Archive for December, 2007

Monday morning meanderings. Vol.25

South Jordan, Utah

I am sitting in Traci and Brandon’s living room with four little boys and their parents, with the TV on, kids screaming, people eating fresh cinnamon twists and Brad checking his blood sugar.  Sloan is not feeling well and the other three are playing with the dog.  Who knows how this Monday morning meanderings will turn out.

Item one.  Today is the 13th anniversary of our son Paul’s death.  Life for us has changed so much since that New Years Eve Day 13 years ago; we no longer live in the area, we have two new “children” and 4 grandsons and we are spending the day in Utah.  In fact almost nothing is the same, 13 years later, except we are all together, as we always are on this day.  This day is really no different than any other day, Paul is missed every day, but there is something about this day that brings a greater sense of loss and remembering than any other day.  I try to think of Paul as a 29 year old man, with a wife and children but I still end up with pictures in my head of a 16 year old boy with a twinkle in his eye and a “happy go lucky attitude.”

Item two. This is the time of year for lists so here are 3 from Sports Illustrated.  HERE

Item three. I recently read an excerpt from a book by Carol Kent called A New Kind of Normal (Thomas Nelson, 2007).  She includes eight choices we can think about as we ponder what 2008 might be.

When despair tries to take me under … I choose life

When I wonder what God could possibly be thinking … I choose trust

When I desperately want relief from unrelenting reality … I choose perseverance

When I feel oppressed by my disappointment and sorrow … I choose gratitude

When I want to keep my feelings to myself … I choose vulnerability

When nothing goes according to my plan … I choose relinquishment

When I want to point the finger … I choose forgiveness

When I want to give up … I choose purposeful action.

Item four. I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness as 2007 comes to an end.  For two years now, I have been trying to put some things behind me and as this year comes to an end I have been having some good success.  There is something about New Years Eve that seems a natural time to put things behind you, to move on.  In some ways it’s easier to say, harder to do.  Over a couple of years time, so much baggage gets accumulated. too many memories, too many episodes.

I guess that is why forgiveness is the hardest part of life.

I am hopeful that in 2008 we can all learn more about forgiveness. I am hoping I can. I hope some people can finally let me go, you know who you are. I hope a few can forgive me for things I’ve done, and for things they think I’ve done. I hope I can move on in life.

Welcome to 2008. There are bridges to build. A few to mend, and even a few to burn. I hope this year I will also come to peace with where I am in life, and finally begin again to dream about what the future might be. I am thankful I have a future. I forgive you. Please forgive me.

There has been a lot of forgiveness in 2007, and it feels good.  Who might you need to forgive?

Happy New Year! 

December 31, 2007 at 10:34 am 5 comments

Boxing Day, eh?

South Jordan, Utah

When I was in Junior High, we lived in northern Alberta, Canada.  This time of year it was about 20 below, snow and about 6 hours of daylight or less.  Being here in Utah where it is cold and snowing has reminded me of those days.  Dry snow crunching under foot and more coming down all the time.  Going outside with Jake the dog is not as fun here as in Arizona!

Today, the day after Christmas is Boxing Day in Canada and most of other areas of the world settled by the British, with the exception being the USA.  The name comes from the 19th century custom of giving boxes of food or money to servants or service people on the day after Christmas. 

These days it is pretty much like it is here in this country, where everyone descends on the stores to return or exchange gifts and spend Christmas money.  There are two days I refuse to go to the store-the day after Thanksgiving and Boxing Day.   There is nothing I need bad enough to endure the crowds on those days.  I do need to go to Home Depot or Lowes and the bank today.  Maybe the crowds there will not be so big.

The Seattle Times has an excellent suggestion today, for we who don’t celebrate Boxing Day.  They are suggesting that we take a box of something by an area food bank.  This time of year these community services really get emptied out.  Almost every community has one so why start a tradition and drop a box of something by your community food bank?

I was planning on putting these Christmas Prayers on the site yesterday but the post went a different direction so here they are now.  I think it would be ok to pray them on Boxing Day.

O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Happy Boxing Day, eh?

December 26, 2007 at 11:27 am 1 comment

Gifts.

South Jordan, Utah

It snowed quite a bit during the night but we had no trouble making it to Traci and Brandon’s house for breakfast and the first of two Christmas gift openings we will have this year.  Brad and his family will not be here until Thursday so we will have another gift opening then.

