Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Christmas Eve!

Isa 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Just an editor’s note: Gaylene is preparing to receive our friends, Carme and Dave, who are coming to our home tomorrow. She is a wonderful cook and is preparing a multitude of sumptuous treats for lunch and so turned the blog over to me for the evening.

Just drive south on Cooper Street toward I-20, or near Lincoln Square in Arlington and it is easy to see how we lose the meaning of Christmas. The malls are full to overflowing. We compete for space on the highways, in the stores, in the parking lots and, sometimes, in our homes.

It seems that there is no time left to contemplate the miracle that happened over 2,000 years ago when a young woman gave birth to a baby who was God incarnate!

This was the same God who had led his people to Egypt to save them from famine, the same God who, some 400 years later led them out of Egypt to the Promised Land, the same God who told Noah to build an ark, the same God who spoke with Moses on the mountain. This was the same God who created the world and all on it, not in fire and smoke, as he appeared to the tribes of Israel, but in the form of a little human child, come down to show us how much he loves us.

In your hustle and bustle, greeting your guests and family members, opening presents, eating - take some time to thank God for His gift to us.

Merry Christmas!

Take joy in the journey. Wear comfortable shoes. Count your blessings and say your prayers. 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.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Thursday! And happy Christmas Eve, Eve.

1 Chronicles 16:31 “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; and let them say among the nations, the Lord reigns.”

This morning before Bruce left for work he called me over and asked me to listen to a flash mob sing the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. The piece was sung from inside the food court at some mall somewhere. Within moments patrons of the food court were on their feet and lifting their hands in praise at this most inspiring happening. It wasn’t long before Bruce and I were in tears and thinking of Casey. We asked ourselves if this was the song played 24/7 in heaven? Do you think they made Casey part of the choir? (If they were smart they did!) And then we just remembered how much we missed him and the tears flowed for a bit more time.

Handel’s father tried to discourage him from pursuing music and instead wanted him to be a lawyer. As many careers go they have their ups and downs and some finally fade away. It was during one of these down times that Handel received in the mail a manuscript from a gentleman and it contained verbatim scripture texts about Christ. The first scripture was “Comfort ye, my people…) Mr. Handel went to his apartment and 23 days later The Messiah was completed. The first performance was in the presence of the king who thought the Hallelujah Chorus was the national anthem and stood up during the singing of this piece. The words “Hallelujah! For He shall reign forever and ever” have been inspiring audiences ever since - even audiences in food courts at the mall!

Journeys are rarely smooth and straight. The journey to Bethlehem 2000 years ago could not have been very smooth for those two travelers. One pregnant and riding a donkey and the other walking. But they made it and even though they delivered their baby in less that pristine conditions, the baby came just as God said it would and they named him Jesus. The audience that night, the barnyard animals, were on their feet as they witnessed this amazing birth and then those who came later led by a star and commanded by angels fell to their knees and worshiped. This was a command performance like no other.

As we prepare our hearts for the night of the birth of our Savior, let us, too, be led by a star and listen for the angel chorus and receive this child into our hearts and lives. Let us bear witness to this miracle and lift our hands in worship as our hearts are stirred and inspired by the child King.

Take joy in the journey. Wear comfortable shoes. Count your blessings and say your prayers. 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 23, 2010

Happy Wednesday!

Guess who I had dinner with tonight? My best friend - Carme Russell. She and Dave were coming in to have Christmas dinner with us and she came a day or two early to attend the funeral of a former teaching colleague. It was a wonderful surprise to share this time together. Dave will arrive on Friday.

Psalm 23:4 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.”

The power of the cross conquered evil. Evil has the power to conquer only those who have not placed themselves into the protection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We must remember to claim this promise with assurance.

I think the greatest evil most of us experience is fear. I think we fear the unknown most of all. We fear that which we cannot control. But if we remember that we surrendered our lives over to the One who conquered evil then fear does not need to be a part of our lives. Fear is not of God.

Tonight we took dinner to Carme’s hotel and had dinner with her. It was late and already dark when we left our house. I had never driven to this hotel before. It was located almost in Las Colinas. Now if any of you know me I am pretty directionally challenged and so driving in the dark to an unfamiliar area was a bit scary. I was blessed with Geni and Travis tonight going with me and Travis with GPS on his phone. Usually I am pretty nervous about this kind of adventure because I am really afraid of getting lost. So tonight I surrendered myself over to the oral directions of the GPS and the gentle encouragement of my children and just drove the car.

