Meditation


While attending the Hampton’s Ministers Conference recently, a colleague and I were conversing about the NBA playoffs and he asked at what time the game would start that evening. Motioning to pick up the TV remote, he objected and said, “Let me get it!” Curiously, he took his Smartphone and began speaking into it. Effortlessly, he simply verbalized the question, “What time does Miami and Dallas play tonight?” In a matter of seconds, the phone executed a search and revealed the game would begin at 8:00 p.m. I was literally blown away. Quickly, I asked him what in the world did he just do! He told me about this downloadable application for Smartphones that would allow such an option to anyone who wanted to use it. Not wanting to be left out, I located the software on my phone and downloaded it with ease. I have been using it ever since.

Don’t miss this! Technology has now come to a point that without ever typing a key, one can simply via voice recognition ask your phone just about any question you want, and in almost no time the phone will reveal the answer. Well, the creators of Google aren’t that smart. In fact, they simply have been trying to mimic an application designed by God since the beginning of time. Similar to Google Search, God’s search engine is called prayer. It’s free and only takes a little, and it is available to anyone who would access it. Our Creator has already designed us to employ it; and is only waiting an opportunity to resolve and answer all of our issues and questions. He is only a prayer away.

If you’ve got a problem, just ask God. I am a witness He will answer you!

Some time ago I sat in a familiar chair to have my shoes polished on my way to a funeral. As I sat there to negotiate this experience, I paid close attention as my shoes underwent a necessary transformation. The skilled craftsman quietly began by brushing away any loose dirt or debris, and followed with some saddle soap and water to thoroughly clean the leather. Afterwards, he took an old cloth to wipe away the excess moisture and dried the leather before applying the polish. He then took his crooked fingers and carefully patted the small can of Kiwi held in his left hand, and slowly started rubbing the wax solution onto the shoe’s surface. After brushing his application into the shoe, it left a simple flat black hue on my nice monk straps. Thankfully, he wasn’t finished. He then applied a second coat to ensure it was adequately absorbed within the leather and began brushing it into the shoe. Slowly, a faint luster began to emerge on the shoe’s surface. In patient form, the quiet gentleman took a soft finishing rag and began popping it across the ball of my shoe; around the sides and on the back of the heels. Eventually, a rich black glossy finish sparkled at my feet as he concluded his work by nicely dressing the soles.

Interestingly, when the shoe shine man started out, he was undaunted by the fact that my shoes were unclean; a bit scuffed, and clearly needed attention. Even as he went through his procedure for cleaning and buffing, he remained undeterred by his assignment though no major change occurred. He was determined to keep working and did not stop until the end he desired emerged. This keen man stuck with his task and was able to get a shine out of the shoe because he knew there was a shine “in the shoe.”

Our Lord, Jesus (our Shine Man), likewise would never have told us to allow our lives (lights) to “shine” had He not known there was “shine” potential and possibility already within us. He firmly said that you and I are the light of the world (Matthew 5: 16). And we are encouraged by the Lord to allow His light to shine through us so others may see our good works and give glory to the Father in heaven.

Today, why not make this your new commitment? In fact, you should sing it aloud:

“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine;
Everywhere I go, I’m going to let it shine;
Jesus gave it to me; I’m going to let it shine;
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”

The other day the control panel in my car sounded and revealed the specific (visual) message, “Check Brake Linings.” Right on cue, my technician discovered it was time for the front rotors and pads to be replaced. I must say I yet marvel at the miracle of technology. Daily we are blown away with newer advances and even more modern measures designed to enhance the quality of our lives. With the creation of telematics—the transmission of data communications between systems and devices—manufacturers can monitor safety, security, and provide information services for consumers where ever they may be via remote control. From a centralized location these observe speed, tire pressure, oil life, brake systems, fluid levels, plus engine and transmission performance. Too, they offer remote access, crash assistance, and can provide turn-by-turn navigation when one needs directions, among other things. Without question, these advances are simply ingenious!