Watching our three grandsons open gifts was fun.  Eyob our newest grandson, direct from Ethiopia, had his first Christmas ever and that first Christmas was in America and with his brand new family.  While it has not been easy, he doesn’t sleep well at night, he has had ear infections, intestinal parasites and other struggles, he is a wonderful little boy and such a great gift to our family.  He was too young to appreciate what was going on but one day he will know.

The other two boys, Sloan and Sean eagerly went after the gifts, got over stimulated by the whole thing and had a hard time appreciating how special each gift was.  Too much, too fast but as the week goes on and they can explore each new treasure they will enjoy it more and more. 

Christmas is a time for gifts.  Sure we spend too much, give more gifts than we need to and probably miss a lot of what gift giving is. But over time as the children grow they begin to understand more and gift giving becomes a treat rather than an expectation.

As I think about the Gift that initiates all this gift giving our reception of the Gift and our understanding of the importance of it is not all that different from the little boys this morning.  When I first heard that God loved the world so much He gave His Son as a Gift, I did not appreciate it like I do today.  As a young boy I knew enough to accept the free gift,  but I didn’t know the implications of my acceptance of it.  Over time, as I have explored the gift’s value, understood what it means to receive it, I enjoy it more and esteem it more.

Sloan and Sean got a couple of gifts this morning that might be better in a couple of years when they can appreciate what the toy can do.  They could receive it, accept it, but they really can’t enjoy it.  My relationship with the greatest of all Gifts, a Savior is much deeper and much more intimate today because I understand the cost, realize more of what my life would be without it and more than anything, I am old enough now to see with perspective just how extraordinary this Gift is.

Christmas gifts serve an eternal purpose.  They teach us year by year the importance of and appreciation for what our parents and others do to give us these wonderful things, but more importantly they reflect the greatest Gift the world has ever known.

Of course, most of us spend to much, go way past any reasonable point of what is needed at the Christmas gift giving time, but the truth is our Father spent too much, went way past any reasonable point to give us the Gift of life and the privilege of enjoying that Gift for all of eternity.  I am not suggesting that we continue to over spend at Christmas but I am suggesting that the illustration not be wasted. 

As we open the extravagant array of gifts under our tree this year let it remind us that our Father is the most extravagant Gift giver there has ever been and He gives that way every day of the year.  Accept the Gift and pass it on to every one you meet. This Gift never gets old, never loses it’s value and it is the only gift I know of that has eternal implications.

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh” (Matthew 2:10-11)

As you enjoy your new treasures today and in the days to come remember the most extraordinary Gift they point too.  Merry Christmas to you all and may you know the blessing of the Father during this very special season.

December 25, 2007 at 2:58 pm Leave a comment

Star.

Provo, Utah

We spent several hours yesterday visiting the Grand Canyon.  Neither one of us had ever been there before, though we had each seen the Canyon from an airplane flying from Phoenix to Seattle.  It is an awe-inspiring sight, more than worth the extra 150 miles we had to drive.  We bought a new camera, for our Christmas gift to each other, so we had a lot of fun experimenting with our new little camera.  Maybe some pictures later in the week.

As we were driving out of the park, across the Hopi reservation, under the light of a totally full moon, we noticed something we had never seen before. Directly under the moon was a very bright star that was the only visible star in the sky.  Big full moon with a little star right under it-get the picture?  Has anyone ever seen this before?  Certainly you astronomer types will know what it was.  We watched it as we drove along, for at least a couple of hours, before other stars popped out and filled the sky.  (for an explanation of this phenomenon, see Sumijoti’s comments on the side bar.)

The first thing I thought of when I saw this star was the star that is part of the Christmas story as we know it today.  Of course, the so called Bethlehem star probably was not in view until some time after the birth of Jesus, but it’s appearing and the events that flowed from that star have fascinated both believer and non-believer for centuries.  (if you have time, this website has more on that star than you would ever want to know.  Find it here.

So what is the point of the star?

First, if this star reflects what is written Numbers 24:17-19, then it is a star of justice and has far reaching implications for all the non-Jewish people of our world for it speaks of salvation for all, Jew and Gentile alike and was not just for the Magi, who were first drawn to the Savior, by the star.

I see him, but not in the present time.
I perceive him, but far in the distant future.
A star will rise from Jacob;
a scepter will emerge from Israel.
It will crush the foreheads of Moab’s people,
cracking the skulls of the people of Sheth.

Edom will be taken over,
and Seir, its enemy, will be conquered,
while Israel continues on in triumph.

