Because I am writing another book; putting everything down in a private setting until I can finish it. Will keep you in touch.
An unborn set of twins having a conversation in their mother’s womb. The author is anonymous:
“Tell me, do you believe in life after birth?” asks one of the twins.
“Yes, definitely! In here we are growing and gaining strength for what will face us on the outside,” answers the other.
“That is utter nonsense!” says the first one. “There cannot be life after birth; how is that supposed to look, may I ask?”
“I don’t exactly know myself, but it will certainly be much lighter out there than in here. And perhaps we will actually be running around on our legs and eating with our mouths.”
“I have never heard such nonsense! Eating with your mouth, what a crazy idea! That’s what we have umbilical cords for, to feed us. And you want to run around? It would never work; the umbilical cord is much too short!”
“It will work for sure. It will all be a little different.”
“You are crazy! Nobody has ever come back from after birth! Life ends with our birth and that’s it! Period.”
“I must admit that nobody nows what life will look like after our birth. But I know that we will get to see our mother and that she will take care of us.”
“Mother? You are trying to tell me that you believe in a mother? Well, where then is our mother?”
“Well, here! All around us. We are alive in her and through her. Without her we could not exist!”
“Rubbish! I have never noticed anything of a mother. Therefore, a mother cannot exist.”
It’s true! Sometimes when you are really quiet, you can hear her sing or you can feel when she lovingly caresses our world!”
|GREETINGS! My thanks to Walter Howard for sending me this, written by Jill Carattini of Ravi Zacharias ministries.The Science of Prayer
Researchers have stumbled onto a subject that has long been tested, though perhaps never before quite so clinically. Over the last decade, millions of dollars have been spent on testing the effects of prayer in the field of medicine. The studies, which have targeted an assortment of medical conditions and religious traditions, have attracted criticism from all over the place. Some argue that science has no place exploring matters of religion. Others note the impossibility of creating a controlled environment or securing viable results. Still others argue these experiments at the outset have a faulty understanding of both God and prayer. The opinions of those conducting the studies are equally varied. One scientist insists the tests are meant to answer practical questions and not religious ones; another thanks God in the official report of his findings. Nearly all involved agree that such studies are difficult, but that the subject is one worth testing, however little we understand it.
(1)That one’s prayers are with the sick, troubled, or grieving is a promise often uttered. It is a phrase heard both within and outside of Christian circles: “My prayers are with you.” It is a promise that could perhaps be met with cynicism. Is he really praying for me? Are her words a goodhearted turn of phrase and little more? The well-meaning words are undoubtedly uttered from time to time without much follow-through—or intention for that matter. But more often, the thought is received as it is likely intended. It is encouraging to know that someone is thinking of you, that his thoughts and prayers are with you, hoping or crying out with your own. The late atheist Christopher Hitchens said he was touched by the thought that he was in people’s prayers.
(2) The assuring words remind the one struggling that they are not standing entirely alone in the darkness. And certainly that is a powerful thought in the midst of pain and uncertainty, as many scientists and psychologists have discovered.
But what about the times when someone has told you that they are praying for you, and you know that they are doing exactly that: crying out to God on your behalf. Have you ever heard anyone say that they could sense the prayers of believers moving them through a difficult situation? For these people, the power of prayer moves well beyond encouragement.
In fact, when uttered on sincere lips, “I’m praying for you” can be as frightening a thought as it is encouraging. Someone is standing before God with your name on her heart, rebelling against the status quo, refusing, like the woman before the judge, to take no for an answer. This introduces an entirely new set of concerns: Is she praying for me the way I’d like things to turn out? Is he asking God for the answer I’m hoping for? When my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I was livid when someone told me they were praying that God would take him home quickly—despite the fact that in between our cries for healing, we were praying that God would simply be near and real and in control. As someone once noted, prayer requires more of the heart than of the tongue. Knowing that someone is standing before God on your behalf is powerful not because she is standing with you but because she is standing with God.
