Excerpt from NEW Devotional Book — Going Forward in Love

[I’m finishing a new devotional book: “Heart Journey 2: Going Forward in Love.” I plan to publish in November. Here’s an excerpt!]

Day 14

Greet the Lord as one who is dependent upon His love today.

Settle down in the presence of the One whose essence is Love. And you are His most prized possession. You have been bought for a very high price and He wants to meet with you! As you address the Lord today, express your heart to Him. No matter if you are feeling awesome or defeated or neither. Share with Him how you feel.

Read and reflect on the truth of God’s message for you.

The Apostle John wrote this letter to all people who were following Jesus. In some ways, it his gleanings from spending so much time with Jesus and being at His side most of the time. John is sharing from his personal wealth, guided by the Holy Spirit to help us live in the complexities of life and relationships. You can see John’s tenderheartedness in the language he uses to talk about the Lord and us.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:7-21 ESV)

Read the passage one more time and write down a thought or two that particularly resonates with your heart.

You might want to reflect on just a few truths as you consider what this means for you.

You might want to focus your reading on a phrase at a time and read them a couple of times. Let’s do this together.

Two truths struck me. The first is “abide.” John tells us, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” If we abide in God, we are following and obeying Him. It has to do with respect and trust. There is a time aspect that shows up when abide is used as an adjective. God’s abiding love lasts for a very, very long time. So, we have this parallel in John’s letter that if we confess that we trust Jesus then God will stay with us forever. If we abide with Him, He will abide with us.

How does that make you feel toward God?

Do you feel pressure or anxiety? It’s possible you may feel both of those emotions. Take your feelings to God and see what He says.

The second truth that pushed me was the precept that it’s not about a hollow love or abiding. John is very clear that we can’t say, “Hey, I love God, but pretty much everybody else can take a hike!” If we say we love God and abide in Him, then we’re going to love our brothers and sisters. We’re going to take on the same love that God has for people. That’s how we show our “abiding” and “loving.”

This is a bit more difficult. I don’t naturally love everybody. How about you?

Let’s talk to God about that, too.   

Going forward in love

As you can see, this passage really brings the theme of these reflections home. “Going Forward in Love” is our mission. We don’t want to go forward pushing our own agenda and running over people. There’s no proof of our faith in Jesus in that style.

Let’s ask the Lord who needs our love today. We need His love, but who needs our love.

Lord, help us to abide and love as we go forward!

100 Ways to Answer Your Prayer

6/18/2017

When you pray, do you only have one answer that you will accept? Or do you leave open the idea that God may have another way to answer your prayer?

Two perspectives have led me to see God’s plan meet my deep desires. It struck me one Sunday morning as I walked into worship. God answered my prayer, but not in the way that I expected. Thankfully, I had a pen and notebook with me and I immediately began to write. Here’s what I wrote.

I recently heard Frances Chan share a story of how a young, Christian friend was not disappointed when a prayer was not answered as they had expected. Chan was surprised by such a mature response from a young believer. The woman’s response was, “God is the Creator and He has 100 ways to answer my prayer, so I’m sure He has a better plan.”

I, also, heard Dr. Derek Grier say in a sermon, “If Plan A doesn’t work, there are 25 other letters in the alphabet.” And, finally, I read this quote from author Stephen King: God is the only one who gets it right the first time.

So, with that as background, let me share a story from my life. A few years ago I made a run at becoming a church staff member and thought about going to seminary. Much earlier in my life I had been a campus minister and had applied to and was accepted at a major seminary. My path went a different route. Now, many years later, I see a different plan being worked out in me and for me. I’m a pastor-at-large through writing. Every day, I receive Biblical content and re-present it through writing in an effort to engage people in learning about God and getting to know God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am challenged to make sure the truth of Scripture is presented in a way that is winsome, interesting and helpful.

So, it is a sacred calling, which gives me joy, a sense of responsibility and peace. Thus, my writing is easy. That’s right; it’s easy. In the same way that Jesus invites us to take His burden and give Him ours, I feel as though I’ve been given Jesus’s “light” burden in exchange for my heavy burden of doubt and regret regarding whether I’m doing what God has called and gifted me to do. I believe we too often live with heaviness because we are putting worldly expectations on God instead of allowing His heavenly expectations to embody us, to fill and infuse us.

How do you infuse tea with fruit?

