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Finishing Strong…Like a Child

Finishing Strong!

As I’ve entered the so-called retirement years, this phrase has come to me several times, and at times has become my mantra for trying to plan or order my life, especially spiritually, which is to me the most important, meaningful, and rewarding field of endeavor. “Finishing well” is another phrase  I’ve heard kicked around by my peers trying to express the same goal or thought. 

Canoeing the Buffalo River with Friends Spring 2019

In one sense it sounds right. And I’m sure there is some merit to it, in the sense of focus. One must stay focused on the most important target if he or she is to have any chance of hitting it.

But even the phrases “finishing strong” or “finishing well” seem for me today in some early morning moments of clarity to bely pride in me. Like I can do something significant for the Lord, or that He needs me.

Let’s be clear, and honest. He doesn’t.

Now He may want something from us, or enjoy it when we are walking in truth and healthy relationships. We’ll perhaps get to that later or another time. But He doesn’t need us. He tells us many times in Scripture He’s quite Self sufficient, Other from His creation and created beings, Whole and happy and content within Himself.

Several verses of Scripture and thoughts flood my mind to support those thoughts. But at the top of the list is Isaiah 66:1-2. 

Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:1–2, NKJV)

These are among the last words recorded of Isaiah, perhaps the greatest Hebrew prophet, certainly the greatest writing prophet. From the last chapter of his amazing book and life in a rather dark time for Israel and Judah, 700 years before Christ and the New Testament. It was a time of idolatry, spiritual blindness and apostasy in God’s people. It was a time marked by unhealthy relationships with their God and with each other. Sound familiar or pertinent?

Sure it does! If you have any spiritual sight or senses left. If you compare the mores of our culture to those that please the Creator from His Word and those of the USA today. It’s cause for alarm, and perhaps panic, if you have any sense from human history of what follows when this situation exists in a nation or among nations.

The American way, the humanistic way, is to start trying to fix it! Let’s analyze how we got here, or maybe just analyze the problems and tackle them until we fix them. It sounds so right, and it’s who we are and what we do, isn’t it?

But this trait can also show us who we’ve become. Man trying to be like God, or believing he is like God? This is a simple definition of secular humanism, perhaps the oldest religion, originating in the garden. 

“… in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” (Genesis 3:5, NKJV)

Humanism is subtle and it is a part of who we are from creation. God’s people are to be humans but not secular humanist, saying “We have no need of Him,” or like a two year old, “I can do it by myself!” These are lies; substantiated in the Bible and in human history. We do need Him. It was and is always a part of His plan for us. To come to some maturity, yes, but to always need Him, trust Him, and be in relationship with Him.

We are created in His image, but we are not like Him. He is totally Other. He’s the God of all He created and we are not.

One of my favorite and most important spiritual mentors, Charles Simpson, recently said,  “They tell us now there are about one hundred billion galaxies, containing about one hundred billion stars each. I don’t know who counted them? And isn’t it like human beings, we discover something, and we act like we made it. “ Telling isn’t it?

I also had the privilege and honor of visiting with Charles for a couple days recently with three other brothers, for friendship, fellowship, and spiritual counsel. In a private time with him, I mentioned this thought of “finishing strong.” He quickly said something like, “I’ve never preached a sermon on it or thought much about it.” That’s telling. About me.

And it brings me back to how I should be living, and my focus, in this chapter and maybe all chapters of my life? Not like I have to fix big cultural or church problems, or do something significant for God?

Compare the lie giving birth to secular humanism in the garden to what David said in the Psalms. 

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me.” (Psalm 131:1–2, NASB95)

This was “a man after God’s own heart” who “accomplished God’s purposes in his generation.” He was also Israel’s greatest king, save One.

And that King, would say that becoming like a little child would be very important. Little children are very trusting, and learning, and humble, and know they have needs. They also know the relationship with the people who gave them life and care for them is precious and most important.  So then, the way up appears down. Perhaps living life and seeing life from the height of a bended knee? Or like a little child?

