Making Your Christmas List

While visiting my family over Thanksgiving a few years back, I asked my brother’s wife, Chris if the boys had made their Santa list. In response, she said; “surprisingly, no.”  I was taken back that my nephews had not made a list this year. Typically, they have a list and some sort of Star Wars theme is in the mix. But, all that had been asked for was a bathrobe by my younger nephew, David.

My nephews…Nathan on the left and David on the right

Chris and I began to talk more about Christmas, gift giving and what Santa was like when we were kids. Of course the old Sears Christmas Catalog as well as the Montgomery Ward Catalog was included in our conversation.  I must say Chris had one up on me with the Montgomery Ward catalog. Our home was strictly Sears. In our recollection of childhood Christmases, we shared how these catalogs would show up in the Fall and the list would begin.  The list would begin with just about everything Sears could sell to a kid. Then, as Christmas would draw closer, the list had to be narrowed down to three main things we wanted. Of course, Santa would bring those three things and then sometimes a fourth item that had been circled may show up unexpectedly.

Christmas is drawing near. Young and old are making their lists for Santa. The list seems to get longer and more complex as  time passes on. Gone are the days of circling all you can and narrowing it down to just three things. And, does anyone still get PJ’s and underwear at Christmas?  We live in a society where more is good and the more we have the happier we will be.

This Christmastide, I am offering everyone a challenge (myself included) to create a different kind of list. Along with the list made for Santa, get another piece of paper and write three ways you can give back to God in the upcoming year.  Finding three things to fit into our schedule, our physical ability and means of which to do them should not be hard at all.

As you create this list, remember,God sent his Son, Christ to not be served but to serve. The first Christmas was the beginning of changing the hearts of men and women. It is when we serve Christ, share God’s love, and have Christ in our hearts, we become truly happy. The yearning for the things the world offers becomes less important.

Just as simple it is to write a long list for Santa, writing a list to God of committing ourselves to serve him should be even easier.  What do you say? Are you willing to make that list of giving in Christian servanthood just as eagerly as you make that Santa list?  If so, what are your three things?

Commit this list to God. Put this list in a safe place and pull it out throughout the upcoming year to see if you are following through with your commitment. Also, you may encourage your children, other family members,  small groups, and Sunday School groups to make an individual list as well as a list as a whole group. After all, we were all commissioned to go and make disciples and to share the Good News!

“Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Blessings

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Do You Pick Peas or Do You Just Stay Here?

Do you pick peas or do you just stay here?

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Growing up in a minister’s home gave many opportunities to meet many people and kindle many friendships. At one of our family’s appointments, we had next door neighbors, the Allens, Mr. Cape and Ms. Sarah. Ms. Sarah had a  brother-n-law  that was a retired minister. Reverend Bill Brackman would come to visit Ms. Sarah and Mr. Cape from time to time. As you would walk up to the Allen’s porch, you were always greeted with a smile, a welcome and a chair would be pulled up for you. If it were summer, a bowl of peas to be shelled may even land in your lap to work on as you visited. Then, if Reverend Brackman were there, he would not only greet you with a hand shake but he would ask this simple question; “do you pick peas or do you just stay here?” Of course, everyone would  say one or the other in reply to his question. Laughter would always follow.

Today, in bible study, we focused on the parable of the talents. After reading Matthew 25:14-20, we discussed what extravagant generosity was and the value of a talent during the time this story was told and the value of silver and gold today. In our discussion, it was shared of how we sometimes allow fear to get in the way of our going out and using our talent. It is an issue of stretching ourselves, trusting God and stepping out in faith. We are all given at least one talent. But, do we use the gifts that God gives us generously and without fear?

As the sharing time progressed, the topic came up about the guy given the one talent. You know, the one who went and buried it until the Master returned?  When the Master returned, the Master was not very happy about the one man with the one talent. In other words, this guy did not stretch himself, trust his Master and step in faith as the other the other two guys had done. One thought was maybe this guy was afraid he would lose the talent so he buried the talent where it would be safe until the Master’s return.

