And You Think You Got Troubles

Now honey, cheap don’t go thinkin’ you’re somebody special.  We all got troubles.

Remember our birthright from the book of Job. Man is born to trouble. Everyone of us is acquainted with trouble. Donald G. Barnhouse observed in his writings: God allows evil to go full course to demonstrate the best evil can produce – nothing but trouble, sales death and destruction. So, shop we know about trouble.

Often the impact of trouble lies primarily in our perceptions.

In Psalm 74, the writer is desperate for God’s intervention. V1 Why have you rejected us?Why does your anger burn. V2 Remember your people. V3 Turn your steps toward your sanctuary, V6 don’t you see your foes destroying your sanctuary and defiling the dwelling place of your name? V10 How long will the enemy mock? V11 Why do you hold back your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them.

Then in V12, his perspective changes, You are my King, O God. You bring salvation. He speaks of God’s awesome power, V13 You split the sea, V15 You open up springs and dry up rivers. V16 The day is yours and also the night. V17 You set the boundaries of the earth. V22 Rise up, O God, defend your cause.

We all know about the glass half empty or half full. The perspective choice is ours.

One of my young friends share the following letter received by her third grade son from a friend in the town they have recently moved from. The names have been changed to protect the innocent or the guilty as the case may be.

Dear mike,                                                                 12/20/12

Things are not going well in music class or normel life. Well, I’ll start of with… You missed polar Express Day. A day where we got hot caco a story, candy canes and we got to watch polar Express. Next I’ll tell you I turned nine on the 19th j0382578Now I’ll tell you just how bad music class can get. Well odviesly Mrs. F does not like us. As soon as we got there she mad us practice lineing up, then she made us walk thru every hall in the school, then She made us stop at Mr. O’s class and told him that we where the worst class in third grade. That made me and sue start to cry and she smiled. And guess who saw u, Sophia and Lauren they lahfed. *        

Then when Mrs. K herd she mak us read instead of resess. Then we had the useuide Christmas play and Lauren thought she saw me watching Sara Smith. Well Lauren thought I was in love with her and I’m not. So by now the whole school thinks I’m in love with Sara. Jason wanted me to tell you a noth funny Sang: Jingle bells batman smells roben layed a gun he shot a tree and made it pee in 1983 hay.

                                                                             Love  Matt Keefer

And you think you go troubles?



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In the Throes of the Cosmic Struggle

I am a writer, cialis a fiction writer. Some days this is more of a faith statement than reality. Nevertheless, advice I press on.Damsel in distress

Every story teller knows, the story is everything AND to have a story, you must have conflict, a struggle between the brave hero and the dastardly villain over the lovely damsel.*

During January I have been reflecting on life and faith through the eyes of the Psalter, the hymn book of Scripture. So far most of the Psalms we have looked at are attributed to the poetic genius of David, son of Jesse of Bethlehem, the second king of Israel. You don’t read far before discovering David has people grouped into two camps: the righteous, aka the godly, and the wicked, aka the ungodly, the evil ones. Interestingly enough, though perhaps a simplistic view, the bulk of Scripture agrees with his assessment. Light vs. dark. Right vs. wrong. Good vs. bad. God vs. Satan. By the very nature of the elements mentioned, the struggle grips the cosmos. God is the victor, the victory won before the foundation of the world -  a worthy subject of another discussion.

David writes a lot about his struggle with evil. In Psalm 37, he gives a blueprint for that struggle. I would encourage a cataloguing of what he has to say about the wicked compared to what he says about the righteous.

Psalm 37: 1 – 10
David arms us for the struggle

Don’t fret
Don’t be envious
Don’t be anxious
Trust in the Lord
Do Good
Delight in the Lord
Commit your way to the Lord
Be still before the Lord
Wait patiently for Him
Refrain from anger
Turn from wrath

Don’t fret. David knows about fretting. O Lord, how many are my foes. (Psalm 3:1) Give me relief from my stress (Psalm 4:1) How long, will men turn my glory into shame? (Psalm 4:2) They will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces… (Psalm  7:2) Three times in these ten verses David, says don’t fret.  The final admonition is followed by …it leads only to evil. (Psalm 37:8) Ruminating over our troubles enlarges them in our mind. So the master fretter says; Don’t fret, don’t be envious, don’t be anxious.

