“What Kind Of Buddy Are You?” (John 15:15)

“Hey Buddy!”

 

Sometime in the last fourteen years, I attached the nickname of Buddy to my son. Soon our entire family and friends began addressing him with this same nickname. A constant prankster, my son loves to turn a phrase into a quirky and unexpected application or create an outrageous situation, like stuffing four basketballs into the net, and he can’t wait to show me what he has done! Laughing when I see his latest hijinks, I always look at him and jocularly question, “What kind of buddy are you?”

 

“Dad! I’m YOUR Buddy!”

 

A warm hug completes the bonding, repeating at least once a day!

 

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

John 15:15 (ESV)

 

My son and I are buddies. When we read the Bible together, he knows that Jesus Christ is his friend and buddy, and I was initially concerned that he may see Jesus like he sees his own father, replete with warts and faults. In a quiet moment together, I once asked him, “You know Jesus is your Buddy, right?” My son enthusiastically nodded. “Who else is Jesus?” Clearly and emphatically he stated, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.”

 

By God’s grace and mercy, my son knows who Jesus Christ is. I am thankful that flesh and blood did not reveal this to him, but God in Heaven. He is my son’s buddy, a friend, Lord, and Savior.

 

What does He mean to you?

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

 

“I Don’t Want To Poison You!” (Jeremiah 17:9)

My daughter is afflicted with a severe allergy to peanuts. Thus, we follow a strict rule in our house that no products containing peanuts are allowed to enter. If a product inadvertently manages to slip in, it is immediately discarded. Just the other morning, I was enjoying a snack, a scrumptious Japanese rice cracker. It was one of my childhood favorites and as I chomped on the morsel, warm memories filled my mouth. Something else did as well…peanuts! I had forgotten these crackers were often embedded with peanuts. I quickly sequestered the rest of the crackers into a glass container and placed it in my bag. Later that morning, I informed my daughter.

 

“Sweetheart, there were some Japanese crackers that Auntie brought from Hawaii. I know you like these but I ate one this morning and it had peanuts. I took the rest to my office. I don’t want to poison you! ”

 

“Dad!” she rolled her eyes. “Don’t be so dramatic!”

 

If only getting rid of all dangerous things in our life were that simple! Foods to avoid because of allergies, faulty electrical switches, balding tires-these are tangible threats. We can see the obvious dangers and simply dispose or replace them.

 

But other dangers abound. What about gossip? How easy is it to slip into a disparaging remark about a colleague under the pretext of a statement like, “Well this is common knowledge!” Even if it were true, does that justify the action? And pride? How often do I succumb to the need to readily defend my point of view if I detect even a miniscule slight?

 

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)

 

The most sinister and insidious dangers are lurking within my own heart.  It is a poison, that for many years, I attempted to rid of my body but, by my own efforts, was utterly helpless to eradicate. The only antidote was to confess and repent of my sins and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. The sanctification began when I surrendered my life to Jesus and will be completed when I am in His presence in Heaven.

 

The poison of sin still circulates within my body and I continue to confront the havoc that this malady continues to inflict upon me. Thanks be to God that, by His grace and mercy, He provides the antidote. And I eagerly look forward to the day when I will be completely cured!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

 

“Your Roadside Assistance Has Expired!” (Joshua 1:9)

Tick…tick…tick.

 

Is that the car next to me?

 

Tick…tick…tick.

 

No, it is my car! How strange. What does it mean?

 

In the middle of a busy intersection, during rush hour traffic, I found out. It was the precursor to a total engine failure of my car. The car sputtered to an abrupt stop. The engine warnings lights were flashing. I put my hazard lights on but numerous irate drivers behind me let their blaring horns loudly declare their annoyance.

 

Don’t panic! Okay, call the automobile’s roadside assistance. Fumbling with my smartphone, I speed dialed the number, only to be greeted by an automated reply. I answered the perfunctory questions and then waited for a live person. Ten minutes had passed since I began the call but I was confident that help would soon arrive.

 

“I’m sorry sir. Your roadside assistance has expired. It expired on the fourth!”

 

“What?” I was flummoxed. “That was six days ago. Why wasn’t I notified?”

 

“I’m sorry sir, I can’t help you with that.”

 

Scrambling, I contacted another roadside assistance and within forty five minutes, a tow truck appeared and delivered my car and myself to the nearest dealer. One never knows how reliable a roadside assistance program will be until one attempts to use it, and invariably, that is for an emergency. A smoldering undercurrent of resentment crept into my psyche as I reflected upon the unreliability of services designed to deliver one from a crisis.

