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2020 has a bad wrap. Sure, there have been crazy things that cropped up during this year. Who hasn’t been terrified over the worldwide Pandemic?

Our nation has been in an upheaval during this Covid 19 issue. Americans are at odds with fellow Americans due to diametrically opposed political views. Each one assumes that they are right and any contrasting views are held by insane ignorant people. These disagreeable relatives, colleagues, neighbors, and friends are shocked and with their discoveries they unfriend long time buddies and hunker down with people only like them.

Can anything good come out of a year like this? Is it possible to STILL count our blessings and name them one by one? Has the God of goodness gone AWOL?

The church where we are active members is a blessing. Our pastor, the leaders, our teachers, our friends, our small group, our Life Bible Study, and our scattered connections are amazing. We have emerged from quarantine and elbow bump, smile through masks, and wave enthusiastically from 6 feet apart. The cheer of our fellowship is strong, encouraging, and up-lifting. Yes, Houston’s First Baptist Church is a blessing.

Work has drilled down and meticulously followed officially CDC guidelines. We have spent a lot of money making sure cleaning procedures are medical grade, timely, and signage informs everyone what to do and how to do it. We have been able to keep everyone employed with no lay-offs. Work at Dallas Theological Seminary, Houston Campus is a blessing.

I am very grateful for family, friends, and colleagues around the globe who are safe from the Pandemic and cheerfully rooting one another on in the time of this crisis. As the day of Thanksgiving approaches I am very grateful for ALL of the blessings that God has given to me. Go, God!

The men’s restroom isn’t often the setting for my blog observations. Today it was. Of course there were only guys that we standing in line and waiting for their turn after a busy church service. Someone chose not to wait longer. He passed a couple of other guys and strolled boldly to his destination. I guess he couldn’t be inconvenienced.

Mr. Bold-stepper entered into one of two available stalls. He chose the Disabled Stall, right when a guy with a mobile device entered the restroom. I felt for him. He had no options. He waited while all of the guys and more after them came and out, emptied the restroom. The disabled stall was locked and occupied by a fully functioning guy. Even the other stall exchanged two times with the disabled fella still waiting.

I took my time just to see the scenario play itself out. What’s the harm in washing my hands two or three times just to watch life unfold?

Finally, the man who occupied the disabled stall exited, didn’t wash his hands, did not wear a mask, and said nothing to the guy patiently waiting with his mobility assist device. The patient man only smiled with un-offended eyes (he wore a mask) and disappeared without a fuss into his disabled stall.

Simple courtesy with eyes observing for others not as blessed as us, is a gracious way of living. This seems to make sense especially in the restrooms. Church restrooms not withstanding. Pooh!

News of our fourth grandchild was not even close to humdrum.  The first three were sensational additions to our lives.  Were we so used to the experience that number four would be a “been-there-done-that” routine?

We greeted the news with ecstasy!  After all, in the birth order dynamic, I hold the number three spot in my family and number four meant that I was not the family baby.  It was a chance to be a cheer leader for another special life.

My enthusiasm was tempered quickly because Covid-19 has prevented that little life from being carefully placed in my arms.  I know that I will warm to the life of this little one.  Every one of the wiggly movements will make me smile.

My mind will archive every feeling: he will be so fragile, vulnerable, and tiny.  I will be careful not to squeeze too hard or lose my grip.  Dropping this precious package will be caution number one.

Eventually, the face of this angel will contort.  Something will make him unhappy.  Purring turn to fussing. Mentally prepared I will try not to be hurt at the rejection.

Arms will start flailing and legs will be kicking.  Eyebrows will raise and his heart rate will increase.  The former will be his, the latter will be me.

Gently, I will hand that precious life back to his mommy or daddy. I won’t show my disappointment to give him up so quickly. But, over time, those cuddle moments will be longer and longer. That is my grandfather hope and joy.

Juxtaposed next to the flamboyant declaration by Peter’s willingness to lay down his life for Christ, Jesus gives a clear invitation: “trust also in me”. Peter was careless, over-promising and sorely under-delivering. Jesus was markedly different.

Our Lord never under-promised. Instead, he declared promises with precision. What he accurately would do, he spoke clearly.

His example should be our pattern. As Christ was, so we should also strive to be. Be people of our word. Tell the truth. Keep our promises. Give our affirmation to what the Spirit leads us to do. Simple. Powerful. Consistent. Jn14

Passion can pummel our words with regret. Discernment is a discipline that will guard our words from over-promising what no one can really deliver. Promises made but eventually broken leaves scars.

Life teaches us to measure our words well. Integrity is built over time with a consistency of promises kept. People have put their hope in our assurances. Lives look to our example to bolster their confidence in careers, decisions, and motivation.

Peter is probably known as much for his jaded performance in speaking too quickly. His discernment skills were clearly lacking in some of his most well-known bold assertions. Jesus gently but firmly rebuked him more than once for his brash promises.

