Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Memory Time - December 31, 2010

Happy Last Day of 2010! We are buried in snow drifts, the wind is howling, and more snow is expected today... and it's cold too. If you planned to end the year with a picnic, ya might have to hold it inside your home today. The ending of a year is a time when we often look back in thought about what we have done for the year; as far back as we can remember anyway. What did I do to bring glory to God's name in this year of 2010? Perhaps January 18, 2010 doesn't immediately come to mind like a DVD player set to 'resume' for you. It doesn't for me either. The news show 60 Minutes had a segment on people with near perfect recall. Name a date and the five people featured in the show would start rattling off what had happened to them that day, news headlines, songs, and all the stuff that most of us cannot recall exactly. The very next week, my Guideposts magazine featured a woman who had been in an accident on her bike and lost all of her memory. She had to start at zero and learn to walk, talk, eat, and the memories of her life are just gone. Wow.

Somewhere between those extremes is where most of us sit. You could name a random date from my lifetime and chances are that unless something of surpassing importance happened on that particular day, I wouldn't be able to recall more than general things about where I was working at the time, what hobbies I might have done and what shows were running at the time. On the other hand, I can recall an enormous amount of often trivial facts, some of which might have been proven wrong since I memorized them back in the day. Others may be better at remembering names and faces, relationships, or songs on the radio. Sometimes an event today will trip a lever in my memory bank and I can recall a picture show as seen through my own eyes of some event many years in the past. What would it be like to have that perfect recall? What would it be like to have no memories at all? We can probably see advantages and disadvantages to both.

The Bible tells us that when God forgives our sin it is put as far away from Him as the east is from the west. What would it be like to stand before God apologizing for all those sins we can recall, and then have God simply say, "I don't remember any of those things you speak of." You or I might stand there a bit flabbergasted. We struggle so hard to recall so many of the wrong things about each year. Sometimes a friend or coworker eases the struggle by bringing up things we would rather have forgotten. Other times a date can bring up bad memories of the past. You can take that as a date on the calendar or a person with you at a dinner in a restaurant; you may have experienced either one. More often than either of those is that old fretting brought on by a little whisper from the devil or our own anxiety. In your introspection this year, put on the armor of God, review it in Ephesians 6 if you need to, and look out from that armor at the good things you did this year.

No matter how busy you were with work or family, God led you to do something to help someone else, perhaps at some cost to yourself. A note of encouragement in an e-mail, something as small as that might help another person get through a tough day or forget those dark thoughts of depression. A short walk across the street to inquire about how things are going with a neighbor may have done more than satisfy your curiosity. That time you stooped to pick up something for that lady downtown may have meant more to her than just a quick favor; she may have had nothing else go right for her that entire day. And most important of all, remember all those prayers for someone else you prayed in this past year - God didn't let a single one of them go by without some action on His part, though you never saw the effect yourself. In your introspection for 2010, let's drop the self-condemnation this year. Let God lead you to His light.

Have a blessed and grateful new year in Christ!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Choice! - December 30, 2010

Good Thursday morning! Technically, the blizzard has begun. If you gaze outside the window here in Sidney, there is a tiny bit of snow blowing around. The blizzard did hit in Utah last night, so we do have a chance to see the snow right on schedule today. The cats are glad to be inside; in fact one is trying to do some demolition work on my already cluttered desk. If he digs around and a mouse runs out then I shall be concerned. Today, I pray that you are snug in your home and well prepared for the snow. We have been rather short of moisture in these parts this fall, so I am praying for some good snowfall this time. Sorry about the late game tonight, but it wasn't my fault really. We'll have to write some letters to ol' Bo and express our displeasure at his team performing poorly in the Big 12 Championship and getting the New Year's Eve Eve Late Bowl. It's even worse for the fans in the eastern part of the state; for them the game doesn't start until 9pm. I suppose I could record the game, but after seeing the score on Friday morning I probably won't be all that interested in sitting to watch the game. I have the power to choose!

Today, I was wondering while laying in bed, after Ken Davis came on at just before 0600, if we realize just how much power and privilege we have in our ability to choose. I asked God to control my thoughts; after all what better way to avoid thoughts of sin than to have God's Holy Spirit take control, or so I thought. But God told me that He didn't work like that. The words I heard in my heart were more like: "I didn't create you to be a mindless automaton." That got me thinking about our ability to choose. Not to choose sin - that's so very easy for us from our lust of the flesh - but the ability to choose to do the right thing, and this is a very powerful and God-glorifying ability.

We certainly need all the help we can get from God and His Spirit to make the right choice too! James 5:16 tells us that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. In order to pray that prayer, we much first become righteous. Jesus makes us righteous when we believe in Him, but we still must choose to make that prayer. The distractions of the day can drive away our thoughts of God and prayer. Making the right choice to devote time to prayer, especially for others, will have powerful effectiveness. Jesus taught us how to pray and to do it in the quiet room of our home. James reminded us that we have not because we ask not. Prayer is where we come to God and get closer to Him. That takes our making a right choice.

We can also do good works, not to save ourselves, but to prove our faith to the world. God is glorified when we make those right choices. Through the strength of God's Spirit, we gain the power to glorify God through our choosing to do the right thing! These chances to do good works might be from a regular duty, such as on our jobs, or there might come an opportunity that we did not expect. Have you ever come upon a chance to do a good work, and then reacted or chose in the wrong way? Once you ask forgiveness and get over the regret, ask God for another chance and the strength to do the right thing. In my Bible reading and personal experience, God is quite good at giving me another chance after I've blown it. I think dear Peter the disciple would agree with me in this!

Have a safe and snowy day! Stay home and keep warm while reading God's word!


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Knowledge - December 29, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! Perhaps the final day before winter pays us a visit. Winter this year has been only an occasional visitor thus far; will it stay for a while this time? We don't know the answer to that question, but we do know someone who does. Many questions will occur to each of us and we will not always find the answers within our own knowledge. Proverbs tells us about our own knowledge:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

If you have come to the realization by now that your knowledge and understanding is a bit on the limited side then you are in good company. At least I like to consider myself good company. As a whole, the human race does know and understand a lot, but we also have no idea how much more there is to learn. That's a pretty serious shortcoming. If a runner took off on a race and covered a lot of ground, but had no idea how long the race was, he might never know where the finish line was supposed to be. God warns us through the writing of King Solomon to lean not on our own understanding. This is not a command to stop learning or searching the Scriptures, but a notice of our own weakness in understanding.

Part of our own learning in this life involves setting aside some of what we learned before. This becomes painfully obvious when you follow the news reports about what you should eat or drink. All of us can remember the days when a disciplined and healthy person never touched tobacco, alcohol, or chocolate: These days we are all supposed to partake in two out of three of those in order to live longer. We can only wonder how long before some study surfaces showing the long-term health effects of a certain type of tobacco use. Why do we like to go back to the Bible? The understanding of the world seems to change over time; we cannot trust it to save us.

Even if we don't trust in the world's knowledge, what about our own store of knowledge? How much of that knowledge is dependent upon what you have been taught in schools? Again the Bible is not against learning, but does hold some warnings about the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge.

For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow. Ecc 1:18

Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge.
Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 1 Cor 8:1

Speaking of the eating and drinking thing, Paul has this to say: Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 1 Cor 8:8

Jesus also had a few words about worrying too much over what we eat and drink in Mark 7:15. There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him." This is a word about defilement of the body and spirit, and not a license to eat anything. If you gobble down some rat poison, you won't be defiled, but you will very likely be dead. Webster's defines defile as: to make ceremonially unclean or to corrupt. Jesus went on to explain what he meant by the things that come out of a person:

And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." Mark 7:20-23 ESV

As we read over that list, it is easy to see that these are all the things that trip us up in our Christian walk. The evil thought starts us down the path to sin if we allow the thought to continue in us. If you watch certain stations on the television these days, it is also a list of all that the world considers entertaining. This list also shows how unqualified any of us are to be the sacrifice needed for all of sin. Jesus stopped his sin at the source; he didn't have the sinful thoughts that come out of our corrupted hearts. We all look forward to that day when Jesus will bring us home and remove that corrupted heart of ours, bringing us into His kingdom and cleansing us from the lust of the flesh. Although you might read through that list and admit being guilty in all of them, Jesus has paid the price for those sins at the cross. Believe in Jesus; trust in Him; live with His Spirit in your heart!

Have a great Wednesday... before the snows of winter arrive!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Drunk in Court - December 28, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! Enjoy the day; winter may arrive tomorrow in all of its glory. Snow, blowing snow, cold... pretty much what they have out on the East Coast already. We may not be able to predict the future, but sometimes just reading a headline can give us a pretty good idea of how some event might go. "Man shows up drunk for sentencing." You and I can guess that the sentencing for this man will probably not go well on whatever charge he was found guilty, and he may get a little treatment program and possibly a citation for contempt of court as well. We don't have to be a prophet to know that showing up to court drunk is not a good idea. Now I'll read the article...