A ruler will rise in Jacob
who will destroy the survivors of Ir.
(Numbers 24:17-19)

If this text is the prophetic word that lies behind this “Christmas star” appearance, then it must be seen as an astronomical prediction of doom for those who are enemies of God. The baby born King of the Jews will reign over the whole earth and His rule brings with it judgement.

Second, this star is a “guiding” star, a star that leads the Magi from the East to Bethlehem, city of David, to Jesus the promised Messiah and Savior of His people and the Gentiles. Though it’s message may be one of judgement for some, the star is also a message of hope.  Whenever we have opportunity to talk about this star we should use it as an opening to speak about the hope that is in Jesus as Savior and Messiah.

The Christmas Story, as seen through this star, is more than just a way to get the Magi from the far east to the mid east.  This star is a prediction that one day all injustice will end and it is an invitation to all to follow Jesus as King.

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light.

Not sure what that star was we saw last night in the Arizona desert, but it did lead me to worship the same King the Bethlehem star led the Magi to worship, the same star that is an invitation to all of us to come and worship, worship Christ the Newborn King.

Merry Christmas to all of you from Linda and me.

December 24, 2007 at 7:14 pm 3 comments

Our child-of-God selves…

Fountain Hills, Arizona

After so many winters in the Northwest, it is hard here in the Valley of the Sun, to get our minds around the reality that it is December 22, the first day of winter.  How blessed we are to enjoy so much sunshine these last several months in Oklahoma and now Arizona.  Tomorrow morning we leave for Utah where it is cold, but the sun is still shining. 

Do any of you read the Scriptures from the Message?  This morning I read these words from John 1:11-13:  He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him.  But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves (John 1: 11- 13)

Part of the Christmas story, the story of the coming of the Savior, has to be the recovery of who we really are, who we were created to be.  The Message says it so well: He made us to be (our) true selves, (our) child-of-God selves.  So many of us spend our entire lives trying to figure out who we are and what our destiny is and Jesus came with this simple Word; we find our child-of-God-selves by believing His claims about Himself and doing what He did.

The enjoyment and fulfillment of life and the opportunity to walk into our God appointed destiny is not found in more education, success, money, relationships, accruing more stuff or any other cultural definition of fulfillment.  Destiny comes from knowing who we are as children of a Father who loved us before we were ever conceived.

Destiny is in all of us, placed their by our Father.  Discovery of that destiny is found in becoming our child-of-God selves and by walking out what it means to believe the Gospel-the Good News.

These words from Isaiah 61, a prophetic Word about Jesus, give us a clue as to what our destiny is: The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace… (vv..1-2 The Message)

The world we live in is full of human beings scarred and broken by abuse, neglect, fear, brokenness, hatred, loneliness, sickness, anxiety, loss, insanity, addiction and other maladies of the mind, body and soul. 

Even those who outwardly exhibit no symptoms are often unaware of their destiny and so muddle along hoping that around the corner there will come meaning and purpose to their life.  As I heard said a few months ago-“Ain’t nothing wrong, but something ain’t right”.

The message of the Christmas season is through reasoned agreement (belief) with who Jesus was, what He did and what He said, we can become our child-of-God selves, find our destiny. 

This surely is the good news of the gospel and the wonder of the message we celebrate at this season. The Father’s children are not all perfect children who have been brought up in perfect homes, with perfect lives. We are more like foster children who have been abused and abandoned by our own families and cultures.  Failures, misfits and wannabe’s, broken, lonely, sick and lost.

We are all scarred and disfigured in some way by our upbringing or by our interactions with the world around us, yet our Father reaches out in deep compassion and love to draw us into an environment in which we can become our child-of-God selves and enter into the joy of Abba’s wonderful kingdom.

Whatever else you may think this season is about, it has to be about destiny, otherwise the Good News is only for some time in the future.  Destiny is not future it is now and it is found in the discovery of our true selves, our child-of-God selves

December 23, 2007 at 11:26 am 3 comments

Neighbors.

Fountain Hills, Arizona

I am writing this Christmas Sunday post, Saturday night, late.  We are leaving early in the morning, driving north to Utah, to be with our children and grandchildren, for Christmas.  We hope to spend some time at the Grand Canyon tomorrow and perhaps see some of the other sights along the way.  We could drive it in one long day but we are taking at least two.  The weather is always interesting this time of the year so we want to have time for the unforseen. 

