Grandsons and Other Gifts from God

I hope you’ll forgive me if I pause, from my ordinary content to share some personal blessings.

On January 8th, my daughter Caitlin, and her husband Brandon, gifted us with a brand new little bundle of joy. Our first grandson came into the world at 7 pounds 12 ounces and 19.5 inches long. He has a beautiful head of hair, a strong cry and is growing too fast. He joins our other precious grandchildren, cousins Maddie and Evie.

Since that wonderful Friday morning, I have been thinking of all three of my grandkids and am amazed at how full my heart is. I love to hear their laughter. I take or download countless pictures of each one of them. I talk to them on the phone. I can’t wait to take them camping, fishing, hunting, or to their first races. I buy them books, read them books, dote on them like a grandfather should. They are, quite literally, the apple of PopPop’s eye.

Even more so, I stop and thank God for such precious gifts. Each child has his or her own unique and distinct personality. Each is growing and healthy. Each is testament to the creative power and love of God.

James 1.17 affirms for us, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (NASB)

There are times for me when it is easy to thank God for God’s perfect gifts. Each time I look at my grandchildren, marvel over the miracle of a baby’s hand, and see a new milestone achieved, I thank God for God’s good gifts and blessings in my life.

What good gifts can you thank God for today?

Anyway,

Just my meanderings…

Interruptions

When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

–Exodus 3.4

I am, at heart, a fairly driven person. My life is frequently lived out with “to do” lists written in my daily journal and on my computer or my cell phone. I have a regular routine and a rigid schedule. I like my days to go according to a routine that I set, schedule, and plan. I feel like I am at my best when I can accomplish my list of tasks for the day and get done what needs to get done.

Interruptions and distractions are often the window where God can do something significant in us and through us.

The problem is I get interrupted. When I am in my study, the phone will ring, someone will drop by and want to chat, or my cell phone will play its loon notification note to tell me I have a text, an instant message, or an alert. Emergencies will arise. Oftentimes I will be engaged in something that I feel is terribly important and I will get a call to go and try to help someone that may or may not want or need my help.

That was the case recently. I was preparing for special services and had a rather tight deadline. I was working furiously to accomplish my “To Do” when the phone rang. I answered and found that a need was being presented to me. I left the office and spent a couple of hours with the person. When that time was over, I felt as though I had wasted my time. It was in the middle of my inner tantrum that God reminded me of a powerful lesson he had taught me a long time ago.

In Exodus 3, Moses is going about the duties he had as a shepherd. He was caring for his sheep and goats, leading them to water, protecting them, leading ot shelter and the best grass when something new and different caught his attention. Of course, you know what he saw was a bush burning, but not being burned up. Verse 4 of chapter three says that Moses turned aside to see this thing. In other words, Moses day was interrupted and there in his interruption, Moses had an encounter with God.  

God reminded me that frequently God is encountered in the interruptions of our day and the most significant ministry often occurs on God’s time rather than ours. Interruptions become sacred spaces where the Holy Spirit can move, can speak, and can lead us into areas of God’s choosing. Interruptions are oftentimes the REAL opportunity for ministry.

Now, please understand, I still have to watch my own spirit and heart when I am interrupted. But when I stop to consider what God is doing, the margins where my agenda is intersected with God’s agenda become the most fruitful times in life.

I would encourage you, the next time you are interrupted and find yourself irritated because of the distraction, ask the question, “Where is God in this time? What is God trying to teach me? Or What does God want me to do here?”

You may just find your own “burning bush” experience. Anyway, that’s just my meanderings!

Perfect Timing

Timing is everything. Unless you are waiting…

Recently I preached a message that poked fun at the delivery difficulties the various parcel services have been experiencing this Christmas. Since that time, aided by a good friend’s prodding, I have been thinking about the sensitive issue of timing. Being an inherently impatient person, waiting is hard for me. Yet, all too often in life, I have found myself anxiously waiting for many different things.

As I write this blog post, we, in the Roxby family are awaiting the birth of grandchild #3 (Our first grandson!)

People all over the world are awaiting, none too patiently, the end of the Covid-19 pandemic world wide.

Reflecting on my own life, I have become more aware of those times when I have been awaiting God’s leadership, direction, and the revelation of his will, to me and to those around me.

