Monday, December 22, 2014

6th Christmas Thought

Unlike Zechariah, whom the last thought was written about, this person lived his life believing that God had something special for him to do.  Day in and day out Simeon lived a life of faith anticipating what the Lord was going to do for him before he died. 

Christmas for Simeon brought the fulfillment of a promise.  A promise that God had made to him years ago that he would see the “Lord’s Christ” before he died.  As Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple after the time of their ritual purification Simeon recognized the fulfilled promise and held the Christ child and received his blessing.

Simeon is not usually one of the “heroes” of the Christmas story.  His character is introduced somewhat after the birth and only Luke sees the need to tell this story while not mentioning the Magi of Matthew.  But it is with Simeon (and Anna) that we get the validation from the religious community of that day.  Without a mistake this was the awaited messiah.

Simeon’s joy had been made complete.  His life long dream to see the long awaited “Consolation of Israel” was now reality.  How we can only hope that at the end of our days we will be filled with such completion and such joy.  But in order for that to happen we have to have been “awaiting” something special.  What is it in your life that you believe that God will reveal?  What is it that you are waiting for?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

5th Christmas Thought

In these “Christmas Thoughts” I am trying to take the characters of the Christmas story and find something of value in their part to our lives today.  This has not been a difficult task.  Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, has been the easiest to parallel to many of our lives today.

Zechariah along with Elizabeth, his wife, had prayed for many years that God would bless them with a child.  He was a member of the “Priestly” party and had duties at the Temple during various seasons of the year.  It is clear to see that he was a “religious” man and played his daily part.

The problem is that they had been praying so long for a child that they had simply fallen into the trap of going through the motions while believing that God was not going to answer their prayers.  This is evident with his disbelief when the angel told him that Elizabeth was going to have a child.

It becomes easy for believers to fall into the same trap; to pray without belief.  To go through the motions because that is what we are supposed to do.  In too many pews around the world, believers have allowed their faith to be summed up by their religious activities and routines.  Prayers, long spoken, have become empty and repetitious.  Songs are sung with feeling or attention to the meanings.  Activities are performed with heart.  This leaves us living the life a child of God by simply going through the motions.

This does not say anything about our status as God’s children; just our effectiveness.  This story has a wonderful ending however.  Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers are answered in a mighty way.  Not only would they have a child, their son would be the very person who would herald the ripe time of the Lord.

I believe that we all would like to have the faith and energy the end of this story exemplifies and not the stale routine of the beginning.  We can regain this energy by looking honestly into the manger this Christmas season.  May we see more than a baby that we celebrate a birthday with; an excuse to cook, buy and party.  May we see the Christ child who is the hope of the world; the one who will can bring peace on earth! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

4th Christmas Thought

What credentials did the shepherds bring to the big event?  Why would God make the announcement of His becoming human to a bunch of lowly men watching a bunch of sheep? 

Have you ever considered the life of a shepherd?  Barring any animal attacks,  sudden thunderstorms or thieves trying to get away with a few of your animals there life was probably not real exciting.  You found a good place for them to graze and then when time came you walked to the “watering hole” and they drank.  After that you found the place where they could bed down in some safety.  Life was probably not real exciting on a daily basis. 

I am sure they had plenty of time on their hands too.  I cannot imagine the community leaders being real interested in finding a shepherd to tell important news too, unless maybe the price of mutton had gone up. 

I am sure that most of the good shepherds were excellent protectors of their flocks; brave and strong when it came to marauding animals or thieves.  But I cannot see most shepherds as being great public speakers, announcers of news that would change the known world, wrinkle the very fabric in which existence was made.

But there they were, maybe chewing on a straw watching the flock settled down on a plateau or grassy plain.  They might have been telling stories of the day’s excitement around the evening campfire.  Some might have even been thinking about the family that was not present but waiting for Dad or brother to come home.

Then there it was.  A sound that was not normal.  I am sure they jumped to their feet and started scanning the horizon just over their flock’s backs.  Excitement began to grow as they tried to figure out where this amazing sound was coming from.  Then as sudden as it appeared the sound began to take on familiarity; the sound of words.  Words that were being spoken, no sang, to music and it was not coming from anywhere close but from above.  The heavens were singing.  Listen to the song.  Did you understand it.  It was something about Good News, a savior being born right over the mountain there in Bethlehem

God used these keepers of the flock to become heralds of the most important event in history.  I wonder if God learned his lesson with giving such an important mission to the untrained, ill-born, common folks of that day.

