In the 1980s, Johannesburg, South Africa was a city of transition. The decade began on the heels of the Soweto uprising, and the world kept watch as the nation took its first steps toward ownership of apartheid. Campaigns were formed petitioning Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. A President’s Council replaced the Senate. Men passed laws vowing a move toward equality. During this painfully slow process, citizens faced neighboring guerillas and terrorists, as well as homeland bombings, kidnappings, boycotts and demonstrations.

In the fall of 1983, I attended my first symphony concert. Wide-eyed and unschooled on all things symphonic, I walked into Johannesburg’s Linder Auditorium. The musicians were in early preparation, polishing, tuning, playing scales. Shortly, the director tapped his baton and they sat upright, instruments at the ready. The oboe gave a clear ‘A’ and each musician began to tune to it.

This sound is often referred to as a cacophony. Webster defines it as a ‘harsh, inharmonious collection of sounds; dissonance.’ The process by which the instruments prepared to harmonize was difficult to hear. They sounded aimless, disorderly and unconnected. The oboe continued its pure, unwavering ‘A’ tone. In a few minutes, the broad, diverse instruments were tuned to its sound.
What followed was a collection of harmonies and movements so profound and complex and simplistic that I could barely absorb or describe them. The tempos, melodies, progressions and empty places were executed flawlessly (or so it seemed) and we listened, we experienced, we rose and fell with the emotions of the movements. When it ended, I felt both refreshed and spent.

In the aftermath of World War I and II, music therapy was used for soldiers suffering physical and psychological trauma. A few years ago, researchers agreed that music contained curative powers for a number of illnesses. They reported that it often ‘rewires’ a brain effected by injury, offering a ‘workaround’ for underperforming regions.

Harvard University neurologist, Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, suggests that music may provide an “alternative entry point.” Pitch, harmony, melody, rhythm and emotion engage different regions of the brain, regions that are also occupied by speech, movement and social interaction. Music, he suggests, can penetrate those regions, engaging them, while allowing neurologists to introduce new methods by which the brain may form speech and produce movement. “It works well and it works instantaneously,” Schlaug says, “and it’s hard to think of any medication that has this effect.”

Music as a coping strategy has been shown to reduce stress levels in patients and to lower negative biological agents. In the long term, it repeatedly reduces stress and anxiety symptoms. Is it any wonder that Paul continually admonished the followers of Jesus to “teach one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts”?

Can you hear Moses’ first song, which began as a prayer of gratitude? After the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land, the waters returned to destroy Pharaoh’s chariots and horses and Moses led them in a chorus, “Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted…”

Can you hear Hannah’s song turn from a prayer of gratitude for her own situation to the broader picture of what God has done and what He will do? Can you hear her new confidence take root that all who trust in Him (including Samuel) are secure?

Can you hear Mary’s leap from trepidation to confidence as she declares, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.’ As she ponders her role in His plan, she, too, moves from her promise and her visitation to the declaration of His works and deeds. She realizes that her future is ordered and steadfast.

God’s Word and His Spirit provide for us a pure, perfect tone. We bring harmony to our lives when we tune our thoughts, deeds, prayers, actions and attitudes to that sound. Living in concert with what He desires for us brings prayers of gratitude, which lead to songs of praise, which lead to an incalculable source of joy.

David summed it up more poetically, “For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy.”
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For God So Loved That He Gave

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

It is that most wonderful time of the year – a time for family, parties, great food and a real need to shop. How much better can it get?

It has been great to hear from you this year – even better to see many of you. Every year our blessings seem to multiply exponentially; I don’t think our possessions change that much, but our focus changes toward things that matter, like, being with the people we love. We are trying to savor every good conversation, every story that makes us laugh ’til we cry, and every still, small voice that nudges us toward His plan for every tomorrow. Honestly, I don’t quite know how people who do not walk with the Lord survive; I fear making decisions for my own life without His guiding hand.

We pray for you a most wonderful Christmas, and for a special visitation from the One who came so long ago. We love you, and we appreciate you.

PS… John and I took a selfie with Santa a couple of nights ago…. See attached.