I find myself getting into the Gospel of John in fresh ways, this Christmas season, as I read it in the paraphrased Scriptures called the Message.  Here is John 1:14:  The Word (Jesus) became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.  I like that moved into the neighborhood phrase a lot.  I have been sitting here thinking about what it would be like for Jesus to move into this RV park where we have our 5th wheel parked.  What space would He be in?  What kind of RV would He be living in?  Would I even recognize Him?  Most of the people here are older then me, would He be too?

I was wondering if I knew He had moved into the park somewhere, but I didn’t know where, would I treat everyone better just to be sure I was nice to Him?  As I write this there is a motor home parking behind us somewhere and I am thinking I should go out and help him get hooked up, since it is dark and cold and late.  Besides what if it was Jesus, moving in?

Truth is, God is present in every person we come in contact with, whether they believe like us, look like us or act like us.  The early church believers felt privileged to live in a world where they were the minority because they believed that it was through interactions with those outside the faith that they learned more about the Father.

I am thinking Jesus may already have moved in to our neighborhoods.  Maybe we will find Him in the lonely senior adult who has no family this Christmas.  Is He here in the frazzled single parent trying to balance child care, work, and the unending chore of keeping a home while making Christmas special for their children?  Could He be present in the homeless person who sits with his cardboard sign hoping we will look at him when we are at his intersection?  I suspect He is with us in the angry teen age boy with his pants around his knees and his skateboard under his arm. 

If Jesus is with us at all during this season, that was intended to celebrate His birth, then I am thinking we will find Him in the “least of these…,”  long before we find Him in the pageantry of our church services this Christmas Sunday.

There are only a couple of days until many of us will be sitting with our family and/or friends opening gifts, singing carols and eating festive food.  Can we spare a little time to look and listen for the presence of the Savior in our neighborhoods and respond in ways that welcome Him?

Think I will go see who it is that has moved into my little RV neighborhood.  Maybe he could use a little help-you never know.

December 22, 2007 at 11:56 pm 1 comment

Fortunate Son.

Fountain Hills, Arizona

This morning we have thunder, lightning and rain in the Valley of the Sun.  But as I write this the sun is beginning to shine and I suspect soon we will be enjoying sunshine again.  We are blessed.

The advent season is all about the birth of a son.  Of course this son is no ordinary male baby and the Father of this Son goes to great lengths to make sure we all understand who this Son really is. 

Remember what the angel said to Mary:  “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33).

The Scriptures repeatedly refer to this Baby as a Son but use various descriptors to define not only His character but His destiny. 

For example, this Baby is the Son of… Abraham, David, God, the Most High, Mary, Joseph, the righteous ones, through Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, He is the Son of the Priestly leaders, the Son of an exiled generation, among others.  All of these names are historical figures, promises and experiences that flow from the Father into Mary and Joseph and into the nation Israel and finally into all who believe that “God loved the world so much He sent His One and Only Son…”  Here in this Advent word-Son, is the embodiment and fulfillment of everything the Father has promised to His “every tribe, every nation,” Family.

At Traci and Brandon’s house there is a new son whose name is taken from the OT figure-Job (Traci has a new post on her blog with some new pics of the boys. Find them here)  Eyob is not a natural son as their other two sons, Sloan and Sean are, instead Eyob Mark is a supernatural son.  He is a son in a similar way that Jesus is a son of his earthly father, Joseph.  Eyob and Jesus are both adopted sons, adopted through different, but supernatural means. 

Joseph went on to have other sons in the natural way and I would be certain that he loved them all.  But this son Yeshua, this adopted son is the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and in doing so invites us to become His brothers and “co-heirs” of His birthright.  We too are sons (and daughters) of the Most High.

Eyob is no “ordinary” son (there really are no “ordinary” sons) and Yeshua-Jesus is no ordinary son but they are both sons, sons of a loving Father and sons with privilege and honor.  The difference?  The angel told Joseph “She will give birth to a son and you will give him the name Yeshua (YHWH saves) because He will save His people from their sins.”

But when the right time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.  God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children (sons).  Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child (son).  And since you are His child (son), everything He has belongs to you.  (Galatians 4:4,7)

John Fogerty wrote a song, popular in the late ’60’s, with these lyrics: It ain’t me, it ain’t me. I ain’t no fortunate son. (full lyrics here

Because of the Son whose birthday we celebrate in 5 days–I am a fortunate son.

December 22, 2007 at 11:47 am 2 comments

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