Living With Regret?

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Have you ever done anything you regret? Oh come on, you know you have; we all have. Recently, in my memoir club we challenged each other to pick one of those regrets and write about it. I want to share that with you here.

“I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.
And when you have turned back,
strengthen your brothers.”
Luke 22:32 (NIV)

When I think of what I regret most, my first inclination is to bring all the negative aspects of my past to surface and choose one that is the most memorable in the graveyard of dishonor. I ask myself, is it good to open old wounds and slice through the scar tissue of anguish and compunction of these unfortunate decisions? If I must walk through this byproduct of life to winnow the chaff from the wheat I will do so with a contrite heart as I have learned that to dwell on these things is to once again relive them in condemned silence. I cannot bring myself to agonize and grieve over the most indelible and disheartening of regrets so I will share just one small detail of being a sixteen year old boy. To bring this account to the forefront of today I will choose to make it an affirmation and remind myself as to the good that has come from it.

If you were to ask my family they would tell you that as a teenager I was never one to think things through before acting on impulse. Like any teenager I loved to spend money. When the opportunity to leave my first job as a chicken breader at KFC and be a stock boy at Madden Drug Store came along I jumped at it.

Two blocks from the store was a Pentecostal Bible College. Men dressed very nice and the ladies wore long dresses and piled their hair on top of their heads. I could not, for the life me, understand why a woman would wear no makeup and have such a heavy head of hair. I was about to find out.

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One of the ladies came to work with me and we hit it off pretty well including joking around with each other. One day I asked about her makeup and, why she didn’t wear any. She told me that her faith did not allow her to wear it. So, I took the opportunity to ask about her hair. She informed me that it has never been cut or even trimmed and, yes, it did become quite heavy sometimes as well as hot in the summers, and that it, too, was a part of her faith.

I was puzzled but accepted her explanation and went about stocking. One day we were behind the counter moving some things around when she bent over. I had a pair of scissors in my hand and when I saw her long hair the impulse to cut a piece of it was irresistible, so I did.
She snapped around and I handed her a lock of hair with a smile. Her eyes filled with the mercury of naked despair. Fear blended with a deep, red flushed face and merged with the anguish in her eyes.

“What have you done?” She shouted.

The grin on my face turned to confused melancholy. I couldn’t answer as I really did not believe it was that big of a deal. It was only a joke. She ran to the back of the store in tears, talked with the pharmacist and left. Several days passed before we worked together again. This separation gave me time to reflect on what I had done. I determined that I was not only stupid, but inconsiderate. I put my funny antics ahead of her personal and spiritual welfare. I had really hurt someone deeply without consideration of her faith. I felt like a jerk! I was a jerk!

When she returned to work I walked up to her and apologized to her. You know what? She hugged my neck. Tears rolled down her face. She looked me in the eyes and smiled. “I have prayed for you Andy, and I forgive you.” (Luke 22:32)

WoW! There is a profound lesson here. It is found in Christ forgiveness of Peter. He prayed for Peter. He strengthened Peter through that prayer. He taught Peter a lesson through that prayer—through that forgiveness. He taught Peter to turn back to what he had been taught and move on from that mistake and not hold on to the regret. He taught Peter to encourage others and strengthen them, “…And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

You see, this young college student did the same thing. She prayed for me. She forgave me. She strengthened me. While I am human and remember such stories as this one, I have moved on—strengthened.

Though so long ago, this regret follows my every step and has become a thorn in my side. Each time I see a Pentecostal woman with no makeup and long hair, I am reminded of my apathy for someone who did not deserve my ignorance and careless actions. For even though our faith is different we serve the same loving God.

“There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord”
(1 Corinthians 12:5).

I could go on and on about regrets and what we as Christians should or could do to handle them. I want to leave this message with you however and just ask a simple question.

Can you move on?

God has made the way for you today if you will follow His path. Turn back and when you do strengthen your brothers!

Blessings!

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Farms Don’t Have Dinosaurs

I don't like what I am hearing!

I don’t like what I am hearing!