Since my last post, there have been many changes in my life. Most of those the product of impatiently waiting for God to make God’s face known. Catching you up, in August of 2020, Allyson and I relocated to Sedona, Arizona to assume pastoral duties of Christ Center Wesleyan Church.

For three years we had the sense that our time leading our previous congregation was coming to a close. We went through the process pastors go through to find a new assignment. We sent out resumes. We talked to District Superintendents. We even interviewed at several churches. Each of those “opportunities” ended up coming to nothing.

Needless to say, my ego took a huge hit. One can only hear “We decided to go a different direction.” so many times before the dark cloud begins to settle into your mind. A person can easily begin to question their worth, their fitness, even question their calling and ability to continue.

Have I previously stated, I hate waiting?

The thing is, as I reflect back on those times in my life, I find that God, during my waiting, is trying to teach me something… to do something… to form me in new ways… to challenge me to grow in ways that old habits, old perspectives, and old comfort zones make difficult. Those in between times, if I allow them become seminal times when God deepens and transforms me.

But then, the thing is, God always answers prayer, provides, reveals, and directs, in perfect time. I read once that God is rarely early, never late, and always right on time. I have found this to be true in my life.

So as you read this, I invite you to consider for what you are waiting, however impatiently, and to silently breathe a prayer and listen. God is longing to teach you something about God’s character, love, and provision that you may never have thought of before.

Oh, Thanks Linda! for the kick-in-the-pants, and the idea for this rumination.

Anyway, that is my meanderings at 1 am!

God bless, keep, and transform your hearts and mind today!

Moments of Silence

I took this image last month while on a hunting vacation in Colorado. I spent an entire week hunting with my son, my brother, and a dear friend in ministry. We spent the week together spending a significant amount of time out on the wide open prairie at sunrise and at sunset. The house we stayed in had no television, nor did we have access to a stereo or internet other than on our phones.

In a word, I spent a week in quiet, still, huge, screaming quiet.

The only things that broke the quietness were our conversations, our laughter, the sounds of grasshoppers, antelope talking, birds, the wind in our ears, and the volume of our own thoughts.

It was amazing, refreshing, and intimidating all at the same time. When you are quiet, there is nothing that interrupts you own stream of consciousness. Nothing drowns out your own thinking. You become aware of exactly where your mind is, where it goes, and where it is taking you. Even more, in the stillness you become acutely aware, if you are attentive, to the voice of the Holy Spirit of God in your soul. In the stillness of a sunset, God speaks to your harried spirit reminding you that you are God’s own…you are a beloved child of God. God’s voice comforts, corrects, leads, reminds, and communicates God’s character to our souls.

Too many people do not hear God’s voice to any significant degree. The rampant noise in our culture drowns out God’s leading and God’s comfort. The frenetic pace of our life chokes out the life of the Spirit that God longs to create in us. From the moment we rise in the morning until long after we close our eyes in sleep, our worlds are filled with noise as well as mental and spiritual clutter.

Perhaps the Psalmist really understood and knew what he was talking about when he penned those words in the 46th Psalm, “Be still and know that I am God…” Something profound and powerful happens when we cultivate moments of silence. When we de-clutter our minds and our souls, the voice of God has opportunity to reorient and to reform our lives.

I invite you to find moments of silence in your day. Breathe deeply the voice of the Holy Spirit. Turn moments into hours, hours into days and days into a week of restful reorienting quiet before God. See if God doesn’t do something powerful in your soul…

Anyway, that’s just my pondering…

Time

time aI have been thinking a great deal this morning about time. Events of the past several days have reminded me of the precious nature of the gift of time.

You see, time is more than just a measure of the passage of the hours of the day, waiting until we can punch the clock and go home. Time is more than just the countdown of the days until we go on vacation, or go to see the grandchildren. Time is a much more precious commodity than the tics of the second-hand on a clock, or the beeping of the alarm on a cell phone.

Last night, as I sat in my chair, watching a documentary on the Oklahoma City Bombing, I heard the first hand story of one of the victims, who worked in the Murrah Federal Building. She was trapped in the rubble for six long hours while the first responders sought to free her. It struck me, as she talked about those six horrifying hours, she didn’t think about anything other than how she should have lived her life differently. She bargained with God for more time…and if she was granted that time, she would make the most of each new hour God gave her. Time became precious for this lady who was rescued from a horrific disaster.

