Category Archives: Chasing Bimini

A Lesson in Futility

The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile. Psalm 94:11

It’s winter. It’s cold. All of the deciduous trees in our yard are naked and much of the wildlife has either migrated or hunkered down to keep warm. Except the bluebirds. And a few sparrows.

A couple of days ago, I was sitting in my sunroom and heard a loud thwumpping sound at the window. That’s when I saw two bluebirds (one male and one female) hurling themselves at the glass. I tried to shoo them away, and they would leave momentarily, but then return exhibiting the same behavior. I felt so sorry for them and helpless as to what to do. Of course, when in doubt, search the Internet.

Google said that they might be seeing their reflections in the window and, believing themselves other birds making threats to their nests, they were fighting to protect their young. I saw no nearby nests, so I kept seeking a motive and a solution.

I wondered if they were hungry, so I put out some seed in the feeder only to find out later—online—that bluebirds don’t eat seeds. They are carnivores. They eat worms and bugs. The thwumpping continued. I was afraid these two beautiful birds would hurt themselves in their futility. Maybe they were trying to find warmth; however letting them inside my house would be more destructive, to them and my house, than helpful. Don’t birds have instincts and feathers that protect them from the weather?

I kept looking for reasons why these creatures were so persistent. And why at my window. Some superstitions say that bluebirds at the window are an omen—a sign of impending doom. Other superstitions say that these creatures are trying to deliver a message of glad tidings. Yeah. Right.

To me, of course, this was a metaphor that I became determined to unpack.

Like the birds, how often do we flail against an illusion—obsessed with a perceived threat—worried about failures in the past that might still plague us, or an imagined future catastrophe that probably won’t happen? We’re prone to exhausting ourselves by the mere thought of danger or disappointment, or both.

Or maybe we look at our reflections but don’t like what we see. Instead of making positive changes, we thrash about with self-loathing and revulsion.

And there is a possibility that we see only what we want to see, not what is really there. In the present political climate, this seems to be the most prominent illusion that makes us not only fight with ourselves, but with others. Families are being torn apart by opinion and preconceived notions.

No matter, it seems that all of these possibilities demonstrated by the bluebirds are driven by self-absorption—and/or fear. Jesus said this about that:

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  Matthew 6:25-34

This is my favorite prophet’s words.

LORD, you are the one who protects me and gives me strength; you help me in times of trouble. Jeremiah 16:19

The Real Thing

I have several trinkets in my jewelry box. Most of them I hardly ever wear. I’ve never been much for baubles and dangly things anyway. But last Sunday, while I was getting ready for church, I had a few minutes to browse through my collection and find some “adornments” for the day. I had a lot of choices.

There are many pieces that Dennis has given me over the years. Necklaces, bracelets, and rings that are of the highest quality – purest gold and high-clarity diamonds. They aren’t showy but they are beautiful. I have some inherited pieces that have sentimental value mostly, but are still solid and lovely. I also have some pieces that I’ve gotten as souvenirs: Jade from Guatemala, turquoise from New Mexico, hand painted lockets from Germany.

And then I have the cheap stuff—large earrings that sparkle, bracelets that practically light up, necklaces that’ll knock your socks off! Ironically, when I’m choosing something for a dress-up affair, I’ll choose these over the high-quality things. Why? They sparkle. They show off.

Sunday morning, I decided to go not with  the sparkly things, not the nostalgic things, but the real, authentic gold and diamonds. Since I was going to corporate worship, I thought that I’d go with the real stuff. Of course, only I would realize the value of my adornments, but I felt better knowing that what I had on was genuine—pure—hopefully like my presentation of myself to the Lord.

Authenticity is something that’s hard to identify these days. There’s so much CGI (computer-generated imagery) in movies, TV shows, and even commercials (i.e. The Super Bowl) that give us the illusion of reality, that our brains struggle to weed out those things that aren’t real at all.  Coca-Cola used to have a commercial with a jingle that says that Coke is the real thing. Odd that that drink is all artificial flavors and colors.

Sincerity is another word that is used to describe the authentic Christian as opposed to one who is all “show.” Our word “sincerity” has its meaning from a Latin word that calls out the practices of dishonest sculptors in ancient Greece and Rome as they would fill in and cover their chiseling mistakes with wax to deceive the viewer. The compound word that we use is sine = without – cera = wax. Without wax. This concept not only applies to our lives, but to our personal worship.

But is just being sincere enough to make us pleasing to Almighty God? Here’s a story I once heard that explains why this concept alone could be lacking:

The three-alarm fire started in an upstairs bedroom. By the time the first responders arrived, the building was in full blaze. A young couple and their three-year-old son stood outside huddled together, all sharing a blanket.

“My baby, my baby is still in there!” the mother shouted. “She’s still in her crib.”

The brave fire fighter rushed into the burning building, battling the smoke and flames. Finally, he saw the infant’s crib. Quickly, the man grabbed the child, wrapped it in a blanket, and prayed that he’d make it out of the house alive with the baby. Outside, the mother rushed to the fire fighter, grabbed her baby, and began to thank the man for the rescue. But then, her relief turned to horror. As she peeled back the layers of the tiny blanket, she didn’t see the beautiful face of her child, but the artificial features of a life-like doll that had been lying next to the infant. The fire fighter truly believed that he had picked up the child, but he had been mistaken. A classic case of being sincere, but being sincerely wrong. How do you know you’re being authentic and sincere?

For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth. (Psalm 33:4)

You can’t go wrong if you are authentic, sincere, but also grounded in Truth.

.

Pause to Refresh

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” (John 7: 37-38)

The little South Alabama town where I grew up in the 1960s has a natural phenomenon that was responsible for some of my most delicious memories. The story is that around the early 1920s some speculators believed there was oil hiding under the town’s surface. In drilling for oil, however, they discovered an enormous artesian well (definition: an underground spring that naturally spews to the surface without a pump).  At around 1500 feet below, a subterranean spring began to spout 100 feet into the air and has continued flowing until this day—producing 1200 gallons of water a minute. A new above-ground lake was born on that day. But someone had the forethought to harness some of that naturally flowing water and funnel it into an enormous swimming pool. It was in that pool that I learned to swim.

The water was cold even in the long summer months. Since the water came straight out of the ground through a large pipe, and then into the pool, the water was always fresh. And it was recirculated by leaving the main pool, flowing into the “baby pool” and then into the lake.  The main pool emptied and refilled itself every two hours. The pure H2O contains 27 nourishing minerals which are beneficial to life.

The whole Lake Geneva complex, with dance floor, snack bar (and even a cage for a pet monkey) was privately owned and immaculately maintained. I can still feel the shock of jumping off the diving board into the water below. It almost took my breath away. And on those hot, humid southern days, the temperature contrast was even more pronounced…and welcome.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if those drilling for oil had actually found it, pumped it out, and sold it. Somebody (or their heirs) would now be counting their money and the whole town’s economy would have taken a different path. I also imagine the disappointment that the prospectors had when that drill went down and hit water instead of oil. The use of fossil fuels has come under fire in the last several decades, so one can only speculate that the boom would have died out at some point and the dream of prosperity with it. 

However, what riches we’ve enjoyed for a century all because of a failure to achieve the initial goal!

That’s the point here. The “weeping prophet,” Jeremiah, was God’s mouthpiece to the ancient Israelites, and mostly with warnings of gloom and doom. Here, however, is one of his more positive prophecies:

“For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11.

Maybe I’m reaching (or digging) for a metaphor here, but the memory of the artesian well keeps coming back to me in fresh ways.

Isaiah, my favorite prophet, reported that God said. “I will open rivers on the barren, and springs in the middle of the plains. I will turn the desert into a pool and dry land into springs.” (Is. 41:18)

I’m thankful for the well-spring that one beautiful excavation mistake created for me. I’m looking forward to how God will unearth deep-flowing truths to me, and to all of us, that will bubble to the surface.

Watch the Children

I hear this phrase a lot.  But one I’ve personally never used to refer to babysitting or keeping children. Watching them was not something I considered the essence of the assignment. I don’t know. I don’t think that just to hover over a child and observe them would be worthy of the job.  Anyway. Recently I heard the phrase again and so I decided to really watch children to see what the phrase is all about.