While discussion was shared around the room of this one guy with one talent, I shared that when we don’t stretch ourselves and step in faith we miss out on the blessings that our Master has planned for us. There have been times when I didn’t think I could do something God asked me to do.  I stretched myself in faith and when I did, it was through those times I received the most blessings.

I share about Reverend Brackman’s comment ; “do you pick peas or do you  just stay here?”  because I feel that this was his way of asking how are you serving your Master. As children of God, we are responsible for taking care of God’s creation. In other words we are given a choice to serve and pick peas for the Master or we can just stay here. The choice is ours.

If we choose to just stay here, we miss out in the joys of fellowship with others, relationship with others and with God. By just staying here, we simply miss the blessings God has for us.  In our just staying here, we are disobedient to God because He called us all to be His caretakers. We are not doing our job as a believer.

Yet, if we pick peas for our Master  we grow in our faith and in our relationship with our Lord.  We build new relationships with other people. Some of these relationships are for a long while and others are simply for just a moment in time. The end result of trusting, stepping out in faith and not burying our talent is that we are blessed beyond human comprehension. A sense of rejoicing will enter the heart.

In the days and weeks ahead, I challenge you as you begin your day to ask yourself; “Am I going to pick peas or am I just going to stay here?” Then, at the end of your day, ask yourself; “did I pick peas or did I just stay here?”  Then, I challenge you to write the blessings God sent your way for the day. If you picked peas, I can confidently say that your blessings will be overflowing. Last but not least, read Matthew 25:14-30 sometime in the days ahead and seek God’s calling of where He wants you to ‘pick peas.’  Our Master will return one day and we will have to explain why we did or didn’t pick peas for Him.

Blessings

Dedicated in loving memory of  Sarah and Cape Allen and their family who always had a room on the porch for a visit and a bowl of peas to shell. Also, there was always a pecan pie and a Coke to go with the visit. They were dearly loved and made a lasting footprint on my heart.

Breaking News….There is Victory!

(left) Josh Yeckering (right) my son, Drew. Daviess County just won the State Championship in Cross Country

Saturday morning,  I awoke to the news flashing across the screen Breaking News. The breaking news was more of our troops in Afghanistan had been killed. Thoughts of horror went through my head as I know of people with family members serving over there at this moment.  When these types of events take place, I think “what is happening to this world?” “Will peace ever prevail?”

After the breaking news, good news came across the airways, there was good news if you are a St. Louis Cardinals fan. The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series last night. Needless to say, many people are celebrating their victory today.

As I heard about the victory of the St. Louis Cardinals, I reflected back on last Saturday evening. Jim and I met our son, Drew for dinner in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Bowling Green is the home of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. As we arrived into the area, we could hear church bells ringing, cars blowing their horns, and yells of excitement. We arrived to the restaurant where it was louder than usual. It was obvious Western Kentucky had won their homecoming game. Victory was being celebrated.

When I reflect on past victories, I remember my son, Drew as he ran on his high school cross-country team. His team won the State Championship three years in a row. Oh, how the team celebrated with steak dinner, police escorts out of the park, and proud parents and supporters greeting them when they returned home.

None of these victories came easy. For each team, there has been sacrifice. These team members have trained in extreme conditions without letting these conditions deter them from their goal. They had their eye on the prize and pushed forward knowing what they had to do to win the victory.

In life, we love the celebrations. But, there are times when life happens. These life happenings can be anything but victorious. Life can get ugly. There are times when we experience heartache, anger and sometimes division. Yet, it is in our perseverance that we push toward victory.

Everyday, we are in training for the ultimate victory. We push through in extreme conditions and keep our eye on the goal through prayer, bible study, placing our burdens at the feet of Jesus and leaning on our Christian community. Despite all obstacles that may be placed in our path, we know through Christ that the victory will come and will be ours.