I don’t think so.  He still uses me and you to deliver that message.  Maybe you have not been trained. . . so what.  Maybe you were not born to the noble class. . . even better.  Maybe you have trouble speaking to a group of people. . . go after one at a time. 

Truth is we like the shepherds, who went to everyone they knew and told them what they had witnessed and heard, have the same mission.  The fact that you are an ordinary person does not hinder you.  In fact, it elevates God’s ability to bless those around. 

Have a great VOCAL Christmas this year as you tell someone of all you have witnessed!

Monday, December 1, 2014

3rd Christmas Thought

You have got to be kidding?  I can imagine that behind the question “How can this be?” we could hear several different emotions.

1)      It is not physically possible?  I have not yet “known a man!” How can God do this?  Girls talk to each other.  I know what is necessary for me to carry a child and it has not happened!  I can’t believe this.  (Do I hear the music to the “Twilight Zone?”)
2)      Who in the world will believe this?  I am supposed to tell everyone I know that I am having God’s baby?  Sure I am going to be married to Joseph, but I am not yet and believe me people can count!  The numbers will not add up!  I will be the laughing stock and brunt of all the whispers in Nazareth!  (I hope the hospital ward will have soft sheets and pink straight jackets)
3)      Oh well, I can handle that but what will Joseph think.  I love him and want to be married to him and have a family with him.  He will make such a great father.  How can he believe the child I will carry will be the blessing of God and that I have not been unfaithful to him?  He will have every right to publicly humiliate me and put me aside and I will be one of the homeless in our town.  (I never did think the Bethlehem Highway overpass looked inviting and homelike)
4)      Why me?  Who am I that the Holy One of Israel would choose me to do this thing.  I am just a meager child.  Yes, I have done my best to keep myself pure and I try to obey all the commandments of Moses but so do many of my friends.  There are people much more deserving than me.  Would it not be better if God chose one of King Herod’s daughters?  Surely they would be able to provide all the pomp that the Lord of Host would need.  (I have never even won a raffle or door prize at the school parties)

Anyone of these are believable and we would not fault Mary if she were here today and confessed to having all four.  But that is the part of the story that we can so easily understand because we have given those excuses many times to deflect the call of God on our lives.  But that is not the end of the story.  Mary’s final word was “(deciding in her heart) Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant.  As you have said, let it be done to me.” (Luke 1:38 The Voice)  To paraphrase we might say that Mary looked at the angel with eyes of great determination and resolve and said “bring it on, lets do this thing!”

We admire the faith of the founding fathers, the leadership and myopic vision of a Moses, the military prowess of a David and the dedication of a Daniel.  But let us not forget the calm resolve of a Mary who faced the greatest miracle of them all.  God becoming man and the part that God wanted her to play in it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2nd Christmas Thought

It was in God’s time!  Elizabeth must have thought that God had stopped hearing her prayers for a child.  It was an important matter in “Days of Old” just as it is today for many families desiring children.  To have a child signified a blessing of God but Elizabeth had barren.    But God had His own timing and Mary was granted not only a child, but the child!  The very one that would herald the coming of God Himself.

The story is found in its fullest in Luke chapter 1.  It is filled with all sorts of miracles.  A message from an angel, the loss of Zechariah’s voice, the special naming of the child the exclamation of Elizabeth and Mary’s song are all folded up into one brief chapter. 

How many times would  Elizabeth simply settled for a child, any child as long as she could hold her head in pride that God had blessed her womb.  Little did she know that God had a special calling for the baby in whom she would give birth. 

Do we ever try to rush God.  It must be done now and in this way or evidently God is not blessing us.  We know what we “need” and we “need” it now but God could have another plan; a plan that will bring us so much more blessing.

We can learn from Elizabeth in everyday life.  We can, we should pray that God will bless us.  But when that blessing does not come in the way we expected, or in our timing we should give up on God.  God’s timing is perfect.

