The Scars of Christmas Past (not really)

cowboys 001

Like most boys growing up in the early 70’s, my older brother and I played a lot of cowboys and Indians.

TV choices were limited in those days but I remember large doses of Gunsmoke and John Wayne movies.

I recall a Christmas when our prized gifts were matching cowboy rifles with pump action and a real-life firing sound.

My memory was foggy as to the timing of the “accident”.  I thought it was later on Christmas evening, but my brother tells me it happened on Christmas morning (soon after receiving the guns).

I couldn’t exactly remember whose rifle it was, but I clearly remember my dad walking through the house rapidly cocking and firing the gun while referencing a TV show that was no longer on the air (The Rifleman).  At the end of the demonstration, the gun no longer made that cool realistic firing sound.  It made no sound at all.

Memory tells me that I wasn’t too upset at the time.  It could have been because I just didn’t worry too much about stuff, even as a kid.  Or it could have been because I truly believed that my dad could fix anything.  But the truth is that it wasn’t my gun that was broken.

My brother and I revived this story this Christmas when I was asked to share a Christmas memory along with my dad at my church for our Christmas Eve service.  When I told my brother of my “assignment”, he suggested the same story (and filled in some details that I was pretty sketchy on).

But when I brought it up to my dad, he had no recollection of the gun-breaking incident.

Christmas is a magical time in so many ways.  Dad didn’t remember.  But his two sons did…..forty years later.

What a great reminder!  The things that I do and say today with my kids may seem insignificant to me.  But they may be recalling them together forty years later.  That’s a pretty awesome reminder to slow down and least try to see Christmas (and life) through the excited eyes of a child.

Forty years after the broken gun incident, I have a pretty good grasp on the fact that stuff doesn’t matter.  And growing up, my dad really could fix pretty much anything that was broken.  But our Heavenly Father can fix everything that matters.  People matter.  He sent His Son to save all people.

Christmas matters.  The joy and the hope that we feel today as we celebrate our Savior’s birth should not escape us once the gifts are exchanged and the decorations are put away.  It’s a joy worth sharing year round.  Just as the magic of Christmas reminds us of an opportunity to create a lasting memory for a child, it should also remind us that all of our thoughts, words, and actions have significance each day.  Living a life that models our Savior impacts others for eternity……not just forty years.

Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

Gospel Grenades and Change Buckets

 

“Invite people to church.”

“Bible study is needed so you can properly tell people about Jesus, and why they need Him in their lives.”

True.  And simple.

But ineffective because we, as Christians, have not been credible messengers.

And you can’t tell someone what they need if you can’t model for them something that they might want.

I’ve wasted years and opportunities with faulty “tell people about Jesus and invite them to church” mentality.

Failure is measured when our immediate actions don’t result in church attendance or baptism.

We want to lob gospel grenades and hope for immediate results.  If we don’t think we can hit a homerun, we just let somebody else bat for us…….preachers, people with better knowledge of the bible……….

I can’t do something big, so I’ll do nothing at all.

$1000

It’s a terrible mistake to spend our days believing that Jesus can only be dispensed to an unbelieving world in $1,000 bills.

I’ve never had a $1,000 bill and never spent one.  And I’ve never taken action or said the magic words that immediately led someone to accept Jesus Christ as their savior.

pocket change

But I have a change bucket that I empty my pockets into every day.  And it accumulates at least $300……twice a year…….year after year.

Romans 12:6-8 (NIV)

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us……….. if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

I don’t even know anybody that’s ever had a $1,000 bill.  But we’ve all gone through mountains of pocket change over the years.

For the talents that God has given the vast majority of Christians, there is greater cumulative value in the little things.

Simple acts can lead to amazing things when we trust God with things beyond our sight or reach.

We don’t have to be able to see the last step, we just have to be willing to take the next one…….and we can’t be frozen in out tracks simply because we think we have to jump the whole staircase in a single bound.

Check the direction of your influence.  It’s reaching somebody all the time.  Good…..or bad?

Dispensing the love and hope of Jesus to the world around us, one penny and one nickel at a time.  All day every day.