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1–4, NASB95)

To be continued…

I think I’ll go outside and play!


Honduras 2019

I just returned from a week long trip to Honduras, Jan 16-23, with friends from Louisiana, Colorado, and California. There were eleven of us, 7 men and 4 women. The bulk of the team and it’s leadership was from the West Monroe, Louisiana, area. Our intentions were to teach a group of 20-30 village pastors from the surrounding mountains from the Bible and a book, “The School of Obedience,” by Andrew Murray, as requested by their pastor and leader, Dairo Deluca, in a two day conference at a remote mission house in the mountains. We also came to preach the gospel, pray for the sick, visit a prison to share the Gospel and distribute some needed supplies, then visit two villages with preaching, teaching, prayer, music, large boxes of food for families, and toys for the children.

It was a very enjoyable, successful, rewarding trip on many fronts. Unexpectedly in degree, because I’ve been to Honduras seven times now in the past five years, and five times with this team. I can’t really put my finger on the reason, but these trips seem to get more and more special and intriguing.

I continue to be amazed and impressed with what God is doing in this country and with these people. The people impress me too, with their humility, hospitality, transparency, and simple joy in living.

Honduras is in Central America about a three hour flight south from Houston. It’ s the second largest country in CA, slightly larger than Tennessee, beautiful, mostly mountainous, with both a Caribbean and Pacific coast. According to Operation World, Honduras is “one of the Western hemisphere’s poorest countries,” with “widespread unemployment, low wages, and long lasting devastation from  Hurricane Mitch (1998)”… making it a country of great need.“ Thirty-seven percent of the population is under fifteen years old.” So there are lots of needs and opportunities to serve children in Honduras.

Operation World further reports that “Honduras has experienced five decades of evangelical growth. In 1960, evangelicals numbered 32,000 and were 1.7% of the population. They are now 1,750,000 and 23%, and growth shows little sign of stopping. Some polls show that up to 36% of the population identify with evangelical beliefs.” Local pastor Dario tells us more recent statistics show the number to be 45%. These statistics make me believe God’s heart and ear is turned to the people there, and the people are responding.

This infusion of truth from the Gospel and the resultant teaching of truth from the Bible, along with God’s love,  will transform this country, as it will any country and has historically, from the inside out.

The attractive lady sitting next to me on the airplane on the trip down was from Austin, TX, and had been to Honduras several times. She was traveling alone this time to spend two weeks at an orphanage where her purpose was to “refresh the workers, and love on the kids.” There were also several small groups on the plane wearing Christian t-shirts coming to serve. This has been the case every time I’ve come here. Maybe you’ve not heard about this on CNN. 🙂

Each year this group breaks up the long van ride back to the airport by stopping for rest and reflection for the night at the seaside city of Tela. Besides swimming, walking the beach, reading with the sounds of the surf, and enjoying some good food; the team meets and shares with each other their defining moment or moments of the trip. Let me end this post by sharing mine from my journal. Other reflections will follow in future blogs, I’m sure.

“The first thing that comes to mind is the twilight at Los Enquentros two nights ago. A sizable group of women walking down the road with heavy boxes of rice on their heads. I know that may sound strange for a defining moment but it just hit me: [1] The beauty of it [2] How other worldly it seemed and surreal [3] How happy they were with the gifts and to see their children happy and amused with toys [4] The joyful children [5] The curious attention they all paid to Mario while he preached his heart out minutes earlier [6] No idea what their thoughts were? [7] But we were in a village in the mountains of Honduras, preaching the gospel, praying for the sick, feeding the poor, loving on children and their parents [8] Are you kidding me? [9] Topped off by six boxes of rice being tossed back in Dario’s truck as we drove away with six grown women running like school girls, laughing and climbing in the back of the moving pickup with three men from the US — a truck that died on the bridge, then twice more in a short distance, before stopping to let them out as they unloaded the rice themselves before we could help — in front of their homes on the main gravel road, in the early evening darkness, right in front of two soldiers in starched fatigues with automatic rifles standing in the middle of the road. You can’t make this stuff up! The end.”

