-stories, odd-ball mini-sermons, low-budget directing, even budget-driven minimal talent on the camera-work unfortunately have been common features of the Christian movie scene for generations. This movie, “I Can Only Imagine,” was very different from those previous religious offerings.

The song has captivated a massive audience since its debut. That fan base was primed for a successful run on the silver screen. Many Christians are cheering on the effort to produce quality movies for this entertainment industry and with this submission were hopeful for something much better.

The true story of Bart Millard’s composition is the backbone of this dramatic presentation. His life story with an abusive father is the riveting narrative that makes this movie so appealing. This movie delivers.

In a memorable dialogue, Bart reveals that it took on ten minutes to write the lyrics and another ten to write the music. Yet, those around him correct him saying that it didn’t take a matter of minutes, it took a lifetime.

Excellent theatrical performance was turned in by Dennis Quaid. He played Bart’s father. Those moments of anger, domination, and abuse were realistic, believable, and heart-wrenching at the same time.

How Bart managed to live through those dark days and discover a passion in life was marked by special people in his life. Some friends, some teachers, and some pastors all had a part in weaving a tapestry that paved the way for the composition of music that would touch millions around the world.

The world of music and the dream to make a living at it is not kind to those who attempt to make that climb into rarefied air. This film makes you feel the details of that “Mercy Me” discouraging journey. Yet, God’s amazing grace through special people is an astounding story to behold.

Forgiveness and the love that paves the way for it to germinate and grow is the message of this film. Through this powerful story you open your memories of your own father, your past struggles through forgiveness, seeing the faces of those who hurt you, and the wonder of God’s grace through it all.

If you go, remember and bring some tissue with you. There must be a lot of dust in the theater that makes your eyes water. That’s so annoying when you are experiencing a solid movie.

 

 

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I was not interested in anything extra at our Big Box store. My resolve, however, was not resilient enough. My head snapped to the left, both of my feet came to a halt, and I moved our shopping cart out of the busy aisle.

Whoa! It was a 60″ one piece bathroom vanity. The price was very attractive. A display piece had smooth running drawers, well-thought-out storage, granite counter top, quality craftsmanship, sharp-looking colors, and dimensions that would fit in our Master bathroom.

Our house is a fixer upper. Six years ago we knew that we would have to inject large doses of love in order to make this house a winner. Each year we pick a major project and transform this dwelling into our personal home little by little.

Upgrading our Master Bathroom was clearly on the upgrade list. A twin vanity came with the house. The counters were plastic. Counter space was very limited. My bride’s faucet leaked. Craftsmanship on the wood cabinet was non-existent.

We made the leap. This year we would buy that new vanity and have it installed. Professional installers were contracted to do the work.

Yes, I could have done the work myself. In my youthful past plumbing projects were always something that I personally tackled. They did not turn out well.

More than once I surrendered and called a pro to fix the problems. This time I started with the pro. Wow! What a smart choice.

His van was filled with all of the extras. I would have made five trips to the local hardware store to pick up what I did not know that I needed the first several trips. My jobs ended up taking over a week since small challenges would crop up and I would have to read and ask questions to get it right.

These pros are aware of the possible issues in advance. New unseen problems were not an issue. They had the parts and the expertise to keep on working.

On top of that I am getting a lot of my ministry work done while two experts are getting all of the plumbing work done. Most importantly, the job is getting done right. I like it when the professionals come in and together we all do our own thing.

IMG_0823He used to be so strong. When the clan gathered, he was at the center of the family photo. His smile was broad enough to claim six children, six in-laws, a passel of grandkids, and a growing number of great grand children.

Now, life was catching up with him. Age was held at bay for decades. Once he was resilient for the crazy, noisy family reunions.

The world races by outside. It is oblivious to the inevitable march dominating the building that was home for an ever-expanding brood. 93 years have passed under his bridge.

Lines on his smile carried stories that filled those years. Busy activity around him showed the care of his children who handled business, studied medical options, listened to his waning memories of stories from years ago and far off places around the world. Sadness crept in for us all.