This morning, I awakened to news that a childhood friend passed away entirely too soon. In a matter of eight days, he went from healthy husband, father, churchman, and all-around good guy to a victim of cancer. This morning, I am saddened, shaken, and grieved that a beautiful person had their time on earth snuffed out…entirely too soon. He was too young.

As I process all of this, I am working with congregants who have been diagnosed with cancer. I have celebrated homegoings eight times over the past eleven months for dear and loved people…each of whom died, in my estimation, entirely too young. I have wept at caskets. I have held the hands of dear saints who were graduating from this life. I have prayed over grieving family members. I have had dear friends pray over my own grief. I frequently shed tears as precious memories of family members overwhelm me.

If scripture bears out anything, it is that we are not guaranteed timtimee beyond the moment in which we now live. In the scheme of life, old or young have no real bearing. What has bearing is how we live our life in this moment. What counts, in Kingdom time, is how we use the hours, the minutes, the days that we have right now. How we steward the time we have been given is the measure of the quality of a life.

We live life now with an end. Lives that are well-lived  are the ones that are given away. You see, we don’t earn more time by hanging tightly to the time we have. We earn quality of life by giving that over which we have little control to bless others.

Time is a gift from God. Use the time you have well. Love others with God’s reckless love. Give yourself to others, pour your gifts and passions into them. Use your words to build other up, to bless them, to speak grace into their lives. Hug your wife, your husband, your children, your grandchildren, your parents. Hug strangers that they may know the love that Christ has so freely given them.

The best time is the time spent loving…

Anyway, that is my meanderings this morning…

My Brother’s Keeper

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”

Genesis 4.9 (ESV)

The news from the past few weeks has been giving me the unfortunate opportunity to reflect on this powerful verse in scripture. The questioning from God to Cain comes when God discovers that Cain, in a fit of jealousy, has murdered Abel. Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to God while, for whatever reason, Cain’s was not. In a fit of violence, Cain beat Abel to death.

Unfortunately, this pattern of behavior has continued throughout human history. Anger and jealousy lead to bitterness and malice; which when cultivated and nurtured give birth to rage and ultimately to violence.

The news has been filled with violence and with it’s after effects for weeks. Mass shootings, suicides, mass stabbings, domestic violence as well as the consequences have been prominently featured on the news. Lives are being snuffed out at an alarming pace.

My greater concern is the response that I have seen. The wagons are circled. Political pundits begin their spin. We are given a litany of whys, wherefores and causes. People cry for change. Yet no change comes.

The argument against change often boils down to a staunch argument for personal rights. It is MY right… You fill in the blanks as to which rights are cited. Meaningful change is gridlocked in the pretext of guaranteeing MY INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS.

I would be less than genuine if I didn’t come clean and tell you that I used to be one of those. I am not so sure that I am any more. Each innocent that dies convicts me that much more.

my brother's keeper

I am reminded by scripture that I am my brother’s keeper. As a resident alien, that is a citizen of the Kingdom of God, (where my first allegiance lies) I AM MY Brother’s Keeper. My rights are of less value than serving others. It seems to me, when John applies Jesus’s words (quoting the Great Commandment) that he is reminding us of our first responsibility to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves and to surrender my rights for the good of others. As a refresher, John says, Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for one’s friends (John 15.19).

John further amplifies this teaching of Jesus, saying: By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or in talk but in deed and in truth. (I John 3.16-18 ESV). As I reflect on each new incidence of violence, this verse convicts me more and more.

The operative word I hear in the rhetoric on both sides of the equation is the word MY and PERSONAL. The older I get, the more I wince when I hear those words proclaimed loudly. So much hurt is perpetrated in the defense of MY ideas, MY rights, MY needs, MY tastes, and MY will. In a culture where ME and MY are lord, community is destroyed. People are destroyed and the Kingdom suffers.

I think it might be time for the Church, for those who comprise the Church, and for those who consider themselves to be members of the eternal Kingdom of God to lay aside MY in favor of the more scriptural WE. WE are all members of one Body…the Body of Christ. I wonder how the world would change if we began to look at ALL issues through the lens of the Body of Christ.

Perhaps it is time that we who are followers of Jesus Christ are willing to surrender our right to our personal rights to see peace come to earth, or at least a little more peace come to the earth.

Anyway…that’s my recent pondering…

Jesus Wept

“Jesus wept.”(John 11:35 and Luke 19.41)

One of these passages is the shortest verse in scripture. The other is a powerful account of the compassion of our God and Savior for the city of Jerusalem. I find these verses to be profound in their expression of the depth of passion of God for God’s creation.