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching,

 but having itching ears they will accumulate

 for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”

(2 Timothy 4:3; ESV)

I heard a prodigious scream. It meant one of the children had been hurt, or was about to be. After dodging a yellow Tyrannosaurus rex flying into the hallway, I arrived in their room to discover that a death threat had, for the moment, not yet been executed; no blood was splattered on the wall. Whew! As with most siblings’ perpetual disagreements, this squabble had circumvented toddler-aged common sense and stuck its nose in the middle of a normally quiet Saturday morning.

Traditional Farm Animals

Traditional Farm Animals

~VS~

Non-Traditional Farm Animals

Non-Traditional Farm Animals

My youngest and more traditional son was playing farm. He had his cows, horses, and chickens lined up inside the plastic-fenced corral next to the barn.  His older brother is a bit more creative and decided he would bring a colorful array of plastic dinosaurs to the farm. So, without asking or even discussing the idea, he proceeded to place the prehistoric icons right in the middle of the corral. After all, the more animals the more fun they would have, right? It would only benefit the farm.

In revisiting this nostalgic flashback, I realized that by the time I had reached their room a great battle over right and wrong had already emerged. Delaying intervention meant an even wider division between the two. Neither was willing to compromise on their definition of playfully correct. Each child blamed the other for his ignorance of how a real farm should look. It seemed that both were really angry and bitter, ready to leave and find a new farm where they are welcome, a farm where their lil’ ol’ hearts and ears could be tickled pink with affirmation of their correctness. A teaching moment had arrived, and I’d used the opportunity to teach the boys to understand that, though new ideas do break tradition, they are not necessarily wrong, and that even though it may be a better idea, you shouldn’t force it on someone without explanation or discussion. His brother wasn’t getting rid of the farm; he just wanted to add some animals.

There are times when getting two young children to understand each others point of view requires vigorous effort. Over the years I have discovered that it’s just as hard to get adults to understand each others points of view if they are unwilling to listen.

God’s people, the Jews, had become traditionalist, handing down from each generation different ideas of how to worship. They propagated oral laws to help define God’s written Law so men could better understand how to live more righteously.

The Word said to “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.”  Well, just what does keeping it holy mean? The high Priest and other leaders took it upon themselves to define ways to keep it holy. One example was that if you took over 400 steps on the Sabbath you were working, and therefore, not keeping the Sabbath holy (I don’t know who took the time to count the steps but that sounds a bit like work itself).

Though they meant well, through the centuries, they created a self-righteous pattern that led them away from God.  Now these Oral Laws became the way of salvation through ones ability to not only keep God’s revealed and written Law, but the Oral and traditional law as well.

Jesus brought a new paradigm. He came bearing good news.

 “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”                                                                                                     (Matt.22:37-40)

 Now, to some extent these Oral Laws sound silly, but are they really? Do we not do the same with our views on the ways things should be done today? Jesus did not propose getting rid of the farm, or the Law. He simply reemphasized what the Law always said: Love your God with your total being. In other words wrap your arms, legs, heart, soul and mind around a loving God just as tight as you can and never let go. And the new law was to love your neighbor just as much as you do yourself. Notice He placed self, last.

Jesus wasn’t telling us that when disagreements arise we need to accept others’ ideas simply as a way of saying we love each other. Neither was he saying we need to see those who disagree as unloving. In society’s new world view, I believe they call it, tolerance? But then that is polemic for another post so I’ll save it.

Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness,

strife, selfishness, or unworthy ends] prompted by conceit ‘and’ empty arrogance.

Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others

as better than ‘and’ superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another that you do of yourselves].                                                                                                                                                                                                                         (Philippians 2:3; Amplified Bible)

If we look at the great and foremost commandment again, we can see that Jesus brought the paradigm back to the beginning of God’s Word. Here he simply reminds us that our very heart, soul and mind should be devoted to God first. We should have a relationship so intimate in prayer and Word that we recognize His guidance over our own. We must desire to know God better. Our soul should be so thirsty for Him we become like a ball of cotton absorbing every ounce. Our mind should hunger for His Word as if we were on the verge of death by starvation.

