Friday, December 25, 2009

What is your favorite present?

What has God given you for which you are most thankful? For me, the love of a wife, the greatest kids in the world, friends that are actually there for me when I need them, a warm comfortable bed, neighbors I can trust, birds I can watch out my kitchen window, a kitchen window, a great place to worship, and good health.

What's on your "thankfulness" list?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Being Thankful instead of BMW

Sorry I haven't written in a while as I have been dealing with Jared having pneumonia during the holidays. Three days ago he turned blue and was responseless so we have had to pay more attention to his needs. He just requires more CPT, breathing treatments and TLC as he sleeps it off....and he HATES having a candula in his nose (which forces oxygen up his nose)...he hates it and fights it.

I am not writing this as an excuse or to whine about it because it just is what it is and am happy to help him as much as I can. But it reminds of something I have been wanting to write about....

I know many people who BMW (Bellyache, Moan and Whine) about everything. "It's too hot." "It's too cold." "The holidays are too hectic." "I just have too much to do." And if you are a Republican, "The Democrats are ruining our country." OK. But I am experiencing the same weather and I am not complaining about it. I have to shop, cook, wrap presents, too, and I rather like it. I have to live in a country where Democrats are running things, too, and I have deciding to pray for them. I have just as much to do as most do but I count it a blessing instead of a chore. So what's the deal with all the whining?

God says we are supposed to be thankful. Thankful for the hot or cold weather that he has provided. Thankful we can buy presents and thankful that we have others to give those presents to. We are to be thankful for something to do and thankful we have kids to take to soccer, baseball, basketball, golf, band and orchestra. We are to be a thankful people because God is giving us what we need and helping us through some pretty remarkable times. Be thankful we live in a country where we can vote (or not) for who we want to be governed by.

What do you think is at the root of all this whinging? Attention? Listen to yourself. Are you whining? Can you be thankful? What do you whine about the most?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Son Pride

My youngest son is in 7th grade and plays basketball for Travis Middle School in Irving. This past weekend his team (which is undeated) played in a tournament with teams from Grand Prairie and Irving middle schools.

My son's team made it to the championship game on Saturday night. My son scored 6, 3 pointers. Yep. Six. Eighteen points (plus four others). Yep. 22 points all together. God has given that boy some athletic talent.

Okay. I am done bragging on my son...but he did score 22 points...heh, heh.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Receipts

As you buy things for Christmas, place all the receipts in an envelope marked "Christmas." That way if a gift needs to be exchanged, the receipt is easy to find. Less Stress, Happier Holidays.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Crockpot Beef Short Ribs

Cooked these today and they are really good:

Ingredients

1/3 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

2 1/2 pounds boneless beef short ribs
1/4 cup butter
1 large onion, diced
1 cup beef broth
3/4 cup red wine vinegar or 1 cup red wine
1 cup brown sugar
2 TBL catsup
2 TBL Worcestershire sauce
2 TBL minced garlic or 1 TBL garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder or 1 tsp cayene pepper

What to do:
1. Put flour, pepper and salt into a Ziploc bag.
2. Add ribs and shake to coat.
3. Melt butter in large skillet; brown flour coated ribs.
4. Put in slow cooker.
5. In same skillet, combine remaining ingredients,
6. Bring to a boil...pour over ribs.
7. Cover and cook on low for 9 hours.
8. Eat with mashed potatoes.
9. Ask for more.

Best short rib recipe I know. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas is coming soon

I wrote this poem in 2005:

Christmas Is Coming Soon

On cold starry nights in the gray of the morn,
With wonder I gaze,
The lights of the tree and the ornaments adorn,
the soft mellow glow,
Christmas is coming soon.

Boxes piled high with bows, ribbon and string,
Armloads of presents,
Guessing and asking, the smiles that they bring,
The cat sleeping under the tree,
Christmas is coming soon.

Plans have been made with our family and friends,
Sharing our lives and joys,
Laughing and eating, the joy never ends,
playing football outside,
Christmas is coming soon.

Playing the games and singing the songs,
Sitting and talking,
Each one is welcome and each one belongs,
Here in this place,
Christmas is coming soon.

Some sit and talk while others take naps,
Too full to move,
Some play outside and some look at maps,
Dreaming of faraway lands,
Christmas is coming soon.

Joy to the World and Silents Nights,
Sleigh rides and 12 days,
Frosty the Snowman and snowball fights,
House to house in the cold,
Christmas is coming soon.

Stockings hang empty on the mantle with care,
Waiting to be filled,
The feeling of love for us thick in the air,
The Christ has come,
Christmas is coming soon.

We celebrate Jesus, Messiah, as King,
Come let us adore Him,
Heralding angels and Jingle Bells ring,
Be near me Lord Jesus,
Christmas is coming soon.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ollie Ollie Umfumfree

My wife grew up playing hide and seek....you know where everyone hides, one person looks for the others then when only one or two are left (because they are the best hiders or they feel asleep) the seeker calls out "Ollie Ollie umfumfree." Huh?

When I was growing up I, too, played hide and seek. But when only one or two hiders were left, we called out, "All the other outs are free."

Can you see what happened? For some kids, my wife included, they were yelling out a variation of the actual statement...you know like the gossip game where a rumor is started and goes through a group and by the time it gets to the last person it is nothing like the rumor that was started....anyways....there was one person who said, "All the other outs are free," then through generations of kids it was transformed to "Ollie, Ollie Umphumfree," which means...well...nothing....Umfumfree is not a word. But if you ask my wife, it is a word...well it means something to her, anyway.

Religion is like that. At some point, there was a guy, let's say, Jesus, who said some really cool things that were meaningful and life changing. Then, generations of people morphed his message into something it was never intended to be, examined it for meaning, context...blah, blah, blah...and came up with something different. Then more generations took those morphed beliefs as their gospel (pun intended) and started morphing that into their own gospel. So here we are, generations from the message...but what is the message? Have we lost what the cool guy in the beginning said? Have we lost that life transforming message for a "sound alike?"

What did you say at the end of a round of hide and seek? And what is the correct spelling of that "word?"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gift Giving

When giving a gift, most people want to give what the person wants (needs). As a Christian, have you ever thought about praying about what to give someone. This takes gift giving to a whole new level, perhaps giving a gift that is spiritually meaningful, even life changing. If you are trying to figure out what to give to the person "who has everything," maybe God has some input for you.

Try it. God may blow your mind.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Top 20 Christmas Presents For Women

Here are some ideas for gifts for the women in your life:

1. Digital Camera and digital picture frame
2. Jewelry
3. Fleece lined houseshoes
4. Fleece lined coat
5. Dressy Watch
6. Supersoft microfiber blanket
7. Clock
8. Laptop Computer
9. Music...get her couple of CDs of her favorite music (ask her if you don't know). A $50 iTunes gift card is the only gift card you should give her.
10. Perfume.
11. Chocolate...Godiva is good.
12. Sleep wear.
13. Sexy lingerie
14. Overnight getaway in a nice hotel.
15. Clothes...buy a full outfit WITH matching jewelry. If you are fashion-challenged, get her to show you what she likes (put in shopping cart online or circle in magazine).
16. Give a gift in her name to heifer.org (Heifer International) or to a charity she supports
17. A gift certificate to remodel a room in the house
18. A nice plant or flowers
19. A leather bound journal, Bible, or hard back book.
20. Supplies to help her in her hobbies (Scrapbooking supplies, photography equipment, music, sports equipment, computer supplies, books, quilting supplies, craft supplies, etc.

Bonus:
21. Anything handmade.

Women, what are you wanting for Christmas?

Friday, November 20, 2009

What NOT to get your wife for Christmas

Here are the top ten things to NOT get your wife for Christmas:

1. Appliances. Really this doesn't need to be said but I know some of you will be tempted to get her a new vacuum, iron, broom or toaster. Just go ahead, get it and give it to her NOW before Christmas...If she needs it, get it, and give it to her....like groceries and gas....It's just a really bad idea to wrap a washer and dryer set. Even if she says she wants a new dishwasher for Christmas, I would still be very careful doing this for a gift. If you decide to buy an appliance for Christmas, at least wear a wifebeater tee shirt and bass pro hat to the store to show everyone there how lame you are.