“The need, the joy, the love, the strangeness of the encounters, the leading and provision of the Lord. How the Spirit had us each doing our own thing but completely a team — comfortable and glad to serve and depend on each other. 🙂 How beautifully peaceful it all seemed. The end, again.”

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“How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They feast on the abundance of Your house; you give them drink from Your river of delights.” Psalms 36:7-8

A Champion, Prophet, Friend

On the eve of tonight’s national championship game, my mind turns to another champion. A friend of mine that has been on my mind and heart all week.

In Memory of a Prophet, Priest, and Friend
Justin Blasingame
1957-2017

“Justin Guy Blasingame, 59, of Alma passed away June 15, 2017, in Montana.…”

So starts the obituary of one of my very best friends who continued his eternal life into the next realm about one year ago while on a mission trip to an Indian reservation in Montana.

This year I went to the same place to honor Justin and commemorate his life of friendship and service to the King. In my journal for July 31st I wrote, “I’m going today to Zortman, MT, and the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation where Justin died about one year ago — for six days of spiritual focus — and prayer — asking and listening — and serving the people there — some who know You and most who do not. Lord have mercy. A prayer. Amen.”

Later I wrote, “I’m going to Montana also, maybe foremost, to honor Justin and pray for what was important to him and in a small measure carry on his work … And to thank God for the privilege of having such a friend. :):)”

Daily during my time to prayer walk, and at times in between, I would walk up a nearby mountain overlooking our camp and the Rocky Boy reservation praying for Justin’s family by name, and for the people he had come to serve.

One day while picking up trash I stopped to visit with Bethany, one of our volunteer youth leaders, who remarked with her big heart and beautiful smile, “Justin is the reason we’re all here, really.” I knew that’s why I was there, but her statement was true and impacted me.

Later in camp I was telling pastor, PhD candidate, John from Georgia about the Bethany conversation, and repeated the thought coming to me at that very moment, “Like Sampson, perhaps, Justin may have accomplished more in his death than he did in his life.” John and Nolan nodded a hardy “Amen” as they wandered off to their next task.

While I don’t really see how that could be true considering what I knew and valued about Justin’s life. And considering the big crowds at his home going services. And all the people coming up to his spiritual, faithful, beautiful wife Flora, telling her of a time when Justin came up to them and spoke a word of prophecy or encouragement over them that so impacted their lives that they never forgot it. I suppose it could be true in the sense that “more” can mean “in addition to.”

And of course anything is possible with God! We know from Scripture that “little is much, when God is in it.” And “don’t despise the day of small beginnings.”

Rest in peace dear friend Justin. And I mean “rest” in the new way I’ve seen it lately. Like God rested on the seventh day after six days of creation — not because He was tired or needed rest, but because He was finished. Or like Jesus last words on the cross,, “It is finished.” His supremely important work of redemption was finished for all who believe, with Jesus’ last words and with His sacrifice.

Godspeed and joy to your family Justin, those who continue in the gift of earth life and living. May the Lord lift up His countenance on them and be gracious to them. May He turn His face toward them and give them peace. Amen.

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“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:9-16(KJV)

“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’” Matthew 25:21-23 (NKJV)

Christmas 2018

Christmas is here! I have resisted the urge to blog or write about advent and simply read, meditate, and enjoy this season and its Reason the last month of 2018.