The apostle Paul often voiced in his letters gratitude for the prayers of believers on his behalf. In and out of jail, in abundance and in lack, he saw them participate in bringing about God’s purposes in his life through their prayers for him. To the Philippian church he wrote, “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (1:19). He did not thank them for praying that what had happened to him would be altogether reversed, but that the purposes of God would be accomplished in all things. Paul saw the power in prayers that hope and expect with all boldness that Christ will be exalted whether by life or by death.
As one has said, “Prayer is not about overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of his willingness.” Perhaps the best studies in prayer are in the lives of those who see that its power lies wholly in the one in whom we pray.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
In our little writers meeting we were asked to find a picture from our past and write about it. This is what I wrote and I wanted to share it with you for your thoughts.
“THOUGHTS ON AN OLD PHOTOGRAPH”
I am looking at the picture of little Jimmy Lee, which says “School Days 1953-1954.” There is a slight smile, probably a forced one made especially for the camera. The eyes are big and sad looking. I have obviously dressed up in a nice sweater, even though I always hated to wear sweaters. My hair is dark brown and looks black in this black and white photograph, and it is perfectly combed. Not a bad looking kid, I must say, even if his ears are too big.
Now I stop and think about this picture, and ask myself, “What have I done to that little boy?” Dear God, after all of these years, is he even recognizable? Does he still exist somewhere deep inside me? Harmless and innocent, and oh, so vulnerable! Did I hurt him? Did I protect him? Did I abuse him? Did I destroy him? If he is still there inside me, do I consider his feelings?
He wanted so much to do the right thing… did I take the pressure off of him and tell him that he didn’t have to be perfect, and that it was only human to mess up sometimes? Did I tell him that he didn’t always have to “get it right?” Did I let him know that sometimes religious people can do you more harm than good? Did I show him that having lustful thoughts would come his way, and that a certain amount of that was normal and he shouldn’t be plagued by guilt?
Did I let him know that sometimes dad would drink too much, and mom would always be a perfectionist, and that he would also have to forgive them?
Did I ever let him know that when he made an 86 on a test, that the red marks showing that he got 14% wrong were not really as important as the unmarked parts that quietly and unobtrusively revealed that he got 86 % right?
Did I tell him that he didn’t always have to worry about what people thought about him, because they weren’t really thinking about him at all, because they were worried about what people thought of them? Did I ever convince him that he could “lighten up” on himself and enjoy being a kid?
Did I prepare him for the inevitable truth that he would eventually strike out with the bases loaded? Did I tell him that girls were wonderful, but that they would break his heart? Did I tell him that he would be good at a lot of things, but that he wouldn’t be good at everything, and he didn’t have to be?
Is this little boy in the picture really me at all? Am I really him? Have I changed so much? Have I changed for the better…or for the worse? When God looks at me, who is He looking at… me as I am now? Or does He see me as that little boy?
This picture was out of sight and out of mind for so many years. I didn’t even know that I still had it until I dug it up for this little meditation. But I think I am going to keep it in front of me for a while, and think about it some more. One thing I know that I want to say, if I can learn how to say it to him. I want to tell him that I’m sorry if I ever hurt him. I want to tell him that I am his friend.
Well, life does go on, and we do get busy, don’t we? I first thought that I could do a blog for this site once a week, but it looks like once a month is more realistic. I don’t think many people read it anyway, but so as not to totally disappoint, I am going to try to do at least that much. As in many things, I can do better if I lower my expectations from myself, and from everyone else too.
I have rediscovered a book that I read 12 years ago, and it is even better now than when I first read it, and I need it more than ever. It can be transforming because it is truly the truth that can set us free. It is “The Pressure’s Off” by Larry Crabb. I only know a handful of people who even try to think the way he thinks about life, but I believe he is right. Essentially it is to stop trying or expecting to make life “work,” give up on negotiating with God to make life “successful” or comfortable for ourselves, and change our desires from wanting “blessings” to just wanting Him. My mantra is something like “Jesus I want you more than anything else!” It is, of course, not consistently true with me, but I want it to be. Please get the book.