One should not ignore the great possibility that God has allowed humans to make such remarkable technological advances to reveal as well the “High” tech Genius with which we—human beings—have been similarly made (by God). Some continue to complain about knowing God’s will and finding life’s purpose, and without ever realizing a unique monitoring system which allows for the transmission of critical information between us and God. This spiritual system is called faith. It enables proper communication between humanity and God so we can readily experience His safety, security, and the information services He readily provides. Once the faith journey begins, God is appreciably more able to monitor speed and direction, give valuable insight and information, and provide His safety and security no matter what circumstances in life we face. In fact, God mysteriously employs distinct spiritual alarms—like an inner disturb or the absence of peace, restlessness, sleeplessness, uneasiness about decisions, adamant burdens, and more, to let us know something may be wrong or also the best course of action in a given dilemma. These given sacred signals alert at God-directed moments to apprise us of things to which we otherwise may not respond.

What’s the point? By faith, you should enter into a more meaningful relationship with God and begin to pay closer attention to your control panel (your spirit). Learn to recognize the spiritual prompts that alert when things are not right or may be headed contrary to the divine will. If you will keep looking, listening, and learning, God will plainly show you areas where crucial changes need to be made and what you can do to enjoy a better quality of life. Discover how God’s system is far more advanced than humankind’s. Human systems are located miles away from their consumers; but God is “…a very present help in the time of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) Human-made systems afford access from a remote location; but God is only a prayer away; and He said if you will come near Him (get close), He will in turn come near to you (see James 4:8). Don’t ever think God would allow a human-made system to exceed the genius with which He has already created us. The Psalmist has clearly stated we have been “…fearfully and wonderfully made…” (139:14)

Become more spiritual today! Do it now? It will surely enhance the quality of your life! I promise you!

Oddly, modern science teaches us a lot about spirituality. Concepts and concerns of the faith are made clear in simple advances in technology. For instance, a few years ago the Escalade I drove came with a feature called the OnStar system. This program afforded me long distance contact with the GM’s OnStar Service Center in Charlotte, NC. From there they performed remarkable services for many customers by remote control. OnStar can pinpoint your location, offer remote access if your keys are ever locked inside the vehicle, and can also conduct a diagnostic analysis of all the major systems if and when an alert should illumine on the instrument panel. I couldn’t help but test these for certainty.

While driving along one evening I activated the OnStar call feature—a push-button dialing mechanism—to see if I was on-the-radar. An operator quickly responded by confirming the contact, calling my name, and asking me how could she help me. I told her there was no problem and I was only trying to see if indeed the system was functioning properly. I asked her if she knew my current location. In a matter of seconds she replied, “We have you heading westbound on Harrison Street in Omaha, Nebraska, around 86th Street, and it appears you are traveling around 45 miles per hour.” I confirmed the information she related, and kindly thanked her for her time. I was speechless. Once a systems alert illumined on my dash board. Upon contacting the control center, the operator told me the nature of the malfunction (it was not a disabling issue), and how to get it fixed. I simply needed to make my way to an authorized dealership, relate to them the problem, and they would take care of the matter and send me on my way. It happened just like the operator told me.

God has made us intelligent beings and has given humans the capacity to create remarkable enhancements—toys, of sorts—to make life easier. Look at it! Here we have an interesting mechanism that recognizes your signal, and can actually perform multiple diagnostic tests on your automobile thousands of miles removed from the analyzer’s location. Can anyone honestly doubt the power of God? As you ponder this phenomenon, think about this as well. God, too, has designed His own GPS (global positioning system) navigation program that long predates OnStar. As a matter of fact, it has been operational since creation; and is designed to afford humanity instant contact with the Father. Through this unique feature—it’s called prayer—believers are given automatic access to our loving God, and can discover several benefits to this mysteriously spiritual relationship. Some of these are:

1. God knows exactly who you are and where you are. Isn’t that good news? No matter what be your circumstances, God can pinpoint your location and recognizes your plight. Believe that! He truly knows!

2. God is keenly aware of the direction in which you are traveling. Not only can He locate you, but He knows if you’re heading in the right direction. You should always be careful to ensure you’re on the right street and going down the right path.

3. God knows exactly what’s wrong. Our God, not unlike OnStar, has a unique ability to conduct a full diagnostic assessment of your “systems” and can immediately reveal to you where the problem lies. It could be your attitude, your associations; the atmospheres you frequent, or even your activities.