Ah, probation violation, the man got another six months of jail time. I often wonder if I haven't done something similar to God's court. I repent, ask forgiveness, while at the same time the stain of another sin rests on my soul. It may sound kind of dumb, like the drunken criminal, but I'm sure that I have done something very like that. Praise God that Jesus paid the price for all of our sins, not just one here or that one over there, but all of them. If all of my sins are forgiven, then do I need to worry about asking again? Some would tell me that when Jesus forgave all of my sins, that was that, and I don't have to ask forgiveness anymore. I understand, but at the same time, I agree with God that some action or thought was a sin and that I need to acknowledge it before Him. I think that God likes me to stop, agree with Him, and most importantly, let Him know that I agree with Him. Perhaps I do not specifically need to ask forgiveness each and every time, but as a part of acknowledging that I do stumble in my Christian walk, I like to ask for the forgiveness of God and apologize for my sin. It isn't that I think the grace of Jesus is insufficient, quite the contrary, but I do like to show my respect for God by agreeing with His Holy Spirit when I sin and the Spirit points it out to me. You might say that it is like showing up for court cleaned up and neatly dressed to show respect for the court. The judge will also be much more impressed if you agree with the Law that you are in the wrong.

Our drunken criminal denied that he had been drinking, not exactly an agreement with the Law. A blood test disagreed with his claim. We tend to laugh, and it is funny from our comfortable distance. But do we appear in God's court sometimes with the stink of sin on our own breath? Bad news for all of us, on our own we would certainly show up in God's court in that sinful condition. However, each of us has that greatest of defense attorneys when we believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. You might imagine Jesus as that defender who strips down the dirty criminal, cleans him up, puts a white robe on to cover the nakedness, a robe purchased with his own blood, and then stands the criminal off to the side. Off to the side? Yes, Jesus will stand in the place of the accused and has taken the punishment for all those who believe in Him!

Thank God for His mercy and grace! Have a wonderful day in Christ,


Monday, December 27, 2010

Backwards! - December 27, 2010

Good Monday morning! I hope that very few of you have to go back to work this morning. Wait until after the new year starts to slog on up the hill again. Even the school kids are out for a week or so. How was your Christmas? The usual question involves Santa Claus and a list of presents you did or did not receive. We'll set that one aside and just ask: Did you have a Christmas full of Christ this year? I certainly did, and I'm glad of it this morning. For a glimpse of the snow we are missing, go on out to the east coast (on the Internet) and search some of the web cams out yonder. Snow falls on New Bern, N.C. about once each century, but they have some this morning. Snow was expected even in Atlanta last night and this morning. Yup, Atlanta is colder than we are this morning, although that is supposed to change on our end around Thursday. The weather in the south kind of leads into my topic for today: backwards.

Christmas is over for this year. The celebrations are finished, the presents unwrapped, and the trees will start coming down to be packed or thrown away for another year. However... we have that backwards as with many things in the modern world view. Few people knew of the arrival of Messiah back in the day. Many more knew of it after the birth. We should begin the celebration on Christmas Day, not conclude it. The day of Christmas should be announced with trumpet calls and ringing bells to come to worship the newborn King. We should, like the shepherds, then make our trip to see this thing at our church service or at a family gathering. Then we should hold a two-year celebration of worship like the wise men did, traveling across the country to see a different Christmas service. Okay, maybe the two year thing wouldn't work for most of us today. For some reason, we celebrate in the reverse order. We have this intense anticipation of the holiday, then some celebration, and finally on December 26th, this huge letdown as the celebration is declared "done". We just have it backwards is all.

The merchants are expected to try keeping the celebration of shopping going this week with end-of-year and post-Christmas sales. I saw a couple of "Santa didn't bring what you wanted?" sales advertised yesterday on the Internet. That of course is not quite what I meant by starting the celebration on Christmas Day, but that does speak to the world we live in. Holiday shopping has made a comeback it seems, and that is not all bad unless that is the only thing a person sees in Christmas. We can praise God for the improving economy. Perhaps with that good news in mind, some of those stingy employers will start hiring once more and ease the workload on those employees who are nearly worn out from the extra work heaped on them a couple of years ago. That won't happen in every case; some CEO's met the three ghosts on Christmas Eve, took another swig of single-malt, and had their personal assistants send ghostly pink slips. Imagine the poor fellow in the unemployment line this morning turning around to see the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in line behind him. After more than two years of the Great Recession, as it is called, those of us who lost our jobs can hardly be confused with the wealthy miser Scrooge!

While we may have the Christmas celebration backwards, that doesn't mean that we can't enjoy the season and look forward to that next great holiday: Easter! The first day of the new year is not a holy day, in case you thought of that one. Our holidays came from "holy day" and at one time were limited to church celebrations. While there are many other holidays between now and Easter, I like to look forward to Easter as that is what Jesus' birth brings to mind right after Christmas. The book ends of his mission to save us you might say.

Think about the joy of Christmas today, and get ready for a wonderful new year!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas! - December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas! The day is here! If you look outside in Sidney today, you will see that I was wrong about the white Christmas. An ice fog may not be what we expected, but this Christmas is white! I'll say it again for all of us: Merry Christmas!

Today, you may have searched in vain for the Christ is Christmas among your e-mails from corporations and other organizations. I searched my comic strips diligently, but all I found was a lot of Santa Claus. A spirit of giving is okay, but we need to see Christ in Christmas. While I looked in vain, someone gave me a tap on the heart and said, "I know someone who can send out a Christmas message full of Christ." All I could say was: "You're right Lord, I can do that with your help!"

We may not see any mention of Christ in the worldly part of this holiday, even though the root of Christmas is Christ. Many people and groups may wish you a "Happy Holidays" or some such phrase. But we have each other and our Lord Jesus. Today we can wish each other a "Merry Christmas!" and show the love of Christ to one another. On that first Christmas, no Roman scribe ran around making an official announcement, no Pharisee stood in the temple telling the people that Messiah had come, and the Hosts of Heaven didn't make an appearance to the whole world. Instead the announcement went to a few shepherds, one virgin girl, one simple carpenter, and one priest's wife who knew when the mother of her Lord greeted her. Those few people spread the news of Christ by word of mouth, one or two people at a time. The wise men saw the star, but they were far away when Jesus was born. On that first Christmas, very little of the world knew about Jesus, but marvel at the change that little baby would make in the world!

On this Christmas day we worship our Lord and Savior. We worship God who loved us enough to send His Son to save us. We love each other as Christ commanded us to do. We believe in Jesus. Not one of us has to dress up in a costume and pretend to be Jesus, but we all want to be more like him, especially on this day. We give thanks to God for the gifts we have received on this Christmas, but we give even more thanks for the gift we received on the first Christmas. The world may hear Joy to the World and say, "That's a nice tune." But we hear the same song and thank God for the Joy he gave us in Bethlehem. "For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people!" God sent us a personal message of great joy, receive it and remember it today!

Happy Christmas to you, and may God's Joy take a hold of your heart today!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve 2010

Merry Christmas Eve! Today, the eve of Christmas, and Christmas Day itself are two of the most beloved days in all of the Christian world. The churches all around us will hold services today and tomorrow, families will gather, friends will say, "Merry Christmas!", and there is an air of joy and cheer all around. Oh, and how could I forget all the gift giving and opening? And the dinners and desserts? We do enjoy the Christmas holiday and we do remember the one who started this great day of rejoicing, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Ah, one of the pillagers of my nativity set has arrived. I did explain the Christ child figurine to the big cat last night; so far, only the donkey has been abused this morning. Last night also saw the annual watching of Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life, two of the holiday season favorites. Most of us will be off work today and the schools are out for the holidays, it must be a good day for celebrating the birth of Christ!

On this same day back in Bethlehem, very few expected great things would happen soon. Simeon knew that he would see the Christ child before he died, but that was a lifetime, not any particular day. John the Baptist wasn't yet old enough (he was about six months older than Jesus) to announce the arrival. John's parents knew, but they were caught up in their own blessed arrival. Mary and Joseph knew who they carried to Bethlehem, but they weren't going through towns with a trumpet telling of the impending birth. Would the Christ child, Jesus, be born in complete obscurity? Not quite. We know from our Bible stories that upon the birth of Jesus there would be announcements: The shepherds had one delivered to them, and the magi, or wise men, saw another from a long way off. Simeon and Anna would meet Jesus 8 days later at his circumcision ceremony. King Herod and all of Jerusalem would learn about two years later when the magi finally made it close to Bethlehem. Finally, when Jesus began his ministry, John would announce his arrival, and Jesus himself often said who he was.

We have all of this recorded for us in the Bible. Each year we celebrate the great and wonderful events that led up to the birth of Jesus and the blessed event that came on that first Christmas. We don't know exactly what night on the calendar the birth occurred, or the exact number of wise men, but we do know that Jesus was born. Praise God for Jesus, the child born in Bethlehem as Savior and Sovereign!

Have a wonderful Christmas Eve!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Gift Before Christmas - December 23, 2010

Happy Christmas! We are very close to Christmas today; in fact, tomorrow is Christmas Eve. One neighbor and his family have already set out for the gathering as of last night, and I'm sure others are on the way here or will go today. For this morning's devotional, I am going to attempt to emulate Ken Davis - the fellow you hear on MyBridge every morning at just before 0600.

The Gift Before Christmas

Yesterday afternoon, that old devil of the holiday season stopped by for a visit with me. As I tried to dissolve into self pity at the lack of presents under my Christmas tree, the Holy Spirit responded with a simple question: "What about My Gift?" He asked me. Of course! The gift given to us on that first Christmas! Without thinking, I took the nativity set handed down to me some years ago from my mother and placed it under the tree. Little baby Jesus in the center of the tiny manger; surrounded by Mary, Joseph, a shepherd, a donkey, and two tiny little lambs. A perfect reminder to me of the gift that really matters, I thought, as I looked one last time before retiring for the night.