Little things matter.  Every day, action and every encounter has value…..forever.

In a world where Christians tend to be tagged as judgmental hypocrites, live with a determination to be a credible messenger of the story of the hope that Jesus brings.

Invite the character of Christ into all of life’s situations. Make someone take notice, “what do you have that makes you different”.

Before I can offer something to others that indicates something is missing in their life, I must first display something mighty powerful that is present in my life.

Don’t just talk about Jesus.  Live like Him.

Living like Jesus….even one penny at a time….all day every day……is a life worth living, a hope and love worth sharing, and a life that make someone seek something that they didn’t even know they were missing.

And if I did have a $1000 bill, I’d probably change it for smaller bills anyway.  It’s useless to me since pop machines and concession stands won’t take ’em.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pretty Is A 4-letter Word

child of king

Raising Strong Daughters Part 3.

….and this one applies to sons also.

My dream is to have kids who don’t comb/brush their hair, aren’t bothered by standing in public with their fly open, and only look in the mirror to practice making goofy faces.

I’d rather hear my kids drop an F-bomb than to ask, “Dad, what will people think?”.

No, I don’t subscribe to the “just be yourself” mentality that becomes a convenient excuse for disobedience to God.

Psalm 139:13-14  (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Wonderfully made by our Heavenly Father.

Teach it to our children early and often.  The world teaches something else entirely.

Living to impress people.  Modern culture sells it at an alarming rate.  Parents buy it.  Our kids grow up not knowing any better.

We say stupid things, “You’re not going out of the house looking like that are you?”  (variations of this prase are allowed when it comes to modest dress).

We spend too much time standing in front of the mirror.  Spend too much time taking care of our appearance every single time we go out in public.

We watch garbage on TV that sends a terribly wrong message about what is important in life.

We buy stupid things to make us look better, skinnier, younger, wealthier.

We obsess over “PRETTY”.

Yeah I’m a man and I’m getting into dangerous territory.   It’s important for girls to feel pretty, blah blah blah.

So don’t get me wrong.  I’m not talking about insecurities of teen girls.  I’m talking about small steps along the way before they are teens.

The habits, words, and actions of parents that shape their confidence, strength, and identity.

 I’m talking about overkill….an overuse of the word “pretty” that ties in neatly with an unhealthy approval-seeking quest.

A quest where security in one’s identity only comes to those who possess physical beauty, those who win the approval of others.

The selfie generation.

If you’re concerned as a parent with your daughter’s ability to attract boys…..then I don’t really know what to tell you.

If your hope and prayer is for daughters with a strength that comes from their faith , then I push for a simple awareness.

To know they are wonderfully made does not happen by accident.  And it must go much deeper than constant chatter about appearance.

We should all have more concern with Who made us than with who likes us.

Easier said than done.  But peace and inner strength come when we live to please God instead of living to please and impress others.

It’s not something we can just pass on to our kids when they’re old enough to leave home.

Tell them and show them that they’re awesome every day, “I’m so glad God made me your daddy, and I’m so glad He made you my daugher.”

Give thanks to God (in their presence) that He made them just the way they are.

Don’t start babbling with the “boyfriend” talk when they’re six years old.

Walk around in public occasionally with your fly open to properly demonstrate that “we shouldn’t worry what others think”.

Model for them a life that says at all times, “God matters”.

Avoid innocent phrases degrading yourself that aren’t so innocent when a child hears them in repitition; “I look awful”  “I feel fat”  “I can’t go out of the house looking like this”.

Tell them they’re beautiful inside and out.

Encourage a life of Bible-reading in your daughter.  Let them see you reading……that God’s word is an important part of your life.

The truth is that we all need to feel pretty, wanted, and accepted in some way.

But before our daughters become old enough to worry about it, let”s make sure they fully understand that they are “WONDERFULLY MADE”.

THE DAUGHTER OF A KING

 

 

 

The Danger of Leading From the Rear

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I’ve always been a “lead from the rear” kind of guy.

A firm believer in letting my kids, basketball players, or co-workers learn from their own missed steps off the beaten path.

I don’t have to choose every step for them.  I just have to watch from the rear and make sure they’re safe.

But there’s a big difference in the ones that are simply safe and the ones that are scared or hurting…..those needing guidance or encouragement.  I suppose I’ve missed a lot of those opportunities by watching over the whole flock without looking closely at individual faces.

Some lessons take a while to sink in.  I learned this one while helping with my church’s VBS this past summer.

I had the easiest volunteer job available (crew leader 4th & 5th graders).  This is the age where kids are on the borderline of being too old and cool to attend VBS.  My job was simply to follow them around to various craft, snack, story, and worship stations/activities and keep them safe (or just inside the church building)……a shepherd of sorts.

On the first night, my group went from opening worship time into the craft room with me “leading from the rear”, just counting heads.  I looked casually around the room during crafts to make sure nobody needed help.  It seemed that kids ranging from 2nd to 5th grade were placed together for this activity.  My own 2nd grade son was in the room, so I mostly walked around the room fist-bumping kids I knew, small-talking with other adults, and giving little notice to the kids I didn’t know.

Something was different on the 2nd night as we entered the craft room and the kids began working on a slightly more challenging project, a bead bracelet.

vbs

Before I ever started surveying the room for kids that might be having difficulty with their project, the voice of a single child caught my attention.

My eyes followed the sound of a voice that seemed a bit deep for a 4th or 5th grader.  I spotted a boy whose body matched his voice.  He was just a bit larger in size than the other kids in his age group and he was seated at a table next to my 2nd grade son Kal.

His loud conversations with Kal told me that he was probably more comfortable talking to Kal than with the kids his age.

I continued to watch and listen as they began their bracelet project.  There was something heartwarming and special in the way this boy interacted with my much younger son…..a kindness and innocence that usually disappears by the time boys reach the age of entering middle school.

I could see that he was having trouble threading his beads onto the string bracelet.

So I just pulled up a chair.

The boy’s name was Gabe.  I helped him string his beads and finish his bracelet.  And we talked.  Gabe was starting middle school in a few weeks.  He seemed very nervous about it.  I assured him that I had three kids who had recently finished at the school he was starting and that they all loved it there.  I told him I had coached basketball there and I knew the teachers there were great.  But I doubted that I eased his fears.

As my group of kids (14 of them) filed up the church stairs for our closing worship session in the auditorium, I trailed behind them once again.  The first kids through the door sparked and enthusiastic question (a joke of a question because of my reserved personality with kids) from my pastor’s wife,

“Who thinks they have the greatest crew leader here tonight?”

Silence……except for Gabe.  He shyly raised his hand.  And quietly said, “I do.”

I understand now that my actions that night had little impact on his life.

But this special young man found a place in my heart and perhaps served a great purpose in my life.

To follow Jesus means that we are willing to make changes to our sinful, selfish self in order to be more like our Savior.

Jesus was a shepherd.  But I’m pretty certain now, because of Gabe, that Jesus was most definitely a “pull up a chair” kind of guy.

Jesus found the person in the crowd that needed Him most, and met them where they were.

If you’re only looking at the crowd as a whole, you’ll never notice that person that needs you most.  The one that may truly need your love, kindness, encouragement, gratitude, or prayers.

Leading from the rear has its value.  But just being safe isn’t enough.

You can’t tell who needs you if you aren’t willing to look at the faces you’re leading.

I pray that middle school is kind to Gabe.  I’m certain that there are people there who will “pull up a chair” if he needs it.

And I’m certain that I’m thankful for lessons learned in my short time with this special young man.

 

 

The Empty Life of Knowing It All

maddie auction

Five short years ago I had the honor of baptizing my daughter Maddie.

I remember standing at the front of our church asking our congregation to pray for Maddie and her peers,

“These kids aren’t going to hide in the corners.  They’re gonna make an impact in their schools and their community.”

I really had no idea what that meant at the time, but I’m learning.

Maybe Maddie’s biggest impact has been on her dad, and she’s already making a difference that reaches far beyond her school and community.

While attending Maddie’s recent high school soccer game, I noticed our goalkeeper leaving the field after a flurry of activity near the goal (I assumed she took a ball to the face and had to exit the game because of the presence of blood).

I looked up to see one of Maddie’s good friends putting on the keeper jersey and gloves, and sprint enthusiastically onto the field.

If you happened to be the opponent or simply didn’t know better, you’d think this was her normal position.(it isn’t)

She took to the goal like she owned it.

A smile spread across my face because this was one of “my own kids”, one that I’d coached for three years of middle school basketball and been around the sidelines for many of her youth travel soccer games.

I turned to another parent who also knew her spirit well,

“That’s what I love about Mandy.  She has absolutely no idea what she CAN’T do.”

As adults, we have full awareness of what we can’t do.  We revolve our days and our lives around what we can’t do or what we think can’t happen.

I have faith….or claim to.

I believe in the truths of the Bible.  I believe in God’s promises for this life and for eternity.  I believe in the resurrection of Jesus with all my heart and mind…..but still.

I think I know everything.  I live by sight.  I analyze everything and put too much trust in the mind that I was given.

If logic says it can’t be done, then I most likely won’t take the first step toward doing it.

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
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It pains me to admit that Maddie is no longer a little child, but she possesses a trust in God that adults find difficult to find because our brains are crowded with life experiences and our own “answers” to what comes next.
 .

Maddie returned from a Christ In Youth conference this summer with a determination to become involved with a Christian missionary organization called 1Mission.

1Mission assists severely impoverished families in Latin American countries in building safe homes, and in return, asks that those receiving new homes do service projects in their own communities.

$4000 to put a family in safe housing.  Maddie set up her own campaign on their website and was assigned a family.

An ambitious amount for a 15 year-old girl without income.  (Gee Maddie, that’s a lot of money…..I thought it but didn’t say it out loud).

But she was determined to make a change.  And she had faith.

Her main fundraising idea was an arts and crafts auction.

She announced at our church and on social media her desire to collect at least 100 pieces of donated art for a silent auction at our church’s life center building.  (Gee Maddie, 100 donated pieces, that’s a lot, I don’t see you getting that many…….again, I was silent).

As the auction date approached, donations trickled in, one by one at our home, our church, and at my family business.  But still, she seemed to have no more than fifty pieces.

The final day leading up to the auction saw a wave of last minute donations.

The scope of her dream was beginning to take shape Friday night as we set up the gym for Saturday’s activities.  Volunteers showed up to help Maddie decorate and set up tables to display the donated items.

Not only was it clear that she had well over 100 items, it was clear that there were pieces donated that were of great sentimental value to those who gave.  There was something special in the air for sure.

Moments before the scheduled start time, I surveyed the gym with a sense of joy at Maddie’s faith and the display of God’s love by His people.

what if nobody comes

But my own doubts crept in again.

After all her hard work, her great faith and desire to make a difference:

What if nobody shows up?

 

The events of the night went well.  Maddie was within $1000 of her $4000 goal at the close of the night.

I awoke early this morning, rested and with a bit more clarity in my mind.

And I had an unwelcomed visitor……a burden, that feeling of a need to speak during church…..about raising a generation of true followers of Christ who live by faith…..and adults living with doubts, living by sight.

I cried like a baby on my way to church by myself for a prayer meeting.

I’d been through a 70+ hour work week and battled severe exhaustion along with that poisonous mentality of “nobody better ask me to help with their stuff because I surely can’t even take care of my own.”

And during that drive there was this sudden sense of “when you’re at the end of your rope, God shows up in amazing ways.”

I realized that God’s way of lifting me back up was simply in the pleasure of witnessing Maddie’s faith and the chain reaction of love and kindness that it sparked (and it hit me sorta hard).

When you absolutely can’t take any more…….drop what you’re doing and do something for somebody else.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Our preacher’s sermon today was on David and Goliath.

From beginning to end of Maddie’s vision to build a home for a family, she only saw God.

Each time I doubted ($4,000 is too much, 100 is too many, “what if nobody comes”) I saw Goliath.