The light of life was growing dimmer. Energy from his perpetual youth was slipping away. Once a proud man, now we would help him to do the very basics of life, ignoring the cry for personal dignity.

With humility needed for the many of life necessities his head dipped and the functions were performed without fanfare. Old is a merciless shadow that drains even the strongest from the pedestal of zest. Aging bodies cannot do what it was designed by the great Creator to do.

Now, younger lives, children return the favor of a parent. The child is now the one who gives what once was lavishly given. Life roles have now changed.

Processing the dramatic reversal of energy, independence, and animation made sense in my mind. Sensing it and reacting to it was very different. Getting old is not kind.

Aging is brutal. Life should not be so painful, agonizing, and difficult. Inconsolably sad was how I was feeling.

Reaching out my hand and lifting a once proud man up from his cushioned chair just to make a move to the dining room table required a conscientious effort. The loss of mobility rang a hollow call from the emptying spirit of the head of this home. The sadness grabbed me deeper in my soul.

May God’s mercy sustain all who feel the constant creep of aging stealing so much from their lives. Keep looking up, dear ones. The God of the Ages is watching over you and promises to give back so much for all eternity for those who know his son, Jesus the Christ.

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The sun has risen today as its habit has been for nearly countless days in centuries past. No one who doesn’t love the sunrise lets these beginnings slip by into a bulging collected past. Nevertheless, once a year we climax holy week with the recognition of one very special day from yesteryear.

Resurrection Sunday is the most sensational day of the year.

On this heart-catching, smile-motivating, joy-celebratory day of the year, the world commemorates the miracle of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This not a life restored only to die again; but, this was the first life to die and then to be raised never to die again. Astounding!

It is a first-fruits of the Resurrection promised to all people who follow Jesus as their Savior. He forgives them of their sin because he paid the price of their sin. The cost was eternal death.

But, he did not remain in the grave. Instead, God the Father raised him from the dead on Sunday nearly 2000 years ago. That one miracle gave all people the opportunity to put their faith in him and received the gift of eternal life. Marvelous!

Our world tries to offer alternatives to faith in the Resurrected Jesus Christ. Don’t listen to those odd options. Jesus is the real deal and his offer is as genuine as he is really the Son of God.

Put your faith in him and you will be saved.

Make this Easter the reason for your transformed life. Jesus gave us a wonderful gift of new life and forgiveness that will transform your life. It will be a life that will have an amazing future, including an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade.

If you have never put your trust in Jesus the risen Lord, do so today. I invite you to accept this amazing gift, purchased at great cost, done for you because God loves you, and guaranteed by all that God is.

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

IMG_1337It’s a Friday recognized around the nation. In fact this particular Friday is recognized around the world. Nations with very different cultures, certainly with language variations, and economic mixes all acknowledge this special Friday.

Commonly people note that this unique Friday is named, “Good Friday.”

To the uninitiated it is the day that commemorates the day when Jesus Christ died on the cross. He did that so that he could be the sacrifice for the sins of all people at any time. Jesus was not guilty of anything; He had no sin himself.

Yet, the people who lived and ever lived all had sin. Without exception every one is a sinner. That spiritual malady has a consequence. The Bible is clear that “the wages of sin is death”.

Sin disqualifies us from ever entering into the presence of the Father in heaven. To do so means that the price of sin has to be satisfied. Jesus willingly did that for all.

Jesus is the Son of God. He is perfect, sinless. As the perfect lamb, he gave up his life so that our sins would then be paid in full.

He frees us from ever thinking or trying to do good deeds on our own, hoping that those works will earn our way into heaven. Now, if this is true, then what a relief it is! That sacrifice is astounding!

Before you get too excited, however, this is not automatically applied to your eternal account. There is a single simple requisite for us. Each of us, personally, must exercise our faith and accept the gift of Jesus Christ.

The horrible death he died on the cross for the sins of the world was an expression of selfless love. That part of his experience was not “good”. In fact it was horrible, an ignominious death.

However, the fact that it was a gift of love for all, leading to eternal life for any and all who believe, that is what is GOOD. Have you accepted that amazing gift? You can.

