Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Wednesday and Happy Thanksgiving Eve!  All is well here at 811.  The dressing is in the fridge ready for baking in the morning. The giblets are stewed and cooling ready for chopping and I will make the mashed potatoes and green beans in the morning before we leave for Allen.  I love Thanksgiving.  When your children grow up and begin their own traditions sometimes it is tough on parents as we realize we have to grow up too. Both Geni and Travis are creating their own Thanksgiving traditions apart from Bruce and me.  But we are all going to be together at Christmas so everything works out just fine.  The good news is that they are all with the ones they love too and will give thanks. 

The candle is lit…

God, thank you for the comforting light of your presence and the comforting strength of your arm that leads me carefully as I journey. Thank you for creating me and each of us with unique purposes that fits in with your people. I praise you for uniting all of us in love. Lord, today I sent in  the first of the ordination documents. I ask you to walk each step of this process with me and teach me the things you want me to know and learn between now and April. It is my heart’s desire to serve you as an ordained pastor.  I pray to serve you with my whole heart and that you will lead me to live, walk and work among your people with extraordinary purpose.  May the purpose in which I serve You and your people be ordained by you and strengthened by your very love. I love you Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Continuing with the theme of thankfulness God asks each of us to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving to God telling of the kindness of God   and the works of God with songs of joy!  When we bear our circumstances with courage and thanking God for God’s holy Presence during our circumstances we are praising and thanking God in its highest form. This practice is a divine power that will weaken the core of the problem we are facing. And this is the hard part, but it is also the blessing; when we place this discipline into practice we surrender our need to understand “why” and with courage and trust stepping out of the way letting God help us through the circumstance.  The sacrifice of thanksgiving is a practiced discipline that happens over period of time. When we offer our sacrifice we are asking God to let us see our situation through the eyes of God. When we offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving to God we deepen our relationship and come closer to God. This discipline deepens our trust level in ways of mercy, seeing God’s goodness and standing in the light of God’s love.  Besides the personal benefits of practicing the sacrifice of thanksgiving, as others see that we are not only able to endure in our current circumstances but thrive we are able to show God’s strength in our lives and give encouragement to others. 

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”
2 Corinthians 10: 3-4
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING.”
Proverbs 3: 5
Take joy in the journey praising, praying, laughing, and encouraging others as you go. Enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving Day. GO FROGS!!!! Wear purple, comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Tuesday!  All is well here at 811. I met with Chris today and began work on the ordination packet. We also began to put some language together for the paper. It was a really good meeting. I am very grateful to him for all of his help. I also made the dinner rolls with the yellow cake mix. They are pretty easy and really yummy. They are a sweet dinner roll, but if you butter them with salted butter the flavor balances well. I also thought that when the after thanksgiving lunch munchies occur these rolls will be awesome with a piece of ham as a slider.  Just a couple of hints:  I kneaded in the final cup of flour by hand on a cutting board, I oiled the bowl and the top of top of the dough at the first rising, the second rising takes around 30 minutes.  My recipe made 24 large rolls. I think I may try to make the dough into individual rolls and not cut them in the pan as the directions tell. 

The candle is lit…

Lord, I do believe in You! Thank you for sending Jesus to open the way to you and for constantly shining light on my life.  Thank you for the gift of thankfulness and when I fail to be thankful please forgive me. May I be ever mindful how fragile life is and be thankful for all of your countless blessings. Lord, thank you for loving me as if I was the only one in the world. As your child Wynonna says, “To the world I am one, but to One I am the world.”  Thank you loving Lord for prayer, watching over me and again the gift of thankfulness.  I love you Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.

In just a little more than 24 hours we will dedicate an entire day just for giving thanks.  According to Sarah Young, the author of Jesus Calling, “ A thankful attitude opens windows of heaven through which spiritual blessings fall freely.” There is a wonderful song with the lyric, “Thankfulness, thankfulness is all I long for. Thankfulness, thankfulness is all I need.  Thankfulness is all You want from me.”  God requires and thankful heart, a heart of gratitude and the blessings from the storehouse of God’s love will rain down upon us. Scripture tells us that being thankful is vital to our health and well-being and to our healing and wholeness.  Because thankfulness is a gift from God it is a spiritual blessing.

God, who loves us so very much, is the God of grace and if we forget to be grateful then all we need to do is to ask for forgiveness and be thankful for that forgiveness.  Thankfulness is a priceless gift and if we remember the cost of Christ on the cross it will help- each of us to practice thankfulness throughout the day.  God is good. Give thanks and God wins.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. “
Psalm 100: 4
Blessed be the God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
Ephesians 1: 3

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, giving thanks, and encouraging others as you go.  Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Monday, November 24, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Monday!  All is well here at 811. It is the first day of my thanksgiving break and I got my extra errands done today before the cooking frenzy begins. Tomorrow I am trying a new dinner roll recipe that you make with a cake mix.  Sounds interesting! I promise a full report. But the best part of today was the long wonderful visit we had with Bruce’s brother, Dale from Memphis.  We had a long leisurely dinner and such a wonderful visit. We got caught up on kids, pets, music, his precious wife Twylagayle, holiday plans and when we will see each other again.  It was great!! In my devotional time this morning about thankfulness I was reminded that God plants treasures of thanksgiving throughout the day and by the end of the day we have a whole bouquet of things for which to be thankful.  Our visit with Dale tonight was among one of the most wonderful treasures. 

Dear God, thank you for the treasure of Your presence in our lives. Thank you for family and the safe arrival of Geni and Cody in Florida.  Thank you Lord for your love and grace and that Lord I can find your heart to be a resting place and a home.  Lord, tomorrow I will begin working on the logistics of the final ordination process. Help me to breathe and have a calm heart and take this final leg of the journey one step at a time. I know Lord that You will help me to do my very best and I have total confidence in You that You will do as you have promised. You have promised to provide the desires of my heart and I know you will help and inspire as I write the final paper. I am trusting my ways to you Lord and asking you to work on my behalf. I love you Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

God created each of us and calls us children of God. We are collectively the children of God no matter what we believe, how we act or what we believe. But until we enter into a relationship with Jesus we do not come to know God intimately and personally. When we enter into that relationship we are given the identity as child of God and brother/sister to Jesus. We are marked with the cross of Christ forever and begin an eternal relationship.  God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in us making an eternal connection to the Presence of God in our lives. We can never lose this relationship because it is not based on anything we can do or should do. It is solely based on God’s great love for us. 

I have known all of these things for a long time, but tonight my meditation shares this extra piece of knowledge. When we sin we show God dishonor because the Holy Spirit is in our heart telling us, “Stop resisting my, beloved! Trust me. Rest in me. I will satisfy you and give you plenty.”  These words are ideas I will continue to ponder, but they have certainly shed a new light about the presence of the Holy Spirit. Since my heart is the home of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence in me through faith in Jesus lets me know I need to listen to the Holy Spirit a lot more carefully.  I know I have no fear of losing the Holy Spirit within me, but maybe I need to listen more closely when my heart needs a good cleaning so that there is more space for God to dwell.

