Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Saturday! We have a tree! It is still on the front porch waiting to be decorated tomorrow after the kids get home from work. We went to the Wall Tree Farm somewhere around Terrell. The hay wagon took us out to where the trees ready for cutting were and we walked around looking and talking a deciding on just the right tree. Geni called to us when she found a tree that was not too tall, not too fat, fairly straight and would hold lots of ornaments. We all agreed. Travis took the saw and cut down the tree. I think Geni even hollered, "Timber!" The tree farm had free coffee and cider and we had a great time.

Great news!! Allen High School Eagles are the 5-A State Champions!! We are so proud and excited for Ken and the football team!! Way to go Eagles!

I am preparing to teach our Sunday School class tomorrow morning with my own reflection on the 23rd Psalm. So tonight's journal is from an email I received today. In the hustle and bustle of this day and in the few days to come remember who really started Christmas. We love you all.

Take joy in the journey and see you in worship. Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

"Who Started Christmas"

A woman was Christmas shopping with her two children. After hours of walking down row after row of toys and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on the shelves, she finally made it to the store elevator with her two children in hand.

She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season time of the year, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and threats, making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.

Finally, the elevator doors opened revealing a crowd in the elevator.
She pushed her way in and dragged her two children and all her bags of stuff with her. As the doors closed she couldn't take it anymore and blurted out, "Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up, and shot."

From the back of the car, a quiet calm voice responded,

The rest of the trip down was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.

Don't forget this year to keep the One who started this whole Christmas thing in your every thought, deed, purchase, and word. If we all would, just think how much better this world would be.

Jesus is the reason for the season!

Merry Christmas!
Happy Friday!! We made it to Friday at 3:00. After a full week of very excited first graders and then a day of extremely excited first graders, at 3:15 my classroom was quiet. I wished each and everyone a Merry Christmas and numerous times of telling them that they had at least two weeks off and that they were not returning to school on Monday, my break officially began. I, with the wonderful help of Stephanie Burns, loaded up my car and headed east to 811 Austin St.

We got some exciting news today. Travis text messaged me today at school and announced that he had been named to the first team, all district football team. I was so excited. District coaches nominate and vote on the players named to the team. We are so proud and very happy for Travis.

Also, speaking of football... My brother Ken, the superintendent of schools in Allen, Texas (I so love telling people this even if they have heard it a bunch of times) will be travelling to Houston to watch the Allen Eagles play for the state 5-A football championship. We are so proud of Ken and support the Allen Eagles. Go! Allen Eagles and travel mercy to all who attend the game. I also pray safety for all of the players on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

I got an A on my theology final. I was so excited. I have a chance of making an A in the class if I did well on my final paper. The grade for my final paper has not as yet been posted.

Psalm 144:15 says, “Happy are they whose God is the Lord.” Christmas is less than a week away. Are you ready? I get asked this question several times per day. My answer is, “no.” I don’t have a tree and have not bought a gift. But as I ponder this question on a different level, I re-ask myself the question; Am I ready for Christ+mass? I think I am more ready for the Christ child than I am ready for presents, a tree and cooking. The angels remind us that God is with us all of the time. We stress and purchase and bake and roast and wrap and stamp and mail to prepare for a day on the calendar. God wants us to prepare our hearts for His coming into our lives and into the world. God wants us to be prepared to live a life with Him everyday on this earth. So I ask you, “Are you ready?” Are you ready to receive the Christ child into your heart? Are you ready for this Child of wonder to grow Himself in you? Are you ready for this Child of Light, this Holy One to be the light in your life and then let Him shine in you and through you so that He truly becomes the light of the world? Is Christ the center of your Christmas preparation? Just some thoughts.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Thursday! Four down and one to go!! The week before the winter holiday break is always taxing and I think we are all, teachers, students, administrators, custodial staff and all school personnel, are ready for a break. Please pray for all teachers as we work very hard to stay calm on a day that is anything but calm!

We are looking forward to Saturday and finally getting a tree. And maybe just a bit of Christmas spirit. We are also planning to take a brief trip to Memphis, Tennessee to see Bruce’s brother and his family. So far, Bruce, Geni and I have cleared our schedules to accommodate the time frame needed for the trip, but as yet, Travis has cleared all but one day. I hope he can get his shift covered so he can make the trip with us.

