Our New Home

Our New Home
Fall is defintely in the air!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Throughout Every Generation...

I had a couple of great conversations with our two daughters yesterday.  After texting back and forth with our older daughter in North Carolina, she called me on my cell and we spoke for about an hour.  I put the call on the speakerphone so that my wife could participate in the conversation as well.  Immediately following that conversation, I bundled up my wife for a walk and was about to go out the door when the home phone rang.  Well, low and behold, it was our youngest daughter calling from Oklahoma!

My heart was warmed and my personal joy took a leap when I tapped the end button following our talk.  As I sat back in my chair at the kitchen table and contemplated the two conversations, I thought about how our kid’s current lives are the first and best fruit of Piper’s and my marriage.
This morning as I studied from Psalm 100:5, I nodded my head in agreement to my thoughts at the end of the calls with our two girls.  This concluding verse of Psalm 100 tells us that: “The Lord is good.  His mercy endures forever.  His faithfulness endures throughout all generations.” (God’s Word ©)  It is very apparent to my wife and I that the Lord’s faithfulness is being carried on into the lives of our children!
Both of our daughters have been praying about and seeking changes in their employment.  While one has been looking to grow within her field of interest, the other has been endeavoring to enter into a different and more fulfilling career path.  It has thrilled me to no end when they talk about their seeking the Lord as their initial point of contact.  To hear their excitement over the things of God is a most rewarding gift for me!
Both of them were brimming over with excitement and praises as opportunities seemed to suddenly open up for both of them.  Our oldest has already started her new promising position, while our youngest is interviewing next week for what could turn out to be a nice promotion with the potential of a bright future.
As JoAnna and I talked, I was thoroughly blessed as she told me of her love for the Word of God, for her renewed fire for their ministry calling, and of fulfilling the various dreams that have been on her heart for years.  I almost came to tears as she explained how some of her favorite times when growing up, were those spent alone with her Mom sharing life, scriptures and dreams together.  All of our children have told of how it was their Mom that put the deep love of God’s Word and trust in His faithfulness into their hearts.  Another special moment came when JoAnna thanked me for the loving, respectful and caring relationship that Piper and I always lived before our kids.  She confided to me, that she had told her husband that it was the same kind of relationship that she wants them to have.
Those two conversations yesterday afternoon perfectly demonstrated God’s Word as stated in Psalm 100:5!  He is so good to us, and as we seek Him and trust in Him, His loving kindness, mercy and faithfulness will continue to all the future generations whom we have touched.  It is also comforting to know that our efforts to follow after God and His directions for our lives are being rewarded as we look into the lives of our kids.
When my wife and I finally made it out for our walk yesterday, I mentally reviewed the conversations with our girls.  After being quiet for a while I finally told my wife with a heartfelt expression, that I am so thankful that we are not held accountable to man’s standards but only to Gods.  Not everyone in our extended families always agreed with some of the paths we have followed and attempted to get us to follow their suggestions which did not necessarily agree with what we believed to be God’s standards for our lives.  But once we knew that we knew God’s plans, we did our best to stay on His path and not deviate, no matter how strong the opposing pressure.
Now as the years have passed and our kids are off on their own, living their own lives with their spouses and families, I am glad that we stuck to our guns!  As Piper and I stopped at the lake and marveled at the colors that were reflecting from the setting sun, I had a fleeting sense of our heavenly Father putting His arms around the two of us and saying, “You done good kids!”
It was like the perfect ending to a great Thanksgiving Day.  At that moment I had the realization that not only were my wife and I and our kids thankful to God for all of His blessings and faithfulness to us over the years, but that He was also thankful for our love, trust and obedience to Him…  I bet He thinks the same thing about you as well!
Have a good Thanksgiving Weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”
 
PS:  Don't Forget!  Our Christmas 2013 Advent Calendar starts Monday...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Celebrating Thanksgiving

Psalm 100:4 is a good indicator of the entire 100th Psalm.  In this verse David tells us to,

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
 and into his courts with praise:
 be thankful unto him,
 and bless his name.” (KJV)

One of the obvious things that comes to my mind as I have been studying this Psalm is that it is all about the yielding of our full attention to God.  It is all about giving and not getting… and carries the implication that it is an enjoyable undertaking! 
 
As I pondered this in line with today’s celebration of Thanksgiving, I was drawn back to one of my favorite memories of family Thanksgivings when I was a child.  The vivid sights, sounds and smells of that special time in my Grandparents little home filled my thoughts.  I can still see the steamy windows, smell the turkey roasting in the oven, and almost feel the excitement that filled the home.  But most of all, it was my Grandmother’s smiling face as she puttered around her place of heaven on earth, that was her kitchen!
Then there was my Grandpa’s laugh and his encouraging words, and the merriment and chatter that freely flowed between all the cousins.  At that time it seemed like we had entered an enchanted world.  When you were there it was liked being saturated with happiness and the warmth of unconditional love that only our Grandparents could heap upon us!
To me, that is how it must also be in the presence of our loving heavenly Father!  That is why we can’t help but enter into His gates with hearts and lips filled with a song of thanksgiving, praise and blessing.  In His house there is life that flows abundantly!
In my thoughts this morning I also dwelt on that first New England Thanksgiving that was held in 1621.  In reality, that first Thanksgiving was a celebration of life.  As survivors of that terrible first winter, the Pilgrims were thankful for the past and hopeful for their future.  And even though they celebrated with the Indians who had helped them and with their family and friends who were left among the living, their focus was clearly on their God who had faithfully seen them though!
These individuals were survivors.  They had chosen life and had made it successfully through their first rough challenges in the new world. Their decision for life and their experience of that first dreadful winter was but fuel for the fire that burned within them.  They knew that with God, they could do anything!  (See: Philippians 4:13)
In Deuteronomy 30:19 Moses told the people, “that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” (KJV)  He told them that they had to make a decision, and then he gave them a helpful hint as to which way to choose!
As you celebrate this day of Thanksgiving, I would encourage you to decide for yourself which way you will choose this coming year.  When you choose life, you choose to enter into God’s presence… into the place where He abides.  It’s a place that I am sure is just like my Grandparent’s old home that was filled with unconditional love, where you felt safe and special and came away from feeling like you could accomplish anything!  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

PS:  Don't Forget... On Monday we start our 2013 Advent Calendar!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Water Off a Duck's Back!