“This is my resting place forever. Here is where I want to stay. I will bless her with plenty.”
Psalm 132: 14-14
“O Lord, arise, and come to your resting place.”
Psalm 132: 8

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and encouraging other as you go. Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Blessed Sunday to you all!  All is well here at 811.

The candle is lit…

Dear God, I need you in my life each day and night. Your presence is more wonderfully satisfying especially with family, friendships and all that this life has to offer.  Lord, I do not live a perfect life because I am not perfect. But Lord I do live an abundant life. I live a life that is filled with Your love, grace, peace, forgiveness and tender mercies. Lord, I thank you for the people in my life that are so precious; Bruce, Geni, Travis and Sarah. I give thanks for the family that birthed me and all of those who have been added to the family register through the years. I thank you for friends, work and ministry. As I sit in Your presence my heart is filled with thankfulness. Thank you Lord for Your continual presence in my life.  I love you Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.

I am thankful that Jesus poured out His blood on the cross that day at Calvary.  It is that radical gift of love that connects us all. For when that blood was shed we all became connected through Holy DNA with God as our Creator and Father to Jesus out of God’s great love for us.  Romans 8 tells us that nothing can ever separate us from the Love of God. 

This is Thanksgiving week.  I have many things for which to give thanks. It has been quite a year here at 811. And even though not everything that happened was a situation of thankfulness, I was able to find thankfulness in the difficult times.  And in the tough times I remembered the passage from Romans 8 about never being separated from the love of God.  What a great love for which to be thankful!

Eph. 5: 20 tells us to “Give thanks for all things in Jesus’ name.” So what are the things for which to give thanks in Jesus name? Unfailing love, eternal unmerited grace, tender mercies, healing and wholeness, complete forgiveness, salvation are just some of the things that are of “Jesus’ name.”  I do not see cancer, strokes or other illnesses on the list. While life does not always hand us situations for which to be thankful, as children of God and brother(s) and sisters(s)  to Christ all carrying the same Holy DNA we can find treasures of thanksgiving even in the toughest of situations. Because in the most difficult of times God walks with us and never leaves our side.   And if all we can pray is “Thank you Jesus.” Then we have found ourselves on Holy ground and  living the abundant life. 

“Always giving thanks to God the father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 5: 20
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (we sang this song this morning!)
Psalm 118: 1

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing, giving thanks for the presence of God along the way and encourage others. Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Saturday!  All is well here at 811 and we are warm and dry at the end of this wet and chilly day. It was my joy this evening to preside over worship and Eucharist at the Via De Cristo supper and instructional evening.  It was great to see everyone and a joy to worship with them once again. And finally…Happy birthday to Dr. Ken Helvey PhD.  This is my dear brother.  I love this man dearly and look forward to seeing him on Thursday!

The candle is lit…
Dear God, thank you for the promise of your constant love and the hope it brings to my life. As I continue to walk a life in grace help me to remember to pray for those it is difficult for whom to pray and to find a place of thanksgiving in situations that seem void of any thanksgiving at all. Tonight I lift to you the family of Sandy Brandon. Her family has experienced a tragic loss this week and are in great need of your love surrounding them and the comfort and peace that only You can provide. I pray that the friendship of others will cover them in love and kindness as they walk this sad and tragic road. May they come to see and feel the warmth and light of your love and the hope of a brighter day.  I love you Lord and I love sweet Sandy. Thank you Lord for being with them. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Most of us have walked through this life and at some time or other been betrayed, lost a friendship, had a broken relationship, experienced a failed relationship or lost a loved one in death. All of these occurrences have one thing in common; the result is a broken heart.  Each of these times in our lives have left us at least for a while thinking that we will never be whole again.  We may even become angry at God and ask God or ourselves “Why did God let this happen?”  When I visit with folks in a pastoral care relationship I get this question a lot. My usual answer is that it was not God that allowed this to happen, but life happens. Sometimes we bring life on ourselves in the choices we make and sometimes life is thrust on us in devastating ways.  I also get this question, “Does God still love me even after the choices I have made or because of all of this tragedy I did nothing to incur?” 

The answer is God always  loves you eternally, completely and unconditionally. God is far bigger than our choices, our pain, our doubts and failures. God’s love is not a love that condemns.  Listen again…God’s love does not condemn.”  God’s love meets us where we are and does not look back. God’s love calls us forward into forgiveness of the one(s) who have hurt us and most importantly to forgive ourselves. The love of God is “consistent and predictable.”  Because  the perfect love of God surrounds us in grace and truth and assures us with hope.  This is the hope that will allow us to love again, trust again, healing our broken hearts and gives us the courage to offer our hearts to love once again. God is good and love wins!!

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34: 18
“My flesh and my heart fail :  but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”
Psalm 73: 26

Take joy in the journey praising, praying, laughing and encouraging others as you go.  Pray for Sandy’s family and they work through this most difficult time and try to find ways to be thankful as we are in the season of Thanksgiving. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Thursday!  All is well here at 811. Bruce is progressively getting over his sinus infection and even worked some today.  He will go to rehab tomorrow for the first time this week. The funny thing is that this was the first week he was to begin the step-down process to discharge. The plan was to go to rehab on MWF. Well, this week he is only going on Friday.  Tomorrow is another family conference and so we will see if anything changes. 

The candle is lit…

Dear God, Help us to stay steadfast in hope and to trust your perfect will.  Lord, we place our hope in you as we walk together in this life here on earth. Sometimes the road is smooth and it is easy to stay in step with you. And then sometimes the road is rough and steep and we are tempted to look to the past and see mistakes and bad choices. Forgive us Lord when we fall out of step with you and try to walk this life on our own strength. Help us to remember that any strength we have comes from You. And Lord, when we fall behind and don’t know what to do please rescue us by the calling of Your name.  We love you Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.

I have been to despair. It is no fun.  But as I have thought about the times I have been in despair over something I finally figured out that despair happens when we seek out options to problems and do not include God.  We believe we know what is best for us and we may have even convinced ourselves that God has abandoned us when in truth we have left God out of the hope of correcting the situation. 

We all know that without God there is no hope.  The truth is that no matter what is going on in our lives God is always there to help.  The catch for us is that God’s timing does not always coincide with our time table. Being ever mindful that we live in 24 days and the first of the month while God lives in eternal time, I believe there is a way to not fall into despair.

While we are waiting for God to work in our lives it is vital that we stay in tune with God and daily meditate on God’s Word. Spending time in conversation with God throughout the day through prayer helps to hold on to our real hope which is in God through faith in Jesus.  Then as we wait…wait with the expectation of God’s goodness to flow down upon us filling  us with God’s very best.  God is good and love wins!

“Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!”
Psalm 27: 14
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”
Psalm 27: 13

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, giving thanks and encouraging others along the way. Stay in step with God and call on God for help no matter what!  Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Wednesday!  All is well here at 811. I think Bruce’s day spent in house really helped and your prayers have been powerful. Thank you so very much.