This morning, I discovered that someone had indeed found the gift given to us by God; the cats were overjoyed at their new-found present. The donkey lay out on the living room floor. Joseph had been toppled and lay outside the manger, apparently given up in favor of smaller and more appetizing fare. The baby Jesus had been batted nearly into the dining room and was still partly underneath one cat. The lambs... well, the lambs took some time to find. One tiny little lamb was all the way out in the kitchen, and the other I didn't find until much later. The cats spent some part of the night enjoying the greatest of gifts in their feline way. Mary on the other hand remained untouched. Apparently future generations of cats would honor her too. Of course, these small figurines are not the real characters in the Christmas story. No harm was done to the nativity set, God would not allow his Son to be beaten up until some years later, and the tiny little lambs did not suffer the indignity of feline indigestion. Also, picking up the scattered little figurines made me realize just how much I needed to vacuum my carpet today!

God provides us with symbols for those times when we take our eyes off of Him for even the briefest of moments. Presents under the tree are not what make Christmas special. Any of us could set up a tree and place presents underneath it any time we want too, even in July. In a similar way we should remember to celebrate Christmas all the year long; no presents required, the gift has already been given. Many people wear small cross figurines to remind them of that great gift every day. Perhaps I need to leave the nativity set where I can see it all year, just not within the reach of the cats.

Have a great and blessed Christmas!


Oops! I forgot... lighten up, and live!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A New Age Arrives - December 22, 2010

Happy Christmas! Saturday is the big day, but some will be traveling today and tomorrow to get there. Some folks are already traveling by air, but may get to spend Christmas in the passenger terminal at a European airport. Oh joy... We like to go home or to grandma's for Christmas. Some people spend a lot of money and effort to do this, only to be stuck somewhere due to weather or perhaps weather and some one's cost-cutting. A Spanish company manages the British airport called Heathrow. Years of little or no snow meant that certain equipment and supplies didn't get replaced...and then the snow came this year and the airport has been shut down and unable to do that airport thing with the planes. We hear about this at times in the States. Companies and local governments make the same decision - we don't need all that expensive snow removal stuff: it never snows here! Ah to be caught with your britches in the lowered position for all to see.

In our own lives, we have probably done something similar; perhaps even exactly the same. We had little snow out in these parts for about 15 years or more. People stopped buying snow throwers; snowmobile shops went out of business; a person with a snowmobile might have paid to have the old junker hauled away; and even snow melting chemicals became hard to find for a season when the snow did arrive. We can't control the weather, but we can prepare for it. Sometimes, after years of not having something in the weather, we get lazy and equipment falls apart or people are sent packing, and then the stuff arrives. I don't think this experience in Europe will last as a lesson as well as it should. We as humans behave in pretty much the same way in these matters.

For around 400 years the Jews had not seen or heard from a real prophet. God sent a prophecy about a famine of the Word, and He delivered. Like a drought ending in a downpour, the dearth of prophecy ended around the last of the B.C. days. Anna and Simeon came to the temple expecting to see the Lord's Christ before they died. People no doubt wondered what was up with that. It had been some 400 years since they heard any real prophecy; who exactly were these two crackpots? Some might have warned the two about what happened to false prophets under the Jewish law. Back in those days people didn't point to their heads and say, "Ya got rocks in yer head!" They pointedly said, "You'll get rocks upside yer head, if'n ya don't shut up!" False prophets didn't have a long lifespan back in those days. Today a false prophet usually writes books, appears in infomercials, talks on Oprah, and takes in millions of dollars, but that's our times.

Around 6-4BC, the folks were waiting for this fellow:

Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2:6-11 NLT

Paul didn't write these words until a few years after Jesus had ascended to Heaven, but he wrote about the gift we were given in the Christ. Each year we gather to celebrate this very thing - the Son of God appearing in the humble form of a child. The times are very different from those BC days when no prophets had appeared for so long. Back in the day: The shepherds moved their flock closer to Bethlehem in a drought of prophetic scripture. Trembled in fear when an angel appeared. Ran to town to see the newborn Messiah, and then came back to the fields praising and glorifying God in a new age. Christ the Lord had arrived on Earth to save us all.

God bless you on this beautiful Christmas season!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Just Have a Popsicle! - December 21, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! I'm sorry, but our lunar eclipse was cancelled due to cloud cover last night. Europe is being buried in snow and we don't have any. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! That state with all the drought problems is now under water. The truth may or may not be in the news depending upon whom you ask. And another explosive device has been found... this time in Rome. Looking at the news headlines first thing in the morning can leave a person feeling lost and hopeless. Who is in charge of this mess? The Bible tells us that God is sovereign, but the news may have it right: things are going to get worse before they get better. We want Christmas to be a time of peace and joy, but much of the world does not believe in Christ or celebrate his birth. The Christmas celebration by some can make those left out feel more lonely than ever. Should we all just give up? Live life with an, "Oh well, God is going to blow up the world at any moment. I think I'll just go have a Popsicle."?

We know better. God is in charge and the world will get worse as the end approaches. But the end for the world as we know it is but the start of the great things to come! Jesus is coming soon, and this time He will come in His glory. The Christmas we celebrate is just a tiny taste of the great celebration Jesus will hold soon. We may not find much peace and joy in the news reports, but Jesus gives us His peace and puts joy in our hearts with His Spirit. Do you think the world looked perfect when Mary was told of her special honor in bearing the Lord's Christ? Did she get up the next morning ready to spread the good news to her mother and father? We don't know from the Bible accounts, but that must have been one interesting announcement. Judea had been conquered and now existed as a territory of Rome. A man who it is likely few had met in Judea had just uprooted everyone not living in their ancestral homes. Joseph had to pack up and go to Bethlehem. Who gives a person this kind of power over people far away? God does. Caesar Augustus would have held no power had not God raised up Rome as an empire. Secular historians would argue with me on this.

Joseph and Mary probably didn't look forward to making a lengthy journey - and you just know it wasn't at the comfortable weather time of the year - to a little town that may not have counted for much in the society of the time. The first Christmas may have been a real pain for those few who knew what was arriving in the shape of this little child. Praise God for the strength He gave those people at that time. That strength that God gives is available to all who believe in His Son, even now when the world may seem to be completely out of control. Trust in God and remember the promise He made with this little child whose birth we celebrate to this day.

Have a great and happy Christmas,


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Oops! Maybe We Shouldn't Have Asked That Guy! - December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas! Have you ever felt the thrill of hearing the name of Jesus? How about hearing that the Savior had been born... on a dark night, out in the fields, with only the other shepherds and a bunch of sheep to back up your story? What strikes me this morning about the shepherds is that the Bible does not record any questions the shepherds might have been expected to have, such as: Who is going to believe us? The angel brought the good tidings; the shepherds said to each other, "let's go see this!"; and the shepherds spread around the town of Bethlehem what they had heard and seen. No shame, no doubts, just a witness... and then they went home to the fields glorifying and praising God for those things they had heard and seen. The Bible tells us that the people in Bethlehem wondered at the things the shepherds had to say.

As with any group of people the wondering probably went in different directions according to the spiritual state of the person doing the wondering. Some probably wondered, "Why not me? I'm an important Pharisee!" Another person might have wondered why the heavenly host didn't appear over the manger where the Christ child lay. Others may have simply accepted the witness at face value and said, "Wow! Great and glorious is our God!" We don't know exactly what all of those folks wondered that night, but we do know a couple of things from the Bible. Bethlehem was crowded at the time of Jesus' birth. The census ordered by Caesar Augustus had brought many to town to be registered. All of these folks would be going home with the shepherd's story in their minds. Even before Herod could order the slaying of the boys under 2 years of age, the story would have spread far. Perhaps Herod had heard the stories himself and was in a right agitated state of mind when the wise men showed up. "Heavenly hosts, angels, good tidings, the Messiah?" Herod might have worried. "I have to stomp on this right away!" Then the wise men show up asking King Herod where the newborn King of the Jews had been born. The wise men were probably wise enough to realize they had just asked a jealous monarch where to find his replacement!

Whatever the people might have wondered at on that night, a couple of years later Herod didn't wonder at all but moved to destroy this newborn king. Herod's throne must have been built on sand to be worried about a two year old boy. However, years later, after Herod had long since died, the people would try to make Jesus king by force. I guess Herod did have something to worry about. We know from the gospels that Jesus did not take up the throne of Judah at that time. We also know that Jesus will come as the King of kings when he returns to this world. What a great gift that would be for this Christmas!

Have a wonderful Saturday; it's one week until Christmas!


Friday, December 17, 2010

I Don't Recall That Anymore... - December 17, 2010

Good Friday morning, and Merry Christmas too! Two nights of late bedtimes and I am feeling the effects.... of course that isn't the only reason. The cold season low-grade bug seems to have a hold on me too. I think it comes from not getting enough sunshine at this time of the year, or at least that's my theory for this year. Like most trials, the winter season funk usually gets me back to doing the things that I should do all the year long: taking vitamins, mixing some veggies into the diet, and praying. Not just a quick, "Get me through this please, Lord." but the real prayers where we pour out our hearts and hurts to God, listen for His voice, and apply His comfort to our lives. Christmas is a good time to recall who was born those many years ago, but it's a better time to come to Jesus in prayer in the right here and right now.