One group of kids I observed, obviously on a school field trip, seemed to find joy in something as simple as walking. Even in a straight line. With the teacher (the mama duck) ahead, the little ones were obeying the rules of following in single file. However, each “duckling” had his or her own style of walking. Some skipped, some twirled, some stepped over cracks in the sidewalk. Some even walked backwards. I remember asking myself.  When did I lose the sheer joy of just…walking? At my age, I consider walking a chore rather than a pleasure.

In this group of children, I saw no one who seemed to be anxious about who was going to pay for the outing or who was going to transport them safely home. Someone older, and perhaps, more responsible, had made all of the arrangements. The leader’s main chore was to keep up with her charges, often counting heads and reminding them to stay with the group. This configuration had incorporated a buddy system, giving each child a little responsibility, but only for one other person.

Paul writes to the people of ancient Corinth these words, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13: 11). Here Paul is alluding to childishness as immaturity and carelessness. An unsavory trait.

But Matthew recorded this: Jesus… “called a small child and had him stand among them.  ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:2) And innocence and trust that will usher one into the Kingdom of God.

Childish behavior is wanting our own way, dishonoring those in authority, and dismissing the consequences of our actions. But childlikeness? Oh, this involves trusting Him who is in charge and finding joy in everyday things.

A few years ago I wrote this.

Of Such Is the Kingdom

He dances with joy on a summer day

He sings with “heart” the songs of play

He laughs at every rhyme he makes

Because he is a child….

She skips to tunes she feels inside

She patiently counts the stars at night

She never tires of asking why

Because she is a child….

So I wanna dance

I wanna sing

I wanna laugh

I wanna be

Like the little child again.

I wanna run into my father’s arms

The one I trust with all my heart

Of such is the kingdom

The Kingdom of God.

Watch the children. They might teach you something that will change your life, or they will at least remind you of things you already know.

Hold the Fort

“God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
” Psalm 46:1

Did you ever build a fort as a kid? Sure you did. Everybody did. Sometimes it was with your bed covers after you were supposed to be asleep. Sometimes it was a crude combination of various materials in the family room. It might have been a simple canvas pup tent in the back yard. Or maybe you built a real structure with hammer, nails and wood. A friend built my sons, when they were kids, a solid structure on stilts that had a sign on the outside that read: No Girls Allowed.

Probably everybody has built a fort of some kind. But why? Why are we compelled to create a fortress? A barricade? A refuge? Are we trying to keep someone or something out—or something in? Is it built for the feeling of being hidden? The answers vary depending on the circumstances.

Several years ago on a trip to England, our family visited Dover Castle which rises high above the white cliffs over the English Channel. Though it was built as a royal residence in the 11th century, it became a citadel that protected the owner from foreign invasion. It was a sentry’s lookout, too, for hundreds of years, and it was even used by Winston Churchill to assess the battles that took place on the channel during WWII. It was utilized to watch for an approaching enemy and then make ready for a defense.

One modern fortress that comes to mind is at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It’s not just a military base, but where our country stores 9.2 million pounds of gold. Through the years, priceless documents, like the original versions of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address, were kept there for certain periods of time. The fortress was for protection of things inside that are perceived to be valuable.

And then the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado once served as the center for the United States Space Command and NORAD. Its purpose was to hide military testing techniques and top secret findings.

All of these fortresses serve different purposes: watchtowers, safe houses, and concealment areas.

I think we are created with a need to seek refuge—from storms, from illness, from harm. A safe haven against the chaos of life.

Martin Luther, the great leader of the Reformation and songwriter, wrote these words in 1529.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing
Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate
On earth is not his equal
.

The language is, of course, archaic to us. Remember that the lyrics were written originally in German (Luther’s mother tongue) and then transliterated to English. But look at the first line of the text.

“Bulwark” means a hedge of protection, a wall of earth (a levee) against a flood, a fortification. It is also a nautical term. It refers to a solid wall around the main deck of a ship for the protection of persons or objects on the deck. Though the word does not necessarily “sing” well in modern terms, it alludes to the enormous strength of our God to hold us near and protect what is precious to Him. That’s why the 46th psalm calls God our refuge.

