Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy and TGI Friday!

Remember the most amazing event in our lives happened on a Friday 2000 years ago.

Today I went with Bruce to Graford, Texas. Sometimes I go with Bruce as a traveling buddy on longer trips and the job is not supposed to take too long. Well, the gentleman today had 25 interior doors that Bruce had to inspect. A short job this was not to be. So I read magazines and watched this gentleman’s HD-TV while Bruce worked. Bruce takes his job very seriously and always does a masterful job. Bruce does his job well for a couple of reasons. First, he takes pride and responsibility in his work. And second, he values his family enough to continue with a job until its completion and give his employer no reason to doubt his work ethic and to continue to work for this company.

Psalm 81:10 “I, the Lord, and your God, who brought you out of Egypt. Open your mouth and I will feed you.”

Each evening when Bruce comes home from work he sits down at the computer and sends in his work summaries for the day. After that he pulls up the site where he receives directives for new door issues. When the door issues seem sparse he gets a little nervous. He has had a few tense days like that this week. I always tell him “Bruce, God has always taken care of us. And He will not let us down now.” (I am usually right and God takes care of us.)

The nation of Israel experienced and witnessed the most phenomenal miracles of which I have ever read. Out of the mouth of Moses, given by the very Word of God, the miracles of plagues, protective pillars of fire and clouds of smoke, great seas parting before their very eyes and a host of other miraculous phenomena. And yet they still were fairly weak in their faith when they came across obstacles to reaching the Promised Land.

God, in this verse, says, ”Look, people. I will take care of you. I will feed you, just open your mouth”. I am sure God just wishes that our faith was more like that of baby birds. You know how mama bird perches on the nest and places the food right in their mouths and those baby birds wait to be fed. They did not work for the food, and maybe their tummies did not get full, but they did not go without.

God has work for each of us to do. We cannot do the jobs He has for us if we are physically or spiritually hungry. Hebrews 13:20 “I pray that the God of peace will give you every good thing you need so you can do what He wants.” Hasn’t this prayer been answered over and over in our lives? God is relentless in His efforts to enable us to be His best workers in the Kingdom. God meets the needs of His children. There may not have been a feast on the table, but there has always been food. Sometimes it is a scrambled egg night and sometimes it is steak. God also gives us His Word on which to feast when we are spiritually hungry. There is a never ending supply of banquet food in the scriptures. Once again, God meets the needs of His children.

Take a moment at the table. Give thanks for the bounty set before you and eat with a grateful heart.

Take joy in the journey and stay in the shade. Love you, 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.

PS Say a prayer as I am firing up the smoker given to me by my Daddy and prepare to smoke a brisket. I will let you know how it turns out. gc
Happy Thursday!

Psalm 85:8 “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to His people.”

How many of us have spouses? How many of us have children? How many of us have friends, co-workers, neighbors, parents or anyone else with whom we visit? The common thread in this entire list is that we have conversations with all of these people. A conversation is when two people share thoughts and ideas with each other. If a conversation is held respectfully, one person talks and the other listens. To quote The word in Season, “listening is an intentional act involving purposeful listening with the goal of understanding the other person.” That has to be one of the best definitions of listening I have ever read.

Have you ever noticed as you are in conversation that a lot of the time one person cannot state an entire thought because the other person has interrupted with their own thoughts? (This act personally drives me crazy.) I stopped watching the TV show The View because all of the panelists spoke at the same time and showed no respect for the thoughts of the others on the panel. I have attended meetings where this very same act occurred. In my classroom even teaching young children to listen patiently until one has finished speaking is one of the most difficult skills I teach. But I stick with my plan and before long the children remember to not interrupt and to listen to each other politely and respectfully. We all learn so much more from each other when we practice listening.

Our conversations with God need to be much the same. We tend to talk to God and then hang up the phone without waiting for God to have His turn to speak. God lets us talk to our hearts content. And He so patiently listens. I have come to notice that God seems to collect His thoughts before He speaks. And if we have not already ended the conversation, then He gets a chance to speak with us. Sometimes I think God is just waiting for us to take a breath!

