As I exited my vehicle at Wal-Mart this past Thursday, I noticed a young couple exiting their vehicle at the same time. Strangely, we had to park a good distance from the main entrance since the parking lot was rather full. I couldn’t help but notice how the guy was dressed. He had on a bright yellow cap with a huge green “G” on it, with a grass-colored bib that was turned backwards on his head. He also wore a green jersey with a huge number four centered on it. White striped on both the shoulders and the sleeves accented his garb as he sported some khaki colored knickerbocker-type shorts that came down to his knees. A pair of sandy-colored sandals finished off his attire that plainly declared he was a Green Bay Packer fan.

Interestingly, earlier in the week, the Packers found themselves on the losing end of a widely publicized battle against their Chicago arch rivals—the Bears. It was a great game that kept fans (and viewers) on edge as it came-down-to-the-wire. In the closing moments, the Bears skillfully positioned themselves to kick a winning field goal to break the 24-24 tie. Green Bay was helpless to do anything realistic with the ensuing kickoff. The game ended 27-24, Chicago! Pundits indicate the Packers actually gave the game away. That was on Monday night! Yet, on Thursday, a man gracefully and publicly wore his Packers regalia without shame. I thought, “What would make a man continue to wear his favorite team’s paraphernalia even though his team lost a game they should have won; and sadly had let him down?” It’s really rather simple:

1. He was clearly a loyal fan and unashamedly loved his team.

2. He knew this game (Monday night’s) was just “one game” and the season wasn’t over.

3. He also knew that Sunday was coming and there likely would be an opportunity for redemption.

Are you a loyal fan of Christ’s church? Or are you someone playing the victim and participating in the negativity about others who fail or fall? My prayer is that we—Christ’s church—will soon embrace these principles. It does not matter who it is or what they have done (or what they may be accused of doing). True believers will (1) always remain as loyal proponents of the church of Jesus Christ just because they love the team; (2) they will work hard to remember this is only one game (e.g. one fumble, one dropped pass, one missed field goal, one flag, one fowl, one strike, one delay of game, or one un-sportsman-like conduct call, etc.), and that the season isn’t over; and (3) they will keep in mind that Sunday is coming; and there should arrive (prayerfully) a fresh opportunity for redemption.

Remain loyal, my brothers and sisters! Keep wearing the Lord’s regalia; and know that God alone is this game’s Official—He’s the Umpire, the Referee, and the Line Judge—and He alone has the power and is in the position to determine if any of us should remain on the team, or can continue to play the game!

In case you don’t know, Green Bay defeated Detroit today!

How long do I have to go through this? When will my “ship come in?” Will trouble ever cease? When is it going to be my turn? Will my dreams come true? Will things ever get better? These are the universal and unrelenting concerns of so many true believers. They pray, they fast, they seek the loving intercession of others, even labor before the Lord for hours on end; and yet it seems like nothing happens. Things don’t improve or get any different, and the waiting is wearisome to endure. Here’s a real question for you? What if change doesn’t come or things don’t get better? And what if they get worse? Plainly frustrated by waiting, what is one supposed to do? How does one manage in the meantime and beyond this likely possibility?

If God does not discernibly change things for you or improve your circumstances to your delight, and obviously you can’t change them, here are some options:

1. You can start by changing YOU. There’s no need to keep beating-your-head-up-against-the-wall in frustration and disappointment. Arriving at this crucial growth position does not mean you’re happy with or appreciate your situation; instead it means you are learning to accept it. It doesn’t mean you like it; it just means you have decided to live WITH and “to live” IN SPITE of it. Sometimes things just won’t change. “It-is-what-it-is,” and there is nothing we can do to fix it. Don’t become bitter! Get better! Try hard to work on you!

2. Get involved in some area of kingdom service. One of the best ways to avoid depression and overcome the tendency to be overwhelmed by your own plight is to find eager (helpful and encouraging) involvement in another’s struggle. Ask God to reveal to you His opportunities where you can be a real and meaningful blessing to someone else who may be having a hard time. Trust me! You won’t have to look long, you won’t have to look hard, and you certainly won’t have to look far!