I wrote early this morning in front of our fire, with all our kids home in their beds, “Thank You Lord for this nice place to gather, and for Your indescribable Gift — becoming human, to dwell with us…

In accordance with the Word of the LORD given through the prophet Isaiah and other prophets:

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:5)

“For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you.” (Isaiah 60:2)

“… land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali …, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.” (Isaiah 9:1–2)

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6–7)

“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, ….” (Isaiah 11:1)

““Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

“… which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”(Matthew 1:23)

You can’t say it better or more succinctly than that! Scriptures about the Blessed One — given 2700 years ago and lived out 2000 years ago. God is a faithful King. Amen. אמן”

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Time to add a few photos of our new home, with a Christmas poem I was inspired to write a few Christmases ago, then join the family to enjoy this moment in a quiet and relational way, as it began on that humble day. Noel.

Twice a King

In Bethlehem twenty centuries ago
A young boy was born and began to grow
He worked in Dad’s shop and built wooden things
He, nonetheless, was, the King of all Kings.

He now sits by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth
And remembers a time, when the Spirit of God
Was sent to give Him birth.

Into a life He hadn’t known
A life of joy and pain He was thrown
A life quite low, for a Being so high
Yet He bowed to His Father, and went without sigh.

He helped people daily
He healed many lives
By many men worshipped
By many despised
Now see what is written! What is said He did do!
Remember His living — He was king then too.

He’s coming again in unspeakable power
As a time is reckoned, we’re close to the hour
The whole earth will witness this most righteous King!
Rulers will bow, angels will sing
Tongue nor pen can describe what we’ll do
Now worship the Christ Child, He was King then too.

Within the vast expanse of space
Sits a resplendent, most beautiful place
Home of great beings, powerful and bright
It’s Sovereign sits clothed with all glory and might.

He is creator; sustainer of all!
He’s worthy! He’s worthy! “
Around Him they call!
Angels and angels, their numbers a hoard
Fall before Him Who’s rightly adored.

Bethlehem Judea; a destiny for who?
Worship the Christ Child; He was King then too!

Dwayne Bell 2003
Based on Micah 5, Isaiah 6 & 9, Rev 5
[In a moment when a heart was warmed and spiritual eyes were open. Amen אמן ]

 

 

Awaken The Dawn

I was awakened before dawn this morning, to read, journal, listen, and meditate on what the Lord might be doing and saying, especially to me personally. There is a lot swirling around in our realm at the moment. 

We sold our home yesterday, so we’re homeless for the first time in many years. But we’re scheduled to close on a home in Northwest Arkansas later today. And we’re building a cabin at a different location. So life for us has gone in the last couple months from a great deal of peace to considerable chaos. Yet we’re feeling led to make all these changes, and experiencing considerable peace in the storm, praise be to God for His nearness and leading. 

But my reason for blogging early this morning is not about us. It’s about my friend Jeff, who has a lot going on in his realm this weekend too! He’s a good man and a good friend who’s helped me a number of times in natural matters and spiritual ones. I’ll share a couple things he shared with me recently that will give you an idea of where his heart and mind are. “The Bible tells us a couple of amazing things about faith: [1] It pleases God, and [2] It moves mountains.” He also said at breakfast recently, “Most of the problems in our country would be solved if Christians just read their Bibles every day.” All of this struck me as profound, and true.

I’m late to this fight, with all that’s going on around me, but I want to ask you to help this brother in two ways, right now. Pray for him and his wife in these two initiatives I’m about to share, both of which are going on this weekend. Then make these things known to your friends, and do anything you feel led to do.

Awaken the Dawn is a national movement of simultaneous worship and prayer for our nation in all fifty state capitols and many college campuses. Jeff and his wife are the Arkansas state coordinators. It’s happening in Little Rock and across the land even now. Please pray for their mission and purposes to be blessed by God, and pray to God for our nation.

Besides owning and operating a small business in NWA, Carter’s AV, and being involved in their church, missions, and other kingdom activities, Jeff and his wife are film makers! They have produced a documentary film about Dogpatch USA, the theme park located near Harrison and Jasper Arkansas that was in operation for several years and may have touched your lives if you’re in our five state region. It’s opening this weekend in theaters across the country. Click here if you’re interested in seeing where it’s showing, and please tell others. Thanks!