Steep your green tea with fresh fruit as another way to add a fruity flavor to the tea. When you steep green tea bags, add lemon wedges, strawberries, raspberries or peaches to the liquid. As the fruit soaks in the warm water, it will draw some of the flavor into the tea.

How to infuse medicine into your body?

Using an IV we allow a liquid to flow into a vein, as a way to get the medicine or liquid into our systems.

How does the Spirit infuse us with God’s being?

As we soak in God’s Word and open our hearts, we are infused with His perspective and principles. He also supernaturally puts His Spirit in our hearts so that our whole lives can be infused with guidance, peace and gifting.

So, as we open ourselves to God and worship Him and desire to bring ourselves fully (all the parts) to Him, He infuses purpose, talent and fruitfulness into our lives. As that infusing changes us, it allows God to lead us into the places and vocations He wants for us. In the process, God wants to build our faith in Him. That means we will go through times when we can choose to take our burden back or continue to carry the light burden. It’s an amazing, but difficult process. Some never learn it and carry a heavy burden of their own and other people’s expectations and regrets. Others learn it and carry Jesus’s light burden. It’s never too late to learn it and live it. On God’s timetable, we have a lifetime to learn and live and be conformed to the image of Jesus.

Therefore, I feel that I’m the beneficiary of one of the 100 other creative solutions to my desire and prayer to be a pastor or a spiritual director or a monk or a professor.

I am the most blessed person I know, because I have seen it from the inside out.

Simple, Direct and From the Heart

Simple, Direct & From the Heart: The Prayers of Jesus: A Seven-Day Journey by Jimmy Locklear
Simple, Direct & From the Heart: The Prayers of Jesus: A Seven-Day Journey
by Jimmy Locklear
Link: http://a.co/amhK59t

For over two years, I’ve used the prayers of Jesus from the gospels to guide and enliven my relationship with God. I spent a lot of time looking at Jesus’s teaching and relating to folks four years ago while writing Heart Journey. I was consistently struck by the simplicity of his conversations with his Father. Later while working on prayer and fasting guide for my church I began to collect my reflections on the places in Scripture where we are told or shown that Jesus was praying. In some cases, we read what he said and in others we only know the place or time of day or circumstances of his prayers. I was so heartened by his example for us. And he was so emphatic about keeping our prayers simple and speaking directly from our hearts realizing that our Heavenly Father already knows our needs. 

So, twice my church’s prayer team had provided these prayers of Jesus for use by our community. I decided to change the format a bit and include seven of Jesus’s prayers in a small booklet as a way to help us increase our commitment to spending time alone with God. I had been wanting to publish a book on the Amazon Kindle Platform and this manuscript gave me that opportunity. It has been a very positive experience and a way to help a wider circle of people in their spiritual journey. There are a few more prayers that could make up a sequel booklet, and I’m also working on a booklet on repentance, too. The most popular blog post, by far, that I posted over the past two years has been on repentance and our response to grace after we sin. 

Because you have been an encourager to me, I wanted you to know about this latest little project. Here’s the link where you can find Simple, Direct & From the Heart: The Prayers of Jesus. It is only available as an ebook currently, but I’m considering having print on-demand available in the future.

I’ll leave you with the invitation given to us by our 14th Century sister Julian of Norwich who wrote: Our good Lord revealed that it is greatly pleasing to him that a simple soul should come naked, openly and familiarly. For this is the loving yearning of the soul through the touch of the Holy Spirit. 

In a day when we want to belong and to feel safe, may we accept the calling of Jesus. 

“I didn’t believe in prayer.”

For several years, I didn’t believe in prayer; or rather, I didn’t believe prayer made any difference. I had prayed for dear friends dying of cancer and they seemed to die faster. I had prayed that I would sin less and be a kinder and more “other-centered” person and my egocentricity seemed to continue unabated. I had recited the Lord’s Prayer in the same way that I said the Pledge of Allegiance. I gave thanks at meals because everyone expected that, but I rarely felt a connection to God or a sense of gratefulness to God.

What was the point? There seemed to be lots of beautiful words being spoken, but no transformation was occurring.

In 2007, my world began falling a part. Devastating illnesses all around me, lost jobs and financial ruin seemed to be closing in around me. I did still believe that God loved me. So, I turned to God. I came to him with nothing, but empty hands. No words. Only tears.