The candle is lit…

God, I thank you for giving us reason to have confidence in You. Lord, there are many folks out there who are experiencing such devastating brokenness in their lives. Lord, when I am hurting so badly it almost takes my skin off You remind me of the beautiful lyric, “And when my plans have fallen through and when my strength is nearly gone. When there is nothing left to do, but just depend on you and the power of Your name.”  Lord, there is such power in just speaking your name. You know our hurts, our situations even before we ask. Sometimes Lord the hurt is so bad that we cannot even voice it and all we can do is call Your name.  Thank you for Your kindness and understanding and when we are broken. Thank you for your compassion that does not call us to shame, but wraps us in Your loving Presence and cries with us. Thank You Lord and Savior that whatever we are struggling with can be conquered by Your love and tender mercies. Heal us loving Lord, and make us whole once again. We love you so much Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Through the stories in the Bible we find people who faced great hardships and seemingly overwhelming challenges. The interesting thing about these folks such as Moses, Joshua, David and Paul is that they were ordinary people of their time. Moses was a shepherd, Joshua was a stone carver, David was also a shepherd and Paul was a tentmaker.  They had no remarkable skill for leadership,  but they all had one thing in common. They accepted the Lordship of God and Paul; Jesus into their lives and acted in obedience to the call of God on their lives. And while they each faced overwhelming challenges and adversity in their lives they did not rely on their own strength, but relied on the strength in God in whom they believed with all of their hearts.  They trusted God no matter how bad it got.  They believed that God could overcome whatever devastating situations were going on in their lives.

We are given that same right to the same confidence as these legendary men of God. No matter what situation we find ourselves whether we have brought it on ourselves or it has been thrust upon us God will be with us giving us the confidence to trust in the power of God’s own love for us.  And even though it is really hard for us, we need to try not to fear being put to shame by our God who loves us so very much.  So my friends pray for healing and wholeness believing that we are loved and  made whole and in humble obedience call on the name of the Lord.

“Some trust in their war chariots and others in their horses, but we trust in the power of the LORD, our God. Such people will stumble and fall, but we will rise and stand firm.”
Psalm 20: 7-8
Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and encouraging others as you go. Stay in step with the Lord not slower or faster for God will walk by our side.  Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep.  Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Tuesday!  All is well here at 811. Bruce remained at home today and is still recovering from a sinus infection.  Please continue to pray for him. He is really tired of being miserable and miserable about being too tired to be able to work. 

The candle is lit…

Dear God, Thank you for never leaving us or forsaking us. Lord, we are coming the time of the year where families gather and share grand meals together and are reminded of the many things for which we are thankful. But there are those who feel so lonely.  Some are so lonely that they feel in bondage to their loneliness. Help us to love others as you love us and help those who are lonely to feel the love that only you can give.  I love you so much. Thank you for your gracious love that lets us know we are never alone. In Jesus’ name, amen.

I suppose there are times in all of our lives that we feel lonely. Being alone and being lonely are two different things. Being alone simply means that we are physically by ourselves and most of us do not mind small amounts of alone time. But being lonely is not just the absence of another person being near, but inner feelings of rejection, separation from loved ones and feelings of unworthiness.  These feeling of alienation can become a “private prison.”  These feelings can become destructive and a mindset that is pretty hard from which to escape.

Those of us who believe in God know and believe from scripture that “God will never leave us or forsake us.” (Deuteronomy 31: 6) Loneliness is something God desires to heal in our lives through God’s enduring presence and healing care.  Because of God’s great love and promises to us we are never alone. It is the power of the Holy Spirit living in us that we are assured of God’s unfailing love. As we grow in our relationship with God we learn to trust in God’s promises to be with us always.   Sometimes one of the ways we have God with us is to find other Christians and be a part of “God with skin on.” 

So my friends let us  be observant of those around us and see if there is someone who needs to have a Thanksgiving dinner with a family or a group of friends and set an extra place. The One who will never leave us or forsake you will rejoice if you do for in that space and time it will be a glimpse into  kingdom of God.

“I feel completely secure, because you protect me from the power of death. I have served you faithfully, and you will not abandon me.”
Psalm 16: 9-10
“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Psalm 16: 11
Take joy in the journey and know that you are never alone. Go down the path praising, praying, laughing and encouraging others as you go. Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Monday, November 17, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Monday!  All is well here at 811. Bruce is improving.   Thank you for your continued prayers. 

The candle is lit…

Dear God, I praise you for working out all things for the good of those who love you and are called according to your purpose. Thank you for using my life’s boundaries for your glory, the benefit of others and to show us your purpose for our lives. Thank you for the rewarding work I am blessed to do each day. I am led by you to help children learn to read and spend time each day with friends and loved ones.  And as I pray each day to place before me someone I can help, I surrender my time each day to you.  Help me to stay in tune with you throughout each day so that I do not miss an opportunity to share your love and grace with others.  I love you Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tonight my meditation really hits home with me and has given me some thoughts about how God uses our life situations to shape our personalities and how we will choose to serve God.  We may go through really tough times and even if those difficult times are happening now they are not a mistake, but a way to trust God to help when we are in need. Do not misunderstand I do not think God thrusts difficulties upon us. I happen to believe that life happens and life is not always strawberries and cream and lovin’ all the time.  But I do believe that trusting our brokenness to God for healing allows God to shape us and use the difficulties we have faced to help others.

When life presents us with adversity and brokenness we can ask God to heal our brokenness and use this situation for good.  We can ask for the pain we are experiencing to be changed into a purpose.  We may not always understand how God could use our situations for good and healing, but God will bless abundantly (I love that word) if we will ask for help and then allow our loving God of grace and mercy to lead us through. And if we are so courageous and trusting to find a hint of praise in the brokenness no matter how small God rejoices in our mustard seed of faith; for that is all God asks. Listening to God and seeking God’s wisdom deepens our relationship with God and reminds us of God’s faithfulness to us.  God is good and love wins!

“I will praise the LORD who counsels me—even at night my conscience instructs me. I keep the LORD in mind always, because the LORD us at my right hand, and I will not be shaken.”
Psalm 16: 7-8

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing, and encouraging others as you go. Wear comfortable shoes, extra socks and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Blessed Sunday to you all!  All is not well here at 811. Bruce seems to have a pretty nasty sinus infection.  It has been a few years since he has had one and it has hit him pretty hard. He will not be going to rehab tomorrow and hopefully another day at home will help. Say an extra prayer for him. Thank you so very much.

The candle is lit…

Lord, thank you for your gracious presence in our lives. Thank you for helping when we ask and making the provision we need. Thank you for days of dedicated worship when we can praise you in song, Word, preaching, prayer and offering.  Lord, I am not worthy on my own of your love and eternal life so I have trusted you for my salvation. Thank you for covering me with your goodness, your grace, your mercy and forgiveness. But most of all Lord, thank you for loving me through the life of Jesus your Son.  I love you Lord so much, amen.

I have a confession to make. I have spent most of my life thinking I would never measure up to those around me. I felt others were smarter, faster, prettier, better liked etc…in my meditation tonight I read Psalm 15 and it  discusses this very issue.  I love the Psalms as they are the prayers of God’s people to God written for all kinds of reasons.  It examines “the heart of humanity’s deepest problem—is anyone worthy of living in heaven with God?”  If you read the psalms they tell that we must be honest, kind, keep all of the commandments and never do wrong to others. “  I don’t know if I can meet all of these requirements.  But of these two things I am sure…first, because I do not have the ability to be “good enough” shows my great need for God’s help and presence in my life. Second, my help comes from the Lord through the death and resurrection of Jesus as I trust Jesus for my personal salvation. When Jesus goes before God to plead for us we are covered in righteousness and we are worthy of dwelling in heaven and to be a part of the kingdom on earth. 