Sincerely believe that Jesus died for your sins. Also, accept the fact that he rose again from the dead when the Father directed him to do. Thank him for your salvation.

That is why this day is good. It satisfies God’s wrath against sin. New life through the Resurrection climaxes the Easter season. He is Risen! He is risen INDEED!

IMG_1547Landing in Quad-cities Moline, Illinois seemed like ages ago. In truth it was a mere two nights ago. Iron Sharpens Iron, a men’s ministry had targeted the region for an inspirational and learning gathering of local men who are followers of Christ. It was my pleasure to be invited to be one of two keynote speakers.

 

It is March. For Texans like me, that means it is Spring time. Temperatures are moderate, sunshine is dependably warm, and flowers are blooming to add amazing color to the landscapes.

The forecast for Davenport was 8″ of snow for the Saturday of the conference. SNOW in March! Skepticism of the weather Springtime warning was rather high for a man of faith. I dismissed the odd report as if it were some kind of oddball joke.

Saturday morning my ride was on time. We drove to the gathering where 900 men greeted us with enthusiastic expectation.  These men from 83 different churches jumped into worship with gusto even though it was snowing relentlessly outside.

After the events were concluded the men bundled up against the snow and streamed out of the auditorium and headed home. I patiently waited for my ride to the airport. Once we arrived at the terminal and said our good-byes, my eager feet to go home took over.

At the counter the bad news hit like a freezing cold snowball smacking me on the side of my head filled with forecast skepticism. The agent was apologetic. Weather induced delays would not allow me to make my connecting flight.

The best she could do was book me on the same flight 24 hours later. My! Smile and accept the inevitable.

My hosts were great. They covered the extra night at the Iowa hotel.  The invitation to attend church the next day was delivered with enthusiasm.

It was all great fun.  Unexpected fellowship breeds celebratory fun. Meeting others and worshipping with a new body of believers was an elixir.

Now, I am at the airport and have a six-hour wait for my flight. What to do? Easy!

My computer booted up easily.  Next to it was my recharging I-pad.  Of course I had a wonderful conversation with my bride.

Every hour, I took a walk down the concourse.  Maybe a few extra steps will make the day flow smoothly. Now, it’s up to the airlines to have a do-over.  I hope they have a great day of flying me home very soon.

The article on the inherent dangers of sugar made sense. A little bit goes a long way. But, a little bit of sugar just doesn’t seem to be the operational mode for any drink that uses sugar at all.

Finally, some relief.  The featured piece did make an allowance.  Since diet drinks did not use sugar, any of those options were legitimate.

Not long ago I was sipping on my diet drink.  Then, I was reading an article on the dangers of sugar substitutes.  It was even difficult to pronounce the names of these replacement sweeteners.

Of course the point of the article was to try to dissuade people from drinking the suspicious diet drink. Who knows what affects those horrible beverages will have on the innocent human body. But, at least there was some hope in this read as well.

Tea was a good option. Everything was natural. Tea was beneficial in fighting many diseases and illnesses.

Following the health nut recommendation, I was sipping on my bottle of green tea.  Of course I was reading an article. It was a connoisseur of teas that was being interviewed but of course another health tabloid.

She was saying that tea was a wonderful beverage. However, only drink freshly brewed teas. Bottled teas don’t have along shelf life and turn acidic over time. Acidic teas neutralize many of the health benefits from drinking teas.

Being the compliant learner that I am, I set aside my bottled green tea and began brewing my own.  The aroma was wonderful.  A hot cup of great smelling tea was the kind of comfort food that makes our day go along well.

Then, while enjoying a comfortable seat, enjoying the internal warmth from my freshly brewed cup of tea, I casually read the health wise article in front of me.  The missive traced the production of  materials used by many companies selling tea for tea bag brewing.

Shock! This material is cheaply made and massively exported all over the world.  The problem is that the production is unregulated and the materials used are carcinogenic! Good grief!

What’s a conscientious person supposed to drink around here, anyway?

