Thanksgiving Day Musings

I have a “quiet time” routine for the mornings when I have a day off. I like to get a cup of coffee, grab the newspaper from the paperbox, sip, read, and just relax for a little bit.  When I went out to the paperbox this morning the paper was hanging half out of the box because it would not fit.  Why?  It was filled with ads from stores trying to lure customers out as early as 8:00pm tonight … on Thanksgiving Day.  The paper was at least 4 inches thick!  As I sat in my chair starng at this huge stack of dead trees I was struck by the irony of this … the news (business, local & world news, and sports) was only 1/2 inch thick while the ads  were 3 1/2 inches thick!  I sat there laughing at the absurdity of this.

But wait … there’s more …. many of the ads advertised a price match and availability for online shopping. Imagine that. You can get the same deals from the comfort of your living room, all without having to actually stand in line at a store.  I wonder if the internet will crash today, and if it does will that be a step toward fulfilling the Mayan calendar and the dreaded Dec 21st end of it all?

Ok let’s get to my main thoughts today. I am so thankful for a God who loves me, holds me accountable, is able to satisfy every longing of my heart, and blesses me way beyond what I deserve.  No need for me to wait for “Black Friday” to realize the bargain I have received in Christ Jesus.  Grace and freedom, love and acceptance, forgiveness and accountability, and lots of great relationships over the years. All of these blessings!   As I sit here at my desk I am so thankful that my strength, sufficiency, joy, peace, contentment, and value are found in Him.

May God bless you over the days ahead.  Look at what He has done for you, and what He has promised to continue to do for you, and just relax and enjoy this life with a heart of Thanksgiving.  Oh and enjoying your shopping!

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Monday Musings – on a Thursday afternoon!

Monday Musings – on a Thursday afternoon!.

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Monday Musings – on a Thursday afternoon!

I recently stumbled upon a great XM Radio station called “Soul Town”.  I say stumbed upon because as I was turning the steering wheel with one hand I bumped the seek button, and right in the middle of a good song!  I quickly started hitting buttons trying to get it back, stopped paying attention to the road ahead of me, and had to come a quick stop before I ran over the curb!  While I was catching my breath and thanking Jesus that I was in a parking lot and not on the road, the great sounds of Motown cut through the stress.  I had discovered Soul Town and was immediately transported back to the 60’s.  I pulled into a parking spot, leaned back into the seat, and just reaxed and remembered!

Man! Those were the good old days weren’t they?  No problems, no stress, just a real sense of freedom … Wiat! I was in elementry school, was a short skinny kid who couldn’t hit a baseball, and carried a Hot Wheels lunch box! Yes there was stress!  It came in the form of needing acceptance from peers, parents, teachers, and coaches.  It came in the form of school projects and report cards.  It was there in the neighborhood games, and the chores at home.  Pressure and stress were a part of those good old days.

Today’s daily pressures and stresses are different, but then again I am different. I am older, have had a lot of unique life experiences, both good and bad, and have different expectations than I did during my “Motown” years. The emotional connections to the songs don’t remind me of the difficulties of daily life I experienced back then.  They remind me of the innocence and hopefulness of youth, of the blush of puppy love, and the broken heart I thought would never heal, at least until the next girlfriend came along!  I remember singing with the guys at the top of our lungs, of car rides on the back roads with the windows down and the radio turned up, with mom and dad singing the words with us.

Stress is what I make of it.  It can own me, or I can let it go and create some good memories for tomorrow.  I am thankful for the way God has wired us up, how He has blessed us with a heart to love and a mind to remember, and how He connects us through time by giving us our memories, and yes … even memories of Motown!

So sit back, turn up some of your old songs, and let the memories open your eyes to a new day.

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Saturday Scratchings – Single Issue Voting

I read an interesting newspaper column today concerning the need for caution when using social media to express a particular political point of view. It was well thought out, well written, and I tended to agree with most of what was said.  The optimum word was “caution”, being careful to clearly differentiate fact from opinion (which the media often  seems to forget … just my opinion!).  So with that I mind I want to share my opinion on single issue voting.

I was recently scoffed at by an individual who wanted to know what I thought the “most important” voting issues were.  When I stated simply, “life of the unborn” his eyes rolled, a heavy sigh follwed, and then he began to explain to me the myriad number of other “important” social issues I should be paying attention to.  I listened quietly while I was lectured to with a tone a parent would use with an uninformed child who had wandered away.  The discussion ended with a dismissive sigh and without an opportunity to explain my point of view, so here it is …straight from the heart of a single issue voter.

I am involved in social ministry, assisting those who find themselves in long term and short term need.  People who are temporarily destabilized, and those that have been disenfranchised and marginalized.  I understand the need for safety net programs, and I understand the need to provide social and educational opportunities to break a cycle of poverty.  So when I speak of these things I come from a  place of understanding from the inside out.  I agree that there are a number of important issues that we need to be concerned with, however there is a distinct reason I choose to use the life of the unborn as a “litmus” test that guides my voting.

In every important issue cited by my friend I see individuals who have the ability to speak for themselves.  Yes their voice may need to be assisted, their voice may need to be lifted by others but they do have a voice. The old adage of feeding a man a fish feeds him today, while teaching him to fish feeds him for a lifetime, invovles the man participating. Social services involves those in need participating.  We can disgree on how that participation should be structured, by the bottom line is that there is participation.

When it comes to the unborn, and the violent act of abortion, there is no voice, and there is no participation.  The other point of view will say but that this “unborn” is not a viable life because it cannot support itself. That logic allows for a baby to be violently destroyed without ever having a say.  If viability is the test then there are many in our society that would seem to fail the test.  I guess it comes down to one’s definition of vialbility.

I share this with you, and yes I will post this in the social media, with the hope that you will see things a bit differently, especially those who hold to the truth of Psalm 139 in which our Creator says that we have been “fearfully and wonderfully” made, and that He knit us together in our mother’s womb.

I proudly admit that I am a single issue voter.

God’s peace and direction to each of you!

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Monday Musings – Grace

Yesterday was a good day of worship. The worship set, while missing the guitar and the drums, was good … sort of “old school” with just the piano.  It was good to hear so many singing out from their hearts.  The set included Fields of Grace, Your Grace is Enough, and Amazed.  God’s Spirit was evident and people responded to His leading.  The text for the day was Matthew 20:1-16, which is Jesus’ parable of the vineyard workers.

I was challenged as I prepared the message because I can sometimes feel like things are just not fair.  When things don’t seem to be going right,or when unwanted struggles come, like those vineyard workers who worked all day, I feel like I have been wronged.  God has pushed me over these last few weeks to really pay attention to my “expectations”.  Expectations of Him, of myself, and of others.  In my personal quest to image Jesus more clearly every day I need to be more aware of His repsonse to “expectations”.  He had every right to expect better treatment from those He came to save, to expect more acceptance from those trained up to look for the Messiah. His model of giving grace, of sharing the Father’s mercy, of demonstrating love is what He expects of me, especially since I have received so much grace and mercy and love from Him.

Listen, I get that life is often difficult, and I understand that we are often not treated fairly.  But the responsibility on us, as followers of Jesus, is to reframe the situation and look for ways to image Christ in our responses.  Not easy, but we do have an example in Jesus!

My prayer for this week is that I will allow the Holy Spirit to redirect me away from the feelings of unfairness, and point me toward Jesus.

God bless!

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Monday Musing – In His Image

I am sitting quietly in my office today reflecting on a great day of worship yesterday @ Kroc Church.  One of the songs in our worship set was 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman.  The body sang it out with a great understanding of the multitude of blessings we expereince in our relationship with God.  So many more than a mere 10,000.

Lately the Lord has really been focusing my attention on our need to “image” Christ to the world around us.  From Bill Clem’s great book, “Disciple”, to a 3 day seminar on being created in His image in Holiness with Dr. Bill Ury, the Lord has captured my attention.  We are all, every one of us, believer and unbeliever, created in the image of God.  Due to the sin choice of Adam & Eve we became a distorted image. Thankfully God restored our relationship with Him through Christ’s sacrificial death, and powerful resurrection.  The indwelling of His Spirit in the believer allows us to begin the process of clearing up the image we reveal to the world.  As with all growth, it takes a humility before God, and a courage to change, to make this happen.

It is this change message that is revealed in our daily living that makes us stand out.  When people see us responding in an otherworldly way, turning the other cheek, forgiving when it seems unwarranted or unwanted, loving through difficult situations, caring for those no else pays attention too, and/or owning up to our shortcomings without blaming others that is when theys ee Jesus.  Our imaging of Him draws people to Him. The world needs to see the real image of Christ, and we are His image bearers.

It is my prayer that you see an accurate image of Jesus when you encounter me, in any situation!

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Monday Monring – FirstFrost

The first frost of 2012 came last night.  For a Salvation Army officer this first frost quickens the pulse and sets into motion more urgent thoughts of Christmas sermons, Holiday activities, and those Red Kettles!  There is a real urgency to raise as much income as one can through this giving season because that money allows us provide our helping ministry throughout the year.

This morning I spent some time reflecting on some of the folks whose lives have been impacted by the gift found in a red kettle donation.  There was a single mom with 3 kids who wa struggling just to pay her “normal” bills without the added burden of Christmas gifts.  A family came to mind who had lost their husband and father to cancer the summer before, and the dad who lost his job to “foreign competition” and wasn’t sure how he was going to make Christmas special for his wife and children.  These are but a few of the real life stories of people who have been impacted by those generous gifts found in a red kettle.

I am so grateful that even as we are able to meet a physical need, we are also able to meet a spiritual need.  Each encounter with a hurting individual is an opportunity to share the life changing Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am so amazed that God has allowed me to particiapte in the eternal by being His hands and feet, and by giving me a voice to share His love.  I am also thankful for the opportunity to connect those who want to help with those who need a little help!

My prayer for this Christmas season is that I will see others as God sees me, in need of grace, love, and mercy … and a good word of encouragement!

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Saturday Scratchings

On Thursday our son David celebrated his 22nd birthday. In our house birthdays are celebrated with a hearty Happy Birthday song first thing in the morning, followed by a piece of the celebrants favorite cake and the sharing of cards and gifts. We also have a lunch or dinner at a local restaurant decided upon by the one whose birthday it is. I have always treasured these times, but the last few years have taken on a special importance. Gone are the days when our little ones would crowd onto our bed as we sang Happy Birthday. Gone are the days when the celebration included party hats and lots of excited friends over. Time marches on and kids grow up. The kids have their own lives now, college, work and friends to visit. The day no longer consists of a day, but has been reduced to a few hours … and that is how it should be, I guess, because time really does march on. Even with all of the changes to our lives time brings, one thing has remained consistent. When the bedroom door opens and the boisterous strains of Happy Birthday resound I see in my grown children the faces of little kids! I see the joy of family on their eyes, hear love in their voices, and feel the excitement of their special day. I thank God this morning for my family, they are truly the “BEST” family!

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Freedom In Christ

I was reminded in the last 2 days of how I was drawn into a relationship with Christ. I was an addict, bound by the chains of sin and addiction. When no else would, or could, help The Salvation Army did. It was through the imaging of Christ in 2 sets of officers that I discovered His love for me. One of the most important lessons I learned was that Christ loved me with a wild abandon, and that He would meet with me no matter where I was, what I looked like, felt like, or even smelled like! It was that freedom to be and to grow that drew me into the arms of Jesus, and the fellowship of The Salvation Army.

I was raised in the church and had rejected much of the “trappings” of religion. Imagine my surprise to discover a fellowship that was free, accepting, and seemed to have let go of the need for everyone to “conform” to a set of man made standards.

I’ve been an officer for over 20 years now, providing ministry in all kinds of settings and have aways been surprised when I encounter man made liturgy that seems to hinder the “wild abandon” of Christ’s love. It is my hope, prayer, and desire that whenever anyone encounters me, they will sense the freedom that comes from Christ’s love, no matter what they look like, what they wear, or how much they don’t seem to fit in.

I just want to image the loving, compassionate, Savior who met me so many years ago!

God bless.

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Freedom In Christ

I was reminded in the last 2 days of how I was drawn into a relationship with Christ. I was an addict, bound by the chains of sin and addiction. When no else would, or could, help The Salvation Army did. It was through the imaging of Christ in 2 sets of officers that I discovered His love for me. One of the most important lessons I learned was that Christ loved me with a wild abandon, and that He would meet with me no matter where I was, what I looked like, felt like, or even smelled like! It was that freedom to be and to grow that drew me into the arms of Jesus, and the fellowship of The Salvation Army.

I was raised in the church and had rejected much of the “trappings” of religion. Imagine my surprise to discover a fellowship that was free, accepting, and seemed to have let go of the need for everyone to “conform” to a set of man made standards.

I’ve been an officer for over 20 years now, providing ministry in all kinds of settings and have aways been surprised when I encounter man made liturgy that seems to hinder the “wild abandon” of Christ’s love. It is my hope, prayer, and desire that whenever anyone encounters me, they will sense the freedom that comes from Christ’s love, no matter what they look like, what they wear, or how much they don’t seem to fit in.

I just want to image the loving, compassionate, Savior who met me so many years ago!

God bless.

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