May God bless you Jeff, your family, your friends, and whatever you put your hand to do. Godspeed on your weekend, and your life’s journey.

Serving In the Storm

(From my journal) July 31, 2018      FSM-DFW-BIL-Zortman Montana    Up early with Beth who takes me to the airport at 0600L.

We both feel it’s right for me to go but are hesitant to separate with so much swirling about us?

Cabin framing started yesterday (amid showers — signs of Father’s blessing) We found a house in Springdale EB loves and I am content and comfortable with. Our Adelaide oasis has shown 8 times today, after only three days on multi-list. With a quick call to USAA we were pre-approved for a VA loan. Kim is helping sell our Fort Smith home. Barbie is helping us buy one in Fayetteville / Springdale. All this coming about in the last three weeks!

I’m going today to Zortman, MT and an Indian reservation where Justin died about one year ago on mission — for six days of spiritual focus, prayer, asking and listening, and service to the people there — some who know the King, and most who do not. Lord show us Your grace and favor. Amen. A prayer.

I just read on my flight out, from front to cover, “God Came Near” on my iPad and received much, much, much peace, faith, grace, and confirmation from it that “all is well.” Ps 23, Isa 30:15, Zech 4:6 TYL! Amen.

I texted EB to read it within the next 24 hours — starting with chapter 10, “Selling the Farm.” There are many, many similarities! And many, many marks of the Lord’s leading and favor!! :):) TYL! for leading me to write it and then read it — perhaps “For such a time as this.”

I’m going to Montana also, and primarily, to honor Justin and pray for what was important to him. And to thank God for the privilege of having such a friend. 🙂 Amen.

Arriving in Billings Intl Airport, I realize I haven’t even asked some praying people I know to cover our time and efforts with prayer — something I’ve leaned by experience is critical. I do so with texts, emails, and phone calls; then have a salad lunch, pick up a rental car and start the three hour drive north to the reservation.

I cross the Missouri River, and drive a little distance past the quirky, beautiful little town of of Zortman to Beaver Creek Camp on the Belknap reservation. I have dinner, meet Rick & James from TN, also Michelle, Bruce’s daughter. And several other interesting folks, Philip from Lavaca, his wife and daughter, and Carol, with here friend Stephanie from TN. I walk up the beautiful valley past the camp, enjoying the pristine weather, and pray. The main part of our Arkansas  group is scheduled to arrive about 10 pm tonight.

Thank you Lord, for a good, good day of remembering Your faithfulness. And for allowing — leading me on this adventure! 🙂

Those new friends I met a bit ago from TN & GA, who are returning home in the morning, were so pumped up about the Milk River Pow Wow they had just experienced! They say Rocky Boy is much (4x) bigger. They also said it was so rough a few years ago that Bruce wouldn’t go, nor take anyone. Then two years ago two ladies from the mission were invited by the chief — Bruce said they could go under his protection — and since then Bruce has started going back there…

Sounds like adventure to me! ?:)

These folks in the camp tonight are from all over — and some have been coming since 2002 — 13 or 14 years — some stay for weeks, and some all summer. They have a calling and have developed a heart for the Native Americans here. TYL! for caring and for pouring out Your heart to and in these people. Amen.

Click here for photos of the week and adventure.

Click here for a video of the week.

 

 

 

 

 

Montana Pow Wow

Bruce Plummer is a native Montana Indian. These days you could be aghast at my political incorrectness or insensitivity, but he told us on day one of our recent Indian cultural encounter that, “In Montana we like to be called Indians, not Native Americans. You were born in America right? So you’re a native American.” You have to like this guy and his straight shooting ways! 🙂 He is an indigenous Christian pastor on the Fort Belknap reservation of northern Montana, nestled in what Lewis and Clark dubbed on their 1803 trip west, “The Little Rockies.”

I’ll probably talk more about Bruce, and you can read about him and his ministry here if you like.