Amazingly, God began doing things in my life and the lives of those around me. Healing, financial generosity, friends bring us meals and my heart was being transformed. Spiritual transformation does not result from fixing our problems. It results from turning to God in the midst of them and meeting God just where we are. Turning to God is the core of prayer.

Slowly, I began to pray about everything. Not with special language, but like a conversation. I began to make a connection between the Jesus of the Gospels and the Jesus I was meeting in prayer. Today, some 8 years later, talking to Jesus is the sweetest part of my day and the deepest love of my heart.

I never expected this to happen. If you don’t believe prayer makes any difference, I understand. If you don’t believe that God can transform your life or the lives of those around you, I understand. My testimony is simple. Bring God your tears and unbelief and see what he does.

The Intensity of Love

In April, I shared about the Intentionality of Love and today I’ve been reflecting on the Intensity of Love. This sprung from some reflections on Jesus’ reply about what is most important. What is the “One Thing” to use the vernacular of Curly in the movie “City Slickers.”

The Intensity of Love

“… as yourself.”

One of the more challenging and perhaps misunderstood, but often quoted sayings of Jesus was the reminder that we love God, love our neighbors and love ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39) The common interpretations are around the sequence, which purports to be the key to a humble life, if not a loving one. The common application goes something like this: If we put God first, others second and ourselves last, then we will be a loving person. Lately, my interpretation or application is more about intensity and purpose than sequence.

If we love God will all of heart, soul and mind (or our will, worship, emotion and intellect), then we develop the capacity of understanding that God loves us so much that he is accomplishing his will by loving us and he can, in turn, use us to accomplish his will. That is, that we can love our neighbors and realize our place in God’s heart.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux describes as the highest degree of love the love of our selves for God’s sake.

When we get to the point that we realize, accept and rest in the knowledge that God is accomplishing his own vision and purpose by loving us, it seems impossible to not experience a heightened degree of love for ourselves. Of course, our own patterns of selfishness and self-indulgence can keep us from living the love that we desire to express, but our intense love for God and his purposes empowers us to love our families, co-workers, and neighbors. Transformation takes place as we focus on loving and pleasing God. By listening to God we are drawn to his heart, which is a heart overflowing with love for all of his children. Do you see how that overflowing could even flood our hearts, souls and minds to the point that we love all of his children, too?

When Jesus said that the second commandment was like the first, it was not so much a simile as it was a literal connection. It’s not that the two are about love, but that they are both about God’s heart. They are like each other in intensity and connection to God’s purpose.

Put simply, start with focusing on God’s love for you. Put on the love as an oxygen mask and be engulfed in the overflowing rush of God’s purpose that you are inextricably a part of. Receive God’s love and let it flow through your heart to Him, your neighbor and yourself.

What do you expect God to do? Part 1: Respond

If you are a person of faith or a person of prayer, you must’ve asked that question in your conscious or unconscious mind at some point. And if you are a person who reads the Bible or listens to others read it in a house of worship or in your own house, you may wonder what should you expect to happen after you read a few or several sentences in one of the books of the Bible.

Just this morning I read Psalm 106:1-5 in the October 21st liturgy entry in “Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” (Claiborne, Wilson-Hartgrove & Okoro) and I was struck by what I was reading. Even more, I was thinking that these verses were a prayer or song directed to God when they were originally written, and that I had a choice in my own heart as to whether this was my prayer, my spoken words to the Holy Spirit. Or, I could just mindlessly and heartlessly read them and go ahead and finish the whole liturgy for the day. Do you ever do that: Read something of profound value without any engagement whatsoever? Do we expect that through some mystical operation we will derive some benefit from silently mouthing the words of Scripture? Thus, the bigger question: What do we expect God to do?

First and foremost, we should expect God to respond. At the most basic level, it is fair to expect engagement from God if we have engaged with the words we are saying/thinking that are addressed to our Creator. Now, do you wait for a response?

Let’s look at the prayers that I read today. This is verse 4: Lord, remember me when you show favor to your people. Help me when you save them.

So, if you said that to a friend, a parent or a sibling what would you expect in response? Maybe a quick, “OK,” or perhaps a “got you covered!” would be fine or perhaps a more in-depth, “You are one of mine, so, yes I’m going to save you when I save all of my children.”

Would that be a fair expectation? Does that seem too casual for God?