Many interesting Christmas facts came across the television screen last night as the music played. Imagine the reactions you would get by hanging your Christmas tree upside down. Some might even accuse you of heresy or worse, but that is what the folks did back in the 15th Century, if I recall that fact correctly. After years of growing up with right side up Christmas trees, I would see something profoundly wrong in one hung from the ceiling. However, it would keep the cats out of the decorations! Don't expect to see an upside-down tree in my house anytime soon though, it just doesn't seem right to me. The early Santa Clauses came with a little devil-like character who presumably met with the naughty folks. Like the worldly view of a heaven with no hell, the devil character was dropped at some point in the past. I don't like to think of eternal punishment for anyone, but neither can I deny what is in God's word. What else did we learn last night? Santa characters were drawn as little elfin-like critters until the 1930's or so when they became human-sized. It might have happened earlier than that, so much Christmas trivia rolled across the screen that I might be getting some of it mixed up.

Yes, somewhere in the past I also lost my perfect recall; I wish I could remember when that was! Actually, my memory recall has never been perfect, but sometimes I like to forget that and try to recall everything about everything. I guess that's why I enjoy books so much; they never forget what is written in them.

Have a great Christmas this year!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

No Pass at Christmas - December 16, 2010

Merry Christmas! Drawings, events, dinners, parties, and Christmas cards in the mail; it must be about time for Christmas! There seem to be two ways to enjoy an auction: Having a need and getting right in the thick of the bidding, or having no need of anything at the auction and just watching and meeting people. This was a farm equipment auction and my yard really doesn't need a big (or even a little) John Deere farm tractor. A combine or swather would be just ridiculous on my little suburban plot... and expensive! I talked to an old friend at the sale and to get into a new combine harvester with some heads would be around $450,000 or more these days, ye ouche! The weather sent a little snow for the sale too; that should help some of the bidders get into the Christmas spirit! I did take a few photos of the creek and some of the stuff for sale, the folks there looked a lot like the day... gray and brown clothing all around. A cold, cloudy day doesn't seem to bring out many bright colors. Christmas brings out the bright colors; some of them are in my random thoughts this morning. Must be due to the late bedtime last night.

At our Bible study for this week, the pastor asked us what new insight we may have discovered in reading the Christmas stories this year. That is an interesting question. Although we can almost quote the Bible verses of the Christmas story, the point of reading verses from the Bible more than once is to gain new insights as we grow in Christ. If you were raised going to a Christian church, you probably have heard so many sermons and carols of Christmas that you may not expect anything knew, as the pastor also pointed out to us last night. But the Christmas story is very much about something new; so where do we look for this new thing each year? The Holy Spirit would seem to be a good one to start with. As the Spirit grows us and reminds us of scripture, we are going to find new insights in the reading of the Christmas stories.

Your new insight, and there is no guarantee that we will get one each year, may be different from mine, or they might be the same. The Spirit keeps his own counsel on who is ready for what insight. This is not unfair or that one of us is behind in our learning. I always figure that if I have an "oh ho!" moment when reading a scripture that I have read many times before it was simply God's timing at work, not that I had to read the passage a certain number of times. God through His Holy Spirit has been compared to the master craftsman always making sure that his work is put into the fire for just the right amount of time under just the right heat to drive out the impurities. We don't get a pass on the trials at Christmas time either. Some may face their most difficult trials of the year at Christmas. Doesn't God want us to celebrate the birth of His Son? Of course, but we should remember a couple of things: We should thank God for the trials we go through with Him, holding on to the joy and peace that He gives, and that the big celebration is not here on this earth!

I don't know if we will observe Christmas in Heaven, but I certainly hope so! Maybe Heaven is like the best Christmas all of the time. Have a wonderful Christmas season as the day draws close!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Camel Race Back to the East - December 15, 2010

Merry Christmas! On this Wednesday morning the clouds have taken over the sky once more. Have our prayers for a white Christmas been answered? We won't know until the day comes, but this is a good start! Have you ever tried to make Christmas come faster? We all may have tried the childhood trick of going to bed sooner to make the morning arrive more quickly. As I recall, the only result was a longer time laying awake in bed as the anticipation ground your insides to jelly. We can no more make a day arrive sooner than we can cause snow to fall. We can kneel down in prayer and ask, but so far God has left the days at about 24 hours in duration. If Christmas is ten days away, we have 2,956 hours to wait or right there abouts, no matter what the mathematical wizards have to say.

Joseph and Mary probably needed every hour to make the journey from Nazareth and arrive in Bethlehem on the appointed day. The wise men may have enjoyed a bit more leeway in the hours, but probably needed every day to arrive in Bethlehem before Jesus and his family had to flee for Egypt. The arrival of the wise men in Jerusalem started the timer on Herod's actions, and from that point on the wise men had to be quick about their mission to Bethlehem. The small town known as the city of David is not all that far from Jerusalem even by the marching or horseback standards of the 1st Century soldiers. Within a day, Herod could have outfitted a company of soldiers and had them down in Bethlehem creating the mayhem that he became known for in the Bible. Had the wise men gone straight back to Jerusalem as Herod had asked, the small family we have come to love might have had little or no warning before the soldiers were kicking in the door or grabbing the child Jesus in the yard. Yes, Joseph was warned in a dream to flee, but it would have been difficult to have a dream had the soldiers arrived that very day before Joseph had a chance to lay his head on the pillow after a hard day's work.

Instead, we know that God also sent word to the wise men to "wise up" and head out in a different direction, probably with all due speed, since an angry King Herod probably sent another company of mounted soldiers to deal with 'dem disobedient wise fellers. We don't know from the Bible, but the wise men probably wore out their camels heading for home after tricking the local monarch. If you pull a fast one on a king, getting out of his reach is generally thought to be a wise move. Although the massacre of children did take place around Bethlehem, God made sure that His Son was out of harm's way. The prophecy of Rachel weeping over her children did come true, and don't think that God is just going to let that go. Both Herod and those who carried out his orders will answer to God for the murder. We can rest assured of that.

Okay, so the wise men have done their best to hold a camel race back to their homes in the east, Mary and Joseph have escaped with Baby Jesus to Egypt, and Bethlehem is in mourning; what did Herod do next? Did he pat himself on the back, hand out a few royal medals to the soldiers, and assume the job was done? Quite possibly that is true, except for the medals part of course; evil tyrants are notoriously stingy when it comes to rewards. The soldiers may very well have been experiencing the first signs of what we would come to know as post-traumatic stress. I am pretty sure that even in my younger days as a Marine that I would not have been able to slaughter all the male children under the age of two in a community no matter who gave the order in my chain of command. I wonder if Jesus, even as a child, took a moment to pray for those soldiers? Were they a particularly savage group that Herod could send to do his dirty work, or simply a unit on duty that day under threat of crucifixion if they didn't carry out Herod's evil orders? We may never know.

Yours in Christ,


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Time to Start the Celebration! - December 14, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! The days have been warm lately around here. Looking across the country, it appears that the folks out east have done a good job in praying for a white Christmas, perhaps too good, but the folks around here must be slackin' off on that endeavor. We could use a nice blanket of white snow for our white Christmas, so we have prayer work to do! I am not totally serious in this of course. When it comes to large weather events, we will find, I suspect, that for every person praying for one thing, another person is praying for just the opposite. Perhaps a person down the street from me is praying for no snow before Christmas so that relatives from the south can arrive safely on dry roads. The land around here could use some moisture, but that too can wait for a bit. Trusting in God's perfect will may mean that you or I may have to do without something we want. Sometimes what we think we want isn't quite right either.

Herod didn't want a newborn King of the Jews; he thought he was the king everyone should want. Herod tried to destroy Jesus, but that didn't work out. Herod completely missed the part where Jesus saves the world from sin. That sounds like something we all should want! Last night I listened to an old sermon from Pastor Adrian Rogers about Lazarus and Jesus. The Pharisees didn't want Lazarus to live. Now Lazarus had already died once and been raised to life by Jesus. Instead of praising God for the miracle performed right in their midst, the Pharisees got together and decided to knock off the both of them. Eventually, the Pharisees did get their wish to kill Jesus granted, but they still didn't get what they wanted.

There are many who do not want Christmas to come each year. These folks like Scrooge before he learned the true meaning of Christmas, the Grinch when he still hated Christmas, and the Abominable Snowman when he thought Rudolph would make a nice light snack. They don't like the Christmas lights, the crowds in the malls, or the beautiful Christmas pageants in the churches. These latter day Scrooges just want to stew in their own grouchy ways. They are like alien beings to us.

Christmas is near! It's time to celebrate the birth of the Christ child! To commit once more to Jesus; to honor Mary and Joseph for their care and raising of our Lord; to recall the sacrifice of the wise men in the long journey to offer gifts to the baby King of the Jews, and to praise and glorify God for sending us the Christ, Jesus our Lord. Decorate the Christmas tree at home, go out to gatherings at your friends in Christ, watch the fabulous Christmas pageants, and enjoy the company of God's own Holy Spirit as you celebrate the birth of Jesus once more!