Psalm 89:2 says, “I declare that your steadfast love is established forever,…” No matter what, God loves us. He established His love in many ways, but during the season of Advent, He established His love in the birth of Jesus. Jesus was born in humble surroundings and died in difficult circumstances. Remember who Jesus came for? He came for the poor, the outcast, the down trodden and for me, a sinner. He came for those in need of a savior. God’s love is never changing. His love is the same now as it was 2,000 years ago. If you or I had been the only person to ever grace the planet, then God would have still loved us enough to send Jesus to die for us. God loves us as much as He loves Jesus. Wow!! That is a lot of love.

Now that we know that God loves us so much and His steadfast love is established in us, our responsibility is to love others. God came to earth in the form of the babe in the manger, an unlovely place to show that His love goes to the lowest, unlovliest places of all. His love went from the manger to the cross; the journey of a lifetime.

As we rapidly approach the end of Advent and draw closer to the new birth on Christmas morning, let us have new birth in our own lives and love others as God loves us. May the love of the Christ child be born again in our hearts in this season of love and joy. The journey of a lifetime indeed!! Love and joy come to you…Take joy in the journey.

Love you all so much, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Happy Wednesday!! Three down and 2 to go!! The kids are getting more antsy and more talkative by the moment. Please pray for all teachers and their schools everywhere. Believe me, we need it!!

We had Blue Grass worship at Advent tonight led by the Little Road Revival. It was really great. There were two guitarists, a mandolin player, a fiddle player, a banjo player and a harmonica player. They played and sang some traditional Christmas carols as well as some unfamiliar pieces. All were just wonderful.

Revelation 7:11-12 says, “All the angels were standing around the throne…saying, “Amen! Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honor, power and strength belong to our God forever and ever.” Do you suppose heaven celebrates Christmas? This morning in my prayer time I actually asked this question. I haven’t received an answer as yet, but I began to think that the residents of heaven must just praise God all of the time. But angels are God’s special created beings. Angels are messengers of God. It was an angel that announced gave the news to Mary that she was to bear the Christ child. It was the power of the Holy Spirit overshadowing her that transformed Mary from a maiden in Nazareth to the mother of God. It was a choir of angels that announced His birth. It was an angel that told Sarah that she would have a child in her later years.

When angels announce things to us they see the awe or disbelief on our faces. And when angels see the face of God they must be so humbly awed because when they see the face of God they know He is Lord of all. When angels see the face of God in all of His glory they bow down and worship Him. Angels see God in all of His beauty. Now they could look down and see amazing beauty in God’s creation, but they choose to focus their eyes on the glory of God. Do you suppose they looked down into a stable long ago and saw God as they had never seen Him before? They saw God as a baby.

They announced his birth to humble shepherds. What did the shepherds do? The shepherds left their flocks, went to the stable lit by a star and worshiped this precious life. Have you ever noticed that angels are never quiet? They are always singing, talking, announcing or annunciating about something. It is the job of an angel to be a messenger of God.

What is our job? Could we take a lesson from the angels? Our job may not be to sing, or announce, or annunciate about miraculous births, but it is our job to tell others that Jesus Christ has been born again in our lives and how the Holy Spirit has transformed our lives. We need to tell others how we are not perfect, but we are forgiven. We need to tell others about God’s grace and tender mercies. We need to tell others that (quoting Corrie Ten Boom) “No pit is so deep that His love is not deeper still.” And tell those who do not know that Jesus could have been born again a thousand times in Bethlehem, but unless He is born again once in our hearts then it is all for naught. We cannot be angels here on earth, but we can do the job of angels when we keep our eyes focused on the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Take care and stay warm friends and take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Tuesday! Baby, it’s cold outside!! And tomorrow it is supposed to get to 50 degrees. Go figure! I guess Daddy was right. The weather does change rather rapidly in Texas.

Two days down and three to go. Today we studied Christmas traditions from Germany. We talked about how the Christmas tree came from Germany and the origin of tinsel. I love teaching about where different traditions originated and how we have incorporated them into our own holiday celebrations. This year I think we are going to cut down our own tree from a Christmas tree farm and we will see how we progress from there.

Acts 4:4 says, “But many of those who heard the Word believed; and they numbered about 5000.” Last spring I was taking a “History of Christianity” course at Brite. We were studying the first half of Christian history dating from the early church up to but not including the Reformation. Anyway were discussing the martyrs and the persecution of the Christians during the time of the early church. There were members of the class who asked why Christianity continued to flourish and grow even though so many were being killed for their belief in Jesus and refused to bow to a man- made emperor declaring himself to be divine. My response to the question was, “well, we have the only God who came back”. There was a large silence in the room. Then, they actually asked what I meant. I replied, “Jesus was resurrected from the dead and empowered by the Holy Spirit”. There was another large silence.