So, what about division between church members, family and friends?  We don’t need to go back to the time before that childish farm. As Christians, it is time to evaluate ourselves and our congregations with this new example, given by Jesus. It is not a new standard, it is the very one He taught His disciples while in their presence. Are we following that standard and not compromise it away? Maybe it’s time to ask God to point out a few good and faithful saints that will pray with us on a regular basis for an old fashion revival in our congregations. Maybe it’s time to pray until it comes!

“… Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked                                          nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”                                              (John 16:23 NIV)

As a member of your congregation revival begins with you. Be encouraged. Stand up, and hold your head high so that those in your congregation are also encouraged.

 

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement

give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.”

(Romans 15:5)

Hey Oinker! Wanna Diet?

When Dad took a church in west central Louisiana, as a nine-year-old, I found Simpson was my all-time favorite place to live. When I look back on it, I remember a profusion of romantic wealth, of beauty lived and passed. The memories still linger as if they belong in the present instead of yesterday. I am blessed to have these memories still lingering at the threshold of this forgetful mind. They are truly mine alone to share, so I’ve chosen to share with you, my friends,  this one moment in time when, in this quaint little town in the middle of nowhere, I was awakened to my ill thoughts of self, and rewarded by the glory of God.

Simpson was an imaginative little bump in the road. The beauty was such that one must live there for a time to appreciate summer’s dog-days, and rain beating the tin roof, with anything other than harmony. Such was the summer of 1959. I will never forget the time, or the whimsical list of characters, with whom I fell in love in that whistle-stop of a hamlet.

Once each month we made our thirty-five mile shopping trip to Alexandria, which I enjoyed, except in August when it was back-to-school time. It was a journey that made me feel sub-human. You see, I was a blessed child, chosen, by I don’t know who, to carry a lot of extra weight. It just wasn’t fair. My whole family was thin, except for me.

My brothers had their choice of really neat clothes. You know, the ones the mannequins wear to draw your attention to how totally cool they are. When it was my turn, we weaved a path to a totally different department. It was like there was a large, flashing neon sign that said, Over Here Fat Boy! Haha! I felt like lights flashed, sirens sounded, cymbals clashed and horns blared the minute I entered the “Chubby” department, to announce I was there, again. The focus was on me. There was no mannequin in this section, just neatly folded Husky clothes. Oh, how I hated that word, Husky. It was just a polite way of calling me fatso, or tub-o-lard, or even, trying to be funny, pudge-muffin. I found nothing humorous about it. Buffalo petite was not a size I was familiar with. Nevertheless, it seemed to be all I could find for this blubber-gut. Thoughts raged through my mind like a destructive curse, driving a wedge between my heart and my soul. The not so gentle reminder that I was indeed FAT, terrified the fabric of my being. After all, these jeans had their own little neon proclamation. The rear belt loops provided a place for the blazing declaration of my waist size, and therefore the behemoth amount of flesh everyone could ridicule.

Continued hurt quickly teaches that being fat implies a variety of perceived personalities: I was a slob! I loved to eat too much! I would swallow anything whole; “let Andy slurp up the crumbs on the cafeteria table,” etc. A bruised ego was a daily tribute to the magnitude of pain I suffered. The terrorizing, agonizing darts of shame flowed like an uncontrolled oil well of tears at school and at home. My personality, the real me, felt stupid and worthless, and I believed that no one liked me. I was nothing but a wasted human being, but then someone had to make the world laugh. It might as well be me. I left Sears & Roebuck humiliated, and quietly rode the miles back home to the internal din of ungodly laughter, ridicule and non-acceptance. I hated who I was. I wanted to be skinny and never again be fat. I wanted people to look at my six-pack not the one-pack hanging over my belt. Why couldn’t I be thin? Arrrg!