I came to meet Bruce and became acquainted with his ministry through one of my best friends ever, Justin Blasingame, who traveled here the last two years to serve. In fact, just about one year ago at the young age of fifty-nine, he had a sudden and totally unexpected heart attack and entered eternity from this reservation. Justin is the main reason for my going this year, and I’ll tell more of his story in a subsequent blog.

After I decided to serve on the reservation this year in Justin’s honor, our church youth group decided to do the same. Our youth group community, appropriately named “The Tribe,” more than a year before any of this came about, decided they wanted to go somewhere to serve this summer, and not just go to a conference seeking spiritual growth. Finally Justin’s wife decided to courageously face going there, a place her husband loved, and serve the King there as well. So that was our part of the troop heading west, northwest some two days journey from Northwest Arkansas joining up with youth and adults from First Baptist Church, Lavaca, AR.

First a little bit about the lay of the land, physically and culturally, which will serve as an introductory blog to this beautiful, relational , spiritual adventure. From there I’ll start to rely heavily on my journaling to keep the content fresh and real.

The first night we stayed at Beaver Creek on the Fort Belknap reservation, then gathered all our gear, had breakfast, and drove some four hours to the other side of the Little Rockies to the Rocky Boy reservation. Then we set up tee pees and camped in them for then next four days attending and serving at their annual pow wow.

The Fort Belknap Indian Reservation is shared by two Native American tribes, the A’aninin and the Nakoda. The reservation covers 650,000 acres, and is located in north central Montana.

Rocky Boy’s Reservation is near the Canadian border, in north-central Montana. It is graced by the Bears Paw Mountains, which provide a dramatic contrast to the flat bottomlands of this area.

Rocky Boy’s provides a home for about 2,500 members or 55% of the Chippewa-Cree tribe, and encompasses approximately 122,000 acres. The name “Rocky Boy” was derived from the name of a leader of a band of Chippewa Indians. It actually meant “Stone Child,” but it was not translated correctly from Chippewa into English, and “Rocky Boy” evolved.

For those of you who have never experienced a pow wow, I would describe it as a combination of a county fair, a huge family reunion, and a cultural celebration. There is much Indian dance, costumes, food, games, and life — lived and shared — at a pow wow.

I’ll let this set the stage while my photos and journal tell you the rest of the story. 🙂

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Manit Attakul with guitar in Camp

Click here for an excellent video by our very talented youth and worship leader Manit Attakul highlighting our team’s activities and telling our  story in a very creative fashion. You’ll enjoy it! 🙂 And be inspired.

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From my journal July 31… “Blog about the adventure in serving and following ‘the Christ’ even Jesus of Nazareth, Who lives, and walks the earth still! Including the high places and the dark places.” Amen.

Time & Tide

Twenty-four years ago yesterday Mom Hogue was claimed by her King and it seems like a fortnight ago… a vapor, a wisp of time. Yet the separation seems long? Odd — time is odd.

And time is moving on — steadily and swiftly. But it seems to do so only when you think about it.

“Time and tide wait for no man,” says the ancient proverb attributed to Chaucer, but known to predate the English language. The proverb seems to say, “Make your decision today; don’t delay.” Time nor tide waits for a man. Carpe Diem! Seize the day. “Time and tide…,” has been on my mind for a few days now.

What is it with this quirky medium “time?” “Like sands through the hour glass; so are the days of our lives,” goes the soap opera jingle from days past. This seems truthful, but rings fatalistic as well? Contemplating time is like contemplating the meaning of life, and is intriguing, is it not?

Sand through an hour glass is a reasonably good analogy of time and our lives. You can’t stop them nor affect their speed.They flow constantly and at a predetermined speed until they are all fallen — their dance with physics and their race complete.

You can easily ignore this time passage, constant and rhythmic as it is, and constantly squander time. Or you can be aware of life’s brevity and end — and seize the day. Be more purposeful in how you spend your days and your life.

