Breaking Into My Happy Dance

Background Passages: Ephesians 5:1, 15-17; Psalm 118:24, 29

I usually don’t watch the news. I spent far too much of my professional career being interviewed by reporters, hoping that the editing process would maintain the integrity of my comments. Too often full disclosure was sacrificed for a tidy sound bite. As the media grows more politically polarized, corporate bias destroys the objectivity of the press.

With little to do this week because of an empty calendar and heavy rains, I ended up watching more news that I ordinarily watch. The stories were anything but uplifting.

• Devastating earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan.
• Disastrous floods in southeast Texas.
• Deadly acts of terrorism.
• Destructive politics at home and abroad.
• Declining civility toward those whose beliefs differ from our own.

It is any wonder that polls say people are more anxious today about the quality of life than ever in recent history. I must admit to falling victim, at times, to the tone and tenor of today, anxious about tomorrow and the world our children and grandchildren will inherit. As I turned off the news, I remember thinking, “Surely there is a cave on a deserted and isolated island where I can shelter my family from the horrors of the world.”

Later that day I stumbled across an old Peanuts cartoon drawn by Charles Schultz. I had grown up with Charlie Brown. I think I read most of the 17,897 comic strips Schultz penned during his 50-year career. In this particular comic strip Charlie Brown sat alone on the curb with that typical forlorn expression on his face, thwarted at every turn by life. With a hint of resigned optimism, Charlie Brown said…

dread 3

The cartoon made me smile and marvel at how God uses such ordinary things to remind us that his presence in our lives trumps every shred of doubt, disquiet and dread. As a Christian in a world in turmoil it is sometimes difficult to walk in confidence. How are we supposed to face life’s uncertainties and our own insecurities when it seems the world around us has gone mad? How do we stop being anxious about all that we see happening around us?

Sorry, Charlie. The answer does not lie in dreading only one day at a time. Paul gave us a clue in his letter to the Ephesian church as they struggled to live in a world in equal turmoil as our own. Look at Ephesians 5:1, 15-17…

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us…Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

We come to grips with a crazy world by imitating God, living a life of love as modeled by Christ himself. We don’t fix the world’s problems by retreating from it or bemoaning its existence. We heal its sickness by loving it more. By serving it more. By sharing the alternative. Paul tells us that in the midst of evil days, we must live wisely, make right choices, follow the will of God as we understand it. And this might be the key… Our efforts can’t be uninspired or halfhearted. They can’t be judgmental and condemning. We must make the most of every opportunity God gives us to share his grace and love to a lost world.

Making the most of every opportunity allows us to see every day as a gift from God. Another chance to serve him. Another chance to love. Another day to care for those in need. Another day to rejoice. Another day to celebrate.

Charlie Brown suggested that we get the most out of the life when we are thankful for each day. When he discovers how blessed he is he goes into his happy dance…

happy dance

The Psalmist said it this way…

“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” — Psalm 118: 24, 29

God, thank you for this day and the many unmerited blessings you have showered upon us.

Maybe today, instead of watching the news, I’ll just break into my happy dance.


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The Mountain God Forgot

Rising from the seaside in steep elevations, the barren mountains surrounding Collique, Peru, outside of Lima, reflect the hopelessness seen in the eyes of its people. Devoid of life. Buried beneath layers of grayish-brown soil. Crushed by the mass of humanity. Gridlocked in hopelessness.

Every step taken by the hundreds of thousands of people populating the hillside in lean-tos constructed of cardboard and tin, kicks up powdery earth, making it hard to determine if the haze above the sprawling squalor is pollution from Lima or dust from under foot. To the American eye Collique is both alien and alienated. A friend called it “the mountain God forgot.” No grandeur in its creation. No grace in its spirit.


Staring into the haze, I was reminded of God’s word in Matthew 5:16…

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”

God calls us to good work. To reach out to the harmed and the hopeless with helping and healing hands, offering change to body and soul. Beyond the immediate impact. Beyond the experience of one. The kind of change that sustains from one generation to the next. Such is the power of Christ. That a single life changed for good, now possesses a soul with a burning desire to make a difference in the lives of others.
We are called to make a difference.

I had the privilege this week of serving with members of South Main Baptist Church, Pasadena, and Christians from across the country, on a mission effort in Collique, providing improved shelter and health care for those living on the steep, dusty slopes of the forgotten mountain. Sponsored by Operation San Andres, an extraordinary effort led by Houston cardiologist Dr. Luis Campos, OSA stands as an oasis of hope and help amid poverty deeper than anything you can imagine.

Our team worked quickly to build a two-room home on the side of the mountain for a family of six, little more than a backyard storage shed to us. Yet, it was a dwelling that would make a difference to 10-year-old Maria and her family.

Maria’s smile and personality captured my heart upon meeting her. She radiated intelligence, curiosity and affection. She would peek around a corner in wide-eyed wonder at the work being done only to duck way when noticed. It was not long, however, when our smiles and encouragement drew her out. The lives of Maria and her family exuded joy that only God can bring to those living in such conditions. As we showed them through their new living quarters, their expressions of delight were contagious. Through the existing language barriers, we felt their gratitude and shared a blessing we all knew came from God.

The new home will make only a little change in their current living condition, but it is a chance. A difference. Among a people who seem beaten down and battered by a brutal life existence, OSA makes a difference. We will never know the generational impact of the seed planted here and now. OSA and its many volunteers reach out with the practical expression of God’s love, renovating a lifestyle and rejuvenating the spirit of those whose lives are touched.


I am now certain. The mountain was not forgotten by God. Psalm 90:1 reminds me…

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place for generations. Before the mountains were born from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.”

In other words, God knew what he was creating among the mountains of Collique. Created in his wisdom and for his purpose. God does not forget his creation.

Then again in Psalm 90:17, we extend our prayer…

“May the favor of the Lord rest upon us. Prosper the work of our hands.”

God grants to us opportunities to serve. Opportunities to make a difference. He takes that simple service we offer and makes it prosper, grow, expand and extend for generations to come. What we did this week made a difference to Maria, my little sister-in-Christ. As God prospers the work, that little difference, coupled with the hope of the better life it provides, will, through Maria and her family, change the people of Collique for generations to come.