As with Elizabeth’s blessing, ours can be too:  “Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, ‘what then is this child going to be?’ for the Lord’s hand was with him” Luke 1:66

Monday, November 10, 2014

Christmas Thought One

Thanksgiving is almost here; we will soon be fatter than we were.  What else do we need.  I know; the exercise of the Christmas season.  Yep, it is right around the corner.  The Christmas programs are scheduled.  The choir is warming up.  The decorations are out and being put in their places.  We soon will be facing holiday traffic and parking nightmares at the malls.  The fear of having left someone off the gift list will become real again.  We will check and double check that we have not done more for one than another.  Whew!  I already feel lighter.

But this is really what Christmas is NOT about.  It is about peace, security and the presence of our God with us and like other holidays we all understand that we should have these feelings and devotions all year long.  But we don’t!  So the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas day helps us to remember.

Between now and Christmas I want to look at seven people in the bible that will help us to have that Christmas attitude (no, not the one that you have when someone zips in front of you to steal that parking place) all year long.  Jesus is not simply the “reason for the season”, He is the “reason beyond the season”.

Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet, had grown up during the reign of Uzziah.  This Jewish king had been renowned for his efforts of religious reform and his own personal devotion.  This example impacted and a nation and the life of the young prophet.  His death cast a long shadow over the nation and all that was righteous began to spiral down. 

The young prophet began to look deeper for God’s working in his nation and God honored that devotion with the picture of His majesty and care for the world.  In chapter nine Isaiah is given a word of hope and security.  “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. . .” (Is 9:6-7)

It was this message that transformed the young prophet with a message of hope for God’s people.  Isaiah witnessed many terrible things that future kings would do and his own people stepping farther and farther from God.  But this message was taken to heart and Isaiah never forgot that ultimately God is in control and has worked in the past, is working now and will continue to work in the future.  That is the message of Christmas.

Many across our nation and world today face each day with little hope.  They fail to see God working or believe that because things are not like they want them then God must have stepped back and no longer cares for them.  I do not believe that everything that happens is “caused” by God or is even in His perfect will.  But this I do believe that God cares and everything can in some way be worked for good. 

To Isaiah the message was a child would be born. . .  To us today the message is that a Child has been born.  It has already happened.  God has and is dwelling with us now during this beautiful season of Christmas and in the Dog Days of August.  We must simply believe enough to look!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Patience in a Right Now World

It is funny how we get used to things.  We have become a people of “I want it right now!”  It is hard to imagine how a younger generation deals with not getting what they want or expect in blazing “Jimmy John” speed.

I recently had to have a government document.  I needed it right now.  The people who were requesting this information from me needed it right now.  It was important in the loan process for our house.  I called the government agency involved and asked what the process was to retrieve the document.  The person I spoke to was great.  She told me that normally I had to go through different hoops and pay some fees but knowing that would take a couple of day probably she could just mail it to me.  Wait; mail it, as in snail mail?  But that would take at least three days.  I asked was there anyway she could scan it and email it to me.  Very apologetically she said they were not allowed to do that.  There was nothing I could do but wait for the document so I could scan it and email it to the loan processor.  Three, maybe four days and I was fearful this would slow down the process.  The document arrived, I scanned and emailed; it must have been just in time.

When I look back at my childhood and early adult life I can see this change in our expectations taking place.  I know that they are supposed to be for the better and by and large I like the changes but sometimes the speed our lives can cause major stress.  Here are some things to compare.

Growing up I thought it a treat to go to the “Drive In” and get a hamburger.  We would pull up and wait for the carhop to come to us.  Dad would order (he was usually driving) and we would sit and wait for the burgers and fries to be cooked and the cokes to be poured.  Then the carhop would bring them out to the car and place the tray on the window.  Dad would pay and sometimes leave a quarter tip or tell them to keep the change.  We would eat and then signal by flashing the lights or a short honk of the horn for the carhop to come get the tray.  Off we would then go.

Today Debbie and I pull up to the drive thru speakers, order and proceed to the window where our food is generally ready already bagged.  We pay with our debit card, drive off and eat on our way to the next place we are going.