“Lord, who can dwell in Your tent? Who can live on Your holy mountain?”
Psalm 15: 1
“Such people will stand firm forever.”
Psalm 15: 5
Take joy in the journey praying, praising, giving thanks, laughing and encouraging as you go. Wear comfortable shoes, stay warm and get some sleep.  Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Saturday! All is well here at 811. Today I spent time with my beautiful daughter running some errands and having lunch and tonight Geni, Travis and Sarah and Bruce took me to dinner at Lupe’s Mexican Restaurant to continue my weekend birthday celebration.  I am at an age where the best gifts do not always come wrapped in paper with pretty bows. My gifts today were spending time with my daughter, waking up next to Bruce and then having all of them around a table tonight together. The best memories of growing up with the kids were time around the table.  It was never quiet. It was fun, silly, welcoming, filled with love and good food.  For me the table whether in my dining room or at a restaurant  when surrounded by family is a holy place.  So my dear family, thank you for a wonderful evening.  I will not soon forget the joy and laughter, the sangria and the cherries!

The candle is lit…

Dear God, thank you for your blessings of friends and family. Thank you for being in our lives and building our family. You have been the foundation of our family since we became a two person family and then caused it to increase. Lord, you have promised that all things grounded in You will receive joy because they have been established by your wisdom and your gracious love. So tonight Lord, I thank you for my family. They bring me great joy and I am ever grateful to your for them and Your life being lived out in them. I love you Lord so much. In Jesus’ name, amen.

We have talked about waiting before. Waiting for us is just not that easy or any fun at all. We are so used to instant responses that waiting on answers to prayers can sometimes get really tough.  Well, here is a news flash…God does not work on a chronological time table or respond like speed dial. God works on eternal time.   And even when we pray for things for a very long time and we are not seeing a response to our prayer just remember that the power is not in the one who prays. The power is in the One who hears the prayer. Our time does not always coincide with God’s time, but God’s timing is always perfect.  During this time of waiting we are growing in our faith and building an even deeper relationship with God than we had before. No matter what the circumstances are God reminds us to trust Him and to not be discouraged.  We have not been forgotten and answers to our questions and our cries for help are being heard.  Count on God’s unfailing love and unmerited grace to cover us while we wait helping us to trust God even more deeply than we ever have before.  God is good and love wins!

“I have thrown myself headlong into your arms__I’m celebrating your rescue. I’sm singing at the top of my voice. I am so full of answered prayers.

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing, and encouraging others as you go.  Wear comfortable shoes, stay warm and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Friday, November 14, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
TGIF  Today God is First!  All is well here at 811. Bruce and I spent the evening with a PPV movie; The Jersey Boys , pizza from New Yorker and shared a cannoli.  The children at school and many teachers wished me a Happy Birthday. I received more FB good wishes that I may be possibly able to respond, but I will try! And came home to several card in the mailbox. This birthday was really wonderful! Thank you all so very much.

The candle is lit…

Dear God, thank you for seeing me though another birthday here on earth. Through your precious people I have felt love from all sides today. I give you thanks that you are turning what could have been tragic  illness  in the last year into great healing victories. Thank you for your gracious comfort and help me to bring comfort to others. Lord, help me to continue to trust in you so that I remain in the center of your perfect care.  Thank you for seeing the path ahead for me and leading me through by your guiding light and trusted hand. I love you Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.

It is sometimes hard to understand how we can use the difficult times in our lives for something good. Scripture tells us that God catches every tear not letting any of them fall to the ground and making them into something beautiful.  When tough times happen in my life and the situation makes no sense and is very hurtful I often ask God “What am I supposed to learn from this?”  The truth is that if we stay in tune with God in times of hurt we are being trained to help others through similar situations. I have found over the years that one of the best ways to heal is to help someone else. Walking through adversity with a friend is most often healing for both parties. You know how it feels to hurt and for me these difficult life events give a new direction of ministry  and opportunities to minister to those who have had similar tough times in their own lives.  While I find it impossible to give thanks to God for hard times, I find it joyous to give thanks when the trial is over.

 So my friends, if you have gone through a difficult time you have wisdom that someone else might need to get through what they are going through. Let us pray and ask God to place us in contact with those who need a listening ear, some direction and more than anything else…hope for a brighter day. 

“They who sow in tears shall reap in joy and singing.”
Psalm 126: 5
“He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy.”
Psalm 126: 6

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, singing, laughing and encouraging others as you go. Stay warm, wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Thursday!  All is well here at 811. I have to share that I have the most wonderful surprising husband on the planet.  I will be 59 tomorrow. He surprised me with gifts tonight and dinner tomorrow night. The night he had the stroke a year and a half ago I told him I was not through loving him yet.  And after almost thirty four years of marriage I cannot even imagine being married to anyone else. I told him as we were standing together tonight that my birthday gift happens each morning when I wake up next to him and say good night each evening.  So, thank you my beloved for the surprises you continue to bring to my life and the joy I live in loving you.

The candle is lit…

Dear God, I want to know you more---teach me your ways. Thank you that when I seek you, I find everything I need and all that my heart desires.  You will always be my perfect Defender. I praise you for covering me with your wisdom, strength, and love. Lord, may you be exalted forever. Please continue to bless Bruce with healing and progress in the stroke recovery and for blessing his heart with love for you, love for others; me, his son and daughter, and daughter-in-law. Thank you for giving him a heart of joy, caring and surprise or two. I love you Lord and I thank you for the blessings of love, family and friends and your eternal grace that covers all of us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The world tells us to pursue fame, power, accomplishments, brighter, whiter smiles, great financial gains and great amounts of busyness.  When we take inventory of our lives what do we find? Do we find that some of our relationships and activities do not bring about a lasting satisfaction that we are seeking?  And even diamonds (yes, I love diamonds) while they make sparkle with brilliant fire do not bring warmth. (Except maybe for the memories of the one who gave them to you…just saying.)

Pursuing the intangibles are the things that bring lasting joy and fulfillment.  Seek God.  Joy and fulfillment will fill the empty spaces when the fleeting things of earth have grown cold. Seeking a relationship with God gives us a firm place on which to stand and to find satisfaction for our souls through the Presence of God’s love, enduring grace and purpose for our lives. Seek God with all of your heart my friends.  God will teach our hearts lasting peace that can never be taken away, run out, tarnish or end. Seeking God allows us to be surrounded by God’s love, wisdom and strength forever.

“Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
Psalm 9: 10
“Those who trust the LORD, are like Mount Zion, which can never be shaken. It remains firm.”
Psalm 125: 1

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and encouraging others as you go. Stay warm, wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Wednesday!  All is well here at 811. I hope this writing finds you all warm and happy this night.

The candle is lit…

Dear God, thank you for teaching me about your healing and forgiveness. I don’t want to sin against you; I want to have a loving reverence for you that You have placed your strength in me. The strength that I find when I need it comes from the joy I have in being your child and in Your promises found in scripture.. By myself I know I am not strong, but you are strong enough for all of us. Thank you for Your comfort and letting us cry when we are sad or hurt or grieving. For You who created tears also created laughter. When times come for strength in me or any of us I/we trust you to be strong enough for all of us.  Thank you Lord for all of these things. I love you Lord, in Jesus’ name, amen.

I have always believed in God and in my mid-teens I came into personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus.  I began to learn more about God by reading the Bible.  I read some scriptures that disturbed me and I did not understand about fearing God. I had met and fallen in love with Christ and learned about God’s unfailing love and saw no reason to fear God who proclaimed love for us so passionately through the stories of Jesus.  This seemed very contradictory to me!!  How could a God who loved and forgave me be someone to be feared? 

As I began to mature in faith and knowledge I began to understand that godly fear is not fright or terror, but reverence and respect.  Godly reverence means honoring God with our life in piety; study, service, prayer and worship practices.  These practices help us to maintain our relationship with God. When we tell God much we need help in our weakness then we can trust that God will give us the strength to do what we cannot do on our own.  When we are honest with God confessing our sins to God causes God to heal us and forgive us teaching us that God is one to be loved, respected and revered. God is our friend and a better friend we will never have.  God is good and love wins!

“With all my heart, I am waiting, LORD, for you! I trust your promises…Trust the LORD! God is always merciful, and God has the power to save you.”
Psalm 130: 5. 7
Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and encouraging others as you go. Super cold tonight so throw on an extra blanket (we used my beautiful TCU quilt!) tonight and warm clothes for the morning. Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Tuesday!  All is well here at 811.

The candle is lit…

DearGod, I never want to be without you. I know you will always love and help me. God, your flawless character and wonderful name always perfectly provide for all my needs. You name is above every other, and I praise you forever!  You are the God who defends us. You are the God who heals all of our wounds and provides for all of our needs. You forgive us completely and perfectly and provide tender mercies. God you are peace. You are grace and have named each of us highly favored and filled us with your grace in Jesus’ name. You are love. Thank you Lord Jesus for being our all in all. I love you so much, in Jesus’ name, amen

When I was living at MD Anderson with Casey while he was receiving treatment it occurred to me that I could not imagine trying to fight cancer without God in our lives. To my way of thinking when it comes to that disease if you do not have faith in God who heals and sustains then you have no tools with which to fight.

After reading my meditation tonight I came to the realization that I never want to be without God. In times of plenty or want, sickness or health or  good times and adversity God will always be there to take care, to heal, to provide and sustain. While other people even those we love will fail us God will never fail us. It takes a lot of life events to experience God’s faithfulness and understand how God is unlike anyone else we know and will never let us down. 

Trust is not easy for most of when we start out in a relationship with God. I give thanks that God is a “patient and wise teacher.”  But as we continue to set our hearts on learning more about God each day through the life and character of Jesus, we begin to learn and understand the truth.  We begin to understand that God loves us and wants to help us in all the ways we ask no matter what we need. 

“O LORD, in Your favor toward Your people; visit me with Your salvation, that I may see the prosperity of Your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation.”
Psalm 106: 4-5
Then they believed his words were true and broke out in songs of praise.”
Psalm 106: 12

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, thanking God and encouraging others as you go. Throw an extra blanket on the bed because baby it’s cold outside!  Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Monday, November 10, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Monday!  All is well and in recovery from a very busy and spirit filled weekend. I served as a Spiritual director at a Vic De Cristo Weekend and we attended the TCU vs. KSU football game in Fort Worth.  Frogs Won!  It was a great weekend. I think one more good night’s sleep and I will be ready for the children tomorrow!  Thank you for praying for this weekend; the participants and staff felt the powerful  presence of God through the prayers from here in the Metroplex and around the world.

The candle is lit…

Dear God, I praise you for your holy loving ways. Thank you that I can always count on you. You are so wonderful. Thank you for your wonderful provision. Thank you for your perfect grace that covers, and comforts us completely. And Lord, when we don’t understand what is going on in our lives and life seems to be doing a turnaround help us remember that even we turn around you are there. Help us to remember that when our plans have fallen through and when our strength is nearly gone that there is nothing left to do but just depend on you and the power of your name.  I love you Lord, in Jesus’ name, amen.

We think of God as one who can see all, do all, be all and is all powerful.  But God, because of His perfect character has some things that God will not do.  God does not break promises to us. God will never use  His knowledge for evil, but will only use wisdom to help us.  It is not in the mind or heart of God to every, no matter what, stop caring about us, but cause at the heart of God’s perfect character is love.  And if or when we start down a path of destruction we are offered salvation to seal our eternal relationship.  Life is not a linear journey. Sometimes predictable things happen and sometimes we are blindsided by life.  But here is the good news…no matter what,  God is with us and loves us with unfailing and everlasting love. Let us trust our God with all our heart and soul because God can’t fail!!

“Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.”
Psalm 96: 7

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and encouraging others along the way. Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Wednesday!  All is well here at 811. I really like sweatshirt/sweater weather!  I have worn boots every day this week. Yesterday when I got out of the car and the school to cast my vote it was cold wet and rainy. But I was warm and dry from the feet on up. My friends, I will be leaving for the via De Cristo Weekend tomorrow afternoon and will not be able to write again until possibly Sunday night.  Please pray for the weekend, the staff and participants. I know that you may not even know for whom you are praying, but remember that the power of the prayer does not lie with the one who prays, but the One who hears the prayer.  Thank you mighty and faithful prayer warriors!

God, How awesome it is to communicate with You in prayer. You are the King of the universe and creator of all and you desire communication with your human creation above all others.  Thank you that we can come before you for help, praise, thanksgiving and forgiveness and receive all of what we have asked and praise You not for what you do, but for who You are.  Thank you that we may delight in You and that we may approach Your throne of grace receiving mercy and finding the grace we need in time of need. I love You Lord, in Jesus name, amen.

I was raised on two television shows on Saturday night growing up. I knew if I was at home or at my Mamo’s (if Mom and Dad had gone out) that I would watch these two shows; The Gospel Singing Jubilee and Lawrence Welk. Remember I am old. The Gospel Singing Jubilee was an hour long program of gospel quartet singing. The headline group that sang was The Happy Goodman Family.  This family of a mother, father, son and brother sang classic southern gospel music. The lead in most of the pieces was a woman with a big voice and big hair named Vestal Goodman. She was beloved by many.  Vestal and her husband Howard went on to sing with the Gaither Homecoming folks. ( I have always wanted to sing with the Gaither Homecoming folks and believe that I can sing with the best of them, but I am pretty sure that I do not have enough hair.)  The folks who sang with Vestal  have spoken of her faith and her extraordinary prayer life. Her prayer life was pretty simple. When she wanted to talk to God she stopped, walked into the throne room of grace and told God how she needed help, gave thanks, asked for forgiveness, praised him and told God how much she loved Him.  She was bold in her prayer life.

Prayer is a wonderful privilege that brings changes in our circumstances and in the people with who we encounter. “Prayer can be the difference in confusion and clarity, hurt and healing, defeat and victory and even between life and death.” (Joyce Meyer)  There are a lot of ways to pray, but the most effective way to pray is to pray boldly and using the words that come straight from our hearts.  God wants us to come before Him without fear and confidently being specific in our needs.  Our God knows us and loves so much that we will receive the promised help when we need it. God listens to our hearts as well as our words.

“Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace,,,that we may receive mercy…and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it.]
Hebrews 4: 16

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, encouraging and asking for help as you go.  Wear comfortable shoes and a warm jacket. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Tuesday!  All is well  here at 811.

The candle is lit…

My blessed and holy God, You are the great I AM. I thank you for being faithful and trustworthy in my life and in the lives of all your people. May your name be cherished forever. Lord, there are times I have questions. Please settle my heart and help me to rest in the hope that one day all my questions will be answered as I stand in your presence. Lord. There are wonderful people preparing to serve you in the Via De Cristo Weekend. Please continue to prepare our hearts so serve you. Lord please calm the anxiousness of the participants as they come in faith to learn so much more about you.  I love you Lord, in Jesus name, amen.

I tutor first through fourth graders in reading each day. When they get stuck on a word then often look on the ceiling, around the room or on my face to try and figure out the word. The mantra in my teaching is that “A good reader always looks at the words.”  The children learn this simple verse the first time I meet with them.  When they look for answers anywhere except on the page of writing I remind them that the words are not written on my face or on the ceiling, but are written on the page.  Then I have them repeat what a good reader does. 

I think this is a pretty good less for all of us when it comes to our study of scripture and using it as the place to find answers to our questions.  As believers in God we have a book that will help us find answers to the questions in our lives. And if we combine the reading of scripture with prayer allowing God wo speak to us through His Written Word and then to reveal its meaning to us in prayer through the Holy Spirit then I don’t know about you, but I find peace in the Presence of God in both written word and revealed understanding.

We may never know the answers to all of our questions from all of the experiences in our loves. And maybe we will be given those answers when we meet Jesus face to face or maybe when we reach heaven the questions won’t even matter. But I know we can trustingly place our faith in God and our hope in the wisdom of God and God’s eternal love. The words are not written on our faces or on the ceiling, but they are written in a pretty amazing book.  Remember, “A good reader always looks at the WORD.” 

“I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God who made heaven and earth and mountains.”
Psalm 121: 1

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and encouraging others as you go.  Wear comfortable shoes, pray for others and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Monday, November 3, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Monday!  All is well here at 811. Bruce is stepping out once again and has returned to Bible Study Fellowship.  He seems to be really enjoying it. I am not sure how much he discusses in his BSF group, but I know he devotes time each day to studying the lesson for the upcoming week. Way to go darlin’!

I received in the mail today my application for ordination, paper topics and search and call papers. Even though I do not yet feel called to serve as a congregational leader I most assuredly feel and believe I am called to the ministry of Jesus Christ as a ministerial presence  in representative ministry.  Please be in pray as I prepare these documents for presentation to my local committee, the area and region of the Christian Church Disciples of Christ in preparation for my final ordination interview to be held at the end of April 2015.  Thank you all.

The candle is lit…

God, in you is my all in all. My worth, glory and joy is because you loved me first making me a part of Your good creation.  I thank you for accepting me and loving me. I praise you for delighting in me and leading me in a path that leads right back to you. Thank you for your words of encouragement. As You encourage me I become the person you created me to be. Thank you for looking far enough inside the sacred space of my heart strengthening my skills…even the ones I don’t know are there.  I love you Lord so very much. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Do you ever have days when you think that you are an epic failure? I know that is a really awful question, but I have those days. Those are the days when I want to sing the song we used to sing to the kids when they were down in the dumps…”Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I going to the garden and eat worms!”  We all get down in the dumps every now and then and when those days happen we need to stop and remember something or better yet…someone very important. We need to remember our Creator.  Our Creator; God created us out of great love for us and cares for us deeply. God has created us for a deeply personal relationship with Him through the life of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.  One of the reasons this relationship is so important is as we each commit acts of sin, God does not approve, but because of this relationship we have with God we are empowered to turn from those sins and receive forgiveness.  When we receive forgiveness our feelings of failure and doubt are turned into streams of victory and we know the delight God has in us once again.

“The Lord takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly celebrate in triumphal glory; let them shout for joy.”
Psalm 149: 4-5

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and encouraging  others as you go. Wear comfortable shoes, pray for yourself and others and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Blessed Sunday to you all.  All is well here at 811.

The candle is lit…

Lord, how blessed and fitting to praise You! May my life be a psalm of adoration to you from this time forth and forevermore. I’ll love you always, my God. God, bring peace and constancy to my heart and may You find it a fitting place for You to dwell. I am hoping in your goodness and believing in Your kindness. Thank you for the remembrances of Mom and Casey today. You were there when I shed my tears of grief and loss and remained until I could smile and sing again. I know they are in heaven with You and basking in the worship and praise of Your Holy Presence.  Thank you for taking care of them Lord. Give them an extra hug from me. Lord, I love you so much. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The psalms are the most wonderful words. The book of Psalms begins with “Happy are those who…love the Lord’s teachings.” (Ps. 1: 1-2) and ends with the must jubilant Praise the Lord in Ps. 150. Psalm 150 is one we had read at Mom’s service. Mom would have never wanted sad songs or scriptures at a service that honored her life spent in faith with God.  Anyway, the Psalms have within them words that represent the vast expanse of human experience and the faithfulness of God and how God walks with each of us through each experience we have in our lives. Tonight the author of my meditation writes that the psalms represent every situation of life-- “trials, losses, betrayals, joys, hopes, promises and desires.”

Tonight’s scripture passages have particularly special meaning for me. Psalm 150 was spoken at Mom’s memorial service and the same psalm was purchased by the choir at Advent and dedicated to Casey. If I am so humbly honored to be ordained, the choral piece Let Everything that Has Breath will be sung by combined choirs as the musical offering for the ordination service. Scripture is the best place to begin in a faithful relationship with God. God’s Word is where we can learn to trust God and God’s love for us as we praise God and journey together. My friends take joy in the Lord in worship and in love from the dwelling place of your heart where God lives.

“Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven! Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness!”
Psalm 150: 1-2
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. “
Psalm 150: 6

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and encouraging others as you go. Wear comfortable shoes, spend some time in God’s Word and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Saturday!  All is well here at 811. FROGS WIN! FROGS WIN! 

The candle is lit…

As I have turned the page in my devotional book the theme of the month is:
“Because of all that the Son is, we have been given one blessing after another. John 1: 16

Dear God, through your word of encouragement, I become myself. Thank you for looking far enough in me to see strengths and skills I don’t know are there. God, in you is all my worth, glory and joy. I thank you for accepting and loving me. I praise you for delighting in me and leading me to victory.  Thank you Lord for placing in each of us a heart-place where you find a place to dwell.  Lord, I lift the Via deCristo Weekend coming up. Bless all who will serve and all who will participate with your Presence and unconditional love. Thank you Lord, I love you so much. I pray all of this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Tonight I was asked to provide the homily and preside over Eucharist for the final team meeting of the Via deCristo weekend to be held this coming weekend.  This evening’s writing is sort of a pre-Advent thought and a portion of the homily I shared this evening.