The Message translates the first 3 verses of that psalm this way:

God is a safe place to hide,
    ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,
    courageous in seastorm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans,
    the tremors that shift mountains.

Take refuge inside a fortress, but not with bed sheets, castles, or bunkers. God’s hand is the only safe place to hide, to assess the enemy’s approach, and to preserve you, a truly valuable child of God.

Nobody’s Perfect

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Isaiah 40:29

We found a treasure chest in our garage.

It was a small wooden box that looked like a miniature version of what pirates search for at the bottom of the sea. Inside this chest, we rediscovered lots and lots of coins that we and my late father-in-law had collected through the years. Many of them were old—some as far back as the turn of the 20th century. Some were foreign coins and some were just ordinary.

We started looking up old coin values and realized that some of these were worth more than their face values. Some much more. In searching the internet for information about coin values, we found that a lot of coins (not the ones we have, however) are worth hundreds of thousands—and sometimes millions. The most valuable ones were not the oldest coins, however, but the ones that had errors on them. Mistakes in the minting process.

One recent minting of a state coin says “In God We Rust.” No fooling. Because of the mistake in stamping, it is worth a lot of money now. Another error is called the “Spitting Eagle.” It’s a quarter that has a small raised line near the eagle’s mouth that makes it look like it’s spitting. And in the 1930s there were some 3-legged buffalo nickels mistakenly put into circulation that now are worth a bundle. All of these are coins that are valuable only because of their rarity. Apparently there is a whole industry dedicated to collecting error coins. I think it amazing (and symbolic) that these coins are worth more because of their flaws.

Sometimes I think that God made a mistake when He designed me, because I’m not perfect. At least by the world’s standards anyway. I’m too short. Too round. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. Old. Cranky. Annoying. Worthless.

Yet the Bible tells stories of people who had imperfections, and we still read about them and revere them in spite of their flaws. For instance:

Moses had a temper

Gideon was a coward

Noah drank too much

Jacob was a cheat

David was an adulterer and a murderer

Jonah rebelled

Solomon was a womanizer

Elijah pouted

Simon Peter was disloyal.

The Apostle Paul had some malady that we know little about. Some say that he had cataracts that damaged his eyesight, and that these were caused by the blinding experience on the road to Damascus.

In 2 Corinthians 12: 7, Paul writes about his flaw.  “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

You may wonder what God was thinking when He made you. You might believe that you’re a mistake because you and your circumstances aren’t perfect. Just remember that your value is not measured in perfection, but in your willingness to recognize and surrender your flaws to the Creator. Just like with minting mistakes, your weaknesses can make it possible for God to use you more effectively.

I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:13

A Truly Silent Night

The Germans started it.

The Great War, the War to End all Wars (now known to us as World War I) had been raging for five months in late 1914. On one side were Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and others. On the other was France, England, Russia, and later the United States and others. Neither side had made much headway in defeating the other. A 500-mile stretch of territory that ran through Flanders (Belgium, France and the Netherlands) was called the Western Front.

Early in December of that year Pope Benedict XV made a public plea to both factions in the war. He asked, “that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang.” However, commanding officers on both sides ignored the Pope’s request and were determined to fight on – Christmas or not.

Nevertheless, on Christmas Eve, 1914, German soldiers in the trenches caught the holiday spirit. They lit candles and hung them from evergreen trees. They hoisted banners that read, “We not shoot, you not shoot.” Not knowing what to think, the British soldiers held their positions. Finally, a German soldier dared venture into “no man’s land,” the field that separated the two battle trenches. A single voice began to sing:

Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht.

Alles Schlaft, einsam wacht

(Silent Night, Holy Night

All is calm, all is bright.)

British soldiers answered with antiphonal greetings. Before too long more soldiers on either side left their trenches and began presenting small gifts to each other and exchanging handshakes. One British soldier wrote: “I wouldn’t have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything. … I spotted a German officer, some sort of lieutenant I should think, and being a bit of a collector, I intimated to him that I had taken a fancy to some of his buttons. … I brought out my wire clippers and, with a few deft snips, removed a couple of his buttons and put them in my pocket. I then gave him two of mine in exchange….”

