One Hidden Arrow with No Need for a Bucket List

She would be embarrassed if I mentioned her name, and propriety dictates that it would be inappropriate to do so anyway. I hesitate to call her “anonymous” but maybe “Ann” in lieu of “Ann Nonimus” will do for now. Ann is a tiny widow, a soon to be an octogenarian, and a tireless servant of Jesus Christ. Over the past several years, she’s invested herself quietly in the lives of incarcerated women, women who seem beyond hope, the kind of women you know but wished you didn’t, the kind who represent the worst elements in our society.

Ann shuns the light others would shine on her. But her life shines with the beauty of Christ, and shines most brightly on the broken women she has helped mentor into followers of Jesus Christ. Her commitment to Him and to them never ends with a jailhouse conversion. She remains committed to those who graduate from iron bars and need a hand up to live successfully on the outside. But her prison ministry is not what I will remember her for. No, if I were to identify Ann’s greatest virtue, I’d point to her devotion to prayer.  When Ann talks to God, He listens! Her honesty with God in prayer even in group settings is disarming and real.

But now Ann has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She has been given less than six months to live with us. Ann is about to embark on a trip with a friend to take in a few special sites, while she still has a measure of strength. But, it is more about her friend than it is about Ann. The truth is, as she told me last evening, with a smile that was wall to wall, “There are several who are praying for me, but I’m ready to go!” Ann has no bucket list, nor does she want or need one. She knows her destination. She is going to see Jesus, the consummate lover of her soul. She is headed to place called “Home.” She has reserved for her an inheritance in heaven that will not spoil or fade. There Ann will gaze upon her Savior’s unspeakable beauty,  knowing the fullness of His joy. There is no shred of fear, worry or anxiety in her, because Ann has been and remains quite content to live her life as a smooth arrow hidden in the Savior’s quiver.

Tribute to a Hidden Arrow

Yesterday would have been Dad’s 94th Birthday. It’s hard to believe he’s been gone for a year. Yes, gone from us, but home in heaven with the Savior he loved above all. During his lifetime, we often combined celebrations of Dad’s birthday with Labor Day Weekend. I still remember the barbecue turkey and strawberry shortcake! So, thoughts of Dad are very much present this Labor Day Monday.

This morning, Lynn and I read and talked about the familiar story of King David’s mighty men found in    2 Samuel 23:13-17. We gave thought to the three warriors who heard David’s complaint of thirst, while he sought refuge at the cave of Adullam from the Philistines in the Valley of Rephaim. And, it was not just for water that he thirsted, but for water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem. As the story goes, the three mighty warriors, risking life and limb, fetched water from that well and brought it to their beloved King. But, the King did not consume the water in huge desperate gulps. No, because of the supreme value he placed on the selfless sacrifice of the three mighty men, David poured the water out on the ground as a holy libation to the Lord.

It occurred to me, that God was speaking to me about my father, but also of my mother, and each of my grandparents, those “mighty for God people” in my life. So, in my journal this morning, I wrote these words:

“Grateful people pour out to others the blessings God has given them, which came to them on the shoulders of those who have gone before them.”

Dad, you may not hear my voice above the roar of the saints and angels who sing praises around the throne of God, but if perchance you can, please know I am grateful to God for you!

God help me pour out, what you’ve so richly poured into my life, through those upon whose shoulders I stand!

Aiming at What?

Remember the old saw, “Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time!” It occurs to me, more often than not, it isn’t the failure to aim that ruins a life, it is the failure to aim at the right thing. Failure in life results from investing too much time and energy aiming at the wrong target.

As I get ready to teach “Developing the Focused Life,” an online course to a new class of seminarians, I am reminded how easy it is to focus on things that make us feel significant or things we suppose others find admirable. To that I say, “Uncle!” Yes, too much time has been spent down that “rabbit hole.”

One of the young men being mentored for ministry at Cross Life Church spoke two Sundays ago, and hammered away at one simple idea. Our greatest need is to see Jesus as He is revealed in Holy Scripture. It is in seeing Him, that we become like Him, and the more we are like Him, the more others see Him in us. The goal isn’t ministry. The goal isn’t even my personal holiness. The goal is that others might see Jesus in us as He is and without distortion. Maybe that is why Paul’s words are so dear to me:

18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV

I wonder, are we aiming aright? Are we seeing Jesus? Is Jesus being seen in us?

It’s about the Archer

It’s about the Archer!

