Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - Christmas: Blue, White, Green and Red, or Surprise Me?

Certain professions require exact planning and little room for error: accounting, architecture, research, surgery, and . . . carpentry, to name a few. Max Lucado, in "Joseph's Prayer" (from The Heart of Christmas)  gives us a peek into how the circumstances of Jesus' birth may have shifted the earth under the steady feet of this thoughtful, responsible, and caring carpenter.
    "I'm unaccustomed to such strangeness, God.  I'm a carpenter.  I make things fit.  I square off the edges.  I follow the plumb line.  I measure twice before I cut once.  Surprises are not the friend of a builder.  I like to know the  plan.  I like to see the plan before I begin.
     But this time I'm not the builder, am I?  This time I'm the tool.  A hammer in Your grip.  A nail between Your fingers.  A chisel in Your hands.  This project is Yours, not mine." 
     Nothing about Jesus' birth measured up in Joseph's mind.  Jesus wasn't even granted the family-centered birth of a fully human child, much less the majestic entrance He deserved as the Messiah. 
     We may have firm ideas and plans about how to celebrate Christmas: traditions to observe, foods to serve, how to decorate the tree, where to be on Christmas Eve. We may not get that Christmas feeling if we don't do certain things with certain people, but the first Christmas was nothing like our snowy white, red and green, Santa filled holiday scene.  Maybe if we, like Joseph, let go of our plans and ideas of what a Christmas "should be" we'll experience Christmas the way it was designed to be.  If we don't try to outdo Clark Griswold with the number of lights we put on our house, we free ourselves for God to use us as angels to take the light filled message into the dark.  Maybe we could forego one Christmas movie to be shepherds who tell crowds in a busy town like Bethlehem about the Baby.  Or, we could add a name to our guest list so God can use us as He used the animals in the stable: as a haven to keep the chill away from another human being.
Father, help us let You plan this Christmas, leaving room for angel songs, unexpected guests, new stars, and even homeliness and simplicity.  If we have to spend Christmas in the garage this year, may we honor You.  If we're alone or not in our normal places, may we glorify You.  If people let us down, we have peanut butter and jelly instead of turkey or ham, the lights on the tree go out, or the candles catch the curtains on fire, may we celebrate You as Savior and King. Help us leave room for the surprising, unplanned moments that give each Christmas a personal identity.  We're tossing out our blueprints and lists of musts when they don't lead to celebrating You.  
In the Name of Jesus  Heavenly Prince, born in the parking deck of His day

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011- Tying Tebow

I just read an editorial article about football player Tim Tebow's adjustment to NFL regulations which put a stop to him writing Scripture references on his eyeblack (the "war paint" players wear under their eyes).  Now playing on the national level of professional football, this son of missionaries kneels to thank God and points to heaven as his as testimony to Whom he serves.  Evidently, many people, even some Christians, feel uncomfortable with God on the football field.  Cynics and Tebow's enemies wait for him like a cat by a mouse hole. If he messes up, everyone can breathe a sigh of relief, laugh and know that yet another Christian is a hypocrite.
"There are those waiting on him to be anything but perfect something he professes not to be every time he drops to a knee or points to heaven.  That's him giving credit for his success to God. His father in heaven. Hallowed be His name." 
   How many news reports and court cases over the last twenty years have centered on scandal surrounding professional athletes who abuse their status, neglect their families, participate in illicit or illegal activities, or shamelessly swagger and flaunt their wealth and talent?