3. Listen and learn from both. Someone asked me recently from where I find all my stories? I told them I actually don’t have stories; all I have are experiences. And from these experiences, I am able to joyfully discover stories. How then does that happen? All I do is take the time to reflect on my experiences and process them from every possible angle. When they have “marinated” for a while, I seek God about the lesson He wants me to gain in every one of them. Some believers see life as full of obstacles; I try to see life’s obstacles as learning opportunities. Don’t miss the lesson you are supposed to learn; and don’t rest until you find it. It’s in there!

You can actually turn your negative experiences into positive energy! You can move from frustration to favor. Just ask God to help you, and before you know it you will have stumbled upon a new joy that will give you the strength you need to go on!

Confident He will still help you through it, I remain…

Great interest has been generated over Steve Harvey’s plainly transparent and particularly moving interview on TBN of late. The many responses to his very emotional display range from positive compliments to overt criticism. Central in the debate is one single unarticulated, but still apparent dichotomy. Can one be emotionally pained, and yet not be spiritually changed? Common today in many an organized church is the uninhibited freedom to be securely open and emotionally expressive. However, does an animated display of a person’s emotions certify one’s spirituality and validate one’s legitimate faith? We need to explore this further.

Paul boldly distinguishes worldly grief from Godly grief in his commentary to the Corinthians in Chapter 7. His second epistle notes several distinct characteristics of Godly sorrow or grief. Godly grief is clearly different because:

1. It begins with clear conviction—the acknowledgment of wrong (9a)
2. It includes genuine regret—sorrow for one’s sinful behavior (9b)
3. It brings about repentance—an obvious change of life’s course(10a)
4. It leads to salvation—deliverance from one’s sinful ways (10b)
5. It leaves no regrets—void of any sense of enduring guilt (10c)
6. It is confirmed by conversion—a new commitment to the things of God (11)
7. It also encourages others—provides needed strength to the church (13)

If the Apostle is right, then it is clear that any expression of mournful emotions that is absent of these qualities should be regarded as suspect. The acid test of true Godly remorse reveals a clear transformative result. If a redemptive change does not emerge from one’s sorrow, the Bible indicates such grief ends only in death (see vs. 10).

Think about it. When is the last time you observed a genuinely penitent sinner consumed by indisputable remorse for their errant ways? If you haven’t seen it in a while, this could mean we are guilty of welcoming many a person to join-the-church, but few sinners to repentance. I pray this is not true!

The church of Jesus Christ is God’s center for corrective change. You see, change without correction falls tragically short. You don’t agree? Then, the next time you have a flat on your automobile, simply take the flat tire off and move it to a place where an inflated tire already sits. You will have change, but you will not have correction. The Lord wants us to experience change with correction. Jesus can help you!

Remember this! God loves each of us just as we are; however, He loves us too much to let us stay that way!

A few years ago (1995) British doctors proposed a revolutionary course of action to save a girl with major heart problems. At two years old, they decided to implant a donor heart directly onto her faulty heart. With two blood-pumping organs co-existing inside her body for 10 years, Hannah Clark’s own heart began to do what many experts had thought impossible. It actually began to heal to the extent that doctors were able to remove the donated heart. While a donor heart sent blood throughout the rest of her body, it miraculously enabled her original heart the chance to be transformed and get well.  Commenting on the discovery, Dr. Douglas Zipes, former president of the American College of Cardiology said, “This shows that the heart can indeed repair itself if given the opportunity.” Though not associated with Clark’s operation and treatment, Zipes continued, “The heart apparently has major regenerative powers, and it is now key to find out how they work.”