It seems the second option is more challenging and maybe more rewarding. To seize the day is to face the reality that life is short and death is certain. And to value the gift of life with it’s allotted duration and opportunities.

The Bible says more than a few insightful things about time and the gift of life — including the best way to steward it, view it, and approach it. It would behoove us all to search those things out.

My personal philosophy of time lately can be summed up in the short phrase, “Only two days are important; today and that day.” This seems especially clear  when you’re likely in the last three or four, five-year chapters of your life.

Twenty-four years ago yesterday in a special moment of time, it seemed the Lord gave me some clarity of vision and inspiration about the issues involved, and I wrote the following poem, while my wife’s mother entered the next dimension of time. I pray it’s insightful and enriching in some way for you.

August 31

August thirty-one, under a warm delta sun,
Small clouds moving with a gentle breeze,
That’s what my natural eye sees.

People in this small delta town are scurrying ‘round.
Some are fast… some are slow.
It seems so purposeless though.

Mom lies still in ICU while medical folk do all they can do.
She’s peaceful now, the end seems near.
She’s constantly attended by those she holds dear.

It’s a helpless feeling to the natural mind,
To see her breathing in labored strife;
To ponder the meaning of this earth life.

Scary, confusing, this can be,
The Preacher has called it “vanity”.
There’s a feeling too, I cannot chide,
It’s a deep, deep peace I feel inside.

Like Elisha’s servant, I gaze the skies,
This time I open my spiritual eyes.
I sense the King – His presence so near.
There is no panic, no pain, no fear.

She’s resting? Responding? Kind of asleep?
Things are subtly changing,
There’s an appointment to keep.
A big cloud appears – refreshing rain falls down.
It’s cooler, clearer now – pleasant all around.

Inside her room, on the second floor,
Things are changing – maybe more?
Feelings fragile, emotions strained,
This time’s a humbling and fearful thing.

But in these hours – peace has moved in.
There’s been humor, love, even some grins?

The King’s spirit of comfort invades all our parts.
Friends come and go, sharing love, heart to heart.

These events, while connected, are quite side by side,
The most significant thing –
The King comes for His bride!

If you do not know, His bride is the church.
Folks like us; He’s saved in a lurch.
Friends and believers, The King holds us quite dear,
Truth hard to believe, yet brings us much cheer.

Truth hard to swallow, it cuts like a knife.
He said it and proved it, as He laid down His life.

Back on the floor, distant thunder is heard.
Time seems to slow …
Has He uttered some word?

I sense His approach.
Is He distant or near?
Can’t really say?
But I know He is here.

Time moves quickly.
Time stands still.
Just what is happening?
No one can tell.

She calls to her daughters.
“Tell me you’re here.”
They do and she whispers,
“Home” in their ears.

She simply rests quietly,
As dusk turns to dark.
Outside the skies blaze,
As lightning does arc.
All o’r the horizon
With hardly a sound,
Lightning brightens heavens,
Never striking the ground.

Also no thunder?
What a power display!
Can’t help but think,
The King’s on His way.

It’s during this hour,
Our Momma has gone.
Embraced by her King,
Welcomed to His home.

With deep love, honor and respect for both Janie Hogue and Jesus “INRI”,              Dwayne Bell

A Tent and An Altar

I’ve not really blogged about this nor told all that many people, but we are considering moving to another city an hour to the north, and into a new chapter of being, with God.

It’s a decision I don’t take lightly at all. We’ve lived in this area since the 1980s, a period now spanning most of our lives, some thirty-seven years. We’ve worked here, raised our children here, been a part of the same church family here for thirty-five years. Most of our close friends are here. We love our home. We love our neighborhood and neighbors. I’ve been a part of three men’s groups here for the past four or five years, and have made some deep spiritual friends. Life is pretty simple and comfortable here. Why would we leave?

