clock towerTick-tock. Tick-tock.

I sat on the hard piano bench and the metronome thumped on, each tick as demanding as an alarm bell sounding. As I began learning the piece, I was painfully conscious of the sound of the metronome and the movement of my fingers, the notes on the page.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

I found myself hanging back, afraid to be ahead of the next beat, but then hurrying to the next bar line because I feared I might get behind. I felt like a cowboy, wrangling an unruly calf, as I played the piece over and over, the metronome as inexorable as the passage of time. I struggled to get the tempo in my fingers, in my body.

The second time through, my body and mind relaxed. The ticking become part of my pulse, like the beat of my heart; the notes fell directly in line with the throbbing of my marker. I stopped hearing the tick-tock in the background.

Unbidden, the words of an Isaac Watts hymn came to mind: “Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away; They fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.”

Time ticks on, yet I will be glad, for: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” [Ecclesiastes 3:11]

“Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.”

[Isaac Watts]


Be a Blessing

How do you start a conversation with a person who lives in a nursing center?

Realize she may have better long-term than short-term memory. She might not remember what she had for breakfast or what month it is, but she can probably remember something that happened to her when she was in high school.

Also, he may not be happy about his present circumstances or may not be in the best of health, so focus on making positive, encouraging statements and asking questions about his past life. Listen attentively and take your cues from him.


Make Physical Contact. Offer your hand as you approach. As you talk to him, put your hand on top of his hand or rest your hand lightly on his arm or place a hand on top of his shoulder. Physical contact is very important to folks in nursing centers. Take your cues about physical contact from him.


Hey there! Thank you for listening to our concert. It was so nice of you to let us come and be with you today. My name is _______ and we are visiting from a church in Birmingham, Alabama.


If he is verbal:

  • What is your name? (Use the resident’s name as you speak with him.)
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Tell me about your family.
  • Where did you go to school?
  • Where did you work? or What kind of work did you do?
  • Did you attend a church when you were growing up? If yes, ask him to tell about his church and what it was like.
  • VETERANS HOME: In what branch of the military did you serve? Where were you stationed? Thank him for his service to our country.
  • How long have you been at this nursing center?
  • Who is your favorite nurse or staff person and why do you like him (or her)?
  • What is a moment in history that you most vividly remember?
  • What is the accomplishment of which you are most proud?
  • What is your favorite movie?
  • What is something that you are really good at?
  • What is your number one piece of life advice?
  • What was your career? If you give me advice about how to be a good worker, what would it be?
  • It gets awfully hot in Alabama in the summer. In the summer I enjoy (doing) ______. What was your favorite thing to do as a kid in the summertime?
  • If the person is smiling: You have such a welcoming smile. Thank you for smiling and encouraging us while we sang.
  • Is there any way I can pray for you? Allow the resident to share any concerns with you and then pray appropriately for those needs. Ask God to bless the resident and also the caregivers at the nursing center.

If she is non-verbal:

  • Be sure to make physical contact.
  • Check for a name tag so you can know her name. (Use it if you know it.)
  • Tell her how much you enjoyed singing for her and that you are glad to be here.
  • Thank her for listening.
  • Tell her where you are from and that you are a student in high school. Tell her you hope the words of the songs were encouraging to her.
  • I hope you are feeling well today.
  • Try to notice if a resident seems to like a particular song as you are singing. Say, “I saw you were tapping your foot or smiling when you heard ________; what were you thinking about when you heard that song?”
  • Did you know any of the songs we sang? My favorite song is…. (proceed to share a few words from your favorite song—pick some words that would be an encouragement.
  • Would you like for me to pray with you? Say a brief prayer of blessing, asking God to bless the resident (use the resident’s name, if you know it) and give him/her peace today and ask blessing on the caregivers at the nursing center.
  • Prepare a verse of Scripture to share (something encouraging). Ask, “Can I share a verse of Scripture with you today? This is one of my favorites.” Then read or recite the verse.


I brought you a gift that I hope you will enjoy. God bless you today! We enjoyed being with you. Thank you for letting us come.


Screen Shot 2017-04-22 at 10.42.23 AMori·en·teer·ing |ˌȯr-ē-ən-ˈtir-iŋ | noun:  a competitive or noncompetitive recreational activity in which participants use a map and compass to navigate between checkpoints along an unfamiliar course

“Busyness is often our temporary escape, and so we run, and we run until we have nothing left to guide us.” [D’Anna Lundstrom]

A friend, Paul Hughes, once likened our life journey to an orienteering race. Paul noted that a proficient orienteer will set her compass coordinates and run, keeping compass in one hand, map in the other, alternately raising the compass or map every few steps to avoid getting off the unmarked trail. The motion of raising the compass is an important part of the technique, because straying from the path costs more time and creates more risk than averting one’s eyes from the trail to check the compass.