God loves us so much and loves to be in conversation with us. I think the definition of listening mentioned earlier in this passage is so true. Listening is an intentional act. This is one intentional act that takes practice. But I love the second part of the sentence that says purposeful listening has the goal of getting to know the other person. God gets to know us when we talk and we get to know and understand God when we listen to Him.

This verse has such a wonderful promise. The verse says that God will speak peace to His people. Has God ever spoken peace to you? If God has spoken to you as He has spoken to me, you had to be quiet in order for God’s peace to penetrate your heart. I had to stop talking and listen. If you are having fears in your life or if you are seeking peace for your soul, pray this verse. Fear cannot live where peace is present. Ask God to speak His Word of peace to you and believe that God will flood your soul with blessed peace.

Take joy in the journey and stay in the shade. 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, July 9, 2009

Happy Wednesday! It has been the most wonderful day. It has been filled with God’s wonderful presence and His gracious blessings. And we are so very grateful.

First, today was Geni’s last day of summer school. The big group project was due this morning and one of the members of the group was not able to complete their part. Geni was really nervous that the teacher was going to grade the project as a whole and count off on each member’s grade because of the missing pieces. Geni explained the efforts that the group had made to contact their “missing link”, but their efforts had yielded no response. So the group presented their project and the teacher graded their project as is and they all received the credit they had earned. Geni was so relieved. She also does not have to take the final tomorrow. Way to go Geni! PTL!

Next, I was blessed to spend a portion of the day with my mom, aunt, cousin and Geni at a fun-filled shopping trip to Sam Moon’s and then lunch at The Cheesecake Factory in Frisco. We had the most wonderful time shopping, laughing, talking, eating and just enjoying being with “just the girls” for a while. Thank you, Lord, for family.

Last, we had a wonderful prayer answered today. Bruce has to carry liability insurance as one who is self-employed to work for the door company. The new down- payment came due and we did not have the money, so we have been praying for an answer to that problem. Today, when Bruce called the insurance company, he found out that they have changed their rules concerning the huge down-payments of the past. The bottom line is that they are not requiring the huge down payment any more. A monthly payment will put the insurance in force. We could afford the monthly payment. Bruce felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of his shoulders. Thank you, Lord, for answered prayer.

Acts 15:11 “But we believe that we…will be saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus.”

Lutherans believe that we are saved by the grace of God and not by anything we can do. Grace is God’s alone. Max Lucado states in his book He Still Moves Stones, that Christians are in two different camps: legalism or grace. Legalists believe in God, but they believe that mankind earns their salvation. Grace filled believers believe that God is our salvation through the death of Jesus. In paraphrasing Lucado’s words; legalists talk the talk, but they do not walk the walk. The legalist is missing joy, because they live in fear, arrogance and failure. Grace filled believers talk the talk, walk the walk, sing the song, hug in love, live in joy, peace and forgiveness (praise God for that last one!!). A spiritual life is not of our doing, rather it is God’s supreme act of love showered on each of us as His children. Grace- filled believers know that the Holy Spirit is grounded in each of us and is energized by the life giving force of the grace of God.

Today’s acts of love and grace lovingly given by the Father were acts we did not deserve and we did not earn, but God loves us so much that He met our needs as a loving Father cares for His children. Thank you, Father, for your kindness and your continued blessings.

Friends, surrender your needs over to the Father and believe that His grace and love for you is sufficient. Believe that God will supply all your needs.

Take joy in the journey and stay in the shade. 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, July 7, 2009

Happy Tuesday!

1 Kings 17:16 “The flour jar did not empty, and the oil jar did not run dry.”

I love this story. God sends one of His greatest prophets, Elijah, to stay with a poor widow. This widow had no money and was rapidly running out of food and she was responsible for herself and her son. And then God sends them a guest who tells her to make a small cake of flour and oil for him and then go and feed herself and her son. What an amazing act of faith this woman shows us. She goes and does what this total stranger tells her to do. The widow knows that the drought has dried up all of the crops, the cattle are dying and she only has a tiny bit of food in the house. Her faith and the intervention of the Holy Spirit, caused her to go and take the last bit of food and give it to a stranger.