4. God knows how to fix them. God never leaves us like He finds us. He’s a Master Technician and can help us if we would allow Him an opportunity. It only requires of us to carefully follow His instructions and to trust Him to make everything alright.

On one occasion I became lost and needed direction. I pushed the button, but to no avail. No one responded to afford me assistance. The headquarters had not closed. The problem was a matter of my own neglect. I had lost my connection, which required of me to renew the terms of my contract. They—the headquarters—clearly wanted a relationship with me. All they needed was some indication I wanted a relationship with them.

And so it is with God!

Interstate 80, reportedly the busiest highway in our country, runs like a thread throughout the Omaha community—from its eastward border at Iowa all the way to the west into Colorado. Since my home is in the southwest corner of the city, I must traverse this super-slab path everyday in order to get to the post office as well as to my office. Late one extremely cold February afternoon, I drove to my post office in the south east part of town before it closed. The skies were completely overcast as a dull gray aura hovered over our area from dawn to dusk.

Once I had retrieved the mail, I got back onto the interstate and soon was caught in the thick of the evening rush to the suburbs. Although it was a normal and expected delay in ones daily travel, I was not too enthused to be in it. The five o’clock commuters filled the multiple lanes of the interstate and I adjusted my speed accordingly. As I did this, I became fascinated at a sight unnoticed before. In the far distance where the cloud cover would seem to be in touch with the earth’s surface, there was a slight clearing—a gap between the gray sky and the plains. Positioned directly in the gap was an extraordinary slice of the sun—a flat, bright, orange-colored piece of it as it made its way behind the western hills. I remember the scene most vividly as I spoke aloud and said, “That is the most beautiful shade of orange I have ever seen.”

As I continued to drive home, I kept thinking about that sight—the wonder of it, and the peculiar timing that enabled me to be on the road at that given moment to catch it. I asked the Lord, “Why was I in that spot on the highway today to see that remarkable sight?” I heard the Lord say, “Don’t ask me; ask the sun!” So I said to the sun, “Sun! Talk to me!” I know you probably think I’m crazy by now as you read this, but as sure as I’m sitting here, the sun spoke and I heard these words: “I know you couldn’t see me, and I know it didn’t look like it; but I was there all the time.” While there was no hint of its reigning presence in the span of the entire day, this snapshot view emerged to remind me of one incontrovertible fact; it was there all the time.

All of us experience cloudy days and somber skies that hang over our circumstances. Every Christian will eventually face a time when it will be difficult to see or sense the hand and presence of God. This experience taught me a very valuable lesson which I have never forgotten. It really does not matter how things appear. God has promised us in His word: “…I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5); and, “…I will be with you always even to the end of the earth.” (Matthew 28:20). Either way you look at it, that’s good news!

In Ezekiel’s comprehensive vision of the glory of God filling the temple, the concluding details indicate a name change for the community. Once the construction is finished, the name of the city from that day will be, “Jehovah Shammah!” Translated, this Hebrew expression means, “The Lord is there!” (See Ezekiel 48:35).

It doesn’t matter what you’re going through, and no matter what things look like; remember, God is always there! Rest in that reality!

On January 25th, I flew to Arkansas to conduct a leadership conference at a thriving church. The flight there was pleasant. An ice storm had settled in the capital city as we landed, and made driving extremely hazardous. As I stood in baggage claim awaiting my luggage, I called my brother to get first hand a report on the road conditions. He told of a fatal accident he saw along his trek to work. These were clearly dangerous conditions.

After retrieving my rental car, I strangely verbalized (aloud), “The Spirit wants me to stay off the highway and go another route.” When these curious words came out of my mouth, I laughed and said to myself (also out loud), “I guess it would be dumb for me to credit the Spirit and then not follow His directions.” So, I took the back way up Roosevelt Road (a rather short jaunt from the airport) that would equally allow me to reach my hotel. In about five minutes I was at the intersection of Roosevelt and Independence Boulevard. While awaiting the light to change, I casually looked to my right and realized I was beside the Veterans National Cemetery. Without hesitation, I turned around and entered the grounds. Therein was my father’s remains (I hadn’t been there in the fifteen years since he had been laid to rest). I drove to the area I faintly recalled as his grave site, but was unsuccessful at finding the spot–no stone was there when we buried him. Eventually I had to return to the information center—a small, red-brick building that served as an office for this facility—to get what I needed. The convenient on-site kiosk was malfunctioning, and I had to wait on the attendant to return before I could receive help.

