A Pop-Sized Picture of the Father

Moma and Pop1

My Father and Mother

Greetings, all of you overcomers!  Although it was my intention during this visit to continue on in our discussion of Club business, I have decided that in deference to Father’s Day (and since you have already met my mother), this would be a good time to introduce you to my father—my earthly one, that is.  I find that I very seldom mention him to people these days but that isn’t due to any lack of love or respect, it is only because he has been gone from our lives for such a long time now.  You see, back in 1972 he died suddenly of a heart attack at the relatively young age of fifty-eight–when I was just twenty-three.  Even though he has missed the last forty-one Father’s Day celebrations here on earth and I only knew him for an all-too-brief twenty-three years, he has had a powerful impact upon my life because he provided me with a wonderful earthly image of what my Heavenly Father is like.

If I had to pick one word to describe my father, I think I would have to say that he was a real character—and I mean that in the best possible way!  He was quick-witted and armed with a great sense of humor, he brought laughter and joy into our lives often at the oddest moments.  I don’t think I ever met anyone who disliked my father!  While his given name was Herbert, the name he was known by to his brothers and sisters, he answered to several other, less formal names, when he was in the company of other people:

–  Among his friends and co-workers, he was known as “Big Head” or simply “Head,” because his head was slightly larger than normal, which meant that he had to have all of his hats custom made;
–  With my mother and grandmother (and I still don’t know the origin of this nickname), he was known as “Piggy”; and,
–  To his three children, he was known simply as “Pop.”

Pop was one of three sons born into a working-class family of seven children.  Although I don’t remember much about his father (other than he was a tall, lean man who loved to do jigsaw puzzles–and who, because he chewed tobacco, had a spittoon in every room of the house, so nasty!), from all indications, he was a no-nonsense kind of man, one who very wisely insisted that each of his sons learn a trade.  Since he was in charge of training the apprentices at one of the local shipyards, all three sons went through the apprenticeship program there, with my father learning the skills that would make him a master machinist.

A Night Out on the Town

A Night Out on the Town

However, this kind of work put a real crimp in Pop’s lifestyle.  That’s because he was a man who thoroughly enjoyed the nightlife.  In fact, he was something of a man-about-town, a playboy, or what we might refer to today as a regular “party animal!”  Because he was especially fond of big band music, when one of the bands was in town, he was sure to be in attendance; staying out so late that he was often caught by his father, sneaking in at home with his shoes in his hand, just in time to get dressed for work.

Besides the bands, dancing, and the nightlife, my father’s other great love was sports, especially baseball and football.  He not only refereed football games, but he also played baseball in the minor leagues as a catcher, at the same time that Yogi Berra was working his way up through the minors and on to the big leagues.  My father loved sports so much that he would do anything to see a game; at times, even “hawking” concessions in the stands, attempting to sell cold refreshments to hot spectators with such catchy jingles as, “Step right up, get it cold and sweet, give your teeth a treat, and your tongue a sleigh ride!”

Of course, all of that changed with the outbreak of World War II.  While many other young men were going off to war to serve their country, my father was kept at home to work in the shipyard, serving the war effort by keeping the nation’s ships afloat.  It was then, while working in the shipyard, that the third great love in my father’s life appeared.  That was when a prim and proper, no-smoking, tea-totaling turret lathe operator named Florence strutted by in her sleek and slim, pleated and perfectly pressed trousers and as the saying goes, the rest is history.  The nightlife suddenly lost its appeal, having been replaced by the simpler forms of entertainment that were more appealing to my mother—like a Hershey bar with almonds and a trip to the movies. It was then that Herbert, the dapper man-about-town gradually disappeared, re-emerging later in the person of Piggy and Pop, the devoted family man.  Ain’t love amazing?

I am sure that in the coming together of two people from such opposite ends of the spectrum, there had to be a lot of personality conflicts, especially in the early years of their marriage, but to be honest, no one ever knew about them.  That’s because my parents never argued in front of us or anyone else; whatever disagreements they had were settled behind closed doors.  And I cannot remember a time when either one of them said a disparaging word about the other; my mother always showed respect for my father and my father faithfully demonstrated his devotion to my mother in the countless little courtesies he used to show her.

My Pop Certainly Did This!

With my father around, my mother never had to be concerned about the maintenance on the car; he had it checked regularly, kept it gassed up, and every morning before my mother left for work, he would back the car out of the garage and warm it up for her, just so she wouldn’t have to get into a cold car.  She really didn’t have to worry about grocery shopping either, because every other Thursday night when my father got paid, he would shop for food—and he was a good shopper, too.  Also, out of consideration for my mother’s allergy to cigarette smoke, Pop would either go outside or he would pull a kitchen chair over to the corner, under the exhaust fan over the stove, to smoke his little cigarillos.

