Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I just spent eight days deep in the Arizona desert in complete solitude and silence. There was barely a sound. I heard an occasional bird, the sound of a lizard running through the brush and the wind, but that was it! No other sounds and no words spoken by me (I didn't start talking to myself) and no words spoken to me. There was a one time exception to this - I was sitting in the sun, dozing off when suddenly not 10 feet from where I sat I heard a resounding MOO! I looked up and I was surrounded by a small herd of free wandering cattle! I looked at the cow and said MOO!
So much for a deep conversation... As I pondered a week away from noise and words I have wondered about how much of my talking is no more substantive than saying MOO. How many of my words are spoken with intent and thought, In how many of my conversations do I speak words which minister encouragement, life, challenging thinking, mercy... words that truly touch and linger.

The Scriptures have much to say on our speech and words: Eph. 4:29 "Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth but only such a word as is good ..." 2 Tim. 1:13 "Retain the standard of sound words." Eccl. 5:7 "In many words there is emptiness." Prov. 16:24 "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul" Eccl. 5:2 "God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few." James 1:19 "... be quick to hear, slow to speak..."

I'm not suggesting that we all take vows of silence or that we cease our friendly conversations but I am learning that voice and words are a gift from God and are a powerful and wonderful thing. They should encourage, challenge, delight, declare the truth and beauty of the Savior and be evidences of a heart transformed by Jesus. I am fearful that if I erased from my day all the words spoken that had the value  of  my conversation with the cattle - there might be very little left.

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." Ps. 19:14

Friday, March 18, 2011


My first real step towards my summer sabbatical begins this Monday. I will be staying in a completely secluded 1 room building in the middle of the desert north of Benson, AZ for about 7nights. No roads, no Internet, no phone, no lights, no shower! Just me, the Lord and all the stuff that my heart and mind clings to. In silence and solitude the Lord desires to clear out all that stuff we carry around and bring us just to Him.
Henri Nouwen says that we build a scaffolding around our lives - all that we lean on and depend on besides Christ, The tearing down of these scaffolds is a painful ordeal but if we persevere through it, there is a promise of clarity, rest, insight and refreshment. I am quite sure that I have been laboring hard in the past years at building my scaffolding and it is a frightful but freeing thing to lose them and be with nothing but Jesus.
Nouwen states in "The Way of the Heart" ... "the wisdom of the desert is that confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ."  John 15 says "Apart from Me you can do nothing!" What a great place to be. Of course, most of  us can't escape to the real desert for a week, yet I believe there must be ways to find the silence and solitude necessary to keep Jesus at the center. Again Nouwen says, "We have, indeed, to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions, and dwell in the gentle healing presence of our Lord." So, whether in your car, in your bed at night, during a walk - find your desert moments that lead to refreshment.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Lisa asked me to stop at the local Safeway recently to pick up a loaf of bread that was on sale. I don't even remember the brand anymore due to the flood of choices that awaited me at the store. She said the brand was something like "Nature's Own" but when I began to look at my choices I saw things like: "Nature's Cupboard", "Nature's Pantry", "Nature's Pride", "Open Pantry", "Nature's Bakery",  "Open Cupboard" and on and on it went. I stood there frozen in confusion. I think I finally just bought something that had a plain label and was cheap - "Wheat Bread'!!

Our culture increasingly is a world filled with choices and it is not just in breads or cereal or coffee shops but involves ideas, priorities, lifestyles, morality and everything else. Rarely does our world attach any labels on these choices as though one might actually be the right choice but they all receive equal validity. In our culture's quest for valuing personal choice and a "unified" diversity we really end up awash in chaos and a lack of any defining clarity.

As believers we often fall into a similar "chaos". In words we claim that the Lord is at the center but we too often disconnect that center from all the details of our surrounding days as we constantly change priorities and effectively fail to have a unifying ground to our decisions and purposes. I love Zechariah 14:9 - "And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one."  A day is coming when that truth will be recognized by everyone but for us we know it to be true now! For those of us in whom the Holy Spirit dwells there is only one focus, only one choice about the ruling element of my day,only one choice about the grounding point of all my hours - it's Jesus and nothing else! Today, at all times and in all places lets make Jesus our preoccupation and worship our every activity.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


A brief note: One of my favorite books is "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan. The actual title is "The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come; Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream: Wherein Is Discoverd The Manner Of His Setting Out; His Dangerous Journey; And Safe Arrival At The Desired Country" Whether you read it long ago or have never opened this great book let me invite you to take a journey through it. I have an additional blog that introduces the book, gives reasons to read it, and will include several meditations from each chapter. You can find the blog at:

Monday, March 7, 2011


Last night we gathered to remember our dear brother Pat. We did so with a great shout of music and I believe the Lord was honored and Pat would have been delighted. As I thought of him I was reminded of the closing passage in Pilgrim's Progress when Christian enters God's presence. May you be encouraged with it and may it create a fresh longing for the presence of God.

Now I saw in my dream, that these two men went in at the gate; and lo, as they entered, they were transfigured; and they had raiment put on that shone like gold. There were also that met them with harps and crowns, and gave them to them; the harps to praise withal, and the crowns in token of honor. Then I heard in my dream, that all the bells in the city rang again for joy, and that it was said unto them,

   "enter ye into the joy of your lord."

I also heard the men themselves, that they sang with a loud voice, saying,

   "blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth
   upon the throne, and unto the lamb, for ever and ever."

Now, just as the gates were opened to let in the men, I looked in after them, and behold the city shone like the sun; the streets also were paved with gold; and in them walked many men, with crowns on their heads, palms in their hands, and golden harps, to sing praises withal.

There were also of them that had wings, and they answered one another without intermission, saying, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord. And after that they shut up the gates; which, when I had seen, I wished myself among them.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Tucson is a crazy place. Sunday morning I woke up to snow on the ground, by Tuesday I had the top down on my Jeep enjoying the sunshine. I was driving  yesterday - with the top down - the sun was warming my face and suddenly a brief hint of cigarette smoke blew through the Jeep and I was instantly transported to old memories. It felt as real as if it was yesterday - I was about 15 years old, sitting on the cooler in the boat as my Dad and I were out fishing, the sun was making me drowsy and I could smell my Dad's cigarette smoke. The memory of those days was a good one and it caused me to reflect on what kind of day I would give to my own son - would it be a good memory - one more small foundation stone in his own life. How will I build those memories for him(minus the cigarette smoke of course)?

Memories can be a good thing when they trigger in us a further step with Jesus. It is like when we hear a particular worship song and we experience all over again the touch of His presence and the call to worship. The Puritan's often built these memories through the establishment of traditions in the home. By creating regular traditions that had specific connections to the values of the family they built into their kids  lifelong opportunities to reflect back and then press forward. As long as the traditions continue to bring us to Jesus they are valuable assets. So, what traditions, memories are we building and creating and do they point to Jesus?