A malfunctioning heart caused the Psalmist to beg God to “…give me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10). No matter what is the cause, whenever the heart is not right, life is miserable and devoid of essential peace. Here are a few truths I discovered about good heart health for believers in God. A healthy heart:

1. is necessary for welcome engagement of worship. (Psalm 24:4)

2. allows one to know joy and gladness (Psalm 51:8).

3. enhances one’s effective witness (Psalm 51:13).

4. is crucial for acceptable giving of our offerings (Psalm 51:17).

5. for sure delights God to prosper us (Psalm 51:18).

Are you having heart problems? Is yours hurting because of your own sin, sorrow, or perhaps an injury caused by another? There is good news. We know a donor who is willing to lend you His heart until your own heart can heal and get better. If you would allow Him to attach His heart to yours, a miraculous transformation will take place. Before long, your heart will begin to repair—be transformed—and function like He originally designed it to.


Jesus can fix it! I dare you to let Him!

On Sunday, June 28, 2009, Joey Logano became the youngest driver ever to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. At 19, the rookie somehow bounced back from a near debilitating crash that blew a left rear tire, and ultimately rendered him one lap behind the rest of the field. Forced to leave the race, his crew skillfully (and quickly) repaired the flat; and simultaneously refueled his car so that he was able to reenter the track. Incredibly, Logano took the lead when Ryan Newman, along with several others throughout the course, ran out of gas around lap 264. The scheduled 301-lap chase was shortened due to rain in the 273 lap, and Logano emerged as the front runner to take the championship. In spite of a tire-blowing crash and while everyone lacked petroleum, Joey Logano was able to win the race; all because somebody else on the team made sure he had fuel enough to finish.


We, too, encounter tragedies and experience setbacks that often sideline us along life’s unpredictable journey. Many times throughout the course, we are forced to make unscheduled pit-stops because we’re hurting and need to deal with the damage. Every tragedy, however, does not have to take us completely out of the race. No matter the disaster—debt, difficulty, divorce, even death—we can still continue the journey and finish strong if others on the teams would ensure we have sufficient fuel to finish. Worship, prayer, and praise, are necessary pit-stops for Christians. The church—the people of God—is her maintenance crew. It is our duty for those who have blown-a-tire or simply had a crash to readily help them get back in the race, so they can finish and win the prize.


Nine weeks beyond my rotator cuff surgery, my physical therapist tells me my range of motion is now around ninety per cent. Currently, we’re working on strength-training so I can again do the things I would normally be able to do. Were it not for the skilled intervention of some physical therapists, I would likely not be able to fully recover. I’m already back-in-the-race, because I have some qualified crew members who are helping me refuel.


May the Christ’s church likewise help others so they can continue the journey and be useful, too! He’s able!

It has been nearly six weeks since I underwent rotator cuff surgery.  These have been some of the most physically challenging days of my life.  While the actual procedure was arthroscopic—utilizing a camera to execute the repair, the surgeon needed to cut the deltoid to get a visual of the site for surety.  The deltoid—the thick, flat triangular muscle at the top of the arm—is attached to the shoulder and collar bone; and is the muscle that enables the arm to move away from the body.  Whenever it is surgically split, there is literally no strength to lift or extend the arm outward.


I have been undergoing prescribed physical therapy since week two.  It’s been tough trying to realize the proper range of motion and to regain my strength.  Gratefully, I am yet making good progress and am well on my way to full recovery.  The experience has not been without some valuable and insightful learning opportunities.  Here are a few:


1.  Injuries happen (physically, emotionally, relationally, financially, and more).  These inevitably occur as we negotiate this thing called life.  There are some we can avoid; but others we may not.  Settle with it.


2.  The pain is real.  After surgery, I was initially numb to what had happened.  Before long, however, it became increasingly clear that I had sustained an injury and was hurt.  It didn’t feel right.  I had to recognize it, and be careful in light of it.


3.  Relief is available.  Fortunately, the doctor prescribed medication to minimize my discomfort.  All I needed to do was to get the prescription filled, and appropriately take the pills.


