Our New Home

Our New Home
I love all the summer greenery around our home!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Tis the Season to be Dancing!


For many people, today marks the official beginning of the Christmas Season.  It is the day when the early bird shoppers line up in front of the stores in high anticipation of great one-time deals.  Last year a few stores attempted to get a step ahead and opened their doors on the eve of Thanksgiving.  This year is was difficult to find a store that wasn’t opened on Thanksgiving!
When I worked at The Home Depot in Tulsa, the night before Thanksgiving was a fun but frantic time as all the management team stayed late after closing to prepare for the Black Friday sales. In my position as the Receiving Manager, it was my responsibility to deliver the merchandise that we had been storing in our area over the previous weeks that was especially ordered for the Black Friday sales.  Therefore I spent about four hours zipping around on an electric fork lift downloading from the shelves and delivering boxes throughout the various departments in the store.  By the time I got home around three in the morning, I was ready for a day off!
One of the perks of working in the operations side of management was that I didn’t have to report back to work on the day after Thanksgiving until 3:00 pm.  So by the time I got there most of the frenzy of the early morning crowd had curtailed and the majority of the customers were in a good mood and relaxed… most that is!  The down side was that by the time I got there, most of the best deals were sold out and my common reply to customers was “I’m sorry, but the item you’re looking for was gone by 7:00 am this morning!”
Most customers would understand, but every-so-often one would become indignant and complain about “bait and switch” tactics!  At that point I would try to calmly explain how I had actually helped to put out the merchandise a few days previous to the sale and try and assure them that we had large quantizes of each advertised item.  The problem was the amount of people that would begin to gather in the wee hours of the morning and line up from the store entrances and stretch across the rather large parking lot to 71st street in front of the store!
I guess you could say it was like the proverbial saying that “the early bird gets the worm!”  In this case it was the strong desire, the planning, diligence and patience of those who braved the elements and actively stood for hours before the store opened at 6:00 am on Black Friday!   From what my co-workers who were there at that time would tell me, these early birds were usually quite excited and ready and expectant of loading up their vehicles with a lot of hot sales!
This whole scenario reminds me of Psalm 37:7 where David tells us to “Surrender yourself to the Lord and wait patiently for him.  Do not be preoccupied with an evildoer who succeeds in his way when he carries out his schemes.” (God’s Word ©)  Just like those smart shoppers who conceded to the fact that they needed to get up early and get in line in order to get the deals they wanted, David tells us believers that we have to concede to the fact that we need to yield our own desires over to Papa God in order to receive the good “deals” we desire from the storehouse of His Word.
An interesting discovery I made this morning concerns the meaning behind the call to “wait patiently for him.”  As I stated previously, the opening staff at the store would recount stories of how the crowd lined up across the parking lot were a pretty jovial group.  They weren’t just quietly standing around, but were actively talking, joking and having a good time while they waited!  These folks were expectantly excited.  They had made the effort to get there early and figured that they would enjoy themselves while doing it!
My inquiries into the phrase “wait patiently” showed that the first meaning of that action is “to twist, whirl and to dance!” (Strong’s)  In other words, when we are waiting on the Lord it is not to be a quiet, solemn or still experience.  It is a time as Paul told a young Timothy in II Timothy 1:6, to stir yourself up!  It is an opportunity to rejoice and dance before the Lord in your expectant excitement of God performing His Word for you. (see Jeremiah 1:12)
I once read that the great turn of the century evangelical leader Smith Wigglesworth would dance before the Lord for ten minutes before he stepped out of his bedroom each day!  This was a man that was known for the powerful signs and wonders that followed his ministry around the world.  If he could do it up to his dying day when in his late eighties, than so can I… How about you?  History records that he simply stepped into heaven one day while talking to some fellow ministers when attending the funeral of a friend.  He had begun his traveling ministry later in life and from that point lived a full and healthy existence for the glory of God.
That’s the way I want to live my life.  Wouldn’t you agree?  So get active this Holiday Season!  It may mean that you have to step out of your comfort zone, but learn to rejoice and dance before Him no matter what situations you face each day!  Carry your joy and expectancy with you wherever you go.  Let your joyous and infectious spirit touch and change those around you in your family, your neighborhood, at the store and at your job… and then have the best Christmas ever!
Have a wonderfully blessed, expectant and joyfully dance-before-the-Lord weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to pass my excitement for the Lord to today?”

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!


What are the memories of some of your favorite Thanksgiving?  For me it was the awe of entering into the fantasy like atmosphere of my Grandparents old home on Thanksgiving afternoon complete with the steamed windows, the overpowering flavor of the roasting turkey filling every nook and cranny of the home, the smile on my Grandparent’s faces as they greeted our family at the door, the fantastic, mouthwatering array of home cooked with lots of love, traditional and Italian specialties on the kitchen table and lined platter to platter around the wonderful kitchen that was my Grandmothers favorite place in the world, and of course, all the fun my cousin and I would have as we scurried away to our own little world to play before and after dinner!
After my wife and I were married and had our family, I would always enjoy looking around our house on Putney Drive in Santa Rosa, California and smile as I saw all of Piper’s relatives clustered in small groups around the dining room, with Piper in the kitchen and with our kids in the living room chatting away and catching up on each other’s lives since the previous Holiday Season's gatherings.
Thanksgiving is a special time for families to gather and reunite.  For many it is the best and most relaxing event of all the Holiday celebrations as it entails a lot less work and stress than the following Christmas rush allows for!  It is also the special opportunity to remember all the good things that our Papa God has done for us over the last year.
This was the time a year ago when the Lord started to give me some inklings of our impending move across the country.  It was the beginning of a new and exciting but yet, a little scary big adventure in our lives.  As I look back a year later and six months into our residence in North Carolina, I am almost speechlessly thankful at seeing the hand of the Lord every step of the way.  From all the moving preparations and plans to the physical move, and then getting settled in a new state, His favor has abounded.
Like I mentioned a few blog posts ago, Papa God’s love has abounded in almost daily confirmations of our obedience to Him.  Everything hasn’t always been easy, but He has continually been there to lead us, uphold us, provide the way and to open doors.  I Thessalonians 5:18 encourages us: “Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this.” (God’s Word ©)
While this verse implies that we put our trust in the Lord to guide us through by the giving of thanks after the occurrence of any event in our lives, 2 Chronicles 20:21 gives a hint to even a better way of life.  In this story Jehoshaphat was directed to appoint a special team of people to precede the army and sing praises and thanksgivings unto God BEFORE the battle of their lives took place.  The Bible relates the results of this preemptive strike by recording: “As they started to sing praises, the Lord set ambushes against the Ammonites, Moabites, and the people of Mount Seir who had come into Judah (and) they were defeated!” (God’s Word ©)
I would think that since we are not always aware of every situation that we will face each day, that it would be best to simply develop a lifestyle of thanksgiving.  I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Never stop praying” (God’s Word ©), so why not just include some daily thanksgivings into your continuous life of prayer unto Him?  According to 2 Chronicles it will give you a jump on everything ahead!
So Piper and I wish you a most blessed, happy, enjoyable and peaceful Thanksgiving 2014.  Take the time to thank Papa God for all that He has done for you this last year and then look ahead and give THANKS to Him for all of His goodness that He has in store during this Holiday Season and the New Year ahead!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I THANKFULLY expectant of today?”