Have a wonderful Christmas this year!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Stuff - December 13, 2010

Merry Christmas! This is one of those attitude days. You know, the days when you don't wake up feeling merry, but instead have to depend on God to adjust your attitude to one more to His liking. Did you see the video of the roof collapse in Minneapolis? The Teflon roof on their domed stadium collapsed and dumped a bunch of snow on the football field yesterday, which in turn forced the NFL to move the Vikings-Giants game to Detroit...and give out free admission to an NFL game. Okay, maybe no one was forced to make the game free of charge, but something good can come from an apparent disaster. I'm catching up on my Ken Davis podcasts at the same time, trying to help God out with that attitude adjustment I need this morning. More news from today: that duo you see on the Hyundai commercial singing Up on the Housetop goes by the name of Pomplamoose... I'm not kidding. My spell checker even burped on that one. What's a pomplamoose? I like their tune though; might even have to see what else they have recorded. Won't be easy to forget the name, maybe that was their intent.

Some other names that are not easy for us to forget... would normally be very easy to forget: Mary, Joseph, Peter, Paul, James, and John could refer to many people we know. However, in the context of the Bible, the names suddenly have new meaning. At this time of the year, if you mention Mary and Joseph together many people will assume you are feeling the Christmas spirit. We hear the names, Mary and Joseph, and the entire Christmas story falls into place in our minds, probably with a few unauthorized additions such as: the number of wise guys (no number given in Matthew) or the time of the year (December the 25th, right?). Though we wouldn't come to call it Christmas for some years, God did put on quite the show to start the Christmas story. Angels, a star, wise men from the East, Mary and Gabriel, Joseph and his dream, the journey to Bethlehem at just the right time, and the heavenly host giving the shepherds a rousing chorus to send them on their way to Bethlehem. And all of those wonderful tales are only a part of the Christmas story. The most important part is another of those instantly recognized names: Jesus.

The greatest gift ever given was the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The great events surrounding the birth of Jesus were only the wrapping paper on that gift of gifts. We delight in the stories, but Jesus had more to tell, and then he gave his life to save us from sin.

I pray that your Christmas is filled with joy!


P.S. Apparently a pomplamoose is the French word for grapefruit. Must have missed that one in my one year of French back in high school.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Great Gift - December 10, 2010

A Gift for You and for Me!

Good Friday morning! After the Bible lesson last night, I had an idea about what to write this morning. Yesterday, I discarded idea after idea until nothing went out to you. What part of the Christmas story, how do I work in this or that, what am I missing, why is this going so badly? All questions that didn't help to get the devotional written yesterday. This morning, a very different tactic... don't have a tactic! Writing the devotional is not some kind of assault on a guarded kingdom; no matter what some may think in their worldly minds. Our lesson for the next 7 sessions of our life group is about letting Jesus into our lives and spending all of every day with him. Our workplace may seem like somewhere Jesus would never come; perhaps he would even stand outside the door, greeting people as they came in to chase the dollar with, "I've come to heal the sick!" I pray that your workplace isn't like that, but I have seen how easily I got caught up in that pursuit and how easily a company became concerned with that one pursuit above all else. (This is not to say that every individual is the same in that company. Praise God that I don't see that in everyone there!) Although the thoughts of getting still grab me at times, I would like to write about a gift today.

We often look at the Christ child as the greatest gift God has given to us. However, the real gift wasn't the birth, but the death of Christ. The teachings of Christ only point the way to that greatest of gifts - his dying for our sins. The birth of Christ didn't pay the price God required to pay for the sins of the world, though we must admit that Jesus stepping down from Heaven into a human body was quite the gift. The Sermon on the Mount was a great gift, as was the Olivet Discourse and the many other parables that Jesus taught. The healing and miracles Jesus performed are great gifts and good for us to read, but the greatest and most precious gift is still the salvation he made possible. Praise God for the gift of salvation; the gift that we cannot purchase or earn; the gift we can only accept. Have a wonderful Christmas this year and enjoy your gift - nothing bought or made on this earth can ever match it!

Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Dark Now, Light to Come! - December 8, 2010

Happy Wednesday morning! Whee, the buy-something-from-us e-mails are starting to look like Christmas is coming closer by the day. Out of 23 messages in the ol' inbox this morning, 14 are of the buy something type. As the sun rises this morning, I am also reminded that writing the devotional at dawn is not a sign of writing all that early in the morning during this time of the year. Christmas is celebrated in the northern hemisphere just after the turning of the season. The sun begins to come up just a minute or two earlier each day after we pass the winter solstice around December 21-23. The folks back in the days before electric lighting looked forward with renewed hope to the spring that would come in time, after they endured the long winter. In speaking with Bob yesterday, I was reminded of one goal of my new business, that of giving people jobs. This is the start of winter right now at Awaken the Dawn in more ways that just the calendar. There is no money to hire anyone, not even the chucklehead who started the thing. The spring looks far away to me. This is the time for faith in God and the time to get to work following Jesus. I don't know so many things; that is common with folks starting something new.

I look at my knowledge and resources... time to give up and run away. I look at God's knowledge and resources... and there is every reason for hope that my dream will be realized fully and in more wonderful ways than I am imagining right now. Look at the Christmas story: Joseph finds out Mary is with child. He knows that she has been fooling around and that its time to quietly end the engagement. But! In a dream, God's knowledge of what is going on is sent by way of an angel. The situation is not what Joseph thought it was and there is reason for hope and faith: Mary is innocent, and the child is God's own son! Mary is quietly waiting for her marriage to Joseph, a local carpenter, probably through a family arrangement. The future looks pretty commonplace in her knowledge with the wedding, children, and slowly growing old together. But! An angel arrives, none other than Gabriel himself, and suddenly Mary is going to bear a child who will be Messiah. What is more, she is going to become pregnant without human intervention. Next time you try to get romantic with your wife avoid the word 'intervention', but you get the point. Mary is going to become pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Furthermore! Mary and Joseph don't live in Bethlehem, the town the prophet said would produce Messiah. How can this be? In their human understanding, Mary and Joseph probably have no idea. Time for doubt? Nope: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed."

Everyone in the Roman Empire, and this was a huge empire, had to go to their ancestral hometown to be registered for the tax to support Rome. In case there was any doubt, both Mary and Joseph had descended from the line of David, also a prophecy for Messiah, and it was, "off to Bethlehem with you!" Since the decree came from Caesar there was no stopping until after the baby was born, no waiting until Jesus was old enough to travel, God acted through one of the most powerful men in the world, perhaps even the most powerful at the time, to make sure that Mary and Joseph would be in Bethlehem in fulfillment of prophecy. What looked like a "no way" from our point of view became a "most definitely" from God's view.

Did the shepherds have a different view that night outside Bethlehem? Certainly! Through the magic of writing we zoom in on two shepherds, Amir and Zevi, in the fields near Bethlehem around 6 B.C.

"The flock is quiet Zev, let's grab some soft turf and get some Z's," Amir uses his oldest joke.

"I really wish you would knock off that 'z' stuff, Amir," Zevi says with mock exasperation, "How many sheep we have tonight?"

"49, the same as we had last night, Z."

The two shepherds take a final glance at the flock munching grass nearby and lay back to look at the stars through the holes in their tent before sleeping; an act known at that time as 'abiding in the field'. Just as their eyelids begin to get heavy and the bliss of sleep overcomes the two simple shepherds...

HALLELUJAH! Hallelujah, Hall- lay- yu -jah! Handel's chorus breaks out, even though the music wouldn't be written down for more than 1700 years. Needless to say the two shepherds feel a strong urge.

"Want to head into town real quick Zevi?"

"You bet, Amir, I feel a terrible urge to run real fast right now!"

"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people!"

"He said to fear not, Amir."

"Easy for him to say, Zevi. I still feel that urge to check out Bethlehem."

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

"Let's go to Bethlehem, Zevi!"

"Amen! He told us what to look for, Amir. Should we wake up Mishael?

"Do you really think he is still sleeping after all that?"

"Probably not, grab him and let's go see this child!"

And then a few wise guys showed up too... okay, I'll stop there for now. In every case we see that what looks dark in our own knowledge can be made light through God's will. That doesn't mean that all will be easy. Mary still had to go through the months of pregnancy; Joseph and Mary had to make the journey to Bethlehem; and the shepherds made haste to get to Bethlehem over an unknown distance. God didn't remove the labor from the stories, but he did enable wonderful things to happen. Some work, some patience, and a little faith, and we will see something grand!

Have a very merry Christmas this year!


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

No Merry on this Christmas Message - December 7, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! Happy line I heard this morning, "It ends up being sweeter than a Sandra Bullock movie." Okay, we'll let that one settle in for a bit and get on with the devotional. People don't mention Dec. 7 much any more, but this was what President Franklin Roosevelt called a day which will live in infamy. Of course, our generation has 9/11, but a couple of generations ago our grandparents had a day they could not easily forget. How did they celebrate Christmas on Dec 25, 1941? The nation faced war on two fronts as the few days following Dec. 7th became a kind of war declaration party for those nations not already occupied by the Axis powers. Men and women volunteered for service in the armed forces and quite a few service personnel were coming home to be buried. We have two limited wars in our time, but the country after Pearl Harbor faced a general mobilization. Millions of young men and women went to war directly, and the country as a whole supported the war by going to work in factories and munitions plants, in some cases for the first time. 9/11 didn't produce quite the same thing. The nation did go to war, but on a very limited basis. It has been said that a smaller percentage of the population has borne the cost of this war than at any other time in our history. Many people here in the U.S. stopped paying attention to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan some time ago. Christmas always brings it back for some of us. I celebrated Christmas of 1983 in Izmir, Turkey.