Growing up we received these mail order catalogs; Sears, J.C. Penny and Montgomery Wards.  We could order anything from a pair of pants that couldn’t be bought at the local department store, to chickens.  Mom or dad would write a check after filling out the order form, seal it in an envelope, stamp it and put it in the mail box for the postman to pick it up tomorrow since we rarely did this in the day.  The order would get sent to the distribution warehouse where it would be filled and boxed and mailed back to us.  This process could take weeks.

Today, day or night, I go to Amazon or eBay or directly to a manufacture and find what I want, place the order paying with a credit or debit card and usually pick the free three day shipping.  But if I wanted to spend a little extra I could have it tomorrow.  Yep, we have done that!

When I first started in the ministry and wanted to get information out to all the church members I had to design a letter or flyer, address a bunch of envelopes, stamp and mail.  A two day process was expected.

Today, I needed to get an urgent prayer request out to the church and in less than ten minutes it was done.

One more illustration from an endless pool of examples.  When I was growing up I can remember my grandfather waiting up late so he could see what the weather man was predicting for the next day and beyond.  The news and weather came on at 10:00 pm.

Today at my desk I have a desktop computer, a laptop, an iPad and iPhone.  Each of them are on at this very minute.  Each of them have the power of delivering to me not only the weather but the news with just the touch of my finger.  When I think I need I want it now!

I enjoy the speed in which we can get things done today.  However, as mentioned earlier I believe it is this ability that has caused a lot of stress and worry in our lives.  The speed in which we can get things done has artificially convinced us that we are in control and when we lose that control all heck breaks loose in our lives.  How can we survive if we don’t get it done right now.? Our jobs, our families, our very psyches depend on our actions.  Or do they?

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! Luke 12:27-28 NIV

(Why is lunch taking so long to get here?)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Event/Process - Either/Or??

I recently followed a discussion on whether outreach/evangelism was an event or a process.  I have always found it amusing how bad people want something to be “this or that”.  Subjects such as prayers should either be spontaneous or well thought out and written, bicycles should riden fully in the lane or against the curb or when ordering Ice Cream it is either only vanilla or chocolate.  The issues are endless.

In the discussion I was following there were those who believed true evangelism only happened in an event.  I heard echoes of the 1970’s confrontational evangelism programs that might have a disciple approaching a house knocking on a door and asking the question: “If you died tonight where would you go?”  This evangelistic technique was not only used in house to house outreach but on High School and College campuses heavily.  The evangelist was successful only if the “event” led to a decision by the person approached to give his/her life to Jesus as Lord and Savior. 

While the confrontational element of that form of evangelism is seldom used anymore (only by the most bold) the mind set of those who believe that evangelism/outreach is still an event is pretty solidly set.  From person to person they will make very good intended attempts to bring that person to a saving knowledge of Jesus; social butterflies bouncing from person to person cherry picking only the ripest of sinners ready to fall at the foot of the cross in repentance.  They see very little need in the process of building relationships with people that will bring them to their own faith and acceptance of Christ as the supreme sacrifice not just for the sins of the world but personally.

On the other side of the argument are those who simply believe that evangelism is a process and the thought of event is outdated.  Process evangelists speak of at least twenty touches that are needed before people will open up and hear what is being said by a Christian or the Church.  Those touches can be anything from simple polite hellos or the opening of a door to much more complex conversations.  They are all important as they help set the groundwork for relationship.

To the process person the important thing is living the life we confess.  Sayings like “the only Gospel people will see is the Gospel found in me” have come from proponents of this thought.  After enough touches and observation the person will choose to follow the Christ we confess to follow without a traditional word of evangelism from us.

My question on the subject is why is it either/or, why this or that?  If anyone knows me well enough they would know I lean towards the process idea.  That is probably for a couple of reasons and one is that I am generally not bold enough for the “confrontational evangelism” method.  I did not like it thirty years ago.  I also am a very personal, relational type person naturally so the process idea fits my whole personality better.  But that does not mean there are times and moments during that process that I may need to become bold enough to seek the event, to encourage a person to make that decision.  It may be something as simple as asking them to come to church with me or something more complex as expressing verbally the story of the Gospel and why I have chosen to follow it.