"Would you rather your son or daughter look up to Tebow or some athlete who is a deadbeat dad, a drug addict, or someone who was charged with DWI or, heaven forbid , involved in the Penn State or Syracuse allegations?" 
    Imagine kneeling in a stadium filled with "fanatics" of a different sort, painted up, decked out, filled with alcohol, screaming expletives and as ready to curse you as to cheer you.  While his parents face unique challenges on the foreign mission field in the Philippines, Tim Tebow does his best to glorify God on some of the most hostile soil to be found anywhere, the American football stadium.    
quotes in italics taken from Wally Hall's Sports Blog at
Father, bless Tim Tebow and his commitment to serve You wherever he is, no matter how misunderstood or hounded he may be. Thank You for strengthening him to stay strong in the face of anger, discomfort and fear.  People want to shut him up and tie him up, but free him and free us to overcome every shackle, every imposed ruling against believers expressing their love for and trust in You.  This young disciple already understands that win or lose in football, his work for You is all that matters in the end.  Open our eyes to realize the same truth in our arenas, in our stadiums and give us the courage to kneel and point to You.
In the Name of Jesus, the Son Who gave You credit for everything He ever did

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011 - Famous Stars

"Stars are born. They take shape. They go through a turbulent adolescence, and then they live out their lives in a predictable pattern. Some have companions to provide for. Others rapidly decline and die. In some ways, stars are just like people."  (taken from
Jesus foretold the end of stars in Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:25; Luke 21:25, just as He warned us we would die and stand before God, the same God who placed each star, named it and gave it a purposes.  
"He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name." Psalm 147:4
God placed the sun, our solar system's only star, and commissioned it to light, nourish, and hold in place nine (oops, eight and a half) planets (Genesis 1:3-18).

People caught Abram stargazing on many moonless nights after God promised him his descendants would match their number.  

  "He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring[d] be.”
  Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:5-6) 
The star drawing our attention this time of year is one that burst on the scene briefly, possibly as a swan song before its time ended. It appeared, moved to guide searching people to Jesus, then disappeared.  Angels did the same thing, but they're intelligent beings with voices.  Stars, on the other hand are as dumb as dirt and full of hot air.  If God can use stars to give light, hope, and guidance, He can certainly use me, all the way to the end of my purpose on earth.
Lord, place us and use us for Your purposes.  We're not too bright sometimes, missing opportunities at every turn and losing our voices in someone else's search.  Fill us with Your Holy Light so our lives draw people to You, not us.  Help us stick with the purposes You give us and seek You before we try to shine the way for others.
In the Name of Jesus, the Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 22:16)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011 - Lord, Make Us Wise

"They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, 
and they bowed down and worshiped him. 
Then they opened their treasure chests 
and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." 
(Matthew 2:11)
     The kids arrived last night to our first Christmas in our new home.  Julie, as tired as she was, immediately began to make me feel good by doing what she does best, noticing and complimenting. She walked around looking at everything commenting, 
"The house looks beautiful!"  
"Ahh, this is the life - a Christmas tree and a fire in the fireplace!" 
"Are these new Christmas mugs?"
"The candle screen looks great there - is that just for Christmas?"
     When she said, "Oh, how cute, the little tree in the kitchen is decorated with kitchen things!" (cookie cutters, teacup, apples), Tom took a good look and said appreciatively, Oh, yeah."   It's not that he doesn't care, he's just a big-picture thinker who sees the tree, not the decorations.  Praise God, he notices and takes action on the things I find foggy and confusing, like shopping for cars, houses, insurance, blah-blah-blah, etc., etc.  Together we manage because he puts up the tree and I add the ornaments; he makes the money and I write the checks; he sees to the insurance and I distribute the daily vitamins.
     The magi from the East defied all negative stereotypical male behavior: they observed a change in the skies.  A new star, not a host of heavenly angels wrapped in bright light, caught their attention. They packed for a lengthy trip, remembering to buy and pack the gifts. They stopped for directions to a Baby shower - all for a toddler they didn't yet know and to Whom they weren't related. These unknown and unnumbered men weren't burdened with the pride which would have led them to behave with cool and impatient sophistication, but they rejoiced with exceeding great joy when they saw the star that began the whole journey. They never suspected Herod would view the King they sought as competition because their own hearts were pure and humble.  They didn't snub the Child's housing, housing a blue-collar carpenter could afford, but entered in and bowed down before the Boy they had come so far to meet and to honor. They worshiped Him instead of immediately trying to impress Him or His parents with their expensive gifts. And, when God told them in a dream to change their plans and direction, they did so without question.
     Wise, observant, studious, action-oriented, spiritual, worshiping, humble, emotional, generous, non-judging, obedient, flexible men.  Examples from the East, remembered because they went the extra mile to meet Jesus and worship Him. They didn't let culture, race, custom, class, location, distance, circumstances, obstacles, or potential danger stop them.  They fulfilled their mission of worshiping the King of the Jews personally and through their gifts. 
Lord, make us wise.
In the Name of Jesus, the One worth every mile and worthy of every act of worship

