BEAR ON A DAM

I am 6 years old standing on a large dam somewhere in the Smoky Mountains.  I clutch a black bear stuffed with wood wool recently purchased from a souvenir shop somewhere between Cherokee and Gatlinburg.  I walk out across the top of the dam with my parents and peer over the edge.  A wall of concrete stretches below me.  What happens next is seared into my memory.  Somehow the black bear escapes my grasp.  I fumble to catch it but my arms are too short and gravity is too swift.  The bear plummets and for the next 8 seconds, I watch it drop.  In spite of the dam’s curvature, it never bumps the side of the wall as it is swept away.  I never see it hit bottom.  It is just gone.

Mild childhood trauma, to be sure, compared to all the unthinkable broken surrounding the innocent today.  Yet the memory remains on replay in my mind.  Perhaps because nowadays, I am the bear on that dam.  After these past two years, can anybody out there seriously claim that they are not?

I am the bear on that dam and I’ve already taken the plunge.  I didn’t jump.  I wasn’t pushed.  Somehow the top of the dam escaped my grasp.  My arms were too short, gravity too swift, and I plummeted.  And whereas one side of the dam is a reservoir, the other is bone dry and painful.  Wood wool may bounce, heart and soul does not.  You find yourself in an endless cycle of seasons lying stunned among the stones.  Jeremiah languished two-and-a-half chapters of Lamentations in a rock quarry before he ever caught breath enough in his lungs to sputter, “Great………is Thy………faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:23)

As you dissect your drop from the vantage of the valley, the mind spins analogies.  You ponder strange perspectives like, “Is this the same kind of bottoming-out the disciples must have felt as they stood watching Jesus disappear into the clouds?  (Acts 1:9-11).”  He had just left them for the second time.  The first time they were crushed by the brutality and finality of His death.  Then His resurrection whipsawed them the other direction through disbelief to joy.  Now, He was gone again.  And even though He left them with a promise, no doubt each one of them chased Jesus’ descending and ascending moments of late up and down the strings of their faith like a yo-yo for the next ten days.

To be clear, this was not my first dam.  Life tends to be a series of them, does it not?  But this particular plummet bore the accumulative weight of all the drops preceding it like no other.  It magnified every closed door behind me, of which there have been many.  It cracked the tanks of my resolve and my resilience.

If you care anything at all about where you were before gravity took you over, you straggle back to the bottom of the concrete wall from which you flew.  And it will become your wailing wall.  Like the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem, you scribble prayers on scraps of paper and cram them into every crevice.  You brush the wall like a blind man seeking random dots of Braille until your fingertips crack and bleed, searching for any hint of a why.  You touch the wall for the coolness of water you know flows refreshingly deep  a few feet away on the other side.

The certainty of what happens next or what ought to happen next is known only to the Redeemer of every dam fall since the big one.  Sometimes those two certainties never align.  There is no scaling the wall behind you without the Lord’s help (Psalm 18:29) and some walls can’t be scaled.  Only those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31).  Sometimes wait means be still; sometimes it means move slowly forward.  Even if the dry streambed before you looks like a Red Sea road without a mirage of Sea to define it, you trust forward.  There will be good surprises ahead and some may even catch you from behind.  You never know when a prayer once answered “Not Yet” becomes a “Yes” in God’s timing.  A dam behind you may break as your dry course becomes a river again. Greater still, the spring within may rupture upwards through the cracked sump of your soul as the River of Life rises with healing in His waves. This moment awaits everyone who has imbibed the Living Water.

Until this moment comes, bear on.  Bear on, Eve.  Bear on, Adam. 

GOD’S FIRST QUESTION

 Featuring a Song by Singer-Songwriter Don Francisco

Children ask on average 125 questions a day.  Adults ask 3.  Big difference.

According to the Gospels, Jesus asked 307 questions.  He was asked 183.  He only answered 3.  Big difference.

According to the Bible, Jesus and children are close to God.  They get their question-asking naturally.  They get it from God.   And all through Scripture, God asks a lot of questions.  But God is omniscient.  He knows everything.  So why does He ask so much and so often.  He does it so that we can make discoveries about ourselves and our relationship with Him.

Today’s episode examines God’s first question recorded in Genesis 3:9.  And, as an added bonus, we will feature a song by singer-songwriter Don Francisco to introduce the question.  A special thanks to Don for granting us permission to use his song and for his contribution to this week’s episode.

SAINTS AND NEIGHBORS

A Conversation With Special Guest:  Clark Cothern

Life is a curious thing.  You never know the next saint or neighbor you will meet.  You never know the lasting impression the person who moves in next door might make upon your life.  And that works both ways.  How will your current neighbors remember you?

Once upon a time about a couple of score ago, two young couples moved next door to each other at 1729 and 1727 W. Seminary Drive in Fort Worth, Texas.  And though we haven’t been next door neighbors for 36 years, today’s special podcast guest Clark Cothern and I remain friends to this day.  This is a light-hearted reflection on what it means to be saints and neighbors.  It’s a beautiful day at Redemption’s Table – and we saved you a seat.