Then God rewarded her faithfulness by never allowing her jar of flour to go empty or her flask of oil to run dry. This passage makes this promise twice within the span of just a few verses and then adds “the flour will not be used up or the jar of oil run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.” And vs. 15 “The reward was enough food for each day for she, her son and Elijah. The times were hard, but because of her faith the Lord provided for their needs.” It does not say that God provided lavish meals of turkey and dressing, candied yams and pie for dessert. No, the passage simply says there was enough food to meet their daily needs. There were no leftovers; just enough to meet the daily needs of this rather odd three member community of faith.

What can we learn from this widow and her faith? Well, first, we can learn that if we surrender our needs over to the Father then He will supply our needs in some way. The devotion I was reading today says that God is not surprised when things happen to us. Some of us have lost jobs. We are really concerned about how we are going to pay the mortgage, make the car payment, keep the utilities going and put gas in the car. Are we feeling desperate?

I feel pretty sure if we read the whole passage in 2 Kings that this woman was feeling pretty desperate. She had a child to feed with no money and almost no food. For a parent, the thought of not being able to feed your family is an awful feeling. If that were me I would go without food if it meant being able to feed my child. I would imagine that the widow was doing without in order that her child might have bread and God told Elijah that He had commanded her to feed him.
This desperate woman needed to learn dependence on the Lord. And Elijah needed to see the power of a faithful woman. So she placed her trust in God and hospitably answered the request of the man of God that was sent to her. She met Elijah’s needs before she met her own. Later when the widow’s son died Elijah prayed to God to restore the life of her son. Elijah saw the faith of the woman and how much she loved her son. Her son’s life was restored. God rewarded Elijah’s growing faith and the woman’s faithfulness to Him.

Times right now are pretty hard for so many people. Can we follow the gift of hospitality like the widow? When times are hard we must learn dependence on Christ. God is not surprised when we lose jobs or money becomes scarce. He knows what our needs are. We are just used to leading lives of abundance. We have always told our children that we will try our very best to provide what they need and some of what they want.

God is our Father. He will meet our needs. He may not meet our needs in the ways in which we expect, but God knows us best and loves us so much. So however He meets our needs we need to accept them with grateful hearts and humble gratitude. Remember His Son did not live a life of extravagance. Jesus chose not the world, but His Father’s plan. God never left His Son and He will not leave us.

Take joy in the journey and stay in the shade. 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, July 6, 2009

Happy Monday! Tonight’s entry is inspired by several friends who are experiencing great trials in their lives. I pray this will help anyone who is going through a tough time right now. After all everyone is going through some kind of battle.

1 Peter 4:12 “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you…But rejoice, in as much as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.”

Have you ever thought “Why am I going through this? I did not ask for it and I do not deserve it and this situation is really awful!” Let’s face it. Times can be really hard. How many of us or our friends are going through a tough time? As I learned while at MD Anderson, “everyone is fighting some kind of battle.” Today’s battles are loss of jobs and income, companies are closing, families are having to uproot and move to other places, some families are having to move in with other members of their own families or friends, personal health issues or health problems of family members and friends. The list could go on forever. I think a lot of the time the stress is on the “what might or could happen” is greater than the actual battle itself. The unknown is the toughest battle of all.

May I just share with you that help and peace and joy are here and any courage we display God will reward. Battles are not pleasant and sometimes they are downright painful. I have often heard the phrase “there is a reason for everything”, but I am not sure I totally agree with that statement. Stuff happens! Whether we invite the trial or the trial is thrust upon us the end result is still the same. How we handle the trial is really the battle. But God takes our trials and leads us through them if we but surrender the trial over to Him and allow Him to teach us and to “tenderly prepare” us for the work He wishes us to do through the trial and beyond.

