Balloons Fall Over

Today, the balloon fell over. Figuratively.

A video project was on the agenda. These projects have moving parts, but this one had more than usual. Within minutes of starting to set up, it was clear plan A wasn’t happening. On to plan B.

While editing after recording, plan C came into view. Doesn’t always happen and isn’t always better, but the end result was an improvement over the initial vision.

When we entered 2020, we had plans, visions, expectations. Then the balloon fell over. We were forced to develop and carry out plans we didn’t even know were possible. Flexible, adaptable, fluid mindsets aided our finishing the year, in some cases better than the initial vision. Balloons went from flat on the ground to soaring high in the sky.

As we look around, we see various stages of other’s balloons. Not everyone’s is back up. Not everyone’s plan B or C worked out. Not everyone’s mind has reset.

2021 will start differently than 2020. We enter hoping to see all the balloons upright, maybe even flying together. Our hopes can best be grounded by commiting to supporting others whose balloons are still on the ground or will fall over just like they’ll be there for us if ours does. 

One thing we know for sure, 2020 isn’t ending with God off the throne. There is coming a day when he will make all things new. “These words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5) May these words be enough to keep the air in balloons, to keep them from falling over.

Photo Credit: Will O on Unsplash

2020 Library

For a third year I have followed a self-developed reading strategy with the objective to read broader. The goal: read 30-35 books falling under 9 headings. This strategy is still working for me.

For the curious, here is the library of 31 books listed alphabetically and avenue of reading:

A Life God Rewards by Bruce Wilkinson (hard copy)

A Spirituality of Listening by Keith Anderson (kindle)

Awe by Paul David Tripp (kindle)

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah (kindle)

Before You Go by Wade Hodges (kindle)

Chasing Dreams by Jerry Kill (hard copy)

Choosing to Lead by Harvey Kanter (kindle)

Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers by Leslie L. Fields & Dr. Jill Hubbard (kindle)

Honor’s Reward by John Bevere (hard copy)

How to Pray by Ronnie Floyd (hard copy)

I Choose Honor by Rich Wilkerson Sr. (kindle)

I Hear You by Michael Sorensen (kindle)

It’s Not My Fault by Henry Cloud & John Townsend (kindle)

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (hard copy)

Me and White Supermacy by Lyla F. Saad (kindle)

Note to Self by Joe Thorn (kindle)

Spurgeon’s Sermons on New Testament Men by Charles Haddon Spurgeon (hard copy)

Talking to High Monks in the Snow by Lydia Minatoya (hard copy)

The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly (hard copy)

The Dog Who Saved Me by Susan Wilson (hard copy)

The Genesis of Justice by Alan Dershowitz (kindle)

The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias (hard copy)

The Pastor’s Wife and The Other Woman by Joe & Pennie Wright (hard copy)

The Power of Christian Contentment by Andrew M. Davis (kindle)

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller (hard copy)

Unwanted by Jay Stringer (kindle)

Uniquely Bivocational by Ray Gilder (hard copy)

What If Jesus Was Serious by Skye Jethani (kindle)

What Now?  by Jim Henry & Deb Terry (hard copy)

When to Leave by Wade Hodges (kindle)

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor (kindle)

This Life is Just a Dot

Yesterday I posted thoughts from Bruce Wilkinson’s book A Life God Rewards. Before leaving that, here’s one other quote that could impact your day.

Most of our life happens after our physical death.

That’s “chew worthy.”

Of course, he’s referring to the belief of eternal life. Can’t say I’ve heard anyone put it like this. Gives it fresh reflection.

To make it more clear, he gives six main events of forever life: Life, Death, Destination, Resurrection, Repayment, and Eternity. The thought that this life we know is just a dot on an unending line might bring you joy or fear. Wilkinson’s objective of his book is to help you not wonder or worry about what might await you outside the dot. What you believe and how you live now can give you hope for the rest of “most of your life.”

Chew worthy.

Photo credit: Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Stewarding Well

In the last week I’ve been struck by a theme. It started with a conversation, then continued unexpectedly in the book I was reading.

In the conversation I realized a summary of how I was answering questions about my current life outlook had to do with being a good steward. My summary was this: “I’m trying to steward well my past, present, and future.” In a journal entry the next morning, I wrote four action words by those tenses that could describe that stewarding.

