Series 6


“My grandma died,” Robert said. “I don’t understand why.”

Robert showed up at our Monday night Bible study for the first time. New members are asked a few questions regarding their spiritual life.

“I used to go to church,” Robert told us. His grandma took him. Her death caused him to collide with the why-question; then he chose to quit attending.

The Bible has a passage I gravitate towards when life roughs me up. “We know that all things work together for good to those that love God, to those who are the called according His purpose.”

As the meeting wound down, the conversation slid back to Robert’s “why” question. I shared the “all things verse.” To break the chill off it, I revisited part of my day.

When I left home to come to the meeting, I said goodbye to my wife who had bronchitis for over a week. She was resting again as she struggled to make it through the day. My next stop was my mom’s. Three miles from her house I got a speeding ticket. In my mind I’m thinking: “Yeah, I was speeding, but this is like a speed trap.” 

And I still needed to visit my mom. Sick for most of the year, her looks jarred my mind: “She could die soon.” She assured me she would be alright as I left.

Telling Robert the unpredictable, troubling circumstances of my day, I realized it’s not a question of “why.” I trust that God’s awesome love and faithfulness are without doubt—always present.

Robert, you quit . . . God didn’t. Go after God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength. Then His eternal love and grace will transcend you to a place where it’s no longer a “why?” But, “Wow, I see God working in this!”


Tempered Soul

“What’s your e-mail address,” I asked Autumn:  temperedsoul @  Why do you use tempered soul?” She replied, “I’m temperamental.” I smiled to the point of laughter, “You Autumn?”

My wife started mentoring Autumn when she was a sixth grader. Eight years later, married with a child; we remain close even though she lives hundreds of miles away.

I know few people who are more emotionally expressive than Autumn. I remember explosive anger when she couldn’t be consoled. During those times my wife and I learned to ride the wave to calmer water.

Then there were the still-feel-like-crying moments when Autumn would be gentle as she beautifully expressed her heart. I will never forget the time she said to me, “I’m closer to you than my own dad.”

She initiated keep-us-connected phone calls. Autumn might rant a little and then the smile in her voice would break through. No matter where her tempered soul drifted our conversation, she ended with: “I love you.”

Love is a big word.

The Apostle Paul breathes life into the word “love” in 1 Corinthians 13. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves. Love never fails.”

The Apostle Paul’s love description is a load to pull off. Where can a person even begin?

While the core of really knowing love is knowing God; are there many human actions more meaningful than the verbal expression of love?  The Bible says, “From the heart the mouth speaks.”

Now I end my phone conversations with my favorite tempered soul by saying: “I love you Autumn.”


Truth or Consequences

I wasn’t in the preaching mood. I was full-tilt busy finishing a construction job. But I wasn’t going to send a silent message of agreement.

Tom, who was loading trash into his truck, started telling me about this morning’s meeting with his social worker. “You’re on disability?” I said. “Yeah, I’ve had three back surgeries.” How’s your back now? “It feels fine after the last surgery.”

He continued on about his meeting, “I figured it was O.K. to lie.” He confessed how he had lied about his ability to lift, his ability to walk and his ability to stand for any length of time.

“I think a person should tell the truth all the time,” I stated. With no initial response from Tom, we both kept working.

Almost as if talking to himself Tom said,” I’m not getting rich doing this.” He continued, “I’ve got a diploma, but I can’t read, who would hire me?” “Who would hire me if I told them I’ve had back surgery.”

The Bibles states, “There are seven things the LORD hates and cannot tolerate . . . a lying tongue . . .  a false witness who utters lies . . .” Two out of seven condemn lying.

Now I’m watching two of lying’s ugly sides roar to life. First, I see Tom lying to himself; he’s convinced that he’s disabled and unable to achieve the achievable. Second, I begin to question the truthfulness of things he’s told me over the past months.

As if to make one last appeal, Tom put his hand on my shoulder, “You know I’ve done work for you a long time; I only charge you $50 a load. Everyone else pays me $60.”

I couldn’t help thinking, “I don’t know if I believe him.”


The Hug

The hug kind of startled me.

I was visiting the park as part of my vacation experience. As I looked around, I saw a dad pushing his daughter on a swing. Nearby a grandma, daughter, and child laughed playing silly games.

I spotted Cody, alone, shooting hoops. I headed over to the court. “You play basketball pretty good,” I said. ”Hey, you’ve been watching me,” he responded.

We played a game of H.O.R.S.E. as we engaged in we’re-strangers conversation: “How old are you? Where do you live?” Then Cody looked up at me, “Do you drink?”  What an unusual, disconnected question I thought. 

Concerned because a stranger was talking to her son, Cody’s mom marched over from the log cabin across the street. She was sizing me up. I tried to alleviate her concerns by telling her I was a Christian, active in mentoring youth. And I quickly found out she was Cody’s foster mom.

It happened, unannounced without warning, as I focused on talking to Cody’s mom. He hugged me around my stomach as he briefly pressed his head against my body. He said, “I like you.” I instinctively responded, “I like you too.”

The Bible says: “Children are a gift from God, they are a real blessing.”

No one had to explain to me why he hugged me; no one had to explain to me why he asked if I drank. Now it adds up.

“Children are a gift from God . . .

What is hard for me to add up is the climbing statistics that over half a million children in the U.S. live in foster care.

“Children are a gift . . .

“I’ve got to leave,” I told Cody. “No, don’t leave,” he pleaded.

Wow, this is hard.  “Children are . . .



“I’m thinking of getting a tattoo of God on the back of my neck,” Richie said. Will his fourth tattoo make him a radical?

“I’ll be the one without a tattoo.” Pretty radical. I was describing myself to a stranger I needed to meet up with in a group setting. His business like response: “That’ll help.”

Who’s the radical? Tattooed Richie? Non-tattooed me?

Radical: “Marked by a sharp departure from the usual or traditional.”

I don’t know who wins the contest, but I do know this definition describes Jesus.

A young man approached Jesus, asking about how to become His follower. This man was rich, powerful, and moral; he seemed to have it all together.

Traditional religious thought would say, “Yes.” We would snag him up and put him on the church building committee.

Not Jesus. He viewed this man through eternal eyes. The Bible says, “Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him: One thing you lack, go sell all you possess and give it to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.”

“When the young man heard this, he went away sad . . .” Jesus revealed one thing; He revealed the man’s heart.

Richie was musing about his tattoo desire on our way home from church. He doesn’t go very often. I shrug my shoulders regarding his tattoos. But going to church, that matters.

As a counter idea to a God tattoo on the neck, I said, “Why don’t you get Jesus in your heart?”

He smiles, “That would hurt.” Adding: “No thanks, I think I’ll keep it in ink.”


Yes Richie, being radical can be painful. Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of mankind, that was painful. That was radical!