Christmas in a mostly Islamic country is a very low-key affair for those Christians living there. We celebrated on the ship or at the USO club, not in the town streets. Here at home, Christmas is a huge event all over the country. In the Middle East or Afghanistan the celebration is kept quiet mostly. Many of the guys got pretty drunk, not to dishonor the holiday I suspect, but because Christmas so far away from home just plain hurt. Christmas is not always the best of times for everyone. The social celebrations going on all around can really drive home the loneliness of a person alone. The young men and women serving far overseas can feel especially far from home on Christmas. Christmas at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 was probably quiet and reserved. The only way to ease the pain of many is to focus on the real reason we celebrate Christmas - the birth of Jesus. Some folks will need help with this; it is easy to wallow in our own pain at such a time as this. All of us have the inclination to hold a pity party with me, myself and I. This should give us an insight into those hearts wallowing in self-pity without the hope we have in Christ Jesus. The Christmas message today is a bit of a downer to use an old-fashioned term. That is good though, not everyone will celebrate Christmas this year and a little insight into their pain might help us to remember them in prayer and action.

Have a thoughtful Christmas today,


Monday, December 06, 2010

Flee in the Night? - December 6, 2010

Good Monday morning! We didn't have a good weekend of football again: Nebraska fumbled away their chance to play in a big bowl game, and the Broncos lost their game too. Tonight we can watch our local NFL player, Danny Woodhead, as the Patriots play the Jets on Monday Night Football. As the sun rises this morning, take a moment to thank God for the day.

"On a Monday? Ack, 'smatter with you?" you would ask me if given the chance.

Yes, it may be easier to thank God for a Friday if you are on the normal M-F work week, but we should thank the Lord for Monday as well and as energetically as we thank him for a Friday or Saturday. I sense a resistance to this and I haven't even sent out the e-mail yet! Yes, a Monday morning may be more of a prayer for help and strength to God than one of thanksgiving and praise. We do live in a tough world and work is not one of our favorite pastimes. Actually, I suspect that more of us would enjoy the work we are doing if we could do it somewhere other than the corporate environment we happen to be in right now. Do the demands of a new Monday at work make you want to scream out for the Lord's help? What if the Lord sent an angel to you in a dream saying, "Hit the trail, amigo! The Lord wants you to flee this country right now!"

Okay, so the Lord's messengers may not speak in the vernacular, but Joseph received a message like that in today's Christmas story from Matthew.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son." Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old and under, according to the time he had ascertained from the wise men. Matthew 2:13-16

Notice that this is one of the instances in the Bible where an angelic messenger did not start out with something like, "Don't be afraid!" The urgency in this message may have called for Joseph to be afraid, to get him up and running with the baby Jesus and Mary. Joseph did not have time to put in his two weeks notice. Mary couldn't run up to the hill country to say goodbye to Elizabeth. The couple and their baby had to flee that night. Not long before this, the wise men from the east had offered Jesus three valuable, and easily transportable, gifts. Joseph would have had little trouble in grabbing those gifts, a few clothes, a little food, and to use the biblical, getting thee hence right quick!

This Christmas story doesn't sound like a very king-like action to take. We want all those heavenly hosts in the area to go whack Herod upside the head, but the little family had to flee to a foreign land. God may call us to do something that just doesn't seem right from our point of view. We might be afraid to be viewed as weak or cowardly. Flee in the middle of the night? Isn't that what criminals do? What about sending Joseph a job offer he couldn't refuse down in Egypt? God could have done something like that to get Joseph moving in the right direction. We don't always know why God does things a certain way, but we do know that to have faith is to trust God to do what is best from His point of view. We also know that not one of us would want to be in Herod's trembling shoes on Judgement Day! Tried to murder the Son of God by killing a bunch of children... oh dear!

Have a merry Christmas!


Saturday, December 04, 2010

An In-Your-Lifetime Appointment - December 4, 2010

Good Saturday morning! Championship Saturday in the college football arena today. Many important games for a lot of folks going on today. We will have a lot of fun watching the games, but in eternity will the games really matter? Things change in the world. I'm looking at a photo of a bull rider wearing a safety helmet with face mask, while the rodeo clowns are wearing cowboy hats. That seems just a little off, but it has been sometime since I've watched a rodeo. I can see the reason for the helmet though. Think of how many times bull riders have watched in horror as a perfectly good Stetson was ruined by a bull stomping. Best to wear a safety helmet and leave your cowboy hat in the pickup!

Okay, all that has nothing at all to do with today's Bible verses.

No there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Luke 2:25-26

We know that John the Baptist recognized Jesus, but John was just a baby at the time Jesus was 8 days old. Others at that time had been told to wait upon the Lord's arrival. I find the use of the word "see" interesting here in that, if the Greek word in both cases is the same, Simeon would see both death and the Lord's Christ. I'm not sure about seeing ol' Morty in black robes and holding a sickle, but it appears from this that at least Simeon would be able to see death. Of course, seeing the Lord's Christ is what occupied his mind! Imagine Simeon's delight at being told that after some 4 centuries of silence, he would behold Messiah in his lifetime. I wonder how many years Simeon had to wait? We don't hear about that in the Bible, but there is at least one clue. "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel." You may see something different, but I read some relief in what Simeon has to say and, of course, a great joy in seeing and holding the baby Messiah. Simeon may have been serving in the temple for quite a few years before Mary and Joseph arrived. He may have been tested in his faith and even entertained a few thoughts about giving up at times. Simeon may have waited decades for this timely arrival.

John the Baptist grew and then waited in the wilderness for the arrival of Jesus, Israel waited centuries from the last prophets, until John arrived and announced Jesus. The church has waited about 2,000 years now and we continue to believe that Jesus will appear at any moment. The important thing in all this waiting is that Jesus did arrive the first time and no doubt he was right on time. It can be hard to wait when you don't know how long the waiting will be. Imagine getting an appointment card from the doctor's office that only gave you the week of your appointment. You report promptly at 0800 on Monday and the nurse points you to a chair in the waiting room. No day, no time, just wait there until your appointment arrives. Of course, in this time of rushing about we would have a tendency to go nuts at such treatment. Imagine how them city folks would react! Simeon received a similar appointment card, only his was for a lifetime. "How long will that be, Lord?" Simeon might have asked, and he might just have heard the sound of silence in response to his question. Jesus said, "I am coming soon!" near the end of His Word, we can ask how long that will be, but I don't think God has told anyone. Enjoy the wait, we may have an in-your-lifetime appointment card too!

Have a great Christmas season!


Friday, December 03, 2010

You Will Find - December 3, 2010

Good Friday morning! Oy, I was up past my usual bedtime last night. This morning is starting out slowly for that reason. However, we had a good gathering together around a meaningless (to us anyway) pro football game. Our Denver Broncos have pretty much thrown in the towel on this season already, even to the point of talking about the coach's job security with 5 games still to play. I wonder why you don't often hear about the team's job security in cases like this? I guess the coach gets the responsibility for a bad season more often than not. The coach isn't supposed to be on the field at all, but still bears the responsibility for the play on that field. Seems a bit unfair. We play on a similar field.

Imagine God in the owner's box with Jesus at his right hand. The Holy Spirit coaches from the sidelines, sending in plays to get our team to the end zone. On the field is all of us. Like the players on any team, we can choose to obey the play sent in, follow a rogue leader and do something else, take off on a play entirely of our own making, wander off toward the wrong end zone, sit down and do nothing, and even sabotage our own team's effort. Some of us even get caught staring at the cheerleaders when we should be playing the game! We have the ability to choose how much we trust the coach, the owner and his son, and even our own leaders on the field. We also can decide whether to obey or to rebel. What if the coach doesn't send in a specific play though?

The leader on the field looks over to the sideline and receives the play: "Go score some points for our team, the goal is over thataway!" Huh? What kind of a play is that? The shepherds we read about yesterday didn't exactly receive a command to "Go!", instead the angel told them what they would find.

"And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. Luke 2:12-17

The angel didn't command the shepherds to go anywhere, but did tell them that they would find this sign when they went. It's much like a coach telling the team, "I'm not saying to score a touchdown, but if you take the ball to the end zone you will discover six points." We have a similar situation in that we don't know what the world is going to throw at us later today or tomorrow, we don't know what play will be called, and at times don't understand the play when it comes in to us, but God has told us what to look for when we get to wherever he is leading us. The shepherds didn't hear a command to go to Bethlehem, but the angel said that 'you will find this' which the shepherds understood clearly. They got together in herdsman conclave, said, "let's go!" and took off in haste for Bethlehem.

We don't know how far away they were, but it reads as though these shepherds were not far out of town. Mary and Joseph were still in the stable (barn,hayloft, corral, or whatever) and Baby Jesus was wrapped up in baby cloths and laying in a manger. I've been to Bethlehem, and the cave is apparently just underneath this huge cathedral, so the shepherds should have found it easily enough even at night. Their haste reminds me of Jesus telling the disciples that each of us must quickly be about the work the Father has given us. That may not be an exact quote, but the similarity is striking. The shepherds had no direct command, but they knew where to go and what they would find. And then the shepherds did what we are called to do: witness! They told what they had seen and been told by the angel. They passed on the words of the heavenly host and what they found in Bethlehem. We don't have to overcome people with our intellect, stun anyone with our superior reasoning, or convince them with logical argument; we simply tell what we have heard, the good news of Jesus Christ!

I'm kidding about the cathedral of course. It was probably built at least a century or two after Jesus had ascended to Heaven. Have a great Friday and Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 02, 2010

An Angel Appeared to Them - December 2, 2010

Good Thursday morning! It's time...

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:8-11

The Christmas season is here and we get to celebrate the birth of our Lord once more! However, the shepherds didn't seem to find great joy and peace at the appearance of an angel with great news. The scripture records that the shepherds were first filled with fear. The night is usually a time for more fear than the day for us. We like to see and we have difficulty with that at night. Shepherds also kept watch out in the fields; that is, exposed to the possibility of attack from wild animals or bad folks with weapons. And no one warned them to expect a visit from the Lord's messenger on that particular evening. We all fear the unknown and in the night these shepherds got a whole lot of new stuff thrown at them in a short time. We can make a fairly safe assumption that the shepherds had: 1. Never seen the glory of the Lord. 2. Never met an angel. 3. Never been addressed by an angel. 4. No idea what to do, and felt a very strong urge to run really fast in the other direction. We might feel those very things when faced with the sudden appearance of both an angel and the glory of the Lord even in the daytime.

People have met angels. We know this from both Bible accounts and from stories that have circulated since then. Sometimes the angel appears in a form much like our own and only later do people figure out that it must have been an angel that helped them or delivered a message. Other times angels have been visible only to children or to those close to death. Healing miracles have happened over the years. And I have heard stories of angels appearing without disguise as in the times when a prayer of distress was answered by a towering, armed figure of unmistakable strength that sent gang members intent on doing violence fleeing for their lives. Probably all of the stories are not true, but it does seem that angels are still quite active in the world. The angelic activity that doesn't generate stories and that we never know about is probably far greater from the stories and hints we have in the Bible. In any case, the shepherds most definitely had a meeting they were not prepared for!

In the Bible accounts, the glory of the Lord is an awesome thing to behold, as are angels. The shepherds suddenly had both in the dark of the night, which was no longer dark at all. The shepherds quite naturally were filled with fear. However, the message is not one to be afraid of and is one that we have cherished for the past 2,000 years. "Fear not," the start of most or all of the angelic messages in the Bible, and then the good news that Israel had been waiting centuries to hear, "For unto you a Savior is born!' But the good news was not just for Israel alone, the angel tells the shepherds that this good news is for all people. And not just good news, but good news of great joy. Christ the Lord was born and announced to a group we probably wouldn't have chosen first among the groups of people at that time. Why the shepherds? I'll save that for tomorrow. I do love the stories of Christ's birth!

Have a wonder-filled Christmas!


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Trust in God! - December 1, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! Welcome to December too! Christmas is coming and all the great and wonderful things that go with it! I see many lights shining each night on houses; the first Christmas card and letter arrived yesterday, written by a cat no less; and Rudolf was on the telly last night. Tis the season to be reminded of a promise kept - the promise that God would send a savior of the line of David to us. When I look to my own strength and ability, I see every reason to be afraid for today and the future. When I look to God's strength and ability, I see no reason to be afraid of anything! "In God we Trust" is a good reminder to have on our money. We trust in God alone, not in our moneybags. Money comes and goes; God has always been and always will be just as He is. Our strength wanes with age and sickness; God has never been weakened in the least by time or the curse of this fallen world. Looking at the world frightens me too!

The world looks like a wild charge by all manner of wild things. Some are too fast for me to outrun; others too agile for me to dodge, and still others too large for me to stand against their force. But that isn't what frightens us the most these days. The things of the world we cannot see are what lay us low more often than anything else: viruses, bacteria, cancers, vapors, gases, and even the trauma that may await us just past the next turn of the calendar all generate a fearful atmosphere. So much to fear when we look only at our own strength! We have good news in this.

God was around and close by when the first son of Adam looked into the night, blinded by the firelight that warmed him, and shuddered at the danger he feared in the great, unknowable darkness around him. God was there when the first pioneer turned his wagon and family toward the far horizon with no idea what sort of landscape awaited him. God is there with you and me when that dream awakens us in the night with fear and trembling. God was with Paul in the prison cell, Noah in the Ark, and David in the cave. God was there when the entire world went to war and millions died. What was God doing during those times? The same things He did when His Son died on the cross: sorrowing with the sorrowful, grieving with the grief-stricken, hurting with the hurt, and comforting those in need of his special touch. We fear when we look away from God and try to go it alone. We trust in God and the fear melts away. Have you felt the complete freedom from fear that complete trust in God brings? I don't seem to be quite there yet. I seem to cling to a fear or two in every situation. The Holy Spirit reminds me of God and comforts me in this. And, yes, I do hear the occasional admonition to knock off that anxious vision or this other ridiculous imagining that shores up the fear and weakens my trust in God. At times unsaid but certainly meant with every "Fear not!" in the Bible is: "Trust in Me!"

Have a trusting day in God and a Happy Christmas!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Time to Give! - November 30, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! Whee-oo, the house got chilly last night! That wind chilled things out yesterday and didn't stop blowing until late in the evening. But the clear skies speak of sunshine to come and the heaters are driving away the nighttime chill with a little help from some hot coffee. I didn't even go outside yesterday. Windy, cold days are just fine for sitting inside and drinking plenty of hot tea. How about a nice cup of freshly brewed faith for this morning? That's right, freshly brewed faith! Some days the darkness of night seems to come early. We get beaten down by the aches, pains, cares, frustrations, temptations, and addictions of the world. Some mornings we awaken after a night of little sleep and the next day just seems to be right there in our face, so close that we can hardly seem to breathe. Sit down, take a deep breath, grab a cup of faith and a roll of encouragement from the Lord's word. Pour out your problems and stress to God. You should have done it before going to bed, but your mind was on the problems instead of the Lord and now you don't feel rested at all. So take time before facing today's problems, push back on the stress, and sit for a nice hot cup of faith and a warm roll of encouragement. Feel the smooth taste of forgiveness, the energizing touch of the Holy Spirit, and the soft glow of Christmas. Take a few moments to think about a birth in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago and what that birth means to you on this day. You might even take out your Bible and turn to Matthew to read how the wise men traveled far to worship the newborn King of the Jews. Read in Luke about how Mary submitted to the Lord's will and think on how she is honored even today for bearing our Lord.

This weekend we endured a blitz of ads about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. All of us were in some way encouraged to spend money. That's a lot of pressure when we are worried about the future. Christmas is a season of giving as we celebrate the gift God gave to us in that little town of Bethlehem. Be careful in your spending, but give to honor the Lord. Enjoy the giving! Decorate the home, send out the cards, praise the name of Jesus, and enjoy the opportunity to spread the Good News! Jesus is born!

The "thorns" of this world will try to choke out our joy. This season is among the most difficult for many. Perhaps, just maybe, a gift given unexpectedly and at the right time can help someone in dire need of a little encouragement. The gift might be as little as a few words of love from your favorite Bible verses. The gift might be something the person can hold or something that only touches the heart, but a gift given will not be ignored. Touch a life this Christmas season, but above all celebrate the birth of The Son with God!

Have a very merry Christmas!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Still Working on Us - November 29, 2010

Good Monday morning! Is everything right in your life today? No sin, none of the bitter thoughts about past wrongs done to you, no adulterous fantasies, no thoughts of revenge, perfect in all your habits and holy in all that you say and do? Probably not. If you believe in Jesus, I can come up with a few things that I know about you... and I don't even have to know your name. I know that you were a sinner and still feel the lusts of the flesh. I know that all is not perfect in your life. I know that you still face trials. I also know that Jesus has sent his Holy Spirit into your heart when you came to believe in Him. I also know that God is still working to repair and regenerate the wonderful creation that is you and me. This is not news to you but we are always glad to hear or read it one more time. Today, you will be tempted in some way. Again, you already know this. All of us are called to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. You may not have the opportunity to speak any words of witness today. You may go home to be with Jesus today. Praise God if you are called home today. We are now in the area of things that may happen to any of us, but may not happen to all of us today. Your example of Christ's work in your life may not be perfect today. Repent, ask forgiveness, and join your brothers and sisters in Christ who will most likely be doing the same thing at some point today.

I'm not quite sure where I left off on the verses, so we'll just look at this one today.

Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work." John 4:34

Now that we have gone over how weak we all are when trying to do God's will in our own strength, we read about this fellow who was so good at doing God's will that he ate it up like food every day. Of course, we know that Jesus is our perfect example. As the woman is running around Sychar telling the good news about Jesus, we can imagine him enjoying the will of God like we would a fine turkey dinner. How does that sustain his human body? I have no idea. If I could do the will of God perfectly as Jesus did, I would probably understand. Is there any hope for us as imperfect, fallen, human creatures? Jesus promised to send his Holy Spirit into us after he departed this earth. The Spirit has his own duties to perform in fulfilling the will of God. The Spirit comforts us and reminds us of the commands and words of Jesus. The Spirit cleanses us and makes us more like Jesus with each passing day. You and I may not realize just how far we have come from that first sinful state.