2. Bathroom scales. If I need to explain this, you don't deserve to have a wife.

3. Exercise equipment. See explanation on #2.

4. Nothing. I know many husbands who do this one. What's wrong with you? Even if you are poor and have no money, you can still get her something....get a 2nd or 3rd job to get her something. Gifts are a basic way of showing your wife love and value. Make her something if you have nothing. Do the handmade gift certificate thing from my previous post.

5. A cheesy present that means nothing. Buying your wife a fruit basket or shampoo basket is almost as bad as not getting her anything at all...in some cases probably worse. If you totally lack imagination, ask her what she wants. You can even hire someone to buy presents for her. Just don't be a bonehead and buy the first thing that you see in Walmart.

6. Buying her something that you want. I know someone (true story) that got his wife a chainsaw. When she opened it, he said, " Oh, you don't like that! I guess I'll have to use it." There is a special place in hell for the husband who does this.

7. A card with gift cards in it. Lame!

8. The wrong sized clothes. Don't get your wife size 6 jeans when she is a size 12. Bad husband! If you can't get the sizes right just don't do clothes at all. If you do that, I hope you get a vasectomy for Christmas so you won't have offspring to spread your lame DNA.

9. Divorce. Yes I have heard of this happening and I think it is cruel and psychopathic to do it. If you are going to end the marriage, don't ruin Christmases for her for the rest of her life by doing this. Get it over with at least a month before or after Christmas. At least then she can buy her own Christmas present.

10. Lawn equipment, dental work, lapband surgery, glasses, or a wig. See explanation for #1 and #2.

Women, what is the worst present you ever got for Christmas?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Best Places to Shop for Your Wife (or Girlfriend) for Christmas

Here are the top ten places I know of to shop for your wife at Christmas:

1. ColdwaterCreek.com Outlet
2. Overstock.com...clothes, jewelry, and everything in between
3. Ross....Great clothes, better prices
4. TJ MAXX...get great jewelry here for cheap.
5. Heifer.org....for unique gifts that are tax deductible...give a duck, heifer, or water buffalo in her name
6. Zappos.com...sheepskin house shoes, boots and anything else you can think of.
7. Amazon.com...books and music
8. macmall.com...great deals on Apple products
9. SamMoon.com
10. Flowers.com.....Most wives love flowers for any occasion

Gift Ideas
1. Spa gift certificate for a massage, makeover and waxing whatever parts need it.

2. Any jewelry...most women don't need the super expensive stuff. I go to a jewelry outlet dealer on Harry Hines and can get 10 full sets of earrings and necklaces for under $80 bucks and it looks like I have spent $300 or $400.

3. Hand made gift certificates for breakfast in bed, dinner and movie, hour long talk, shopping with a friend, back rub, massage, or whatever she like...she can redeem it during the year for time spent with you. My wife always digs this one.

4. Clothes...you can't go wrong with Coldwater Creek...get her to circle or create a shopping cart on line so all you have to do is buy it...easy, simple, she gets what she wants in the size she wants...couldn't be easier.

5. Get your wife to make a size card for you. Write down all her sizes (clothes, tops, skirts, pants, boots, hats, etc) so when you shop, you won't make the mistake of buying her XL when she is a medium....just sends the wrong message to her.

6. Shop outlets stores where you can save money and get more.

7. She can always use a new watch...always.

8. My wife really likes the Ipod I got for her last year. Music is always a good gift too.

9. Buy a vase....continue to fill it throughout the year with flowers, either store bought or hand picked.

10. Purfume is a good gift. Get a bunch of the paper samples and have her smell them and pick out the ones she likes (and that you like). Go back later and buy it.

Start early if you are going to order things from websites as it takes time to get it in the mail. Hope this helps you...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ten Things Wives Can Do To Improve Their Marriage

Here are ten things a wife can do to improve her marriage:

1. Do five things a day to show your husband you care about him.
2. Allow him to talk to you without talking over him or cutting him off.
3. Initiate physical affection with him at least three times a day.
4. Exercise daily.
5. At least once a month, initiate a sexual experience with him.
6. Compliment him at least two times a day.
7. Pray for your husband every day....Also ask God to provide you wisdom and knowledge for how you can minister to him.
8. Sandwich any criticism between two positives.
9. Ask him what is important to him for you to do for him today.
10. Be quick to verbalize forgiveness and love.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ten Things Husbands Can Do To Improve Their Marriage

Here are is my list of ten things husbands can do to improve their marriage:

1. Talk to your wife for at least 30 minutes a day (minimum).
2. Talk about your feelings at least once or twice during that 30 minutes.
3. Do at least 5 things a day to show your wife you love her.
4. Hide love notes around the house where she'll find them.
5. Show affection toward your wife at least three times a day.
6. Pray at least ten minutes a day with your wife.
7. Go on a date with her at least once a week.
8. Clean her car.
9. Talk about the hard things...don't hold your feelings in.
10. Go to church and worship with your wife.

BONUS 5:
11. Clean up after yourself.
12. Clean up after the kids.
13. Do 30 minutes of cleaning in the house everyday.
14. Tell your wife she looks beautiful at least once a day...Find creative ways of saying it.
15. Read "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," by John Gray,"Passionate Marriage" by David Schnarch or "His Needs, Her Needs" by Hartley.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

...Not to Condemn the World

I know a man who is gay who I will call "Gavin." He is in his fifties. He grew up Southern Baptist and his four siblings are strong "small-town Texas" Southern Baptists. When his brothers and sisters were told Gavin was gay, they said they would not talk to him or have anything to do with him...that was about 20 years ago. So for twenty years, they won't return phone calls and will not be in the same room with Gavin. Nothing. No relationship.

Gavin is a moral man. He regularly attends a "gay friendly" church, prays, reads his Bible and does many kind and benevolent acts for those around him. He is unapologetically gay and talks openly about it...He never was in a closet from high school to the present.

So my questions are: Is their stance Bibical? Do you think their stance is right, Christian, or moral? How would you deal with this situation if Gavin was your brother or son? Does Christ call for us to accept others who are living in sin or are we to reject and shun others? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Church of Hope

In my last post I wrote about hope. I wrote that hope is what bring joy into our lives, that we can always anticipate life being better down the road. Hope encourages. Hope weathers the storms of life, together. Hope comforts and restores. Hope gives...well...hope to those around.

The church is a group of people that all cling to the same hope. Hopeful churches are joyful places to be. They center on the amazing grace of God, the Spirit dwelling amongst them and supporting those in need, as well as, celebrating with those have cause to celebrate. Hope creates a loving fellowship because we all know we are on a journey together, allowing God to work on each of us as He sees fit.

Pray for hope for your church. Ask God to give the church a hopeful message to those in need.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hope

Hope is the anticipation of something good about to happen. Hope is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. It is the feeling that what is wanted can be had and that events will turn out for the best. Hope says that whatever your circumstances are right now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a train. Hope encourages us to wait during the storms of life, to seek shelter in knowing good will return like the sun after the storm.

Hope sits in the background of life, rarely noticed when it is there but sorely missed in its absense. Hope is there as one get up in the morning, and prepares for work, play or to relax. Without it, life isn't worth living. It is a Holy Spirit gift that we can not conjure up on our own nor can we will it to happen. It adds meaning and purpose to life and puts a smile on our face. Without varying degrees of hope, at best we are "tired" all the time or, at its worst, despondent, cynical and gloomy.

Hope is as integral to faith as O is to H2O. Without hope, faith turns into religious beliefs and church is a "sharp stick to the eye." Hope is what instills a sense of awe and wonder to our faith, the anticipation of greater, more wondrous things to come. Hope is why children get up at 5 am on Christmas morning, with joy sparkling in their eyes that threatens to burst into laughter and squealing. It causes them to almost vibrate with energy, believing in the unseen so much that they can see it...touch it. Isn't that something we all need to have in our lives, a joyful energy so overwhelming that we can't wait to turn the page and experience what's next? Isn't that what God is all about?

Without hope, we fall into depression, a gooey, swampy malase that bogs us down, making our feet difficult to move. It is a weariness that drains away joy slowly until one day you realize you are running on empty, an emptiness so profound that any movement seems void of meaning or strength. Without it, we are left to conjure up our own entertainments, plans and schemes, most of which do little more than delay the fightening reality of meaninglessness and purposelessness. Life without hope is void.

Hope is something we can pray for. Have you ever prayed for God to fill your heart with hope? Couldn't we all use a little more hope to fight off the cynical thoughts? Couldn't we all use a little more hope? Ask the Father for more and He will give it to you...He is the only source of hope.

Father, in the name of Jesus, fill our lives with hope. Give us joy unbounding for the wondrous future you have in store for us. Fill us with meaning and purpose that adds fun to our faith, that makes waiting for you more like Christmas morning instead of being in mourning. Bless your children with hope, Father today.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Food

What do you like to eat the most on Thanksgiving Day? My personal favorite (at this point) is stuffing....and Turkey....and mashed taters...and....

But what is your favorite? If you have a favorite recipe, could you leave it in the comment section? I am thinking about what to fix but I got nuthin'.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Special Needs: A Day in the Life

In my last post, I introduced you to my oldest son Jared, a special needs teenager. Not many people understand the needs and challenges, of the child and of the caretakers. So I decided to chronicle the past 24 hours of our life, of what I would call a "typical day."

12 Midnight Gave sleep medication

1:00 am Crying, Change a wet diaper

2:30 am Crying, Change a wet diaper

3:00 am Gave more sleep medication

5:00 am Crying, Change a wet diaper and turn on "Tom and Jerry" for 30 minutes so Jared can go back to sleep, gave Tylenol because he has an ear infection. I have to help him open his eyes to see the TV...he is restless and fussy for 45 minutes before falling back asleep.

6:00 am Hook up Jared's feeding pump (He is tube fed through a port into his stomach.)

8:00 am Change a wet diaper.

9:00 am Nurse Eva arrives and begins daily routine. Gives medications, does breathing treatment for Jared's asthma, does CPT with fluttervest (which vibrates his chest to loosen secretions in his lungs)

10:00 Bath

11:00 Peggy (his homebound teacher) arrives and reads to Jared, usually plays some games, stretches his muscles. She puts Jared in his wheelchair and sings to him, which he really likes. Plugs him into portable feeding pump and feeds him at 100ccs per hour.

12 noon Running fever...Tylenol

1:00 pm Breathing Treatment and Fluttervest...Sits in Eva's lap and she sings to him.

2:00 pm Lays down for a little while and listens to classical and bluegrass music.

2:30 pm Fussy so he watches Tom and Jerry...He really likes Tom and Jerry. Sarah the visual therapist from school arrives and works with Jared. Jared LOVES Sarah.

3:00 pm Back in wheelchair, watches Glenn Beck on TV.

4:00 pm Eva leaves and Lori arrives.

5:00 pm Breathing Treatment and Fluttervest. Watches HGTV for awhile until he wants Tom and Jerry again.

9:00 pm Medicines + Tylenol because he is running fever and is uncomfortable. Breathing Treatment and fluttervest. First dose of sleeping medication

10:00 pm To bed. CPT Lori leaves

11:00 pm Change wet diaper. Jared gets fussy so he gets his second dose of sleeping medication. Goes to sleep with Tom and Jerry playing on his TV.


So goes the typical day. Although Jared's care is somewhat intensive, his care "team" helps him through the day. God bless his nurses who help him so much with the daily routine. We all have a role in ministering to Jared's needs and helping him to have a full life. We could not do it alone, we have to have help with him. We are OK with asking for help because we know we can not do it alone.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Special Needs, Special Gifts

My oldest son is a miracle. When he was born in 1992, doctors diagnosed him with a chromosome disorder and gave him less than a week to live because of the severity of his disablities. Now, he is 17 years old. He is missing 75% of his brain which causes him to be profoundly mentally retarded. He is spastic quadraplegic and has a seizure disorder. His immune system is compromised, he has severe asthma, and has nearly died, more times than I want to recount, from pneumonia. He doesn't sleep without being heavily medicated, and wakes up several times a night crying. He is medically fragile.

More importantly, he is a blessing to anyone who is willing to get to know him. Special needs children are not useless or a waste of resources. Their lives are precious and add significantly to the joy and pleasure of life. They are not a mistake or a freak of nature. They, like the rest of us have a place at the the table of the Lord. Although Jared has never spoken a word, he shares a deep love with his family, nurses and friends. His eyes twinkle and his smile melts away tension.

My son is a spiritual being. When we have praise and worship times at our house on Sunday nights, Jared becomes animated and coos loudly. He watches everyone as they worship. He participates to the full amount that he can and I am sure God touches him during our worship time together. Of all the people in the room, he is the least affected by sin and I think, he is the closest to God. Sometimes his delight during worship cannot be contained and it is fun to watch him enjoy God's presence.

My life is blessed daily by him. The pain of having him has caused my wife and me to be more sensitive to other's pain and has deepened our search for God. We constantly have to ask God for the strength to make it through the day, especially when we have stayed awake all night ministering to him. My other two sons are sensitive to special needs children at their schools, befriending and helping them. My sons have a deeper sense of value than their peers and they aren't afraid of standing up for those who have no voice.

Jared has spiritual gifts; the gift of faith, love and comfort. People are drawn to him, drawn to touch him and talk to him. He gives people his full attention and most walk away knowing they are loved and valuable....all without him saying a word to them. The Spirit surrounds him. One of his nurses came to Christ after being around Jared and my family, experiencing our unconditional love for her.

My wife and I decided from the beginning he was going to live with us, despite the physical and emotional hardship it has been on our family. Why? He our son, pure and simple. God made this boy and we decided to raise him to see what his potential could be. Our lives have been forever changed and blessed by him, each difficulty bringing strength, each pain turning to joy, each trial bringing perserverence.

The Bible says the kingdom belongs to "the least of these." I have been given the rare privilege of being the father to a special needs child. I don't know what I did to deserve such a blessing...I guess it is just grace. But if you are given the opportunity to be around one of these special children, rejoice and enjoy being near someone who is constantly near to the heart of God. Give them an opportunity to use their gifts and serve in whatever small way they can. Peace.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Heifer International

I want to encourage you to look into HEIFER INTERNATIONAL. http://www.heifer.org/

What a great organization! For a relatively modest amount, they provide a family in the third world with a cow (goat, lllama, chickens, rabbits, pig, sheep, bees, water buffalo, ducks or camels) and training on how to care for the animal. Your gift provides a family with a way of making a living. You can stretch out your hand to people in developing countries and touch lives.

Think about it as a birthday or Christmas gift to someone who "has everything." Take the amount of money you would've spent on Halloween candy, give it to HI then hand out notes about what you did (i.e., "A gift of one dollar was given to Heifer International to help a family in a developing country. Check it out at Heifer.org").

You will feel good about giving hope and promise to someone in need.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Home Church

My home church is made up of four families, two singles and my oldest son's nurse who cares for him on Sunday. We always eat together as family, everyone bringing food to share with each other. If we have too many kids, we have a youth minister who comes over and helps them to participate in worship then keeps them from burning down the neighborhood when they go out to play. We support and love each other through good times and bad, we go to each other's kids sports and yell for them like they are our own and we worship together, uninhibited. How much better does it get.

We use recorded praise and worship music (see the list we use in one of my first posts) and we have shakers, tambourines and other assorted noise makers to play with during the music. We turn the lights down low so we can focus on the one reason we are there together, to love God with all our hearts. The kids participate by making noise and sometimes dancing like no one is watching. They are fun to watch and are rarely a distraction during the praise and worship time.

After worship, we pray for each other's concerns and talk about what is going on in our lives. We hug each other, laugh together, ask about last week's concerns and catch up on what our kids did this past week. It's easy. It's like being a part of a big family of people you like and care about. The kids play together with the other kids in the neighborhood with whatever ballgame (or chase game) they can think of.

We eat together. We each bring a part of the meal. One brings homemade chocolate chip cookies that are usually gone before everyone leaves. We hug each other in the end and we go home, knowing the Lord is a part of our lives.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Forgiveness...Losing "The List"

A friend of mine was talking to me about his marriage. He was saying that when he messes up, his wife can remember everything, big and small, that he has done wrong. When arguing with her, he says it is like he has a single shot 22 with a cartridge hung in the chamber and she has an UZI and all the ammo she can fire. Ouch.

This got me thinking about "The List." "The List" is an accounting of everything another person has done to hurt you. Even though you have "forgiven" them, you keep "The List" handy, to pulll out and recite the 13, 094 things the other person has done to hurt, betray, and dissappoint you. "The List" takes hurt and morphs it into bitterness. Holding onto the memory of that stuff undermines trust, hope and love and makes one miserable and lonely. It causes tension and frustration in relationships. It makes victims and offenders, good guys and bad guys, right and wrong. We need to lose "The List."

Do you want others to do that to you....keep track of every infraction and throw it out there during a 'discussion?' Wouldn't that be horrible? Is that what you want God to do with you, keep track of all the things you have done to sin against Him? God says you will be forgiven as you have forgiven others....that includes "The List."

Do you have a "List?" If you do, I think you should actually create "The List." Don't just make a mental exercise but write "The List" out. Look at it. Remind yourself of it until you get sick of it. Then really forgive what is on "The List" and move on. It's is the loving thing to do.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Am Nothing

I am reading a book right now about a small-town lawyer that has it all but is accused of murder and is losing everything. His marriage is in shambles, financially he's ruined, his father was murdered and he is being accused of doing it, lost his car, friends look at him like he is guilty, and he lost his girlfriend, too (one of the reasons his marriage is in shambles). I love fiction because it so parallels my life in many ways. When you think you're invincible, think about Job, David, Paul, or many of the characters in the Bible. They are better men than me, more righteous in many ways yet God saw fit that they face painful realities in their lives.

More so, this fictional character has lost his pride, the stability of a predictable life, the shallow friendships he had, and the ability to hide behind a budding alcohol problem. I hate it when one's addictions no longer work, whether it is crack, alcohol, computer games, porn or whatever we use to hide our vulnerabilities. When life caves in, those things are like hiding in a straw house and the big, bad wolf is walking up the path.

The character in my book has finally stopped lying to himself that everything is going to be "all right" and is finally facing the traumas and failures in his life. He is talking about it and finding people don't place as much emphasis on his life as he does (a real bummer to find we are NOT the center of the universe). He realizes that everything he has done is him creating an illusion that everything is OK, that he is OK. He has finished hiding.

Could you be the same? Is there something you need to face? Here's some advice: Ask God to help. Don't fight the flesh with your flesh. You can't outsmart Satan. You can't do it alone without God's touching your life, guiding you, and giving you strength that you can't muster by will alone. Whether it is conflict with a neighbor, unforgiveness from past hurts or a pesky addiction problem: ask God to save you. Keeping asking, begging and crying out to the Lord: He will answer. You are not alone.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Giving

What should the motive be for giving money to God be? Guilt? Obedience? Joy?

I was talking to a friend this morning who is going to talk about giving before the church. The speech was good (as contribution speeches go), pointing out the need to support the local body of Christ and the need to be obedient to God in our stewardship. But I came away with guilt...I'm not giving enough, you should appreciate what the Lord has done for you by giving back...So I challenged the speech.

We already know that 10% of the membership gives 90% of the contribution and the speech isn't for those who are already giving. But how do we motivate the 90% non-givers to actually give? Will guilt help? Doubtful. So what will?

Vivien Hibbert once said to me that any church with strong praise and worship rarely has difficulty with finances. That got me to thinking: Why not pass the plate with strong praise music? Could the presence of God motivate them to give more? I think so.

So I rewrote the speech. Here is what I would do:
"Jesus is Lord. I would like for you to ask repeat after me...Jesus is Lord....Jesus is Lord...Now I want you to do this: Ask God what he wants you to give, then listen and obey...Jesus is Lord...Father, what do you want me to give right now, today.... Now listen for an answer..." Then sit down. Next, start a strong praise song (like Revelation Song by Kari Jobe) and halfway through the song, hand out the collection plates.

The idea is to get into the presence of God before giving to Him...Get God Himself to motivate the non-givers. No guilt, no shame, no begging or cajoling. Allow the Holy Spirit to begin His work in people's hearts, allow Him to admonish and encourage people to give. Do this for a month and see if people's attitude changes about giving so they can finally experience the joy of giving generously.

How would you get the 90% to give more and give generously?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Flesh

In reading scripture, one comes across the word "flesh" quite a bit. I am not going to list all the Scriptures with the word 'flesh' in it here; if you are interested in that sort of thing, look it up in your concordance....it's there. But what exactly is it? Quite simply, the 'flesh' encompasses everything in our earthly existence. Our senses, emotions, what it takes physically for us to live, our bodily functions, our desires and motives, our needs for entertainment, achievement, affection, comfort, and love; all these are examples of the 'flesh.'

Not all fleshly things are evil....for example, eating. Eating food is required for for us to live and exist. Another example, Christ came to the earth in the 'flesh' and Christ was sinless. Being happy or sad is not a sin. Many things in the flesh has the potential for becoming a sin, for example, if I take my need for food to the extreme and become a glutton, then I am sinning.

The fruits of the sinful nature are the flesh acting out. Anger, frustration, control, and gossip are the flesh's way of dealing with people. It is pleasure seeking or it can be pain seeking as well. The flesh isn't satisfied with 'just' sex, it wants more, kinkier, variety and set impossible standards for 'good-looking' and attractiveness. The flesh can be greedy, amassing great wealth and surrounding itself with more and more stuff. It loves to shop often, play computer games to 'wind down' and will set impossible moral standards for self and others. It wallows is guilt and shame, avoids what it is afraid of and easily gets 'set in its ways' in complacency and thrives on routine.

The flesh also shows up to church. The flesh doesn't want to be embarrassed during worship. It wants to be entertained during a church service, wanting everything to move along at a good pace with no silent patches. My flesh wants the powerpoint to be seamless and needs the sermon to be articulate and relevant. The flesh is uncomfortable and embarrassed when the Spirit shows up because the flesh wants to stay in control and really doesn't have time for tongue-speaking or prophetic words being spoken. The flesh also wants to be challenged but doesn't do much about that once it leaves the church building. The flesh can disguise itself as a servant but quietly demands that people notice. It tries to be righteous by its own strength, will and determination, independent of asking God for help. And for heaven's sake, the flesh wants church to be over in 90 minutes or at least before the Cowboy game begins.

The flesh can beat the drum of religious adherence and demands moral standards that they themselves cannot keep. It disguises itself as righteous so it doesn't have to depend on the blood to Jesus for grace and mercy. The flesh hides its sins instead of being open and honest, and it certainly doesn't humbly confess or repent of its sins (it usually blames its sins on someone else). It puts on pride every morning and sometimes sleeps in it at night, dreaming fittfully about winning battles and building strongholds.

Do any of these fit for you? What is your understanding of 'the flesh?'

Monday, October 5, 2009

Loving God

What is your motive for praise and worship? Do you have one? Is it to be in God's presence? Is it to receive a blessing from God? Is it just to give God His due, giving Him what is rightfully His? Is it because you are supposed to and you are just being obedient?

There are so many motives, underlying reasons why people praise and worship God. In my experience, when I give God what is due Him, then all the others fall into place. If my praise is to honor God (like what the creatures and angels and cloud of witnesses are doing in heaven) then God shows up. Then I get to enjoy being in His presence and He blesses me.

When I sense the presence of God, I keep focusing on what got me there instead of focusing on the feelings I am experiencing. If I focus on my feelings, then I have taken my focus off of God and His presence begins to ebb. When I place my focus back on praising God instead of my feelings, I can again enjoy His closeness and presence in worship.

What is your experience of being in the presence of God? Any insights you can share?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Church Followership Poll

In regard to your church leadership, which is closest to how you feel?

a. Delighted in their leadership in most ways and gladly follow in the direction they are headed.
b. Somewhat happy with them because I know we need leadership and at least they are willing to serve.
c. Quietly frustrated in their leadership styles because they won't take the risks that you think would help the church grow and mature.
d. I am silently obedient to the leadership's faces but have expressed my frustration with my closest friends.
e. I am openly critical of them but I do what they ask me to do.
f. I overtly reject the church leadership.
g. I am utterly apathetic toward the leadership and just flat out don't care.
h. Other.
i. All of the above.
j. None of the above.
k. Simpletons and nincompoops.
l. I am tired of talking about it...just go away..."Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...."
m. Jesus (only a choice because every religious test has this answer).

What is the main source of your frustration? What responsibility do you think you have to the leadership of your church?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Who Taught you to Pray?

How did you learn to pray? Did you pick it up by listening to others around you (which would be OK if they know what they are doing) or did you pick up it by osmosis? Do you ask God for your material or do you come up with it on your own? Have you ever be formally mentored in prayer? If not, would you be interested in that?

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Avatar is Cooler Than Me

The title says it all. On Farmtown (Facebook), my avatar is easy going, quick to befriend, talk, and be open. I am some of those things in degree but not nearly so as my avatar. My avatar was even sharing about Jesus with another farmer who hired me and the conversation just began...it was easy.