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In these two recollections, by the authors of the Gospels, years after the life and ministry of Jesus, it is significant to me that they remembered that Jesus publically wept over the state of affairs of both individuals and of the community at large. There were incidences in the life of Christ that moved him to a significant display of emotion.

The account of John is well familiar to us. Jesus wept at the tomb of his good friend Lazarus. Death moved Jesus to tears. The one who is very God of very God was moved to grieve the suffering and the death of his friend. God is a God who suffers with us.

The second account, reported by Luke, occurs immediately after the Triumphal Entry. Jesus surveys the city and weeps over the spiritual depravity found there. The city could not conceive of the peace God offered them by God’s presence and God’s salvation. Jerusalem, particularly its religious leaders, would not accept the salvation God was offering and would not live into the in breaking Kingdom of God.

God is clearly moved by the plight of the people of the world, their lack of peace, and their rejection of God’s salvation.

I stood by this statue just outside of the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial in downtown Oklahoma City this spring. I considered the emotion, the tragedy, and the loss experienced that horrific April day. There is no doubt that Jesus wept over the loss of life, the hatred expressed, and the agony of the City that day.

I further pondered, I wonder what is going on in the  world today, that causes Jesus to weep. What situations are going on in the world, in OUR world, that move God to express the raw pain of grief, to shed the tears of hurt, of abandonment, of loneliness, of suffering. Where might we find Jesus weeping today?

Then I wonder, if those same things that move our God to physically manifest God’s grief and passion move us to tears as well? I wonder if we, who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ grieve the things that Jesus grieves, or if we have become so calloused to the plight of others, so soothed by our comfort and our peace, that we don’t even notice the pain of the world around us.

I wonder if Jesus looks at his church and weeps over our lack of concern for others, for the lost, for the broken, for the hurting, for the poor, for the oppressed.

I wonder where I should be weeping… if I really did find the heart of God in me…

Anyway, just my thoughts today.

 

Back Pain and other Teachable Moments

As I write this post this morning, I have been living, the past five days with lower back
pain. On one hand, it is a constant reminder that I am on the downhill side of 50. Nothing works the way that it used to. You see, I was helping a friend put up his store of firewood and I did something. Immediately, I knew that I had done something I shouldn’t. I felt the pain in my lower back.

lower back pain
As the day went on, the pain and the stiffness grew more intense. Sunday morning, I could barely get out of bed and dress myself. Tuesday, I visited the chiropractor for the first time (Boy! am I glad that God has gifted people with His healing touch!). Yet today, I still have the pain that comes from being out of adjustment. My movements are slower, more deliberate, and I avoid certain actions and ranges of motion.

While the condition, with rest, with treatment, and with a GREAT deal of prayer is improving, the injury often reminds me that it is there! This morning, as I was lamenting the pain and limited mobility, the Holy Spirit reminded me that Paul prayed three times for his “pain in the flesh” to be removed from him. Yet, God didn’t seem, as far as we know, to answer that prayer as Paul wished. Paul acknowledges repeatedly that in our weakness, God’s power and God’s grace are made known.

Today, because I have a pain in my back, I am reminded of my desperate need to live in, to experience, and to know the power of the grace of God at work in my life. It is all too easy for me to live as if my life depends on me, on my strength, on my abilities, and on my wisdom. Such living dooms me to live beneath the potential we all have in the love and the grace of God.

Paul, the same Paul of the persistent thorn-in-the-flesh fame reminds us that we can do all things through Christ Jesus our Lord. When we live life in step with the Holy Spirit, God forms us in paths of God’s choosing. God provides for us the same Holy Spirit that is in Christ Jesus. We can be more than overcomers, if we learn to depend upon, to obey the leading of, and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us.

This is not at easy lesson to learn. It means that we have to learn and practice daily surrender. It means that we have to lay aside the things that lead us away from God. It means that we must continually cultivate that deep inner relationship with God, so that we recognize His leading, and we can hear his voice.

Anyway, those are just my pained pondering today…

Words With Friends, with Family, and Others (What You Say Really Matters)

Talking is a necessary part of our everyday life.  From saying “Good morning!” to ordering coffee, to telling our mechanic exactly what noise our car is making, we talk. It is a joy to listen to babies learn how to talk, to use their mouths to communicate meaning, to express emotion, and to share their needs with the world.

As I have been thinking about talking, I have been reflecting how we use our words. After all, we “talk” through a variety of mediums. We use our voices, we use email. We communicate through social media and we use sign language and nonverbal forms of communication to share our words, our thoughts and our feelings. We are naturally communicative beings.

Of late, I have become acutely aware of how powerfully words are utalkingsed, and how harmful we allow our speech to become. I see people express anger, hatred, racism, and violent intent quickly, easily, and seemingly without repercussion. I watch people express their opinions quickly and easily. They justify hurtful words, thoughts, and ideas easily because, “They are right!” We cover destructive speech under the cloak of being correct and fail to consider the powerful impact of the words we use on friends, on family, on loved ones, on coworkers, on acquaintances, and on strangers.

We take little stock of the damage our words, our speech, our social media footprint causes to those around us. After all, “I am right! I speak the truth! If they don’t like it, that’s tough!” I see the carnage all the time when believers use words as a weapon.

Scripture speaks repeatedly about the power of our speech and how we are to speak the words we use. In Ephesians 4.29, Paul, when speaking to the Ephesian Christians regarding speaking the truth to one another says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word ans is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (NASB) Later on in Colossians 4.5, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person. (NASB) Proverbs 15.1 reminds us that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (NASB)

Scripture is teaching us that our words are powerful tools either for good or for evil. We choose which function they will have. The words that we use, (regardless if they are spoken, printed, or delivered in sign) are to be tools for the grace of God in the life of those around us. We choose the words we share with others. Perhaps we should be much slower to speak and evaluate the possible repercussions of what we share, or what we say, or what we post.

I am reminded of the four-way test of  the Rotary Club,

Of the things I think, say, or do:

  1. Is it TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and build BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL TO ALL WHO ARE CONCERNED?

I encourage all who read my ramblings to consider your speech. Evaluate if your words are a tool for grace or an instrument of carnage.

Anyway, just my ramblings,

A Pastor in Camo

Discipline, Training, and other Four-Lettered Words

Discipline is a dirty word, generally speaking, in the culture in which we live. We are bombarded with images every day that encourage us to super-size our food, our beverages, our desserts and our portions. Instant gratification is the buzzword. If I can’t have it NOW, it isn’t worth having.

Further we are pelted with images on our phones, our televisions, our email, and on billboards with gratify all matters of consumerism, voyeurism, fetishism, and communicates to us that all of this sensual experience can be ours. We are told, “Go ahead! You can’t help yourself!” And we wonder why society is going the way that it is.

Discipline is frequently lost in the world we live in today.

I confess that I struggle with self-discipline. I think anyone who is truly honest and transparent does so. After all, discipline means delaying gratification. Discipline and training take word, sweat, and effort.

WeightLift_inlineI have been introduced to this four-lettered word, discipline the hard way. I have been on a journey to better health. For me that means loosing weight…and a lot of it. I have been tracking every bite that goes in my mouth. That in and of itself is hard. Such mindfulness has forced me to make choices. After all, do you have any idea how long you have to spend on a treadmill to work of one large Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard?

I have been tracking my exercise. Forcing myself to go to the gym and to be more active. That is really not fun. However, the long-term payoff is pretty good. I have lost weight. My knees feel better, and the Doctor LOVES my blood work numbers. My clothes are mysteriously getting larger! I still have a long way to go…but I can see some payoff.

All of this has caused me to think about the most difficult training of all. The training necessary to discipline our minds. After all, there isn’t an app to count what I am looking at, what I am seeing, what I am reading, or what I listen to . I am acutely aware of the drift in society to glorify and gratify the violent, the profane, the illicit, and the sensual. It is all too easy to feed (knowingly or unwittingly) those sides of our mind. Then we wonder why we can’t hear God speaking or see God moving as clearly as we once did. We have poisoned our minds with worldly content and deadened the spirit Sensitive side.

Scripture is replete with admonitions to discipline our minds, to nourish the Spirit and to encourage God’s work. Paul gives this challenge, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…” (Philippians 4.8 NRSV) The apostle is reminding us of how important a thing it is to train our minds, to discipline our thoughts to produce goodness, love, and the personality of Christ.

So, perhaps we should go into training together?

Anyway, just my meanderings,

A Pastor in Camo