Monday, February 22, 2010


Just the other day, a baby cardinal flew into our sunroom and got trapped, unable to find its way out. We’d left the door open so Sam, our Golden Retriever, could get outside and get some fresh air. We hadn’t counted on what could get in if Sam could get out. Open doors work both ways.

Before long, we noticed Sam going crazy. We rushed out only to discover that he had cornered a baby cardinal. A beautiful bird and very tiny. A blood-red beak, canvassed against smooth, mocha-brown feathers. It had found sanctuary behind a potted plant on a plant stand, just outside of Sam’s reach, where it sat motionless, paralyzed either by fear or injury or both. Nancy had already made it clear which one of us would have to put the bird out of its misery if it came to that. I owe her one baby bird, but that’s another story for another time.

To Sam’s dismay, I cupped my hands around the little bird and carried it outside. To my amazement, it didn’t fight me. I could only imagine how frightening my massive hands wrapped around it must have felt. Yet, it was almost like the bird knew I wanted to help and, so, surrendering to my power, it didn’t struggle. It let me carry it outside and set it down in the grass where, just a few moments later, it took flight into the freedom of the sky.

If baby cardinals are hatching, Spring must be near. Easter is coming. Life always finds a way to trump death. Always.

Faith is when we stop fighting the God who has come to rescue us from death, even the paralyzing fear of it, and surrender to the same hands that were once nailed to a cross. What happens next is called hope, and the freedom to fly, our wings resurrected strong and high in the endless sky of God’s life-giving mercy and grace.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Over lunch at a steakhouse in Abilene years ago, I asked my friend Ron how he had survived the death of his four-year-old son a number of years before. His little boy had suffered from some kind of congenital heart defect and one day was just suddenly gone from Ron and Bobbie’s lives. At the time, I had two little boys of my own. The thought of losing one of them was simply incomprehensible and how a parent could endure such a loss even more so.

Ron was, and still is, one of the most mature, well-balanced, rock-solid Christians I’ve ever known. Frankly, when I asked the question, I expected his answer to have something to do with a particular Bible passage or prayer or something like that. And, I’m certain scripture and prayer played a significant role. Yet, his one-word answer caught me off-guard. I’d asked him how he had survived such an inconceivable loss and his simple answer was, “Friends.” Friends had become the presence of Christ to them, gotten under the load of an unbearable burden and carried the weight with them.

Jesus once said to his disciples, “‘I no longer call you servants . . . instead I have called you friends’” (John 15:15, NIV). Jesus thinks of me as his friend? That’s incredible! It occurred to me as I peer over the horizon into the possibilities of this new day that one of the most spiritual things I could do this week is seek to be a true friend to those with whom God gives me the privilege of sharing this journey.

When a man once got word that his father was dying, he went back home for one final visit. This is what he told his father as he lay dying. “You have always been there whenever any of us children needed you. And, across the years, you have given us the best single gift that any parent could give – you took delight in us. In all sorts of ways you let us know that you were glad we were here, that we had value in your eyes, that our presence was a joy and not a burden to you (John Claypool, Stages, Word, 1980, p. 23).”

The definitions of friendship are hard to reduce to a simple list. I do believe that, according to Jesus’ own word, that must mean that he takes delight in us. In all sorts of ways he lets us know that he is glad we are here. We have value in his eyes and our presence is a joy, not a burden to him.

How I thank God for my friends! How I pray that I might be that kind of friend to even one person this very week!