Jesus and Thomas by Caravaggio (1602)
Jesus and Thomas by Caravaggio (1602)

Or would any of those sound like the resurrected Jesus when he said, “Put your finger here (in my side),” to Thomas in response to his indirect request for concrete evidence that the same Jesus who was crucified was now alive.

Don’t you think it is fair to expect that statements, conversations and requests that are recorded for our benefit in the Bible should be actionable for us today?

And Thomas wasn’t even in the same place with Jesus when he made his request. And it was a random request that didn’t follow any liturgical framework or Jewish tradition. [the painting was by Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio whose works I have used before]

And Thomas’ response to Jesus’ response was worship. Not surprising either. So, I would suggest to you to try expecting God to respond when your words are heartfelt and expressive of your true desires. Listen for his reply. Give some time to the conversation as you would anyone else in your life. Expect God to do something. I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Look for “Part 2: Offer a new idea” at this same site next week.

Redemptive poetry from John Donne

I was an English & American Literature major in college. And one of my favorite courses was in Renaissance Poetry. There was a freshness and romantic tenor to many poets of that time. John Donne who was a metaphysical poet and a pastor in England was my favorite.

He wrote beauty and truth painting a picture for his parish and followers. Here is one such poetic description that gives us the picture of redemption:

There we leave you in that blessed dependency,
To hang upon him that hangs upon the cross,
There bathe in his tears,
There suck at his wounds, and
Lie down in peace in his grave,
Till he vouchsafe you a resurrection, and
An ascension into that Kingdom, which
He has purchased for you with the inestimable price of his incorruptible blood. ~ John Donne (1572-1631)

Testing My Heart of Faith

There are times when I (we?) feel good about how I’m doing in my walk with God. I feel as though I’m listening to God’s voice and making sincere effort to follow His commandments. It is a comparison game that my own self-centered hearts get’s me into. You know, I haven’t yelled at anyone in the last week. I’ve been listening well and being fully present with those I’ve encountered. And I’ve tried to be honest and not deceptive in my work.I’ve been friendly to my neighbors.
Comparison in our own minds is a dangerous endeavor.
It distracts me from doing what I need to be doing. I’m in essence patting myself on the back for having received some measure of grace, but somehow thought that it was of my own doing. How self-diluted of me. What’s the corrective in these situations when I’m giving myself of good grade? Reading any word from God’s Word. The Spirit has a way of using a word of truth to break down our walls of self-centeredness. I’m not talking about the times when we hear the voice of the Father say, “Well done.” Or an echo of God from my fellow travelers who appreciate me and the acts of kindness I do. I’m talking about when I’m operating from the false self, not the true me. The I’ve got it all together false pride from some kind of score keeping that I do.
That’s what I was doing this morning when I was reading the June 26 entry in “Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” that was put together by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove a few years ago. And the Spirit took Psalm 119: 136 and pierced my gut with it. Here are the words the Psalmist wrote:

My eyes shed streams of tears,
because people do not keep your law.

“When have you done this? “ the Spirit asked. I don’t know if I’ve ever done that, I thought. 
That’s the kind of testing of my heart that God had for me today. It was eye-opening and heart-awakening.

Putting a bow on my 2014 General Assembly experience – Part Deux

Upon returning to the ballroom where the assembly was meeting, I looked for a seat closer to the front so that I might be able to occasionally look at the real 3-D person than the video facsimile on one of the two large screens on either side of the stage. If I have one regret from the week, it is that I didn’t take more pictures. I haven’t gotten immersed in the “selfie” world yet, but I hope to get better at it as time goes on. A few minutes after sitting down, I turned to find myself sitting next to Justin Clement, RUF minister at the University of Georgia. I had just seen Justin for the first time at the wedding of Nathan Terrell and Joy Glaze Terrell last Saturday. I introduced myself and told him he had done a great job in officiating the wedding. He asked about how things were at Intown (BTW, that was a common question, not surprisingly). We had a good chat and talked from time to time about the various overtures as they were introduced over the next couple of hours.