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Serendipity!


Over the many years that I worked with the youth and kids in the various churches that we served at, I always enjoyed putting together special services or retreats that the participants would not only enjoy but also be confident enough to open up and share from their hearts.  In the mid-seventies I found a relatively new small group program called Serendipity by Lyman Coleman.  I was quickly enamored by the program as it lent itself to a fun process of self-discovery that gave its participants a safe place to talk about themselves while yielding more of their lives to Papa God all within a circle of friends.  
This approach used a simple four step method in which a small group of individuals would get to know each other as they walked together through a series of steps that led them into a deeper revelation of the Word while allowing them to open up layers of their lives.  I used this process in a number of settings, but found that the most effective use was in a weekend retreat format.  (My wife and I introduced our youth groups to tent camping experiences from the get go of our ministry – Many times our personalized retreat weekends at a State Park with a hand-picked leadership team was the highlight of the youth’s yearly activities!)
As time went on I continued to employ the technique, but re-wrote each lesson plan to fit the unique needs of the group we were working with.  I firmly believe that this is also the way that Papa God works with the unique needs of each of His children.  Psalm 37:5 instructs us to “Entrust your ways to the Lord.  Trust him, and he will act on your behalf.” (God’s Word ©)  In this particular usage, to “entrust” means “to take the cover off, to lay open what has been veiled or covered up.” (Thayer’s on the Greek translation)
Like the Serendipity program endeavored to do, the Psalmist is encouraging us to go through the steps of increasing our knowledge and therefore our confidence in our friend and Father God so as to allow us the freedom and courage to open up the various areas of our lives that may be hidden to Him.  Once we begin this process we will experience a serendipitous event that we would consider a “fortunate happenstance or pleasant surprise” as the word serendipity is defined. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serendipity)
This serendipity in our lives will lead us to a place where the expectations that fire up our faith in the Lord will grow to exponential levels and we will see Him acting on our behalf!  Though out the years, the different churches and within all the various small group sessions we have led, I have never failed to see youth walking away from one of these retreats serendipitously changed, recharged and renewed as they have opened up the closed areas of their hearts to God.
And if it worked in a small group session under the towering Redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park, Standish Hickey State Park (where one of the youth got so excited that he knocked over a lantern and almost burned down the campsite!), Mount Diablo State Park or more recently at Hendy Woods State Park on the way to the coast in Mendocino County, California, it can work in the privacy of your home or wherever else you spend the time to grow in your intimate knowledge of Papa God and thereby find the confidence to lay open the places in your life that were once hidden to Him.
And through it all, you will experience a serendipitous event that joyfully unfolds in and around you.  Before you know it, you’ll be shouting His praises and thanksgivings unto Him for a life that is totally surrendered before Him as Psalm 37:7 declares!  Have a great and serendipitous day today.  Stay harmoniously in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What kind of serendipitous event am I expecting through Him today?”

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pure Luxury!