  • Past: Learn, Forgive, Release, Praise
  • Present: Abide, Listen, Observe, Praise
  • Future: Anticipate, Release, Trust, Praise


As I chewed on these words and my summary, as God does, he showed out by having the next chapter in the book I was reading be on this very subject. Chapter 5 of A Life God Rewards is entitled “The Question of Your Life.” Using Jesus’ teachings, Bruce Wilkinson suggests that the important daily question for our lives should be this: “How will I steward what my Master has placed in my care?”
That’s what a steward does-manages his master’s assets. And in the case of a Christian’s life, those assets include talents, strengths, personality, and interests. Stewarding well requires faithfulness. Faithfulness to the action words in my journal entry may be a good place to start.

This week may be a God-given opportunity for all of us to chew on these thoughts. How do we steward the last year? How do we steward this week? How do we steward 2021? 

May we all be good stewards for the Master!

Old And Refreshing

My Christmas Eve was blessed by two worship services.  

In both, two old carols included verses new to me, refreshing like light from the manger.

This verse from “O Come All Ye Faithful”:

Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,

We would embrace thee with love and awe;

Who would not love thee, loving us so dearly?

This verse from “In Bleak Midwinter”:

Heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;

Heav’n and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign;

In the bleak midwinter a stable sufficed

The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

May the child’s light shine on you this Christmas Day!

Real Life Psalm 46:10

More than once this year, people have quoted Psalm 46:10 in conversations reflecting on 2020. This week, God has reminded me of it in two ways.

First, by this excerpt from a book I’m reading, Talking to High Monks in the Snow:

Once, I listened to a biologist. She had been awarded a grant supporting field study in the Kalahari Desert. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. Over vast distances, in a rented Land Rover, she scurried here and there. She marked sites. She took readings. She made plans. Always rushing to the momentous occasion, triggered by the distant rains, when the animals she studied would appear.

One day, the Land Rover overheated. In order to reach water and safety a strategy was devised. The vehicle could travel a few kilometers each day. Then the engine required rest to cool down. The result was that scientist was forced to spend many hours in remote locations where she had no business being. It nearly drove her mad.

There she was, with so much urgent busyness to be doing, in a place where nothing could be done. Loathing to waste time she transcribed her notes. Then she reread her field manuals. She stared impatiently across the vast wilderness, willing the coming of the rains, and the animals, or at least of a spare and sprightly jeep. “Here I am in the Kalahari,” she fumed, “having worked all my life to fulfill a girlhood dream. Here I am and everything has been thwarted.”

Then as the hours turn to days, it dawned on her. She was in the Kalahari with eyes and ears and time on her hands. This was her girlhood dream. The biologist took a deep breath and looked around. Some insects labored in the sands. She watched them for a while and her anxious pulse rate slowed.

And as the days stretched to a week, she noticed the subtle shifts in the scent of the desert during the day. She noticed that at a certain hour, if certain conditions prevailed-like 32 distinctive signs accompanying an auspicious horoscope-then small iguanas would appear.

Over time, her drive to achieve scientific notoriety eroded, and her sense of wonder emerged. In the desert the biologist found her motto. It is one that she carries to this day.

“Don’t just do something,” the scientist said to me, “sit there.”

Second, by this statement from a friend who’s facing COVID:

“It has been a remarkable feeling of God being shoulder to shoulder with me this week.”

A Grace Lesson from “Walking with Elephants”

Last night I caught the replay of Animal Planet’s “Walking with Elephants.” This 3-episode documentary follows Levison Wood’s 650-mile journey across Botswana to observe the annual migration of elephants to the Okavango Delta.


In the first episode, he is allowed to visit an elephant orphanage before heading off on his journey. The young elephants there had been rescued from various traumas-bush fires, death and separation from herds, poaching traps. The philosophy of the orphanage was to prepare the elephants to go back into the wild by not trying to control them as much as let them learn on their own. 

When asked how long the elephants would be there, I was a little surprised at the answer. The director said it usually takes 8-10 years. But as he explained his approach, it made sense. Before they are declared rehabilitated, they need to be able to survive on their own in a harsh world of predators. Outside of their herd, they are very vulnerable up until they are roughly ten years old (they live to an average age of 65). 

I see many applications from this reality for our lives. Here are the main two:

  1. Children of trauma have a long road ahead of them. It’s important their trauma is understood, their work through it is supervised, and their recovery be thorough. Whatever role we play in that work, it’s vital we understand this and give the grace and patience for that work to be completed.
  2. Trauma recovery or rehabilitation of any kind takes time. A quick-fix mindset sabotages the goal of full recovery. The body and the mind have to reset, reprogram, and strengthen. For some reason, the midlife of Moses’ story comes to my mind. After finding out his true identity and then losing control of his emotions and committing murder, God graciously gave him 40 years to recover before lighting up that bush. Moses needed full recovery.