I would encourage the Event evangelist to take some time and risk to start developing those relationships.  You already have the tools to lead that person to Christ when they become ready.  Relationship involves the possibility that you might be rejected where confrontational types of evangelism does not carry that risk; they are not rejecting you, they are rejecting the Gospel.  Jesus took the risk of relationships and then when the time was right spoke His word.

I would encourage the Process folks, like me, to look for those opportunities when the spoken word is called for.  It becomes too easy for us to hide away in that relationship and protect ourselves from rejection to the point we lose the opportunities that present themselves.

Actually I believe there are places for spontaneous spoken prayers and a time for well thought out and written prayers spoken in public.  I am mainly a vanilla ice cream kind of guy but every-once-in-a-while I will get courageous and get a twirl!  I believe riding my bicycle in the full lane is generally the smartest and safest way I can ride my bike but also know there are times and a place that courtesy just simply trumps my rights to the lane and slide over as far as it is safe to. 

I guess the world is generally not either/or but both/and when you really think about it.  So is outreach and evangelism.  Let us use all the tools God has given us to become Kingdom builders

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

When We Meet god

Praise the LORD, my soul, all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
—Psalm 103:1  the Psalms are full of praise for the promises of God and simply for who God is.  As New Testament Christians we can easily find things around us every day to be thankful for and to praise God for His Mercy and Grace. 
Many search for God’s presence and can’t seem to find it.  I have had more than one person say they came to church to be in God’s presence.  It made me wonder if they had an Old Testament theology of the presence and place of God.  You know, God lived in the Sanctuary and sat on the throne in the Holy of Holies.  The Israelite had to go to the Tabernacle and later the Temple to be in the presence of the Creator.  
Do people today believe that God lives within the four walls of the church?  Surely He is there but He is also out there.  He is in the face of the suffering person standing in line at the convenient store.  He is in the hunched body of the homeless person standing on the busy corner hoping for a hand out when the traffic light stops traffic.  He is in the cry of the hungry baby, in the laughter of the children playing and in the undecipherable utterances of the Alzheimer’s patient.  
We make a mistake if we expect to find God in the tornado or the blazing fire.  No doubt God can be found in those things but in most cases God meets us in the mundane. 
Do you remember, When I was hungry you fed me, when I was naked you clothed me, when I was imprisoned you visited me.  Have you been in the presence of God today?  He has been in yours!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Christian Intolerance

I was listening to a Christian radio station a couple of days ago and once again found myself discouraged at the lack of compassion and tolerance the host showed when talking with callers.  The subject was, well it could have been anything, but it was one of the hot topics of the day.  I will say that it was not dealing with sexual orientation but it could have been and he would still have given the same message.

The bottom line is that the caller (a couple of them in fact) did not agree with his stance simply because they interpreted the very same Scriptures from a different point of view.  It could have been experience, culture, education or any other real life reality that causes us all to look at the world through our own particular lens.  They were polite and said they respected his view, they just didn’t agree.  The host grew more and more intolerant with their perspective interpretations and continued to claim they did not believe the Bible.  Yep, just because they had a different interpretation of that particular Scripture they did not “believe God’s Word.”

It just so happened that the subject dealt with an area that could easily (in fact I do which may be why I was so irritated at the host) been interpreted symbolically when traditionally conservative thought has viewed it as literal.  But what I heard was that if I did not agree with his particular reading then I might as well throw my Bible away because I didn’t really believe what it said anyway.  That might just lead to his questioning my salvation experience, or my desire to follow to the best of my ability the calling I have received.  I beg your pardon!

This was just an example of the intolerance and narrow mindedness that has driven many of our younger generations away. Paul pleaded  in his first letter to the Corinthians (1:10) saying “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all you agree with one another in what you say and there be do divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” 

Did the great preacher/missionary of the early church desire for all of us to be robots, each looking and speaking and believing the exact same way?  I don’t think so.  There is no question that he and Peter (another great preacher/missionary) and he and Mark (possibly the first writer to the story of Jesus to pen) had differences and some of them major.  But what they all had in common was the Lordship of Jesus Christ was paramount to everything else.  They the could agree on and when they talked about that there was no division.