Okay, ixnay** with the fretting. No more melodramatic damsel in distress. “O my, whatever shall I do?” Whatever shall I do? I will Trust in the Lord. I will do good. I will delight in the Lord. I will commit my way to the Lord. I will be still before the Lord. I will wait patiently for Him. I will refrain from anger. I will turn from wrath. Each of these imperatives begs closer examination, but for now it is a good to do list.

What benefit is derived from this activity of the righteous? He will dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. She will receive the desires of her heart. Your righteousness will shine like the dawn and the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. The meek/those who hope in the lord will inherit the land. They will enjoy great peace.

God promises to guard the lives of his faithful ones and deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Psalm 97:10, 11

In the words of the recently sung carol:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
(4th stanza of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day)***

 * Image:
** Pig-Latin for nix. My condolences to those of you young ones who have never enjoyed the mysteries of Pig-Latin.
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Tactics for Trouble

TroubleI am a man of constant sorrow
I’ve seen trouble all my days…

Don’t know if this 1913 folk song would have the same appeal sung to the accompaniment of a shepherd’s harp as it does crooned by the Soggy Mountain Boys. But David had all the credentials necessary to sing the ballad with deep conviction. *

Dissed by older brothers, betrayed by King Saul whom he served as armor bearer and usurped by his son Absalom, David’s could own a personal acquaintance with trouble
. Job, the writer of the oldest book of the Bible observed, People are born to have trouble. And that’s just as sure as sparks fly up.
(Job 5:7)

 Through difficult experience, David developed a posture for facing and getting through trouble. Consider God, Consider the Test, Consider Your Response, Consider Your Confession

Consider God:  One of the reasons David is called a man after God’s heart is because he, first and last, acknowledged the Sovereign Lord. Shout with joy to God. (Psalm 66:1)God, you are awesome, your power is great. Your works are awesome. You rule forever. You watch the nations. (Psalm 66:3-7) An accurate view of God colors everything else.

Consider the Test:  A healthy view of God and His true and loving nature, brings proper prospective to our trouble. He has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. But… You, oh God, tested us; you refined us like silver…you brought us to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:9-12) The substance of the trouble – prison, burdens on our backs, men riding over us, fire and water brings about refining, to bring us to the place of abundance.

Consider Your Response:  Trouble is never pleasant, but at the risk of being cliché, it can either make you bitter or better. David’s response to the refiner’s fire is to worship. I will come to your temple… He brings offerings and fulfills his vows – the promises made when he was in trouble. (Psalm 66:13-15) Sound familiar? We make promises to God in the middle of trouble. “God, if you will get me out of this mess, I’ll …” Do you forget your vows once the trouble is past? David knew the essential value of fulfilling his vows. The one refined by trouble keeps his promises.

Consider Your Confession: Come and listen … let me tell you what he has done for me. (Psalm 66:16) David confesses the source of his help. He cried to the Lord, he turned his heart from sin and God surely listened and heard. (Psalm 66:19) David’s confession is always of our God who is mighty to save.

He will call out to me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in times of trouble. I will save him and honor him. (Psalm 91:15)

Trouble is all around me, but you keep me alive. You reach out your hand to put a stop to the anger of my enemies. With your powerful right hand you save me. (Psalm 138:7)

Are you in trouble?  If not now, then probably soon,you will be because Job was right when he said we are born to trouble. Don’t allow trouble to swallow you. Adopt David’s tactics. Consider the nature of God, consider the test you are in, consider your response, and consider your confession, –  your confession of faith.

Your troubles have come in order to prove that your faith is real. It is worth more than gold… 1 Peter 1:7

*  [i][ii]“Man of Constant Sorrow” (also known as “I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow”) is a traditional American folk song first recorded by Dick Burnett, a partially blind fiddler from Kentucky. The song was originally recorded by Burnett as “Farewell Song” printed in a Richard Burnett songbook, circa 1913. An early version was recorded by Emry Arthur in 1928 (Vocalion Vo 5208). 
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When Evil Seems to Prosper

Does it ever seem to you that the guys riding into the sunset – into the happily ever after - are wearing black hats? And you thought the good guys, nurse the ones in white hats, were suppose to win.

riding-off-into-the-sunset“Who can show us any good?” David wonders in Psalm 4:6. The bad guys seemed to be coming out on top.

“O God, hear my complaint.” David implores the Lord in Psalm 64:1 “Protect me from the threat of the enemy.” He is the victim of conspiracy (vs. 2,) of sharp tongues that shoot deadly arrows (vs. 3,) the victim of ambush (vs. 4,) and evil plans and hidden snares (vs. 5,) about which his enemy boasts, “Who will see the hidden snares?”  All around his enemy plots injustice with a cunning mind.

Evildoers say the Lord does not see; “He pays no heed,” they claim. Psalm 94:7.

David knew the sharp pain of betrayal and despair of being surrounded by those who wished his ruin. In the face of crushing opposition David counsels his soul.

David answers:
Does the one who implanted the ear not hear?
Does He who formed the eye not see?
Does He who disciplines the nations not punish?
Does He who teaches man lack knowledge?
Psalm 94:9 – 10

Of course He hears, He sees, He exacts punishment, He does not lack knowledge.

God will establish judgment founded on righteousness. Psalm 94:15

His love supports me.
God is my fortress, my rock, my refuge.
He will destroy the wicked.
Psalm 64:18 – 23

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry;
the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
 The LORD redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 34:15 – 22

That must have been the sun in your eye. Those are white hats riding into the sunset.

Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord. Let them take refuge in Him. Praise Him!
(from Psalm 64:10)

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Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.

I often begin the year by reading the Psalms according to the pattern that will get me through the entire book in one month.

January 1             Read Psalm 1, order 31, seek 61, 91, 121

And so on.

Today’s reading is Psalm 2, 32, 62, 92, 122

Psalm 2:12           Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.
Psalm 32:7           You, Lord, are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble.
Psalm 62:1 & 2   My soul finds rest in God alone.
Psalm 62:5 & 6   My salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock, my salvation, my fortress.
Psalm 62:7           God is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Finding our refuge – our hiding place, our protection, our rest, our salvation, our fortress, our mighty rock –  in God alone is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it is a sign of wisdom and acumen. The person who understands his/her need for a refuge and makes God his/her fortress, finds all the benefits of that relationship – favor, forgiveness, rest, salvation.

Psalm 2:12           Blessed are all who take refuge in Him
Psalm 32:1 & 2   Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven; whose sin is covered
Blessed is the man whose sine the Lord does not count against him

We are blessed when we take refuge in God. God doesn’t think less of those who take refuge in Him. Actually, He blesses those who take refuge in Him. The smart choice is to take refuge in Him. In a sense, the measure of blessedness  is in direct correlation to degree to which we lean on the Everlastings Arms.

Lord, you are my hiding place.
You protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of deliverance.


I will instruct you and teach you.
I will counsel you and watch over you.
signed, God
Psalm 32:7 & 8

Have a blessed day. Make the Mighty God your refuge.

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Happy New Year 2013 – Reflections by Johnese



stomach sans-serif;”>Happy New Year from Ken and Johnese Burtram


The ringing phone pulled me from the edges of sleep.

“Happy New Year, Mom.” My daughter in Seattle made sure I didn’t miss the New Year.

I’m glad to step into a new year. The staggering changes of 2012 make this day of reflection poignant in its contrasts.  

God has called us to a place we feel so ill equipped for. But then, how does one prepare for the weight of leadership. These statements are not negative; just fact. We are confident of God’s call and equally aware of our great need of His grace.

Thank you to our many friends and colleagues for your prayers and words of affirmation and encouragement. You are our treasures. Words are inadequate to convey your value to us. We hold you in our hearts.

The losses of 2012 loom large in my reflections. The loss of relationships impacts me deeply.