Things are opening up for me to speak in various places and share stories from BRTG. I love doing that wherever I can, and for the past 2 months I think there has hardly been a day when I didn’t get a phone call or a letter or an email from someone saying that the stories have touched their life in a meaningful way. This means so much to me.
The “Tid Bits” paper has been publishing a condensed version of each chapter of BRTG in their weekly publication, and I am enjoying hearing from many of their readers.
I thank you for your prayers. Please feel free to put a comment on this site, or even to call me sometime at 251 510-7141.
I write this brief blog to honor my mother Kate Olive Lee, who died two years ago today at the age of 92. Always cheerful and sweet-spirited, extremely conscientious and industrious, and with the gift of a great sense of humor, she was admired by all who knew her. I miss her every day. For the last four years of her life it was our honor to have her live in an apartment adjoining our residence. My wife worked hard to care for her, and was not only her caregiver, but also her friend. I will always be appreciative of the efforts that she made for my mom.
You have heard of people who would say of someone that they “never uttered an unkind word.” I think that usually this compliment is spoken by someone who did not intimately know the person. I think that if we are honest, and if we knew the person very very well, we would probably not be able to say that. So, in the interest of full disclosure, let me say that I did hear my mother make an unkind statement. How many times? TWICE! Yes, two times in my entire life I heard my mother say something that was less than kind. That was it!
There are several chapters in “Broken Roads to Grace” that talk about my father. None of them talk about my mother, other than a couple of brief mentions. I honestly don’t know why that is. Even now it is difficult to write anything about her. How can I explain that? So far, here is the only reason I can give:
You just had to know her for yourself! She was beyond my ability to compose words. She was the best and the nicest person I have ever known. She never failed me… ever. What more can I say? I love you, Mom.
This is a meditation on the 9th chapter of II Samuel, which is the story of Mephibosheth. It is a beautiful type of the grace of God. In this chapter, as a type study, try to see yourself as Mephibosheth, and King David as God.
(Perhaps you could also apply Jonathan as Christ and Ziba as the Holy Spirit, but I didn’t develop that thought.)
1 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
2 Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”
“At your service,” he replied.
3 The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”
Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”
4 “Where is he?” the king asked.
Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”
5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.
6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.
David said, “Mephibosheth!”
“At your service,” he replied.
7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table. ”
8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”
9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)
11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.
12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.
9:1 shows us a God who seems to be searching to show kindness, and who is looking for someone who was a member of a family that had been at enmity with him. This kindness was not only for the sake of his late friend Jonathan, but also because it was in his own heart to do so. I have heard some preachers talk as if Christ had to persuade his angry reluctant father to be kind and forgiving. That is not true. “God so loved that he gave His Son.”
9:2 tells us that there was a servant (Ziba) left over from Saul’s household. It was no accident that Ziba had been spared, and had survived unto this hour, or that he happened to be in the right place at the right time, or that he happened to know about Mephibosheth. God primarily uses the normal events in the lives of normal people to perform his wondrous acts of mercy and to accomplish his gracious purposes.
In 9:3, the servant Ziba reveals the existence of Mephibosheth, and the fact of his lameness. We are told back in II Sam 4:4 that he became lame at the age of five. From looking at that text, I don’t think that the nurse was carrying him and dropped him. He was, after all, five years old. And it does say that “he fell.” I think that in her haste to flee from danger she probably jerked him up by the arm and tried to get him to flee with her, and in trying to run so fast, he couldn’t help but fall.
Like Mephibosheth, we are crippled because of that initial fall in the garden of Eden. But, also like Mephibosheth, we have fallen many times since then. The reason Mephibosheth knew that he was lame was that any time after that first fall, when he tried to walk or to run, he fell again. And whenever we try to rely upon our own strength, we also shall continue to fall. One way to fall even harder and more often is to forget about our lameness.