 

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9 (ESV)

 

Thanks be to God that His assistance never fails or expires. God will never fail to fulfill His promises to us; He cannot lie. He will always be with us if we confess and repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

 

The Other Path (Exodus 13:17-18)

Sometimes God takes us down a path that does not appear to be a direct route.

 

My daughter recently was diagnosed with a health condition that prevented her from driving her car. Our independent teenager, who was accustomed to driving her own car, now had to regress and rely upon her parents once again. My wife and I readjusted our daily schedules and I agreed to take my daughter to school.  Prior to this, I would share a perfunctory morning greeting before she bolted off to school. Now we had nearly twenty minutes together. I am a morning person but my daughter is not. Thus, it was with some trepidation that we embarked upon this new routine.

 

From the start, the minutes flew by and each day is a genuine blessing. We talk, we laugh, and we share special moments that only a father and daughter can understand. The crisis has also drawn my wife and I closer, sharing at a far deeper and intimate level than we have in many years.

 

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.

Exodus 13:17-18 (ESV)

 

The Hebrews experienced God’s direct guidance when He led them out of Egypt. God took an indirect route because, in His providence, He knew the fickleness of their hearts, unwilling to trust Him even after performing astounding miracles to break the will of the Pharaoh.

 

God knows the fickleness of my heart and my stubborn spirit.  If God had revealed to me that He would allow a health crisis to intervene within our family to draw us closer to each other, I certainly would have resisted. ​​​He needs to rouse me out of my complacency​ and take me down another path so that I would be able to spend quality time with my family and reaffirm my trust and faith in Him​. God is sovereign and even when I doubt, He is faithful to deliver what He promises to me.  What I perceive as a heartache inflicted upon our family, is, once again, a path for God to demonstrate His Sovereign grace and love.

 

The other path.

 

Our family is embarking upon a new path. We don’t know the twists and turns that we may encounter. Tears have already been shed and undoubtedly there will be much more pain and heartache. Fear, doubt, uncertainty. But we know that God is in control. The other path always leads to the same God who loves us completely, blessing us with His exceedingly abundant grace and mercy.

 

As our family comes together to support our daughter, we will allow our lives to be led by God rather than forcing God to follow us.

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

 

“I Saw Here Standing There….” (Ephesians 5:28)

It was a festive first Christmas that my wife and I celebrated as a newlywed couple. So many firsts! Our first Christmas tree, our first Christmas service as a married couple. And a first public serenade!

 

My wife and I attended a hospital Christmas party with several of my partners. The gala event included a karaoke session with a live band. As we laughed at the various hospital staff and employees taking their turns as lounge lizards, an unexpected announcement was made by the hospital CEO.

 

“We would like call Dr. Shitabata to the stage! Your partners said you love to sing!”

 

I mockingly glared at my partners seated next to me who were hysterical with laughter. “Oh no!” I shouted back. Embarrassed, I politely declined. No false modesty here, I was genuinely terrified to sing in front of several hundred people. Although I had played many professional gigs as a guitar player, this was still many years before I took my formal voice lessons and regularly sang before an audience. But I would not be let off so easily.

 

“Dr. Shitabata! I understand you were just married in August. Surely you would like to serenade your new bride?”

 

That did it! No backing out now! I wasn’t trying to save face I needed to honor my bride! I tried to look enthusiastic as I lept on the stage, careful to not allow my shaking knees to precipitate a fall. I was handed a song book. Ok, I thought, must pick up an upbeat song, no ballads! Quickly shuffling through the pages, I found a song I was quite familiar, “I Saw Her Standing There“ the classic rocker from my favorite group, the Beatles!

 

“Let’s go!” I said. With a confidence that surprised even myself, I launched into the song. At that moment, I didn’t care about looking like a fool in front of a crowd, it wasn’t about me any longer. All I cared about was making my new bride happy, to let her know that she meant more to me than my inexperience, stage fright or being embarrassed. I wanted her to know that I loved her more than any feelings for myself!

 

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Ephesians 5:28 (ESV)

 

Do I want to serenade my bride? Indeed, I do! From the moment I first saw her standing in my presence to this day. Thank you God for blessing me with a help mate and partner. I want to honor her every chance I get!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

Lion’s Mane (Luke 7:33-35)

Many years ago, I attempted to cultivate a mushroom species. It is popularly known as Lion’s Mane with a typical unpronounceable scientific name Hericium erinaceus. Popular as delicacy in many parts of the world, it is affectionately known as Monkey Head or Pom Pom. Here is a photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Igelstachelbart_Nov_06

Knowing winks from colleagues always accompanied my revelation. “Oh sure, mushrooms…for eating, right?” There was always the suspicion that I was growing psychedelic mushrooms for nefarious purposes. I was enamored over the possibility of growing this exotic strain, not only for the culinary accents it may add but for the potential medicinal benefits. Several papers in the medical literature had touted the potential benefits of this mushroom in conditions ranging from diabetes to peripheral neuropathies. I thought growing these mushrooms would be an interesting side business, utilizing my skills as a biology major. I had even made contact with researchers in Seattle, Washington, who shared my enthusiasm.

 

There are many activities which we embark upon that are done for honest or noble purposes but, to those who are not acquainted with us or our usual activities, may be viewed or interpreted with an askance eye. Even our Lord Jesus Christ was not immune and was subjected to caustic taunts.

 

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.

Luke 7:33-35 (ESV)

 

In this day of ubiquitous and intrusive social media, hidden cameras, and drones, there are very few activities that can remain hidden. We may be incited to quickly pronounce judgment before all the facts are properly vetted. As our Lord Jesus Christ prophetically stated, “Wisdom is justified by all her children.”

 

Regrettably, I have definitely been quick to judge others, guilty of the same faults that others have perpetrated upon me. I need to continually seek the guidance of God, the Holy Spirit, to give me proper discernment to sift through the news and information that continually bombards us.

 

I need to continue to seek the source of all Wisdom, Jesus Christ.

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

 

 

Being In The Zone (Romans 11:33)

I have been playing guitar for over forty years. My passion began when I saw the great jazz guitarist, Joe Pass, perform on a television show. I was mesmerized by how he was able to improvise, taking a familiar tune and spontaneously creating new melodies based upon the harmonic foundations of the song.  From that moment on, I spent nearly every free moment, learning and perfecting the art of improvisation, the essence of jazz music. Even after playing for over forty years, I am still attempting to master improvisation, and undoubtedly never will as many a jazz master musician will attest, but there have been glimmers of hope.

 

I practice my improvisation by playing with recordings that feature a full rhythm section but lacking the lead melody voice. It is similar to playing with a live band but with the advantage that I am able to record my improvisations to later critically analyze my technique and gauge my progress. One day, I played a familiar tune, “The Girl From Ipanema.” I had played it dozens of times in the past but on this day, something was different. I was not thinking about the notes or the harmonic underpinnings of the song, instead, new melodies filled my mind and my fingers responded. I became the guitar; I became the song. It was both an out of body experience and completely in body at the the same instance. It was exhilarating!

 

I was fortunate to record this one instance, and regrettably, it has only happened on one other occasion. Artists, musicians and athletes alike speak of being in the zone, being in the present moment when one is hyper-focused, creative, and seemingly capable of accomplishing anything. I was in the zone and I loved it!

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Romans 11:33 (ESV)

 

Many Bible scholars and commentators aver that the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans is the pinnacle of his eloquence and brilliance as a defender of the nascent Christian Church. It outlines the key doctrines of the Christian faith and have spurred countless saints of the church to commit their life to Jesus Christ. Chrysostom, an early Church father, had the entire book of Romans read aloud to him at least twice a week. Augustine, Martin Luther, John and Charles Wesley-all were inspired to commit their lives to Jesus Christ after reading Paul’s letter to the Romans.

 

When I read this great letter, I am absorbed by Paul’s excitement over the Holy Spirit’s revelation to him. I can join with his overwhelmed senses as he declares the depth of the riches and wisdom of God and His unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways! If I may be so bold, the Apostle Paul was in the zone, a spiritual zone!

 

Being in the zone is a laudable goal for many activities of life. But like the Apostle Paul, I want to strive to always be in the spiritual zone. Thanks be to God that He fills me with His Holy Spirit to lead me in this direction!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

That’s The Salt? (Jude 4)

I like to think of myself as a foodie with a reasonably discriminating palate, but an episode in my culinary past casts serious doubt upon this self-proclaimed moniker. When the children were much younger, we had a nanny live with us who prepared our dinners. Her initial dishes were excellent, an intriguing mix of latin flavors and textures, blending recipes from Mexico and El Salvador. Hearty meals, they had the added bonus of low salt. There was also another ingredient that she added which imparted a unique texture. After a few weeks, I wanted to express my gratitude to her for her cooking.

 

“I’m very thankful that you are cooking with little salt since you know how sensitive I am to salt in my diet.”

 

“Yes!” she beamed.

 

“But what is this new spice you are using?”

 

“Spice?” she quizzically looked at me.

