Archive for November, 2011

Simple Hope

We have entered the Advent season.  The time of year that we anticipate and celebrate the coming of Jesus to earth.  There is so much to celebrate – so many facets of this season to think about.  Things like the peace that Jesus brings or the love that God showed in his incarnation.  I think of the hope that we have because of Jesus’ coming.  And even within this hope we find layers of meaning.

But one simple, little idea hit me today.  The idea is this:

Hope comes in knowing that I was worth the effort.

Let that sink in for a second.

Regardless of what you are going through today or where you find yourself.  Regardless of where you have been or what you have done.  God saw in you a reason to shed heaven and put on human skin in order to bring redemption, a meaningful life and salvation to you.  You are that important to Jesus!

That brings hope – Christmas hope!

Be blessed today.

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Hope Beyond Cyber Monday

Today has been deemed Cyber Monday.  As if it were not enough to have a day designated as Black Friday to set aside a day for shopping, now we have to have one for internet shopping as well.  We live in a world in which children die each day of malnutrition yet the earth produces enough food that no one should ever go hungry.  The problem is distribution and the answer to that problem is money.  But yet, we spend more and more each year at this time on things we really don’t need.  There is something wrong with this picture.  I wish I had the answer to the problem but I don’t.

I am not trying to be a scrooge.  I really love this time of year.  And yes, I will be spending money to buy gifts for my kids and family members.  It is as much a tradition as it is another way of showing each other we care.

My point is that maybe we need to take a step back this year and put more emphasis on the gift we have been given and we can pass on to others that money can’t buy.  The hope of the Christmas story.  In a world spinning out of control – hope is the answer.  Regardless of a person’s place in life – whether rich or poor, powerful or not – one thing unifies us all – we all need hope.

Remember the hope you have that is made possible by the Christmas event – – share that hope today.

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This morning as part of my morning reading, I picked up Thomas Merton’s A Book of Hours.  I read him fairly regularly and when I do, I rarely come away from the experience disappointed.  Take a look at this and let it rest on your soul for a few minutes

To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence,  for God is love.  Love is my try identity.  Selflessness is my true self.  Love is my true character.  Love is my name.

If, therefore, I do anything or think anything or say anything or know anything that is not purely for the love of God, it cannot give me peace, or rest, or fulfillment, or joy.

To find love I must enter into the sanctuary where it is hidden, which is the mystery of God.

If we truly are made in God’s image (and scripture clearly says we are) and if God is love (and scripture teaches us this truth), then should not our purpose revolve around love – loving God and others.  In fact, isn’t that a part of what Jesus came to teach us?  The person God created me to be is to be defined by love.  Does that describe you today?

Love generously today!

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Time to Pause and Re-Focus

There are so many things – good things – that compete for our attention and time.  The work piles up on the corner of our desk.  The kids have a program at school and then a game or two.  That room needs to be painted.  The Bible study class at church is having a social.  The car needs an oil change.  The boss needs that report by noon.

This is life in America, and for the most part, I don’t think I would change much.  But my question for us today is this:  How do we make room for Jesus?

It is so easy to take our eyes off of what truly matters to deal with the matters at hand.  We do it consciously at first – “I will spend time in prayer today but I have to do this first.”  Before long, it is happening without our awareness.  We soon find ourselves caught up in the rat race with no real direction and no focus on what is important.

Today, hit the pause button for a few minutes and re-focus.  Remember that we cannot be all that we are called to be at work, at school, at home or at church if our eyes are not firmly fixed on Jesus.

Pause and re-focus today!

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Typically, my prayer leading up to each Sunday is that God’s presence would be felt and known during our time together here at church.  I pray that God’s spirit would move and people would truly have the experience of coming face to face with God.  That will continue to be my prayer.

But this morning during my devotional time, I read this prayer:

Lord Jesus, may it be evident today that there is only one Lord in my life:  You.  As I interact with other today, my they sense that they have been in Your presence.

That has become my prayer for today.

How about you?  Will others sense that they have been in God’s presence after encountering you today?

Something to shoot for, don’t you think?

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Isn’t it cool how God can use anything to connect people?

Last night at our church meal time, Mike approached me and said, “I noticed on your Facebook page that you are a fan of Phil Keaggy.”

I am sure my face lit up because it is not everyday that I run into people with common interests in music.  Actually, I am sure that there are many people out there who would like what they saw on my iPod (and probably a few who would be shocked) but it is not normally a conversation starter.

Mike has been extremely faithful to come to church and be a part of what we are doing but we had never really had a real conversation before.  But when he asked about my love of Phil Keaggy’s music and ministry, it gave us a common interest from which to have a 10 minute conversation.  I was blessed to stand there and talk with him.

Now, if you have never heard of Phil Keaggy, let me tell you a little something about him.  Since the invention of stringed instruments – going back to David sitting on a hillside watching sheep while he played his lyre – there has not been a more accomplished guitarist.  And his vocals aren’t too shabby either.  What Chuck Norris is in the hero world, Phil Keaggy is in the music world.  Maybe you get the picture that I’m a fan.  My dream in high school was that when I married, I wanted to get Phil Keaggy to play at my wedding.  Yeah, I guess I am a fan.

I made that statement to Mike last night and he said, “I did have Phil play at mine.”  My eyes got big and then he smiled and said, “We had one of his CD’s playing as ambient music.”  Why didn’t I think of that?

Here is the point I am trying to make – and it is not just to communicate that I am a huge Phil Keaggy fan.

God can use any part of us to make a connection with someone else.  I had seen Mike week after week and had exchanged the normal pleasantries, but we had never had a real conversation.  Until . . . we connected through music.

As I have mulled this over since last night, I have been reminded that God has given me a unique portfolio of interests, experiences and gifts.  My job is to figure out how to use those things to connect with others.