9:4-5 reveals that Ziba knew the exact location of Mephibosheth, and was not reluctant to reveal the address to the king, trusting that the king would indeed show kindness just as he had said. One of the greatest and most basic statements of faith is that we believe that God is GOOD, and therefore can be trusted.
There is much evidence to the contrary. Injustice and suffering and sorrow abound everywhere. It would not be difficult to argue for the existence of an evil creator who delights for our world to be this way. But in faith, we believe that God is indeed good, and that the curses of sin and death will eventually be redeemed by the sovereign working of a benevolent God who has not lost control, but has divine purposes even beyond our comprehension.
In 9:6 I see Mephibosheth’s fear and respect when he first is brought before the king. Then there is the message of grace that David gives in verse 7, followed by Mephibosheth being shocked and overwhelmed at the reality of grace in verse 8. But he is not there yet in verse 6. When Mephibosheth falls prostrate on his face before the king, he is obviously fearful, resulting in King David’s comforting words for him to “fear not.” I think that perhaps I also see in verse 6 some vain attempt to do something meritorious– some act of service that even a lame man might be able to do, to make his position a little more acceptable to the king, so as to spare his own life. “At your service, oh King!” As if the king needed a crippled man to help in his kingdom!
But then the statement of David puts a quick end to that. It was never about what Mephibosheth could do for David, but what David wanted to do for him.
“Fear not… I will show you kindness… I will restore your family’s land to you… you will continually eat at my table.”
Then, and only then, does Mephibosheth really see his own unworthiness, and his own powerlessness!
“Why are you even looking at me? Why are you showing such undeserved favor to me? I am a dead dog!”
As John Newton certainly knew, the best adjective to describe the grace of God is… amazing! And in one of the greatest lines ever penned, it is “amazing grace– how sweet the sound– that saved a wretch like me.”
Mephibosheth was not wrong, nor was he exaggerating the situation, when he described himself as a dead dog. Nor was Newton when he described himself as a wretch. We must face our own wretchedness. It is true. It is accurate. It is not an overstatement. When we face that, then grace will continue to amaze us. Its truth will continue to be a sweet sound.
I have a friend who spent years saying that he didn’t believe in God or need God. Then, almost in defiance, he said, “God… if you are really there, you are going to have to SHOW ME YOURSELF!” He related to me later that “God didn’t show me himself… He showed me MYSELF… and I wanted to die right there!” That was all it took.
How could you, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, come seeking for me, and find me, and give me a welcome into your home, and a place at your table, when I am nothing but a wretch, and there is nothing that I can bring, nothing that I can pay, and nothing that I can do? I am totally flabbergasted! I am in shock! I am scandalized by it. I have trouble accepting it. It is too radical for my comprehension. But somehow I find myself hoping… trying…daring to believe it!
The remaining verses of the chapter tell about how the king called the family and servants of Ziba to perform all that he had promised Mephibosheth, and more. They tilled the land and brought in the produce. And there were 15 sons of Ziba and 20 servants whose primary task was to serve Mephibosheth. And David decreed that for all of his remaining life Mephibosheth should sit at his table “as one of the king’s sons!”
And can it be that I should gain an entrance in the Savior’s love?
Died He for me who caused him pain?
For me who him to death pursued?
Amazing love, how can it be that thou my God shouldst die for me?
Amazing love, how can it be?
A modern day Mephibosheth. A worthless wretch. A dead dog. Sitting at the King’s table.
An honored member of the family? Oh God, is this really real, or is it only a crazy dream that I will wake up from and once again find myself in the gutter of despair?
But if it really is real, and not a dream… if the story of grace is really true… this changes absolutely EVERYTHING!
Thanks to John Sledge of the Press-Register for this nice book review published in the Mobile newspaper. Mr. Sledge always does a great job. In my case I think he really “got it” concerning what I had written and why.