While Pop wasn’t perfect, he was present, both physically and emotionally, and was a father who cared about what was going on in his family.  He was also a provider who worked hard to see that his family’s needs were met, as well as a protector who would have done anything to keep his loved ones safe.  He was the kind of father who would take out a loan so his family could go on vacation, and then spend the rest of the year paying back the money.  He was the kind of father who would give us his last dollar if we needed it and was one who frequently stopped at the ice cream store on his way home just because we liked chocolate chip ice cream and pinwheel cookies.  And he was the kind of father who would say that for him, the most important thing in life was to be surrounded by “his hen and all of his little chicks.”

It took me a while to realize it but, in his presence, his provision, and his protection, Pop was painting a living picture for me of a Heavenly Father whom I could trust to always be near, always meet my needs, and always safeguard my way.  And when I recall those times that Pop was sitting in the corner of the kitchen and he used to call me over to him to ask what was going on in my life, and if I needed anything, he was planting an image in my mind of a God who wanted me to come to Him at any time and for any reason, with full assurance that He would be there to hear and answer.

I am so grateful to have had the father that I did but, sadly, not everyone can say the same thing.  For some, the fathers that they knew did everything imaginable to distort the image of what a father should be.  If this has been true in your life, please don’t let the sins of your father keep you from fully trusting the Father who loved you so much that He gave His only Son to die for you.  Instead, when you are tempted to think of God in terms of the father that you knew, why not take all of the negative things that your natural father did and think of what the opposite of those things would be; then, by taking a negative image of a negative image and reprinting it, you will be creating for yourself a positive picture of the spiritual Father who is just waiting to reveal Himself to you.  Once you have done that, you will be free to joyfully celebrate Father’s Day every day for the rest of your life and on even into eternity.  Just imagine, when God finally has all of His “chicks” gathered around Him, what a great Father’s Day that will be!

Safe Under the Wings!



Instead of the musical selection that I usually include at this point, here are the first four stanzas of the old hymn, “Children of the Heavenly Father.”  The words were written in 1858 by Karolina Sandell-Berg and, according to the Cyber Hymnal, “Shortly before writing this hymn, San­dell and her father were on a boat trip, when he fell overboard and drowned before her eyes. It is thought this tragedy gave birth to the lyrics.”

Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in Heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

Welcome to the Overcomer’s Club!


Our destiny is to be an Overcomer–just like Christ!

Hi, and welcome back!  After our last visit and our previous discussion about some of the more depressing aspects of the Christian life, I wasn’t altogether sure that you would be back.  But I am glad that you weren’t scared off because today, I want to talk to you about one of the most positive and exciting realities of our Christian experience.  In fact, what I have to share today is so good that we may have to once again resort to the use of sound effects!

Before we get to all of that, however, let’s take a moment to review what we talked about last time—which is, Jesus and all of the humiliation, rejection, opposition, and affliction that He suffered on the way to the Cross.  Although experiences such as these do not make for the most pleasant or popular of topics, we need to recognize them for what they are—as some of the most vital components of a truly successful Christian life.  For it is through experiences such as these that God has chosen to work out His plan for our lives; a plan which is nothing less than the slow but steady refashioning of us into the image of Christ.  As to just what that image is, I believe that if we were to consider for one moment how Christ triumphed over every obstacle that stood between Him and the completion of His mission, a mission which ultimately ended with His victory over death itself—then we would have to agree that the image He modeled for us most consistently was that of an overcomer.

In Christ This is Who We Are

I bet you didn’t realize it at the time but, when you became a Christian, you also became an overcomer, just like Jesus.  That’s because, before you could even come to faith in Christ, you had to overcome three really big obstacles, or the things that the Bible refers to as “the world, the flesh, and the devil.”  What that means is that on your way to the Cross, you had to overcome the downward pull of the world and its culture, the inward pull of your sinful human nature , plus all of the obstacles that were placed in your path by the devil solely for the purpose of keeping you away from Jesus.  And, since all of this was being accomplished over the course of time, you probably had no idea at all that this was what you were actually doing.

As I was thinking about this initial process of overcoming, an illustration of it came to my mind from the strangest place.   My mind flashed back to one of the old Three Stooges’ routines that my brother used to love to watch when we were growing up; and the one that came to mind was probably their most popular one, the Niagara Falls skit.  You may not be old enough to have seen it, but every time Moe hears Curly say, “Niagara Falls,” he replies in a long, drawn-out fashion, “S-l-o-w-l-y I turn, step-by-step, inch-by- inch…,” and then, Pow!  he beats Curly to a pulp.  As I thought about it, it occurred to me that this is exactly what happens to us on our own treks to the Cross and toward our new identities as overcomers.  S-l-o-w-l-y, we turn…away from the world, step-by-step…we begin to realize how futile it is for us to try to control our sinful natures on our own, and inch-by-inch…we crawl over and around (and maybe even under!) the obstacles placed in our paths by the devil.  Finally, when we get to Jesus and give our hearts to Him, POW POW!  He beats the devil to a pulp—again—and then ushers us into the most unique club of all—The Overcomer’s Club! 

