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.
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.
So here I sit on the day before Easter, thinking about what the disciples were doing on THAT 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.
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.
Christmas 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.
This 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.
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.