My avatar has a biting wit, is slightly sarcastic and very, very competitive. OK, OK, so the competitive part of my avatar is me to a 'T.' I can out plant, out plow, out harvest anyone else I have come up against so far.

For those of you who haven't done Farmtown, Farmville, or Yoville, I am the one running my avatar, controlling its motions, typing what it says....It is just easier with a cloak of anonymity. Granted I am talking about Jesus when I think I can get away with it...I guess I am the Farmtown evangelist....and that does not pay very well.

Are your avatars cooler than you?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Judge Not

Our preacher this past weekend talked about judging others. Here are some of my thoughts about it:

God judges us yet still loves us. Why? God is a God of Justice and He is the God of Grace and Mercy. God is going to challenge our sin (which deserves rejection and condemnation) because he doesn't want us to linger in sin. He handles judging with grace and mercy because He loves us. He wants us to repent because in doing so, we acknowledge our own responsibility in our sin. ...it's our only way out of it and back to Him. After judgement, He woos us back to Him because He loves us and constantly longs for fellowship with us. Do you see a pattern between judging and loving? Yeah, its there!

Judgement has a place when the aim is the preservation and restoration of others. There is a difference in judgement and condemnation. God uses judgement to bring us back to Him, to restore the severed relationship that sin causes. We can only judge others if we love them , otherwise we condemn them. So if we judge, we are not to condemn. We are to love people, first and foremost. We are not to judge (condemn) those we don't know or love.

Condemnation is judgement without love or relationship. Condemnation looks down on the other as bad, unforgivable and beyond help. Condemnation shuns others as "less than," creating a burden of shame.

What do you think about judging others? Comments?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Places I Have Lived

Its been a rough week so I decided to list the places I have lived. Here's my list of where my journey has taken me:

1. Murray, KY... born there

2. Palmersville, TN in Weakley County...(lived there out in the country on the farm that has been in my family for many generations) This place was deeded to my family after the Revolutionary War. It has three family cemeteries dating into the early 1800's.

3. Sharon TN lived there 2 0r three years (way out in the country) Dad sold fertilizer, mom raised four kids and ran a small dairy.

4. Paonia, CO went to first to twelfth grade here (lived three miles from town on a farm) I milked cows every morning and evening and fed hay to 30-60 head of cows twice a day. We grew 95% of our own food and put the excess in cars at church that weren't locked. It is in the North Fork Valley of the Gunnison, surrounded by 12,000 to 13,000 foot mountains. Dad was a fruit farmer and worked in the coal mine. My mom worked at the coal mines four years and worked even harder running the farm (and raising four kids). We moved there to help a struggling church as vocational missionaries...they are still there working with the same church, creating a close knit family of believers. I was the president of FFA and the World Travel Club and broke my back wrestling Troy Dunham from Olathe my senior year.

5. Edmond/Oklahoma City, OK went to college at OCC (now OCUSA) Moved here one week after graduating high school. I grew up fast and learned that the world is not always a friendly, happy place like Paonia. It was a launching pad for learning how to do relationships, friendships, and life vocation. I got the confidence to dream that God may have a purpose for me in my life and learned I was actually kinda of smart (a fact not indicated by previous grades or effort).

6. Abilene, TX Went to Abilene Christian University. Met my wife here as we were both working on our Master's degrees. Also met Rick Collett, who was my best friend and Best Man for my wedding. I was the youth minister for a year for the Highway 36 Church of Christ, 18 miles SE of Abilene. Awesome. My mentors Ed Headrick and Charles Rudolph were instrumental in helping me grow intellectually and spiritually.

7. Denton, TX My wife and I were both accepted into the Counseling Psychology PhD program here. Met some very good friends who supported us through the birth of our first child, a traumatic yet wonderful time of learning to help a medically fragile, special needs child. He wasn't supposed to live through the first week...now he is 17 years old.

8. Irving, TX After my son was born, we needed to be close to family, friends and nurses who would take on the load of his care with us. Eva, Lori, Robin, Amy, and Becky have all become a part of our family. We also expanded our family with two more sons, finished our PhDs and have accumulated even more friends, who are our brothers and sisters...our boys see them as family. We also lost our precious friend (and Jared's nurse) Robin to breast cancer three years ago while we lived here...we still feel the loss of her in our family.

Have you been to any of these places? Where have you lived?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Personal God

I was locked in my car with my mother-in-law for a solid hour last week (I actually reeeeaaalllly like her, really) and she was talking about how people need a personal invitation for them to come to church. She was telling story after story of people who had never darkened the door of a church until she personally went to them and invited them. She was even willing to use the "as a personal favor to me..." card and the "I want you to share this with me...." card to get people to go somewhere with her....and I think she is dead on.

General, beat around the bush hints and the "they will see my life and become so impressed with Jesus and want what I have" stuff is not working for most of the sane world. People want the personal touch. They want to know you are interested in them, that you like them enough to ask. They want their invitation to be heart-felt, genuine and caring. They want you to be as personal as the God you say you follow, and they want to see it again and again.

I have had to ask people 3, 4 up to 10 times to attend a function with me. I am patient with them as they refuse me again and again. But if God is speaking in my ear to invite them, then I am going to do that, over and over again. Gently. Lovingly (not Tough-Loving-ly). Kindly. Over coffee or a piece of pie, they want to know you and be reassured that you like them (or love them). Kinda like when God knocked on my heart to come in...not pushy or cloying....just a nudge here and there.

If there is someone out there who needs what you have, invite them with you. You may be amazed at what happens.

PS. I just read this to my mother-in-law. She laughed. She said that the women's Bible Study she is a part of is overwhelmed with the number of women who signed up...mainly because ten or so women started personally inviting their friends to come. An unprecedented number of women signed up, twice the number that the expected. Maybe their is something to a personal invitation from a personal God....

Saturday, September 12, 2009

1/3, 1/3, 1/3

When I was younger, I wanted people to like me. In order for everyone to think I was cool, I was willing to do things that I will not mention here (because if you knew them, you might think I was uncool) just to get attention. All the antics, all the joking, all the goofy things I did to get a laugh or a "I can't believe you just..." was to get other's approval, get them to like or notice me. But at what cost?

My brother, Tim, once said that if "some people aren't mad at you, you're not doing what you ought to." That got me thinking. If you do the right thing, if you do what God wants you to do, if you are completely obedient to the Lord, some people are not going to like you. I have personally known many people, preachers, professional athletes, business executives, doctors, etc., who lived for the next "approval high" and in the process, lost who they were as people...lost what made them interesting in the first place. People pleasers actually lose their appeal when they try to please others over being authentic and genuine. Living a lie is rarely appealing.

Doing things for approval is like a penguin flapping its wings to fly. Its just not going to be enough. The harder it flaps the more nothing happens. If people don't approve of you, that is their problem, not yours. If they can't like you for who you are, then they are not going to like you for being who you aren't.

You have to look inside first, acknowledge the gifts that God has given you and use them. When one uses his/her God given gifts, that is enough. When you try to please someone and do something that is not "you," people aren't actually attracted to that...yes they may be amused or may laugh...but that is not going to fulfill the need you have to be relevant, obedient or purposeful...only God can do that. If we are content with who we are and how God is using us, we don't have the drive to please everyone else.

So that brings me to the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 Theory of Human Relationships. You want a 1/3 of the people to hate you, a 1/3 of the people to love you and a 1/3 of the people to be apathetic toward you. What???!!!??? Those are Jesus' numbers. Think about it. Just being the Messiah caused people to crucify him, worship him, and others ignored what he did...and he was God in the Flesh. Are we trying to get better numbers than Jesus? If we are faithful and obedient to the Lord, 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 is about as good as it should get.

How are your percentages? Do you want everyone to love you or do you want to be obedient?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Swine Flu

Well it turns out my son has swine flu, not strep as we previously thought, and now my family it taking Tamiflu. Just when I thought life couldn't get any more interesting, it did. Funny how God doesn't ask for our permission to be tested and tried. The creator rarely asks the created for a formal written consent, in triplicate, before he sends us on an adventure.

So far, it is just fever, sore throat, whining, complaining and sleeping all the time. It it weren't for the fever and coughing, I would never have known he were sick.

Please be praying that my oldest son, Jared, who is an awesome special needs kid, doesn't get it. He has a fragile immune system and is very susceptible to catching everything going around. He already has a difficult time staying healthy and swine flu would not be good. Pray for God's protection from this virus.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Providence

Yesterday, I picked my 16 year old son up from school and he said his orchestra director wanted him to try out for the Lone Star Youth Orchestra....that afternoon at 4:30. The LSYO is an invitation only elite high school orchestra in North Texas...my son plays cello. The problem is that he has golf practice every afternoon from 2:45 to 6:30....yesterday being no different. So we discussed him taking on yet another activity in addition to his AP classes on the way to the country club where they practice. (Note: talk about a rough life...he HAS to play golf four days a week for 3 1/2 hours at a country club and at Bear Creek Golf Resort...rough life). Add to that my son was sick yesterday afternoon, strep throat.

Anyhow, we pulled up to Las Colinas Country Club and found the coach and players standing around talking. The coach came over and told us that the course was closed for the day. That meant that he could audition for the LSYO, so we ran home, got his cello and made it in time for him to audition.....and he made it....and loved it...and listening to the practice, they are certainly amazing for bunch of teenagers. He walked out of the practice room last night with a huge grin on his face, a pig in mud with a bucketful of slop in the tough.

So is that God's providence, God making a way for something to happen? There were certainly alot of "coincidences" for it to happen like it did. What do you think? Do you have things like that happen to you, where it looks like God is making a way for something to happen?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What Is Your Favorite Food?

I am the cook of our family. Like my Grandmother Helen Montgomery (Gandma Grumm), I can slap together a tasty meal pretty quick...I can usually have something on the table within thirty minutes. I am having culinary brain freeze right now and cannot think of anything to fix for dinner. So give some ideas (and recipes, if they are handy) of what to cook. What is your favorite food? Who cooks it the best?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Love is not Jealous

If love is not jealous, what is it? Trusting? Secure? Relaxed? Content? Undemanding?


I have heard jealousy is the fear of losing what you already have...demanding that another is solely devoted....smothering the other with attention and insisting on the exclusivity of any love...it fears losing its only source of love and therefore clings tighter, thinking the tighter it clings the less likely the person will be to leave.


So, love holds on loosely and allows the other to choose to be there instead of demanding it. Demanding that one love you turns love into obligation and "have to"....and very few of respond well to having love choked out of their life. The jealous person doesn't realize that the tighter the cling, the more repulsive and oppressive they become until the object of their jealousy has no choice but to run.


But love trusts that love is sure and true. Love is secure that despite flaws and weaknesses, love will last. Love realizes the other must have freedom to choose or becomes something other than love. Love relaxes because it knows that love will be returned in its own time. Love is at peace because there is stability.


How has jealosy (yours or others) affected your relationships?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Love is Kind

Kindness doing small things with love. Kindness considers what the other person likes/wants when expressing love to another. When my wife and I got married, we both made a list for the other with the heading:

I feel cared about when:

...and each of us listed 50-100 things the other could do for us to show that we care. Little things. Individual and unique to each of us. Free things. Caring deeds that indicate I care about her that I might otherwise not know. Here are a few of my wife's:
Back rub.
Mini Snickers from the store.
Run a bubble bath.
Make the bed.
Open the car door for me.
Do the dishes.
Cook dinner. Mac and cheese, sausage and green beans.
Dust.
Talk for five minutes about myself.
Put my arm around her during church.
Hold hands.
Ask about her day.
Jewelry (any and all)
Spooning in bed
Pray with her.
Snuggle with her while watching a movie on the couch
Leave love notes where she will happen upon them during her day

Kindness says that I love her without using words. Each one is a voluntary, spontaneous expression of the great love in my heart where my words fall short. Caring deeds are the proof and delight of my love for her.

And to think, God is love...God is kind. God constantly pours blessings out on me and my family as a way of expressing His love to me. More than Scripture saying it...He proves it by the hundreds of things that I find that are good and right in my life.

But He also wants me to care about Him. He wants me to do things, spontaneous and voluntary, that show I care. Any relationship thrives on kindness and our relationship with God is no exception. It's more than obedience, although God digs that. Kindness shows God that I am thinking of Him, that I want Him, that He means something to me.

What do you do that shows this level of intimacy with your spouse, family or God?

Friday, September 4, 2009

You Can't Hurry God

I have attended worship services before where every minute was planned, filled and taken. Before one song was finished the guy leading the next prayer was already walking forward...one song ends and the next song begins with the next breath. Is it possible that when "do church" this way, there is no time for God to speak or move among His people? Do we even want God to move among His people during a worship service?

Granted the flesh wants to be entertained and can't stand a moment of silence. Why? Because the flesh is very uncomfortable during the silence after praise. Why? Because God tends to speak during that time and the flesh has no time for listening or obeying God. Why? Because the "religious fleshly self" wants the time filled with interesting God things but doesn't want to engage with God Himself. Why? Because deep down in each one of us, the flesh and Spirit are in a battle for our attention. Silence after praise and worship gives the Spirit the room to move and act for a while.

This reminds me of the statement: Don't just do something, sit there! It has been my experience that God likes some quiet, unplanned time to speak to me. After praise and worship, He waits until my flesh is quieted before He talks to me. Sometimes I have waited 5, 10, even 20 minutes before I felt His quickening my heart and heard his still, small voice. But the wait is worth it. To me, it is the purpose and reason for me praising and worshipping in the first place. God may not be near as impressed with our worship services as we might think He is if He is not allowed to move among His people.

So my encouragement is: Don't hurry God. Be patient. Don’t rush. Keep it simple. Allow there to be times of silence during the breaks between songs and prayers. Give God an opportunity to speak and work. You'll be glad you did.

When does God speak to you?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Jesus Friend of Sinners

I have never known a life without Jesus. My parents were both Christians and started me on my own spiritual journey early in life. I had friends that were Christians, went to Christian universities, married a Christian and have many Christian friends from many different denominations. To top it off, I live in the belt buckle of the Bible Belt.

Jesus' life changed how kings and governments rule. He changed how husbands treated their wives and how parents treat their children. His influence caused love to be acted upon in the world. He has influenced how employees work for their bosses and how bosses treat their employees. He offered a new way for people to find God, without all the rules, rituals and hypocrisy. Even in parts of the world that deny his deity, he still affects them in subtle, but profound ways. Since his Crucifixion, the world has been different. Since his infectious and sacrificial love was unleashed the entire world has benefited. People who have not accepted him as Savior and King still live in a world affected by his benevolence and kindness. The benevolence and sacrifice of His people have changed even the remotest areas of the world.

Because of Jesus, I want to give to the poor, help the needy, and attend to the sick. I want to carry fast food gift certificates in my truck to hand to the "Will Work for Food (or Beer)" folks who hang out on street corners. I want to help them in some small way. I want to be kind and hospitable. I like mowing my neighbor's yard (without them knowing) or loan out my pickup to help someone move. I dig that. It expresses the true nature of Jesus in me.

Yes, I know bad things have been done in the name of religion. Yes, I know about the Crusades and the cults that have destroyed the lives of many. I am well aware of the fact that Christians are NOT perfect (or even remotely close). But regardless of what we have done to pervert his name, he still reigns and rules. Despite our imperfections and brief forrays into the flesh, His love still overcomes sin and his love still affects the entire world through his people. His love is still being perfected in many imperfect people who seek to know Him and obey Him. I am counted as one of those.


Jesus is cool. He sought me out and became my friend. His love has changed my life and I have passed that on to many others. How has He affected you?

Love is Patient

Patience is the fruit of the Spirit that we all want to eat but we pick it before it is ripe. I have always heard one should not pray for patience for, in doing so, it unleashes a avalanche of learning opportunities ( aka., frustrating acts) and, therefore, develops patience. I have always prayed for patience with the caveat for God to have mercy on me but each time, the time worn saying holds true....lights turn red, children act like...well...children, and you always choose the slow line at the grocery store. So goes life.

Patience may be best described by its absence. We all have known someone (perhaps even ourselves) that is impatient...you know, the one who hates to stand in line, speeds through intersections as the light turns from yellow to red, who yells at their children in exasperation, who picks the apple before it is ripe, who got DSL for internet because the other was too slow, or impulsively acts when restraint is the best choice. We have all been there, done that, except for some righteous soul who lives in a far away country in a far away place.