4.  With therapy, you can regain mobility and strength.  I was inadequate (ill-equipped) to get better alone.  I needed someone else’s help in order to move closer to recovery.  To be sure, this intervener needed to be competent (skilled) and patient for me to negotiate the difficulty and the discomfort.


5.  Healing does occur.  Amazingly, God has factored “healing” in the human equation.  Given the right information and the right intervention, we can get past our pain and begin anew to live a quality existence.


These clearly have more than physical implications.  No doubt, people (and circumstances) have hurt us all.  The corresponding pain was likely undeniable and very difficult to endure.  Sometimes (when we are injured), we are incapable of getting better or regaining our mobility without the loving intervention (Christian therapy) of someone else.  Plus, we (believers) have another blessed advantage—the spiritual disciplines.  If we would employ and appropriate them daily (i.e. pray, meditate, worship, praise, practice, trust, etc.), soon, we will overcome the difficulty and mysteriously (even miraculously), we will heal.


Each morning as I bathe, I am reminded of the painful experience through which I’ve gone.  For the rest of my life, I am forced daily to re-visit a tough time when I was wounded, weak, and at times very weary.  Joyfully, time has afforded me the privilege to get better.  Even though a scar yet remains, I am happy to report, it doesn’t hurt anymore.  Bless His holy name!


Trust God through your pain, and simply give Him time!


It’s been nearly two weeks since my rotator cuff surgery to repair the tear.  I don’t recall any more challenging days than the ones I just negotiated.  Little do many of us realize the instinctive (automatic) reflex responses to everyday occurrences!  It takes tremendous energy to suppress your body’s natural tendency to react to something as simple as dropping a pen.  I’m still working at it.  The first week was really tough.  My orthopedist instructed me stay out of the shower to avoid getting the site wet, and to only take a sink bath.  So, I had to learn to bathe with one arm (and from a basin) for seven days.  Keeping the injured shoulder immobile made the entire exercise quite the chore.  Thankfully, I made it through.


At my one-week appointment the doctor told me I could resume showering.  It was music to my ears.  As I entered the flowing water the very next morning, I thanked God aloud for the privilege of bathing.  Few of us hardly think about it.  The fact that daily we become contaminated is not even a thought, because we have a remedy called a bath or a shower.


What a tragic existence the unrepentant world lives!  Remarkably, there remains a great aggregation who continue to live soiled, dirty lives; and with apparent content.  Oh, if they only knew!  No one has to remain unclean.  None are constrained to live out of the basin of filth.  We have at our disposal a Shower!  One dark Friday, a cleansing flood opened to all, and became readily available to whosoever would come.  For it, we should equally thank God!


William Cowper put it like this:


There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins.

And sinners plunge beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains;


I never thought about the simple privilege of taking a shower until I couldn’t.  When once again I could, I discovered a new found joy.  You, too, can experience this joy if you would only take the plunge.


The Lord awaits your arrival.  Do it today!

On Wednesday, April15, 2009, I underwent a second operation.  This time it was to repair my shoulder.  You see, I tore my rotator cuff on my left side—my non-dominant side—trying to catch myself from a fall on the day following knee surgery in January (the 8th).  Some may be thinking, “Is dude falling apart?”  I certainly hope not.  It just happened.  Praise God, the operation went well and I’m on the mend.  God is good!


When I arrived at the clinic for this outpatient procedure, I alerted the medical staff of my prayer concerns for this undertaking.  I told them my prayer was when they got in there, (1) the damage would not be as extensive as they originally felt, (2) the operation would last as long as they had planned, and (3) healing and recovery would be much less than they had predicted.  Well, the operation was scheduled to be two and a half hours, but only took an hour and a half.  As I shout about that, I’ll have to keep you posted on the rest of the story.