 

“Yes!” I continued. “I think it is white, looks like salt but it’s not salty, and its crunchy.”

 

She proceeded to show me the spices she used for her dishes: chiles, ground pepper, cumin-nothing out of the ordinary. Then she grabbed a small jar, filled with a white substance. “And this is the salt, I only use a little.”

 

I stared at the jar. “That’s the salt?” My shocked expression of my face alarmed her.

 

“Yes! Is something wrong?”

 

The jar contained my son’s school science project which I absentmindedly left on the kitchen table one day. Arranged in varying layers to simulate the earth’s different strata, it was sand! We had been eating sand! At least we were getting our dietary requirements of minerals!

 

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jude 4 (ESV)

 

I pride myself on having a discerning palate but I was so easily fooled. No harm done except a bruised ego and minor indigestion. But in my spiritual walk, I have not been so fortunate. I have attended many churches that claim to be Bible believing. Only after several months of attendance did I discern the inconsistencies and heresies that crept in. Like the false teachers that the Apostle Jude warns us about, it was subtle, even surreptitious, with the pastors and elders in collusion. The damage could have been far worse than eating sand.

 

Beware of mimics…in food and within our spiritual walk! There are warning signs and we need to hold our Pastors and teachers in the Church accountable to the light of God’s Word.

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

Forty Wishes (Psalm 27:4)

My colleague likes to give a written test for job applicants applying to his health care company. Before the actual interview, he asks them to write down their forty top wishes, or as many as they can complete. His objective is twofold; he is looking for evidence of creativity and diligence to complete the entire task, and he is also seeking to gain insight into their personalities. He is looking for applicants who are unselfish, seeking wishes for others rather than themselves. Predictably some applicants did not take the test very seriously. One flippantly wrote, “I wish for a thousand more wishes!” Puerile at best. Rejected!

 

Other applicants were more thoughtful. One, who was orphaned at a young age, wished that all children would have the benefit of parents and a stable family. Another said he would donate his wishes to someone who was poor and never had the benefits of a good education and job like he did.

 

After listening to this, I wondered, what would I wish? I would love to sound altruistic and unselfish, to be like a Mother Teresa. But aside from a generic and lofty wish like finding a cure for cancer, I was stymied. I began to seriously doubt the motives of my heart. Was I so selfish and self-centered that I could not come up with forty wishes to help others?

 

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

Psalms 27:4 (ESV)

 

King David, who wrote these words, only had one wish, to dwell in the presence of God. He knew that if he were to be used by God, He would first need to be in a right relationship with Him. We all need to make this our one desire, our one wish. How do we do this?

 

Forty wishes? I only want one, that everyone would confess and repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Only then will your soul’s deepest desires be fulfilled as you allow God to lead you in this life and into the next.


Amen!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

“My Daughter Has Me Wrapped Around Her Little Finger…” (Matthew 7:11)

My daughter and I had just completed her routine appointment at the dermatologist’s office, a former resident of mine. I was present, pleased to have a brief reunion with him and to make sure I could follow up with any dermatological issues. As we exited the office, my daughter turned to me and asked, “Dad, are you busy, do you have to go back to your office?”

 

“Yes, I do have to go back to my office…but what’s up? Do you need me to do something?”

 

“Oh,“ she smiled. “I just wondered if you had time for lunch?”

 

Her question stopped me right in my tracks and I turned and gave her a broad grin. “Sweetheart, of course I have time for lunch with you!” And with that we both drove to one of our favorite restaurants and enjoyed a delicious meal paired with a lively conversation.

 

When I shared this story with two other men, both fathers with daughters, their immediate reactions were identical. Their faces melted into a broad smile and they placed their hands on their chests, over their hearts, sighing, “Oh my!” As I left my office at the end of the day, I turned to one of my employees, a father of a one year old girl and said, “Someday, I hope you will experience, with your daughter, what I just did.” Knowing smiles flashed between us as he nodded in agreement.

 

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:11 (ESV)

 

I am proud to be blessed with a wife, a son, and a daughter-all of whom I dearly love. But as many a father will attest, there is a special bond between and a father and daughter. After my daughter was born, I happily became a doting father and I would sometimes jest to family and friends, “My daughter has me wrapped around her little finger…and that’s just where I want to be!” This bond helps me to understand the perfect love that my Heavenly Father has for me. I love to shower my daughter with gifts and give her attention, how much more will God do the same for me and all believers who place their trust in Him through His Son, Jesus Christ?

 

God has wrapped me in His love, completely, perfectly, and eternally!

 

Amen!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.