Mr. Jackson was a seasoned gentleman who kindly greeted me, and we proceeded inside to manually do the search. I told him my last name and we found the actual card with my dad’s name on it. The information thereon was clear: “section 19, lot 335.” I had not known this; but I will never forget it. He related to me how to get there and I thanked him and left.

As I drove near the area where I was first browsing, I quickly saw the sign, “Section 19.” In a few more feet, I drove past the row of 500’s, 400’s, and at last reached the 300’s. I saw 338, 337, 336, and there it was, 335. I parked and for the first time beheld the marker where my father’s lifeless body was laid. It read: Alvin W. Terry, U S Navy, FN, Korea, January 29, 1933 to April 15, 1992. While standing there in the freezing drizzle and beholding his head stone for the very first time, tears began to crystallize on my cheeks. I started thanking my daddy. “Thank you, daddy,” I uttered; “because everything I know about being a man I learned from you—like how to hold a hammer, and drive a nail; how to lay tile and shingle a roof. Thank you, daddy, for teaching me how to rake leaves, and cut grass; how to change a tire and bait a hook; thanks, dad, for taking me hunting and fishing, and for showing me how to load and fire a shotgun.” I thanked my dad for teaching us how to swim and how to train German Shepherds. My daddy often stood alone and forged the path for justice in our community during the civil rights era. He showed me what it means to take care of a family, and I’ve tried desperately hard to emulate his example as best I possibly could.

My conversation soon changed from one with my once-earthly daddy (I knew he couldn’t hear me) into one with my heavenly father—God. I thanked God for my daddy! I thanked Him for the privilege of having a daddy who loved us, provided for us, played with us and prayed with us. I was grateful to have a daddy who disciplined us when we needed it. I thanked God for a man who lived with us and slept with my mother; and for how his DNA was actually consistent with my own. I thanked God for the little things I had heard my daddy say (many of which I could not remember); but more especially for the many things I remember he did! He wasn’t close to perfect (by no means); but he was my daddy. With all those things—the good, the bad, and the ugly—the greatest joy I have even today about my now gone biological father is simply that he was there!

This fact comforts and convicts me in my own approach to being a parent, a pastor, and a person. I regularly encounter families and children who will never know the joys I have known. Many will never know their fathers, nor ever hear them call their names. Many will never have the privilege of having their father do for them what mine did for me. Some who know their dads sadly are unable to spend time with them because they are either in jail or prison, or perhaps some dads prefer not to own or ever want to see the child (or children) they made. These realities demand of me to live responsibly as an act of genuine gratitude for what God gave to and did for me through my daddy. I am constrained to behave honorably and to model manhood before the men, women, and children I serve; so that I can encourage them further by giving them a small glimpse of the giant-of-a-man I came to know, to cherish, and to love—my daddy!

When I had finished in the cemetery and was driving away, I heard in my Spirit a still, small, voice say, “See there; that really was Me; and you needed these moments with Me and your daddy.” Suddenly it occurred to me we would have been celebrating my dad’s jubilee the following Wednesday (it would have been his seventy-fifth birthday). I thanked God, again, and continued to marinate on my unscheduled pit-stop for the rest of the day until I finally drifted off to sleep for the night. Memorial moments can be quite cleansing. God truly knows what we need! I miss him so much!

Hallelujah!

Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” lied! Words hurt! They do incredible damage; sometimes, irreparably!

Today I offer a piece of poetry I wrote several years ago in the midst of tremendously difficult time for me as a pastor, a parent, and person. I hurt, I bled, but I survived. I hope you can, too!

Marks and scars though healed remind us all of pain,
Hurting may be over, but the marks and scars remain.
They paint a vivid picture of scenes from days gone by,
A negative, facsimile, of times that made us cry!