There may be quick fixes out there, but the most a quick fix might be is a Band-Aid. A Band-Aid does not really fix anything. It just covers up the hurt and protects it a bit, but does no real healing. The only healing that is permanent is the healing that God can provide. God provides healing through His Word, through listening and answering our prayers, through His children helping each other by praying together, listening to each other and being the “God with skin on” that we all need at one time or another.

Whatever trials you are experiencing surrender them over to God. Remember His faithfulness to each of us has always been more than our faithfulness to Him. Recognize how much God loves each of us and allow His loving, compassionate heart and tender mercies to immerse us in His grace. When we do this, the peace, the joy and the help we are seeking will be ours. The old song says, “take it to the Lord in prayer.”

Take joy in the journey and stay in the shade. 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, July 5, 2009

Blessed Sunday! It was a quiet day here on Austin St. We needed a quiet day after our very festive 4th of July celebration. We had 30 + people and four dogs here for the evening. It was so wonderful. We began the evening with the singing of the doxology. I am sure the angels in heaven stopped choir practice to hear the voices raised in song from our backyard. We used 8 tiki torches and two citronella candles to fend off the bugs. We went through 210 pounds of ice to cool down drinks and make three freezers of ice cream. We had wonderful food and great fellowship.

There were three distinct groups in attendance; one group on the deck and in the back yard, another group in the dining room chatting and another group in the living room watching movies. The funniest part of the evening was watching little Levi, Pastor Marc Hander and Jerilyn’s toddler, go in and out of the house through the doggie door and Levi telling Lamar, our basset, to “knock it off” when he and Lamar got nose to nose and Lamar barked at him. Too cute and hilariously funny! At one time I had burgers, hot dogs, brats and chicken all cooking on the grill at the same time. To say that a great time was had by all does not cover it. Then several of us went to the Wal-Mart parking lot and watched the fireworks from The Ballpark. What a great day spent with friends and family. It is my favorite way to spend a day!

Psalm 79:13 “We are Your people, the sheep of Your flock.”

When Jesus compares us to sheep He knew just what He was talking about. One sheep is a lost sheep. They have no sense of direction, they are unprotected, they have no defensive skills and they are not very smart. Sheep get into trouble and do not know how to get themselves out of trouble. Sheep must have a shepherd with a loud clear voice to guide them and sheep must stick together.

Today in worship I was the assisting minister. My responsibilities are to lead the congregational prayers, assist with communion, read a closing prayer following communion and send the congregation with their charge for the week; “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Just prior to leading the congregation in prayers, I ask the congregation to join hands as the “family of God, the body of Christ.” When we pray at home whether it is at the table for grace or as a family at other times we always join hands. I think the joining of hands adds to the power of the group that is praying. The power of a praying church is phenomenal.

When we pray together as a family unit in our homes or in our sanctuaries we are bound together by the love of God, love of family and love of the family of God. The simple touch of one hand to another draws us closer to God and to those with whom we are praying. When my prayer/Bible Study group meets each week we list our prayer concerns in a book. When we pray together at the end of the study time we all join hands around the prayer book and pray for those needs and joys listed. This simple act of the human touch becomes a very spiritual connection that joins us together as one as we lift one another up in prayer.

Do I pray in groups all the time? No. During my morning drive I pray alone most of the time. But if I have something really on my heart I call Bruce and ask him to pray for this need or we pray together over the phone. There is enormous power in group prayer even if the group has only two pray-ers who are agreeing in prayer.

We are the family of God and the sheep of His pasture. God expects us to share our joys, sorrows, trials and triumphs with each other. God expects us to stick together so that no one is left alone and unprotected. So friends, find a prayer partner. Join a prayer group. Pray with your family. Grab a hand and say a prayer.

Take joy in the journey and stay in the shade. 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.

PS Bruce got the kitchen floor laid in the nick of time and it is beautiful! Thanks, darlin’.