News spread down the lines. From Christmas Day until well into the New Year, regiments along the battle lines joined in with similar gestures of goodwill, much to the chagrin of their commanders. (One notable dissenter was a young corporal named Adolf Hitler.)

Referring to that short unofficial ceasefire, another soldier reported, “I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence. Only the guards were on duty. We all went outside the farm buildings and just stood listening. And, of course, thinking of people back home. All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking, and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire, and distant German voices. But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted ‘Merry Christmas’, even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.”

This Christmas war story brings heartwarming and inspiring sentiments. One coming from a passion for freedom; another coming from a yearning for peace. But the Prince of Peace, Jesus, had already come to wage His own war against sin and despair that has been around since Eden. The peace He gives, however, is not the absence of conflict but the serenity of spirit that the Apostle Paul describes as “the peace that passes human understanding.”

Today our world is full of conflict and oppression without any external sign or hope of relief. This makes knowing the Prince of Peace even more beautiful.

Jesus spoke of freedom in John 8: 31-32

‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’”

Regarding peace, Jesus told His disciples,

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

A Charlie Brown Christmas

I’ve been watching a lot of Christmas movies this season. It always helps me get in the Christmas spirit. One of my favorite movies is A Charlie Brown Christmas. This season there was talk of taking this movie off the market (streaming and network showings). Too religious, they said. Too “old school” they said. But this isn’t the first time this classic has met with opposition. Before it ever aired, the network protested.  Their main complaint?

“You can’t read from the Bible on network television!”

It was 1965 and Peanuts had been a favorite newspaper comic strip for 15 years. Charles Shultz, its creator, had done a short film with animator Bill Melendez and producer Lee Mendelson, but he had never considered making a TV movie for Christmas; that is, until the producer called Schultz and said that an advertising agent for the Coca-Cola Company had suggested they create one. Within a few days, the producer and creator had written an outline for a script. It included three main chapters, 1) a sad Christmas tree, 2) a school play, and 3) ice skating.

The 25-minute animated film budget was around $150,000, which even in the 1960s was quite low. The creative team of Schultz, Mendelson and Melendez pressed on, however, until they had a full production to present to the TV network CBS.

The main complaint that the TV execs had against the film was the recitation by Linus straight out of the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke. CBS did not believe that a biblical reference, much less a direct quote from the King James version of the Bible, was appropriate for their audience. Charles Schultz, however, begged to differ. He is quoted as saying, “If we don’t tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?” Schultz refused to delete the scene or the scene where the children sing the religious carol, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

But the biblical reference wasn’t the only thing the network didn’t like. They also didn’t like that real children, not adult industry professionals, were used to record the voices on the film. (In fact, some of the children were so young that they couldn’t read their lines and had to be fed them by the producer one sentence at a time.)

Another thing that did not ring true with the CBS executives was the music. Jazz musician and composer, Vince Guaraldi, had already written a song called “Linus and Lucy” for a documentary about Peanuts that never aired. The creative team called Guaraldi and asked him if they could use the song on the Christmas special. The composer also wrote another song for the film, “Christmastime Is Here.” CBS thought the songs, especially the theme song, was too abstract and offbeat for a cartoon.

Under pressure by the sponsor Coca-Cola, the network finally conceded. A Charlie Brown Christmas would be aired on a Thursday night, December 9, 1965. More than 15 million TV viewers saw the show and the ratings for the show was at number two just behind Bonanza.

The film has had some changes over the years. One is that the Coca-Cola symbols are not shown on the present version since the soft drink company no longer sponsors it. A few more edits have been made, too. But only minor ones.

The original animation, which many thought was crude, is exactly as it first appeared in 1965. It has now been dubbed “classic” by animators and producers since.

At Christmastime, we focus on those who believed that the Infant in Bethlehem was the Messiah: Mary, Joseph, shepherds, Wise Men. But what about those who didn’t believe? Some just couldn’t see the potential lying in a manger or later walking the earth.

Since Charles Schultz was a believer, he may have resonated a little with Jesus as His skeptics passed Him over. Network naysayers were just as blind as stubborn Pharisees to the treasure that was right in front of them.