Whether we are on the receiving or giving end of this kind of work, grace is key. That grace will empower the work to be completed, and the new life to start well. May we embrace that grace.

Who Takes The First Step?

I’ve continued to chew on the subject of forgiveness since posting about reading Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers. And a question came to mind this morning. And then I thought and prayed about it through the eyes of Christmas.

Before I get ahead of myself, here’s the question: Who takes the first step in forgiveness?

Does the offender or the offended? The answer may seem obvious…until you stop and chew on it. The ideal scenario would be the offender. But what if they can’t take the first step? What does that mean, they can’t? Here are some reasons:

  • They are no longer living. The conversation is no longer possible, so the offended person has to do the work of forgiveness never hearing what they wish they could.
  • They genuinely don’t know. Has this ever happened to you? You found out down the road that you offended someone, but you had no idea about it. Whether the offender should have known or not really isn’t the first issue, in this case. They can’t seek forgiveness for what they don’t know-that the other person was offended.
  • They innocently don’t know. Has this ever happened to you? You said or did something ignorant of it’s offensiveness. Similar to the previous scenario, they can’t seek forgiveness for what they don’t know-that their action was offensive.
  • They don’t have the capacity. This may be the hardest to see and accept. That doesn’t change the reality that some people simply don’t have the capacity to seek forgiveness at the time the offended would like. That’s tough, but realizing that opens the door for forgiveness to move forward in a different scenario.

As I thought about encouraging those offended on taking the first step, I realized a connection with Christmas. All of us living today have a need for God’s forgiveness. But he didn’t wait for us to come to him to seek it in order to make it available. He took care of that before we were born. He took the first step. He did that when we couldn’t. How humbling! How glorious!

So can the offended take the first step? Yes. Is it easy? No. But it might be easier when you realize God did it for you. You can pass it along. You can take the first step.

(Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash)

Holy Moments

Finished Book #29 for 2020

The title caught my eye while browsing in a used book store in Dade City in August. One, because it wasn’t a massive book. Two, who wouldn’t want to know the answer to this question.

Kelly gets to his answer in chapter 6, of 15 chapters. This is the lie: Holiness is not possible.

Can’t say I’ve heard that literally stated by anyone, but his message rings true. We generally doubt holiness is possible. Kelly gives several examples. One is this:

The heroes, champions, and saints who have exemplified Christian living for 2000 years did not live holy lives. It is a mistake to step back and look at their lives and say, “She lived a holy life” or “He lived a truly holy life.” And these men and women that we place on pedestals would be the first to admit that they did not live holy lives – they lived holy moments.

The thought of pursuing holy moments is my takeaway from this book. Kelly defines it a couple of ways:

  1. When you open yourself to God.
  2. When you are being the person God created you to be, and you are doing what you believe God is calling you to do in that moment.

Sounds like a practical description of “walking in the Spirit.” His message is the more we create these moments with God’s grace the more holy our lives will be. To live in these moments, Kelly suggests a few litmus test questions:

  1. Will this help me grow in character and virtue?
  2. Does this contradict Jesus’ teachings?
  3. Will this action bring harm to another person?
  4. Lord, what is it that you want most for me and from me in this moment?

He states that God isn’t in the business of tweaking but the business of transformation. Transformation is possible. Each holy moment opens our hearts, minds, and spirits to that possibility. May we have more holy moments.

Better Than Most

Yesterday through a podcast episode I was reminded of the value of gratitude, even more so the importance of writing it down.

When I woke up this morning, I had a WhatsApp message from a pastor in Egypt sharing an update and requesting prayer. I met him in 2018 on a couple of trips to Jordan. Anytime I hear from those Jordanian contacts I’m reminded of the differences in our worlds. West vs. Middle East. Levels of freedom, finances, housing, opportunities, health services-basically every facet of life.

As I prayed for him I was convicted of taking for granted these life blessings that are better than most people in the world. So I followed through with the prompting to write down what I’m grateful for, but I did it differently than before. I made a list of sentences that had a fill-in-the-blank. The sentence was, “My                     is better than most.” Got a little more real, more thankful, more humbling, more worshipful.

Here are some of my sentences:

  • My finances are better than most
  • My health is better than most
  • My home is better than most
  • My security is better than most
  • My freedom is better than most
  • My future is better than most
  • My family is better than most

What words would you use to fill in the blank? How blessed are you better than most?

(Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash)