Category Archives: Spirituality

Pigeon Theology

When I pulled into my driveway in the late afternoon and stepped out of my car to get the mail I noticed my flock of white homing pigeons flying overhead. What a beautiful sight, those white birds soaring above the tree tops! It apparently was their last lap of the day for I saw them fly to the coop at the back of our property, make their landing and walk into their home for the night. 

I’ve figured out what I like about raising white homing pigeons (a switch from the chickens I used to raise). It’s not that I like cleaning up pigeon ______ (you know what). It’s not that their young are cute. I presently have three baby pigeons and they are the ugliest babies on earth! They don’t get pretty until they get to be adults. 

What I like about homing pigeons is that they, well, they come home! Don’t get me wrong, they all haven’t come home in the past. When I first let my flock out last spring about half of the 16 birds flew the coop… for good! But the ones who stayed enjoy their freedom of flying about (they seem to have an invisible flying track they stick to) and then enjoy coming home to roost. It’s a pleasant feeling to watch from the ground as the birds fly overhead and be able to say, “Those are mine!” I don’t have ultimate control over them, they could leave anytime, but they don’t, and that is what’s so pleasing about raising them. 

I think the same reason I keep pigeons is why God keeps people. By keeping pigeons I mean I care for them. I provide them a home, food and water, and any other attention they need. By God keeping people I mean the same. What apparently delights God is that He has set us free to do whatever we want and that we can, and some of us do, decide to keep flying back to Him. Part of the metaphor is, however, reversed. I watch my pigeons high and lifted up from my position on the earth. God watches His people on earth from His position of being high and lifted up. 

Every day, and several times a day, my pigeons “fly the coop.” When I’m home I watch them and observe that they make the decision to not fly far (to stay within sight of me and home) and to fly back again. You and I “fly about” our daily tasks but let’s not fly far from God and His ever watchful eye and lets be flying back to Him throughout the day.

Blind Faith Helped by Hearing

This morning I dropped my wife Diann off at the Detroit airport so she could travel to Mexico and visit the grandchildren and our daughter (son-in-law Victor’s on a medical mission trip).  I happened to be walking and praying in the field in back of our house when I heard the sound of a jet high overhead.  It was above the gray clouds, so I couldn’t see it, but my ears told me it was going in the right direction to be heading to Mexico.  I checked my watch.  Yes, her plane had been scheduled to leave about five minutes earlier.  Was that her plane?  Then a few minutes later I heard another plane going the same direction so maybe, I thought, she was on this plane.  Another five minutes later and I heard a third plane.  Perhaps she was on it.

I’m certain she was on one of those planes, up at some 20,000 plus feet and climbing, my wife, the woman I had slept alongside just a few hours earlier was now way up there!  It was hard to believe, but I believed it anyway.

It’s a few hours later and I’m sipping some coffee at Starbucks and contemplating my earlier experience of hearing but not seeing the plane, actually, one of those three planes, that was carrying the love of my life.  It seems that my experience of knowing God is somewhat similar.  Maybe the term blind faith is OK, and we can live with it, as long as we have another sense we can depend on, such as hearing.  The Bible does say that “faith comes from hearing the message…” (Romans 10:17)

I’ve experienced God in different ways — through the example of others, through His creation, through His written word, through an inner working of His Holy Spirit.  I don’t depend on just one means for experiencing God.  God reveals Himself in many ways but nonone of them revelas Him as clearly as I would like.  Sometimes I wish He would simply materialize before me, replacing faith with fact.

Next Monday my plan is to pick up Diann at the airport, kiss her and embrace her and bring her home.  Until then I’ll have to suffice with the sound of her plane and a few phone calls where I will hear but not see her.  Some day, on the other side of this life, I’ll be greeted and embraced by Jesus, and He will take me home.  But until then I’ll have to depend on some measure of faith to keep in relationship with Him, a faith that acts in the absence of being able to see or hear clearly and completely.

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

(I took the photo above out of the window of a jet when I was flying back from Mexico having just visited the grandchildren.  Yes, I get to go to see the grandkids sometimes too!  I think of the picture as “God’s view” of things.)

Divine Benefits

About 25 years ago I dreamed of publishing books; I even began to dream about what I might do with the extra money. Then I realized that that wasn’t good! I decided to promise the Lord 90% of the royalties I would get from any book I might ever have published – in a sense, reversing the tithe.

In 1986 my book about object lessons for pastors was published. It keeps selling copies, over 50,000 to date. Over those 22 years the funds have gone to the Lord’s work, and for the last several years it’s been the way we’ve been able to support our daughter’s mission in Mexico.

I thought that I was making a big sacrifice, committing to giving 90% of the royalties to the Lord, but little did I know that it would end up being a delight supporting our own daughter’s ministry with those funds! He’s such a good God! When we seek to bless God by doing something the way we think He wants us to do it, we ultimately end up being blessed.

“May you be blessed by the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 115:15

(Click HERE to go to my web page where I have my books listed, and the link for each one)

Three Ways of Looking at Jesus

Author and pastor John Ortberg spoke at the recent REVEAL conference that I attended at Willow Creek church near Chicago.  He described three places we can be on our spiritual journey when it comes to Jesus Christ.

Some people are admirers of Jesus.
They consider Him to have been a great teacher and religious leader.  My personal thought is that they may even consider Him to be the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, but perhaps simply have never engaged in thoughtful reflection on the ramifications of that truth.

Some people are users of Jesus
They cry out to Jesus in time of need.  Their prayer life consists primarily of asking for things from Jesus – “Dear Jesus, help me with this.”  “Dear Jesus, bless my aunt Tilly.”  “Dear Jesus, please….” Of course we all need the constant help of the Lord, but people who are at this place in their spiritual journey don’t have much more in their prayer repertoire than prayer requests.

Some people are fully committed followers of Jesus
They want their lives to be Christ-centered and not self-centered.  They want everything in their lives to reflect this total commitment.  Of course this does not mean that those who are at this place carry out this commitment perfectly; no one ever does.  It just means they are committed to this as their goal.

We all need to ask ourselves where we are on this spiritual continuum.  Are we essentially an admirer of Jesus, a user of Jesus, or a committed disciple and follower of Jesus?  Just asking.

From Pessimism to Optimism

Yesterday morning I read something by David de Forest Burrell. In reference to another person he wrote, “He talks politics, and we feel as if the country were going to ruin; business, and we are sure the bottom has dropped out of the industrial world; household matters, and we are convinced that every grocer and butcher is a thief; or religion, and we feel that the Church is going fast to decay and that God is in desperate straights!”

Who is he talking about? It’s not a specific person, just someone he calls a pessimist. His words seem to be right out of today’s headlines, but they’re not. True, David de Forest Burrell wrote these words on September 24 but the year was 1915! (Companions for the Soul, Robert Hudson & Shelley Townsend-Hudson)

Things haven’t changed much in 93 years, have they! Today’s headlines about the economy are scary. Both presidential candidates have joined forces, and on this they completely agree, that things are really messed up in our country. We hear them speak on the subject every day. It’s difficult to find anything inspiring or funny in the paper unless you turn to the comics. The best news during the evening newscast comes during the commercial when you discover that there is, indeed, relief in a tube for hemorrhoid sufferers.

Yes, it’s very easy to be a pessimist in today’s world. It’s not that things are not serious, they are. It’s just that it’s not hopeless. God is, after all, still on His throne! Contrary to the pessimist identified in Burrell’s piece, God is NOT in desperate straights! Nothing is beyond hope for God. This is good for us to remember when it comes to our country and the world, but it’s also good to remember when it comes to our individual lives.

You and I face our own difficulties that seem overwhelming and challenges that appear to be beyond conquering. It would be easy to be a pessimist but we don’t have to take the easy way out! We can be a divinely inspired optimist, which is to say, we can be a person of faith. It’s not a faith based on the circumstances or even on our ability to cope with them. It’s a faith in God, who asks us to consider, “Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27) How we answer that question determines whether we are ultimately a pessimist or an optimist!

Different by Divine Design

One of the daily devotional books I use is Companions for the Soul, edited by Robert Hudson and Shelley Townsend-Hudson. Each day’s devotional is from a different classic Christian writer, speaker, or influencer through 2,000 years of Christian history. 

The authors say in their preface, “Saints come in all stripes. Some saw visions where others saw nothing but darkness. Some heard angels singing, others only silence. While some journeyed to distant lands, others meditated in lonely desert huts…Historically, many of these writers were at odds with each other.” They go on to say that they’ve put next to each other in their devotional book great saints who, in real life, “would probably have refused such proximity. But Jesus made no such refusals. He stood shoulder to shoulder with each of them.” 

I find great comfort and encouragement in the fact that God delights in such diversity in those to whom He has given new life in His Son. To think that both the desert fathers and social reformers were close to God and used of Him! This means that there’s hope for you and me. We don’t have to be like someone else in order to live a God-pleasing life. We can all be very different from each other in all kinds of ways. We can be different in background, in temperament, in looks, in social status, in our economic situation, in our giftedness, in our struggles, and in so many other ways and still all be like Christ! 

No one else can be YOU! YOU are the only YOU God has ever had in this world or will ever have. 

We waste who we are when we wish to be like someone else!
(Photo by me, taken at a cemetery)

A Fresh Look at an Old Hymn on Prayer

Have you ever looked at something that’s so familiar and saw it in a fresh way?  I did that recently when I saw the words of the old and familiar hymn by William Walford, Sweet Hour of Prayer.