But patience is more than not acting impatient. Patience requires asking God for direction then listening. Patience requires one to follow God's direction and timing in every circumstance. God may have helped you choose a line in the grocery store that had someone in it He wanted you to speak and minister to. God may be teaching your children patience through you. God may want you to slow down at the stoplight and pray for someone He places on your heart. God may want you to wait to pick the fruit because it is so much sweeter when it is ripe.

If one is filled with the Spirit then he/she allows the the Spirit of God the time to move. Each instance of impatience is an opportunity to wait on God....and Scripture says God does not disappoint. So ask God what your next step is... and obey.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Tale of the Scales

Let's say you have two bathroom scales, one which is accurate (arg!) and the other weighs you lighter from 3 to 6 pounds than your actual weight. Which do you use? Why?

Monday, August 31, 2009

This Old House


Do not store up for yourselves wealth here on earth....Matt 6.19

On the road to Billings Tunnel outside Salida Colorado, there is ghost town. This is a picture of the 1880's general store that was in the center of a bussling, thriving mining community. It was new, flashy (by 1880s' standards because everyone else lived in tents) and even had two cellars to store goods (now just large holes in the ground). Now it is 14 logs stacked on top of each other and a few sheets of tin scattered around. That's it. In fact, of all the remains of 23 cabins and businesses, this is the one in the best condition.

It's hard to believe that very little will remain of our "empires" 100 years after we are gone. A few sticks or rocks on top of each other and that's it. That's all. Kind of sad, isn't it? But if we invest in the spiritual kingdom, if we spread the gospel by living right and loving others, that investment never dies. It continues to grow, build and thrive in the hearts of others, passing in on and on and on.

Most of the churches, businesses and homes that exist now, will not even be a memory in 100 years....but the Word of the Lord keeps going and going and going. Invest in loving people, talking up Jesus and serving the Lord and watch that investment grow for centuries to come.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Pics

Here are some pictures I took recently in Colorado.







Sometimes I like to photograph the small things around instead of huge panoramic pics. Sometimes there is beauty in the small things, the things that go unnoticed (unless you are looking for them).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wrestling with God


When I was in junior high and high school, I wrestled on the Paonia (Colo.) wrestling team. My sons laugh when they hear I was a wrestler because they imagine I was a WWF wrestler, in a ring, jumping off the top ropes doing a flying toe hold or hitting someone over the head with a wooden chair. But being on the wrestling team was great. Practices were grueling but they built me up and gave me endurance. Travelling to other cities was cool because you got to hang out with friends on four- to ten-hour bus trips. The physicality of wrestling is like no other sport.

I was reading about Jacob wrestling with the angel...the story facsinates me. Being that close to a spiritual being boggles my mind. It certainly represents nicely the number of things I have wrestled with God in my life, my flesh and heart constantly coming up against my spiritual and moral beliefs.

I am constantly wrestling with God about something. But you know something, I think God likes it when I wrestle with Him. God doesn't want to be detached and distant in my life, He wants to be in there, close, touching me, working me out. He doesn't want to be an intellectual concept or a religious icon. The nature of wrestling is close, physical and God loves it... because you can't wrestle with someone who is far away. They have to be close to you. It's a very intimate, personal activity.

I like it when God manhandles me. No matter what move I make, He holds on to me and counters each move. I want to be lovingly mauled by my Father just like my sons like it when I wrestle with them. I hold them down and maul them and they smile the entire time, knowing I am not going to hurt them but they know they are not powerful enough to take me...yet. We both enjoy the physical time together and it creates a bond, a loving bond, with each other.

I want God that close. I want him on top of me matching me move for move. I want Him close enough to feel His breath and know His strength. When my flesh has an issue with Him and I walk onto the mat, like Jacob wrestling, I don't think He is angry nor do I think He wants to crush me. I think He is happy, because I am close....I am at least willing to walk onto the mat with Him. Wrestling with God doesn't mean He has given up on me or is slapping me around; it is His way of showing how close He really is and that he loves me....and He always wins.

What has your experience of wrestling been?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Persecution

How blessed you are whenever people hate you and ostracize you and insult you.....Luke 6.22

When was the last time someone hated you? Did you feel blessed or did you feel bad? I am supposed to be glad when someone hates me? What?!!?

A preacher friend of mine is a affirmation/acceptance junkie. He hates it when someone doesn't like a sermon he preaches. He hates conflict and will do pretty much anything to avoid it. He goes out of his way to make sure people are good with him. His sermons are watered down, entertainment speeches that lack anything that would make anyone uncomfortable or feel convicted. He needs everyone to like him (even though he denies that).

But isn't there a part of that in all of us? The need to be liked contaminates our evangelism. Very few people are willing to be hated. People just don't want to risk rejection, ridicule or insult for the Gospel. The Gospel counters our need to be liked, wanted, befriended and accepted. When our gospel is contaminated by the need for acceptance, it gets watered down, it becomes for factual than personal. The Gospel is more than Jesus facts and theological proofs (at least I hope it is). It is more than exegesis, hermeneutics and lectures.

The Gospel is the most personal story of who we are. It is how Jesus moves in us, changes us, and gives us purpose and meaning. The Good News is very personal and vulnerable because, for a Christian, it is the very essence who we are. It is the story of our own personal redemption, the motive for living and the hope for the future. Take the Gospel personally and you risk rejection.

The Gospel is the most intimate discussion we can have. The Spirit moves in our story. God uses our story to convict the listener and confront sin. He uses our story to express His love, mercy and grace. He uses our Gospel to proclaim His Gospel. And the church is dying because many won't even talk about it.

Talk about the Gospel. Let the God use your story to tell his story. What is the Gospel to you? Is it more factual or personal?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Road Less Travelled

In life, there are so many have tos, shouldn'ts, don'ts, gotta's, normals, averages and need too's, its nice to take the less travelled four wheel drive road away from convention. Here's what we saw when we took a two wheel drive Tahoe up a four-wheel drive road:

I wish you could feel the 50 degree wind whistling through the rocks and wildflowers. It's very refreshing on an August day (when it is 105 degrees in Texas).

The flowers that grow here are like no other anywhere else in the world.

At this altitude, spruce trees only get about 6 foot tall.

Yep, that is snow in August. Yep, we got in a snowball fight. Yep, it was cold.
I encourage you to take the less travelled road....the road that takes you where you didn't even know you needed to be to see things you didn't know existed. It stretches your faith and puts your trust squarely where it needs to be...in the hands of God. Forgive someone who hurt you. Feed a homeless person. Give a generous gift to church or an charity that does good for people. Raise your hands in church. Pray out loud for 6 hours. Do something daring that God is moving you to do. God wants you to take the risk, follow him into adventure. Your faith won't know what hit it...




Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vision to See


Five years ago, my middle son made an off handed remark that he couldn't see the marker board in front of the classroom. I made an offhanded remark that maybe he needed to go to the nurse and get his eyes checked. So the next day he did just that....and we got a call from the nurse that there were problems with his vision and we needed to take him for a more extensive examination. OK, no problem...his uncle is an ophthalmologist....so we took him for the exam.

Come to find out, he is legally blind. He could barely see shapes and light much less read what was on the board at school. He played baseball and had a pretty good batting average but got struck out alot on balls he should have hit. So he gets his new glasses and says...hey, there's leaves on trees, lawns have blades of grass, look there's cloud's in the sky, and....all the way home he was pointing out things he couldn't see before, reading billboards, etc. He started reading books (by the 1,000's), hitting the baseball, and just noticing things in his world that he couldn't see before.

Yesterday, my youngest son asked him, "Why didn't you tell someone that you couldn't see?" His answer: "Because I didn't know I couldn't see. When you are born not being able to see very well, you don't know you can't see. You think you see like everyone else but really you can't. It's kinda sad. There's probably alot of people out there who can't see but just don't know it."

Isn't that true of us all spiritually? We think we see the world clearly and understand perfectly when Scripture clearly states:

"For now we see obscurely in a mirror,
but then it will be face to face.
Now I know partly; then I will know fully,
Just as God has fully known me.

We all need glasses, even if we think we have perfect spiritual vision. We all are "dumber than a post" even if we think we are "theological Eisteins." When will we understand that we just don't get it...none of us do. We are all fumbling and stumbling towards God. All of us. Only God can give us the vision to see Him clearly...but just wait until heaven...when we can clearly see.