In different shapes and sizes, yes, shades for all to see;
Yet there are marks and scars unseen on the inside of me.
From cuts and bumps and bruises made with words that were so smart,
That left deep, deep wounds behind; they nearly broke my heart.

One rarely ever sees them; you’d think, “Wherefore the need?”
If one only really knew the way those can make you bleed.
No handy can of Band-Aids, no gauze, no pad, nor stitch,
Not even a gentle fingernail to ease their nagging itch.

Amazing how just a smile can camouflage blood-stained eyes,
And conceal the truth of agony that’s hidden in its lies.
But the heart, the stomach, the mind, they know it’s o’ so real,
What terrible aches and sufferings these marks and scars reveal.

“Time heals all wounds,” someone has dared to say;
Wish they had given a date—a year, a month, a day.
The marks and scars outside me get well, might even be gone;
But marks and scars inside me, they fester on and on.

But God sees and hears all; He understands the pain we know;
For He, too, has marks and scars, from long time ago.
The emptiness, the void you feel, that vacancy, that space,
He’s available for surgery, and would love to take its place.

Recently I returned from a brief excursion in Monterey, California. I was privileged to spend Thanksgiving on the delightful shores of the Monterey Bay. Words are simply inadequate to accurately describe the landscape and environment I saw. From the balcony of an ocean-front property I was able to witness for three-days a beautiful sunrise in the cool of the morning. Its brilliance was only enhanced as it illumined the rippling surface of the massive and magnificent Pacific. As I beheld this great liquid expanse, I couldn’t help but be in awe of a God Who came up with the vision and created such a view for His children to enjoy. The bellowing barks of mating seals served as nature’s alarm clocks in case the manmade ones should fail. Adjacent to Monterey Bay is the luxurious community of Carmel. A seventeen-mile stretch takes tourists to the celebrated Pebble Beech (a golfer’s dream) right along the coast. Pacific Grove is only five minutes away where retirees and millionaires enjoy the life of Riley, relaxing and reflecting in one of the most tranquil environments on the face of the earth. I had a wonderful time.

Interestingly, as I flew home, I thought how Monterey (with all its amenities) was not the only marvel of its kind in the United States or the world. There are literally hundreds (perhaps thousands) of similar spots–many undiscovered–around the globe which God has created and which await our coming to see them. Then it occurred to me while this treasure has been there for some time, I would not (and could not) have experienced it had I not accepted the invitation and simply taken the trip. The same thing is true with a relationship with Jesus Christ. In Paul’s wonderful epistle to the Ephesians, he is trying to let this fellowship know there is much to experience and expect as members of the family of God; but one will never get to enjoy it if one is not willing to take the trip. In Christ, the journey is so much better, and the view is simply indescribable!

The delight of vantage point! Modifying your position or location to better see! Doing this can affect perspective more than many may realize.

While watching a weekly televised wildlife documentary I was privileged to witness the predatory tactics of the infamous wild dog. For the first time (reportedly) an entire hunt was captured on film from start to finish. Viewers were able to observe the initial stalking behavior of these complex creatures, plus the complete chase all the way through to their finally making a kill.

It was interesting to see how an entire pack (with numbers at times around thirty members including adults and pups) could work so skillfully and strategically to bring down its prey. After first identifying their target, a small sub-group of two or three dogs would begin the hunt by isolating a single animal away from a herd, and then would run after it until it was so exhausted it could no longer escape. Wild dogs are not very big–standing only about 30 inches tall and weighing from 40-80 pounds. They don’t have enormous power or exceptional speed. What they have is that enviable quality most everyone needs and often desires—endurance. A single chase can span over several diverse and difficult miles.

Another interesting discovery was a cutting-across-the-field maneuver which occurred soon after the chase engaged. Once the prey animal was clearly identified and isolated, non-pursuing pack members moved quickly to a prescribed ambush location where the rest of the clan would sit and wait until their victim was expertly driven into the awaiting trap. It appeared as if an advanced canine conference had met detailing the plan; and disclosing the point where the rendezvous was to occur. After all the players were in place, these waiting predators would finally spring the trap, take down their prey, and the entire clan would feast on the prize.