The words, when I read them, were reprinted in a book of devotions, not a hymn book.  Maybe that’s why I saw them in a fresh way.  I’ve sung them countless times, many of those times, I confess, without giving them proper attention.

In the busyness of this day just pause a moment and let them soak in, OK?  The words were written way back in 1845, but they are as relevant as the day they were penned.

“Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,
That calls me from a world of care
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known!
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer.”

Choosing Our Path

I love hiking paths. I’ve hiked in many a park, pasture, woods, and other places. I got to thinking about this earlier today, while taking my morning walk on the path on the edge of a bean field out back of our place. 

Sometimes when starting out on a hike there are a couple of options or more. You can go to the left, to the right, or maybe take a path straight ahead. Some are marked “easy” and some are marked “challenging” while another might be marked “moderately difficult” and you need to make a choice. Often, after going but a few yards, you can still see the other paths and can easily decide to cross over through some undergrowth and take a different path. But as you walk further the paths grow farther apart until you’re committed to the path you chose.

It reminds me of the poem by Robert Frost. The last lines go like this…

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – 
I took the one less traveled by.
And that has made all the difference.” 

Each day, every hour of each day, yes, every moment, we make choices about what to think, what to say, what is really important to us and what is not. We choose our own path, and the longer we keep choosing the same way the harder it gets to change the direction we find ourselves going. This is both good and bad. 

It’s bad if we allow ourselves to continually make bad choices, many times little choices, that seem inconsequential at the time. We can find ourselves habitually thinking or acting in ways that are destructive to ourselves, others, and God’s great destiny for us. The longer we do so the more difficult it becomes to change the path we’re on. 

It’s good if we’re intentional about making seemingly small choices that are right and good. We’ll find ourselves going down a path that’s leading us to good places, where God wants us to be. 

There are many diverging paths ahead of us even yet in this day. What will we think about? How will we respond to that person or challenge? What will we allow ourselves to fixate on? What will we reject as “stinkin’ thinkin'”? The easy path is almost always not the best path. Jesus says, “Follow me!”  We’re called to take the path marked “challenging.” If we do we can affirm with Robert Frost, “and that has made all the difference.”

What’s More Real Than What Seems Real

A million years from now the chair in which you’re sitting while reading this will no longer exist, a chair that you presently have no trouble believing exists, or in trusting it to hold you. A million years from now the eternal life with God, which you may presently struggle to imagine and believe in, will be very much a tangible reality. What’s real now will not be real and what seems so unreal will be very real. This is a strange thing. 

Best selling Christian author and apologist Ravi Zacharias writes, “Let’s be candid. In terms of the imagination, the spiritual world cannot match the sensual world because gratification in the sensual is immediate; in the spiritual, it is delayed.” (Beyond Opinion, p. xv) So true! For instance, I firmly believe that Christ can satisfy my deepest thirst but right now I find it easier to taste and enjoy the cup of Starbucks coffee I’m sipping as I write this! 

It’s tough staying in the will of God with our thoughts, our words, and our actions when many around us are obviously giving God no place in their lives. It’s a challenge to keep focusing on Christ when circumstances and problems demand so much of our attention. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God.” (Creation and Fall/Temptation

The kingdoms of this world seem very real right now, the feast in the kingdom of God seems a distant hope but we do well to remember that Jesus says to us, “the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) I thought I’d remind you of that!

The Publication of a Novel — Not a Solitary Effort

Michael Phelps and Michael Phelps alone is the all-time gold medal winner.  He, alone, had to swim fast, faster than anyone else, to win those medals.  Then someone sent me a link to Mart De Haan’s article on his blog about how Phelps really didn’t achieve greatness all by himself.

I thought of how true this is when it comes to writing.  A couple weeks ago I received my first advance copies of my novel, Kathryn’s Fountain.  As you can see in the picture, I’m quite happy to hold a copy in my hand!

I wrote the novel, a solitary endeavor in the early morning hours last year.  Then again, it wasn’t a solitary effort!  My wife Diann has edited the manuscript as has Susan, our church’s secretary.  Then Hannah, my editor at Cladach, did major editing on the manuscript.  Catherine, my publisher, gave some additional input as well.  Together, they’ve made my writing much better than it really is!  I also think of someone way back 25 years ago, Marilyn Chinnis, a member of my church, who typed an entire book manuscript for me, a manuscript that never was published.  What an encouragement she was by her belief in me that she expressed by many hours of work typing my dream!

No, I have not written my novel all by myself and Michael Phelps didn’t win all those gold medals all by himself.  None of us really do much of anything of value all by ourselves.  We need each other.  Only when we are humble enough to ask for help and to admit we’ve been helped, and only when we are compassionate enough to offer help and committed enough to follow through with the help do we do great things for God!