She knows how big her God is.

She had faith and her faith grew.

Because of her faith, my faith grew.

She gave me the boldness to speak up in church this morning, and perhaps God helped me find the words.

After church dismissed, our amazing church family picked up the remaining items and the final $1,000 was raised.

God is good.

One more family will have safe housing conditions.  We know that for sure.

And faith grew.  What will happen from this??

I don’t know……as much as I thought I did.

But I know now that if I stop looking at Goliath, I will be reminded that the only thing that matters is how big God is.

1mission house

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily “I” Exam

Kr's left eyekals eye

Today………

I don’t have to have clear sight of the final step.  I just have to have enough faith to take the next one.

I will not allow hurry to enter my world.

I don’t have to finish everything.  I just have to make steady progress.

I will accept responsibility for my own failures.  I refuse to blame.

I will not take actions that require apologies tomorrow.

I will learn from my mistakes.

I will pray.

I will give thanks to my Heavenly Father for all things.

I will forgive.

I will not ask for help if I can do it myself.

I will not over-react.

I will look for the bright side in every situation.

I’ll remember that I am weak but He is strong.

I will know how valued I am as a child of the King.

I refuse to allow discouragement to stick around.

I will be slow to anger.

I will search for eternal perspective in all of life’s situation’s.

I will allow God’s word to transform my mind daily.

I will lead patiently.

I will give.

I will smile.

I will laugh, and others will laugh with me.

I will sing, even when I don’t know the words.

I will learn something new.

I will encourage, pat somone on the back as I pass by.

I will listen.

I will approach my work as if doing it for the Lord.  I will not half-way do anything.

I will be a peacemaker.

I will choose my words wisely.

I will cheer others.

I won’t sweat the small stuff, but I will celebrate small victories.

I will value people more than tasks and schedules.

I will remain calm in the storms, knowing God is with me.

I will make myself last, not first.

I will model a life worth living. Someone is always watching. I AM a role model.

I will love.

I will make the most of today, knowing that God holds every tomorrow.

 

 

 

Just Living…..Or Fully Alive?

dr maddie 6

I hear it often:  someone is greeted with a “how are you doing?”

The response:  “Well, I’m above ground and that’s a good thing.”

Is it?

Is it enough to just be living and breathing?  To just exist, floating from one moment to the next with no clear intention.

God calls us to be ALIVE in Him, to serve His greater purpose.

Collosians 3 tells us that we, as Christians, are made alive in Christ.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Guys like me, we stumble along, trying to live out our lives as Christians………..in our mind and on a keyboard.  Spending too much time reading and sorting out thoughts.

Seemingly having a relationship with God, but leaving out a large part of that relationship……loving His people.  Love doesn’t happen in books, thoughts, theories, or in one’s mind.

Love happens in deed.  For all those things (opportunities) that I may claim to “not have time for” because of work and family time obligations, etc, it’s not TIME that I am lacking.  It is COMPASSION that I am lacking.

Compassion, being a Christian, is First Baptist Church in Grayson, KY pulling together people and resources to package over 120,000 meals to send to Haiti……… in one day.

meals for haiti

A church this size, in a community the size of ours, has no business pulling off something so monumental.

But when compassion and love become action, all things are possible with God.

A mission team from First Church of Christ in Grayson is currently serving in the Dominican Republic, sharing God’s love and the hope of the story of Jesus.   Daily, the pictures are shared on Facebook of our youth and adults conducting a VBS at an orphanage, singing praises to God, preaching, and simply loving His people there.

Compassion.  Love.  Faith.  Action. 

These are the things that change lives, give hope.

I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced a true life-changing moment because of things I’ve read or words that have been spoken to me.

Life change happens when people are loved and when they witness the love of Jesus being poured out around them.  It’s a blessing right now to see God’s people in Grayson, KY pouring it out so faithfully.

Lives are touched.  Lives are changed.  God’s people are ALIVE here.  Bless these fine people and pray that because of their efforts and faithfulness, countless others will become alive in Christ.

dr vbs