It is the city where Jacob buried his beloved Rachel; where Samuel anointed David to be Israel’s king. It is the hometown of David and his mighty men; the primary backdrop for the enchanting story of his great-grandmother, Ruth. By the time of Jesus’ birth, Bethlehem, the City of David, had declined into a small, mountainous village. It stood along an ancient caravan route, a melting pot of people and cultures.

The cool Mediterranean winter provided the perfect contrast for the appearance of the radiant angel to the nocturnal shepherds. Imagine their frightful joy as they witnessed a great company of heavenly beings praising God in the open pastureland; their curiosity as they hurried to find the manger, the newborn, the Messiah.

God’s gift to mankind was an offshoot of history’s most distinguished family tree. In the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God promised a kinsman-redeemer from Adam’s lineage.

Satan conspired repeatedly and creatively to eradicate the Messianic line. From the onset, he stirred murderous strife between Cain and Abel. Before the flood, the sons of god took for themselves wives, the daughters of men, and Nephilim giants filled the earth with violence. God’s gift eclipsed hatred.

God described a great, everlasting nation that would be borne of His friend, Abraham. Twenty-five years later, when he was 100 years old and Sarah 90, Isaac was born. God’s gift trumped physiology.

Pharaoh’s order to kill all of the male Hebrew newborns was in place when Moses was born. For three months, his mother hid him, then chose the perfect time and the perfect spot to place the tarred basket among the reeds. When Pharaoh’s daughter found him, his sister offered her brilliant input, and Moses was raised to learn the art of war from the very people he would later engage. God’s gift transcended man’s law.

When Judah failed to give his only surviving son to his daughter-in-law Tamar, she contrived an illegitimate son to continue the family lineage. Hebrew law states that ten generations must pass before an illegitimate child may enter into the assembly of the Lord. Guess how many generations passed between Tamar’s son, Perez, and the future king, David? Not one generation was wasted. God’s gift endured.

Boaz was a wealthy landowner when he noticed Ruth working in the fields. Newly widowed, Ruth abandoned her family to remain loyal to her mother-in-law, Naomi. When pressed, she vowed, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” This unswerving dedication would lead Boaz to seek the hand of this woman of character. Boaz brought home a sandal, and Ruth gave birth to Obed, David’s grandfather. God’s gift outlived death.

Perhaps the most threatening breach to the divine lineage occurred closer to the birth of Christ. Chuck Missler called “dismal’ the succession of kings beginning with the tribe of Judah. Finally, God pronounces a “blood curse” on Jeconiah, declaring him childless, whose seed will not prosper or rule any more in Judah (Jeremiah 22:30).

Oops. The Messiah has to come from the royal line upon which God has pronounced a “blood curse.” Missler said, “I always visualize a celebration in the councils of Satan on that day. But then I imagine God turning to His angels saying, “Watch this one!”

Matthew traces the lineage of Christ beginning with Adam through David, then David through Solomon, finally arriving at Joseph, Jesus’ legal father. However, Luke, the physician, departs from Matthew’s path and traces the family tree of Nathan, Bathsheba’s second son. This takes him to Heli, the father of Mary, mother of Jesus. The precedent had long been established for a daughter to inherit if there were no sons and if the daughter married within her tribe (Numbers 27:8). Thus, Jesus was born to the virgin Mary, who carried legal title to the lineage of David, but without the blood curse of Jeconiah. God’s gift navigated the maze of man’s sin.

Finally, God’s early promise lights up a small, mountainous village. The Lion of Judah, the root of David, the “seed of the woman” culminates into the virgin-born child.

For God so loved that He gave.



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If I Had My Life To Live Over

When a Dayton, Ohio newspaper editor read her work in the Kettering-Oakwood Times, he offered the new wife and mother a regular column. Erma Bombeck earned $50 a week for her articles that ran under the title, Operation Dustrag. Crafting stories on a typewriter suspended between cinder blocks in a cramped bedroom, she found humor in motherhood, housework, and marriage.