On Thursday, the 16th, my sister flew from Carrollton, Texas, to spend a few days with me.  She’s the baby of the family and the only girl among four children.  Joyfully she came and literally ministered to me from Thursday until Sunday.  Besides making sure I took my meds as scheduled, she also prepared wonderful meals to my delight.  Angela (that’s her name) is an excellent cook.  Her husband truly appreciates it, too.  For the most part, the primary thing she needed to help me do was to adjust my sling so I could periodically reposition my forearm.  My post-op instructions are to keep the arm and shoulder very still (immobile) for the first week.  Beyond that, there wasn’t much she needed to do.  Her presence did me more good than anything.  When Sunday rolled around, we went to church and came home until her late afternoon flight.  I made arrangements for her to get to the airport.  As she was about to leave, I got up from my bed and reaffirmed my genuine appreciation for her taking the time to come.  We embraced; I cried unreservedly as we held each other!  I couldn’t help it.  I was (and am now) extremely grateful.


There is no substitute for family.  Yes, we were raised in the same house and grew up in the same family as brother and sister, but I do not take it lightly that she chose to come to Omaha to see about me.  I’ve mentioned in an earlier composition how if I am ever to experience family, it is usually at my expense; and then, when I am the one traveling to visit them.  Not so, in this case!  She came to see about me, and I am so thankful she wanted to and was able to do so.


Eventually (and after she left), I drifted off to sleep.  A few hours later, my phone rang to apprise me of her safe arrival back in the Dallas area.  Upon hanging up the phone, I thanked God, again, for the gift of family; and more especially the sweet spirit of my only sister, Angela.  It’s no wonder mom and dad gave her that name—she is an Angel like none other!  Thanks, Ang!  I love you!

I just left Omaha’s Von Maur Department store located in the Westroads Mall. Even though other mall businesses had been opened since a couple of days after “the incident,” Von Maur remained closed until today. The atmosphere this evening was nothing short of pure communion! I made my way up the escalator and through the departments where I have shopped before. I found myself looking keenly and specifically for familiar faces. As my eyes caught a glimpse of the ones I recognized or knew, I made a beeline to them without hesitation. As I approached them I felt the need to extend my hand just to touch theirs. A touch would quickly turn into a mutual and warm embrace. This happened several times; and not with me alone. Similar behavior kept reoccurring throughout the store. There was very little speech; yet a lot was spoken in the quiet serenity of a gentle hug! The only words I whispered were, “I’m so glad you’re here!” The noiseless floodgates opened ever so softly.

I really didn’t go there this evening to shop–at least not for merchandise! No, I was looking for something other than that. I was trying to find opportunity! I was seeking a chance to reaffirm my appreciation for the wonder of being; the delight of life; the joy of survival! The store employees felt safe as they carried out their various duties and waited on eager customers. Of course, mall security was heightened and an occasional police officer’s presence didn’t hurt. It was nice being inside this re-beautified store, again. I am convinced people were uniquely demonstrating the “true meaning of Christmas”–sharing the love of God with each other.

As I exited the store, I could not help but think about the resilience of the human heart and spirit! Isn’t our God awesome? It was only 15 days ago these same halls and walls were the scene of an unfortunate and senseless slaughter. People were running for their lives and screaming to the top of their lungs as a lone gunman wreaked havoc on innocent patrons and workers. Now, only 5 days from biggest holiday of the year, the once horrid scene had been transformed from a place of sorrow into a peaceful sanctuary–a place where love, joy, and community abide. I believe Joseph was right when he told his brothers “…you (the enemy) meant it against me for evil, but God meant it for good.” (see Genesis 50:20; parenthesis, mine).

The life lesson is clear! Hurt and pain are as natural a part of life as breathing. In the moment, it seems like the horror and discomposure will never end. Eventually, we discover that these don’t last forever! Before we know it, we’re back in-the-game, and living our lives in spite of every tragic circumstance! The resilience of the human heart is but a testament to the awesome creative genius of a God who does all things well! The Psalter said it best: “Weeping may endure for a night; but joy comes in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5). Tonight (and in a monument that once beheld misery), I experienced joy! Wow! What a feeling!