MOBILE, Alabama — A rich medley of local voices contributes to and enlivens the local literary scene. Two of the more recognizable and accomplished of these individuals have just released short books sharing the best of their experience and wisdom. Kevin B. Lee and Jim Lee (no relation) each has his following, Kevin Lee through his regular contributions to Lagniappe and the online blog Mod Mobilian and Jim Lee through his meditations in the Eastern Shore glossy magazine This That and the Other. Both men are evangelists — Kevin Lee for jazz, the arts, Mobile and, more broadly, tolerance; and Jim Lee in the more traditional sense, as a preacher wrestling life’s profundities and relaying the lessons. Both men write well, with honesty, and from the heart, sharing their humanity, shortcomings, strengths and passions. Though their sensibilities are different, each of them deserves attending.
In “Broken Roads to Grace” (Lost Key Publishing, paper, $14.95) Jim Lee presents a series of inward-looking meditations. A self-described “formerly fundamentalist preacher who spent most of his ‘ministry’ thinking that he had to get it right and to be right and to live right,” he has come to a softer view of himself and his flaws. In his friendly, simple, short pieces, he writes of “being found by grace” and offers “reflections and insights on life as I have come to understand it now.”
Recognizing that the best lessons are bound up in stories, Lee embeds his insights into pithy little set pieces that are by turns funny, heartbreaking and deep. He’s not worried about looking silly, as when he shares his outrage over a well-dressed woman landing a 40-pound grouper on her first cast in contrast to his own futile efforts to reel in anything over three pounds. “From the moment I saw that grouper I began to develop what some people call a ‘slow burn.’” Eventually consumed by jealousy, he asks God why, and then it dawns on him. He imagines God laughing at him and saying: “It’s my ocean, son, and they are my fish. I can do what I want with them, and you’ll just have to deal with it.” As in the story of the prodigal son, grace befalls the “undeserving, the unqualified, the unrighteous” all the time. But, then, who are we to judge? And fortunately for humanity, grace is a gift, not a reward for hard work. That miracle is Lee’s theme throughout.
Two voices, two sensibilities, two approaches, two books. One about the arts, one about the soul but, ultimately, each seeking a better life in this special place we call home.
In the writer’s group that I attend we were assigned to write on the subject of “waterfalls.” I felt pretty good about it so decided to share it with you.
What I know about waterfalls doesn’t exceed what anyone else might know. I know that they are usually beautiful, and the “white noise” sound that is made can be very relaxing. I know that the tallest one is somewhere in South America, but that for sheer volume of water you can’t beat Niagara Falls, on the border between upstate New York and Canada. I have been there twice, and you have to see it and hear it and smell it to believe it! If you are within ten miles of the place you can find it just because of the noise of the nine million gallons of water per minute crashing onto the shoals and rocks beneath. A mist rises up beyond the tops of the falls, and tourists in yellow raincoats gather to ride “The Maid of the Mist,” an open-deck boat that regularly braves the swift current below , going as close as safety allows heading toward the place where the waters hit.
When I was a little boy in church I heard an evangelist tell a story, which at the time I thought was true. I have heard it again several times since, and now I doubt its veracity, but as a little boy hearing it from a preacher in a church, my faith in preachers was stronger than it is now. (There are many good ones, but it is wise to watch out for all of us, myself included.) Incidentally, the story itself was meant to be an illustration about having faith.
The story went something like this: There was a famous acrobat who rigged a tightrope across the falls from the U.S. to Canada. A great crowd assembled and cheered loudly as this amazing performer walked across, carefully balancing himself on the wire. Then he pushed a wheelbarrow across. In the wheelbarrow were two one-hundred pound bags of sand. As he made it across with the wheelbarrow, the crowd cheered even more loudly. At the time I first heard it I had never been to Niagara or I would have known that the rumble of the waters are such that nobody could have been heard cheering. Even more so, nobody could have heard the man as he spoke, unless he had also rigged up a very loud P.A. system on the tightrope. But, to continue with the story as I approach the punch-line, this wonderful world-famous daring celebrity acrobat then asked the question: “How many of you believe that I can take a man across the falls in this wheelbarrow?” The crowd erupted with excitement, affirming their belief that he could indeed accomplish this awesome feat! Then, he asked, “Who will be my first volunteer?” The end of the story was that nobody would get in the wheelbarrow. The preacher’s point was that a lot of people might say that they believe, but they really don’t.