In September, 2012, my mom when home to Jesus just thirteen days shy of her 90th birthday. In this loss, though not entirely unexpected, I walked into a new season. I am motherless.

I am grateful for the days preceding Mom’s death, days filled with family and remembering. Jeff, Janna, and Jim, I appreciate the gift of sharing this time with you. It is a precious time of inestimable worth. You’re the best. My Daddy’s unimpeachable fidelity to the wife of his youth is forever stamped in my heart. How blessed I am with a wonderful birth family.

In the grief process, I have reflected on the legacy I carry. In all her human frailty, Mom left me a cherished legacy. (“A Mother’s Gift” soon to be posted under Christmas 2012 at ) I value most her spiritual legacy. The spiritual sensitivity she cultivated came home to me in an unexpected way.

The relationship goes back forty-five years; the incident comes from over forty years ago. We saw Wendell Ross, Ken’s college roommate, and his wife Marilyn at a funeral in New York last week. We spent a few minutes catching up. Upon hearing about Mom Wendell said. “I’ll never forget…”

Wendell and Marilyn were in their first pastorate after graduating from Bible school. The work was challenging and times were lean. Wendell came home for lunch one day. He had a sandwich with the last slice in bologna in the fridge. Marilyn finished the last of the peanut butter.  Their food was gone and so was their money.

Before returning to work, Wendell brought in the mail. He noticed a postmark from Kansas. The letter must be from the Turners, Johnese’s parents. He didn’t know anyone else in Kansas. The envelope contained a check and a note.

Billie Turner couldn’t get the Rosses off her mind. She felt like God was telling her to send them some money. She wrote a check and a note and hurriedly addressed the envelope. “Hurry son. This needs to get in the mail today,” she urged her son out the door to mail the letter.

That check provided for Wendell and Marilyn until the next pay day. And they never forgot it.

Mom heard God’s voice. I’m glad she listened and heeded that voice. I’m especially glad for the heritage that makes me comfortable with hearing His voice. Someday, I hope a similar story can be told about me. I also hope the same sensitivity is part the legacy I leave with my children.

2013. A new year – hope for new beginnings. We turn the page to an expanse of time yet to be marked by successes or failures, sorrows or joys. Happy New Year. May 2013 be a good year.



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Station – 4, Jesus is denied by Peter

Station 4
Jesus is denied by Peter*

Think about His love …
Think about His grace that’s brought us through
…  So great is the measure of our father’s love
Don Moan *

Jesus warned Peter, “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” Luke 22:31, 32

Have you ever been sifted? You lay crushed looking up into the bottom of the sieve, your life in fine powder. Bitter tears threaten to wash away the pieces. You didn’t even realize what was happening until it was all over.

Peter, one of the closest friends. Peter, who walked on water right beside Jesus. Peter, present at the transfiguration. Peter, Jesus’ BFF. Confident that he would go even to death for Jesus, Peter failed to regard Jesus’ warning.

Peter denied being in the company of the disciples. He even denied any knowledge of Jesus. Finally, as if an oath added credence to the words spoken, Peter cursed and swore he did not know Jesus.

Then the rooster crowed.

Then Peter remembered Jesus’ words.

Even in crisis, Jesus sees Peter. We can be sure he prayed that his faith remained intact. I can’t help but think the look he gave Peter was one of compassion and understanding. He reached out to Peter, even in his failure.

Those sins Jesus was going to die for: Peter’s pride and subsequent fall. All was forgiven. Peter’s debt – paid in full.

* (Scriptural Way of the Cross, )
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Station – 3, Jesus condemned by the Sanhedrin

Station 3
Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin.*

 The trial was illegal. Who ever heard of trail by night? Matthew 26:59 says they were looking for false witnesses. Confusion reigned. No collaborating witness could be found. Jesus’ silence answered their accusations. 

The drama unfolded according to the Father’s plan. 

Throwing his trump card, ed the high priest said, prostate “I charge you under oath by the living God. Are you the Christ?”

“I am.” Jesus replied.

“Blasphemy! You have all heard. What do you think?”

The Sanhedrin judged him worthy of death. 

The truth will set you free. Jesus’ own words testified to the power of the truth. According to John, Jesus was full of grace and truth. “I am.” This night the truth condemned him as worthy of death. We trust our judicial systems to uphold truth. The high court of the Holy Nation condemned The Christ on the basis of truth. 

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis’ deeper magic illustrates things are not always as they seem. The court room scene at the house of Caiaphas was not court of final appeal. On that day the truth condemned the Christ. death. But according to the deeper magic, death could not hold him; he is lifted up, all things put under his feet. Jesus, the Christ REIGNS.

* (Scriptural Way of the Cross, )

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Stations of the Cross – 2, Jesus betrayed by Judas and arrested

Station 2
Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested.*

Jesus retreated to Gethsemane knowing full well what would occur there.

The words and actions of Jesus’ final Passover evidence his intentionality in these final hours. John records Jesus knew his time had come; he knew the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God. (John 13:3) Jesus knew Judas would come to find him in the garden.

I don’t know if Jesus foresaw the conflict he would engage in prayer. He did, however, choose to face the final battle head on. No avoidance from the Son of Man. He went to the very place Judas would look for him.

Betrayal of a friend. What could be more painful? Jesus washed Judas’ feet along with all the others. Judas heard Jesus’ words, This is my body broken for you. This is the blood of the new covenant, my blood poured out for you. He heard Jesus’ whisper, What you are going to do, do quickly.

After living together for three years, Judas missed the point. Jesus failed to convince him. How that must have pierced Jesus soul. Fulfillment of prophecy notwithstanding, Jesus knew the sting of failure when it came to his friend.

Jesus was pursued like a criminal, swords and clubs in the hands of the temple guard. They armed themselves to put down insurrection. Jesus readily admitted he was the one they sought. Rebellion was afoot, but not on the part of Jesus and his disciples. Those armed men played into the hands of the REBEL, Satan himself.  This is your hour, Jesus said, when darkness reigns.

Great is the measure of our Father’s love. Jesus drank the cup even in the face of betrayal and false arrest.

* (Scriptural Way of the Cross, )
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Stations of the Cross – 1, Jesus in Gethsemane

Think about His love, think about His goodness
Think about His grace that’s brought us through
For as high as the heavens above
So great is the measure of our father’s love. *

Don Moan

During this Passion Week, I invite you to think about the measure of the Father’s love with me.

I am thinking about the Stations of the Cross; not something I’ve done before in precisely this way.

Station 1
Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane **

 Following the Passover meal Jesus and his disciples go to the Garden of Gethsemane. A familiar venue, Jesus and his disciples went there often – Judas, the one who betrayed him knew the place. The purpose of their visit this night was prayer.

Prayer seemed the appropriate conclusion to this Passover celebration. The mealtime had been weighty. Jesus took on the garb of a slave and washed the feet of those present at the feast in effect settling the dispute about who was greatest in the kingdom. He said one among them would betray him. He warned of Peter’s denial. He spoke of a new covenant – his body the bread and his blood the wine. He talked about his sacrificial death, the coming of the comforter, and offered a final benedictory prayer.  
Yes they all needed to pray.

It must have been late. The Passover celebrants were weary, weary both physically and emotionally. The words and events of the meal cloaked them like a heavy garment. “Pray that you enter not into temptation.” Jesus left them to pray and went a little further into the grove.

The weight of his prayer bowed Jesus to the ground and his pores exuded sweat like drops of blood. The prospect of the coming hours terrified Jesus. Great anguish consumed him. “Father, if it be your will, let this cup pass from me.” The battle of the cross took place in this garden. “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”

I can’t help but wonder how he felt to return and find his sleeping friends. I think he understood the cross
was his to bear and that it must be born alone. However, he must have hoped his disciples would understand the seriousness of the hour. They needed that prayer, but their weak flesh preempted their willing spirits.

The measure of his love allowed for weakness in his friends while at the same time he surrendered to the demands of the Father’s love – he alone could drink the cup.

** ( ),r:13,s:33&tx=119&ty=96
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