About a year ago, I started feeling God was leading us into a new chapter of life and adventure with Him, especially spiritual adventure. I’ve been hearing and sensing His leading and promptings ever since then, and journaling about them, after times of reading His Word, sharing faith with others, and of meditation. Those promptings have intensified in frequency and intensity in the last six months. But there has been one serious sticking point — my wife. She hasn’t been hearing what I have been hearing or sensing the same thing.

And I couldn’t see dragging her away from her friends, and the life we have built here, unless I heard so strongly this is the will of the Lord and the right timing that I just did it. I have confidence she might come screaming and kicking, but that she would come in that case. Yet I’ve been praying as I walked, “God if this is You, please change her heart in this matter.”

About four weeks ago, after a sleepless night of “wrestling with the Lord,” to quote her, she said to me, “I think the Lord is telling us to move to Northwest Arkansas.”

And so it is… with somewhat heavy hearts, and somewhat excited hearts, we’ve moved out in faith (faith involves risk) and put our home on the market, looked around in NWA and made an offer on a home there. I would also mention we are building a cabin during this period. Are you kidding me?! All this upheaval at the same time? After we’ve fought for the peace and simplicity we have here?

Well, we who desire to follow Jesus as Lord, and count His Presence the most important thing in our lives, know that “when the cloud by day or fire by night” moves, we must move with it and Him. Maybe that peace and simplicity has allowed us to hear His gentle voice? And that same peace and simplicity can also translate to “comfort” or “being too comfortable?” which can be an enemy of our spiritual lives. I’m thinking of a quote from a recent blog: “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it is lethal” Paulo Coelho

At any rate, during this time of amazing activity, it’s been relatively peaceful spiritually, feeling His nearness. I went on a long-scheduled mission trip to an Indian reservation in Montana, and Elizabeth went on a trip to NYC with a friend to visit our son, while we trusted the Lord to work out the details as He wished. Proverbs 3:5-6, my life verse, continues to be applicable to my life and guidance. As does the main Scriptures journaled in the past chapter of my life: Isa 30:15, Ps 23, and Zech 4:6.

On my way to Montana, I reread my recent book, beginning with chapter 10, “Selling the Farm.” It seemed to be amazingly apropos to this chapter of our lives, as did the entire book. 🙂 Seems like the Spirit may have had me write it so I could read it and have my faith renewed, reflecting on His past faithfulness in our lives “for such a time as this.” 🙂

Yesterday I was with a new friend Jeff on top of a mountain standing by our cabin under construction. He said, “The Bible tells us two amazing things about “faith.” [1] It pleases God, and [2] it can move mountains.” May it be so!!

I told a new friend Joe at our early morning men’s meeting today, who had just prayed for us and expressed his excitement about the new chapter God was providing for us, “Derek Prince once said when teaching about the life of Abraham, “‘From the time Abraham started following God, he knew only a tent and an altar.’” Amen. He also came to know God better than thousands, and seemingly experienced God’s nearness and covenant love at every bend of his journey. Isn’t that what we all seek?

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For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”” (Romans 4:3)

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...He leads me ...” (Psalm 23)

 

Ralph Irwin.Friend of the King

Ralph Irwin 1942-2018

Ralph Irwin, a good friend, a friend of many, and a friend of the King stepped into his Lord’s presence at 3:15 a.m. today.  A day of inexpressible joy for him, and a day of some sadness for those of us who will miss his gentle words, kind actions, sense of humor, and beautiful art.

The Focus and Center of Ralph’s Life

Ralph was a family friend, church friend, missions friend, and personal friend. He supported my writing any way he could, especially “A Friend of the King.” He volunteered to do the art work for the cover, and it was perfect! Thank you Friend.

Early in the week, I had the strong impression to visit Ralph and read to him from Paul’s last epistle, 2 Timothy 4. I got distracted and didn’t get it done in person, so I’ll do it here and now.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6–8, NKJV)

We’ll be reunited soon Friend. May the LORD bless and keep your family and extended family, forever. Amen.

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For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”  (2 Corinthians 5:1,5)