The Motto of the Overcomer’s Club

The reason I know that this is the most unique club going is because only those who have been bought with the precious blood of the Son of God can get in; and only those who have passed from death to life and from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light are qualified for membership.  It is also unique in the fact that, as part of the initiation process into the club, each and every member becomes the new dwelling place for, and also becomes empowered by, the Holy Spirit of God Himself; a dynamic reality which makes it possible for them to fulfill their new responsibilities as members and to carry out the mission of the organization.  Their responsibilities?  To overcome the flesh by the Spirit, to overcome evil with good, and to overcome the deception and darkness in the world with the light of the truth.  And the mission?  To bring to Jesus as many new members as possible.

Wow!  What a great club to be a part of!  That being said, though… how’s the overcoming and recruiting going over by you?



Smiley Face with Earphones2    Mandisa reminds us that like Jesus, we are overcomers…


…But No One Said It Was Going to Be Easy!


During our last visit, I think we pretty well established the fact that life is really very simple, because it is all about Jesus.  However, just because we have been able to reduce it to its simplest form, that does not mean that life is ever going to be easy.  If you will recall my Basic Principle #1—that all of the events in our lives are designed for one of two purposes, either to bring us to Christ or to make us like Him—then just think of the many difficult things that each of us have had and will have to walk through or endure in order to arrive at either of those destinations. And if we take into consideration the other billions of people who have made appearances on planet earth during its lengthy history, with each one having his or her own story of hardships to tell, the only conclusion that we can come to is—life is just plain hard.

Although it would be impossible for us to catalog the countless kinds of hardships that people have endured in this life, especially those who made their way to the cross, or afterward, in the struggles they encountered on their road to becoming more Christ-like, I am convinced that if we take a few minutes to look at the hardships that Jesus encountered on His pathway to the Cross, we will begin to see why life for us, both before and after the Cross, could never be easy.

Crown of thorns1

Both the Cross and Christ’s Road to the Cross were Hard

Although, I can’t think of anyone who would willingly sign up for a life like this, the one that Jesus freely committed Himself to was one that was repeatedly characterized by humiliation, rejection, opposition, and affliction, which, when you add them all up, equal a whole lot of suffering:

Just think of the humiliation involved when…

…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  (Phil. 2: 5-8 ESV)

Or the rejection He must have experienced when…

  1. “His family…went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”  (Mark 3:21 ESV)
  2. The people in His hometown said, “’Where did this man get these things?  What is the wisdom given to him?  How are such mighty works done by his hands?  Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  And are not his sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at him.”  (Mark 6: 2-3 ESV)
  3. John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus, asking, “Are you [sure] you are the one [the Messiah] who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3 ESV)
  4. Upon hearing some of Jesus’ hard sayings, “…many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”  (John 6:66 ESV)

As for opposition, Jesus had that in abundance for even as a child, when He was perceived to be a contender for his throne, King Herod tried to have Him killed.  And later, during His earthly ministry, He found Himself constantly at odds with all factions of Jewish society…

  1. With the Sadducees, because He threatened their economic and political power;
  2. With the Pharisees, because they considered Jesus a lawbreaker because His teachings overturned their religious traditions;
  3. With the Essenes, the ascetics of the day, who considered Jesus too worldly because He socialized with “sinners;”
  4. With the Zealots, or the anarchists of the day, because Jesus preached a message of love instead of rebellion; and,
  5. With the people who, in their apathy, did not want to be confronted with change.

Pain Like No Other

When it came to affliction, no one has ever endured more.  Of Him, it was said that…

“…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?”
(Is. 53: 2-8 ESV)

So, what conclusions can we draw for our own lives from these observations of Jesus’ journey to the Cross?  Well, whether we are just coming to the Cross, or journeying from it, we must learn to expect that life is going to be hard.  That’s because, as followers of Christ, we, too…

  1. Are going to have to experience humiliation; first, when we finally acknowledge that we are not God, but sinners whose very best efforts at righteousness are no better than filthy rags in God’s sight; and then, throughout the remainder of our lives, as we continue to learn that God is in charge, and that our lives are no longer our own;
  2. Are going to experience rejection, because, most likely, our families will think we are crazy, our neighbors and co-workers will be offended by us, and many of our friends will no longer want to have anything to do with us;
  3. Are definitely going to encounter opposition.   Since we will no longer be heading down the wide road but will have turned and be heading in the opposite direction, we will be running headlong into the multitudes that are rushing toward their own destruction.
  4. Are surely going to experience affliction.  When you consider the fact that the sinless son of God, “…learned obedience through what he had suffered,” (Heb. 5:8 ESV), do we really think that we can learn to be obedient in any other way?