My Heart would be Your Bethlehem. A Shelter for Your birth; My body be Your dwelling place, A sacred temple on earth. By holy intervention and act of the divine in union with mortality make incarnation mine. (First verse of My Heart Would be Your Bethlehem by Stephen Hill)

When it comes to the month of November I think of three things; my birthday, Thanksgiving and usually the beginning of Advent. This weekend I began reading a small book titled Not A Silent Night by Adam Hamilton; a minister of a Methodist Church in Kansas. He writes this 68 page book to look at the life of Jesus through Mary’s eyes in the most unusual way. He writes this book from the time of Mary’s death to the birth of Jesus. It is a fascinating read.  I have for about six years now felt a kinship with Mary as we have both lost adult children in very tragic ways and watched them die. Her son died in a public viewing and our son died in my arms.

Casey and I had a deeply personal relationship.  Mary’s relationship with Jesus was deeply personal and this lyric is somewhat like the beautiful song of praise Mary sings in Luke as she accepts the responsibility of carrying the Son of God in her body and mothering him not only as God’s son, but her son  as well. The song reminds us of her life changing surrender but it is also a song that belongs to us. It is a reminder that our relationship with Jesus is deeply personal. This tiny revelation wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger must be placed in us. We must be willing as was Mary to bear the cost of discipleship and face whatever scorn, or misunderstanding or whatever life hands out to us to its full conclusion—making our personal heart-space the place where Jesus can be born over and over as our life matures and admitting our moment by moment need for Him to find a dwelling place in our hearts. We are all called to bring the Holy Son of God to earth.

The chorus of this piece speaks of our own surrender and commitment to a life lived with, in and through the love of Jesus:   “My heart, my will, my mind, my all, I consecrate to bring the Holy Son of God to earth. Oh, let the angels sing!” Let us let Advent begin, just a little early.

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and carry Jesus with you wherever the journey leads. Wear comfortable shoes; set your clock one hour back and get some extra sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Friday, October 31, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
TGIF Today God is First and Happy Halloween.  All is well here at 811.  Several trick-or-treaters, but fewer than last year. I think the Friday Night Lights may have slowed down the trick-or-treaters. 

The candle is lit…

Dear God, I want to know you in an authentic, profound relationship. Teach me to have full confidence in you, my God, for you are surely worthy of all my trust. I will focus y my eyes on your faithfulness rather than my own failures. I will look to you to help me fulfill the promise of all that my life can be.  Lord, you are the great promise keeper and I know I can count on your promises. I know you know of every wrong choice I have ever made and every opportunity I have missed and each mistake I have made. I know these life errors have caused you grief. Lord, I will never be able to thank you enough for the grace you offer as you meet me where I am and restore hope to my life. I love you Lord, in Jesus’ name, amen.

I am kind of a sequential learner. I learn stories and information in order; beginning to end. But today I began reading a short piece of writing, only 68 pages that tells and expounds on a story we have all heard all of our lives. The title of the book is Not a Silent Night by Adam Hamilton. It tells the story of Jesus as seen through the eyes of Mary, his mother beginning with the time near her death and ending with the birth of Jesus. It is a fascinating book. My time today allowed me to read approximately half of the piece of writing.  I have always believed that the greatest witness in scripture to the life of Christ was the mother of Jesus; Mary.  She and I have a few things in common.

I share this with you to offer that sometimes in order to put a spark in our spiritual lives we have to look at things from a different angle.  Sometimes our spiritual lives can become somewhat routine and maybe just a bit boring. And while I place great value in scripture study, pray and regular worship attendance is it possible that there are times that when we do these tasks God gets left out? Perhaps if we  do many of these things alone consider being part of a weekly fellowship group that studies scripture, has discussions and prays together is the spark our spiritual lives need.  Could we be so bold and courageous as to change some of our practices and pursue a deeper relationship with God by fellowshipping with others? Advent is coming soon and it is a time of preparation.  Traditions ae important, but making new traditions can be just as meaningful.  Step out on your faith and enjoy a greater abundant life. 

“The Lord takes pleasure in those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy and loving-kindness.”
Psalm 147: 11
Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and encouraging others as you go. Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep.  Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Wednesday!  All is well here at 811. 

The candle is lit…

Thank you dear Lord for the words of life you speak to me. By your words I am named and claimed. By your words I am held, molded and sent out.  Lord, Your Word means so much to me. I am comforted by your words. Your Presence is affirmed in Your Word and I find your grace sufficient in your word. I love you Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen

One of the things I have enjoyed since graduating from the seminary is reading for pleasure.  For about six years reading for fun was something I remembered. But I still enjoy reading for meaning.  The meaning for which I read is learning more about God and the power of the Holy Scriptures. The power of the Word is made to inspire, encourage and help. I especially love the Psalms. Tonight my meditation recalls the psalmist calling the words of God being “sweeter than honey.”

I love to speak words and sing words and write words and listen to words, but God’s words are always life-giving and life affirming. The words of God have the power to transform us from the depths of our souls.  God’s Word enters in through our ears and eyes to our minds and finds its way to our hearts where it becomes a part of our lives changing us and transforming us.  Reading God’s Word, speaking God’s Word, listening to God’s Word, singing God’s Word and living out God’s Word will result  a life in abundance  causing each of us to thrive.

“How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Psalm 119: 103
“I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord.”
Psalm 104: 33-34

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing, and encouraging someone as you go. Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Tuesday!  All is well here at 811.

God, I know I have often focused on the very things that make me stumble and sin. Transform me, God because I want to honor you with my whole life. Give me wisdom to know what to look over and what to overlook. Teach me that the greatest wisdom is a loving heart, and when I am afraid of not measuring up or just afraid; make me wise beyond my years.  I love you Lord. Thank you for being ever present with me and giving me reminders of your love. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Temptations are just what they say…tempting!  In our speed dial world of fast communication we can order anything with just a few touches of some buttons on our phone. In really short order,  books, pizza games, new dresses and shoes are either downloaded on our phone or at our doorstep in a very short amount of time. I mean when was the last time we paid for something using real green cash or spoke to someone in customer service. I rarely go to the bank. How about you?   As long as we live here on this earth and technology continues to upgrade and increase,  temptations are always very close at hand…as near as our phones. I think we can call this instant gratification.  And I must admit I am guilty of giving in to temptation.

While these things may not be sinful how do we stop falling into sinful patterns; things that lure us into sin? We know that Jesus has broken the power of sin at the cross of Calvary, but how do we change and stop wanting things that harm us in our hearts, minds, souls and bodies? Sometimes when I am driving in the car I let my mind wander and my thoughts are not godly thoughts. Lately when this happens I have been turning on the Christian artists I have downloaded on my phone so I can listen and sing while I am on the way home. This strategy is helping!  Romans 12: 2 instructs, “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”  Temptation begins in our thoughts and travels down into our feet and hands causing us to act on those thoughts.  We have to change our thinking; change the things on which we set our mind.  We need to focus on God.