I love the phrase, “But many of those who heard the Word… Is the Word amazing or what? Every day in my prayers I give thanks to God for His Word and what it has come to mean in my life. But as the first chapter of John says, “In the beginning was the Word…” God has always been present. I give thanks for God and His place in my life. God is there in times of celebration and in times of deepest sorrow. God is unchanging and unmoving. Once He enters your life He is there for keeps. But in order for God to be a part of our lives we must hear the Word. God gives the Word of invitation. God is polite and knocks first and waits to be invited. The Word that is given is “child of God I love you. You are my sons and daughters and I welcome you into the family of God.”

Let’s look at the verse in John 1; “In the beginning…” God was there at the beginning of the world. God was at the beginning of our lives and God was at the beginning of our faith. When God enters our lives He gives us the gift of faith. Faith is our connector to God. It is through faith in God that we can get through the most difficult of times and the deepest sorrows of our lives.

The loss of our son, Casey, to cancer could have completely broken our faith. In fact we have friends who do not understand why we still worship and love God in the shadow of the death of Casey. Their faith has been shaken. Yes, we hurt beyond words because of losing our son. Yes, we miss him terribly. The grief and sorrow is sometimes so deep that it almost takes our skin off. We do not have a moment waking or sleeping that does not have Casey in it. But, we also have the assurance that Casey is with God and lives in the perfect light of God’s love. Casey no longer has cancer. Casey’s last complete sentence to me was, “Mom, I just want to stand up.” Well, now he stands in the presence of God perfectly healed from all of the disease of this world. Casey is happy.

The promise of the Holy Spirit is there in spite of the seemingly insurmountable problems we face daily. As Bruce always says, “Gaylene, the sun will rise in the morning.” Well, guess what? The Son rose in the morning some 2000 years ago making it possible for our faith and assurance to grow like those early Christians.

Take joy in the journey of faith giving thanks for the rising of the sun each morning and the rising of the Son in our hearts each day.

Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Happy Monday! Wow! What a change in the weather! Yesterday I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt with the doors open and enjoying the balmy air. And then this morning I was scurrying around trying to find a sweater, scarf and warm jacket! My daddy always said, “If you don’t like the weather in Texas just wait a little while and it will change.” It began to sleet while I was outside grilling tonight. Geni was working in Denton tonight and we really worried as she was going to have to drive home after 8:30. She phoned on her way home to tell us that I-35W had closed. But Praise God it is now 10:20 and she just walked in safe and sound. I applauded her entrance into the house and gave thanks for her safe return. Travis, too, got home safely even though it is only about 10 blocks from Starbucks to here.

The countdown for the holiday break at school is in full swing. One day down and four to go. We may all be cooped up this week as it is too cold for little ones to go out, not to mention their teacher!! We are working part of the day on curriculum lessons and part of the day on holiday activities. The week goes a lot easier if there are a lot of things to keep them busy, their minds occupied and their hands cutting gluing and glittering.

Psalm 125:2 says, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people.” In my younger days I served as the youth and music director for a church out in Vernon, Texas. Only someone young would take on both of those jobs simultaneously for very little money. But none the less I took the job and was sent to Estes Park, Colorado on a youth minister’s conference. I fell in love with the mountains. I felt so incredibly safe and surrounded in the security of the love and protection of God through His amazing creation. It was in those mountains that I also discovered that youth ministry was not my calling. I came very close to calling the pastor I worked with and telling him to pack my office and my clothes and send them to me. I was ready to work at McDonalds if I could just stay within the feeling of protection and safety I felt being surrounded by God’s creation. It was sort of like being hugged by God each time I looked out of my window. (I am taking some inspiration today’s devotional reading from Today’s Word in Season.)

At the Celebration of Life Service for Casey I had a similar feeling except the hugs were given by friends and family; “God with skin on.” The Ministry of Presence was so strong as around 700 people came to celebrate Christ that evening. I have never been hugged so many times in my whole life and I loved every one. The Holy Hugs given that night were not just given by arms but by hearts. The Holy Hugs represented heartfelt love and compassion for a family whose hearts were broken by loss. God showed His compassion for our family in the presence of His children comforting and supporting out family and praising His name in worship.

Troubles happen. Tragedies come. Heartbreak is inevitable. And we will have to face our deepest fears. What we must remember is that God is with us. God will protect us and keep us safe. God keeps us surrounded by His love and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. He will send His children to give the hugs we all need. I would love for life to be smooth and without bends in the road, but since it is not going to be, when the hard times come God wraps His warm and loving arms around us and never lets us go. Stay warm tonight.