As I sat and watched this entire development, it occurred to me the reason we (that is, me and the entire viewing public) were able to behold one of nature’s most incredible events without a hitch. Technology has afforded us the privilege of some major advancements which include, of course, the motion picture camera. Mobilized travel (jeeps) had even improved researcher’s abilities to somewhat keep up. But even these advantages—the camera and the automobile—could not have captured all the angles and images we beheld without the aid of another creation–the helicopter. There is no way possible for a normal human being to adequately keep pace with these dedicated runners of the wild throughout the expansive range of a single hunting expedition. The thing that made the whole hunt visible and viewable was the elevated perspective the helicopter cockpit provided. I clearly heard God!

All of us experience things about which we lack clarity and are often helpless to reconcile. However, being a member of God’s wonderful family has afforded some of us a different vantage point through which to look at and make sense of those experiences. As believers, we have the advantage of an elevated view, a higher perspective. The only thing we need to do is simply “go there!” Some may ask, “How do you get there?” Good question! God has so fixed it that we can be “elevated” through worship! We can even be “elevated” through praise! We can certainly be “elevated” through prayer!

So whenever you need to gain clarity or reach a better understanding of what just doesn’t make sense, these spiritual activities can surely help! They just might offer you perspective on your difficulties and challenges which you hadn’t previously considered! They just might help you see what you couldn’t observe while you were too close to the situation to notice! Perhaps you might try them sometime. Be encouraged!

What is the big deal with “finding-ones-niche?” Why do people claim they feel displaced, unused, or out-of-sync with others in their church or community? For many believers, figuring out where to function in the body of Christ is like trying to find a needle-in-a-haystack. I have often wondered, “Is discovering ones spiritual gifts supposed to be that difficult? I think not!

With the wave of publications being written on purpose, purpose-driven-ness, and finding meaning in life, this is clearly a relevant discussion. It seems, however, we may be complicating simplicity. How dare a loving God give gifts to His children, and then forsake telling them (or showing them) how to use them! This does not make sense to me. Consider this! When and where was the tutorial given that taught your ears how to hear? Who was the instructor who taught the lesson to your lungs on how to breathe? Our immune systems automatically engaged when first we arrived in life at birth. Whether our respiratory, circulatory, digestive, or any other system within our bodies, they each came without a manual! Instinctively they function because that’s the way they were designed by the Manufacturer! In many ways, spiritual gifts operate in the same way. The challenge is whether we are willing to allow those endowments (gifts) to function according to the design of our Creator. Try these strategies on for size:

1. Pay attention to your natural abilities. There are some things we can each do well. For many these take little to no effort; we usually do them with such ease others may say you could “…do that in your sleep.”

2. Notice the things you do that encourage and bless others. These are the things that prompt great appreciation and joy in others. If they leave your presence uplifted, strengthened, and encouraged to go on, that’s a good sign you’re getting close. They actually want you to do it.

3. Consider how your work or service (to others) gives YOU joy and inner peace. In ministry, one of the sure hints of one’s particular area of giftedness is when so doing it gives you a real sense of self-worth, peace, and personal contentment. It’s like cooking food. Chefs generally gain the most satisfaction when their meals are enjoyed by and benefit their customers.

4. Think about what you do or want to do vocationally. It never ceases to amaze me how school teachers, for example,—who are formally educated and certified in classroom instruction—can yet remain bewildered about what they could do to become involved in ministry. If God has led you (or simply let you) pursue a professional career in any given discipline, it seems you may only need an opportunity to utilize that same skill in a spiritually charged community.

5. Remember, spiritual gifts are meant to compliment others in the body of Christ, and not complicate them. With distinctly unique assignments, my hands have never taken issue with my feet simply because they (my feet) carry most of my weight. My ears are not at odds with my eyes just because they can’t see. In fact, my ears have intervened on occasions when my eyes were unaware and enabled me to avoid many a disaster. The gifts God offers to His children are supposed to work like that! Amazingly, God has put others—like parents and teachers—in the equation to help us learn how to better use what He has already given for maximum performance and optimum efficiency to the glory of God.

Pray about it, and let the Lord use you!

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