Jesus predicted Peter’s denials of the Savior right after he declares that he will lay his life down. Prophecy of Peter’s denials should give all of us pause. Speak what we have carefully concluded in our hearts of conviction. Whoa! Jn13

My morning commute is about 45 minutes over a 30-mile span. It starts early around 6AM and leads me through long freeway jaunts and finishes with surface roads through a business oasis district. Houston traffic was infamous until Covid-19 hit. Then, one of the few blessings from the Pandemic was the cessation of gridlock on the freeway system.

Some of us in “essential” services manned our spaces. But, we noticed a dramatic change in traffic patterns. The morning commute was especially surprising. I could actually make my way into my office at posted speeds! That’s like driving to church on a Sunday morning during the weekday.

I am quick to insert, however, that some of the worst drivers still mar the endless parade of vehicles. Maybe they are distracted, maybe they are sleepy, or possibly they splash their coffee. Something happened yesterday morning with the driver of an 18-wheeler.

My little pickup truck was cruising along at posted speeds. Traffic was moderate. I was in the middle lane, third from the right as well as fourth from the left. Yes, Houston has some huge freeways! Just as I was overtaking an 18-wheel rig to my left, he began to drift right into my lane. His turn indicator was not on. When his rig’s right wheels were in my lane, I couldn’t crowd any further right myself. I leaned on my tiny horn, hoping that it could be heard over the traffic din.

Have you seen how huge the tires of a big rig are when they are travelling at high speed and close enough for you to reach out and touch them? Yeow!

Finally, not jerking back but redirecting a few tons of cargo and tractor-trailer rig back into his lane, I started to breath again. My eyes turned towards him when our steering cabs were even, he looked unfazed by the close encounter. Massively dilated, my pupils sent him a message of “Whew!”

When I pulled into my parking slot at work, I looked up and thanked the Lord and asked for some time off for my guardian angel for a job well done.

A simple cyberspace search on any search engine for “traitor” will turn up Judas Iscariot as the most despicable villain. You might know that same person by a personal name in your life. At least you know that Jesus feels what you feel when betrayal takes a chunk out of your heart.

The rest of the disciples were clueless when Jesus brought up the prophetic statement of disloyalty. Imperfect but very good people are often painfully naïve when it comes to dastardly motives of despicable people. Those who sink to the murky depths of betrayal prey on the uninitiated to accomplish their feat.

Jesus knew who his betrayer was and how the betrayal was going to develop. He gave Judas a release to do what Satan was going to do in his life. There was no fear in Jesus, no anger in Jesus, just pure unadulterated obedience to the Father’s plan. He faced the worst of humanity to be a gift of sacrifice for us all.

Betrayal is sickening. Don’t hurt someone like that. Never take trust, love, and devotion and turn it into a choice of harming another. Just don’t. Jn13

Prayed up, studied up, ready to preach at Katy Christian Community Church on Sunday morning at 11AM, November 15. If you are in the Katy area, please come for a visit. Joyously eager!

Shop class in Jr. High was a favorite hour in my schedule. The teacher gathered all of us around his demonstration table. He showed us a simple book shelf made of wood. With a knowing smile he announced that we would each make one … from scratch. That drew out a few “oohs”.

Then, he picked up blank pieces of wood and took us from machine to machine. He cut, shaped, and sanded. Then, he showed us how the pieces fit together and he glued them in place. Fastening the clamps, he set the project down to dry.

Looking around at each of us novice wood workers, he declared, “Now, go a do what I just did. Give me a shout if you need any help.”  Like eager beavers we each grabbed our lumber and began to put our inspiration into action.

Jesus did something similar. He washed his disciples’ feet with a heart of humility, a confidence of soul, and a plan in mind. Deliberately, he exhorted his disciples to do what he had just done. Attached to his directive was a lesson that “no servant is greater than his master nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (Jn. 13.16). Perhaps most encouraging of all is his motivation to obey this lesson with the word, “you will be blessed if you do them.” (Jn. 13.17) Let’s get to serving.

The stadium was jam-packed. Thousands of people filled every seat. No one was concerned about social distancing back in that day.

Something else was unique about that crowd. They were all men. The city of Atlanta had no other record that even came close to that gathering of an all-male event. But that remarkable collection was further set apart. Church history may input that as the largest clergy gathering in human existence.

This massive group of men were all clergy. Pastors, ministers, and professional leaders shared a common passion to lift up their divine calling. They came to get recharged for the great work that we were all devoted to living. 

One very memorable event still seals itself in my mind. One of the well-known speakers was on stage and humbly confessed his ill-will toward another man of the cloth. He turned to him and apologized, asking for his forgiveness. Moved deeply in his soul, that pastor nodded his head in affirmation. The thousands of pastors began to applaud, shout, and many ran up to the stage and tossed bottles of water with towels thrown into a pile.

Then the man who confessed his offense got on his knees, opened a bottle of water, and with a towel began to wash the feet of the man he earlier had despised. Now, forgiven, feet washed as a symbol of service, the men embraced to the resounding ovation of all of us who knew the meaning of that gesture.

Jesus, who symbolically washed our feet, asks us to love one another and serve as humble representatives of him. Forgive because he has first forgiven us. Hold no bitterness. Justify no ill-will. Love as he has loved us. Relief! Jn13

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