I think that is how God wants us to handle experiences great and small. God wants us to realize that He is with us in all things. He wants us to trust and surrender ourselves over to His protection and direction. God’s GPS is never wrong!

So tonight, I took joy in my journey. I encourage each of you to continue to take joy in your journey. Wear comfortable shoes and count your blessings. Let us continue to lift each other up in prayer 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.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Tuesday!

Exhaustion set in at full force last evening and I kept falling asleep with laptop in lap. I gave up trying to write last night and am a bit more awake tonight.

Luke 19:17 “And He said unto him, Well, you good servant: because you have been faithful in a very little, you will have authority over ten cities.”

I received an email from a good friend today and for the journal entry tonight I am going to share it with you. As I reached the end of this wonderful Christmas Story I cried in my soup that I was eating for lunch. It touched my heart and brought back wonderful memories of my daddy during the time I was growing up. He was a service station owner and helped lots of people. This reading is a bit long, but totally worthy!

Take joy in the journey. Wear comfortable shoes. Count your blessings and say your prayers. 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.

This is better than a Christmas Card.

The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. He hadn't been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. It was just another day to him. He didn't hate Christmas, just couldn't find a reason to celebrate. He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the door opened and a homeless man stepped through.

Instead of throwing the man out, Old George as he was known by his customers, told the man to come and sit by the heater and warm up. "Thank you, but I don't mean to intrude," said the stranger. "I see you're busy, I'll just go."

"Not without something hot in your belly." George said.

He turned and opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger. "It ain't much, but it's hot and tasty. Stew ... Made it myself. When you're done, there's coffee and it's fresh."

Just at that moment he heard the "ding" of the driveway bell. "Excuse me, be right back," George said. There in the driveway was an old '53 Chevy. Steam was rolling out of the front. The driver was panicked. "Mister can you help me!" said the driver, with a deep Spanish accent. "My wife is with child and my car is broken." George opened the hood. It was bad. The block looked cracked from the cold, the car was dead.

"You ain't going in this thing," George said as he turned away.

"But Mister, please help ..." The door of the office closed behind George as he went inside. He went to the office wall and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside. He walked around the building, opened the garage, started the truck and drove it around to where the couple was waiting. "Here, take my truck," he said. "She ain't the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good."

George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped off into the night. He turned and walked back inside the office. "Glad I gave 'em the truck, their tires were shot too. That 'ol truck has brand new ." George thought he was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone. The Thermos was on the desk, empty, with a used coffee cup beside it. "Well, at least he got something in his belly," George thought.

George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start. It cranked slowly, but it started. He pulled it into the garage where the truck had been. He thought he would tinker with it for something to do. Christmas Eve meant no customers. He discovered the the block hadn't cracked, it was just the bottom hose on the radiator. "Well, shoot, I can fix this," he said to
himself. So he put a new one on.

"Those tires ain't gonna get 'em through the winter either." He took the snow treads off of his wife's old Lincoln. They were like new and he wasn't going to drive the car anyway.

As he was working, he heard shots being fired. He ran outside and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground. Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, "Please help me."

George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a medic. He knew the wound needed attention. "Pressure to stop the bleeding," he thought. The uniform company had been there that morning and had left clean shop towels. He used those and duct tape to bind the wound. "Hey, they say duct tape can fix anythin'," he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease.

"Something for pain," George thought. All he had was the pills he used for his back. "These ought to work." He put some water in a cup and gave the policeman the pills. "You hang in there, I'm going to get you an ambulance."

The phone was dead. "Maybe I can get one of your buddies on that there talk box out in your car." He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the dashboard destroying the two way radio.

He went back in to find the policeman sitting up. "Thanks," said the officer. "You could have left me there. The guy that shot me is still in the area."

George sat down beside him, "I would never leave an injured man in the Army and I ain't gonna leave you." George pulled back the bandage to check for bleeding. "Looks worse than what it is. Bullet passed right through 'ya. Good thing it missed the important stuff though. I think with time your gonna be right as rain."

George got up and poured a cup of coffee. "How do you take it?" he asked.

"None for me," said the officer.