Until we in the church, those who represent the Christian faith begin to understand that the Lord expressed compassion and not doctrinal correctness or interpretive singularity we will continue to push folks away.  And once again Jesus will weep!

Oh, and BTW I will give anyone a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 if they will give me a literal interpretation of the Song of Solomon.

Monday, July 7, 2014

When Technology Fails

Technology is great, when it works!  It has been a rough week and weekend for the Proctor family and technology. It started Friday when my new AC Adapter for my laptop came in the mail.  I plugged it in and let the battery charge for a few minutes.  When I tried to get my email (google) I was not able to access the site because the certificates were not recognized.  I tried other sites and all https sites gave me the same message.  After reading multiple forums with other people having the same issue and multiple attempts to clean it up I decided the computer was seven years old and ready to be retired – before I messed up and lost all my documents.

Saturday while on a ride Debbie “took on” a large Golden Retriever and the dog won.  Debbie sprang her wrist pretty bad and possibly then cracked the screen on her iPhone.  I took it into Ann Arbor to get it fixed this morning.  I don’t know Ann Arbor yet so I used one of the navigation apps on my phone to find the place.  Of course it is right in the middle of the city.  While there I discussed with the tech some issues I was having with my phone which evidently can be remedied by replacing the “Home” button.

I left both phones to be repaired, jumped in the pickup and reached for my phone and the navigational prowess it gives me.  Oh no!, I will not have the phone until 4:00 this afternoon.  I did my best to backtrack myself out of there but if you have ever been in major cities they are full of one way streets that dead end.

Evidently I made it back to the office as I am typing this.  However, I was expecting several important text today concerning our efforts to buy a house. Already somewhat discouraged about the snails pace of that activity I am unable to move forward as I am sure those text are on a phone in the middle of city that houses the University of Michigan.  Of course I have emailed the proper parties and told them of my oversight but the reason they text is because they don’t like to check their emails!

I am sure that we do not have the same issues with the faithfulness of our Creator.  Our God has no battery to run down, does not need to be plugged into a power source nor do we worry about his screen cracking. The Lord is not fragile and we do not have to worry about being without His presence because we have had to drop Him off at the repair shop.

The Psalmist reminds us that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps 34:18 NIV).  I know that he is close to me today.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Rejoice? You Gotta be Kidding!

I have heard people counsel those who were hurting or facing tremendous crises in their lives that they should take Paul’s advice and “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). This is usually said with great enthusiasm and certainty.  The look they usually get is priceless.  “Ok, it’s easy for you to give that advice when life is cushy, but don’t try to tell me that when I am in my deepest pain or my world is about to come crashing down on me I am supposed to run up and down the street and rejoice.”

Debbie and I have been “house hunting” for the past month and have actually lived with relatives nine out of the last twelve months due to the end of the CPE program and our move to Michigan with no secure employment.  It has been tough, both on us and our family which has been gracious to open their homes.  While trying to be positive about the situation there have been times when I have felt like throwing my hands high in the air and giving up.  Don’t read too much into that “giving up” statement, but it was really difficult to jump up and down and rejoice in the fact that family generosity was being strained, we were quickly blowing through all savings and dealing with disappointment after disappointment when an application was never responded to or rejections after making it to the final group of one or two others in interviews.

There is no question that almost everyone reminded me that it was all “God’s time” and there was a plan if we just trusted.  It wasn’t long that such counseling sounded hollow.  How could I, when dealing with doubts of self-worth, which is a pretty frequently trip even when things are going well, rejoice without being hypocritical in ingenious?

Then one day in my daily reading I read through Paul’s letter to Philippi I heard God’s message to rejoice.  When I read it I did not knee-jerk with the attitude that had become normal when I heard this passage from others.  What was different this time?  I understood it this time as not a command to rejoice in my current situation but rejoice in who God is, or at least in who I think God is.  Time after time God has manifested Himself in situations that could have only been Him working.  I was called to rejoice in my call to His service and the gifts He has bestowed upon me.  The peace that is spoken of in verse 7 “the peace of God that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” was mine.