James and John wanted to call down some Old Testament destruction on a town; Peter tried to stop Jesus from fulfilling God's will; and Paul held a bunch of coats so that the stoners could get better shots at the first martyr. Yet, each of these disciples and apostles became great in the faith. We read their Spirit-inspired words in our Bibles and glorify God as we learn. Most people are indifferent to the Good News of Jesus Christ; Paul went a bit further in his previous life as Saul and actively tried to destroy the followers of Jesus. Though Paul had a different perspective on how far the Spirit had brought him, we can read how he struggled with temptation and the lust of the flesh. Of course we don't look at these men to excuse our wrong actions, but to learn that God chooses who he wills, in whatever state he finds us, and begins his work in us from there. Trust in the Spirit's perfecting work in us; you might be surprised just how far the Spirit will take you!

Have a great week in Christ!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Grateful Thanksgiving! - November 25, 2010

Grateful Thanksgiving to you! Did you get up and wonder why the house was so cold this morning? Or did you know that the power went off for quite some time last night and kick your poor husband out of bed to fix the problem? Perhaps the lady of the house had to get up because the husband couldn't stand the cold? A whole bunch of folks in Sidney were glad to hear the furnaces come back just before 0600 this morning, me included. The homes were starting to get pretty nippy and it would have been tough to fire up those Thanksgiving turkeys in the dark. We all gave a brief prayer of Thanksgiving for the electric service. I certainly hope that wasn't some sort of plot to make me grateful after seeing my electric rate increase last month.

Somewhere in the middle of your "Black Friday Sale!" e-mail advertisements is this little devotional for Thanksgiving. I hope you will be able to find it! What are we thankful for this morning? Today is the time for that grateful attitude that we call gratitude! I am grateful to God for my family and friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ (and grateful there is quite a bit of overlap in those first two groups); my home and its feline inhabitants (trying not to clinch my teeth on the last part. The cats were picking on each other this morning after chow. Me: "It's Thanksgiving; what's the matter with you?!"). I am grateful for my truck that has served so well for almost 8 years now. I am grateful to God for our Tuesday morning prayer breakfast group, the Wednesday men's Bible study, and our Thursday life group. I am grateful for the sunrise on a cold morning and that we made it through a cold, windy night. Finally, though the list could go on much longer, I am grateful to God that He is God, and for the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. We have much to look forward to in Jesus!

Today is a day to not only be grateful to God, but also a day to look forward to gatherings and social activities. Some will look forward to shopping tomorrow and hope for big sales. Others will anticipate good football games and parades on television. Some of us might have a simple wish for loved ones to arrive safely with the cold and/or snow coming down in many areas of the country. Thanksgiving is just a time to be thankful and enjoy the day, but part of that joy is looking ahead to good things in the holiday season. Christmas is one month away on this very day. I watched two of my Scrooges last night with more to come! I am especially grateful for the warmth of the house and hot coffee this morning since last night there was reason to doubt that I would feel either this morning. Praise God for Thanksgiving, may we have it in our hearts all the year!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

After the Funeral - November 23, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! You might be wondering if I made it through the memorial service yesterday, and there is good news on that. I did in fact make it through in almost the back row with people all around me. Of course, it helped that I knew about 90% of the people there and that I was in familiar surroundings. Only one problem came up: How does one solve the conflict between the joy of seeing so many friends that I have not seen for two years and the sadness of the occasion? I had a thought that perhaps I should have joined the line to greet everyone from my days at the Big C. However, the event was not about me; it was to remember Neil. The service was well done and we learned some comforting things, in particular the fact that Neil had given his life to Jesus at a summer camp during his junior high years. That alone made the memorial service much easier for all of us I think.

We'll get back to the verses in John in time. The events of the past few days are important to talk/write about for us as we seek to live out our faith in Jesus. I may be off on this, but does it seem like we were just talking about a suicide not very long ago? We had the same questions then I'm sure. What drove him to make this the last act of the earthly life given by God? What fueled the despair that finally overtook Neil? Could the same set of circumstances cause the same reaction in me or you? Yes, there is always that bit of self-interest that wants to raise its head. Of course, the answer to that last question is: "yes, it could happen to me or you!" If we lean on our own understanding or trust in our own abilities each of us may fall to the same or similar circumstances that overtook Neil. We must learn to trust in Christ!

All of us will experience pain and loss in this life. Some will choose to believe in themselves, perhaps even shrugging it off with a casual, "glad it wasn't me!" and a flick of the hand. Jesus calls us to humble ourselves and I believe that we must realize that not one of us is any better than those who choose to take their own lives. We can fall to the despair if we don't believe in Jesus and accept his gift of peace and joy. You and I do not have the tools on our own to get through this life. But, how do those who refuse to believe in Jesus get through life? Jesus told us the answer to this one: the way to destruction is broad and easy. So easy that anyone who refuses Christ will be on that broad way without even trying to get there. Now I'm stuck. The writing was going so well too.

Maybe a change of direction, eh? The memorial service is in the past, but we have memories in our hearts that will last much longer. Each day is a new day full of hope that Jesus will come on this very day! We don't go on to our jobs, homes, trips to visit relatives, and other activities without hope in Christ for his great return. Last week at our prayer meeting on Thursday, I noticed that, at least with me, I could not easily shift my emotions from prayers of sorrow and need to prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving. Emotions just don't turn on and off as quickly as I want to. Today, you probably won't get up and forget the sorrow of yesterday, but you can get up and look to Jesus to lift you in his love. Even during the service Pastor Doug gave a message of hope and comfort. Today, we can look to the source of such messages: Jesus!

Have a great new day of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,


Cold Circumstances - November 24, 2010

Cold Wednesday morning! ...and it's just going to get colder as the day goes on. Korea, another cold place, is in high tension today, and it does not appear there is much hope for the miners in New Zealand. This does not seem to be one of those bright cheerful days, even the weather is gray and cold. Yet, tomorrow is our Thanksgiving holiday. Is this a test to see if we can still be thankful? I don't know for sure, but certainly our circumstances at any given time could be a trial for all of us. Many people will be traveling in the cold today, although some will have made the journey already to beat the weather change. Those wishing for physical intimacy with a complete stranger can go through security at any major airport, and those wishing to risk their lives can drive across Utah today where a blizzard is expected. You can see how someone wishing to celebrate Thanksgiving in Salt Lake City might face quite the dilemma. "Let's see do we take a chance on being molested by a TSA agent or do we risk driving through the Utah mountains?" Other people will do their best to celebrate Thanksgiving in a place they would rather not be.

We have many military personnel deployed right now and home will be very much on their minds as they celebrate far away. Laura Stafford and her son may be celebrating the holiday in the hospital in Denver. As some of us have experienced, holidays in the hospital are just way too difficult. Some folks will simply have to work on Thanksgiving, and that is not easy to bear. So how do we remain thankful in all of this? For one thing, we can stop looking at the circumstances and look to our Lord, the one to whom we should be thankful both for what he has done for us and for what he has provided to us. All of us can look around and find things to grumble about, that is part of living in this fallen world. Looking to God and finding all the things we can be thankful for is rewarding and wonderful. Tomorrow, for Thanksgiving, I'll plan on just being thankful. That may require setting aside some of my staring at the circumstances and instead a turning of my view to the Savior.

Get ready to be grateful! Thanksgiving is upon us.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Another Funeral, Another Day - November 22, 2010

Good Monday morning! I'm back; the hunting season is over, and I still didn't see a single deer. That is all unimportant though in light of what we must face today. Last week we had the shock, the sorrow, the wondering and questioning, the discussions, and then perhaps some anger and seeking someone or something to blame. Just as all of that starts to fade a tiny bit, we have the funeral. Usually this is the point where we mourn and start to get over it. The grieving process may be a difficult road in this case. Many of you must return to the very place you saw Neil every day of your working life. You cannot drive into work to forget for a while when work is what reminds you of the person. Of course, this doesn't begin to touch what Neil's wife and children will be going through.

Mike Spaeth's funeral was held without me as my condition and location at the time made it quite impossible for me to attend. It only took me eleven years and some odd months before I could attend a funeral, and you might recall that happened just a couple of months ago. At Tanya's funeral, I ended up standing out in the foyer of the funeral home. Too many people, especially if sitting or standing behind me, and I get very uncomfortable. If I happen to be the one standing outside in the foyer or even outside the church this morning just let it be. The sun is shining today after two days of ice fog; it's not always bad to be standing outside just a little.

But, today is not about me; it is about all of us who knew Neil as a co-worker, friend, family member, or manager. We each have memories of the man from our first contact with him to what for some of you was the very day that he died. I never did get around to borrowing some history books from Neil; he offered that service way back when we first moved in to the new corporate headquarters building. At the time I didn't know that I would be writing historical fiction; we simply connected on the interest we both had in U.S. history. Neil apparently had an extensive library and counted it as one of his passions. I'm glad that he enjoyed his hobby. Perhaps we should all take a little time to enjoy some reading or other hobby in memory of Neil. As we are reminded once more, a life on this earth can end at any moment and we need to enjoy every one as given by God.

If anyone needs to talk or pray, I have the time for you.