Of housework she wrote, “My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.”
Of motherhood: “In general, my children refused to eat anything that hadn’t danced on TV.”
Of romance: “The only reason I would take up jogging is to hear heavy breathing again.”
Of cooking: “Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times last twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.
Of holidays: “There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.”
Of travel: “Did you ever notice that the first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone?”
Of fashion: “Sometimes I can’t figure designers out. It’s as if they flunked human anatomy.”
Of shopping: ” The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billon to one.”
Of dieting: “Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

She famously stated, “Success is outliving your failures,” although one is hard-pressed to find failure at any level in her career. Nine hundred newspapers featured her column, At Wit’s End. Best-selling books like The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, All I Know About Animal Behavior I Learned In Loehmann’s Dressing Room, and I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression garnered million dollar contracts. Top women’s magazines featured her regularly and, for eleven years, Bombeck appeared twice weekly on ABC’s, Good Morning America.

A devout Catholic, she once said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything You gave me.‘ And so, she did.

In 1992, Bombeck was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 1996, a fatal kidney disorder led to a transplant. On April 22nd, she died from complications.

After learning of her impending mortality, she wrote:
Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything?
My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.
If I had my life to live over again I would have talked less and listened more.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.

I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.”

A humorist to the end, when asked what she would write on her tombstone, Bombeck did not hesitate. “I told you I was sick.

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God’s Mass Choir


It reads like an afterthought: a casual claim within the grandiose story of creation. Following a narrative on solar and lunar systems comes this five-word sentence: “He also made the stars” (Gen.1: 16 NIV).

Astrophysicists use the Hubble Space Telescope to map His sky. After spending hundreds of hours gathering light, the Telescope allows them to see further into a specific region. They isolate and measure a ‘slice’ of it, then compute its approximate size. According to their estimate, our universe consists of 170 billion galaxies. A recent supercomputer simulation in Germany estimated 500 billion galaxies.

Galaxies are collections of stars. The largest are elliptical. The most common is M87. This galaxy, alone, contains 2.7 trillion stars.

Within the billions of galaxies is our own, the Milky Way. Far more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists use VLBA, a radio telescope, to remap our Milky Way. This barred, spiral galaxy contains 100 – 400 billion stars.

Isaiah wrote, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Ask me about the things to come…. It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.'” (Is. 45:11,12 ESV, NIV)
Within our Milky Way galaxy is the solar system. It is comprised of the Sun, as well as the planets, moons, and other bodies that orbit it. So far, astronomers have found more than 500 solar systems in our galaxy and estimate there may be as many as 100 billion. In our Milky Way, alone, there may be 7 billion stars similar to the Sun.

Our planet Earth is some 93 million miles from the Sun, our nearest star. Despite the scant reference in Genesis, God gave special applications to His stars. Without our Sun, we could not survive. Radiation transfers its heat to our planet seamlessly, its light as well. All of the stars’ positions change except the Pole star, Polaris, which is fixed with the Earth’s axis rotation. This North Star continues to guide navigators with a virtual compass in the sky.

Like everything else in God’s world, there is intent and purpose.

British astronomers used a NASA telescope to capture sounds emitted by stars light years away from Earth. Writing in the journal, Science, the team says the “music” gives a more accurate picture of their size and structure.

The pulsation of the stars makes them ‘sing’. Amazingly, no star makes the same sound. Each is unique, with varied pitch, timbre and rumbling. Professor Ian Roxburgh of Queen Mary College said, “It’s like listening to the sound of a musical instrument and then trying to reconstruct the shape of it.”

There are more than 100 billion galaxies in our observable universe. A typical galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars.

It is God’s mass choir.

God asked of Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? …Who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38: 4-7 NASB)

Here it is. A celestial chorus whose proportions we cannot begin to grasp. “How good it is to sing praises to our God,” the Psalmist wrote. “How pleasant and fitting to praise Him! …He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” (Psalm 47: 1-4 NIV)

Charles Spurgeon asks, “Did you not conceive that yon stars, that those eyes of God, looking down on you, were also mouths of song – that every star was singing God’s glory, singing, as it shone, its mighty Maker, and his lawful, well-deserved praise?”

After all of man’s research and development, we have identified only a pitiful sliver of the galaxy we live in. The writer’s offhand reference to God’s work on day four becomes a symbol of His magnificence. We gain an otherworldly perspective on the call of the Psalmist to, “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.” We join our voices to the song of the stars, “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise… For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.” (Ps.96: 1-4 NIV)

He also made the stars.

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Mighty Mouse, Flash Gordon, and That Other Guy

When I was young, I loved mornings (still do!) On Saturdays I’d tiptoe to the kitchen for a stack of crackers then settle onto the floor in front of our 13-inch black and white television. With the volume barely audible, I became completely absorbed in the adventures of Mighty Mouse, Flash Gordon, and the little guy who played guitar and used cat whiskers for strings. (I can’t remember his name, but he stuttered when he sang “C-c-c-combo.”) Oh yeah, I was an intellectual.

All these years later, I still like to see the meek triumph. I still get a lump in my throat when someone displays kindness for that reason alone, and I still root for the underdog. The only thing that has changed is my playing field.

When we were plowing through the second regimen of chemotherapy, I was given a hefty dose of Benadryl prior to each treatment to prevent an allergic reaction. The treatments lasted for about three hours, during which time I worked and reclined in a vegetative state.

At the time, Duke Medical Center was remodeling their Oncology Treatment area, increasing space and giving the entire floor a facelift. On one particularly memorable Thursday I was in a small room in the old area, sandwiched between three other chairs and a makeshift aisle of two nurse’s stations, a variety of utility carts, and John (bless him) sitting contentedly in a straight chair. Against the wall across from me was a row of beds for patients who need to lie down during their treatments, each one with a chair for their guest, and open to the room.

On this particular day the four beds were occupied by three men and one girl, each of whom appeared to be accompanied by their spouses. The girl was young (I’d guess late 20s) and the men older. The wives read or watched television or looked around for friendly faces, and the young husband read and occasionally looked up as if to ask, “What are we doing here?”

It occurred to me that this disease and it’s treatment is much worse on the husbands, wives, moms, dads, siblings, and friends than it is the person who gets the plastic bracelet or the clean, white blanket. The spouses watched as the lethal fluids dripped into the plastic lines feeding directly into the veins of the person they married 40 years ago, or two years ago, knowing only this – that it can have very negative repercussions and that it may not work. They also know they’ll do it again next week because, for now, it is still their best option. (John admitted that it was always hard for him to watch them start the flow of the red stuff during my first chemotherapy regimen, knowing what the consequences would be in the days following.)

I settled into the recliner and thought of how helpless these spouses must be feeling, unable to fully understand a disease that requires two medications simultaneously, because it acclimates itself quickly enough to counter the first. The doctors offer percentages and recommendations, but their information is strewn with educated guesses. The only thing these spouses know for sure is that this is the person with whom they remember their first kiss, their first house, and their days before cancer was in their everyday conversation.

At the end of the day, it was the spouses who checked to make sure all their bags were retrieved before leaving. It was the spouses who dug for their keys in early preparation and called to let everyone know they were on their way. It was the spouses who took the arms of the patients and led them slowly toward the exit, with a look of quiet resolve and supernatural strength.

It occurred to me that these husbands, wives, and friends were discovering reserves of faith and strength they probably never knew existed. They were building a storehouse of depth and tenacity that would last the rest of their lives. Perhaps God fashioned these kinds of remembrances, knowing how much they (and we) would need them.

mightymouse                             flashgordon

So this rambling missive is for the true hero: the helper, the concertmaster. It is for the familial Samaritan who offers everything and expects nothing; for those who discovered that the most expeditious route to finding your life is by losing it.

So if you find yourself in front of the television on an early Saturday morning, tune in to see if Mighty Mouse has come to save the day, or if Flash is embroiled in a futuristic dilemma. And if you happen upon the little guy who plays guitar and stutters when he sings, send me his name. I know where some cats are….

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The Very Best Is Yet to Be

This gallery contains 1 photo.

They were friends with the Jewish population long before the Germans arrived. Casper ten Boom and his daughters, Corrie and Betsie, worked, lived and worshipped alongside them in the heart of Haarlem, Amsterdam. They participated in their Sabbath rituals and … Continue reading

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Go Back the Way You Came

Solomon was twelve years old when his father appointed him King over Israel. He reigned for forty years and accomplished much, yet, in disobedience, took some 700 foreign wives who built altars to strange gods. Displeased, God warned that He would raise up an enemy against Israel. In deference to Solomon’s father, David, God vowed to delay judgment until after his death. When judgment came during Rehoboam’s tenure, the nation of Israel was divided. The southern kingdom of Judah retained the seat of government. The remaining tribes chose Jeroboam to lead the northern kingdom, making Samaria its capital.

Sixty years pass, and the people of the northern kingdom continue a steady departure from the Mosaic law. Though they thrive economically, their king pursues a path of domestic security by offering his son, Ahab, to the daughter of the king of Phoenicia. Following the marriage of Ahab and Jezebel, she, a priestess of Baal, invites a large entourage of her fellow priests and prophets to live alongside her in the new country. Into the territory of covenant, the land of promise, a temple is raised for the worship of Baal.

It is in this context that we meet the prophet, Elijah. Listen to his first encounter with Ahab: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” Baal was worshiped as the god of dew and rain. In a calculated irony, God has chosen Elijah’s challenge to be bold, direct, and all-inclusive.

feb_blog1God directs Elijah to hide in a ravine east of the Jordan. He promises meals catered by ravens, twice daily, and clear, cool water from the brook.

Two years pass. The drought, which began at Elijah’s departure, spreads to his ravine. God directs him to a widow in Sidon. For a year, her ‘handful of flour’ feeds three.

Meanwhile, Jezebel seeks to please Baal and solicit rain when she commands that all of the prophets of God be killed. Ahab’s palace chief, Obadiah, hides 100 of them in a cave where he feeds and protects them. (Yes, Gloria Gaither. God has always had a people.)

Still bereft of rain, God tells Elijah to revisit Ahab. He asks that the priests and prophets of Jezebel along with the people of Israel assemble on Mount Carmel. It is high noon at the OK Corral. Jezebel’s priests and prophets number 850; on the other side of the showdown, Elijah stands alone. For an entire day, to no avail, the priests implore Baal to send fire and ignite their sacrifice. Early evening, Elijah prays to God, two sentenfeb_blog2ces, and the fire falls. Elijah turns to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink. For there is the sound of abundance of rain.”

Elijah gives the command and all of the priests of Baal are killed. Ahab rides home, through the heavy downpour, and tells Jezebel all that happened on Mount Carmel. When she learns that Elijah has killed her prophets, she sends a message to him: ‘May the gods deal severely with me if, by this time tomorrow, I do not do to you what you did to them.’

Elijah was chosen to turn a kingdom around. He boldly declared God’s messages. He called on God in real time, confident that He would answer. Elijah did not look for alternatives; his faith was resolute – until Jezebel’s message came to him.

In clothes still damp from the driving rain, Elijah went to the desert and prayed to die.

Some experts have suggested that Elijah suffered from a bipolar disorder. How else do we reconcile the prolonged miracles with the instantaneous deflation, they argue?

How did God respond? First, he had an angel refresh Elijah. He was restored physically. His next encounter with God chronicles the familiar when he whimpered, ‘I’ve been very zealous. They have killed the other prophets. I, alone am left, and they are trying to kill me, too.’ After three colossal demonstrations of power, God whispers the remedy for his emotional dilemma, “Go back the way you came.” Revisit what you believe. Recall the ravens and the brook. Ponder the flour that would not diminish, the son who was resurrected. Recollect the speedy fire as the people of Israel looked on. Then God added one stinging rebuttal: “I reserve 7,000 in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal…”

God, in His wisdom, created a gamut of personalities, lending to a delicious variety of encounters. He offered poignant examples of both sides of the pursuit of faith. When Jesus told a father that all things were possible if he believed, the father cried in one breath, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Thankfully, God created a remedy for volatile faith and erratic personalities; an escape for desert days, “Go back the way you came.”

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In 1987, Gary Richmond wrote a book titled, A View From The Zoo. As a zookeeper, he shared his experiences at the famed Los Angeles Zoo; as a believer, he recognized clear parallels between the instincts of God’s animals and the governance of mankind. Here are three of his stories.

Richmond recounts his first witness to the birth of a giraffe. ‘When the baby’s head became visible, I asked Jack, the animal expert, “When will the mother lie down?” “She won’t,” he replied. “But the baby will drop ten feet to the hard ground,” I countered. We sat in silence until the calf hurled forth, falling ten feet and landing on his back. Within seconds, he rolled to an upright position, legs tucked underneath.