Singing Christian music helps me focus on God. The temptations in our thoughts will not go away immediately. Transformation takes time!  But praying for God to take away our desire to sin is found in scripture and if we claim and pray this scripture I hope to find my/our desire to keep focused on God when temptation comes.

“Take away my desire for to do evil or to join others in doing wrong.”
Psalm 141: 4
“My eyes are upon You, O God the Lord; in You I take refuge.” 

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing, giving thanks as you go and encourage someone else along the way. Stay focused on God. Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Monday, October 27, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Monday!  All is well here at 811. 

The candle is lit…

Dear God of all creation and giver of every good and perfect gift. You my Lord exceed all things and love with a love so perfect that we cannot even begin to understand.  I come before you to ask you to use me to encourage others. Please empower me tomorrow to bless those around me with the spiritual gifts you have given. Lord, there are folks out there that need your love, grace and encouragement just to get through the day. You have loved us so very powerfully and with such compassion that we out of our thankfulness and gratitude  need to tell others of that great love.  Lord, help us to not be shy about sharing your love with others around us where we work and with whom we live. Thank you Lord for this great opportunity to encourage others in loving ways. I love you Lord, in Jesus’s name, amen.

Each of us sometime today used the gifts and talents given to us to further a career, improve ourselves, get someone ready for school or work or simply to survive the day.  Some of us may have gone to further our education to increase these gifts and be better able to do our jobs or careers. Those for whom we work trust us to do these jobs or perform the skills necessary to the best of our abilities each day.

We also have spiritual gifts that God has entrusted to us to help further the kingdom here on earth by helping others. God gave us these different gifts to be a blessing to others and to encourage those around us who are in need. Maybe you think you do not have spiritual gifts, but when you signed on to be a believer in Jesus those gifts were given to each of us.  Your gift could be praying, serving, providing comfort to someone just by listening, or being the minister of presence as you represent Jesus by simply sitting with someone who just does not want to be alone. These spiritual gifts can be taking food to a neighbor or making sandwiches for the local homeless shelter.  Our gift from God is the trusted privilege of showing the love of God in gracious ways to all those we encounter. And as Dolly Parton once said, “If you see someone without a smile, give them yours.” It is amazing how a smile can brighten someone’s day. Smiling is something I do often and to all I meet.  We are not called to use these spiritual gifts to make ourselves feel better but for the glory of God. The amazing thing that always happens to me is that even though I am serving to be a blessing to someone I always walk away knowing I have been blessed.  Be a blessing to someone and encourage them in some way and way and watch how God works in both of your lives.

“May those who fear You see me and be glad, because I wait for Your word.”
Psalm 119: 74
“Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me that I may live; for your law is my delight.”
Psalm 119: 76-77

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and blessing someone as you go.  Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep.  Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Blessed Sunday to you all! 

The candle is lit…

Dear God, thank you for receiving what I bring and giving me what I need.  Open my eyes to understand others and tell them of the grace You offer so freely and completely. Thank you for loving us much that your take our weaknesses and strengthen us with your Presence in our lives. Forgive us Lord when we forget to come to you first. I love you Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The title of my meditation tonight is  Surrender All. I have spent the afternoon and evening preparing a talk on Grace in Action for the upcoming Via de Cristo weekend where I will be serving as a Spiritual Director; a clergy position. There is a portion of the talk where I recall Casey at MD Anderson Hospital and when he received his first chemotherapy treatment and how he lay in the hospital bed and as soon as they opened up the chemotherapy drugs he began to sing softly, “All to Jesus  I surrender…all to him I freely give.”  It was a holy moment for me and I realized the presence of God was within Casey giving him peace, strengthening his faith and taking away fear.

There is an old song that says, “Give them all to Jesus. Your shattered dreams, wounded hearts and broken toys.”  My friends Jesus asks for our problems, challenges and difficult situations “making sure there are no claw marks on them.” Last night at the Casting Crowns concert they sang a piece titled Just Be Held with this phrase, “and when you’re tired of fighting chained by your control, there freedom in surrender, lay it down and let it go. Stop hanging on and just be held.” That phrase warmed me like a hug from Bruce. The message of the piece was asking God to help us let loose of the tension of our grasping hand and give our situations willingly (well now there is a hard word) without hesitation or condition, reservation or hesitation to God. God wants our concerns about relationships, employment issues, and inner struggles. The greatest gift God ever gave us was the gift of free will or choice. The choice is simple; believe in God or don’t believe. God asks for our choices and for us to say, “It is all yours Lord. I give it to you.” God wants us to let go and not hold on. Coming before God will hands that are full and leaving with hands that are empty means that we have given God control and are proclaiming him as Lord of our lives. God is good and the power of God’s love for us as lived out in the life of Jesus wins!!

“I trust in you, O Lord; I say “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.”
Psalm 31: 14-15
“The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
2 Chronicles 16: 9
Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing, giving thanks and laying our burdens down on the road. Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Friday, October 24, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
TGIF Today God is first!  All is well here at 811. The news from the doc(s) is that all is well! Blood work was clean and other than some edema because the lymphatic system is compromised (a normal reaction to surgery and radiation) everything is just fine. The short version is that I AM CANCER FREE!  Thank you for all of your prayers. 

The candle is lit…

Dear God, thank you for all the times you came to me in your presence and power. I remember the comfort and peace I found just knowing You were present with me.  I think the older I get the less I truly need and the more I just enjoy spending time in the quietness of being with you. And yet Lord, when the pressures build and the storms of life are all around me I am glad to remain with you and recall your wonderful promises so that whatever is going on in my life I am not tempted to give up. I love you so much Lord. I offer my thanks and praise. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Six months ago the sun was shining, the day was going well. I never feared going to my yearly mammogram and then everything changed. By dinner time cancer had once again become a part of our lives and it was inside of me. What began as a beautiful day became a dark and threatening evening.   I sat down at the dinner table after arriving at home by myself finding myself staring at the ceiling and in anger spoke out loud, “Really God, hasn’t this disease taken enough from us? Haven’t we been through enough already this year?”  Yes, for just a little while the climate in our home had changed. It was not a lovely spring day anymore.”

And then God showed up in my anger reminding me that God in His Word vowed to never leave me or forsake me. God would never leave my side and would be constantly at work on my behalf. God knew my shock, struggle, tragic memories and came to me once again as my loving Savior allowing me to yell, be angry, cry and demand an answer without judgment, only the promise of His loving Presence

God knows all of our struggles. It is when we take our struggles to God in prayer and listen in faith we are given wisdom, strength and the courage needed to fight the battles of life firmly grounded in our faith. We are never promised restored wellness, but healing is a promise we can always claim. So my friends when the climate changes without warming, sort of like Texas weather, and sunshine and storm happen in the same day let us keep the promises of God within our hearts giving each of us hope that is needed to weather any storm in which we find ourselves.  God bless you all.

“Even in my suffering I was comforted because your promise gave me life.”
Psalm 119: 50
Remember your promise to me, your servant; it has given me hope.”
Psalm 119: 49
Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and giving thanks as you go. Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep.  Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene