via Rhythmic


In the spring of 2005, while going about my chores, I became aware of a heavy pressure in my chest, as though I was pinned to the earth by a giant boulder; I could hardly breathe.  Anyone reading is quickly aware that I did in fact have a heart attack.  Albeit a minor one, tell someone in the middle of a minor heart attack that it’s “minor,” and see how they respond.  I, like so many other men at 50 years old, thought the pain would subside and I would go on with my day.  Not quite.  With every rhythmic beat of my heart the pain seemed to grow in intensity, until I had to sit down.  My brain finally kicked in and I asked myself, “could this be a heart attack?”

Naturally, being a man, my first instinct was to investigate, so I went to the “googles” and typed “Heart Attack Symptoms,” and began to read the checklist.  By the time I got halfway through the list, the pain was growing, so I went to my teenage daughters bedroom and said, “I think I need to go to the hospital.”  She was just learning to drive, and only had her learner’s permit, and said, “I can’t drive you to the hospital!”  Of course I simply responded with, “that’s ok, I”ll drive, let’s go.”  Did it ever occur to me to dial 911, not so much, duh.  So, I drove to the hospital.

Upon arriving at the ER, a woman at reception asked how she could help, I simply said, “I think I’m having a heart attack.”  To which she responded, “Sit down now! We’ll come get you.”  Moments later I was on a bed, strapped with wire to a couple different machines, someone shoved a nitroglycerin pill under my tongue, and off we went to discover what was going on inside my chest.  Here’s where the “minor” part comes in.   While the cardiologist, the attending physician, and all the nurses and aids believed I was having a problem, nothing was registering on the machines to indicate I was in immediate danger.  That said, they weren’t quite ready to send me home.

It took almost 15 hours for the blood work to come back with the enzyme evidence indicating that I did in fact have a heart attack.  The next morning through an angiogram the cardiologist discovered blockages in the lower arteries feeding my heart, and put in two stints.  As it turns out, I had a genetic cholesterol issue, which is now completely controlled with medications.  It was just a minor heart attack, meaning no damage, and I’m still healthy as the proverbial horse.  The result of the whole episode however, changed the rhythmic beat of my life.  I had to slow down.  This my friends was not easy for me to do.

Over the next couple of days my cognitive functions seemed to work overtime processing exactly what had happened to me.  I came face-to-face with the reality or my mortality, and pondered the inevitability of death.  During those sometimes dark hours, I also re-examined my foundational beliefs.  One narrative from Mark’s gospel came back to me time after time, bringing me peace.  As the story goes, Jesus had been teaching about the “the sower and the soils,” and “the mustard seed,” in Mark 4, concluding the day by telling the disciples they were all going to the other side of the Sea of Galilee by boat.

That night a storm arose, so fierce, these seasoned, trained fishermen believed with all their hearts they were about to die.  All the while, Jesus was sound asleep in the stern of the boat.  The dialogue of life is pretty telling here.  The men woke Jesus and asked, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  Rather than answer them, Jesus stands up in the boat and says to the wind and the sea, “Hush, be still.”  The narrative teaches us that even the wind and the sea obey His commands.  Then Jesus says, “Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?”  [Mark 4:35-41]

When the rhythmic cadence of your life is upended, when you think you may be dying, when the emotional pain or physical exhaustion almost wins the battle for your existence, listen for the voice of Jesus telling them all, “Hush! Be still!”  The Creator of the Universe is in Sovereign control of all things, events, or circumstances of your life.  Yield to His presence, and do not be afraid.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  He has promised it to be true.

You may know me…

via Recognize

… But you have no idea who I am.

I came across this image a couple of years ago, and it was one of those light-bulb moments.  Epiphany is such a life changing experience most of the time. It was evident and crystal clear that I was surrounded by people who could recognize the me they saw every day.  Yet, these same people had no recognition at all that their perspective was shallow, inept, and clueless of who I am.  The stark light of revelation was so bright I was blinded momentarily by this truth.

I was described and recognized by those attributes often listed in obituaries: dad, brother, son, husband, father, pastor, teacher, friend.  All these characteristics were indeed definitions of the parts of me which people recognized through observation,  and each through their own filtered relationship to me.  95% of the people in my life 2 years ago were looking at the top 10% of the iceberg, representing me.  Their perspectives were skewed by their relationship to me, which resulted in their inability to recognize the other 90% of me.

The 5% of people who recognized me were those who took the time to dialogue in meaningful ways, or spend time with me in activities which allowed them to view me through more than just one filtered lens.  There were a couple of people who knew me pretty much all the way to the core of my existence; the deepest parts of me.  And there were others who made extreme judgments about me.  Because who they thought I was at those deep levels, were determined by preconceived assumptions of their choosing, not because they wanted to know the me I really am.

The result was a Titanic-like collision.  Parts of me below the surface were indescribably fractured by the impact.  While above the surface, life all around me was suddenly filled with the debris of broken relationships.  It was as if almost nobody I knew recognized me.  There were parts of me they either refused to accept, blindly ignored, or had no interest in knowing. Don’t feel sorry for me, there are millions today going through exactly the same thing, and you may be one of them.  I survived. You can too.


Now, imagine we’re not talking about me anymore.  Imagine this graphic represents the Creator of the universe.  Many people “say” they believe in God.  Folks often confess to know Jesus Christ.  However, let me suggest you see this message as if it comes from God.  Through this image He is saying: those things you seem to think allow you to “recognize” God are just the tip of the iceberg.  It’s my humble opinion, that there are things we have no idea about, when it comes to God.  Much of God’s nature, character, and will, are hidden in the layers of the deep, beyond our visible capabilities. We must search for this truth with all our hearts.  We will be rewarded if we do.  If we want to know God, we can, but it takes a lot of work.

Jeremiah 29:13
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

I believe going forward from right now, God will go to exorbitant extremes to get His people, people of faith, to know Him deeper, recognize His handiwork, and trust in His grace more than ever before.  Our world is headed on a direct collision course with the Creator of the universe.  Those who recognize this, will be prepared.  Those who don’t… well, think: Titanic… on a galactic scale.


Scent: Fragrance or Odor?

via Scent

The fragrance of obedience is like a pleasing aroma in God’s nostrils.  It’s why the Apostle Paul wrote regarding the importance of offering ourselves to God as a living sacrifice.  The simple act of yielding submissively to the will and ways of God, in obedience, is to God – as a fresh spring breeze is to us.  I love the smell of freshly mown grass.  Perhaps it’s one of the pulls that compels me toward the golf course.  It gets in my blood and bones and drives me outside to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.  This scent has a powerful effect on me.

The odor of disobedience will often have the exact opposite effect on God.  In fact Jesus said to the church at Laodicea, that the putrefaction he smelled in this church caused him to want to hurl. Revelation 3:16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.  Think: rotten eggs, spoiled milk, three-month-old leftovers, or a maggot-infested corpse.  How awful we must smell to God when we stubbornly refuse His grace, or neglect to listen to His voice.

People of faith, walking in faith, serving God, each other, and the strangers around them, are living out the Old Testament picture of a burnt offering.  The sacrifice of themselves to God’s will is the image of the smoke rising from the altar all the way to God’s throne in heaven.  The ultimate completion of human purpose is to glorify God, and this brings God great joy. Psalm 37:23 The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way.

Scent is one of the ways we were created in God’s image.  In your own bible, conduct a search for how many times the phrase “pleasing aroma” is used in the imagery of Old Testament sacrifices.  The scent (aroma) is the bond of a sacrifice meant to represent complete obedience to the will of God.

Hence, scent is a powerful force in our lives today.  It has been so since Adam and Eve were created with this discerning sense of smell.  Scent can be a powerful attraction, or it can repel us in ways even more repulsive than I’ve already mentioned.  One of the unique things about scent is its ability to stimulate memories.  Even now, after all these years, I can smell my mother when I pick up a “Puffs” tissue.  It was distinctive to her and those long years of sickness.

What is the scent that represents your life today?  I suggest the physical may not be nearly as significant as the spiritual scent you wear.  Fragrance or odor? That is the question.




Now this is an interesting word. The meaning of the word has taken on a life of its on in so many ways today.  Replace can mean, “to restore to a previous place.” It can also mean, “to take the place of.” So, when someone says, “I replaced the picture frame after it fell off the wall,” what do they really mean? Did they purchase a new frame to replace the old because it broke when it hit the floor?  Or did they simply pick up the undamaged frame and replace it in its original position?  The English language is so rich and yet so confusing at times.

Let’s focus on the second interpretive meaning of replace, “something that replaces another.”  In a fickle culture of instant gratification, we see the act of replacement becoming a life experience for many people.  Just watch as the next innovation in cell phone technology happens, how many people flock to the stores replacing their old phone with one having more exciting gadgets and widgets.  4k television, bluetooth devices, more powerful computers, more mobile devices, are some of the best examples of a replacement culture.  The very idea of leasing your vehicle embodies the concept of replacement theory.

This mindset bleeds over into other dynamics of human life as well. In the harsh reality of truth telling, my own father found a replacement son, and as the “replaced,” I never quite got over the devastation or emotional destruction this caused.  I’m clearly not alone in these emotional valleys of despair, since thousands of young men are being abandoned by dads for a plethora of reasons.  Being replaced in the workplace is one thing, and horribly tragic at times.  But the agony of being replaced in such an intimate way is beyond the pale.  I wonder how many other “replaced” people feel as I do today?  But replacement issues go deeper and further than just technology or human relationships.

Imagine how the Creator must feel, when He is replaced by humanity with the idol worshiping culture of our country.   We live in a time where many people no longer know Him or serve Him, but deny His very existence with every breath they take.  Think I’m making this up?  Consider for a moment all the different kinds of idols people worship today.  There are the obvious ones: money, clothes, cars, houses, and power.  Then again their are the subtle ones, sports superstars, celebrities, politicians, etc.  We’ve actually adopted the mentality as a cultural icon, as millions cast their vote live for the next American Idol.  If you’re like me, its fun to watch these folks compete.  By the end of the show, most of the time, the one who wins the contract and fame is really pretty talented. But an idol?  We’ve substituted these things or these people as objects of our worship, without considering at all how the One we should be worshiping feels about it.

Oversimplifying?  Ok, one more example.  The past two democratic presidents have both said and done many of the same things the current president is saying and doing.  The most recent president was worshiped by many as the answer to the American, and venerated like a saint of “hope.”  The would-be democratic nominee was worshiped in the same way by many, and because she didn’t win, they are on the longest temper tirade I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.  Because their eyes are turned away from God and on the human they worship, their minds have become clouded and deluded by pride and arrogance.  They have not worshiped the God of Creation for so long, they do not know Him.  God has been replaced by an idol.

Replacement: Themselves.

Automatic – I am not a Robot


via Automatic

When I think “automatic-responder” I immediately think about emails I’ve received from people who are going to be out of their office for a week, who set up their servers to automatically send reply emails to their contacts.  These auto responder emails inform the contact they’ll have to wait for a personal response.  This got me to thinking about how many things we do automatically, and whether this a good thing or a bad thing.

Many people I know are entirely like robots, with quick automatic responses.  As a pastor I would often tell people, “I love you,” because I did love them as the people in my congregation.  It didn’t mean anything beyond, I love you as a person.  But more often than not, the auto-response was, “I love you too Pastor.”  As humans we do this a lot.  When you greet someone with “How are you doing today,” 90-99% of the time you’ll get the response: “Fine, great, wonderful, or ok.”  The programming in our brains, and the culture we’ve grown up in, cause us to respond without thinking.  These simplistic (and I know they are simplistic) examples lead me to my theory.  I posit that human creatures often listen to “RESPOND” rather than listening for understanding.

In the movie iRobot, Del Spooner (Will Smith) is a Chicago police detective, who is sent to investigate the death of Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), the co-founder of U.S. Robotics (USR) and its main roboticist.  Lanning shows up in a holographic projector who instructs Spooner that the “real question” is “why” he would commit suicide.  The hologram is only programmed to answer specific questions, and constantly responds with “you’re not asking the right question.” Again, humans are not robots, and we are not programmed to only respond to the right questions, but we are limitless in our ability to carry on an in-depth dialogue with other humans.  Yet, we often sacrifice this ability, because we do not listen to understand. Rather, we listen to respond, like an automaton programmed to only react to certain “either-or” questions.

Which brings me to another unique feature of being human.  Not only do we communicate with each other, we also have the ability to communicate with our Creator.  This was also a theme in the movie, sentient thought from a robot.  Sonny – the iRobot – was programmed differently from every other robot of his kind, giving him the ability to think and dream and make choices outside the normal programming rules.  As Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies improve, the world awaits the reality of a “Sonny”-like robot that approaches human normalcy.  Sonny apparently in the fictional world of the future could talk and interact with Dr. Lanning (his creator).  This imagery, while unsettling to some, give us context for our relationship with God.

However, God did not create us as robots, but in His image.  The primary attribute of God with which humans are endowed is: Choice.  I choose to shower and shave daily, or not. It brings humor to the post I saw on FaceBook today: “Clean and sober means: I’ve showered and shaved, and I’m on the way to the Liquor store.”  Choice is a unique and inherent attribute of human existence.  Therefore, we can choose to know God, talk with God, hear from God, but in a spiritual sense, not physical.  So, I’ll wrap it up this way…

I am not a robot.  As such, I have a choice to listen to respond, or to listen to understand. Whether I’m talking to another person, or talking to God.  Interpersonal communications is so much more satisfying when I listen to understand.  Understanding brings context, and if I filter my responses to the people around me, or to God, through understanding, all our lives would be enriched.  I challenge my readers today to make the choice: quit listening to respond, and start listening to understand. You are not a robot either.