The kind of bridge I want

The Huey P. Long Bridge crosses the Mississippi River a few miles downriver from here.  It was dedicated in 1935, a time when cars were small and narrow and governments needed to put men to work.  That’s why they gave New Orleans its first bridge across the river and named it after this politician of dubious merit.  (That’s a pet peeve of mine, but I’ll move right along.)

The problem with that bridge for all the decades since is that its two lanes were too narrow and curving for modern cars and trucks. Each lane was 9 feet wide, with no shoulders alongside. Signs forbade trucks from passing anyone, and motorists caught up on their prayers driving across it.  It really could be frightening.

Then, in recent years, the government finally decided it was high time to upgrade that bridge, and shelled out something like a billion dollars to widen it and correct some of its flaws.  These days, driving across that huge wide expanse is a pure joy. (The lanes are 11 feet wide, bordered by a 2 feet-wide shoulder to the inside and an 8-foot shoulder to the outside.)

What I wanted to tell you, though, was something an engineer said about the original bridge, something I find fascinating.

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Claustrophobics and the gospel

“He brought me out to a wide-open space; He rescued me because He delighted in me” (2 Samuel 22:20).

Wedged into the middle seat on a flight from Nashville to New Orleans recently, the thought occurred to me that if a person were claustrophobic, he would run screaming from this plane.

The Southwest flight was completely sold-out and several times the flight attendant announced that all the overhead bins were filled and other passengers would have to check their baggage.  I managed to squeeze in between two full grown men, which meant our shoulders were practically bumping.  The one hour ten minute flight ends up taking another half-hour because we board early in order to wedge everyone into this sardine can.

Tight spaces.  It’s a way of life these days.

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What’s in a name? Apparently a great deal.

“I have called you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

“When the shepherd puts forth his sheep, he calls them by name” (John 10:3).

The sweetest sound in all the world, we’re told, is our own name.

We can be dozing through the roll call, but the sound of our own name being spoken penetrates the mist and wakes us up.

We can be reading a report or newspaper and hardly paying attention. Our own name in black and white jumps out at us. It may as well have been in letters three inches high.

My name is who I am.

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How to make a bad time even worse

“I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13)

The former mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, has been sentenced to federal prison for 10 years. The charges involved kickbacks, bribery, and general crookedness.  If making promises he never followed through on were a crime, the man would never leave the big house.

Observers say Mr. Nagin got a break from Judge Ginger Berrigan. She could easily have given him twice that long–federal guidelines set the minimum as considerably more than 10 years–but she went easy on him.

The only person griping about that is Nagin himself.

Even though found guilty by a jury, and in spite of outright falsehoods in his testimony, the man is certain he was framed and wants to be sure you and I know it.

After his sentencing, Nagin said, “I’ve been targeted, smeared, tarnished and for some reason some of the stances that I took after Katrina didn’t sit well with some very powerful people. So now I’m paying the price for that.”

Denial is not a river in Egypt.

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Pretend you are omniscient. Here’s how it looks.

First a story.

General George Patton (of World War 2 fame) lived in the grip of a strong sense of destiny.  At times, he felt he might be the reincarnation of some ancient Roman general.  There was a daring and innovative spirit about him, a combination, some said, of past generals such as the Confederacy’s Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jeb Stuart, and the Union’s George Custer.

Patton knew he was special and felt “the gods” had ordained him for something dramatic in life.

According to LIFE magazine for November 30, 1942, he expected his death to be spectacular.

He has a date with history, but the date, he thinks, will be brief.  He expects to be killed in battle, not bombed out of headquarters somewhere to the rear, but blown up, bit by bit, in a tank advancing at the head of a victorious attack through the enemy’s strongest lines.

This premonition that he will be killed in battle is not something new. He had it in 1917; he had it during all the years between World War I and World War II, when even the Army seemed to believe there would be no more wars. He often described his premonition to his wife, until today she too believes it.  Of course, it may not come in the present desert campaign, but Patton’s friends now take his word for it: it will come sometime and it will be glorious. (p.116)

That’s what he  expected about his death.  It was not to be.

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How to give a commencement address they will remember

I’ve been watching commencement addresses on C-Span.

It’s not as boring as you might think.

They cut out the introductions and tell you in advance “this lasts 15 minutes” or whatever.

It’s highly educational, particularly for those of us who (ahem) make our living speaking in public.

I’ve heard governors, congressmen and congresswomen, CEOs of big companies, and entrepreneurs, all donning those medieval costumes, some with rather ridiculous soft mortarboards of strange colors, and all trying to say something life-changing to an audience that just wants to get this over with and get in out of the hot sun.

A challenging situation for any speaker, I’d say. .

Some have been entertaining and all have had a certain uplifting quality to them.

The speakers take these invitations seriously, I’m glad to say. Either that, or C-Span refuses to air the ones that bombed.

Anyway, based on my television-watching of the past few days, I’ve decided on the principles of a great commencement address and would like to share them with you.

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12 things about the resurrection of Jesus you may not know

“But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of those who sleep….” (I Corinthians 15:20).

Even those who have served God all their lives need reminding of the importance of the resurrection of Jesus sometimes. Those new to the faith enjoy learning the full dimensions of the new life they have received in Christ.

Here are an even dozen aspects of the resurrection of Jesus that instruct our minds, inspire our hearts, and inform us all….

1) No one expected Jesus to rise from the dead.

Jesus’ resurrection was as much a shock to the disciples as His death had been. Thomas, known forever as the doubter, was merely voicing what most of them felt when he declared he would not believe in the risen Lord until He had done his own thorough investigation. (See John 20.)

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Those little “Oh my goodness” moments

“Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart” (Hebrews 4:7).

God was there, and I knew it not.

That night, on the run from his brother and facing an uncertain future with family members he was yet to meet for the first time, and dealing with his own self-centered deceiving nature which had got him in this mess and brought him to this how-do-you-do, Jacob had a dream.

“Behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.  And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac….” (Genesis 28:10ff)

Wow. The Lord is here. In this very place.  And He has my number.

That can be unsettling, humbling, and life-changing. As it was for Jacob.

Ever felt the Lord call your name?

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Tasks that are finished and ships that have sailed

“It is finished” (John 19:30).

In a panel discussion regarding the movie “Saving Mr. Banks,” actor Tom Hanks, who plays Walt Disney in the film, tells of the final conversation between Disney and the creator of Mary Poppins, P. L. Travers.

“Just after the premiere of the movie, Mrs. Travers said, ‘Oh, we have much work to do on this movie, Mr. Disney. Much work indeed.’ Disney said to her, ‘Pam, that ship has sailed,’ and walked away.”

Hanks says, “It was the last time they ever spoke.”

That ship has sailed.

It’s a wonderful expression to indicate tasks that are over and should now be set aside, events that are now history and cannot be improved on, and projects that are completed and cannot be tampered with.

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Sometimes saying less is more; but rarely.

“…and if necessary, use words.”

St. Francis of Assisi said we should preach the gospel, and if necessary, with words.

Or did he?

The online source called Wikiquotes has a dozen or more variations of the “preach the gospel; if necessary use words” line.  But they say, there is no indication St. Francis ever said anything of the sort.

I suspect the reason that line appeals to many of us is that we tire of all the wordiness of God’s people, frequently as a substitute for action. The danger is we may react too far in the opposite direction.

Words are a big, big deal to the Lord God–the One who spoke the world into being!–as well as to believers.  We hold in our hands a book we call “The Word,” and the pastor brings God’s message from it every Sunday.

“Take with you words and turn to the Lord,” the prophet Hosea told Israel (14:2).

Words are so important that the Lord Jesus Himself is called The Word (John 1:1ff.).

And yet, there are times when words get in the way, and quietness is called for.

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