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011 - "All is Well"

      We drove to Hot Springs last night to hear FBC's "Hallelujah Handbells" play in one of my favorite spots on earth so far.  Anthony Chapel, constructed of wood, stone and glass,  sits in the beauty of Garvan Woodland Gardens.  A single, undecorated 16 to 20-foot tree in the front of the chapel served as the perfect natural acknowledgement of the season. In a haven like this, hearing Christmas bells praising God or in the silence, the words to Michael W. Smith's "All is Well" fit like a glove.

"All is well, all is well
Anthony Chapel the way it looked
as we walked in last night.
Angels and men rejoice.
For tonight darkness fell
Into the dawn of love's light.
Sing Al-le
Sing Alelujah!

All is well, all is well
Let there be peace on earth
Christ is come, go and tell
That He is in the manger
Sing Al-le
Sing Alelujah!

All is well, all is well!
Lift up your voice and sing
Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
Sing Al-le
Sing Alelujah!

Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
Sing Al-le
Sing Alelujah!"
Christ transformed our finite, dusty bodies into temples of God.
"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" 
1 Corinthians 3:16
Because He is Emmanuel, "God with us," we're empowered to know His Peace and to communicate this same natural, transparent, gentle peace Anthony Chapel was built to evoke: 
"Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, 
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." 
Philippians 4:5-7

We're glass houses through whose windows others see whatever or Whomever we worship. In spite of all the turmoil around us, the truth "All is well" stands firm because Christ is with us. 

Dear Lord, remaining calm is easier said than done. We cling to Your Presence and ask You to help us keep our minds focused on whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8).  Help us remove the clutter from our hearts and keep our worship on You alone.  Reveal false idols and strengthen us to oust them from Your house. Destroy pride and self-centeredness which keep us wound up in our feelings and disables us from seeing Your bigger picture.  May we exude the warmth and Love to others that You've poured into us with abandon.
In the Name of Jesus, Integrity Himself

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - No Diving Empty into a Pool

"The one thing I ask of the LORD-- the thing I seek most -- 
is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, 
delighting in the LORD's perfections and meditating in His Temple." 
 Psalm 27:4

     I almost did it again.  The "doer" in me almost dove head first into my yard-long to-do list before my heart reminded me to stop and relish the feast God had laid out for me in His Presence. 

We come to the table of Your Presence, Lord, and ask for extra helpings of : 
Cleansing change.
Unfailing Love. 
eXtraordinary eXperiences.
You, Lord.
Zeal to do Your Will. 
In the Name of Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - Midterm exams

"I pray that you will begin to understand 
the incredible greatness of His power for us who believe Him."
Ephesians 1:19