Monday, August 24, 2009

He leads me beside still water

This picture is my entry in the Texas State Fair under the category of "Clouds." The title of the picture is "Clouds on Still Waters." It reminds me of Psalms 23:

Adonai is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He has me lie down in grassy pastures,
he leads me by quiets water,
he restores my inner person.

He guides me in right paths
for the sake of His own name.
Even if I pass through death dark ravines,
I will fear no disaster, for you are with me;
your rod and staff reassure me.

You prepare a table for me,
even as my enemies watch;
you anoint my head with oil
from an overflowing cup.

Goodness and grace will pursue me
every day of my life;
and I will live in the house of Adonai
for years and years to come.

-The Complete Jewish Bible by David Stern

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Singing Spiritual Songs

Growing up, some of my fondest memories are of my mom singing as she worked. She sang as she cooked, cleaned, hoed the garden, hung clothes on the clothesline and snapped green beans. Sometimes I could recognize the tune but many times I could not. They were always hymns from church or some "God-themed" song. As I think about it, it brings a smile to my face. Not because she had perfect pitch or was vocally trained...far from it. It was because there was something inside her that she shared willingly with those around her.
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Hear the Word of the Lord in Colossians 3.16 ... "Let the Word of the Messiah, in all its richness, live in you....as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts."

Put what God has placed in your heart to music and sing. Don't have a vocally trained voice? I doubt God cares. Put it to use. God has placed the words and music inside you because...get this...Jesus dwells inside you. Sing the psalms. Sing about Jesus. Improvise the words and music and God will bless you in it. Sing what you are grateful for and you will feel it. Sing what Jesus has done for you and it will impact your heart like nothing else.

I did this the other day. I was singing my thankful for my family and the blessings of my life and tears started coming to my eyes. Before long, I was practically weeping and singing because of the gratitude I was feeling. It was a spiritual moment, a time that God allowed me to feel it...more than just saying it rotely in a prayer...it was real.

So try it. Ask God for the words and the tune then utter sing the first few words and notes.... then you can work on singing your prayers. Be prepare to be blessed.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Married 21 Years Today

Twenty one years ago today, I was the happiest man alive. Five months earlier, I had met a woman who had climbed 14,000 foot mountains, loved fly fishing and backpacking in Colorado, and smiled all the time. It was then I married a woman who was beautiful, smart, happy, and delightful. Now 21 years later, I still am the happiest man alive and my wife is still beautiful, smart, happy and delightful. We have three boys that make us proud and God blesses us each and everyday with joy, peace and wisdom. We laugh together, worship God together, and share our lives together.

I hope there's at least another 21 years together.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Top 10 Things to do in Dallas and Fort Worth

1. Catch whatever game is in season (Cowboys, Mavericks, Rangers, Stars, FC Dallas, Cats, Airhogs, Dallas Diablos {Rugby}). You can also catch a high school football game, if you are here on a Friday night. That will be as exciting as any pro or college game and you can see the stars before they become famous). Texas Motor Speedway is a Texas-sized venue for NASCAR.

2. Eat out at one of the 20,000 restaurants (there are great places to eat everywhere). There are more places to eat per capita than anywhere else in the US. I like Celebration (on Lovers Lane), Macaroni Grill (OK, OK its everywhere, but they have great food), Sonny Bryan's BBQ, The Mansion on Turtle Creek (bring your money and your appetite), Bob's Steak and Chop, Lowry's, iFratelli in Irving, Bruno's Italian in Valley Ranch, Mama's Daughter (Home Cookin'), Via Real in Irving, Reata and Blue Mesa Grill in Ft. Worth.

3. Go to the Great State Fair of Texas and see Big Tex. Everyone in my family is entered in the photography contest...we'll see. But there is so much more to see and eat there.

4. Catch a concert. Most of the big names come through Dallas, especially now that Cowboys Stadium is open (Six Flags Over Jerry). Man, that place is big.

5. Go to church somewhere. Everything is big in Texas including the churches. Try out First Baptist Dallas (Downtown Dallas), Prestonwood (Six Flags Over Jesus), Fellowship.Com, Northwest Bible, or the denomination of your choice....it's all here. I go to Farmer's Branch Church of Christ because it feels like family (and the preaching is pretty good, too).

6. Go shopping. Whether it is clothes, furniture, cars, or a specialty shop...yep, we have it. I am particularly fond of the outlet shopping where you can get alot for just a little.

7. Dallas World Aquarium and The Science Place are great places to hang out with the kids. In Ft. Worth, go the the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and the Omni. The Fort Worth and Dallas Zoo are great. And walking around on the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens is unbelievable (especially if you are a gardener).

8. Art is huge in Dallas. Check out the Dallas Museum of Art or Nasher Sculpture Garden. In Fort Worth, try the Kimbell, Amon Carter, or Sid Richardson. You have got to see these. No visit to DFW is complete without seeing the art.

9. Go to a show at the Bass or CasaManana (in Ft. Worth) or Meyerson or the new Dallas Opera House. Stunning. Spectacular. Unbelievable. WOW. Must see. Really. Catch a Summer Musical out at Fair Park (but still get dressed up).

10. Sundance Square in Fort Worth is a great place to hang out in the evening as is Uptown in Dallas.


Did I leave anything important out?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Spiritual Mentor

The American church lacks men and women who are willing to challenge others to grow and develop their spiritual gifts. Would you agree? I mean a mature, spirit-filled person who is willing to come beside a less mature person and teach them what they need to know about God's power, Jesus' love, dealing with the flesh and sin, teaching others how to discover and develop their Holy Spirit gifts, and take the time to answer the person's questions. What is needed is someone who would give stretching homework and exercises that would bring out your spiritual potential.

We have preachers who preach the Word but where is the one on one mentorship? We have Bible class teachers but who is going to take the time to personally teach the gift of prophesy? Or tongues? Or healing? Who is going to gently challenge and and help them develop spiritually? We have elders (or deacons) who shepherd the flock (put out fires) but do they guide others into a deeper understanding of the Word or take someone through the spiritual paces to develop passion and fire in their hearts for Jesus?

Who pushes you spiritually? If no one, would you be interested in someone who would help you develop your spiritual potential?

Monday, August 17, 2009

He is My Rock


The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress. The Lord is the one constant that can be trusted in troubled times. Economies will come and go but He remains the same. He will answer when I call for help and will be Comfort me when my fears arise. He will calm the storms. He will open up the sea when everything seems hopeless. He is Lord.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

GI Joe

My 12 (soon to turn 13) year old son wanted to see GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra for his birthday next week so we saw it last night. What a surprisingly good movie. Great special effects, good plot line, good movie, lots of implied violence, only a minimal amount of foul language, very little skin or sex...and it was still a really good movie. Both my sons (16 and 12) thought is was the best movie EVER and want to see it again. Even my wife liked it and that is saying alot.

The movie is a good illustration of of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong and even though the bad guy wears white.

If you have a teenage son or liked GI Joe as a kid....you'll like this movie.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Praying to Find my Car Keys

Yesterday, I couldn't find my car keys to save my life. Four of us were looking for them to no avail. I knew I had brought them home (because my truck was in the driveway) but I couldn't remember where I laid them down (I have ADHD to thank for that). Usually it's my wife's fault when I lose things because she staightens up and tidies after I blow through the house and she hides them (actually she puts them where they belong, but still....). But my wife was at work and couldn't be the fall guy (gal) for this one.

So after 45 minutes of looking and not finding them, I prayed about it. I sincerely asked God to help me. So about 3 hours later (when I had given up looking) I found them...on my messy bathroom vanity (which my wife has refused to even think about cleaning because it is...uh...disorganized). So in a way, it is her fault.

So God comes through again, finding something lost in my family. It is humbling. He answers prayer. God is good.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Three Dollars Worth of God

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man
or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

— Wilbur Rees

I read this poem this morning and it blew me away. As I read it, it confronted how I think many in the church view God. Give me the family but not the sacrifice. Give me a place to belong but not so much that I lose myself. Give me enough to sing songs but not so much that I lose myself in the Spirit. Just enough to speak to my fellow Christians in my denomination but not so much that I have to speak to strangers about Jesus or speak in tongues. Help me give enough of my money so I feel good about it but not so much that the church can do something innovative and daring. I want enough so I can sit in an interesting and "well-thought-out Bible class" but not so much that I have to teach that "well-thought-out Bible class."

I guess I want more of Jesus. What would $100, $1000, or $100,000 buy? What would I get if I gave my life to Him? How much of Jesus do you want?