As I studied from Psalm 37:4 this morning I was reminded of a particular holiday that my wife and I enjoyed at the Inn at the Tides in the coastal town of Bodega Bay,* located in the heart of the Sonoma County Coast in northern California. The verse encourages us to “Be happy with (or ‘delight thyself in’ as the KJV puts it) the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (God’s Word ©) 
It is my personal contention that neither one of these translations accurately capture the true picture of the intended meaning.  According to Strong’s the phrase “Be happy or Delight thyself in” is actually instructing the reader “to be soft or pliable” or better yet infers to having a “luxurious” experience.  Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew definitions says that it means “to pamper or take exquisite delight.”
I have mentioned numerous times in this blog that my wife and I tend to be outdoorsy type people.  We would most often take a campground in the Sierra Nevada Mountains over a fancy hotel or resort in a busy tourist attraction.  We actually have many friends and family members who would give anything to go to Disneyland on vacation.  And I must admit that almost every time I hear them dream about this, I find myself questioning inside as to “Why?”  In my book, the noise and busyness of the park and the congestion on the Southern California streets around the park cannot hold a candle to the quiet solitude and unparalleled beauty of a mountain peak, a cold Alpine lake and the majesty of a hawk flying overhead.
But before I receive a pile of contrasting comments, let me say that I can also see the draw and know how much my kids enjoy the amusement park!  It just is not my first choice of an enjoyable and restful summer vacation!  With that said, I must also be honest and say that my wife and I did enjoy a mid-week holiday a few times a year (when possible) at a nice lodge on our nearby coast.
The particular holiday that I mentioned above took place on the advent of our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary back in 2000.  In honor of this special occasion we decided to splurge and go with what we considered fancy and booked a suite at the upscale resort, The Inn at the Tides. This lodge in Bodega Bay is built on a hillside bordering the meandering State Highway One that basically hugs the California coast from Oregon to Mexico.  Our room was located on the very top of the hill with a commanding view of the small bay and Pacific Ocean to the west and a green meadow to the east.
What I recalled this morning was the rich, gold terrycloth robes that the lodge offers to all their guests.  Not being one who normally enjoys hanging around in pajamas and a bathrobe, I was surprised when we noticed many of the guests walking from their rooms in the chilly coastal night down to the large heated and semi-covered pool and Jacuzzi facility located immediately downhill from our accommodations. I’m not sure why, but my wife and I decided to join the fad and also put on the bathrobes as we enjoyed the rest of the wonderful night viewing the reflections of the moonlit night on the bay.  I guess it just seemed real luxurious us to us country folks!
I think that is exactly what the Psalmist was talking about in Psalms 37:4.  He wasn’t just saying to be delighted or happy in Papa God, but to smother yourself in the luxurious beauty of His righteousness.  To pamper yourself in His goodness and love like we pampered ourselves during that holiday on the Coast.  I have a picture of Piper leaning on a lamppost near our red Camaro in front of Lucas Wharf, a restaurant across the highway from our lodge and perched on the bay where the fishing boats dock.  She was posed with a relaxed smile, enjoying a snack we had bought at the eating establishment.
During those three days and two nights we simply absorbed ourselves in as much of the uniqueness of the coastal town that we could.  We bought ceramic lighthouses and salt water taffy at the funky pink striped store, fish and chips at a snack bar on the dock, took pictures of the cows spread out along the rolling hills behind the resort, sat and watched the fisherman as they unloaded their catch and relaxed on our private deck while listening to the soothing sounds of the distant fog horn guiding the fishing fleet through the breakwater protecting the sheltered bay.
This is how Papa God wants us to live in Him!  He desires that we live totally absorbed in the luxury of His presence.  He wants that we would live our daily existence in a state of rest and peace, not exist in a lifestyle that is predicated by mistrust, fear and criticism of others who might differ from you.  Albert Barnes states that “The word rendered ‘delight’ means properly to live delicately… to be tender and delicate; then, to live a life of ease or pleasure; then, to find delight or pleasure in anything.  The meaning here is that we should seek our happiness in God – his being, his perfections, his friendship, his love.”
Jesus made the definition of this lifestyle pretty simple as He summed it, as well as all the commandments of the Law up in one word: “LOVE” – His Love!  So go out and take a much needed vacation today, and every day!  Let go of the worries, the concerns, the pressures of life and the frustrations of what others may think, say or do about you… put on a luxurious gold terrycloth robe of His Righteousness and “Delight thyself also in the Lord…” (Psalm 37:4).  Saturate yourself in the uniqueness of God and His kingdom!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to luxuriate in today?”

 

*If any of you are old enough to remember the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds” then you would be familiar with this tiny hamlet as the 1963 classic thriller was filmed on location in Bodega Bay.  It is still their claim to fame as many of the establishments in the town display original pictures and newspaper articles highlighting the filming of the move!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Practice Makes Perfect!


There are many things that I do in the daily care of my wife that a few years ago were very difficult and frustrating to perform.  Even a simple thing like putting a coat on her without twisting her arms into awkward positions that only a contortionist could accomplish!  You may think that this is funny, but have you tried it?  It is not as easy as you would think. 
Over time – with lots of practice – things like putting on a coat, helping her in and out of the car without hurting her or my back, opening a door to a building while maneuvering her chair and the dog through it without catastrophe, washing her hair without flooding the bathroom floor and even helping her to drink her morning hot mocha nutritional drink without getting more on her shirt than in herI’m still working on that one… have become somewhat second nature to me.  In fact it is kind of funny to me now as I watch others when they try to help her as it is many times very awkward to them!
And even though I have been caring for Piper for a few years now, I am still open to and am learning new techniques that make the process easier for both of us.  Often times I will offer up a quick prayer asking the Lord to help make the task I am about to perform to be easy for me as well as for her!  Last Friday we went to our local Great Clips and actually had a blast as the three ladies working in the shop had me in stitches as they joked and laughed over various subjects.  It felt like we were family as they remembered us from the last time we were there and fawned over Piper with the gal who had cut her hair last time making sure that the different hairdresser knew exactly “what Piper wanted!”
As it happens, the gal who cut Piper’s hair on Friday had previously been trained in the health care business and showed me an easier way to take off Piper’s coat without having to get her out of the chair.  She made it look so easy that I watched with great admiration! (Coincidence?  Again, I don’t think so!)  Papa God just keeps confirming His directions and His love toward us everywhere we go! 
On Saturday we were walking around our neighborhood when I heard a familiar voice calling out my name.  As we passed by one of the residence buildings, a lady we have talked to on numerous occasions called out from her patio and asked me to wait for two minutes.  She quickly returned with a white knit hat and a matching scarf that she had hand made just for, as she stated, “my new best friend Piper!”  I have to tell you, I was simply overwhelmed!  I couldn’t thank her enough and I couldn’t stop thanking and praising Papa God for His goodness demonstrated toward us through the people around us here in North Carolina.
Psalm 37:3 in the God’s Word © translation tells us to “Trust in the Lord, and do good things.  Live in the land, and practice being faithful.”  This may sound a little funny but I honestly believe that our continual practice of seeking, listening to and following the Lord’s directions for us is much of the reason for the favor we have been experiencing just about everywhere we go.  The Lord showed me over the weekend that the key word here is “practice.”  In order to improve at just about anything, you have to practice it over and over again.
I am a firm believer in the old adage that Practice makes perfect.”  Over the years we have sought to follow whatever or wherever we strongly felt that the Lord was telling us to do or to go.  Sometimes the results were not as successful as we would have desired, but more times than not, we were eventually blessed beyond measure.  This isn’t always the most popular thing to do and we have had our share of those who disagreed with our choices, but it has always served us best to follow His leadings rather than those who don’t agree with it.
The point is that we have been knocked down a few times, but we have always gotten up (to the chagrin of the naysayers), brushed ourselves off and practiced it again… with the results of each succeeding time usually better than the previous one.  I can kick myself now as I think back at the piano lessons that my Mom attempted to give me when I was but a lad.  At that time I did not have much interest in learning the art.  Now I wish I had been diligent to listen to her and take the time to practice, practice, practice. 
Maybe that is one reason I have always been so captivated in watching my wife sit down at the keys of her piano and make beautiful music unto the Lord!  She was classically trained and diligently continued her piano lessons into her college years.  And those years of practice definitely paid off as she used her acquired skills and love for music in church, in secular performances and to teach each of our four kids.
The Psalmist encourages us to practice being faithful to God and unto the things that He has led and/or called us to do and say in our daily lives.  Practice, practice, practice!  When we do this, the things and blessings of God become second nature to us – not that we should ever take Him for granted, but continue to walk in joyful and faithful awe of His goodness, faithfulness and loving-kindness for us and those around us.
So… keep at it this week, remember Practice makes perfect!”  Practice seeking, listening to and then obeying what He is telling you to do and say.  Have a great week, stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or for Whom am I expecting to PRACTICE today?”

 

 

 

 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cars In The Kitchen


At eight o’clock this morning I was jostled into alertness as I sleepily sat at my computer by the stirring roar of a 1991 Mustang LX.  An hour later I was reminded of the need to get my wife up for the day by the throaty sound of a 1993 SVT Cobra… and no, I wasn’t sitting in the parking lot of a Mustang of America convention.  I was in the warmth and comfort of my kitchen listening to the hourly “chime” from the new wall clock we recently purchased!
A few days ago Piper and I were looking through the Amazon website just before dinner.  I had gotten the idea of getting a Mustang poster and came across an entire selection of unique Mustang memorabilia.  A couple of pages into the selection I discovered a nifty black with a white racing striped wall clock that had pictures of various Mustangs in place of the time numerals.  I hemmed and hawed for a while and at the last moment decided to add it to my cart that was already occupied by a poster with pics of the last fifty years of Mustang models.
It wasn’t until after I completed the transaction and tapped the submit button that I completely read the details of the clock and found out that it also emits the sound of the individual cars pictured on the face of the clock on the hour!  The timepiece also has a light sensor that turns off the sound when the room is dark.
After I ordered the items I turned to my wife sitting next to me and wondered if she would have approved of the purchase or not.  Then I couldn’t hold back a round of laughter as I gently slapped her knee and caught that sassy look in her eyes while stating, “Of course you would.  You always liked and pursued with me anything that caught our attention over the years having to do with hot cars!”
Last night as we were sitting on the couch together after dinner, I spoke a particular scripture over her and then paused and added, “and like you used to say to me all the time, ‘that is my confession and I believe every word of it!’ ”  At that moment it struck me that there are countless things that are common place to me in my daily life that I learned from her over the last 45 years!
That thought came back to me this morning as I read from Proverbs 3:6 which teaches us, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths smooth.” (God’s Word ©)  A quick investigation into the Greek translation of the Hebrew word expressed as “acknowledge” points out that it is “a derivative of ‘ginosko’ ” meaning to have an intimate knowledge of. (Strong’s and Thayer’s)  That puts a whole deeper spin on that verse than I used think about it.  I believe that the writer was conveying a lifelong process of getting to intimately know the ways of God and not just have a casual acknowledgement of Him and His Word.
It’s that “knowing that you know” conviction and confidence of His guidance in every area of our lives.  I realized last night that over the many years of our relationship, Piper’s and my thoughts and ways have blended together in many respects.  And just as that is to be expected in an ever-growing and close relationship between husband and wife, it should also be akin to our ever-growing, intimate relationship with Papa God.
A standard comment that my in-laws have made to me over the last four years when I have informed them of a decision that I have made concerning my wife and I is: “Does Piper know about this?” or “what does Piper think about his?”  And every time I simply smile and say “of course” because I intimately know her and what her response would be... and would never knowingly do anything that would be adverse to her.  In many ways the two of us have become one.
I firmly believe that this is exactly what Solomon was implying when he penned this verse a few thousand years ago.  Therefore it is important for us to develop this kind of oneness with the will and ways of God for us. It is making the time on a regular basis to sit at His feet and converse with Him.  It is about being comfortable enough in His presence that you can discuss anything with Him and trust Him enough to quickly and obediently follow His directions without question or doubt.
So, just like I sound and act like my wife in certain situations and now have a clock hanging on our kitchen wall that sounds like the car in our garage, God would be honored if we went around in our daily lives sounding a lot like Him!  Give it a try… better yet; make it part of a lifestyle that honors Him.  Have a great weekend.  It’s supposed to be warmer and wet around here!  Keep in tune and in harmony to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to SOUND like today?”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Respect


I had a funny experience this morning.  I heard the dog stirring about 7:00 AM and listened quietly for a few minutes before she came into our room and began to rub her cold, wet nose on my hand that was resting near the edge of the bed.  The pleading look in her eyes told me that she needed to make an earlier than usual jaunt outside!  So without much thought I threw on a pair of pants, slid on my slippers and donned a coat for the trek into the morning cold.  I did manage to splash a little cold water on my face and hoped that no one would see me before I had the chance to make myself look handsome for the day…
As I stood on the sidewalk at the edge of our breezeway near the grass, I had one eye on Mandie and with the other gazed at the pretty blue sky dotted with an occasional wisp of a cloud.  All of a sudden the sense of serenity was broken by the bounding arrival of a small white dog.  He just seemed to appear from nowhere!  The excited pooch stopped a few feet away from our startled dog, crouched down as if wanting to play and waited for Mandie’s response.
My first reaction was to laugh and then I turned to see if anyone was with him.  Sure enough, off to my left was a lady who I think was as surprised as we were!  She began to frantically call her dog back while both Mandie and I just sort of stood still to see how this was going to unfold.  The funniest part to me was that I am sure that the women, like me, did not expect to meet anyone outside as she was dressed in pajamas and had a big red towel wrapped around her head!  I quickly figured that the gentlemanly and respectful thing to do was to turn away and not stare or burst out laughing!  Good move huh?  Thankfully the dog quickly obeyed her and retreated toward her location.  After a while I looked back and they had disappeared from view.
And speaking of respect… I had another great experience when we attended New Life Church last night.  One of the main parameters that I had set toward the potential of our continued attendance was that the people would respond positively to my wife.  As I have mentioned before, one of the most difficult things for me to handle with my wife’s health problems has been the way many folks including some family and friends have ignored her with the changes that have ensued in the development of the disease.  It hurts because she brightened a room whenever she entered and was always the first to go up and make the unwelcome feel welcomed.
Well, from the first moment we attended this church the people have gone out of their way to bless my wife.  Last night many folks talked with her and one wonderful lady took multiple opportunities to kneel down and talk and laugh with her at a face to face level.  It was exciting to me to see Piper respond to the loving attention and even turn and look at her while nodding her head and smiling in recognition to some of the things being said!
As I thought about all this later in the evening once we returned home, it suddenly dawned on me that these precious folks were not only demonstrating the love of Christ, but more importantly to me they were respecting my wife!  On Sunday morning one of the ushers made a point to move some chairs around so that Piper could sit within a row and not in the aisle.  He said that he wanted her to know that she was a part of the church and not an outsider that has to sit apart from everyone else.
While I thanked the Lord for His clear conformation of our new church home, I was overwhelmed with tears of joy for these sweet and understanding people who know how to love others by being free to go beyond their comfort zones in order to love on those who might not meet the norm.  That also got me to thinking about how I respond to folks with needs that might tend to intimidate me.  I realized that even though I might never have dealt with someone like that, that Jesus in me has and He knows exactly what to do!
The Lord through King Solomon tells us in Proverbs 3:1 to “not forget my teachings, and keep my commands (or my Word) in mind because they will bring you long life, good years and peace.” (God’s Word ©)  His Word that we regularly hide in our hearts will always direct us along the correct paths in our daily lives.  This Word will give us the right things to say and the comfort and confidence to do the right things to people with special needs.  Acting on His Word will always cause us to be respectful of others! 
A few verses down we are instructed to keep kindness and truth visible in everything we do, say and think.  These actions will also keep us respectful of others and tend to give us favor and a good report with all we come in contact with.  And speaking of good reports, it was also kind of cool as I was talking to the young and talented worship leader after the service last night about our two kids who had attended Bible School along with me.  She had also attended the same school and as we talked she suddenly stopped when a look of recognition came over her face and she blurted out “JB?” which is our younger son's nickname.  It turns out that they were in the same School of Worship group, were friends and graduated together!  Another coincidence… I don’t think so! (The gal who was talking with Piper is also a graduate of the school, so we already have many things in common!)
I just can’t get over how God keeps confirming His leadings to us in this move, and He has been demonstrating it to us through favors, many positive events, new friends and by the very evident respect of others toward my beautiful bride!  So once again I would encourage you this day to go out and make someone’s day very special.  Show respect to them by blessing them with vivid demonstrations of God’s love through you, in the way you think, speak and act toward them!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I going to RESPECT today?”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Anticipation


I noticed last night as I reviewed the program directory on our satellite TV service that there are at least three networks that have begun showing their current array of Christmas movies.  It seems to grow and get earlier each year!  But you know… I took the hook and have begun to record and watch some of the early previews of the Holiday Season.  Most of the movies tend to stir up fond memories of Christmas’ past.  As I studied from Proverbs 3:5-7 today I suddenly found myself reliving one of these memories…
I recalled a Christmas many years ago as an elementary student.  It was during this time that my love for cars was birthed.  I’m not real sure how my interest was piqued.  I think that it might have been my maternal grandfather’s interest in new cars that got me started as the two of us would sit together in their living room and look through the new car brochures that he picked up at the beginning of each new model year.  But however it happened, I was hooked for life!
During my early school years I fell in love with Matchbox® cars and had built up quite a collection of them.  What I remembered about that special Christmas was the little wrapped box with my name on it that my Mom had placed under the tree about a week before Christmas morning.  My Mom had a tradition of wrapping presents throughout the week leading up to the Holiday and placing them under the tree as she went along.  It came to be an exciting adventure for us three kids as we would check out and see the pile of presents growing each day.
Well, let me tell you… that little box was driving me crazy with anticipation.  Because of its familiar size and shape I knew that it had to be a Matchbox® car!  I think that I spent every free moment holding that present trying to imagine which of my favorite cars it was.  By the time it came to FINALLY open the gift I was beside myself with expectation and the anticipation of many hours of enjoyment.  As it turns out… it was a Matchbox® car, but not any of the ones that I really had dreamed it to be!  It was an interesting looking six-wheeled Fire Emergency Truck. 
At that point though, it didn’t really matter that it wasn’t exactly what I wanted.  My anticipation was built up so high that I could not be disappointed and that little red truck soon became one of my all-time favorite toys!  I have to admit that I was a little disappointed years later when I presented my (old and worn, but very special) collection to our older son.  I don’t recall him ever playing much with toy cars… although he has carried on the enjoyment of hot and fast cars into his adult life!  My hopes were finally rewarded seven or eight years later when our younger son took a real liking to the old collection that our older son had since passed down to him… and every time I saw him playing with that funny looking Fire Truck I remembered that wonderful Christmas that was filled with an anticipation of good things that could not be daunted!
Proverbs 3:5 instructs us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.” (God’s Word ©)  The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges states that “This teaching of trust in God anticipates the doctrine of faith.”  The memory of my continually growing anticipation over that little wrapped box that I had developed in me as I focused on it over that week so many years past can be compared to the level of anticipation of the good things and promises in God’s Word that we develop in us as we stay increasingly focused on it.  By the time Christmas came I was more than ready to tear open the package and enjoy its contents.  I believe that the writer of Proverbs 3:5 was giving us the same exact message in this portion of scripture!
By staying focused on the Word of promise we develop an anticipation within us that cannot be daunted or denied!  And let me tell you… that is a most exciting place to be… even as an adult!  You didn’t think that God only reserves that wonderful, innocent place of earnest expectation or anticipation for children did you?  I believe that there are some things that we are never to grow out of!  God wants His adult children to stay in the place of high anticipation of His will being performed in, for and through us throughout our lives.  I personally am expecting to keep that anticipation of His best going until I step into the next world… How about you?
Have a great day and a greatly expectant Christmas Holiday Season as you anticipate Him and the good things that He has wrapped up just for you!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting and anticipating today?”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Are You Watching?


I am beginning to realize that one of the things I miss most about life on the West Coast is Pacific Standard Time!  I guess that kind of makes sense since I spent over fifty years of my life living in it!  When we returned to our home town after our jaunt in Oklahoma, I got into the habit of watching the local sports report show at 5:00 pm each night as I prepared our dinner.  It kept me up to date on my favorite teams and prepped the way for whatever Giants or Warriors game might be on that night.  I tried to get that channel on our Directv package out here, but alas, it wasn’t available!
So instead of West Coast sports updates, I have occasionally been watching one of the national weather channels as I get our evening meal ready.  This has been kind of interesting as I am trying to figure out the local weather patterns.  I still am amazed at how the worst of the weather that swirls around the central and east coast of our country seem to by-pass North Carolina! 
Yesterday’s reports told of the unusually early cold/artic front that has come in from Canada.  The Meteorologist’s reported how it was affecting all the states from Michigan to Florida and over to Georgia.  My son reported on his Facebook page over the weekend that they had snow in Tulsa!  But yet all of this extreme cold tends to go around where we live!  Don’t get me wrong, we've had some cold temperatures but nothing compared to regions all around us.
What I also noticed as I watched the weather program last night was how they really seemed to pounce on all the negative aspects of the storms.  (Although they did have one short clip of a Husky having a good time and frolicking in the snow!)  After a while I had to shut the show off due to all the fear that was being projected!  It got me to consider how many folks like to dwell on the negative aspects of life.  It was also clear that negative news sells papers and draws viewers to the news TV channels or online websites.
I noticed that I was feeling kind of down with a hint of apprehension with the coming of winter.  So with that in mind, I shouted out across the room to my wife that “we are having the best, most enjoyable winter season that we have ever had!”  This was one of the things that my wife would confess about most of the holidays as they approached throughout the year, so I knew that she would agree with me!
Later that night as we were watching a Christian teaching program that was talking about the superabundant provision of God, I suddenly jumped up from the couch with the revelation of how much the hearing of God’s Word was encouraging, fortifying and blessing me!  What a difference what you’re watching can make!  I think my wife most have thought I was a little crazy as I stood there pointing to the TV saying “See!  See!”  When I finally calmed down I was able to complete my sentence adding, “It IS all about what your eyes are on that counts!”
What a difference the focus on the truth of God’s Words makes compared to the repeated dwelling on the negative of what is happening around us!  I’m sure most of you know this already, but those two TV shows were quite a vivid example of that truth.  By keeping our eyes on what can go wrong in any situation in life we rob ourselves of hope, of joy and of growing in the intimate knowledge of God’s love for us!  Matthew 6:21 tells us that “Your heart will be where your treasure is.” (God’s Word ©)
I discovered last night that when my heart was focused on the goodness and truth of God’s Word, I was at peace and confident in God’s love for me.  That I was confident in His unfailing care for me and mine and expectant of His “exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us.” (Ephesians 3:20 KJV)  But the opposite was true when I focused on the natural reports.  Those natural reports tended to put a ceiling on my options.  The super-natural reports of God’s Word though, sprung me through the ceiling of my natural understanding and sent me sky-rocketing into the limitless boundaries of God’s Supernatural!  Where do you want to be?
Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s boundaries am I expecting to be in today?”

Monday, November 17, 2014

Holding Yourself Above...


A few years ago when we were living in a community of cluster homes back in California, I was concerned that our dog’s barking might be disturbing to our neighbors.  In discussing this with one of our daughters one day, she told me of the bark alarm that they had purchased due to the same concern over their two dogs.  They had actually received a few complaints but since they got the alarm everybody seemed to be happy.  So with that in mind I also bought a “Bark Free” system.  The alarm is activated by the dog’s bark and has two operating modes.  One is silent to humans and the other lowers the tone emitted so as to be heard by people.
I thought about the doggie anti-barking alarm this morning as I meditated once more on Philippians 4:7.  The idea of a sound that can be heard by the dog’s sharper hearing while being quiet to people caught my attention.   Philippians 4:7 talks about “God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding (which) will keep your hearts and minds safe in (your) union with Christ Jesus.” (Good News Bible)  The King James Bible defines God’s peace as something that “passeth understanding.”  For some reason I felt led to look up the Greek inference of “passeth” and in doing so discovered an interesting line of thought.
Both Thayer’s and Strong’s say that it actually means “to hold oneself above.”  What stood out to me was the idea that this is something that we the believers need to do.  It seems that the Apostle Paul is telling us that we have the responsibility to keep our minds free from the confines of our natural understanding and up in the realm of His unlimited, boundless possibilities and might!
It also gave me an instant revelation to why two people can hear the exact same thing and come away with two completely different conclusions.  It also explained how some individuals only hear certain parts of a conversation.  Someone who is stuck within the walls of their natural understanding has nothing to relate to the spiritual aspects that are shared and can easily forget that part of the conversation.  I’ve had that happen to me, have you?
There have been times when discussing a former conversation with another person that I’ll scratch my head and think either, that’s not all that I said, or that’s not at all what I meant.  Sound familiar?  My next thought was wondering what the solution was.  My first response was to rationalize that the best thing to do was to be very selective of my words and just not go into certain subjects… just like I did with some relatives back in California… and in looking back, I can see that this approach really did nothing to help the situation as the uncomfortable discussions with them still continue and nothing seems to have changed!
As I prayed about this, I began to hear a different approach coming from inside me.  I felt the Lord saying to be “gentle and kind” (ie; Philippians 4:5 ERV) and take the time to explain without any perceived criticism, complaint or smugness on my behalf!  Then He reminded me of our new Pastor’s and how they explained a few spiritual doctrines a couple of Sunday’s ago.  In their discussions they always took the time to gently and clearly explain the what, why’s and how’s, not taking for granted that everyone was necessarily on the same page with them.  They wanted to assure that everyone in the congregation was understanding what they were trying to convey.
So I learned something important this morning and set a new resolve to work by clarifying where I am coming from when I make statements, and not just assume that whoever I am talking with has the same point of reference.  Does that make any sense to you?  This may take a little more time and patience, but it will definitely help to keep peace and rest with everyone involved in our conversations each day.   And even if others do not agree with you, at least they will have a greater understanding of why you said what you did.  This type of conversation closes the communication loop and leads to more productive and peaceful relationships.
So give it a try this week.  Take a moment or two extra and make an effort to clearly define what you mean when you speak with others.  I think that this would fit into the plan of Godly love and it may also open up a whole new realm of possibilities to others and give them a desire to seek the things that are above the natural level of one’s understanding.  Have a great week.  Stay in tune and within the realm of His boundless understanding… and keep asking yourself… “What or Whose level of understanding am I keeping myself in today?”

 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Whoa... I Didn't Expect That!


I think I made one of my first East Coast mistakes this morning!  When I opened up the blinds around 7:45 I looked outside and noticed that it was lightly raining.  I also observed that my upside down tomato plant hanging under the shelter of the overhang above our patio was looking very thirsty.  So without much thought I filled a container with water and stepped outside in my shorts and T-shirt, absentmindedly thinking with my California mind, that it usually warms up when it rains… right?  Well, whoa…  Not here in North Carolina!  I felt the blast of damp artic air at about the same time I looked up to the large outdoor thermometer we have posted on one of the patio supports that read below thirty degrees!  Even the dog was smart enough to stay cuddled up on her warm chair and not join me outside.
Needless to say, I quickly watered the plant and stepped back inside where I numbly poured myself a cup of hot coffee!  That chilling experience caused me to realize that I am going to have to rethink, reorganize and re-clothe my winter lifestyle.  Later on as I thawed out at the kitchen table, I also learned of another area in which I was going to have to rethink my normal pattern of behavior.
I recently purchased a used copy of Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible which was first published in 1879.  Wikipedia best sums up the majority of the reviews of this work by stating that “Although Strong’s is more popular and has its strengths, Young’s is better for word studies due in part to the way it analyzes English words.”  Many times various Greek and Hebrew words are translated by one English word.  Young’s will show all the original language words in the Bible that are translated by the one English word and then lists all the various verses that use the different Greek or Hebrew words.
It was when I was studying out Philippians 4:7 while employing the Young’s bible study tool that I realized another personal rethink was needed!  The King James Version tells us that after we Always, to Everyone, Never and in Every situation (see yesterday’s blog post) do what He tells us to do that “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
When I got to the word “passeth” I re-familiarized myself with Strong’s definition of “to excel or be superior to” and then grabbed the big, heavy Young’s book with both hands and swung the cover over to the two pages that describe the various usages of this word and discovered that in this verse the term literally meant “to hold over.”  The immediate picture that popped into my head was two fold in nature.  First that God’s peace is something that is way over or beyond my natural understanding, and secondly, as The Free Dictionary online puts it, “is something that is too deeply involved for someone to handle or something beyond what one can deal with.”
Godly peace brings us into an entirely higher dimension than that of the physical world around us.  It is a realm that is totally beyond our comprehension and it is accessible and available ONLY as we are “in union with Christ Jesus,” as the Good News Bible declares in Philippians 4:7.
I can think of many times in my past responsibilities in the various management positions that I have held in both the secular and sacred fields when I felt like I was in way over my head… and believe me it is not a very comfortable position!  Ever been there?  It is also something that I have often have felt myself facing as I have been forced to deal with the various aspects of my wife’s health battle.  But I have also become very much aware and more and more expectant of how everything just seems to come together (often when I least expect it to) as I yield my needs to Papa God and delve deeper into my union with Christ Jesus.
His answers and the ways in which He performs His Word are way beyond or above my comprehension, so the only thing I (and you as well) can do is simply focus my full attention on His faithfulness to His Word and then watch His love unfold before me!  My lesson learned this morning was to not even make any attempt to try and figure out the “How’s and Why’s” of His peace, but to quickly and completely yield the need and any thoughts about it over to Him so that I can quickly step up through the limits of my own understanding and into the unlimited, infinite dimension of the fullness of God.  (See Ephesians 3:19-20)
So again I have to laugh as I see that it is now twelve noon our time, the sun is shining brightly and the thermometer has climbed to a toasty forty degrees.  Yup… things are different now, but after my shock this morning I am more prepared for the changes ahead.  I am also more prepared to walk in God’s peace as I face each and every new day ahead!  How about you?  Don’t get caught in your shorts (physically as well as spiritually) and find yourself freezing in the face of the events of your daily life! 
Have a great, warm and fully prepared weekend!  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s PEACE am I expecting to walk in today?”

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Traffic Patrol Team


I attended the fourth through sixth grades at St Eugene’s Parochial School back in the mid 1960’s.  One of the highlights of those years was my participation on the school’s Crosswalk Traffic Patrol Team.  Now a days this is a paid position performed by adults  (at least it is in our home town).  But back then, it was a big deal to be able to wear the bright colored safety vest and carry the safety standard complete with the large eight sided red STOP sign attached to it.  And if you got to be the Captain or Lieutenant (depending on which of the two locations we were stationed at) and blow the whistle… well, you were in seventh heaven!
The job definitely held a sense of authority and power because when you stepped out into traffic bearing that big sign, those cars had to obey and stop!  (unless you stepped out a little too late and almost get run over by a semi like I once did.. I got an ear or two of some of the most non-Christian words I’d ever heard before that day!)  That big red sign caught the driver’s attention and forced them to yield to its directions. 
I had that same reaction this morning as I happened to catch a big red sign at the beginning of each of the verses in Philippians 4:4-7.  Beginning in verse four the signs commanded me to: Always”, “Everybody”, “Never”, andEvery with the result of such actions being: Then.” 
Philippians 4:4 commands us to ALWAYS be joyful in the Lord!” and to emphasize his point the writer repeats himself saying “I’ll say it again: Be joyful!” (God’s Word ©)  He continues by instructing us to “Let EVERYONE see that you are gentle and kind…” (Easy To Read Version)  From there we are frankly told to NEVER worry about anything.  But in EVERY situation let God know what you need…” (God’s Word ©)  The rewards of our obedience to those four commands is summed up with the definite promise of THEN God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus.” (God’s Word ©)
I am not too sure if Paul could have been any clearer in his commands from the Lord to us!  It is pretty black and white to me.  They simply and specifically state God’s way for us to follow.  There is no other way… and there is no time or situation when another option is available or approved for use!  Yet these directions are probably some of the most abused commands known to mankind!  Why do you think that is when they are so clearly stated?  I would imagine it is because that they, many times, go completely opposite to what our human nature wants us to do!
It is a natural reaction for us to want to get angry with someone who says or does something that is not complementary to us.  It is a natural reaction for us to want to vent  our hurt with others and let them know who did what to us.  It is a natural reaction to be stern, authoritative or to look and sound tough and confident when others are not gentle and kind with us.  I think it is a form of what we consider to be self-preservation or saving face!  And to be joyful or glad at ALL times… come on, you’ve got to be kidding… right?  Well, not according to the Apostle Paul.
And to make matters worse, I have had people… mature Christian family members, think and actually tell me and my kids about me, that they thought that I was na├»ve, being uncaring, not doing anything about the situation or just being plain stupid because I refused to worry about my wife’s situation while I put my trust into the loving, faithful and supernaturally powerful hands of Papa God!
But Paul’s instructions seem to say “Who cares what they think?  What matters is what God says and that we obey Him!”  As I thought on this earlier this morning, I heard the Lord say that we “are not to let other people and their thoughts about us define us, but we are to let the Word of God define who we are.”
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense, for the rewards of listening to others who react in ways that are contrary to what God’s Word says are judgment, criticism, self-incrimination and a definite lack of faith and a void to the experience of Papa God’s love.  While Philippians 4:7 declares that the rewards of ALWAYS, to EVERYONE, NEVER and in EVERY situation are a guarantee of His PEACE, which we are told goes far beyond ANYTHING we (or they) can understand and that this supernatural peace will guard our thoughts and emotions because of and through our union with Christ Jesus and these, His Words.
What do you think?  Are you ready to simplify your life by only following and obeying Papa God’s big red safety standards?  A funny thing… When we do this, it actually puts us in the driver’s seat of our lives, and takes it out of the hands of those who are trying to confuse things by following their own human understanding.  So grab the brightly colored safety vest of God’s Word and go forth to carry and live Papa God’s standards of life today.  In the long run… God’s way is the most rewarding and enjoyable way to go! - I remember one time when we got to go out in a pouring rainstorm and got absolutely soaked… boy, was that ever fun! -    Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s way am I expecting to OBEY today?”

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Be Well and Thrive or Developing a Merry Heart!


I’m finding myself seemingly “stuck” on Paul’s command to “be well and thrive” in Philippians 4:4.  As I mentioned the other day, I have been confessing that over my wife for the last week and the excitement within me has been going through the roof!  Every time I speak it out I am reminded of Nehemiah 8:10 and Proverbs 17:22.  The Lord showed us last night that these two verses have been a foundational part of our individual lives, our marriage and our ministry through the years.
We were watching a movie where a man and women were reminiscing about their first apartment and in particular when he had asked her if he should carry her across the threshold when they initially moved in.  With that picture in my mind, I turned to my wife and asked if she remembered when I carried her across the threshold of our first little apartment at 3900 Montgomery Drive #3 in Santa Rosa, California, when we returned from our honeymoon.
She actually remembered and acknowledged with a nod and a smile.  Then I recalled that I had just seen a few photos in an old album that she had compiled that we had taken of the apartment before she moved in. (I had lived alone in the dwelling for a few weeks before we tied the knot!)  One picture in particular caught my attention.  It was of Piper sitting barefoot on the bed with her haired all tossed to one side with a big, happy smile on her face.  That pose got me to thinking about how it is difficult for me to think of more than a few times in the last 45 years that she has been without a smile on her face.
As I was praying Nehemiah 8:10 over her later in the evening after she had retired for the night, I felt the Lord saying that His joy has been, is now and will continue to be our strength.  Then He basically repeated that statement concerning Proverbs 17:22 impressing me of the dominant role that the merry heart that He put in us as individuals and into our marriage has been, is now and will always continue to "do good like a medicine.” (KJV)
A few moments later when I climbed into bed I began to consider how different Piper was in this respect when compared to the rest of her family wondering why she alone was blessed with this gift.  But then the Lord corrected me!  He reminded me of some of the other pictures in the album I had been looking at which depicted other members of her family smiling and laughing along with us on various occasions before and after our wedding day.  He said that they all had that joy in them, but Piper was the only one to really develop and grow it within her over the years.
There is one shot that shows Piper and I sitting on bench in my parents patio during our after the rehearsal dinner.  My sister’s then very young daughter is sitting on Piper’s lap and we are all smiling and in fact, Piper is laughing very hard at something I was whispering in her ear.  To me, that photo seems to summarize our life together!
When I was telling the Pastor about Piper at church on Sunday, I had to pause and compose myself as I explained that her sitting there quietly and sort of detached from her surroundings was soooo different than how she usually is.  But again, like Psalm 23:4 declares, “Yea, though I walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death…” we are going THROUGH this season and will continue on with the joyful life that Jesus has given us.
That is Papa God’s command to us this day, as well as for everydayTo be well and thrive.”  To allow His strength to be our joy and our ever developing merry hearts to act as a medicine to the physical, emotional, spiritual and financial areas of our lives!  Are you continually developing the JOY and the MERRY HEART that the Lord has put into you?  Or are you letting the front page news of the day or the worries of life taint the way you act, think and feel?  The choice is up to you!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s JOY am I developing inside me today?”