Jesus turned the water NOT into diet soda.  Nor did He turn it into bottle green tea.  He didn’t even turn it into freshly brewed tea.  It was wine!

Pass me a bottle, quickly! I’m thirsty.

On my way through the parking lot while walking to my office, I was attacked. A guy ran up and threw a bottle of Omega 3 pills at me. I was very thankful that my injuries were only “Super Fish Oil.”

Are you laughing or moaning?

I am still chuckling over this joke. My wife rolled her eyes. None of my kids reacted over the thousands of miles that separate us.

When I hear someone tell a joke that has a great set up and punch line, I react. It feels good to laugh. Funny is healthy, enjoyable, and makes the day sparkle.

Ordinary people laugh a lot. The older they get they keep laughing. In fact they laugh more often and more heartily.

My years have loosened me up. Some things that put me into a panic, now make me laugh. When I see young men furrow their brow, I just laugh.

Jocularity may or may not add years to my earthly life but it sure is fun regardless. Humor makes me smile. There seems to be a release of pressure, stress, and concern when our funny bone is activated.

A crusty curmudgeon brashly ordered his wife to take over and drive. He had to change the batteries in his hearing aids. They were on their way to warmer climates from their Michigan home.

The old goat was fussing and cussing, while fumbling with his hearing aid parts now spread all over his lap.  She pulls over.  Warren gripes, “Whatcha doing?” Then, he notices the flashing blue lights of a State Patrol car. “Ha! You old bitty, now you’ve gone and done it.”

With the car stopped, the salty grouch gets more snarky when he glances back at the approaching officer, noticing that the officer is a female trooper, “She ain’t having no mercy on an old hag like you!”

“License, please,” the officer asked.
“Eh? Rude Warren intrudes, “What’d she say?” ”
“No worries, dear, she just asked for my license.”
“I notice that you’re from Michigan,” commented the officer.
“Eh? What’d she say?”
“It’s fine, dear, she just said that we were from Michigan.”
“Never been to Michigan myself,” said the officer, “but I had one blind date with the ugliest crudest guy in the world. He was from Michigan.”
“Eh, what’d she say?”
“Oh, she just said that she thinks she knows you.”

What to do? My bride and I were in our old home state for the holidays.  She was off for the day with her sisters for a girls day out.  What to do?

Aha! The movie website was a quick touch of an app away.  Scrolling through the nearby theaters and the list of current movies solved my dilemma.  Nope, I have seen that one.  Again, that was one that we saw together.  Uh, nope, I am not into scary movies or raunchy ones either. Hmm, now there is an interesting one.

One swift click on my phone and I successfully bought a ticket for the earliest showing.  My GPS beeped, flashed, and then guided me safely to my destination.  The lights dimmed, commercials ran humorously, and then the featured event began.

The lead star was all talent. He danced, he sang, he charmed his way through life overcoming hardship, poverty, rejection, and despair. Love and dreams fueled his life.

He found others who were despised and disrespected.  His dreams found them all a new family, life and love that they could share.  When that world crashed and burned, they pulled themselves up and rebuilt an even better life.

It was a feel good movie from the start until the end.  The music was energizing.  Episodes of people’s lives were engaging.  Memories of The Greatest Showman linger for me.  I liked the movie so much that when my bride was free a week later, I brought her to the showing too.

However, I have read reviews of critics who did not like the movie. Their criticism centered on the “historical inaccuracies.” The movie portrayed P.T. Barnum as a folk hero of sorts, helping the oppressed, coming to aid of victims of racism, and giving a hand to the ethnic people marginalized by the community.  Critics claim that he was just the opposite.  He exploited the victims of race, prejudice, and abuse.  They say he did it all to line his own pockets.

Phooey!  I don’t know much about the history of this man.  But I liked the movie. Claims of racism sure seem to be subjective.  History not only stumbles over the truth about this evil, but contemporary people trip up also.  Just because we accuse someone of racism does not necessarily make it true.

Whatever history validates and whatever opinions fuel more arguments, I am left with the same conclusion.  I liked the movie. I liked it a lot!

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