Love Covers a Multitude of Sins

However, just because life is hard, that doesn’t mean it is a bad thing.  When we think again of Jesus and all that He accomplished on our behalf as a result of the hardships that He endured, we can begin to see just how much good can come out of our own hard experiences.  And when we start to see things in that light, hopefully, we will learn to…

…rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  (Rom. 5:3-5 ESV)

And, with the Spirit living within us, we can also rejoice because it is He who will be bearing “… witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified in him (Rom. 8:16-17 ESV).

Therefore, even in the face of all the difficulties that life puts in our paths…

…we do not lose hope…for this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Cor. 4:16-17 ESV)


…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9 ESV)—Praise be to God!


Smiley Face with Earphones2

Join with Selah in giving thanks for “The Beautiful Terrible Cross”…



For There Ever to Have Been a “Me,” There First Had to Be a “She”



Hannah Praying for a Son

Hannah Praying for a Son

Hi and welcome back!  Given that so much of this last week’s focus has been on remembering our mothers, I sincerely hope that there has been someone special in your life that you could honor or remember fondly this Mother’s Day.  Probably because I spent the last week operating under the heady influence of so many wonderful “Happy Mother’s Day” wishes, when it came time for me to reflect on just what my next reflection should be, my thoughts automatically turned to the subject of mothers—particularly those mentioned in the Bible.  And, since I am in the process of reflecting on all things prophetic, as my thoughts began running in that direction it suddenly occurred to me that before there could ever have been a prophet of God, there would first have to have been a mother for that prophet.  Now, as obvious as that thought may appear to be, when I started recalling the Biblical prophets, I couldn’t think of very many whose mothers were acknowledged in any way.  The three that immediately came to my mind were Jochebed, the mother of Moses, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.

Elizabeth Greeting Mary

Elizabeth Greeting Mary

Granted, these were some very impressive women, but what about the mothers of all the other prophets?  I mean, did the likes of Elijah bypass the womb and just materialize out of nowhere, with his “garment of hair…belt of leather about his waist (2 Kings 1:8 ESV)” already in place?  I don’t think so.  To my way of thinking, before Elijah could have ever made his rather unorthodox appearance before King Ahab, there would first have had to have been a good Hebrew Mama back in Tishbe cheering him on; someone who was so dedicated to her son’s success that she would have gladly pricked her fingertips repeatedly and spent many a sleepless night burning up the lamp oil, just so she could stitch together a hairy garment fit for that royal audience.  (Note:  A couple of years ago, I was given the assignment of making just such a garment for a Biblical re-enactment in Israel and, even though I had the benefit of modern machinery—and I didn’t have to go out and kill my own critter to do it—it was still a challenge!)

I know that I would not be able to adequately reflect on my own walk with God without first acknowledging the incredible impact that my mother has had upon that walk.  Although space here won’t allow for the kind of biography that would even begin to do justice to this amazing woman, I feel it is important for me to introduce her to you because I will no doubt mention her in many of my future reflections.  Her name was Florence, and I say “was” because in January 2010, after a challenging but inspirational thirty-three-year battle against cancer, she passed quietly and peacefully from this life into the next.  Here is how I remembered her at the time, in her obituary:

The One and Only Flo

The One and Only Flo

While many may measure success in life in terms of degrees earned, money made, or acclaim received, the success of Florence’s life can best be measured by the positive impact she had on the life of each person who came her way.  For her, life was lived around the kitchen table; for it was there that she not only lovingly prepared and served the best food in town, but it was there that she listened to everyone’s story, without judgment, and dispensed the best practical wisdom available anywhere.  Several generations have feasted on her food, laughed until they cried, and been accepted and encouraged to be their best selves—all around her table.  Everyone was welcome there.

Although, by worldly standards, Florence’s life was a quiet one, it was certainly not an insignificant one.  Her faith, hard work, integrity, dedication to family, generosity, loyalty, quiet dignity, and great sense of humor have been sown as seeds in the lives of all who have been privileged to know her and will surely bear fruit for generations to come.  Her “quiet” life has been a blessing to so many and will prove to be a priceless legacy to all those she leaves behind.

To me, my mother’s life was like a stained-glass window:  a beautiful work of art that was made up of so many seemingly broken and disparate pieces, but which, when fused together by faith and lit up by the life of Christ, became a glorious picture of His grace for all the world to see.  I am so blessed to have had her as my mother and can only imagine that when she was met by Jesus and His angels, she was greeted with such a “Way to go, Flo!” that it resounded throughout all of Heaven.


Smiley Face with Earphones2

Please take a few minutes to enjoy the Brothers McClurg as they sing “You Shine Through”: