The Quiet of Christmas

A moment of anticipation, Christmas 2009.

A moment of anticipation, Christmas 2009.

I woke early this morning, memories of past Christmas mornings causing me to expect to hear the sound of our sons talking in low whispers as they pick through their Christmas stockings. Instead I hear the silence that comes with the gentle rise and fall of my wife sleeping, and not a peep from the living room that sits beyond the closed bedroom door.

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Seeing the Beginning from the End

Isaiah42“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.” – Isaiah 42:1

The summer I was 15, God spoke this verse into my spirit and it changed my life forever. Last night, 28 years later, the same verse did it again.

The summer of 1985 I was your typical church-going teenager. We were at a summer camp at Christian Retreat in Bradenton, Florida for a week – it was actually one of two separate camps there I went to that summer. I was interested in having fun, enjoying the services, and meeting girls that would come from around the country. I was also at a place of just generally trying to figure out what life would look like in a few years after I would graduate from high school. Again, I was pretty much the typical church-going teenage male.

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The Day After Your Answer Dies

So here I sit on the day before Easter, thinking about what the disciples were doing on THATjesusonthecross-2925 Saturday some 2,000 years ago.  I know there is an historical argument for what day of the week Jesus was actually crucified on – but that’s not the subject or point of this post.  I’m simply putting myself in the place of that group of men (and women) and wondering what they were thinking.

The Gospels don’t give us much detail about what took place on that day.  We do know historically it was the day of preparation between Israel’s weekly Sabbath and the annual Sabbath that took place during Passover.  What does that tell us… it means there were normal things  they needed to do in the midst of their questions and grief.  It also tells me during those times we wonder where God is or what He is up to – yes, even in the darkest of hours – life still goes on.

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Moving Forward

family_01     Thirty years ago my parents loaded up the few of us still living at home and moved us from Massachusetts to Florida.  Ever since then (with just a couple minor exceptions), I’ve never lived outside of Pinellas County.  Tracy was born and raised here, and except for the few years we lived up in Odessa, it’s been the same for her.

This June that’s about to change.

Three years ago we received a call from our good friends Tenney & Pam Olsen, directors of the International House of Prayer in Tallahassee.  They were anticipating growth for the ministry, knew our hearts for prayer and worship, and wanted to know if we would pray about coming to join their staff.  The timing never worked out for us to make the move… until now.

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‘Til He Appeared and the Soul Felt It’s Worth

Christas Tree 2012Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  Yes, I know it is for many (or at least we say that) – but for me it really is.  But even with all of the anticipation, I’m still a purist and want to wait for the season to arrive for things like not playing actual Christmas music or wanting to see Christmas commercials on TV until after the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  And yes, it bugs me that the big stores put their Christmas stuff out before Halloween these days, when you used to wonder why you’d see it just before Thanksgiving!  But this year I’ll have to admit that I was ready very early for the joy that comes with Christmas – and I broke a few of my rules when it came to those traditions.  I’m chalking it up on such a long political season that just put such a damper on the country, added to working a ton of overtime to make things work.  Whatever the reason, I was eager to experience that Christmas “magic” earlier than normal.

Even with my strictness about most things surrounding Christmas, one thing you’ll hear from me throughout the year is Christmas carols!  Well, not me SINGING them, but WHISTLING them.  There is just something fun about whistling a Christmas carol!  I don’t know if its the variations in tempo or all the note changes, I’ve just always loved to whistle them and you’ll hear songs like Jingle Bells or Deck the Halls from me as much in the month of June as in December.  But again, this year has been a different one… and it’s not just a tune to whistle that has gripped me – but a single phrase from the song O Holy Night that keeps ringing over and over not just in my head, but deep within my spirit.

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It’s a Wonder-Filled Life

Blog PicThis past weekend marked one year since my first post on this blog.  At first I was writing every few days, now it seems I’m good if I get something every couple of weeks.  It’s not that I don’t have stuff to write about, it’s just about finding the time – actually being disciplined to make the time to write.  I think most bloggers would tell you the same thing, but my wife is actually pretty disciplined with her site – and she covers some pretty deep stuff, too.

If you’ve read my first post (or can tell by the name of my site), the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” means a lot to me.  The lesson it carries is a powerful one, and even though I’ve seen it probably 50 times, I still get choked up watching as George Bailey’s eyes are opened in the end to what truly makes his life so wonderful.  And since the movie does a lot of looking back over his life, I’ve been thinking back over all of the things that have happened in our lives since I started blogging last year.  And of course, if George learned a lesson – I’ve got to see if I’ve learned some, too.

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How would JESUS vote?

Back in 2008 I preached a message about the elections at a church where I was on staff at the time.  The real questions that I address in the message are: “What does God require of those who rule?” and “What does God expect of us as Christians in regard to government?”

This message is not political and it’s not full of opinion – it challenges us to hold up political leaders against the light of God’s Word (remember all of those “hanging chad” pictures from Florida?).  EVERY Christian needs to hear a message like this one, even if they’ve already decided who they are going to vote for.

I broke the message down into 6 short video clips.  Take the 40 minutes or so needed to watch all 6… and please, pass the link to this blog posting along to those you know who could use the encouragement – or the challenge.

Be blessed.

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New life on the 3rd day…

Yesterday son # 3 celebrated his 18th birthday.  An incredible milestone in any young man’s life, but for our family it was another beautiful reminder of the grace and mercy of God.  You see, he drowned in a pool when he was 3 and shouldn’t be here today.

It was a Sunday evening and we were at a friend’s house having dinner.  We had dinner out on the patio by the pool, and after dinner the boys all went for a swim.  Josiah had enough of the pool and we had changed him into some warm clothes and he was lying in a hammock some distance from the pool.  I went in to help fix a computer issue, and my wife was clearing dishes while our two older sons (elementary age at the time) were in the shallow end playing with our friend’s teenage son.

In the few minutes that the dishes were being brought in, Josiah saw a ball in the deep end that he wanted.  He climbed out of the hammock and went reaching for that ball, and fell in.  The boys in the shallow end were splashing around and didn’t see or hear him fall in.  Tracy came back out carrying our youngest, just 8 months old at the time.  Josiah wasn’t in the hammock.  She asked the older boys where he was, they didn’t know.  She started calling his name and looking for him, and that’s when she noticed what looked like a towel at the bottom of the pool.  She told the teen boy to dive down and check that out.  Seconds later he surfaced with Josiah’s lifeless body.

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Go West Young Man

Grand Canyon PostcardIf you’ve been following me for a while, or just read through some of my blogs, you’ll remember that I have this long long love-affair with the “Wild West”.  Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved cowboy movies and for some time now have wanted to go on one of those cattle drives featured in the movie “City Slickers”.  I even had a great aunt who got me a subscription to Arizona Highways magazine, because I just loved to look at the pictures of the Grand Canyon and the un-tamed scenery that filled the pages.

I’ve lived a few states away (Iowa), flown over it on the way to California (still upset that the attendants had everyone pull their shades down so people could watch TV reruns – and caused me to miss the aerial views of the Grand Canyon!), and experienced some of it on a couple of trips through Texas.  But Arizona was what I’ve been wanting to see for more than 35 years and it’s always eluded me.  That was, until a couple of weeks ago.

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Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink!

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
– from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
 
The words of this poem ran through my mind this morning as I looked out our back windows at the Bay.  All you can see is the sun glistening off all of this water – people in boats fishing, sea birds diving for fish and sunning themselves on the docks, the bobbing of crab trap markers.  But the water out there isn’t the problem – its the lack of water in here that is! 
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