     Elementary school students sit on a power keg of potential knowledge. Why? Because their minds are wide open and they believe they can learn and do anything.  If you ask a classroom full of them, "Who can draw?" or "Who's a fast runner?" most raise their hands to share the proof with enthusiasm.  They don't waste time covering their feelings or dealing with doubts. When they're impressed, their eyebrows shoot upwards and their eyes pop open.  When they're interested, they ask questions. When they're having fun, they smile and laugh.  Because they're open to learning and believe they can do anything, they learn something new and empowering every day of their lives and they want you to know about it.  Yet, we know they've only begun their learning journey. 
    Paul knew the Ephesian church sat on a power keg as well.  They had already proved their enthusiasm for the Lord because Paul wrote, 
"Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus 
and your love for Christians everywhere, 
I have never stopped thanking God for you" 
 (Ephesians 1:15).  
      This church's "strong faith" and "love for Christians everywhere" put them way ahead of many of our contemporary churches, yet Paul knew this loving, active church had only begun to understand what God's Power plus their faith could do if they remained open to learning from Him.
"I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding, 
so that you might grow in your knowledge of God." 
(Eph. 1:16-17)  
Paul prayed these students would experience God's Power first hand and let the future waiting for them enlighten their learning.    
"I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light 
so that you can understand the wonderful future He has promised to those He called. 
I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance He has given to His people."
    It seems odd that the Ephesians' strong faith and far-reaching love didn't stop Paul from praying they would "begin to understand the incredible greatness of His power for us who believe Him. . . the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms." (1:19-20).  
    Are we ready for the following midterm exam?
          Do we believe God or do we limit what we believe He can do? 
          Are our hearts closed off to anything powerful He would do through us?  
          Have we been "at it" so long nothing makes our eyes pop open any more?   
          Do we believe Him when He says He uses His power "for us" - to overcome sin, love difficult people, move mountains, remove the "buts" from our discussions with Him, put others first, show patience, witness,  serve,  reach out, draw in, get over the past, get over ourselves, change the negatives in our personalities, trust He has a plan?   
         Have we forgotten we're children and students who never outgrow the learning laboratory of how God uses His power "for us who believe Him?"  
     My answers to these questions make me glad this is only a midterm exam and not a final.

Father, help our unbelief and restore our childlike faith in Your Power.  We confuse our power, abilities and talents with Yours to work through us, so no wonder we doubt.  Please, separate these entirely different truths in our minds and hearts.  Show us today what You can do through us when we believe.  Flood us with Your Light and heal the holes in our faith. Remove the "buts" and doubts about Your Power.  Show us Your Face, pour out Your Grace.
In the Name of Jesus Who never doubted Your Power

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011 - The Order of Things

"and He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern."  Matthew 6:33 (NLT)

"Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out.  You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met."  Matthew 6:33 (The Message)

     No other time of year than Christmas pulls more at us in the tug-of-war between trimmings and meaning, between sensory and spiritual, temporal and eternal.  Advertisers keep us posted and jittery with the fact that time is short (only two weeks 'til Christmas!) and I find myself "just doing it" instead of "seeking God first" to steep in His Presence. Experience teaches me I miss out on what my heart craves when I fail to steep in His Presence first thing in the morning, or when I give Him leftovers instead of the biggest piece of my time.  In the order of things, His concerns come first and He brings with Him the Peace to be who He asks me to be, and the Strength to do what will make the most difference.  Without Him, it's all gift wrap that ends up crumpled in the trash or burning in the fireplace. 

Father, reveal Yourself to us first thing this morning. Reveal Yourself and may we respond to Your Holiness in awe and worship.  Open our eyes to see Your Glory and teach us to adore You, Father. Thank You, Provider, for shelter, food and clothing, for family and friends. Help us keep all these blessings in Your priority order. Speak the Good News through us as we go into the next 14 days of gatherings and festivities. May Your Name be spoken and praised!
In the Name of Jesus, Who had no trimmings and Who put You, the Father, ahead of everything and everyone else

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011 - Our Own Personal Chapel

 "I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him.  
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken."  
My salvation and my honor come from God alone.  
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in Him at all times.  
Pour out your heart to Him,
for God is our refuge."
Psalm 62:5-6

   One of my favorite Christmas scenes is a church or chapel glowing in the snow at night. The picture evokes feelings of inner warmth, Love, acceptance, and refuge from a cold and insensitive world.  Emmanuel, "God with us," builds within each of us our own personal heart chapel in which we can hide through cold, stormy nights.  In this inner refuge, no one can disturb our peace in His Presence and we won't suffer any power outages. 

     Father, we look to You. We raise our hearts and our hopes to You. We raise empty cups for You to fill and we pour out our brokenness and grief at Your feet.  Remind us not to waste time and energy waiting for or trying to force others to fill our needs: They're not You and they have no power to lift or protect us.  Remind us also that no one has power to bring us down, except when we give them authority that's Yours alone.  
     We come to You for what we need. You, the only One Who can honor and bless us.  No one can shake Your Presence away from us. No one can steal the honor and salvation You give us. We take shelter as Your children in the home of Your Presence and Love and we will walk in the Power You've placed in us.  Thank You for being our own personal chapel whenever we choose to sit quietly in Your Presence and soak in every blessing You pour into us.
In the Name of Jesus Who died and rose again to demonstrate the Power of God to save

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - Mixed Signals

"Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the time. 
Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, 
so that you may know how you should answer each person."  
Colossians 4:5-6
I fell asleep smiling last night watching the snow falling in the backyard and we woke up to find our oasis  covered.  A tiki torch with snow on top is a odd sight, and the snow covered lounge chairs gave me the same strange feeling I get every time I see Meret Oppenheim's sculpture "Fur Cup." Neither can be used for its purpose, as is.
It's the same feeling Jesus described when He told the Laodicean Christians: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth." Revelation 3:15-16   These are strong, negative words coming from our loving Savior. When do we make Him feel like vomiting?  Are we guilty of saying,"God loves you!" and then offering the cold shoulder of apathy or selfishness?  Are the cups of cold water we offer in Jesus' Name refreshing and pure or filled with distasteful condescension, pride, and "now you  owe me?"   When we try to mix Christ's teachings with our sinful habits, we're no more inviting than useless ice covered lounge chairs and fur-lined cups, neither refreshing nor warming. "Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth." (Col. 3:2)"But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator." (Col. 3:8-10)Lord, God, forgive us for trying to hold on to fur lining when You want to use us to warm other people.  Forgive us for riding the fence to stay comfortable with the world when You've called us out of the world.  Thank You for not leaving us "as is" but molding us into useful vessels in Your Hands.  Help us throw ourselves wholeheartedly into Your purpose for our lives.  Guide us to let go of every bad habit that detracts from what You've designed us to do. Forgive us when we make You sick with our compromises.  Be patient with us and flow through us, cleansing us and filling us. In the Name of Jesus, in Whose life our lives are hidden

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - Less Glare, More Glow

   "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel - which means "God with us."  
Matthew 1:23

    My "visions of sugarplums" never include the turmoil that often ends up making up most of the season.  I wonder how realistic Christmas cards would sell. Would you buy one depicting a family fighting while hanging lights on the tree? Or maybe you can better relate to a picture of an exhausted mom in the kitchen crying because all the heads fell off the gingerbread men an hour before her child's class party?   How about one with a shopper wandering down the aisle taking aspirin or of people playing chicken in the parking lot for a prime place;  (Insert your personal Christmas stressor here.)
     No thank you. Give me Thomas Kincaid, Currier and Ives, or Norman Rockwell because those may be the only glimpses I get this year of the snapshot moments I crave.   In my mind, I see me seated with my feet up by the fire, gazing at the Christmas tree fondly over a cup of hot chocolate or flavored coffee while pondering deep Christmas thoughts.  I see my family and me doing wonderful things for other people, calmly and with a deep love for all mankind.  Everything we eat is homemade and all our gifts are "exactly" what each recipient wanted.  We stop and listen to church bells, light candles and worship the Reason for the season.
     Every year we hope we'll capture from the chaos at least one profound and spiritual moment, but we can lose the goal in the frenzy of trying to do too much. We decorate the inside, outside and then dictate what the neighbors should do.  We're determined to get the kids everything on their lists, even items they saw advertised moments ago.  We go to every party and give to every cause. If a little is good, then more is better, right?
     No. We need fewer moments of stress and more of fireside rest,  quieter commercials and more content, shorter ribbons around more modest gifts, and less glare and more glow this Christmas.
     Listen: God is calling us to step away from the bustle to listen for the rustle of His Spirit. He's calling us to settle into His nest of holiness to warm and strengthen ourselves in His Presence. He whispers "I love you" and "Peace, be still."  He asks us to leave the market to kneel at the manger. Christ is born, Christmas is here. Let's not miss it this year. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011 - Brain Sprain

