…then he was gone

There was this guy at church.  He’s a good 30 years older than me, and “I don’t fit into his group.”  When his wife was ill, and he was spending all his time at home with her, I was with him quite a bit.  But after she passed, he never slowed down enough for me to even have a cuppa Joe with him.  So I stopped asking.

Then he was gone.

There was this guy I met and became great friends.  He and I would grab coffee and an occasional burger together.  He was in the hospital during Super Bowl, so I watched the game in his room.  He asked me to sing at his mother’s funeral.  But he started taking a lot of painkillers, so I stopped hanging out with him.  One night he overdosed.

And he was gone.

There was this guy in my neighborhood, the first family we met when we moved in to our new house 20 years ago.  And we would visit each other quite a bit.  Then he got sick and crabby.  And he complained a lot.  And I stopped going to his house.

Then he was gone.

There was another guy from church.  If anyone missed a Sunday, they would be sure to get a call from him – not chastising, just making sure everything is OK.  When he developed lung cancer, the doctor told him he needed to cough a lot.  He said, “Cigarettes make me cough, so they’re good for me, right?”  One night, his granddaughter called me.

And he was gone.

And after each of these men died, I felt a pang of regret.  I had given up on them.  I had let them be alone during their time of greatest need… during their time of dying.  I could have visited each of these before they left this world.  I could have …

I should have …

I …

But I’m too selfish.  And I don’t like to be hurt.  And when my friend starts to exhibit signs that he won’t be long for this world, he becomes another brick in the wall.  And I protect myself from being hurt by abandoning them.  When they need friends the most, I abandon them.

I beg their forgiveness.  I beg God’s forgiveness.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

Matthew 25: 40,43 NIV

The pang of regret will be with me for a while.  Then, like the men mentioned here, it will be gone.  And I will remain, a hopefully wiser person.

Fasting and Praying

I have come to think of this whole life in God as a marathon, a very long journey that takes daily commitment, recommitment, and reorientation.” – my friend Jeff Christian

I’m not bragging, I’m broken.

I’m not pious, I’m perishing.

I’m not happy, but I keep relearning what joy is.

Yeah. Relearning. ‘Cuz I’m a “stiff-necked people” who is constantly forgetting what God has done for me. Like the Israelites that left Egypt all those years ago, I’m stiff-necked. Like Lazarus’ sister Mary, I misunderstand what God has promised for this world, thinking that joy, that peace, that glory, is all reserved for our eternal home.

So on Sunday, while singing how I trust in God’s promises, I broke down and cried. I was convinced that I couldn’t sing it because I no longer believe it. Here’s the truth that I recognized that Sunday morning:

  • God has seen us through hard times. My belly is proof that I’ve never missed a meal, even if it was beans and cornbread day after day. We haven’t missed a bill, either. And we learned how important it is to not carry debt.
  • God has provided me with a beautiful, talented wife and daughters. He has also seen fit to bring people into my life with whom I can share His love.
  • God has made sure that the basics are covered. My car needed repaired or replaced so He made arrangements for a car I could afford.

But… we need major repairs on the house. And we have no health insurance. And… and… and… the details are not important.

If a boxer goes down, the referee separates the other guy. Sometimes it feels like I’m in a street fight with the enemy – the father of lies – the tempter – satan. (His name is not worthy of capitalization.) there is no ref. There’s only me – and my Ephesians 6 armor is at home. The enemy starts punching, and won’t relent even when I’m down. It drags me into depression.

Rather than seeking the Face of God, the one who can save me, I get pissed at Him. “Why’d You let him do that? Why wouldn’t you stand up for me? Or at least blow the whistle and call Unsportsmanlike Conduct?”

And He shakes His head and lets me be. Alone with the enemy to drag me down.

So I committed to 3 days of fasting and prayer. 3 days of seeking His face. 3 days of denying myself that which my belly so desperately wants.

I found scripture that tells me I’m a valuable member of His church. Romans 10 and Psalm 32 spoke volumes during this time of study and introspection.

And I found Him. I found joy (not necessarily happiness), peace, and wisdom. My problems are still there. But God will not let me fail. He is faithful. He will follow through.

To Dwain and Rick, I have a much better understanding. Thank you for listening last Sunday. And go easy on me this Sunday.

An Old-Fashioned Word

‘Cuz
LOVE’s such an
old-fashioned
word and love
dares you to
care for the
people on the
edge of the
night and love
dares you to
change your way of
caring a-
bout yourself
this is our
last chance
this is our
last dance
this is ourselves
UNDER PRESSURE

I enjoyed this song when it came out in the 80s. It had a really cool video. And the beat was (unfortunately) misappropriated by some rapper…

But in the last few years, I’ve listened to this song in the context of knowing Christ.

And it’s truly beautiful.

How many of us see people facing the terror of knowing what this world’s all about? Do we turn away from it all like a blind man? Keep coming up with love but it’s so slashed and torn.

Love the unloveable. The people on the edge of the night.

After all, we all have darkness within us. But the darkness cannot overcome the light that shines within us. And it is our responsibility to share that light with all of those around us.

Peace that Passes Understanding

“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

-‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:5-7, ESV

17 years ago God made Himself real to me. There have been ups and downs since then. The downs seem to outweigh the ups, though. But, let’s face it – I’m still a teenager, right? Even at 50+, I’m a teenager in Christ.

Peace is hard to find in the downs. It seems like every day brings more strife, conflict, and worries. These rob us of our peace and joy. These are stumbling blocks and strongholds put in our way by the enemy. And God lets him do it, to strengthen us, to help us find Him.

Every morning, I wake up at 4:30 and start worrying about what the day is bringing. Work, my family’s well-being, house maintenance…

But, for the last few weeks, I’ve started reciting the 23rd Psalm. No, I don’t have any version memorized, but this is Clay’s Paraphrased version. I’m making it my praises to the One who gives me peace.

And it works. My mind clears and I can go back to sleep.

The 23rd Psalm is the ultimate expression of Phil. 4 above.

You are my Shepherd. I have all I need.

You bring me to places of abundance, green pastures and still waters.

You restore my soul and make me righteous for Your own glory.

This place is scary. But You bring me peace and comfort.

You provide for me when everyone else around me is selfish. You make me your own. And I have more than I need.

Because of Your grace, goodness and mercy will be with me and I will live with you forever.

Thanks for listening,

Clay

Dese Yutes

With apologies to Vincent LaGuardia Gambini…

detail.17c74f3c

My Cousin Vinny, “Dese two yutes…”

Before I get started, this is gonna sound like bragging.  But I’m not.  I want to share how I’ve bonded with teens and youth.  Maybe you have some ideas that can help, please share in the comments!

A few years ago, I noticed that my daughters friends didn’t shy away from my presence.  I struggled to figure this out.  When I was a teen, my friends and I wanted nothing to do with our parents.

Of course, the worst always came to mind: “They’re making fun of me somehow…” But that goes with growing up a geek that always seemed to hit bully fists with my face.

Seriously, though, these kids truly seemed to like me:

  • At homeschool dances, the teens would sit with me at the table.
  • On church youth events, they want to ride in my car.  And when the youth minister needs a substitute, they ask for me.
  • When they come to our house, they don’t run me out of the TV room.

R and I talk about heavy metal and prog rock.  A told me that I’m the “coolest dad [she] ever met.”  K and I worked on a playlist together for a church youth event – it rocked!

I’ve talked about it with my wife, who’s pretty much accepted as the cool mom, as well.  She tells me “You don’t bulls*** anyone.  You don’t pretend to be something you’re not.  The kids appreciate authenticity!”  Maybe she’s got a point.  Remember David Ogden Stiers’ character in “Better Off Dead”?

ciczhizuwaaezxp

Al Meyer reading a book on slang while talking to his son.  “Right off!”

Yeah, What I am is what I am, are you what you are or what? (thank you, Edie Brickell)

I like heavy metal music from early Black Sabbath to Disturbed.  I like alternative music from Talking Heads to Twenty Øne Pilots.  I like prog rock from Emerson Lake and Palmer to Nightwish.  And I don’t like pop music from bubble gum 50s to Ariana Grande. <Bleah>

When I was talking with A about music in the car with my youngest, she commented how she loves Green Day.  Now, this is a band I came to like in the 90s, but their 2010s music is radically different from what I heard in college the second time around.  So I played “Brain Stew”, and introduced her to a completely new band.

Life, whether it’s at work, at home, at church, at school… anywhere … it’s about relationships.  Find common ground and use it.  What makes the other person tick?  Typically, there’s gonna be something common between you and every person on this planet.  You don’t have to go out of your way to make something up.  Just be you – and find that common ground.

The next generation craves interaction with those of us who have a little experience in life.  They want to know what worked and what didn’t.  They really don’t want to make the same mistakes we made.  They also want us to listen to them.  Not just hear them, but actually listen.

Don’t be creepy, but make friends with the youth of America (or England or South Africa or India or wherever you may be).  It’s not difficult.

What is Faith?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
– Hebrews 11:1-3, ESV

This week, my wife and I were chatting about our faith… our relationship with our Lord and Savior. This subject has been a hot topic for me for a while now.

As a child, mom and dad drug me to church, but I didn’t see any reflection of God in their lives. As a teen, I walked away from a God I never knew, and, as far as I was concerned, wasn’t real. 17 years ago, He made Himself real to me.

But that was 17 years ago.

And life goes on.

And where is God now?

I confessed to my wife and preacher that there are days when what I claim as my faith doesn’t feel real to me. I confessed that, even though I have my doubts, I will continue to proclaim Him.

My preacher referred me to Mark 9:23-24.

And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
– Mark 9:23-24, ESV

My wife referred me to Hebrews 11:1ff.

And it hit me: having faith is what saves us and endears us to Christ. Having doubts doesn’t mean that we are not His.

And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
– Genesis 15:6, ESV

That realization brings me peace.

As I mentor the next generation of believers, God keeps His Living Word flowing through me. And it’s because of faith in things hoped for, a belief in things not yet seen.

Merry Christmas!

Sorrow…

and Miracles!!!

Yesterday, Christmas Eve Eve was a bittersweet day for me. A loss, and a miracle observed by your humble author.

My wife and kids are friends with a mom and daughters. I never got around to knowing their dad. My daughters and his daughters are best of friends, teaching each other about life in different worlds just a few miles apart.

I always thought that I would like to get to know their dad. But I never gave it any effort. Sadly, he passed away yesterday. And I feel sad that I never made the time for him.

Moral: Just Do It!

But this isn’t all sad. I witnessed a True Christmas Miracle this weekend! And God’s Name be praised for His Providence!

Saturday night, a coworker confided in me that he couldn’t afford medication which is vital to his well being. Just to put crunch on the situation, he’s going out of the country two days later for three weeks! He needs money (that I don’t have) or an alternative in 48 hours…

I did tell him that I would talk with some friends who may be able to help find a solution – either an alternative medication or find funding. And I would also pray for his situation.

I don’t know the nature of his medication, nor do I need to know. I don’t know how he spends his money, nor do I need to know. But he came to me, aside from everybody at work, begging for help.

I talked with my friends who had recommendations… after the new year. And we will pursue those options after the new year. But he needs it now. How are we going to get this guy the help he needs?

On the way home from church, my wife suggested that we take up a collection at work. None of us can overcome the whole amount that he needs, but all of us can help out a little.

My daughter works with me and has been quite successful with the social aspect at work, and engaged everyone to pitch in.

We raised exactly the amount required!

I delivered the money to my friend and he wept with joy. I gotta admit that I got a little weepy as well.

God still works miracles my friends. And most of the time I’m just too blind to see it.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Law – And What it Means to Me

God laid down a law.  The purpose of it was to provide guidance to a nation in infancy.  Laws to love God and love each other were at the core of it.  There are ceremonial laws, food laws, hygiene laws, and laws for living.  Anyone who broke this law missed the mark – or sinned.  Truth be told, only one person in history lived without sinning.  Humanity couldn’t handle it, and nailed Him to a cross.

Whether a person knows the law or not, we will all be judged by a righteous God and His law.  Hearing and knowing the law isn’t enough.  Obedience is the key.  And those who obey the law, without missing the mark, are declared righteous.  Even those who have never heard the law still abide by the law which is written on their hearts.  Their own conscience and thoughts either betray or defend them.

There are many who proclaim to be faithful yet whose lives reflect the world’s philosophy of more money and more power, regardless of who suffers.  “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:24, ESV – sourced from Isaiah 52:5)

So are we preaching the law while living in opposition to it?  We cry out against the corrupt politicians who do this in our land.  Our lives must clearly reflect the Name of God which is placed on us.  This sign is inside of us, in our hearts, placed there by the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit, then, guides us through a life that is pleasing to God.  And God will praise us for the work we do – not people.


These thoughts are taken from reading Romans 2:12-29.  This book steers us toward truly loving God for who He is, rather than fearing Him because of His law and righteous judgement.  It has become one of my favorites from scripture.

I invite questions and comments.  Let me know what’s up!

The Wrath of God is a Fearful Thing

Over the years, His wrath has been shown through events recorded in scripture and elsewhere.  These include the flood, Sodom & Gomorrah, and the Exile of Israel to Babylon.  His righteous judgment on the unrighteous is vivid and clear to those with eyes to see.

God has made Himself known through His creation.  His majesty is revealed in the power of a supernova as much as in the cry of a newborn in cold stable or dandelion fluff carried on the breeze.  Throughout history, people have claimed to know Him.  Perhaps we really did know Him. But we ignored Him.  Wise in our own minds, we marveled at what our hands could do, and cared not for the Hands that made us.  We are foolish, kneeling before the altar of celebrities and athletes, and the technology that defines our culture.

So God said, “If you don’t want me, do your own thing.  Enjoy yourself!”  And we did.  Without realizing that we dishonor ourselves in the process.  We gave up the truth we knew about God, and worshiped the creature instead of the Creator.  All of the things that define today’s debased society are the fruits of this rejection of God.  Sex, drugs and rock & roll – the epitome of a godless civilization – are rampant, and we will receive the due penalty for our error.

It matters not that we know God’s righteous decree: perps, and those who support them, deserve to die.  So all of us – whether perpetrators or defenders, even those of us who judge, are condemned since none of us are righteous.  Will we actually escape God’s judgment?  Will He have mercy on those who do not repent?  The unrepentant will feel God’s wrath first-hand on Judgment Day.

But it’s not all hellfire and brimstone.  And that’s why this writing today will be incomplete.  There is hope for those who seek Him.  He will grant eternal life to those who seek peace, regardless of race, gender, nationality, social standing, etc.


That’s some heavy stuff.  And it comes directly from God’s Word as recorded by the Apostle in the book of Romans.  This is an idea of Romans 1:18-2:11.  Does this make sense to anyone out there?

Let’s talk about it.  Yeah, this is fearful stuff.  But it gives an idea why the cross of Christ is such a beautiful thing.  More than the cross itself, but what happened three days later when He emerged from the tomb!  Oh how I long to meet Him face to face and rest in His arms.

I don’t have all of the answers. I’m not a teacher/preacher/apologist… I just know what I’ve read and experienced. God’s Word is true. God is faithful. And all we really need to do is believe… and hang on for a wild ride!

There was a man…

…who loved to travel. He had a message that he wanted to share with everyone he met. And he carried it well. He spoke to philosophers. He spoke to laborers and slaves. He spoke to jailers… and the jailed! He spoke to men and women.

He didn’t care about race or religious background. He didn’t care if his audience was city slickers or country bumpkins. He didn’t care where someone just came from.

He had a message about God that was earth-shattering. He had a message about Jesus that changed everything. He had a message about the gift if grace from a God that truly loves His creation.

His name was Paul, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. Paul shared the message of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to help us, all of us who belong to Christ, to obey His commands by faith.

And Paul longed to go to Rome.

The Gospel is God’s power made manifest in us – everyone who believes, regardless of race, background, gender, or wealth. We who believe are made righteous by our faith.


The Book of Romans is one of my favorites in the Bible. It opens with the righteousness of Christ for us and in us. And it clearly demonstrates the wrath of God on sinners.

But it takes that step to show us that we who believe that Christ died for our sin and was resurrected, even in our sinful state, are holy and pure in God’s eyes.

This is, as my oldest daughter would call it, a paradox. It doesn’t make sense. It confounds the wise.

So, read Romans with me. I’m about halfway through the first chapter. And let’s talk about it.

I don’t have all of the answers. I’m not a teacher/preacher/apologist… I just know what I’ve read and experienced. God’s Word is true. God is faithful. And all we really need to do is believe… and hang on for a wild ride!