Keep warm tomorrow and take joy in the journey.

Love you all, Brue, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.
Blessed Sunday!! It has been such a blessed day. The Advent Festival Choir, members of The Advent Carrillion Handbell Choir and the Seguin High School Orchestra lead worship today. The music was so beautiful and worship was a wonderful experience this morning. Thank you, Noralyn, all singers, ringers and instrumental musicians for the wonderful music in worship this morning.

I finished my final Friday and submitted my final paper for Theology this evening. Yea!!! It feels good to have those things completed. Thank you all for your prayers as I continue this journey of faith in attending seminary.

Isaiah 40:9 says, “Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings,lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God.” Today, the opening song in worship was “O come, All Ye Faithful”. As we sang the hymn, up popped a memory from long ago. We used to attend First Christian Church. In that congregation it was the practice to begin the season of Advent with a pageant for the Hanging of the Greens in the sanctuary. One year when Casey was about 5 or 6 he was the shepherd boy who found the Christ Child and went to go and tell the other shepherds and bring them to the stable. Bruce was one of the shepherds. I can still see Casey in his shepherd boy costume running down the center aisle, stopping, counting to about 5 and then running back to get Bruce to show him the baby Jesus.

Do you find it interesting that God did not choose to announce Himself to kings, or town leaders or emperors? He chose to announce His coming and His identity to those He came to serve. Jesus came for the outcast, the poor, the down trodden and sinners. God announced His only son to a bunch of (probably) smelly shepherds. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.” Jesus was born in a stable among the animals and into a poor family. He called and served with fishermen. He told the woman at the well He was the Messiah. He worked in the lives of those who were in need of a savior. And because of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, God continues to work in the lives of those in need of a Savior.

So as we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child, I am going to use the words we spoke in worship this morning. As someone who is in need of a Savior, I invite you to join me in saying, “YES” to the manger,” YES” to love in flesh, “YES” to the One incarnate for others and “YES” to the wholeness of God. Our Advent journey will end in a few short days so take joy in the journey and prepare your heart for the coming of Christ.

Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

This is the "Casey tree" that Travis decorated this week. We wanted to share it with you.
This is not Gaylene. I have been asked to take over for her tonight while she continues to work on her paper for school.

How easy is it to get swept up in the rush of the season? This has been one of our busier weeks of the past month. There have been rehearsals for the Cantata. Gaylene has finished the test for her Theology class and is on the last part of her “My Belief” paper (thus the second-string writer tonight). Geni finished her semester finals and is home. Monday night was Cantata rehearsal, Tuesday night was the Lamar HS Holiday Choir Concert, Wednesday I was honored to be asked to be cantor at the Advent Taize service, Thursday evening choir practice, last night was the Lamar Madrigal Dinner Theater. This morning was the final rehearsal for the Christmas Cantata for me, while Gaylene continued to work on her paper. This evening we had been invited to an open house at the Hurta’s. So many events to prepare us for the season. All we have to do is allow our hearts to join in the celebrations.

There are so many things going on this season, how do we keep the true nature of the season in front of us? How do you keep yourself centered on God and His Word? What do you recite to yourself in times of trouble or times of short tempered-ness? What prayer do you pray, what scripture do you recite, what thought do you hold to see Christ working around you when seemingly the rest of the world rushes around trying to find the best sale of the season?

Having been surrounded by music my whole life, scriptures that have been put into musical phrases from various choir anthems and other musical works come to my mind – “for unto us a child is born – unto us, a son is given”, Isaiah 9:6; or “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” Ps 51:10-12.

Gaylene told me today that, in her studies, she discovered that Martin Luther recited both the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed every morning before facing the events of his day. She has begun that practice in her own daily journey. My reunion card from “Walk to Emmaus” asks what morning devotion I use to begin my day. If we begin our days with the Word of the Lord, doesn’t it help set in our mind that we should respond to the events of the day in a spirit of love?

The questions I ask are for you to answer only to yourself. We walk the same journey, hopefully to the same end, yet we are probably at different stages of our spiritual development. What aids do you use to keep you on the path? What will you use to remind you what the “reason for the season” is?

Take joy in your journey, my friends. Keep Christ in your life. Always. Love, Gaylene, Bruce, Geni, and Travis.

When we come to the edge of the light we know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, of this we can be sure ... either God will provide something solid to stand on or ..... we will be taught to fly.