It wasn’t but a few days after that the wheels started turning that would eventually lead to the calling by Immanuel Baptist Church in Ypsilanti to be their pastor.  Now with the house hunting there are still are those times when rejoicing in our current situation just doesn’t seem to be genuine but when I look past that and rejoice in who God is I once again feel peace. 

I like peace!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Master's Table

Dallas and Maddy inseparable
I think I have two great dogs.  One may be one of the best dogs in the world. The other does exactly what she is supposed to do.  Dallas, our forty-five pound Slick Haired Border Collie. Yeah, I know, you are saying “what kind of dog”?  Dallas is a rescue dog that Landall got in while in college and we ended up with.  She was a puppy and he didn’t have the time or space to keep her from chewing up his life belongings.  For years the vets would categorize her as a Lab mix.  I couldn’t argue except that I knew she did not have a lab head, could not stand the water and wanted to constantly herd me and Debbie into the same room.  But, what did I know.  Finally one vet said she may have something else in her but not much, she is a Slick Haired Border Collie.  He told us to look it up on the net and sure enough, if she had papers we would be showing her!  Here is what a Slick Haired Border looks like.

Our other dog is a Biewer Yorkie (sounds like beaver and is a full blood Yorkie that has been bred to have white in their coat) given to us by a friend.  She is a sweet dog with all the idiosyncrasies of a small dog.  But, when she curls up in your lap she melts your heart.

Ok, why am I talking about my dogs?  Because, they are very important to me and Debbie.  And, because while watching them at dinner tonight they reminded me of an important lesson.  Both of them eat dry dog food but have been known to accept a handout from the table.  They don’t bark at you, and they would never (well, never say never) take food off the table themselves.  But they will sit next to your chair and stare at you with longing eyes.  Dallas will even put her chin in your lap and the longer you ignore her the heavier she will let her head get.  They usually win.

The lesson I got from this was that even though they might not get anything they have learned if they wait patiently the chances of them receiving something from the “master’s table” is pretty good.  And they will wait, and wait and wait and be rewarded.

Daily we sit at the Master’s table.  Do we expect to be blessed?  Do we wait patiently until that prize is offered to us for our patience? Or, do we get discouraged and walk away from  the table.  In fact we have it better than Dallas and Maddy.  We do not have to wait on the floor but have a seat at the table.  God’s banquet is not just about some tomorrow, like the Kingdom of God it is here and now.  The poet of the Song of Solomon in 2:4 says "He brought me to the banquet house,and his banner over me was love.”   

Do you realize the banner of love that has been spread over you?  We can choose to enjoy the present banquet, or we can choose to ignore it and find every reason to be discouraged and bitter.  The choice is yours, you have the invitation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Let It Rain!

I laughed this morning, joking about being confused.  I thought I had moved to Michigan and not Oregon or Washington State which are known for their rain.  I do not believe I have ever seen so much water fall from the sky as I have seen this spring.  When I think of the rain I think of a couple of verses.  One that reminds me that God is the giver of rain.  Job stated that “God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘be a mighty downpour.’ So that everyone he has made may know his work, he stops all people from their labor” (Job 37:5-7 NIV)

I know the beauty that we see here everyday is due to the rain we endure today.  Coming from a barren Texas Panhandle where the very lakes I grew up skiing on are now dry or drying up I appreciate the rain.  It brings blessings unspeakable.

Also making it easy to endure is the fact that we have come closer to family.  That is really the reason we moved here; Landall and his wonderful wife Jill who have given us one the great joys in our lives in the blessing of Hudson our grandson.  So let it rain and keep the rivers, lakes and ponds full.  Let it rain and keep the country pretty and green with plenty of future adventures that Pawpaw and Hudson can find.  Yep, let it rain because I am being truly blessed. 

Oh, the other verse about rain… Proverbs 27:15.  You look it up!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Honk, Honk and Honk Again

Some things that used to make me mad, finally just started irritating me and now many of those things actually amuse me.  One of them is cars and horns.  I understand the horn was added to the vehicle as a warning devise but it just doesn’t seem like a good defensive devise.  Watch in a convenient store or shopping center parking lot sometime and you will see people start backing out without seeing a car coming (no judgment here, there are blind spots, distractions and sometimes just blindness).  The car in the right-of way often will just stop and lay on the horn as if the use of that two pound device all by itself is going to stop the backing car.  Three lanes on a highway and a vehicle tries to change lanes not seeing that the lane they desire is already taken.  The car in danger glares and hoooooooonks as the only action of defense instead of immediately changing lanes that is empty beside them.