Continually, repetitively, regularly, the orienteer raises her compass to check her course.

“Watch the path of your feet And all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; Turn your foot from evil.” [Proverbs 4:26-27]

The orienteer sets her compass to reach the mark and she follows the path.

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” [Hebrews 12:1-2]

The orienteer calculates her course correctly and checks her progress continually, reaping the reward of His steadfast love and faithfulness.

“All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.”

“Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.” [Psalm 25:4-5]

Mr. McBeevee

LifeOnTSS TAGS MrMcBeevee6One of the most difficult things in sharing a personal testimony regarding your experience with God is to relate something that is very personal and very spiritual to another person who may or may not have had a similar experience.

In the book The Giver, Jonas experiences memories that are part of a world that is not evident to most of the inhabitants of the community.  Trying to express what color is to a person who only sees in black and white or sunshine to a person who has only known artificial light would challenge our language of expression.

Using a mainstream example, in the Mr. McBeevee episode of The Andy Griffith Show, where Opie meets a lineman and describes him to his Paw, Opie’s description sounds outlandish because he doesn’t know what to call Mr. McBeevee so that Andy would understand who he was.  Opie tells his Paw that Mr. McBeevee can climb trees and wears a large silver hat.

In a similar way, it is a challenge to share your salvation experience in such a way that others can relate to the person you are trying to describe.  It is also important that your character and integrity are such that the person hearing your testimony feels he or she can trust what you are saying to be true.  I think the following lines from the Mr. McBeevee episode says this very well, when Barney questions Andy accepting Opie’s assertion that Mr. McBeevee is real in spite of what seems to be obvious:

Barney: Yeah, but how can you explain it all?

Andy: I can’t.

Barney: But you do believe in Mr. McBeevee?

Andy: No… no… no. I do believe in Opie.

Fortunately, I believe God expresses himself to every individual who seeks Him.  “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  [Hebrews 11:6, NIV]  If we start the conversation by testifying to what we know, God will finish it.

We must keep this in mind when interacting with friends and nonbelievers.  Do not be afraid to share your faith, for fear that the receiver will not believe you or will have questions.  God will take what you offer and will answer the receiver’s questions, if the person to whom you are witnessing has enough faith to ask the questions.

“It is Your Soul I Buy From You.”


“Now,” said the Bishop, “go in peace. By the way, when you return, my friend, it is not necessary to pass through the garden. You can always enter and depart through the street door. It is never fastened with anything but a latch, either by day or by night.”

ValJean, the main character of Victor Hugo’s epic tale of judgment and redemption, Les Miserables, is a convict who has served 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. Though he has paid heavily for his crime, he continues to suffer under the heavy weight of society’s ruthless prejudice, even after his release. In a moment of desperation, he throws himself upon the good graces of Monsieur Bienvenue, a humble and good man of the cloth.

After having supped at the bishop’s table and slept in the bishop’s guest room, the demon of injustice overtakes the convict in the night; ValJean decides to rob the bishop of one of two items the bishop still has of value–the silverware. The bishop has already given everything else of value, including his palace, to the poor. He does not even have a lock on the front door for security.

Following his theft, ValJean is taken into custody and brought to the bishop for accusation. The bishop, more concerned with the state of ValJean’s soul than the theft of his silverware, tells the gendarmes that ValJean took the silverware with his blessing. His generosity extends to offering ValJean the silver candlesticks as well. [Matthew 5:40] As the police leave, the bishop has a private word with ValJean:

The Bishop drew near to him, and said in a low voice:— “Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man.”

Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained speechless.

The Bishop had emphasized the words when he uttered them. He resumed with solemnity:— “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.”

What a beautiful picture of grace and redemption. God does not only offer us the silverware, but the candlesticks too, that there may be no impediment to our returning to his side through the front door whenever we choose. He has not made us his into guilty thieves, taking things to which we have no right; but, he has made us his children. Through Christ, there is no barrier–no lock on the front door–to prevent our coming into His Presence. Not only that, but in His buying back our soul from the certainty of hell, we experience the removal of guilt, anger and frustration, and a resurrection of our soul through the promise of hope. God tells us to “Go and sin no more.” [John 8:11] We can do that because we have a new spirit.

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” [Philippians 3:8-11]

The Redemption of Don Draper

Mad-Men-Don-Draper-1024x1024Have you ever felt shame?  Most of us have never experienced having our shame paraded in front of everyone as our governor has recently had done on the front page of every newspaper, including the New York Times. Perhaps we carry our shame around like an unfortunate sidekick—tucked conveniently forgotten in a pocket or carefully protected by a disguise of respectability.

