Wednesday, November 29, 2006


The past few days I seem to keep meeting friends and family that are in the midst of hurt. There is physical and emotional hurt. Hurt that is self inflicted and hurt that seems totally undeserved. When it hurts, nobody can ever really know what we are experiencing, except God. And we have to hurt while knowing that God could end it at any moment, but he chooses to let us continue in our hurt for reasons that are beyond our knowing.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


For the most part, we think of the heart as that muscle that pumps the blood through our body. We think of the brain as the place for thought and more and more the source of emotions. But the Hebrew and Greek words often translated as "heart" in English translations of the bible are not nearly so much about organs in the body as they are about the inmost being, seat of all thought, emotion, and our spirit.

God has used many recent events in my life to show me two things. One is disturbing. I realize more and more just how hard my own heart has been for more than five decades. The other thing is encouraging. I realize that God is able to soften that hard heart. I see him growing compassion and caring in me.

A merciful God has spared me from a full revelation of just how much more I need to grow. A gracious God has healed me enough to see how crippled I have been all my life. God, my Lord and healer, is repairing my heart bit by bit, even as my body falls apart bit by bit.

How quickly my thoughts turn to my own needs, desires, or even mere entertainment. How I resist giving of myself to help those in great need. Yet, God is greater than me. He has been able to soften this hard heart of mine. My hope is in him. I hope to learn to love still more deeply. As I love more, my joy increases, and my heart comes to know peace and rest.
I pray that you would know those same blessings.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Our Lives Have Meaning

The feeling that my life has little meaning comes to me at times. It is as if an unwelcome guest arrives at the worst possible time, and stays despite repeatedly being asked to leave. There were days in recent weeks where my feet became leaden as I forced myself to shuffle from one activity to the next.

It seems odd that a loved one's critical illness would restore a proper perspective. God's ways are much greater than my own.

Recently, I held Barbara's mother's hand and sought to encourage her soon after she lost her position as care giver for her ailing husband. In one day she became too weak to cross a room without help. Her heart is struggling to simply keep her alive. Now she needs constant care and she can offer little care to the man she loves. Physical care is what I mean. Her presence, her love, her faithfulness to her husband of 65 years are all meaningful whether or not she is able to show her love by cooking a meal, cleaning the house, or any other sort of physical expression. I saw that it was true. I saw that she was loved by her family in her weakness, just as she had been loved when she was strong. Her life has meaning because she is Juanita, not because she can do the right things. It came to me forcefully that my own life had meaning because I am Kent. I love and I am loved. Material things and physical acts can be good. They can be an expression of love. However, love prevails with or without them. God is love. We can trust God for the meaning of our lives.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Holding Hands

Reaching up to Mom's hand as I crossed the street. Daring to gently grasp the hand of the girl next to me on a hay ride. Holding Barbara's hand as I slid her wedding ring into place. Seeing each of our four babies grow until they could wrap my pinky in their tiny hand. Covering the hand of a friend as she mourned. Seizing the hand of another friend in a warm greeting. Holding the hands of small children whom I welcomed to Sunday School. Lifting my hands up to my father in heaven while praying for him to reach down and touch me. Moving the lifeless hand of my earthly father soon after he died. Reaching out for Barbara's hand with the faint beginnings of age spots on hers and my own. Holding hands, a kind of miracle every time.

Walk with a Cane, Ride with the Wind

I spend entirely too much time fretting over the inevitable depredation of age upon a body that has seen 56 years of hard service. Today, however, for about an hour I felt like a kid as I rode my bike along a paved trail through the woods and fields near our home. The combination of gentle hills and 21 gears allowed me to sail along with the breeze tugging the tufts of hair sprouting from under my baseball cap. Once again I "forgot" my helmet and felt a deep down soul connection with the boy who once rode far and wide through the suburbs of New Orleans. All praise and honor to God and his tender mercies.

Ebb and Flow

Just as I have begun to think that I have become just about as staid and boring as a creaky middle aged guy can be, I find that the people closest to me are blossoming in ways I could never have imagined.

For example, in an hour long conversation with Julia today, I talked about my aching joints and my new 21" flat panel monitor. She talked about feeling the child moving in her womb, and their plans for moving to Tanzania next year. The last time I talked with Pamela, I felt like a big shot for giving her a little extra cash for the Christmas season. She felt humbled by the prospect of an international internship to help the physically and spiritually bereft folks of the developing world. I am challenged to learn a new piece of software for making project plans, while Charles is contemplating taking an extra heavy load in aerospace engineering next semester, after doing a very credible job of dealing with the crushing load of his first semester at college. I am mastering the finer points of walking with a cane as Samuel flings himself through the air as he learns Parkour. I hope and pray that I will not be one of those parents who tries to live their life through their children's accomplishments. I also pray that God will continue to grow and prosper them. I am thankful for the opportunity to follow the ongoing stories of their adventures.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Cost of Lost

John Milton's Paradise Lost is such a great poem that I have never been able to read more than the first 40 or 50 pages. He packs so much into every line that I bog down in deciphering and lose my forward momentum. Over and over I have tried to slog on through to enjoy more riches, but as in eating a gourmet meal with oversized servings, I reach a point where I can't take in anymore no matter how wonderful it is.

I think I may not be alone. Recently I realized that the two quotes I had heard most often and most impressionably, both come from the first 15 pages of a 300 page poem.

The first is one that my English instructor wowed me with early in my college career:

"The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." verses 258 and 259.

I clung to that idea for many years. Especially when things got rough, as things will do if you live long enough, I clung to the idea that at least my mind was its own place, with magic powers to transcend my situation. Sadly I seldom seemed to be able to harness those powers to escape the pain, the doubt, the confusion, or even just the tedium.

Recently, while once again attempting to read through Paradise Lost, I suddenly understood why the quote had failed me. The quote is spoken by the character of Satan. I now feel certain that Milton knew full well that the assertion is a lie! The mind is not its own place. And if we try to make it such, we do indeed experience a taste of hell: separation from God. Heaven can only be known in his presence. The closest we will get on this earth is by our faith in him and the love and encouragement of his body, the church.

The other quote, is likewise a lie: "Better to reign in hell, than to serve in heaven". The lie reveals Satan's great failing which led to his fall, pride. How could one of God's archangels fail so foolishly?

Better to serve. Better to serve, even in this sin cursed world, than to reign as a prince among fools. Better still to serve in heaven. And so we wait, with hope, for a time when all will be made new and we will see God face to face!