"Oh, yer gonna drink this. Best in the city. Too bad I ain't got no donuts." The officer laughed and winced at the same time.

The front door of the office flew open. In burst a young man with a gun. "Give me all your cash! Do it now!" the young man yelled. His hand was shaking and George could tell that he had never done anything like this before.

"That's the guy that shot me!" exclaimed the officer.

"Son, why are you doing this?" asked George, "You need to put the cannon away. Somebody else might get hurt."

The young man was confused. "Shut up old man, or I'll shoot you, too. Now give me the cash!"

The cop was reaching for his gun. "Put that thing away," George said to the cop, "we got one too many in here now."

He turned his attention to the young man. "Son, it's Christmas Eve. If you need money, well then, here. It ain't much but it's all I got. Now put that pea shooter away."

George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time. The young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry. "I'm not very good at this am I? All I wanted was to buy something for my wife and son," he went on. "I've lost my job, my rent is due, my car got repossessed last week."

George handed the gun to the cop. "Son, we all get in a bit of squeeze now and then. The road gets hard sometimes, but we make it through the best we can."

He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair across from the cop. "Sometimes we do stupid things." George handed the young man a cup of coffee. "Bein' stupid is one of the things that makes us human. Comin' in here with a gun ain't the answer. Now sit there and get warm and we'll sort this thing out."

The young man had stopped crying. He looked over to the cop. "Sorry I shot you. It just went off. I'm sorry officer."

"Shut up and drink your coffee " the cop said.

George could hear the sounds of sirens outside. A police car and an ambulance skidded to a halt. Two cops came through the door, guns drawn. "Chuck! You ok?" one of the cops asked the wounded officer.

"Not bad for a guy who took a bullet. How did you find me?"

"GPS locator in the car. Best thing since sliced bread. Who did this?" the other cop asked as he approached the young man.

Chuck answered him, "I don't know. The guy ran off into the dark. Just dropped his gun and ran."

George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other.

"That guy work here?" the wounded cop continued.

"Yep," George said, "just hired him this morning. Boy lost his job."

The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher. The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, "Why?"

Chuck just said, "Merry Christmas boy ... and you too, George, and thanks for everything."

"Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there. That ought to solve some of your problems."

George went into the back room and came out with a box. He pulled out a ring box. "Here you go, something for the little woman. I don't think Martha would mind. She said it would come in handy some day."

The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he ever saw. "I can't take this," said the young man. "It means something to you."

"And now it means something to you," replied George. "I got my memories. That's all I need."

George reached into the box again. An airplane, a car and a truck appeared next. They were toys that the oil company had left for him to sell. "Here's something for that little man of yours."

The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that the old man had handed him earlier.

"And what are you supposed to buy Christmas dinner with? You keep that too," George said. "Now git home to your family."

The young man turned with tears streaming down his face. "I'll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is still good."

"Nope. I'm closed Christmas day," George said. "See ya the day after."

George turned around to find that the stranger had returned. "Where'd you come from? I thought you left?"

"I have been here. I have always been here," said the stranger. "You say you don't celebrate Christmas. Why?"

"Well, after my wife passed away, I just couldn't see what all the bother was. Puttin' up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree. Bakin' cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn't the same by myself and besides I was gettin' a little chubby."

The stranger put his hand on George's shoulder. "But you do celebrate the holiday, George. You gave me food and drink and warmed me when I was cold and hungry. The woman with child will bear a son and he will become a great doctor.

The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by terrorists. The young man who tried to rob you will make you a rich man and not take any for himself. "That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any man."

George was taken aback by all this stranger had said. "And how do you know all this?" asked the old man.

"Trust me, George. I have the inside track on this sort of thing. And when your days are done you will be with Martha again."

The stranger moved toward the door. "If you will excuse me, George, I have to go now. I have to go home where there is a big celebration planned."

George watched as the old leather jacket and the torn pants that the stranger was wearing turned into a white robe. A golden light began to fill the room.

"You see, George ...... it's My birthday. Merry Christmas."

George fell to his knees and replied, "Happy Birthday, Lord Jesus"

Merry Christmas!!

This story is better than any greeting card.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Blessed Sunday to you all! What a wonderful day!

Hebrews 11: 1 “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

I seems that when I am really struggling God sends me a message through His Word that brings comfort and consolation or peace and assurance or guidance and strength. All of these words mean the same thing. It is as if God is saying, “Gaylene, I am here. You are my daughter and I love you. Just listen and walk in obedience and everything will work out according to My will.”

I have received this message before—when Casey was first diagnosed with cancer. God told me (through a very wise friend) that no matter what, Casey would be okay. Whether Casey’s body was able to sustain life or not, Casey would be okay. Casey’s body did not survive cancer, but God sustained and flourished Casey’s spirit exponentially. God was with Casey here on earth and Casey is most assuredly with God in heaven now.

And through God’s profound faithfulness I will be okay, too. I have spent the last 48 hours with a feeling of being overwhelmed with the possibilities of having to leave my home and family to go to seminary very far away. I am overwhelmed with all of the course work I must take and I am overwhelmed with the reality of leaving a career I have held for thirty plus years. It is a momentary excitement that “I have been accepted into the candidacy process,” and then the reality of all that must be done in order to achieve the goal and enact the calling to which I have been summoned which makes me stop and take account. It is the space between leaving a former life and beginning a new life.

But here is the thing, “Faith is the assurance of things hope for, the conviction of things not seen—by faith our ancestors received approval—because they were willing to be obedient and do what God called them to do. They walked by faith and not by sight—and so must I. Those who were called were used as vessels for God’s good work; one parted the sea, one loaded an ark and one was crucified. The last was resurrected and lives in each of us by the power of the Holy Spirit. These who have gone before me did not fly over but walked each step as led by God in faith. And I, too, must walk in faith with each step as God leads, then I can rest in the assurance that God will be with me. The journey may be long, but the steps are in God’s hands and I will take each step in joy.

Take joy in the journey. Wear comfortable shoes. Count your blessings and say your prayers. 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 19, 2010

Happy Saturday!

“You have received a positive entrance into the candidacy program.” This was the opening statement made by Steve Zwernemann, chairperson of the candidacy committee. He shared this news with me as the committee reconvened after my interview on Friday morning. I was very pleased with my gaining entrance to the program and just as nervous about the work and unknowns that are ahead of me. It was a very emotional moment for me as I realized that my teaching career will come to an end and this road to service through a different role in education will begin.

While on the weekend I found out that I was the only new entrance candidate in the Synod, but there were other candidates who were there receive endorsement (the second stage of the process) and even one candidate who was there to receive final approval. The other candidates were from Lutheran Seminaries in Iowa, Chicago and Ohio. They were really excited to be someplace without the ground being covered in snow and having to dress like Eskimos. It was a wonderful weekend and I learned a lot from the presentations made and the many chances to visit with the other students. One piece of news that I received is that there is at least one seminary that has online classes. I was greatly encouraged!

John 15: 16 “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.”

I swear God does this to me. I am convinced that I will be able to perform this calling, I just wish I had the same confidence in all of the class work required of me and felt worthy to meet all of the requirements for ordination. There are so many changes ahead for me and frankly I am kind of uncertain about so many of the changes and the challenges this journey will present. Following the “positive entrance” announcement I began to have self doubts and a lot of wonderings about what had just happened and how am I to accomplish all of this. Then I read this passage and remembered that God chose me. God has no intention of me making this journey alone and I will not face anything that God cannot handle.

During the interview one of the pastors said, “I really see you as a hospice chaplain.” When I heard these words all of the pieces fell into place and I knew this was what I needed to hear and this could be the place in which God has chosen me to minister. I did not choose this calling, but God chose me and will use my experience with the loss of Casey and the working of the Holy Spirit to help others in their journeys.

This new journey in my life will be led by the Holy Spirit and I must believe that God will provide all I need to reach this goal of ordination to enact this calling into the ministry of Jesus Christ. I know I will have to rely on God and the prayer support of everyone as I begin this journey and throughout the process of completing my education, internship and final approval and acceptance of a call.

I cannot begin to thank all of you for the prayers and support you have supplied during this time. I simply ask you please continue to pray and ask God to lead me to walk in obedience to this amazing journey.

Take joy in the journey. Wear comfortable shoes. Count your blessings and say your prayers. Love you all and see you in worship, 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, To the ladies of the Advent Prayer Shawl Ministry – I took my prayer shawl with me and used it this weekend. Thank you all very much!