Series 7

How Do You Spell Pretty?

She makes me laugh sometimes.

At a school program Dasia grabbed my wife’s arm, “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” We love our beautiful, 8 year old chocolate-skinned friend. But Nancy, who remarked, “I look pretty white and old,” isn’t mommy.

“She’s not thinking,” Nancy said, “She’s just saying whatever comes into her head.”

I remember when this came into her head.

“How do you spell your name?” Dasia asked Nancy. “Don’t look; I’m making a picture for you.” She worked hard on her crayoned creation. Looking around the room, she could see her picture would be taped to the wall with others from Nancy’s many young friends.

Dasia announced. “It’s ready, it’s a picture of us, and it says: Nancy is pretty.”

The jubilant little girl with her labor-of-love artwork was momentarily forgotten as Nancy thought: “What will people think? I can’t hang that up; I’m not pretty.”

The scene depicted a house adorned with seven hearts. There were three smiling stick figures. A large heart outside the house had the names Dasia, her brother Darryl, and Nancy encircled. Above a crayoned tree it said, “from Dasia to Nancy.”

Nancy is pride” bannered the top of the picture.  Dasia hadn’t asked how to spell “pretty.” So based on her pronunciation, “pri-dee,” this is what came out of her head.

Out of her head--what comes out of our heads for pretty?

The Apostle Peter knew pretty. “It’s not your outer appearance. Rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

To Dasia; a person who is kind, caring, fun to be with and is interested in her is pretty.

Maybe her head can’t spell pretty, but Dasia’s heart can


Awesome God

I had twenty things to do, with enough time to accomplish ten. I was feeling the weight.

As I jumped into my car, the words from the cassette player put my mind into an instant gear shift. “We’re not as strong as we think we are,” the lyrics proclaimed.

I’m not.

The cassette was Rich Mullins, one of my favorite musicians. Oddly, I didn’t even know I owned a copy. Strange. I still haven’t figured out how it got there.

Did God have just the right song playing for just the right moment in my life? Can you let me believe this wasn’t a coincidence?

We’re not as strong as we think we are . . .

The greatest songsmith of the Bible, David, often sang of his weakness. And as an antidote, he penned these lyrics: “But I will sing about Your (God’s) strength; every morning I will sing aloud of Your constant love. You have been a refuge for me, a shelter in my time of trouble. I will praise you, my defender. My refuge is God, the God who loves me.”

Hit parade! That’s God. Start praising Him; the weight will dissipate.

I know. It happened that morning.

That cassette spun out five songs, quit playing and never worked again. It didn’t matter. I was singing and smiling. My focus was on God’s strength.

And my favorite Mullin’s song played in my head just fine: “Our God is an awesome God. He reigns from heaven above with wisdom, power and love. Our God is an awesome God.”

I can’t remember how many times I’ve cried while singing that song. That’s right. I’m not as strong as I think I am, but God is stronger than we think He is.


Don't Talk to Me About God

 “Don’t talk to me about God,” Robert said. “I know what you’re trying to do; I used to do it.” All I said was: “Have you been thinking about going back to church.” 

Early in our friendship, I felt we would someday be ministry partners. We met weekly to talk and to pray. This is when some of the most edifying God-conversations of my life occurred. 

Then one day Robert re-cracked open the door to drugs. Over the next few years he spent time in jail, on the street, the Gospel mission and in rehab. Our contact was sporadic.

When we reconnected it seemed Robert was heading back to God. His blunt remark shoved me back in my seat dazed.


How could a person once zealous for God, now be so distant?

My prayers for Robert continued. My wife prayed; friends prayed. My faith remained; Robert would return to the Lord.

Yet when he told me he was moving to Las Vegas to live with his alcoholic dad, I thought: “God how are you going to work this out?” Separated again.

The silent disconnect ended three months later: “Hey Rick.” Who’s this? “This is Robert.”

I was awestruck as he recounted his journey. After a brief stay in Las Vegas, he returned to drug rehab. While there he was invited to the church across the street. That Sunday, Robert went up front for prayer. The Holy Spirit’s power grabbed him; he instantly returned to the Lord.


The Bible says: “Not by might nor by strength, but by My Spirit says the LORD Almighty.” Through prayer, God allows us to link with Him in initiating the Holy Spirit’s power.

Now all my conversations with Robert revolve around God.            

Is there a Robert in your life? Keep praying!


God's Busy

The devil’s image with the words: “God’s Busy. Can I Help?” were stamped on Brenda’s t-shirt. Many people find this humorous.

Not me.

The Bible verse John 10:10 is often used in churches to define the devil’s attributes: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” He blinds people to the truth--not funny.

Brenda and her partner Richard looked desperate. They were just out of jail, nearly homeless, broke, and hopeless; in their thirties they were engulfed in a devil-destroyed lifestyle.

We had met a few days earlier. They allowed me to pray with them, asking God to provide jobs. God wasn’t too busy.

Arriving home an hour later, I spotted a help-wanted job listed by an acquaintance. I thought: “This is God.” Wow, a quick answer to prayer. I did some legwork and tried to connect Richard with this construction job.

Richard declined the offer, deciding in favor of temporary work with a traveling carnival. When I drove them an hour north to their new job, Richard was holding one of his few possessions: “I can’t lose this; it’s my lucky penny.”

When we arrived, their “boss” wasn’t there. None of the five people he talked to offered any help. Richard said to Brenda, “What do we do now?” She replied, “Why are you asking me!”

Unloading their belongings, we placed them under a tree. They decided to wait hoping for jobs and housing.

God is not a God of confusion. God had a better plan for their lives. Unfortunately, the devil and the lucky penny were influencing them more than godly advice.

They stood looking dazed by their decisions. I wanted to scream, “God’s not too busy.” But all they heard was the confusing voice from the image on the t-shirt: “Can I help?”


Even an Angel

The light faded out of the Western sky as I walked past a storefront church housed in an antique-looking theater. He seemed to materialize out of the shadows-- long gray hair, wearing a dirty-pink beach hat and large rimmed glasses.

“Do you know anything about this church?” I said. He huffed, “I don’t believe in church.” Still he was eager to launch into religious talk.


That hooked me; so I visited his apartment near the church occasionally. “What’s new Wayne?” he would greet me. “My name’s Rick.” “Oh.”  I kept returning; even though his language was crude as he commented on the wrongs of the planet.

Around my tenth visit he invited me in. “Would you like a cup of coffee Rick?” While drinking microwaved, instant coffee, the usually ornery, Sherm suddenly shifted our conversation. “I’m worried.”

None of the males in his family had lived to his age—sixty-three. “So if you died, what would happen?” He assured me he was squaring away death related legal matters that week.

“No, where would you go?”  He motioned his head southward-- his cemetery plot’s location. “That’s where they’ll bury me.”

“No. I’m asking about your eternal destination.”

He responded quickly: “Heaven . . . an angel told me my name’s written in the book of life.”  Beyond his supposed angelic encounter at age eighteen, he offered no reason for claiming his ticket to heaven.

The Apostle Paul said: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preach to you, let him be eternally condemned.” Paul preached one Gospel-- the Good News of Jesus.

Sherm, I wish that angel had read you this scripture: “This is eternal life: knowing, understanding, and being acquainted with . . . the only true God and likewise Jesus Christ.”