Psalm 100:3 begins by telling us that we must “Recognize that the Lord alone is God…” (God’s Word ©)  Other translations state that we need to “acknowledge” or more commonly rendered: “know” that the Lord is God.  The Sermon Bible Commentary explains that “in order for Jehovah to be really served, He must be known… To know Jehovah as God is to know His character and perfections as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.”

I once had a boss when I worked at Agilent Technologies (a spinoff of Hewlett Packard) who was initially outgoing and engaging during business meetings, but once we got down to the matters at hand, his driver personality came out.  He wanted simple facts, straight answers and a plan of action.  There we many times when I would cringe (and kind of laugh) when newcomers would unknowingly begin to give long winded and at times, nonsensical suggestions to him.  I could almost see his blood pressure rising and the steam forming around him!  That was usually my queue to step in and quell the conversation before someone got run over.  My boss gave me the nickname of “The Lawyer” due to my calm interjections when things began to get out of control.
These individuals did not really know my boss.  They tried to use communication techniques that were comfortable to them without realizing that they were going to irritate my boss, and since he was the Section Manager, he always had the final say!  If they had known his business characteristics, they would have changed their approach to fit into his methodology.  Hewlett Packard and Agilent Technologies felt that team work and good communication were so critical to the success of the business that they sent all of their management teams to numerous communication classes and seminars.  I think that this is one skill that needs to be taught in high schools!
If we are to act as representatives of Jesus Christ in this world, then we also need to know who we are representing.  If we don’t have an ever-increasing, intimate knowledge of Him, then we will never be able to deeply communicate with Him, nor accurately portray Him to those needing salvation.
Over the last four years we have had some well-meaning individuals say things about us to others or directly to us, that if they really knew us, they never would have said!  They would have known that those comments or suggestions would not be a blessing to us, but instead added negative pressure on top of everything else we have been going through.  If they had simply spent a little time with us, listening and gaining insight about the situation before they spoke, they would have known to speak the words that would bless and encourage, rather than those that brought dissention and pain.
The same could be said in our relationship with God.  If we would just spent quality time listening to Him and gaining insight into His personality and the way that He works, then we would be better at communicating with Him as well as with those around us. The New King James Version of the bible declares in Psalm 100:3 that we should “Know that the Lord is God…”  That is a pretty simple statement.  It makes it clear that He is God and we are not!  If we are to be proficient in our Christian lives then we’d better realize that it’s His word and His way that counts, and not what we think is best!
But here again, we must remember that God is a God of grace that is motivated by His love.  I am learning to not take everything so personally when insensitive comments are made to me.  To, as the proverbial saying goes, “let it roll over me like water on a duck’s back” and let God take care of the situation.  I am so thankful that God doesn’t take our mistakes personally.  If we are willing and sensitive to Him, He will gently correct us and lovingly teach us what is right.
One of my favorite pastimes over the last forty some years has been to spend quality time getting to know my wife.  Getting to know God has also become a favorite of mine as well.  How about you?  Have a great day before Thanksgiving!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or WHO am I expecting to GET TO KNOW today?”

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Put On A Happy Face!

They say that opposites attract.  In fact, many professionals will tell you that this is one of the necessary basics for a successful marriage.  But in our case, I would have to disagree!  My wife and I have very similar personalities, almost identical outlooks on life, and are in harmony over most of our beliefs in the emotional, physical and spiritual realms.  Sure we both have our individual strengths and weaknesses where we complement each other, but we tend to walk the same path in the way we live our lives.

I am sure that I have probably mentioned this before, but Piper and I have always been the sort of odd-balls in our perspective families.  Now, I don’t necessarily mean this as a bad thing, but rather to point out that we tend to stand apart from the rest in a variety of ways.  The two most discernible areas would be in our easy-going and laid back approach to life, and that we tend to look on life and experience it with a smile and a laugh!
I know that I tend to take after my Mom and her Dad, as I have been told of this by my Mom and by others in our family.  Both of them were happy individuals, always had an encouraging word, and made you feel like a million bucks when you were in their presence.  And while I didn’t know Piper’s paternal Grandfather, as he had passed a year or so previous to our getting together, I would have to say that Piper, in many ways, resembles her paternal Grandma or “Gam” as they affectionately called her.  In the short amount of time that I had to get to know Gam, she struck me as one who was confident in who she was, always had a glint of mischief in her eyes, a positive outlook on life and a smile on her face.  Gam was the unsaid leader of the entire family, both young and old alike.
If I was to sum up our life up to this point, I would have to use the words fun, spontaneous, and laughter!  I recently came across a photograph taken of my wife in the parking lot of one of the California State Beaches on our Sonoma County coast about 45 minutes from our home.  From the look of the surroundings, the occasion was a family outing at Goat Rock State Beach about ten years ago.  In the pic she is standing next to her Suburban wearing a seemingly conflicting outfit of blue shorts and a heavy blue wool Pea Coat with the hood pulled up… the typical attire for a summer afternoon at our coast!
To me, the outstanding part of the pose though, is the huge smile that she has on her face.  I really don’t recall what she was laughing at, but her expression of glee that is captured on film is an accurate portrayal of her personality and the perfect summary of our life together.  Cheerfulness and laughter has always been a core value of our family.  It has been one of the key elements that has helped us through the hard times as well as the easy times.  I guess you could say that in many respects, it has become our trademark to those who really know us.
Psalm 100:2 encourages us to “Serve the Lord cheerfully. Come into his presence with a joyful song.” (God’s Word ©)  In what many consider Charles Spurgeon’s greatest work, “The Treasury of David” which is an excellent treatise on the book of Psalms, the author states concerning this verse that “we ought in worship to release the presence of God.”  As I read this earlier today, I instantly thought of how our cheerful attitudes have the potential to release the presence of God into other people’s lives. I have found that a smile is more welcomed by those around you than is a frown.  An uplifting word is more ably received than a complaint.
The Message Bible paraphrases Psalm 100:2 as “Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence.”  According to that interpretation, a smile and a laugh have just as much a positive effect to God as it does to those in whom we interact with each day of our lives!  A cheerful attitude and a hardy laugh are not only good for your spiritual life, but medical science has also proven that it does good for one’s physical and emotional well-being as well! *
This morning as I was helping my wife to get out of bed she stumbled a bit, but as I already had my arms around her, I simply held her a little tighter and softly told her that it was okay and that she was safe in my arms.  At that moment I had to smile as I thought how God tells us the same thing whenever we have a need and reach out to Him.  Then as I sat her on the edge of the bed so I could comb her hair, I had to laugh aloud as I pondered the reality that my first reaction to the thought of God’s goodness to me was to smile!
Can you say the same thing about your initial reaction when you think about our loving heavenly Father?  Depending on the translation that we read from, Psalm 100:2 is instructing us to be cheerful,to be happy, to find delight in, or simply to be glad in our service to the Lord.  Do you find your service to Him as a chore or as a joyful experience?  Do you find yourself smiling more than frowning throughout the days of your life?  Do you approach the situations of life as problems or as opportunities to joyfully trust in the Lord?
This season of Thanksgiving is the perfect time to think about such questions and to make whatever adjustments that might need to be made in order to line up with David’s exhortations in Psalm 100:2.  Have a good day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting TO SMILE ABOUT today?”
 

* (See: http://www.helpguide.org/life/humor_laughter_health.htm

Monday, November 25, 2013

Answering The Question...

Ever since I was a kid in elementary school I loved to listen to Rock and Roll!  I had a transistor radio (remember those…) in my room that I turned on as soon as I got out of bed and a cube radio in the bathroom that I listened to anytime I entered that room.  In junior high I began to learn to play the electric guitar and was in a Rock and Roll band from ninth grade through high school.

When I started dating my wife I attended her youth group and sang the “Singspiration Christian Youth Songs” with them, but secretly despised their simple folk beat.  Throughout the early years of our courtship, Piper would occasionally attempt to catch my interest with some new Christian youth orientated song, but I always laughed it off a bad imitation of the songs played on the Top 40 radio stations… until the Fall of 1974 when she returned home from an abbreviated solo stay at Chico State University.  After giving me a great big hug and I am sure a few kisses (oophs… gotta remember that this is a “G” rated blog!), she handed me the first album produced by a young new Christian band called “The Second Chapter of Acts.”
She had gone to a Christian Concert at the school that headlined Barry McGuire whose secular song “Eve of Destruction” had rocketed to the top of the charts just before he hit an emotional bottom in his life and turned to Christ.  He was backed up in his early concerts by (as he called them) “three skinny people” called The Second Chapter of Acts.  When they sang a few songs on their own toward the end of the concert, Piper KNEW that I would be hooked, and she was right!
When we got married a year later and I was hired as the Youth Minister at our church, I went bonkers and purchased all of the albums of this new genre of Rock and Roll flavored Christian artists that I could get my hands on and instituted a lending library for the members of our youth group.  It was also about that time that I stopped listening to secular rock and turned my attention to God’s new “hot” music for the younger generation!
I thought of this earlier today, and in particular of one of the songs we used to play a lot back then, when I began to pray about scriptures to study for Thanksgiving week.  The song was based on Psalm 100 and its chorus echoed the words of Psalm 100’s first verse, ♫ “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth.”♪ (Brenton’s English Septuagint)
The Treasury of David commentary of the Psalms states that “The original word (noise) signifies a glad shout, such as loyal subjects give when their king appears before them.  Our happy God should be worshipped by a happy people; a cheerful spirit is in keeping with his nature, his acts, and the gratitude which we should cherish…”  This explanation put David’s command of making a joyful noise or happy shout to the Lord into perspective for me.
The sermon we heard yesterday sparked some thoughts in me about some of the negative comments that have been said about us over the last four years.  I was talking to my wife about one of these thoughts as we went on our afternoon jaunt around our neighborhood later in the day.  I asked the question of how two people from identical backgrounds can look at the same situation and see two totally different things.  One seeing joyful times, trusting in the Lord and confidently following His loving plans for our lives, while the other only seeing difficult times filled with lack and insecurity.
As we walked and I talked out my thoughts, I came to the conclusion that it is all based on the attitude of one’s heart.  But today as I began to study Psalm 100 and other supporting scriptures, I saw that there is a step previous to determining the attitude of one’s heart.  It has to do with how one sees God.  Spurgeon in His Treasury of David talked about God’s happy nature.  That being cheerful and happy is part of who He is.
The Bible Illustrator says that our shouting joyfully unto the Lord “is founded on knowledge and developed in service.”  The knowledge that our God is in Himself good and that our service should be gladsome, thankful and demonstrative of these attributes.  The prophet asked the question in Numbers 23:19 about God saying, “Has he said and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken and will he not fulfill it?”  This is a foundational question that each of has to individually answer in our lives.  Do you know God to be a happy God who is ALWAYS good and faithful to His promises to you?  Or are there times when you question His motives and His ability or desire to complete what He said in His Word that He would do for you?  Do you see the proverbial glass as half full or half empty when it comes to God coming through for you?
My wife has ALWAYS had a joyful, thankful and praiseful attitude when it comes to the promises and abilities of God.  When she raised her hand at church when she was eight years old to accept Christ as her personal Savior and Lord, she affirmatively answered the prophets question in Numbers 23:19.  Others around her who also raised their hands had to answer that same question on their own.  I think some are still deciding as to which way to go…
How would you, or did you answer that question?  Can you “Shout happily to the Lord?” (God’s Word ©) at all times, in all situations?  That is something to consider as we enter into this Thanksgiving week.  Have a great week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting TO SHOUT JOYFULLY ABOUT today?

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Unchanging Nature of God

We had a wild night last night in our neck of the woods!  An overnight windstorm blew though with winds gusting up to 45 miles per hour.  In its wake the high winds left a path of downed trees and electrical wires which resulted in power outages and road closures.  Our power blinked numerous times in the early evening and then went out at 7:55 pm.  It didn’t come on again until 5:55 am!

It definitely was a different weather pattern than we are used to in the Redwood Empire.  In all my years living here, I can never remember the power being out that long!  It was more like our stay in Oklahoma, where severe weather and power outages seem to be a regular event.  We had one ice storm where the powers lines were coated with so much ice and became so heavy that they just fell from the weight.  The power in most of the city of Broken Arrow where we lived, was out for multiple days.  In some areas of nearby Tulsa, it was out for 2 weeks!
The storm that blew through last night is a perfect example of how things around us can change at any time.  One minute we were sitting on the couch watching a movie and everything was calm.  Then all of a sudden we startled by a gust of wind and heard or rather felt a branch hit the house as it fell from an overhanging tree.  A few moments later the lights blinked twice and went out.  As we sat in the darkness all we could hear was the wind howling through the myriad of trees in our neighborhood.
In actuality, we were not left in complete darkness when the power went out as I was texting one of our kids and had the light from the cell phone!  In the reflection of that light, I glanced over at my wife sitting next to me and her expression never changed.  She had the same peaceful look as she had a few minutes earlier with all the lights on in the house.  In difference to our dog, who was immediately spooked when the atmosphere suddenly changed, my wife seemed completely calm, not having been phased in the least!  Her reaction reminded me of the unchangeableness of God.
I Thessalonians 5:24 informs us that “God, by whom you have been marked out in his purpose, is unchanging and will make it (us!) complete.” (Bible in Basic English)  Numbers 23:19 tells us that God is not like man, and assures us that “He doesn’t change his mind.  When he makes a promise, he keeps it” (God’s Word ©)  Paul told his readers that he was “convinced that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it through to completion…” (God’s Word ©)
The knowledge of this FACT is the foundation of my strength throughout the journey that my wife and I are on, as we depend on His faithfulness to His Word to see us through in victory!  Time after time He has confirmed His Word to us in proof of His faithfulness and in defiance to the words of the naysayers who have openly disagreed with us. 
It happened again yesterday as I read of some new research that proves that one of the main medications that my wife has been on for a few years continues to show positive results even after what once was thought to be only a six to twelve month treatment.   It confirmed an argument I had with an MD over two years ago.  He basically told me that I didn’t know what I was talking about, even though I had first-hand experience as to what would happened to her when she was off the medication.  He wanted to pull her off the prescription and I didn’t.  I asked to see a specialist and he agreed that she should stay on the treatment.  Now there is documented proof to what I believed was God’s direction for my wife at the time!
So even though everything may be changing around you, God NEVER changes!  You can DEPEND on that fact!  I have stood my ground on the assurance of His faithfulness to my wife and I in the face of false accusations and disheartening comments made to me by a few individuals and He HAS NEVER let us down!  And you know what?  You can do the same without any second thoughts!  Hebrews 10:35 encourages us to not “lose your confidence (for) it will bring you a great reward.” (God’s Word ©)  In the original languages the word “confidence” infers “all out spokenness, frankness, bluntness and assurance.” (Strong’s)  Thayer’s Greek Definitions calls it “cheerful courage.”
So you can boldly smile in the face of other’s disbelief and fears because you know that your loving, heavenly Father will NEVER CHANGE any of the promises He has given to you!  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, November 21, 2013

San Francisco

San Francisco is a most engaging city!  From the moment you catch the first glance of the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge as you come around a bend while travelling along Highway 101 on the Waldo Grade from Marin County to San Francisco, you are captivated by the uniqueness of the city.  As we approached the bridge yesterday on our way to my wife’s quarterly visit with one of her medical specialists, the towers of the grand orange bridge were ensconced in puffy white clouds, with the exception of the very tops which were visible against the overcast  skies that had begun to clear as the first storm of the season passed through.