In every GA, there is an overture or two that requires extended discussion and debate. This year it was Overture 43. The Overtures Committee had voted to answer in the “negative” which is not to affirm the overture by a tally of 45-28. That was by far the closest vote of any of the overtures. So, the 28 committee members put forth a substitute motion on the assembly floor. Here’s a link to the original overture: http://www.pcaac.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Overture-43-Sav-R-Sanctity-of-Life-Marriage.pdf It was the opinion of the majority of the committee that the overture was not needed because “there is no lack of clarity regarding the PCA’s stand for the sanctity of marriage or the sanctity of life, biblically or constitutionally (WCF 24.1). Furthermore, we do not need an overture such as this to pray for, or encourage, those who suffer unjustly.” The committee gave three additional reasons, but this was the primary reason. After approximately an hour of debate (an agreed upon timeframe) on the assembly floor, there was a vote to make the substitute motion the main motion for Overture 43. It passed by an approximately 60%-40% vote. I didn’t write down the numbers, but it was a clear majority. The so-called minority report reads as follows:

Be it resolved that the Presbyterian Church in America expresses its gratitude to the Lord for sustaining by His grace ministers of the gospel, chaplains, and Christians serving in the public sphere who are experiencing ostracism, penalties, and persecution for taking a Biblically faithful stand for the sanctity of human life and declining to participate in the cultural redefinition of marriage; and

Be it further resolved that the General Assembly pause and offer prayer to the Lord on behalf of such ministers of the gospel, chaplains, and Christians.

And after the vote, my friend Jim Wert gave a passionate and heartfelt prayer as implementation of this resolution.

It was Overture 6 that received, both over the past year and this week, the grandest support. It was concerning Child Protection in the PCA and there was prayer for all of our children and children worldwide pleading for their protection and thanking God for His special care and love for them. You can read Overture 6 here: http://www.pcaac.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Overture-6-GA-Foothills-Child-Protection-in-the-PCA.pdf

That pretty much ended the business for the assembly. There was a thank you letter or resolution that was read. Then the moderator said that we were going to take a one-hour recess and move the evening’s worship service up to 4:30 PM instead of 7:30 PM. Since the musicians, worship leaders and preacher were all present we proceeded with that plan. Someone must’ve given some heads-up earlier in the day for all of those folks to be on deck.

I took another foray into the exhibitors’ hall. Many of you with connections to Intown know Laura Rodriguez. I talked to Laura when I saw her in a book publisher’s booth. Turns out her father owns a publishing company and publishes an eclectic line of previously out-of-print theology and political books, along with the works of authors in the PCA and his own books. Laura was sent out from Intown with the Mosaic Fellowship and is now seeking wisdom on what to do next since Mosaic is no longer a church plant.

I next visited with Rev. Matt Cadora again and he said what I was beginning to hear from others that this was the best GA he had ever attended. I said that Ray Cortese’s sermon on Tuesday had been one of the best I’d ever heard and he interrupted me before I could finish and said that it was THE best he had ever heard. [I do have a CD of Rev. Cortese’s sermon and will be happy to loan it to you after I’ve listened to it or put it on my iTunes.]

Again, the worship service was a mix of ancient and future that the Tuesday service had been. Eventually, I figured out that the influence of Indelible Grace had come through the RUF community at Belmont University in Nashville. No surprise there. Rev. Bill Sim preached the sermon. He is organizing and senior pastor of New Church of Atlanta, a Korean church started in 1997. He is the stated clerk of the Korean Southeastern Presbytery. A presbytery, by the way, that meets twice a year for about 3-4 days. He invited other presbyteries to consider doing that whenever they can. He said that they work together, play together, pray together, weep together and confess their sins together. He said that there are over 500 Korean teaching elders in the PCA. Again, I would recommend you listen to this sermon online or to download it at some point. You can download here. There are two stories that he told – one from his own life about coming to America 35 years ago and the other about missionaries to Korea who were martyred for their work about 90 years ago – that are priceless. He preached from Acts 20:17-38 and I’m sure had three points. I believe the points were about commitments and convictions, but his stories were the most powerful. And these were his exhortations:

We should cry more in the pulpit.

May the Lord soften our hearts.

May our commitment to orthodoxy lead us to love sinners.

May we let our commitment to the need for confession begin in the house of the Lord.

Our grace-filled convictions will bring us together.

It was an amazing sermon.

The PCA constitution states that we conclude our general assemblies by singing Psalm 103. So, we did.

It was a very satisfying and vision-enhancing gathering. Grateful to have participated.