It is somewhat striking that arrows are spoken of several times in the Old Testament, but only once in the New Testament (Ephesians 6:16). Yet, arrows were the most commonly used projectiles for long range warfare and hunting long into the first centuries of the Common Era. Even today, my nephew John who serves as an upper level executive for a hunting organization with 60,000 members, has taken to bow hunting. He knows far more about arrows than I would care to know. All that to say, I’m sure he would tell us an arrow has no meaning or purpose apart from the archer who employs it.

I thought of that this morning as I ruminated on Matthew chapter 5 verses 3-16. Jesus said,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you    and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,     for in the same way they   persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?    It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. NIV 2011

I began wrestling with what felt like a subtle disconnect between what Jesus wants us to be in verses 3- 12 and what He wants us to do in verses 13-16.  And then it hit me. The Beatitudes describe the kind of heart that causes us to be an influence for good, for the proclamation of the “Good News” and for the enlargement of Christ’s Kingdom. It isn’t about the outward show of certain religious practices or traditions, but of the life hid in Christ in God. Oswald Chambers put it well when he said:

[Who] are the people who have influenced us most? Not the ones who thought they did, but those who had not the remotest notion that they were in influencing us. In the Christian life the implicit is never conscious, if it is conscious it ceases to have the unaffected loveliness which is the characteristic of the touch of Jesus.  We always know when Jesus is at work because He produces in the commonplace something that is inspiring. (My Utmost, August 21)


As I examine my heart, I must confess the sinful temptation to which I often succumb, to measure the impact of my influence on others by my deeds rather than focusing on walking with You, the living out of Christ who indwells me. God forgive me! May I not so live as to fulfill Your will with the desire to be admired for my piety. Remind me, O Lord, that I am but an arrow hidden in Your quiver for Your use at Your pleasure. Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.

It is the skill of the archer we admire, not the bow and not the arrow he uses!


Welcome to the Hidden Arrows Blog

Most every Christian I know has struggled to know God’s will and purpose for them in this world. To be sure, there are several things we do know about God’s will and purpose that are spelled out in the clearest possible terms in Holy Scripture: loving God, loving others, and making disciples. In short, we were created in Christ Jesus to glorify God by following Christ and joining Him in His work, building the Church and enlarging the borders of His Kingdom in this world.

But, there is in the heart of most of us, a sense that God has created us and gifted us in ways that are unique from one another. So, it isn’t surprising that we wonder why. Paul’s counsel in Romans chapter twelve, 1 Corinthians chapters twelve through fourteen, and Ephesians chapter four are helpful in ferreting this out. But, determining how it all works out in one’s day to day life can be a struggle, even for a theologically educated middle aged man with pastoral and teaching gifts. That is where I found myself almost twenty-five years ago.

Early one morning, sitting out on the lanai of my Port Charlotte home, I took an inventory of my life. An unwanted divorce prevented me, at that time, from serving Christ in the manner I thought I had been called. I became a single Dad with primary custody of my three daughters. My career track moved from vocational pastoral ministry to geriatric healthcare. I subsequently remarried and struggled with the reality that my new wife was seriously ill with cancer. So, I found myself in the midst of an emotional maelstrom, wondering how all this fit in with God’s will and purpose for my life. And, then my eyes fell on the 49th chapter of Isaiah, and God spoke to me in ways that changed my life from that day to this.

Listen to Me, O islands,
And pay attention, you peoples from afar.
The Lord called Me from the womb;
From the body of My mother He named Me.
He has made My mouth like a sharp sword,
In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me;
And He has also made Me a select arrow,
He has hidden Me in His quiver.
He said to Me, “You are My Servant, Israel,
In Whom I will show My glory.” NASB

This prophecy properly belongs to the Messiah as the “Servant of the Lord.” But as I read these words, it occurred to me that we who are the followers of Christ, have also been called from the womb, yes, even from before the foundation of the world. And, if we truly are His followers, we are hidden with Christ in God, and perhaps it is no stretch to think our role in this world is to be select, polished, smooth arrows in the Father’s quiver. It isn’t for us to map out how or when or where God should use us, but it is for us to be available to be used at His dispatch. There is no need for us to have the answers, but it is for us to remain available moment by moment. It is about Him in the end, and not about you or me. But what an honor to be counted as a prized arrow, made select, polished and smooth by His grace and the sanctifying work of His Spirit.

My second wife died soon thereafter, leading her best friend to Christ in the process. Then God did what some said was impossible, restoring me to vocational pastoral ministry. After 16 years in a successful ministry in New England, Lynn, my wife of 20 years now, and I retired to Florida. But we are enjoying new adventures in ministry without the stress of wondering what, when, where or how!

Hey! I would love to hear your “hidden arrows” story.