Two scriptures come to mind as I write this devotional; . I John 5:4-5 gives us this promise; “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes is the Son of God.”  And, Philippians 3:14-16 “I press on toward the goal to the win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”

In the days ahead, I encourage you to keep your eye on the goal, push through the extreme conditions. When the questions of” why” and “where is the peace in the world?” run through your head, know that God has promised us that there will be a day when peace will be still.  There will be a day when ALL of God’s children will be VICTORIOUS!

Blessings

**The young man, Josh Yeckering in picture with my son, Drew received the ultimate victory in May. He is now with his Heavenly Father. Josh is greatly missed and was loved by all who knew him.

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God’s Symphony

Originally posted October 2, 2010

 

Today has been a beautiful brisk fall day.  As I have gone through my day, I am reminded of an experience that happened with our family on a fall outing in 1989.  Also, I am reminded  of the lesson learned on that fall day.

When Drew was  two years old, we  took a family trip to the North Georgia mountains. The day started out being a simple day of enjoying fall scenery and just simply getting away.  What started out as a fall day outing turned out to be a day of learning to listen to God through the ears and eyes of a two-year old boy.

When we arrived in the Dahlonega area, Jim wanted to see the North Georgia Conference United Methodist campground Camp Glisson.   As we walked the grounds of Camp Glisson, our  two-year old son Drew was pointing things out as any two-year old that is learning to talk would with his mommy and daddy. He showed us a squirrel, he tried catching leaves as they fell from the trees, and he was full of laughter and enjoying all that was around him.  As we continued to walk and enjoy the scenery, we knew we were approaching the waterfalls due to the sound of rushing water.  Though, we could hear the rushing water of the falls Jim and I had gotten caught in conversation of things to do once we returned home and not paying attention to what was around us.  In the midst of this conversation, Drew shouted “Sh-hh-hh…listen.”  I asked Drew what he heard.  His reply was “the Lord.”  Can you believe it took a two-year old to make two grown adults stop and hear the sound of God’s symphony through the rushing of the water, the rustling of the leaves and all the other sounds of nature around us? How suddenly did a sense of calmness and peace fill the inner soul. Those every day issues that Jim and I were discussing prior to Drew telling to be quiet were no longer important.

How wonderful the world would be if everyone could hear and see all the peacefulness that God does provides through the eyes of a child. Unfortunately, the world is not that way. It is so easy for our days to get caught up  in our lists to the point  we forget that God’s symphony is playing for us.  My challenge for you is to take a minute or two to stop in the midst of your busy day, shut the noise out, and listen to God’s music around you.  You will be amazed at the beautiful symphony that is playing all around you.  It is quite a symphony! At least my now 23-year-old son did when he was two.   Afterall, who would know better than a child of God. SH-HH-HH LISTEN!!

One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But, Jesus intervened.” Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me.  God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” After laying hands on them, he left. Matthew 19:13-15 (The Message)

Drop everything and listen, listen as he speaks. Psalm 95:7 (The Message)

Prayer:  Father, when daily things get hectic, remind us to stop and listen and hear your voice. To feel the calmness you provide all around us in your symphony. In Jesus name. Amen

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U-G-L-Y

Ugly face

Let's leave U-G-L-Y out on the doorstep where he belongs!

Ugly is an adjective in the English language that describes something unattractive or not desirable.  The cheerleaders would lead the crowd in a chant “U-G-L-Y you ain’t got no alibi, you ugly!” at the high school football games. Of course this chant was directed to the opposing team.

Mid-way to the end of the movie ‘Hair Spray’, Mabelle’s son, Seaweed J. Stubb brings Penny to not only his side of town but to his home. When Mabelle meets Penny, she ask “who is this?” and her daughter answers by saying “it’s Seaweed’s girlfriend.” Since this movie setting took place in the 1960’s and around the events of integration, Mabelle responds; “well if this is true, you better be ready for a whole lot of ugly because it’s going to be out there; followed up with a whole lot of stupid.”  You see Penny was caucasian and Seweed was African-American which was very taboo during that era.