Putting a bow on my 2014 General Assembly experience – Part 1

Juneteenth proved to be one of the more productive days for a PCA gathering as the annual assembly came to an end approximately a half-day early. I started the day with a quick shower and shave. I brush on the shaving soap and am now using my grandfather’s double-edged razor. That’s a #tbt for you. Then I was off to Starbucks for a latte, morning bun and banana. Next, I walked the mile to the Hilton where the GA was held for a half-hour meeting with Larry Bolden to discuss my writing workshops and how Wellspring Group might be able to use some of the concepts, and then we discussed the State of Your Heart book idea I’ve been thinking about for a couple of weeks. Larry loved the book idea, likes organizing the manuscript around themes and subjects. I explained that it had struck me recently that the SOYH updates that we do so often are effective teaching tools for those who read them and perhaps we should share those more widely. Larry suggested considering a 365-days format and that we could add some essays on how to write your own SOYH and some of my thoughts on journaling and examining our lives.

I then went upstairs to the Assembly business meeting to hear reports and vote on recommendations and nominations for committee members. In the Mission to North America report, the church planting report from Hutch Garmany who is planting a church in rural Trenton, GA, and Alejandro Villasana planting Christos Community Church a bilingual church in Norcross, GA, particularly inspired me. The plant in Trenton was launched by Rock Creek Fellowship on Lookout Mtn. and the one in Norcross is from Perimeter. I was impressed by their desire for heart level change and deep connections to Jesus not numbers and facilities. Many of the reports being given were from the committees that met on Monday and Tuesday.

Before lunch, we got started with the report of the Overtures Committee that is chaired by our good friend and fellow Intown elder Jim Wert. In truly an amazing move, Jim recommended that the committee’s report and recommendations be passed in omnibus and it did! Except for a handful of exceptions. He was doubtful, but the GA Moderator Bryan Chapell gave it a go and worked through a much simpler process to pass on the less controversial overtures. We, then, with Jim’s leadership, acted on a couple of the overtures that were pulled out of the omnibus action. We then recessed for lunch until 1:30.

During the break, I read a bit in Matthew 26 about Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane. This is a very familiar passage to us, but I was particularly impressed with how Jesus ask his Father three times to take a way this cup of suffering and death. Might we be too timid in our request to the Lord to change our situations? Even Jesus asked three times, so we might feel free to ask the Father more than once, certainly. I also ate an apple, a peanut butter balance bar and a glass of water (inquiring minds…).

After lunch, I ran into Nathan Parker, an extended family (Phelans) friend who was recently called to Pinelands Presbyterian Church in the Cutler Bay suburb of Miami. He’s the senior pastor there since February. He said that it has been quite a cultural adjustment after spending the past three years in the UK earning his doctorate. Earlier in his vocational journey he was a youth minister (and probably other things) at ChristChurch in Atlanta. He sends his best to the Phelans, Intown and Atlanta.

Also, I had my all caps ENCOUNTER of the day when I talked with Dr. Marvin “Cub” Culbertson a ruling elder from Dallas. Cub has been in medicine (ENT doctor) for 68 years! There’s a major wing in a hospital in Dallas named after him. I talked about him in a previous blog. Yesterday, he was on the escalator behind me and asked, “How are we doing?”

I turned to discover a straw-hatted gentleman with a big smile and I said, “Great! How are you?”

And he replied, “As always, I’m better than I deserve.”

I then saw his nametag and said, “Dr. Culbertson! It’s great to see you!” I proceeded to introduce myself and reminded him that he had given me some advice back in 2008 at the GA in Dallas when I had a stomach virus. We had talked on the phone a couple of times and subsequently emailed each other.

He said, “Well, did my suggestions work?”

I said, “Yes. You suggested I go across the street to Denny’s and get some grits and some hot tea. And I felt much better after eating the grits and drinking the tea.”

He said, “Good. That’s why I’m here.”

Cub then took my hand and prayed for me and for himself. In his prayer, he looked forward to being with Jesus in heaven for both of us, but “sooner” for him he hoped. I asked him if I could give him a copy of my book “Sacred Heart Attack.”

“Of course! Can I share it with others?” he asked.

“Sure. Let me sign it for you.” I said.

He had already taken it and was asking me questions as he flipped through it. “Here, I like this page for you to sign, “ he said. It was the page with this quote on it from Henri Nouwen: The word lifts us up and makes us see that our daily, ordinary lives are, in fact, sacred lives that play a necessary role in the fulfillment of God’s promises.

How appropriate is that? Again, I felt God’s presence bringing a sacred moment in the midst of a busy day. That’s why He’s here.

To be continued