Yesterday I was traveling down Mack, west of I74, hoping to intersect with Gratiot.  The Tigers had just finished an afternoon game and thousands of fans were adding to the normal rush hour congestion on Interstate 75 and 64 so I was taking a detour.  There was one car in front of me and we were coming to a red light.  I saw the Semi-Truck that we were going to intersect with and felt he was going to turn left and would need extra room since both of the streets were only two lane.  I stopped to where the truck would  have plenty of room but the driver in front of me didn’t and pulled up passed the white line (something that hasn’t yet become an amusement) and stopped as the light had turned red.

The truck made the turn but had to get up on the curb to do it.  As the twenty feet of Semi passed her and the forty foot of trailer tried to follow it was clear that the car in front of me was in trouble.  Remember I have stopped with what was probably fifty or so feet between us.  As the rear wheels of the trailer got closer and closer to the car the horn started to do everything it could to stop that semi-trailer from climbing up the hood of the car.  The truck driver stopped, backed up, pulled forward and repeated the process until the trailer would pass by the car within a foot or so. 

When I was a boy and worked with the men I learned quickly that when I was in an alley and calves were coming down it was much smarter for me to move than to yell.  If I took a defensive action by crawling through the bars or even climbing up the bars, which was more fun, I avoided the disaster of being run over.  I could stand there and yell until I couldn’t yell anymore and I would probably have been trampled.

Life is like that sometime, well maybe, no probably many times life is like that.  There may be some things in our life that are dangers to us but instead of putting the car in reverse and backing up or changing lanes we set our jaws and lay on the horn of life and expect things to change.  After all this was our lane, our right-of-way and we are not going to give up what was ours and change no matter what the end result might be.  The priestly writer of Hebrews encourages us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. . . “ (Hebrews 12:1)

Just like I had given the car in front of me plenty of room to back up and avoid the danger of getting run over God always gives us another direction and the ability to throw those things off that which hinders us from being the people He wants us to be.  But, we have to do it.  May each of us find the strength to do that and continue to run our race.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The New Squeeze-Chute

Well this is a new addition to my prior blog the “SqueezeChute” which can be found at  For some reason I cannot access it to post new blogs.  It could be because my last submission was in March 2010.  OK, I am not much on blogging which is a lot like journaling and I am not a great journaler.  But, I want to be and realize that it is a great way to work my thoughts out.  So, I will try again.  If you are interested in what I say about my life, my family, my thoughts or my theology please leave comments.  I will enjoy reading them.  But if you are reading my blog to correct grammar or rules then you need to find another place to prove your English prowess.

Since I have to create a new blog I have decided to keep the same name; or at least in structure.  I do this because it helps remind me of my heritage and upbringing in the Panhandle of Texas.  Helping working cowboys work cattle by driving them to holding pens so they could be vaccinated, de-horned, branded and “cut.”  These cattle would be driven down an alley wide enough for one-at-a-time and then put in a chute that would squeeze them to hold them still (well relatively still) which allowed the cowboys to work their art.  There is no question that the squeeze-chute was not fun for the cattle as it pinched them in.  It was probably even a little bit scary but it was for a purpose.  When they were released they would have received the medicines they needed for another year of happy grazing on green grass.

I also keep the name because in many ways we face squeeze-chutes at different times in our lives.  James 1 says that we will face trials but those trials will ultimately lead to strength.  That doesn't mean that everything that happens to us is of divine origin.  In fact many of the things that happen to us are of our creation.  I agree with the statement that “all things happen for a reason”, but sometimes and I might add a lot of times, the reason is a bad decision we made.  But there are those times that we will face trials that are of divine origin and like the squeeze-chute of my childhood it will be uncomfortable and maybe even frightening but when we are passed through we will better be able to enjoy the green pastures where we lay.

I hope you enjoy and maybe even get challenged to think through some things in the future submissions of this blog.