Today I ask myself, “Is that really a good story to illustrate faith?” I am not sure that it is. There is a lot of teaching from Jesus that says that having faith “as a grain of mustard seed” is acceptable. This is not my first trip around the block as a “believer,” but I still know that I wouldn’t want to get in that wheelbarrow unless I absolutely had to, even if the Lord Himself were pushing it.
Perhaps you could venture into Appalachia and find, among those who handle serpents in their churches, one who would take Him up on it… but it wouldn’t be me.
I have come to believe that there is a huge difference between having faith in God and foolishly putting God to the test. Satan tried to get Jesus to jump off of the temple to show to everybody who he was, and Jesus answered with a Scripture from Deuteronomy that said we should not tempt God.
I also don’t think that we should (as the preacher did) make it sound hard to really be a believer. I think that He has many very normal ways of saving us and reaching us and teaching us as He brings us to Himself. Some of them don’t to us seem to be mysterious or supernatural at all. What if God is so powerful and so loving and gracious that the means of grace are given to us without our having to work anything up? What if He loves and desires us so much that, instead of it being a huge spiritual challenge or an impossible obstacle course, He has done everything He can to make it so easy that a wayfaring man, though he be a fool, can find it…or can be found?
The fact is that pure grace destroys our pride of accomplishment, our noble righteousness, and even our need for religious performance. Watch out for radical grace. It can mess up your life and your ministry. But that’s not really a bad thing at all.
Revelation says that when He spoke after His resurrection it was “as the sound of many waters.” If you’ve been to Niagara, perhaps you can imagine with me what it might be like…that the voice of the Lord will overwhelm all of our absurd boasting and our silly wheelbarrow efforts.
This is “Good Friday” which is a very special day in the church calendar for many, and is pretty much ignored by others. A time of fasting and contemplation and prayer for some. For the past few years I have tried to observe it rigidly. This year I had to be of practical service to my wife, taking her to the hospital and waiting while she had “minor surgery.” It was just the removal of a benign cyst in her back, and everything went well, but I was instructed to stay with her throughout the day and the night, which I am glad to do. So… no Good Friday services for us this year.
I am finding it difficult to write lately. I apologize for that. But I am really excited about the response I have received through the book, particularly the invitations to speak and to share stories from BRTG. I am finding that I can put them in a book store and sell a few, or put them on a website and sell a few, or depend upon friends to endorse it on “facebook” and sell a few, BUT… make a personal appearance and share a story or two in public, and sell a hundred or more! So at this point I am happy for all the invites that have come in.
Before I go, I want to say a little more about what I mentioned last time. I had looked up notes that I had written six years ago when I put myself on a spiritual discipline for a month. It was shocking to me to realize that the thoughts and prayers that I wrote at that time reflected the same struggles that I still go through today! I want you to think about honestly facing this fact: we are, and for the rest of our lives shall continue to be, a mess. Please understand this fact, lighten up, and rejoice in grace!
Every Christian minister and writer has to make this choice: Am I going to be piously religious and preachy and self-righteous, or am I going to be honest and vulnerable and real. Watch out for those who will not admit their failings.
Let me recommend a book to you: “Messy Spirituality” by Mike Yaconelli. It is funny, honest, profound, and true.
I also am now reading “The Life You Always Wanted” by John Ortberg. It is great.
Although I still struggle with the same stuff of six years ago, there is a difference. I am a little bit more loving and patient and kind. Maybe not much, but a little bit anyhow. That might possibly be the most we can expect.
God bless you, until next time // Jim