After negotiating the automated toll booths, we drove along Lombard Street as it borders the bay.  Looking back toward the bridge you can get a spectacular view of the Golden Gate and of Fort Point which is the Civil War era fort that resides at the southern side of the bridge.  The US Army began construction on this fort in 1853.  It was designed with seven foot masonry walls typical of the 30 “Third System” forts that dotted the East Coast.  Fort Point was the only such fort on the West Coast.  A year later, the Inspector General was quoted as declaring “this point as the key to the whole Pacific Coast… and it should receive untiring exertions.”  In 1861 after eight years of construction and with the war looming, the army mounted the fort’s first cannon.
Throughout the Civil War the artillerymen at Fort Point stood guard for the enemy that never came.  After the war the effectiveness of the masonry designed forts was challenged due to the severe damage inflicted upon similar forts such as Fort Sumter in South Carolina.  The troops at the Fort were soon reassigned and it was never continuously occupied by the army again.  It was deemed important enough though, to receive protection from the harsh elements of the bay throughout the ensuing years.
In the early 1930’s the fort was slated to be removed due to the upcoming construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, but Chief Engineer George Strauss redesigned the bridge in order to save the fort.  He cited that it should “be preserved and restored as a national monument.”  The fort sits directly under an archway that supports the southern approach to the bridge. *
From Lombard we turned right onto Divisadero Street and traveled up the dramatically iconic hills of San Francisco past the magnificent post 1906 earthquake mansions of Pacific Heights, through the neighborhood businesses that line the street near Alamo Square and Haight Street and eventually entered into the Castro District where the CPMC Hospital and Medical Offices, as well as the Brain Health Center is located.
While all the landmarks that we passed are the same, the sights and sounds of San Francisco are always fresh and dynamic!  Everywhere you look exciting things are happening.  From the sailboats and huge container ships that ply the bay, to the tall buildings that peak out as you look down the side streets toward the center of town, to the cosmopolitan flavor of the city that is demonstrated through all the different nationalities of people who are busily walking through the city streets.  There is always something new and exciting going on.  Like I said, it is always fresh and stimulating to the senses!
As we drove home last night, I referenced these thoughts to my wife as I reflected on our appointment with the medical team at the Brain Center.  I was elated as my wife received a glowing report.  Her condition not only continues to be stabilized, but in fact is looking better.  The Nurse Practioner commented that Piper looked better than she would have thought and we were instructed to continue with what we have been doing. 
I had prayed that my wife would be alert at the appointment and she did not let me down!  She was very aware of everything that was going on, sat up and responded as the Nurse Practioner interacted with her, laughed, and even said a few things while she kept smiling at her.  The staff could not get over how good she looked!
As we talked about this in the midst of the slow moving traffic all the way home, I was just overwhelmed with the faithfulness of God to His Word.  Numbers 23:19 declares “What he has said, will he not do? And will he not give effect to the words of his mouth.” (Bible in Basic English)  Even though He continually demonstrates His faithfulness to us, I am still overwhelmed by how fresh and dynamic His word and His answers are!  It is like my impressions of San Francisco.  It’s always the same, but yet it is always fresh, dynamic and exciting!
God’s Word and the promises It contains is always consistent and steady, but yet it always comes to past in new and different ways.  I believe that one reason He does it this way is because He likes to keep it exciting to us!  He doesn’t want anything to become stale or routine to us!  His love for you and me is always current, fresh and increasing!  Isn’t God good!
So, I would encourage you today to never let your relationship with Him become routine!  Keep it fresh and stimulating to your senses!  Keep trusting Him with everything in your life and allow Him to surprise and excite you with His faithfulness as He continuously gives “effect to the words of his mouth!”  Have a terrific day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What exciting, fresh and new things am I expecting from God today?”

 *For more information see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Point,_San_Francisco

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Holiday Traditions

My oldest son and I have been talking recently about starting some new traditions for the holidays for our family.  Over the last few years we have had many changes in our family.  With my Mom’s passing a year ago, and my Dad's permanent residence in an assisted living home, the tradition of the family gathering at my folk’s place suddenly came to an end.  The family gathering at my wife’s parents has continued, but with the grandparents getting older and the kids married and spread around the country, the atmosphere has dramatically changed for me, especially with the battle for my wife’s health that we are involved with.

When my wife and I were first married we had decided from the very first Christmas that we wanted to start our own family traditions.  We initially received some flak from some of the extended family because of our decision.  Our first step was to celebrate Christmas morning at home alone.  Then after a couple of years of getting sick after Christmas because of all the other gatherings we attended in a two day span, we decided to attend only one dinner and gift opening from each side of the family.
Now with everything going on in our lives, it looks like it is time to make some changes again.  My son and his family would also like to develop some of their own family holiday traditions as well.  We’ve already made some new traditions for Thanksgiving and are looking forward to see what Christmas will look like this year!
If you’re also looking for something different for you and/or your family this year, I may just have something for you!  On December 2nd I will be starting a Christmas Advent Calendar for the four weeks leading up to Christmas 2013 in this blog.  This calendar is something that the Lord put on my heart for last year, and I will be updating it for the new holiday season.  The calendar follows the chronological events of the Christmas story as taken from the Gospels.  Each day there are Bible readings with a devotional based on those verses.  Each post is then concluded with ideas of some practical activities that you and your family can do together to enrich your Christmas celebration this year.
You can print out each day’s post to read around the table, or gather around the tree with your laptop to experience the daily event.  Who knows… it could be the start of a whole new holiday tradition for you!  If this sounds interesting, then go ahead and mark it on your calendars right now… before they get too busy with holiday activities!
Have a great day today.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting TO DO – This Holiday Season?”

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Just Do It!

Today was one of those days where I awoke thinking about the seemingly zillions of things I needed to complete before tomorrow.  Have you ever faced a day like that?  Tomorrow we will be spending the day in San Francisco, about an hour south of us, as we have Piper’s quarterly doctor’s appointment at the Brain Health Center.  By the time all is said and done, it normally entails the entire day and we’ll be home in time for dinner.

Today is the prep day!  It’s the time I get to (not have to… remember!) get my wife ready for her appointment.  I like to wash her hair, make sure that she has the right outfit to wear for the adventure and has everything packed that we need to bring with us for the trip.  It is also the time when I like to organize my file and notes concerning her progress and care over the last three months since her last appointment, and also make a list of all the new questions I want to ask the team at the medical center in the City.  It is sort of like preparing for a teacher/parent conference.  Although in this situation, I am not sure if I am the student, the teacher or the parent!  Maybe a little of each in the role I play as my wife’s husband and caregiver…
When you add all the new tasks to the regular list of daily to-do’s it can be overwhelming at times!  But it is times like this where I have learned to cast my cares upon the Lord.  I Thessalonians 5:24 tells us that He is faithful to us and that He “also will do it.”  (KJV)  On days like today, I like to prioritize a list of everything on my plate, pray over them and then give the concern of the performance of each of the tasks to God.  The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible says that God will “perform it.”
This is something that has always worked for me.  At the end of the day, I am continually amazed at how much I got done.  It is like everything just came together, with time and energy to spare!  The key is to let God “do it!”  What does He do?  Well, the Lord told the prophet Jeremiah that “I will watch over my word to perform it.”  (Jeremiah 1:12 LITV)  The last thing that Jesus told His disciples before going to heaven was that not only would He be with them (and us as well!) until the end of the world, but that He would be “working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” (See Matthew 28:20 and Mark 16:20 KJV)  It is interesting to note that the word “them” is not in the original and was added by the translators.  When you delete that word, Jesus’ answer is even more pointed as He declared that He would be with us, working with and confirming His Word with miraculous signs that followed the preaching and acting upon His Word!
That is how He wants us to function successfully in the world today.  We are to give everything we are called and responsible to do to Him and not be anxious about it.  We are also not to try and do it all on our own power and through our own abilities.  I believe that this is the cause for discouragement and burnout.  Over the years I have known many Pastors who have become so focused on the work of the ministry that their calling has become nothing but a job to them.  They get so overtaken by the physical responsibilities of the ministry that they lose focus on their calling, their gifting’s and their passion.
I have also seen other Pastor’s get so personally involved in the negative inputs of the people that they are called to love and minister to, that they lose their vision of God’s grace and His love working in and through them and they quit over the hurt they have sustained, many times staying away from any Christian fellowship for years to come.
I can honestly say that I cannot ever recall losing my zeal and love for our ministry call over the thirty plus years we have been in the ministry.  There have been times though when I became frustrated with certain individuals and have definitely experienced many migraine headaches over the years!  So I guess I too have had to learn the hard way, to cast all my cares over to the Lord!
I am sure that God does not want us getting burned out, falling into the habit of always complaining about the job and/or experiencing migraine headaches over the stress of the callings He has placed on our lives.  He plainly tells us throughout His Word that He “will do it.”  It is up to each of us to find the ways that work for us that will allow us to release the care of the “doing” or “performing” of what He has given us to do for Him.  I can’t exactly tell you how it works, but I know that it does.  It must be one of those “miraculous signs and wonders” that Jesus said would follow us as we obey, stand on and trust in His Word!
Have a good day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Squirrel

It would seem that we have another guest who has taken up temporary residence in our kitchen patio area.  On Saturday as I was walking by our sliding window, I thought I saw a shadow run across the deck.  Then as I stopped to check it out I saw a small but pretty grey squirrel happily munching on one of the tomatoes that was left on a vine of our potted plants from this summer!  Since then I have seen him every day.  I have the feeling that he is staying under the deck as he retreats there whenever the dog goes outside.

And speaking of the dog… Today as I let her out first thing to do her morning activities, she was quite distracted by the scent of the squirrel.  She was sniffing all around the large patio, checking out all the corners and was especially interested in the tiny opening that leads under the deck that the squirrel uses as his personal doorway!
Mandie’s morning duty normally only takes her a few minutes while she takes care of business, smells around the deck and garden area and then comes readily back to the door so she can be let in and eat her breakfast.  Today, the scent of our little grey guest seemed to cause her to forget about everything else.  She didn’t come to the door until she heard the jiggling of her dog food bag as I grabbed it to prepare her breakfast bowl.  (Kinda sounds like a Jack in the Box commercial doesn’t it… breakfast bowl???)
Her distraction got me to thinking about some of my additional thoughts on I Thessalonians 5:24 as I continued to study from it earlier today.  As I read the verse over the weekend and again today, the idea of God’s call or calling stood out to me.  The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible renders this verse as “Faithful is the One calling you, who also will perform it.”  When I looked at many of the other 40 plus translations that I have available to me in my personal library, I came to the conclusion that God’s call to us is an active, present tense, continual call.  It is not just a one-time statement from God concerning His purpose for each of us.
My first revelation was that God’s ministry call on my wife’s and my life is still active.  It is not over because of the current battle for her health that we are entangled with.  God’s assignment for us hasn’t changed because of the current circumstances.  I believe that He expects us to fight the good fight of faith, win this battle and then continue forth with His calling until it is completed.
I admit that I have had my moments where I wondered if this was all there is.  Is this the way it was to end?  But like Mandie this morning, I have come to realize that the roadblocks that we come against in our daily lives are simply distractions that attempt to knock us off our given course.  That’s not to say that we don’t have to deal with those roadblocks and allow Him to direct our current steps, but we are not to give up, nor wave the white flag and surrender.  The key themes in I Thessalonians 5:24 are that He is faithful and that He will perform His Word!
You may be in a place today where you think it’s all over for you…  Maybe you think that you had your chance and missed it.  Well, I’m here to tell you that it is just NOT SO!  God’s calling for you is still as real today as it was when you first sensed it… just like I did in that cold, drafty old cabin with a group of rambunctious Junior High boys at snow camp in the mid 1970’s!  
So don’t let go!  God hasn’t given up on you and He is ready and waiting to help you through what you’re facing today, so that you can complete the call He has planned specifically just for you!  Remember… Faithful is the One calling you (present tense), who also will perform it.”  Have a good week ahead.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

 PS:  Mandie just came in from the outside patio with a contented look on her face as the squirrel is gone and now she can go on with the rest of her daily scheduled activities…

Friday, November 15, 2013

Kodak Instamatic 100...

I have had a love for photography for as long as I can remember.  From my very first camera, a Kodak Instamatic 100 in elementary school, to my first professional, full system camera I purchased soon after my wife and I were married in the mid-seventies.  It was a Canon F-1 and I thought that I was in seventh heaven!  I still have that well-worn camera today and even though the light meter is a stop or two off, it is still in good mechanical condition!  Over the years I have owned many different format cameras.  During the last ten years I made the gradual transition from film to digital and finally purchased a single lens reflex digital camera a couple of years ago.

My passion for photography also turned into a good side business for us.  For many years my wife and I shot wedding photos as well as specializing in outdoor portraiture.  I worked as a photographer for a newspaper for a few of years and later on even sold cameras and supplies at a professional camera store in downtown Santa Rosa.  That was like working in a candy store for me!  But it all came into focus (pun intended!) with my first photo class as a senior in high school.  In my junior year I had bought my first SLR camera which was a Minotla SRT 101.  (I wish I still had that camera, but I sold it in the late 80’s in order to get another new high end Canon 35mm model with a motor drive.)  I took the photo class because I wanted to get serious about my photography.  We were kind of blessed in that our instructor was a well-known local arts photographer who had actually published a few books with his unique photography subjects.
Well, you’ll never guess who the subject for my very first project was… You’re right, it was my lovely wife to be, Piper!  I remember how proud I was when I went to show my first 8X10 black and white, self-processed in the school darkroom portrait of my favorite girl in her short sleeved brown sweater, to my business class teacher who I had developed a good relationship with.  He was also a photographer and did weddings on the side (in fact he did ours!).  He was very diplomatic and gentle with me as he explained the importance of focus when you are framing and shooting your picture.  While my portrait was framed and posed well, it was slightly fuzzy.  As I examined the photo with him at his desk that morning, I became aware that all of Piper’s cute freckles had sort of blurred together!
That conversation has stuck with me throughout the many years since then.  In fact I think about it almost every time I take a picture!  Even with the auto-focus technology on most cameras today.  I still tend to verify the auto focus with a manual override as I push the newer multipoint focusing systems to their limits!  I have grown to be a real stickler for a clearly focused subject.
My study in I Thessalonians 5:24 reminded me of my photo background today.  This verse in this section of scripture that I have been meditating on all week summarizes the entire chapter by stating “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (NKJV)  In this chapter the Apostle Paul is encouraging his readers to focus on the One who called them rather than on the last day’s events or the signs, wonders and miracles that were promised to those of us who believe and act on His name (see Mark 16:17-20).  Vincent’s Word Studies comments on this verse by saying: “The emphasis is on the person rather than on the act.”
One of the important lessons that I have learned through this journey with my wife’s health is that our very survival depends on, as the Jamison, Fausset and Brown commentary states, looking “to God’s faithfulness to His promises, God’s zeal for His honor and God’s love for those whom He calls,” rather than continually looking for the physical evidence that what we are believing for, in accordance to His Word, is working or coming to pass.
We have an older friend who I worked for quite a bit after leaving my job at The Home Depot in order to spend more time caring for my wife.  She was one of the few individuals during those first chaotic months who stood with us.  She was also the first one to tell me about the government benefits that we eventually took advantage of.  She has been very encouraging to us, but definitely tells you rather bluntly what she is thinking!  The last few times we visited her she would encourage me in my quest to care for Piper, but at the same time point out how terrible she thought my wife looked!  I would then tell her that since I spend so much time with my spouse, that I am keenly aware of all the little miracles that we see in her on a daily basis, and it is on the basis of God and His Word as He has caused those little miracles, that I can smile, stay strong and keep doing what I do for her.  That usually snaps her back into faith and into agreement with us!
God is faithful and that is good enough for me to know!  How about you?  Where is your focus today?  Does your auto-focus automatically focus on what is happening around you or does it zoom in on the truth and faithfulness of God and His Word?  Sometimes you have to switch off the auto button and go with the manual override to stay connected to His faithfulness!  Think about it…
Have a great weekend!  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fender Jazz Bass®

In my continued study of I Thessalonians 5:18 this morning, I took a peek at the paraphrase found in Phillips’ New Testament in Modern English.  After talking about being “happy in your faith at all times.  Never stop praying,” and being “thankful, whatever the circumstances,” it says that “If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God expressed to you in Christ Jesus.”

After reading that, I got to thinking about the term “the will of God expressed… in Christ Jesus.”  According to Strong’s, the word “will” is defined as something that should be our “active choice” of God’s “purpose” for us.  Phillips says that God’s will or purpose, which should be our active choice that determines our activities in our daily lives, is “expressed” to us in or through Christ Jesus.  2 Corinthians 4:4 and Colossians 1:15 concur with this statement.  Hebrews 1:3 declares that Jesus is the “express image of His person.” (KJV)
It gets even more interesting when you consider that the Greek meaning for the term “express image” speaks of something or someone that is an “exact copy” of something or someone else as well as “the tool or person engraving something or someone.” (Strong’s)
Back in the mid 1990’s when our oldest son was expanding his musical abilities, he expressed the desire to have a bass guitar.  He had been playing a borrowed bass for the praise and worship team at church and was thinking about joining a Christian band.  My wife and I were overjoyed at his musical prowess and encouraged him in this goal.  As the holiday season grew near, we began to press him a little about the exact model he wanted.  His first choice was a Fender Jazz Bass®, but since he was fairly certain that we couldn’t afford one at the time, he told us that he wanted a Squire® Jazz Bass.
The Squire model is Fender’s less expensive brand.  It is basically an exact replica of the top of the line Fender models.  I would imagine that it is more of a mass produced and less hand tooled model.  But you’d have to admit, that when you put the two side by side, it was difficult to see any visible differences!  So, my wife and I saved up our pennies and were able to purchase him his first guitar!  Well, I must say that he played that bass for years in a number of different venues and still has it today.  In his high school years he was finally able to purchase an actual Fender Stratocaster® when he became the lead singer and rhythm guitar player for a popular local Christian band.  Today he owns several “name brand” guitars including a vintage Gibson SG electric and a Dean acoustic guitar.
I got the idea this morning of how Jesus is not only an exact replica of our Father God, sort of like Josh’s Squire, but that He is also the one who is able to mold and shape us into the image of the Father as well!  In Ephesians 3:19 the Apostle Paul prays that we will come to know the love of Christ so that we can come into the fullness of God. (God’s Word ©)  So, I guess that God made it to be pretty simple for us.  In order to know God’s will and become more and more like Him, all we have to do is get to know and obey Jesus.  The more we know Him, the more we will become a copy of the Father in the way and manner in which we live and reach out to others in our individual worlds!
Always rejoicing, staying in an attitude of prayer and always finding something to be thankful for all keep us focused on Jesus.  They are the methodology that will place us in the position to know, respond to and work out His will in our daily lives!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Clueless

I had to laugh last night as my wife and I were watching a movie on TV.  In one scene one of the characters in the comedy was making some completely erroneous comments about other people and all the while was total clueless to the inaccuracy of her statements.  I enjoyed the moment and turned to my wife to explain how I had worked with people like that.  Individuals who have developed what they feel is the truthful and only applicable hypothesis of certain situations or of other people, but are, in reality, totally clueless to the actual facts and or background of the circumstances.  And while they are completely serious about their statements, those who know the truth have all they can do to keep a straight face while they listen to them dig themselves into a hole!

While I was laughingly telling this to my wife, I suddenly straightened up as I realized that this was exactly what had happened with the few distractors that have come against us in our stand of faith and the decisions we have made in line with that stand concerning my wife’s healing.  These individuals have been so totally clueless to so many of the decisive facts, that it has gone from being hurtful and frustrating to humorous!
Later on the reality of being clueless came back to teach me a lesson.  The Hallmark channel has begun its annual run of nightly Christmas movies and we have been tuning in to some of them.  During one scene of Christmas family activities I turned to my wife and exclaimed my thoughts about some fun things we could do together as part of our celebration this year.  Like many of you, Christmas was always a special time for our family but with the attack on my wife’s health, the last few years have been a little difficult for me.  For the moment though, I cast that aside and shared some fun and slightly silly new possibilities with her that I thought she might enjoy, or last least invoke a giggle from her.
Well, while she was fairly alert and was watching the show she demonstrated absolutely no reaction toward me or my comments.  I looked at her drawn features for a few moments, and then plopped back against the couch.  It was one of those times where it seemed like a zillion negative thoughts came pounding into my head at the same time!  I even had a millisecond where I heard and considered the voice of a couple of Piper’s relatives who had originally blamed me for my wife’s illness.
Then as multiple emotions were beginning to gather about me, I had the thought of the stand we have taken on God’s Word and I instantly saw the light.  I sat up ramrod straight and verbally proclaimed that even though there are a lot of things going on where I have yet to see any answers that I am NOT CLUELESS to the FACTS that will prevail from His Word!
I have to tell you that it was like a night to day experience.  The heaviness that was creeping up on me INSTANTLY disappeared and my hope and expectations were IMMEDIATELY restored!
This morning as I read from I Thessalonians 5:18 I understood what had happened the night before.  The familiar rendition of the King James Version tells us “In everything give thanks” but the S. Way translation from his “Letters of St Paul to Seven Churches and three Friends with the Letter to the Hebrews” seemed to put it all together for me today.  It succinctly tells us to “find something to thank God for in all things.”
Last night was one of those experiences for me in that for a moment it seemed like nothing was working.  Have you ever faced a time like that?  It was like the only light you see at the end of the tunnel is from a freight train that is barreling down upon you to quicken your demise!  But thank God for His words of rescue and encouragement.  The thought that overcame the lies of the enemy was that when all else fails, WE GET TO TRUST IN GOD AND HIS WORD!  It is one of the benefits of our salvation!
I Corinthians 10:13 in the NKJV calls it His provision of “the way of escape.”  Hebrews 11:1 defines it as our faith which “assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot (yet) see.” (God’s Word ©)  Romans 4:17 confirms that this is also the way that God sees things where it talks about “God who quickens the dead and calleth those things that be not as though they were.” (KJV)
Sometimes the only good thing that you can find to thank God for in a seemly hopeless situation is what His Word says about it.  Remember, Jesus Himself told us that “with men this is impossible, but with God ALL things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 KJV)  And you know…While it may be the only thing… it is also the BEST things you can do!
You and I HAVE A CLUE when it comes to the possibilities of God in the midst of the situations we face each day in our lives!  And even when things may look their bleakest, we can ALWAYS find something to be thankful for!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting to be THANKFUL FOR today?”