An angel spoke to Joseph in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)

If you are traveling by airplane for the holidays, this story might have more significance than others.

Man had been fascinated with flight since the beginning of time. As far back as the ancient Chinese in the 4th century B.C. humans have tried to harness the wind and fly above the ground like birds. A kite was his first attempt at flight, though somewhat unsatisfying because he could only observe from the ground.

Leonardo Di Vinci in the mid-15th century A.D. drew over 100 designs for a flying machine, but Di Vinci was often ahead of his time in so many ways.

Then in the late 19th century the manned glider was invented, but man’s flight was controlled by the wind itself. Many glider flights ended in tragedy because the pilot had little or no control of his direction.

It was not until just before Christmas, December 17, 1903 that Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio perfected the design for a true flying machine.

By trade the brothers were bicycle and printing press builders. Both of these were not only noble professions but lucrative as well. They could have been very satisfied with their careers. But they dreamed bigger. Using the research of many others before them, the sons of Milton and Susan Wright, camped out on the eastern seaboard at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for three summers. There they worked on a “fixed-wing” flight design. 

After two summers, however, the brothers had become discouraged. They were sure that man would some day fly, but that he would never fly during their lifetime. Fortunately, the men did not give up. In the summer of 1903 after building a gasoline-powered engine that turned propellers, Orville and Wilbur decided to stay past their usual season as the fall temperatures started to plummet. They decided to keep trying despite the weather and the coming holidays. On that December morning, Orville piloted the lightweight spruce-constructed muslin-surfaced Wright Flyer I off the ground for 59 seconds with Wilbur running along beside. The flying machine’s altitude reached 10 feet.

After Wilbur and Orville made their momentous flight, they naturally wanted to share the news with their family back home in Dayton, Ohio. They sent a telegram to their sister, Katherine, telling her of the flight and that they would be home to celebrate Christmas. When Katherine excitedly ran to the newspaper office with the news, she was surprised when the editor looked at the message and exclaimed, “Oh great, the boys will be home for Christmas.”  In the next morning’s paper ,the headline read “Popular Local Bicycle Merchants Home for the Holidays.”

The point of this story is that the editor supposedly missed the impact of the message. Excited that his friends would be home for the holidays, he ignored the biggest news of the century. Man had flown!

In the excitement and preparations for Christmas, it’s easy to miss the point of the season. God had come to earth. No matter what else you might hold dear at Christmas, don’t miss the reason why Jesus came: to give us eternal access to our Heavenly Father.

Following the Dust

Recently on a family vacation, I took my first ride in a UTV(utility task vehicle) which is a four-wheeler two-seater version of an open off-road recreational vehicle. We (Dennis and I) had helmets, goggles, masks, seatbelts, and much trepidation as we were instructed to trail a line of other UTVs ahead of us. We were sort of in the middle of the group, and we were told to just follow the dust.

At first we didn’t know what that meant until we accelerated appropriately in our designated route. Then we understood. We were in a desert climate which meant that sand and dust were the substance of our path and would be kicked up in our faces by the next guy in line. Follow the dust—of the vehicle directly in front of us.

There were times when the dust was all we could see. We didn’t have a clear visual on the vehicle in front of us, nor of the trail beyond it. We literally were pointing ourselves toward all we could see. When the vehicles slowed down or stopped, we could see everything clearly. In the fray, however, our vision was just dust. Yet we continued to follow it.

Maybe I’m straining too much to make this a spiritual metaphor, but I saw this as a message about days ahead. It may seem like I’m in a dust cloud with no idea where I’m going or what’s around the next corner. However, this scripture reminds me what I’m supposed to do. Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will direct your paths.

It may seem like a dusty road you’re on. It may seem impossible to figure out where you’re going—especially where God wants you to end up. But I think that is exactly how to follow Him. Be ready to believe that His path, even when it is occluded, is still for your good and unique to you. God is speaking to ancient Israel at the time this is written, but I believe He speaks to us now. Jeremiah 29:11 says,

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

He’s got this—even when you feel that you’re going nowhere in a cloud of dust.