Crowd in the rain
     Listening to a torrent of raindrops smack our already flooded yard,  I put two and two together, so to speak, with the last devotional in Lucado's book, Live Loved (note to self: find next devotional book).  He encourages his readers to be still and contemplate the quantity of years God has existed by using grains of sand.  Well, I happen to have some raindrops on hand and I'm wondering how many water particles (including rain, sleet, snow and hail) fell on the earth over the last year? the last decade? the last millennium? - since the beginning of time?  If we had that unpronounceable number we could add it to the number of water particles that make up earth's oceans, lakes, rivers and ponds. Then we could multiply that doubly unfathomable number by the number of years the universe has existed and we would still have only begun to count the years God has been.  Being still and contemplating hurts my brain - but, hey, no pain, no gain.  
     While the mysterious length of God's existence is enough to put us in our places as humans who exist for a moment, we've yet to contemplate the depth of His eternal wisdom, goodness, power and love.  No wonder Isaiah said, 
"All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." Isaiah 64:5-7
     And yet, God, Who could look at each of us like just another grain of sand, raindrop, or insect, calls us by name, not number, to be His child.  He longs for an indepth, long-term relationship with you, Snowflake, and with me, Ladybug. He knows your favorite color and my funniest quirk. He "gets" what makes each of us laugh. He knows how many hairs grow on each of seven billion people's heads (Matt. 10:30).  His "Godness" leaves us breathless. He suffers no memory loss and needs nothing from us, desiring only that we love Him by His pure and selfless definition of love - and all this for our good.  

Father-God, Creator and Eternal Lord of everything that is, accept our humble adoration for Your utter holiness and completely unique character.  We're grateful for Your Grace because we know how undeserving we are and how little we show to others. We praise You for Your personal knowledge and love for each of us.  Keep us alert to each thoughtful thing You do for us and may our hearts lurch toward You.  We glorify You, the One God of Love, of Heaven and Earth, of the Past, Present and Future.  We bow to the sum of all that lifts You above all others. 
In the Name of Jesus, the Word Who already existed in the beginning, Who was with God and was God and was in the beginning with God   

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011 - Pinnacle Parenting

View of Pinnacle from the peak we climbed.
"He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, 
and he must do so in a manner 
worthy of full respect."  
1 Timothy 3:4

    Tom, Nick and I finally made it to Pinnacle State Park outside Little Rock yesterday.  We hiked a trail that turned into a rock climbing expedition to the top of a smaller peak in the park - high enough, steep enough and slippery enough to keep me on edge as I saw Nick venturing farther than I wanted him to go.  My prayers were potent: "Lord, I know he's Yours, please keep him safe.  Don't let him fall off that cliff."  This prayer triggered inner recrimination: "What kind of parent lets her child stand on a cliff??" which was followed by my shaky, "Nick, come on down from there.  PLEASE, be  careful. Don't slip. Hang on." which was followed by Tom's  "He's o.k." and "He's being careful."  
     Ahh, parenting.   With one hand we gently push our children to venture forth and be independent while the other hand yanks them back into the safety of our embrace, control and home.   
Nick helping his mother's prayer life. 

     Who are we kidding?  We have a hard enough time controlling our own daredevil behavior:  sitting on that fence of temptation, living on the edge of commitment,  hanging on by sheer willpower instead of hanging on to God's Power, never learning to say "no" to what hurts us.  In light of my spiritual immaturity, do I want final responsibility for Nick's life and decisions, his safety and well-being? Absolutely not.  He's God's as much as I am.  He's God's more than mine.  His successes reflect God's grace and his failures call for God's grace.  I am a steward of this precious gift, and pinnacle parenting means protecting to a point, teaching by example, and loving with everything in me. Ultimately, Nick's in God's Hands where he can spread his wings safely. 
   Father, when I was little, it hurt me to know Hannah left Samuel at the Temple, in Your care, but now Your care is all I ask for Nick, and for Julie, Nick and Addy. May Tom and I be examples that prove they're in the safest, yet most adventurous place in the world in Your Hands.  Help us be excellent stewards of the priceless treasures You've placed in our sphere of influence. Help us always guide them to take Your Hand every time instead of settling for anyone else's sadly lacking visions for them.  Thank You for loving them more than we do,
In the Name of Jesus, Who loved and held the little children, the Author of a life beyond the norm