How about you?  Who is your Phil Keaggy?  If you don’t have one – might I suggest Phil Keaggy?  🙂

Seriously, what has God given you that can help you connect with those placed in your path today?   How will use those things to build a new relationship today?

Hey Mike – I say we find the next close Phil Keaggy concert and declare “Road Trip!!”

Be blessed today!

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Yesterday, I told you about a man who distinctly influenced me early in my life.  Brother Green was the pastor of the church I grew up in as a child.  In fact, he is the pastor who baptized me.  I have to be honest, I can’t say that I remember every sermon he preached (did I mention that I was young?), but I do remember his passion in the pulpit and in the way he led the church.

Another memorable aspect of Brother Green was that he was a giant of a man.  Not just in stature even though he was over 6 feet tall, he was and is a giant in character as well.  I remember him as being a man whose word was as good as any written contract.  If he said he was going to do something, he did it.

But at the top of my list of how L.D. Green impacted my life was what I saw in his heart.  His heart for people was (and is) something that, even as a child, I had no problem recognizing.  It was obvious that his love for people was a direct result of his love for God.  He  loves people.  He taught me that one can say all day long that they love God, but if it is not evidenced in the way they love people, then is there really any love of God present in their lives.  Even at age 90, he is still loving God and loving people.

Thanks Brother Green for the way you impacted my life – and so many others.  And thank you even more that you are still at work serving God and loving others.

You are an inspiration!

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After church yesterday, the family and I went to a fundraiser luncheon to eat and enjoy a little of the Littlefield Marching Band.  We had a great meal and heard a little music and then got up to sneak out so that I could get some work done.  As we were leaving, one of our faithful Wednesday night attenders met me at the end of the table.  Janine wanted to introduce me to her pastor.  She attends a church in another community on Sunday and then attends our church when there is nothing going at her church.

At any rate, I turned to shake the hand of the man standing next to her and as I looked him in the eye, I knew that I knew this man.  As she introduced him, “This is my pastor, L.D. Green,”  –   the life of my childhood flashed before my eyes.  This was the first pastor that I can remember as a child.  He is the man that led me into the baptismal waters at an early age.  I was dumbstruck.  What could I say to this man who has had such an impact on me during my formative years.

I knew he lived in Lubbock, and I thought he was retired.  In fact, a couple of years ago I actually called him on the phone to chat and check in on him.  But this was the first time in over 30 years that I had actually seen him.

He turned 90 this past August and yet, for the last 6 years he has driven the 25 or so miles from Lubbock to Spade to pastor the Baptist church there on Sunday mornings.  There is so much I could tell you about this spiritual giant in my life.  In fact, I think I will do just that over the next couple of days.

For today, let me ask you two questions.  Who has impacted your life in a positive way?  Have you told them what they mean to you lately?

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As I have mentioned several times oner the last month or so, we are knee deep in renovations on a home here in Littlefield.  This week has had me playing catch up, trying to get a bathroom back to the realm of being functional.

The biggest item on the To Do list in that regard has been getting the drywall up and floated.

I am in no way accomplished at this process but I have done it enough to know a few things.  For starters, it takes drywall mud, paper tape, a tape knife to apply the mud and a lot of patience.  I also know that the amount of texture needed to hide the mud work is directly related to how well that mud work is done.  In other words, if the finished product of covering nails and joints in the drywall is not smooth, it will take a lot more texture to cover it up.

This week I have been fighting that battle.  But here are some things I have learned:

1)  It is a process that takes patience.  The mud goes on wet and then must dry before the process can continue.

2)  The smoother I make things on the front end, the less work it takes once the mud is dry in the way of sanding.

3)  The quality of the finished product is directly related to the amount of patience and time I put into the process.

4)  Sandpaper is my friend.

Now why would I go into all of this here in this post?  Well, it occurred to me about 10:45 on Tuesday night as I was trying to get the mud smoothed out that there are a lot of similarities between trying to float a wall and growing along my spiritual journey.

This whole discipleship thing is a process.  It takes patience and a commitment to the finished product.  Becoming more like Jesus does not happen over night – it takes time – a lifetime in fact.  BUT, it doesn’t just happen.  It takes dedication and work on our end.  The harder we work at it now, the more rich our experience will be later on.

Just as sanding is necessary to smooth the lines in the mud once it has dried, God uses bumps along our path to mold and shape us – sand us if you will.  I have said this before, but God is more concerned about who we become than what we look like right now.  This journey in the Way is one of smoothing and shaping, of growing and learning.

My prayer for us today is this:  Lord, may you help us to grow to be something even more beautiful.  May we become the people you intend for us to be – a creation pleasing to you!

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Content But Not Comfortable

I read an article this morning that made me think.  In fact, I am still pondering.

The article referred to the overwhelming number of “self-help” books on the market and the overall mindset of growing and becoming  better.  An author was quoted as saying, “leave me alone, I am happy just the way I am.”  Then the question was posed, “Is there anything wrong with being content?”

As I have thought about that question, I think there is a definite balance.  Our society pushes us to want more – more success, more money, more stuff.  But before we become too down on our society, I believe our calling as followers in The Way carries with it a desire to grow and become more like Jesus and not to become comfortable and complacent.

However, we cannot overlook the fact that God loves us just as we are – with all our baggage and sin.  God provides for us in spite of who we are right now.  So I think there is a balance between pushing forward to be more – to grow and become the person God intends – and simply resting in the fact that God loves us.  Maybe the difference is between being content and becoming comfortable.

So today, allow yourself a little time to think about how God loves you – the ways in which you feel God’s care – rest in those thoughts and feelings.

But don’t get too comfortable – we are still on a journey – this is just a rest stop along the path.

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