Ugly. We see it a lot these days. Stories on the news and attitudes of people  are examples of where we find ugly. I worked retail for a while and when I did I would encounter ugly from time to time. Some days it felt like every customer that came in had taken an ugly pill. Most of us have that experience at some place and time.

While growing up in a minister’s home, I learned and experienced  a lot of things. The things I learned and experienced were not just taught to me by my parents. But, I learned and experienced them through people’s actions and reactions. The things I learned and experienced were patience, staying strong when things are tough, unconditional love which were all good things for a person to experience and learn growing up. But, as the saying goes, it was not always roses. There were a few times when I experienced some thorns among the roses which were ugly.

The biggest hurts I experienced and saw others go through was someone just being ugly. Believe it or not these big hurts happened within the church family. These hurts were caused by someone’s temper flaring, someone not liking what someone else is doing or they simply want things done their way. In these observations, I sometimes saw and still see people new to the Christian faith wanting to be involved because they want to escape life’s ugly for just a few simple moments.  They want to come be renewed, experience joy in their heart and be encouraged by others. Yet, I have seen these very people see and/or experience ugly and become so hurt that they leave the church and some are never to come back. 

The church family consists of many personalities. Personalities that are not perfect and that is why we have each other as a family. We are called to encourage one another in our faith walk. God calls us to look beyond our needs, wants, and feelings and see the needs of others. In doing this, we need to intentionally create an atmosphere in our church homes where people especially those who are new in the faith can find joy, comfort, peace, encouragement and where they can escape from the ugly for just a few simple minutes.

1 Peter 4:9-10 gives us these instructions; “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister to one another, as good stewards of a manifold grace of God.” What do you say? How about we leave ugly outside the door. I encourage us to create an environment of hospitality, encouragement,  a place of warmth, unconditional love, and a place of refuge to allow people to leave their worries at the feet of Jesus and be covered by His grace.  The church needs to be a place where people are given  hope to face that world of‘whole lot of ugly’ as they walk out the church  door back into the world of life.   And, if we have a little ugly in our hearts, let’s give it to God and not give Satan the V-I-C-T-O-R-Y of showing ugly. Afterall, Satan is our opponent and he is U-G-L-Y! He’s ugly and he definitely does not need an  alibi; he’s ugly!  

Blessings

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More Than Enough

Storm

"He calms the storms. So that its waves are still." Psalm 107:29

For the last two weeks, our city has been hit by rain and  storm warnings. This morning as I read through Facebook posts I saw how people were exhausted from having to get up in the night to seek a safe place as well as nerves just being frayed.  We have grown tired of looking at nothing but meteorologist on television and for those of us who receive thunder calls, we are tired of the relationship established by phone between us and the meteorologist who calls us up with the message” Hello, there is a thunderstorm warning for your neighborhood” or “Hello, there is a tornado warning now for your neighborhood. Please seek shelter immediately, stay away from windows and go to your basement or interior area of your home.” 

 Going through these storms the last couple of weeks, made me think of the storms in life. These storms may be illness, financial issues, relationship problems, work situations, addictions, and countless others. Just as our nerves have been frayed and as we prop our eyes open with massive amounts of coffee and/or toothpicks as a result of being up at night with the storms, frayed nerves and exhaustion does set in with life’s storms. It gets to the point for some that we want to just cry out and say “enough!”

Tired and weary were the disciples on the night Jesus told them “Let us cross to the other side”(Mark 4:35). As they began to cross the Sea of Galilee, a storm quickly came upon them. Their boat being tossed, waves smashing against them, and nerves becoming frayed, the disciples questioned if Jesus cared. While the storm crashed and tossed their boat, Jesus slept without a care in the world. Then, the disciples woke Jesus up asking “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” ( Mark 4:38) At this  point, I am sure the disciples were just like us when we are in the eye of a storm they had enough!

Though the disciples were frighten and afraid that they would drown in this storm, Jesus got up and rebuked the storm. He simply said “Quiet! Be still! As Jesus rebuked the storm the winds died down and it was completely calm. Turning to His disciples, Jesus asked why they had been so afraid and where was their faith. ( 4:39-41)

A tornado warning was given with it just being myself and our black lab, Tori at home. As I began to grab my radio, flashlight, putting on my shoes, putting my cell phone in my pocket, and directing Tori to go to our safe spot, I was frightened. Then, I remembered my dad once reminding me of this scripture of where Jesus made the winds quiet and He made peace be still as we would ride  out  storms in my childhood days. As I recalled this childhood lesson, I prayed and asked God to let the winds be still and to keep me safe. While praying this prayer for safety, I felt the arms of Jesus holding me and calming me down and reminding me I was not alone.

Yes, it has been a couple of weeks of actual storms that required us all to take cover.  These will not be the last of the physical storms that we will face in our lifetime and there will be other storms in life that we will go through. Yet, it is important to remember that we do not go through any of these storms alone. Jesus is there with us. He will hold us and keep us calm as we ride through the winds. Then, the winds will die down and  peace will come.  When we are given the all clear, our hearts will be more at peace, we will have grown closer with our Saviour as well as in our faith, and we will appreciate all the more what God has provided us. It will be more than enough!

 

May peace be still and your faith become even greater in your life!

 Peace

 

Good Night John Boy

The Waltons

"At the same time, says the LORD, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people." Jeremiah 31:1

The Waltons a television show of the past that Hallmark has brought back. Stories of a simpler time, reminders of what it meant to really live on faith and lean on God. The most memorable character outside the famous Baldwin sisters was John Boy. John Boy was the writer in the family who would sit in front of his bedroom window writing about his family as he watched them carry on with daily living. This family stood together in the test of trials and they celebrated the joys and triumphs of life.

God, the creator of  our great big world. As He created each living thing, He would smile and say “it is good.” He, too, writes from His window as He looks down at his family carrying on with their daily activities. Yet, the times aren’t simple as in the times of The Waltons.  People aren’t loving each other like He wants them to. Many people have forgotten or simply don’t know how to lean on their faith and trust Him. 

You are a child of God and daughter or son of the King. You were created to bring joy to God.  Not only are you a child of God and created to bring joy to God, but God created you to be a person for Him to write in His Book of Life.  When you are tested, He wants you to come to Him, lean on Him,  and allow Him to take you through the trial and be there when all is said and done. God also wants to be there to share your joys, triumphs and all that you have to celebrate in life.

When we come to know Jesus and accept Him into our lives, we are part of one great big family. Just as the Waltons sat at their long dinner table at night sharing hopes, dreams and praying together, God has an even bigger table for us to come sit with Him. At His table, we can share our hopes, dreams and pray together as a family with God the Father sitting at the head.  Some of us don’t come from very big families but knowing that we are part of a bigger family when Jesus comes into our hearts just can’t get any better!

The Waltons invited us into their homes each week. We watched and felt their hurts, trials and joys. John Boy would narrate to us the lessons learned from the scenes we had just observed. Once we had visited their home for the week, it was time for the family to say good night. Remember, each would tell the other good night but John Boy was always  the last to be told good night with his light being the last to be turned out? All of us at some point and time have gone to bed telling each person good night and eventually someone would yell ‘good night John Boy!’

 Each night, we tell our family members good night. I know most of us end the day with prayers thanking God for bringing us through another day and giving Him our cares so that we can sleep.  Yes, God should be the last person in our family we say good night to at the close of the day. So, tonight when you tell each family member good night, remember to tell God good night and thank Him for bringing you through another day. But realize that when you say ‘good night’ to God that His light will not turn off. His light is on watching over you as you rest in His care.

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