After a quick look, the mother positioned herself directly over the baby. She swung her pendulous leg outward and kicked him. He sprawled head over heels. “Why did she do that?” I asked. “She wants it to get up, and if it doesn’t she’ll do it again,” Jack replied. Sure enough, the violent process was repeated again and again. The struggle to rise was momentous, and as the baby tired of trying, the mother yielded another hearty kick.

Finally, the baby stood: wobbly, for sure, but upright at last. I watched in disbelief as the mother kicked it off its feet yet again. Jack offered, “She wants it to remember how it got up.”

In the wild, a baby giraffe is vulnerable to predators. He would find safety within the herd, but he must be able to respond and move quickly.’ Richmond reminds us of James’ admonishment, Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3

Richmond recalls the day he was handed two keys, granting him access to all of the animal cages. He felt the weight of the responsibility. His boss admonished him, “Consistency is your best safeguard. Develop a good habit and don’t vary your routine.”

For months, Richmond did just that. And then one day, he varied his routine with the most feared animal at the zoo. Ivan was a polar bear who hated people. Over 900 pounds, he had already killed two prospective mates.

One morning I raised the 500 pound solid steel door, allowing him into the open. The minute he passed under it, I realized I had left the door between us wide open. Any minute, he might walk down the hall and around the corner to where I was. I lifted the steel door again and, to my relief, saw that Ivan had begun his morning routine. Timing his ritual, I had seventeen seconds to run down the hallway and shut the door. I staked my escape on his consistency. At the appropriate moment, I ran, turned, and lunged for the door handle. When I turned, Ivan was eight feet away, staring at me. As the door clanged shut, my knees buckled and I fell to the floor.

Richmond reminds us that consistent living produces its own protection. Seek it. Cherish it. Desire it. Hebrews 5:14: But solid food is for the mature who, because of practice, have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Lastly, the zoo purchased a female black rhino. ‘After experiencing the trauma of a ship’s cargo hold and the chaos of a LA freeway, she had become extremely fearful and anxious. She arrived at the zoo in a crate so large that it had to be moved with a crane. She began ramming the door of her crate until it splintered. Seventeen feet in the air, she blasted it off its hinges. The crate was quickly lowered until, at four feet, trembling with fright, she jumped to the ground. She stood, trembling with fear, then charged a large boulder and fell to her knees. She repeated this until the most amazing thing happened. Her whole body glistened red in the morning sun. She was perspiring great drops of blood from every pore of her body. The vet explained, “She has reached a maximum of stress, bursting capillaries all over her body. She is in great danger.” You know Richmond’s parallel: And being in agony Jesus prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground. Luke 22:44.

Richmond concluded, “Lord, I never realized that You knew about stress in this way. How trapped you must have felt. How alone. You really do understand how I feel.”

I love Richmond’s observations; I savor his parallels; I gnaw on his analogies.

I draw some conclusions…

That all of God’s creations and purposes were intended to interface;

That there are no loose threads or happenstance events in history;

That God’s purposes crisscross, transverse, and zigzag until rich, deep truths emerge from their thick tapestries.

The view is amazing from here!

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Another Soldier’s Coming Home

On May 11, 1972, an A-37B Dragonfly aircraft was shot down in South Vietnam. Crashing in enemy territory prevented a thorough examination of the site, but an identity card and other personal items were recovered. They identified the pilot as First Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie, but medical laboratories were unable to confirm a compelling match of the 24-year-old using only dental records and partial remains. On Memorial Day, 1984, the remains were laid to rest in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. President Ronald Reagan presided over the ceremony.

A reporter for the New York Times pursued the identity of the soldier for a decade. Pentagon reports and personal interviews convinced him of Blassie’s identity. When the Department of Defense founded the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in 1991, the Blassie family petitioned them to open the burial site and conduct the newly discovered DNA testing on the Vietnam Unknown. In 1998, the tomb was opened and the remains removed.

Mitochondrial DNA testing compared the bone samples to those of Blassie’s mother and sister. They found a match. On July 11, 1998, Michael Blassie was buried with full military honors in Jefferson National Cemetery.

Blassie’s sister, Pat, attended a Gaither Homecoming concert and heard the song I wrote for my grandfather, Another Soldier’s Coming Home. She called my office and asked if I would perform it at the ceremony. I was scheduled to be on a Bible Study cruise with Dr. Charles Stanley, but we arranged to fly back early and pay our own tribute to Michael Blassie.

It was overcast on that July morning. The roadway used to bring Blassie home was lined on both sides by American flags and saluting soldiers. Heads of state stood alongside veterans in bandannas and antiquated uniforms. Thousands paid tribute. This was a first for our nation; a breakthrough in scientific identification; a rally of remembrance.

Four low-flying F15s executed the ‘missing man flyover.’ The solemn resound of the bugle left the crowd respectfully silent and pensive. Perhaps they recalled other soldiers they knew: their sacrifices and our indebtedness. Perhaps they pondered the unimaginable price of war. Perhaps some were thinking that all soldiers deserve to go home.

The song evoked new meaning in the shadow of his flag-draped coffin. There were few dry eyes as the flag was ceremoniously fold and presented to Blassie’s mother. “For 26 years,” she stated in an interview, “we were told that Michael was never found. I just want to bring my son home.”

As Michael prepared to leave home the last time, his younger brother, George, questioned him about the danger of his assignment. Michael used a replica of the Dragonfly aircraft to reassure George that he would remain safe. Pointing to the left side of the cockpit, he promised, ‘For them to get to me, they would have to shoot into this tiny window. It will be hard for them to find me.’

And so it was, Michael Blassie. And so it was.

His back is bent and weary, his voice is tired and low
His sword is worn from battle and his steps have gotten slow
But he used to walk on water, or it seemed that way to me
I know he moved some mountains and never left his knees.

Strike up the band, assemble the choir, another soldier’s coming home
Another warrior hears the call he’s waited for so long
He’ll battle no more, he’s won his wars
Make sure heaven’s table has room for, at least, one more
Sing a welcome song, another soldier’s coming home.

He faced the winds of sorrow but his heart knew no retreat
He walked through desert places knowing Christ knew no defeat
But now his steps turn homeward, so much closer to the prize
He’s sounding kind of homesick, there’s a longing in his eyes.

Strike up the band, assemble the choir, another soldier’s coming home
Another warrior hears the call he’s waited for so long
He’ll battle no more, he’s won his wars
Make sure heaven’s table has room for, at least, one more
Sing a welcome song, another soldier’s coming home.

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Happy June, and Happy Father’s Day!



This month we pay a special tribute to fathers. Like many of you, I have always felt mine the best in the world. Growing up, our dad seemed stronger and smarter than anyone. He could construct, repair, or unravel anything. As Kay and I grew older, the nature of our breaks and spills changed, but dad’s steady perspective on the things that matter has remained constant.

We also understand just how blessed we were to have been raised in a household where the most frequent sounds were laughter, music and prayer. We see our parent’s long, healthy lives as a precious, fragile gift from God. We dare not take them for granted.

My prayer is that each of you will spend time with your fathers, or spend the day recalling wonderful memories of them. Sadly, not everyone’s memories of an earthly father will be good, but we ALL have our constant, adoptive Father whose love and care are beyond good. For you, I pray that He will use others to make Sunday especially meaningful this year.

We love you!


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Okay, because I know that you always like to know the ‘rest of the story’, here it is.
The song, I WISH YOU ENOUGH, comes from Proverbs 30, where Agur asked two things of the Lord:
“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

When my nephew was about to graduate from college, I knew that life would change dramatically for him; he would cross thresholds he would never revisit. I wanted to write something for him that would be memorable. Surprisingly, the song fits a number of life events. When he married two years ago, he asked me to sing it for his wedding. Here is the lyric:

For every beginning, something is ending
Everything changes but change
Funny how life is forever amending
The plans that we all pre-arrange
So laugh when you can, cry when you must
And I pray you’ll always live deep
Always remember sometimes you must
Drink from the bitter to savor the sweet

I wish you love, I wish you joy,
I pray that happiness camps outside your door
I hope you win, I hope you lose,
I hope you realize that both are good for you
May you never have too little or too much,
I wish you enough….

So savor the journey, live every moment,
Hold fast to all you believe
You will discover a strength in your weakness
In ways you could never conceive
Godspeed, my friend, peace and goodwill
I fondly bid you adieu
Always remember, as long as I live
I will be somewhere praying for you

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