BEING PRESENT IN THE MOMENT

Staying in the moment does not come naturally to me.  My mind is constantly drifting back to special memories, or sometimes pivotal events from the past.  I see a calendar date or hear a favorite song and immediately I flip back to that season of my journey.  And if I’m not circling back, then my mind is possibly racing towards the uncertain turns and curves of the future. 

Can anybody out there relate?  Or am I the only one?

On today’s episode, I will share some key life hacks I use to keep me more present, wherever I happen to be, at any given moment.  And it all begins with how we begin our day.  We saved you a seat for this very timely, practical edition.  Pour yourself your favorite cup of coffee and join us.

(Photo by Robert Barge at Van Gogh and the Olive Groves on exhibit now at the Dallas Museum of Art.)

LYRICALLY SPEAKING – WITH JEFF GORE

A Lyrical Conversation with Special Guest:  Jeff Gore.

Some of my favorite conversations revolve around music and favorite song lyrics.  It is even more exciting when the person you’re talking to is an award-winning cowboy musician.  And so back in the fall of 2021, I took advantage of being with one of my best friends who fits that bill and recorded two conversations instead of one

We’re excited to bring back to the table singer/songwriter/author/actor/preacher/cowboy and my good friend Jeff Gore.  Jeff and his wife Donna travel across the United States singing cowboy music and ministering to ranching and rural families.  I was blessed for many years to come along beside them in this endeavor in a variety of places across Texas and the southwest.  Today’s episode is pure fun and a real treat for anyone who already knows Jeff’s music and voice.  We saved you a place at the chuckwagon.  www.jeffgore.org

ADVENT REBRANDED – PART 4: HOME

Home.  The place we were always meant to be.

Home.  Where peace and being should be synonymous.  But when they’re not? 

Home.  The place where wounds are often felt the deepest.

Wherever you are in the Advent Christmas journey this year, please embrace this encouragement.  Let Jesus enter the home of your 2021 heart and heal and restore all that this broken world has brought to your door.

The good news of the birth of Jesus is still the good news.

Jesus says, “I’ll leave My home.  I’ll come to your home.  I’ll take your place.  I’ll make My home in you until I take you to My home.”  You will always find a place at His table because He is awaiting your presence this very day. 

Merry Christmas to you.

ADVENT REBRANDED – PART 3: THRIVE

If you’re happy and you know, you’ll get over it.  Everybody eventually does.  But if you have ever known Joy and suddenly step into a season where it seems to have vanished…. well, that’s unsettling.  And some of us are in that season.

Last year, I found myself wrestling through a winter wonderland.  In the process, I renamed the 4 candles of Advent to bring a little clarity to the end of a year I had yet to understand.  And God did all the rest.  And today’s word “thrive” surprised me the most.  So, come, let us reason together.  Grab a latte, sit a spell, and let God’s Spirit breathe over whatever you are facing this day. 

ADVENT REBRANDED – PART 2: REDEMPTION

Last year, I tossed the traditional Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace candles to help me make sense of a season that, at the time, I had little desire to celebrate.  Perhaps you’ve been there before.  Perhaps you’re there now or know someone who is.  These special Advent episodes are for all who have wrestled or who are wrestling through this season of wonder. 

Last week, instead of lighting the first candle of Hope, we lit the candle of eucatastrophe.  Of the four traditional candles, Hope is probably the one most people still get. But today’s candle, Love, is probably the one that best fits the Inigo Montoya line from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

If you want to test whether love is real or not, ask yourself, “How close does it resemble the love of God?”  There’s where you will find your answer.  So today, we are lighting the candle of redemption at the table of redemption.  And everyone has a place setting with your name on it.  Let us begin.   

ADVENT REBRANDED – PART 1: EUCATASTROPHE

Two questions I often ask:  “Where are you hurting?”  “What is your hope?”We live in a world where hurting seems more prevalent than ever before as hope keeps wearing thin.
Welcome to Advent and not a moment too soon.  For the next four weeks, many followers of Jesus will light candles of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace in anticipation of Christmas.
Last year, I tossed Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace for words that helped me make sense of a season I had little desire to celebrate.  Perhaps you’ve been there, too.  Perhaps you’re there now or know someone who is.  This table is for all who have wrestled through this season of wonder.  Welcome.

THIS HOUR IS YOURS

Lunch and Conversation at Moe’s Original Bar B Que in Vestavia Hills, Alabama

                        Featuring Special Guest:  Jordan Cox

Our cars are packed and the journey awaits.  We move through the autumn cool towards welcome and warmth.  We gather together and abundance overflows to every plate.  We have a place at the table.  For many of us, this is the Thanksgiving we anticipate or at least remember.

Not everyone will know that kind of day tomorrow.  For some, that scene has never been.  For others, shadows have fallen and our joy is stifled.  Yet, gratitude still beckons for the claiming.

I’m excited for you to meet today’s Table Guest – Jordan Cox.  Jordan is a creative, a percussionist, a servant, a writer, and the Director of Communications at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  He is also a friend who has known his own shadow season.  At age 27, Jordan was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma.  To the glory of God, Jordan’s cancer is in remission today.  

Here is a story of encouragement with perspective.  And whether your Thanksgiving forecast be sunny or slight, chances are you’re about to hear a word that will increase your gratitude.  We saved you a place at the table.