Inspired by Live Loved, Max Lucado

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011 - that Twilight Zone feeling

Jesus told him (Thomas), 
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; 
no one comes to the Father except by Me." 
John 14:6

     When Nick returned from going to the movies with the Middle school group last night, He told us, "I went to the bathroom during the movie and when I went back, everybody was gone. The front row was empty. I looked up to see if they'd moved to the top rows but they weren't there either.  I finally realized that wasn't a Muppet spoof of "Twilight" playing on the screen - it was the real thing and I was in the wrong theatre."   
     I can relate, can't you?  I've wandered around in parking lots, waited for a friend at the wrong restaurant, arrived way too early or way too late for the meeting - or worse, for the party.  In those moments we, too, feel like visitors to the Twilight zone - strange, confused, and a little betrayed by our surroundings because we sincerely want to be in the right place at the right time for all the right reasons.  
     One day, when "at the Name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father," (Philippians 2:10) many people will realize too late that they wandered in the Twilight Zone of "equally valid" religions, following paths that led them away from the One True God.  Sincere devotion to the wrong path still drops us off at the wrong destination.
     Your church, like mine, is probably making every effort to reach people for Christ this Christmas.  Which of our acquaintances or neighbors is wandering, lost, alone, and confused?  How can we draw them into the warmth and security of Truth? What will we do to shine the Light to the only Way?  
     Father, thank You for salvation through Your Son, Sweet Little Jesus Boy, grown to be Savior of the world and Prince of Heaven.  Thank You for blazing the path to salvation clearly through the maze of world creeds and good deeds.  Show us Your Power to save; bring revival into Your churches as we live the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Shine Your Light in us, through us, and around us so those wandering in darkness will see the Way out of their confusion.  Spark Your children and churches with fervor to not only tell about but to show Your God-Power through the way You shape our lives.
In the Name of Jesus, the Only One through Whom we're saved 

Inspired by Live Loved, by Max Lucado

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011 - Ordinary People, Extraordinary Savior

"Now all the glory to God, Who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, 
to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think."  
Ephesians 3:20 NLT

What do ordinary people and an extraordinary Savior have in common?  The power of an Almighty God.  

     One Solitary Life
He was born in an obscure village 
The child of a peasant woman 
He grew up in another obscure village 
Where he worked in a carpenter shop 
Until he was thirty 
He never wrote a book 
He never held an office 
He never went to college 
He never visited a big city 
He never travelled more than two hundred miles 
From the place where he was born 
He did none of the things 
Usually associated with greatness 
He had no credentials but himself 
He was only thirty three 
His friends ran away 
One of them denied him 
He was turned over to his enemies 
And went through the mockery of a trial 
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves 
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing 
The only property he had on earth 
When he was dead He was laid in a borrowed grave 
Through the pity of a friend 
Nineteen centuries have come and gone 
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race 
And the leader of mankind's progress 
All the armies that have ever marched 
All the navies that have ever sailed 
All the parliaments that have ever sat 
All the kings that ever reigned put together 
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth 
As powerfully as that one solitary life 
--- James A. Francis, 1926

What's the difference between ordinary people and our extraordinary Savior? We ordinary people have yet to accept that our ordinariness is the best stage for God's Almighty power.  What could happen if we embraced our humanity, our frailty as the perfect glove for God's Hand to work through us?  

"What we offer You is just ordinary: ordinary voices, ordinary people praising You. 
But with Your anointing and Your touch, 
You can turn it into a miracle to those that listen and those that hear.  
Take this, Lord, and use it for Your glory.  
We  will give You all the praise."  
-prayer by Landy Gardner before his choir sang

"I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more."
1 Corinthians 9:19