I have started watching the series, Mad Men. It is not a series for an immature audience, as many of the characters drink and smoke their way through a life of sin and depravity. As I watch each episode, I enjoy watching the opening graphic of a man in a suit falling among the skyscrapers of New York’s commercial district; the buildings are splashed with ads, presumably created by the main character, Don Draper, and his cohorts at Sterling Cooper. I am in Season 5, so we don’t yet know how Don Draper will be redeemed in the end; however, I am sure he is Adam and I hope for his restoration. [I don’t like spoilers, so if you already know the ending of the series, please do not tell me.] At the point where I am currently watching, Don harbors a hidden shame—a secret past–that has been partially, but still not publicly, exposed.

When Jesus was tried and executed almost 2000 years ago, the Sanhedrin planned for His crucifixion to be the public exposition of shame. It was intended to be the revelation of sin and its earned punishment, because this is the basis for a just society. There was only one problem: He was innocent. Instead, His public shame became my private cleansing. Instead of getting what He deserved—a crown and royal robe—He took upon himself my shame and killed it forever so I could have what I could not earn—a future with God for eternity.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged Cross–
The emblem of suff’ring and shame.
And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross
‘Til my trophies at last I lay down.
I will cling to the old rugged Cross,
and exchange it some day for a crown.

Now, I don’t have to carry that shame around with me any longer. I can confess my sin, knowing He will not condemn, even though He is the most worthy of judges.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and will purify us from all unrighteousness. [I John 1:9]

If God is for us, who can be against us? [Romans 8:31]

I hope Don Draper finds reconciliation with his past and that Betty can lose the 30 pounds she has gained. I hope the governor will confess his sin and repent, asking for his wife’s and the public’s forgiveness. I hope I will always have the courage to take my private shame out of my pocket so that God can see what He already knows is there.

The Blacksmith: Meditations on Isaiah 54

forge 2

“O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones.” [v.11-12]

God is creating a city–a habitation fit for a King.
“All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace. In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. I anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you.” [v.13-15]
The defense and foundation of this city is righteousness. God is not responsible for the attacks that will come, but He promises a defense.

“See, it is I [God] who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD.” [v.16-17]

God forged a weapon that destroys the enemy–evil, death and sin. God created a rescue plan that works no matter how strong the attack.
Christ is our sure defense. Trust Him, accept Him as LORD and allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life. There is no need to fear.

Balm for the Spirit

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 12.48.12 PM.pngHate and anger are not a balm to hate and anger. Yesterday, when Bible club began, my second-grade students were very unsettled. I spent the first ten minutes of class separating students, giving warnings, settling disputes and pulling stickers (our behavior management system). Before I began telling the gospel story, the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, I stopped for a minute. I got the attention of the students–no mean feat because they were all doing their best to get some attention, and not in a positive way. I said, “There is a person in this room who does not want to hear my story today.” One little girl immediately shouted out, “The devil!” Yep.

It took a moment of quiet time, relaxation, prayer and deep breathing for the kids to let go of their anger towards each other. The devil was truly at work in the classroom on that day. God heard my prayer and the prayers of the other teachers to help them concentrate on my words (God’s message) and they received the gospel. It was a remarkable thing to call out the devil and tell him to get out of there. It always works. The devil has no power over the Word of God.

The Bible is God’s Word. Spend some time there today. Reflect on how you deal with hate and anger, whether it is towards a political party, a political candidate or an estranged loved one. Cleanse your spirit of hate and anger. Our God is not a god of confusion, but a God of order out of chaos. God has got this. I promise.

“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace–as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.” [I Cor. 14:33]

Open the Eyes of Your Heart

cross“I pray alScreen Shot 2015-09-23 at 6.59.32 AMso that the eyes of your heart [may be full of light] in order that you may know the HOPE to which He has called you, the RICHES [of knowing Him through the Spirit] and His incomparably great POWER for us who believe.” [Ephesians 1:18-19]

Yesterday, when teaching a Bible lesson to some children, I stated, “God created us to be in relationship with him.” A grown-up asked me, “Do you really believe that? I mean, why would God want to be in relationship with me–I’m not worth it. Where does it say that in the Bible?”

“In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of His glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In Him we have redemption through his blood….” [Ephesians 1:4-6]

This is the power that raised Christ from the dead. It is the power that brings life from death. It is the power that turns dust into something that resembles the image of God. Verses 19 and 20 say, “It is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.”

By that power, he has made us his sons and daughters to be in relationship with him.

God tells us over and over again that we are worth it. He told us what we were worth when he sent Jesus to die for us on the Cross. I am certain he created us to be in relationship with him. His down payment was the death of his Son. The standing deposit is the Spirit living in us that works on us daily, shaping and molding us.

Be encouraged today. You are worth it and you were bought at an extravagant price. God loves you and wants to be in relationship with you. Accept his grace and be part of his family. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need grace and Christ’s death would be for nothing.

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