As I grew older I arrived at an impasse, a gridlock of sorts, that I had to solve before I entered the gates of adulthood. I began to realize that I was not the Christian I presented to everyone. I treated myself worse that the bullies. I hated myself more. I cried while I made fun of myself, squeezing my gut in front of the mirror. There was an array of other quandaries. A dilemma was born. I could either continue down the path of depression, hating what God had created, or I could do something about it. On my knees, an awakening of grace led me to an understanding of who I was. Character assassination was unimportant, compared to what I held so dearly in my heart.

Sometimes we are stupid, because we don’t listen. God laid out a plan for us before we were born (Jeremiah 29:11). Sometimes the frustrations of our world and the flesh are reflected I our outer person, especially when bullies bring it out of us.

“As one thinks in his heart, so is he.”

 (Proverbs 23:7)

     I came to grips with the person I was and the one God wanted me to be. It was time to develop the person that I could live with. I had to conquer the old self, retrain my thinking, and strengthen my self-respect to a level of honor and dignity that would allow me a daily growth within.

“Do not be conformed to this world,

but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,

that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,

what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

(Romans 12:2 ESV)

     There is a progressive growth process in our Christian walk. It doesn’t matter if it is depression, being called a porky, having uncontrollable behavior or anything else; as long as we bully ourselves and torment our own hearts we cannot move forward out of this anguish we so readily portray as Christ like.

In this progressive growth process we begin to understand that a self-centered life could be just as dangerous as a diminished self-image. Life has to be built around someone other than ourselves. It is here that we can discover what is missing. His Word revealed that I am a visible expression of God, simply because I am His child.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us,

 that God sent his only Son into the world,

 so that we might live through him.

 In this is love, not that we loved God

but that he loved us and

sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.”

 (1 John 4:9-10 RSV)

When I am honest, I realize that it is up to me to make the right decisions in reevaluating the direction I want to go in serving God. Though I am saved by grace through faith, scripture doesn’t promise that I’ll always feel loved, only that I am loved. The more we love Christ and His Church, the more we will understand and experience His love for each of us.

It was here that I began to understand God really does love me as I am, and I learned that this life change required self-discipline. Daily communication with God reveals so much through His Word. One scripture that keeps my head high and a smile on my face is this:

“Look at what you were before God called you. Not many of you were wise by human standards. Not many of you had great influence. Not many of you came from important families. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and he chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose what this world thinks is unimportant and what this world looks down on and thinks is nothing in order to bring to nothing what the world thinks is important. God did this, so that no one could boast in his presence.”

(I Corinthians 1:26-29)

In creating a place in my heart and body for God’s dwelling, I realized two things: One, I wouldn’t want to dwell in this bacon body of mine either. And two, weight would always be an issue for me. Like anything else, when my main priority is to please God, I can’t sit idly by and watch “chunky monkey” grow. I have to work hard to keep the pounds off and satan (intentional lower case, he doesn’t deserve upper case) away from my mind. Daily communion with God through His word is essential, and prayer is the key. RC Sproul said we don’t pray simply because we are too lazy to pray. I agree. I’ve been guilty. Are you?

 “Do you not know that you are a temple of God,

and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

If any man destroys the temple, God will destroy him,

for the temple of God is holy,

and that is what you are.”

(1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

In overcoming the issue of weight gain I have discovered that there is no diet that will work. The key is simply developing healthy eating habits, illuminating processed foods, sugars and carbs. Combined with exercise, this is the way to go. I don’t have to count calories or measure portions to obtain the promise of written diets. Only eat healthy foods and the pounds will leave voluntarily. All of this should leave you asking, “Can my body really be a place for God to dwell? Is this temple worthy of His Spirit? You decide.

I would like to introduce you to a very dear friend of mine in the blogosphere. She is the one who has me hooked on healthful eating and exercise. She tells of her own struggles and shares some wonderful recipes that will make your mouth salivate just looking at the pictures. Please go to her site; she can help you develop a healthy lifestyle.  http://faithfoodandfriends.com/

This may be the beginning of your healthy walk with God, providing the holy temple He deserves and created you to be. We are His dwelling place.


Building In the Dark

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When Satan leave the light on for you, remember that God is our light!

When Satan leave the light on for you, remember that God is our Hope!

“For You are my hope; O Lord God,

You are my trust from my youth

and the source of my confidence.”

Psalm 71:5

I was sitting in the shade one afternoon enjoying summer’s intermittent breeze flowing across my face. The cooling relief felt good for those brief seconds, but never lasted long enough to abate the sweat droplets(perspiration rivulets?) zigzagging through my facial stubble. I love to sit in a large oak tree’s shade on late afternoons, praying and praising, and just talking with myself and God about my life—where I’ve been and where I’m going. This particular day, God took advantage of my time with him to remind me of a very special moment that didn’t seem so special at the time; I don’t look forward to a wasp sting.

I love woodworking, but my workbench was outside because it couldn’t fit inside. While routing a piece of wood one day, my hand felt as if someone had driven an icepick through it. I was under attack by an army of wasps so I ran for cover. Administering first aid, I prepared for war.

Outside again, I stealthily embarked on a search-and-destroy mission, and halted when I spotted a large, inverted mushroom covered with wasps. Only extreme vigilance would keep me from being stung again.

Even with my hand starting to swell, I began spraying a pesticide mist that knocked several wasps to the ground, but I noticed other rusty-red bodies who had me in their sights. I danced like seven demons possessed me while trying to avoid more of their toxic venom. As I had become a sudden threat to their family home, they shifted altitude and direction in their profound vengeance, their fury thrusting them forward. When at last the final wasp fell to the ground I claimed victory and headed back to work.

A while later, a lone wasp buzzed around my head, probably out gathering food and whatever was needed to enlarge the nest. When he landed on the bench I placed an empty paint can over him. Then rain began falling and I retreated indoors.

Three days later I returned to my project and noticed the can. I thought, surely the wasp is dead. I raised the can and out he flew; I couldn’t believe it. He’d survived the heat and darkness, and now he disappeared into the backyard haze. I was dumbfounded, not because the wasp was alive, but because of the small, three-celled inverted mushroom I found inside. God’s creature not only survived his darkest hour, but continued the life’s work God had given him. Though he may have been afraid and unsure of the future, he never gave up. Now he claimed victory over his enemy.

This little red-tailed insect didn’t allow circumstance to keep him from accomplishing his purpose. Our enemy wants us to believe we have no purpose, and through fear, tries to intimidate us til we give up. He sprays his toxic fog of lies and trepidation over us, doing his best to stop another of God’s creatures. Like that tiny wasp, God gave us certain individual characteristics and gifts to become like Him in our Christian walk and build His kingdom, bringing honor to His name.

Jesus said, "I am the door."

Jesus said, “I am the door.”

God exhorts us in His Word to make ready for Satan’s certain attacks, providing His Word upon which to draw our strength. Yes. He provides our armor to defend against the enemy and thwart his attacks.

“…be strong in the Lord[be empowered

through your union with Him];

draw your strength from Him

[that strength which

His boundless might provides.]

Ephesians 6:10-18 (AMP)

We must not delay our preparation until the enemy attacks, but don our armor and take up our sword daily if we hope to claim the victory. God’s provision of prayer is a communication system unequaled by any of today’s sophisticated technology. We must be ready to receive His blessings when we pray for them. Whatever the circumstance, ask God to bring truth to light, healing to your broken heart, and His love to your soul.

Once God reveals His truth, He begins directing you to press through and beyond your circumstances, but He will provide that prayer-answering truth only when you are willing to open your heart to it and lay every hurt at his feet. Peace comes only if you allow it, and give up your fear of your circumstances, for like the wasp, it is only for a season. Continue to build in the dark and stand astonished when the cover is lifted.

“Yet amid all these things we are more
than conquerors and gain our surpassing victory
through Him Who loved us.”

Romans 8:37 (AMP)

When circumstance covers us with defeat it is time to hold our heads high and remember we are conquerors. Nothing comes against us that will prosper (Isaiah 54:17). The beauty of it all is that, as we face this circumstance, God stands behind us as our rear Guard (Isaiah 52:12).

Have you ever wanted to give up? Be encouraged, for …

Now you can get on your knees and give thanks and praise to the One who has brought you through the darkness and into the Light.

 

“After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you
into His eternal glory in Christ Jesus will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be,
establish and ground you securely,
and strengthen and settle you.”

1 Peter 5:10 (AMP)

Peace has arrived!

Peace has arrived!

AMEN!

Thank You Father!

 

No Short Cut to Grace

I see everyone is posting about the cold and snow affecting their lives. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful photographs and read wonderful stories about it. I reminisce about the snow and wish I could have a little of here in Mississippi for maybe a day or two. Wait, stop right there. I not being truthful. I lived in Indiana and North Dakota for several years and quite frankly I really don’t miss the snow. I will just enjoy the photos if you don’t mind. Your photos do bring up a few memories of living in the north that I chuckle at now. I’d like to share one with you if you don’t mind. As we say in the South, “Set your pretty little self down and take a listen.” Bless your heart!

  Driving Through The Essence

Driving Through
The EssenceA light snow had fallen and melted the week before my brother and I went hunting with my best friend, Mo, around Salamonie Reservoir in Indiana. We took his new, but used, 4-wheel drive Chevy Blazer with gigantic mud tires knowing that we could go anywhere we wanted. Driving down a gravel road we noticed a peaceful grouping of deep woods across an open field. Mo decided there was a short cut across a pasture and took off. No sooner had we started when our nostrils filled with that favorite country aroma that make so many ask, “What is that smell?” Whoever farmed this land had just finished spreading the field with fertilizer. Now, not that kind you buy in the store, mind you, rather that kind that comes out of the south end of a north bound cow. Some folks call it the Essence of Manure.

 It's getting deeper and a lot more smelly

It’s getting deeper and
a lot more smelly            We were about half way across when Mo started to fight with the rear end of the vehicle. For some reason the Essence combined with the mud from the melted snow rains was exceptionally slick. The steering wheel moved quickly from left to right and back as he fought to keep the Blazer straight. The fight was short-lived and we found ourselves stuck. Forthwith, we looked at each other in confounded trepidation–the four-wheel drive was not turned on. This may date me, but at that time turning on the four-wheel drive was accomplished from the outside by turning the hub on each wheel. While stopped we found the small amount of wind given by driving with the widows down had blocked most of the nosegay of bitter pungencies. Because we were so dumb as to not lock the hubs we received the blessings of unsavory suffocation.

Climbing out of the Blazer we noticed an old beat up farm truck swerving up the hill toward us. The farmer was waving and shouting some unintelligible words, so we waved back. He stopped, pulled a rifle from the widow rack and cocked the chamber. He stomped in front of the vehicle and said, “You’re trespassing on my land and I am gonna put a bullet right through your motor.” All three of us assured him that we thought we were on public land and apologized for being there.

He continued to shout and blame when Mo interrupted, “Uh, sir, your truck is rolling backwards down the hill.”The farmer ran waving the gun shouting, “I’ll be right back!”

 “In my anguish I cried to the LORD,

and He answered by setting me free.

 (Psalm 118:5)

Full revelation of why the scriptures tell us to pray without ceasing helped us decide exactly what to do; we locked the hubs and took off! The farmer chased his truck screaming obscenities while our deliverance arrived simultaneously.

 “The Lord knows how to rescue

godly men from trials.”

(2 Peter 2:9)

            I’m sure the saints above held their hands to their bellies and rolled in laughter as they watched three crazed idiots spin through Essence like the devil was on their tail. The scripture says to,

 “Do what is good and run from evil—

that you may live!”

 (Amos 5:14a)

            There are times when we see the peace and calm of someone else’s walk with God. We desire that same walk. The allure of the short cut across the pasture of life is so tempting, but given individual gifts our path to peace may be different. Take only the path directed by the Holy Spirit and get out of your own way. If things begin to smell a little, and the Essence begins to suffocate, hit your knees in prayer. We cannot take short cuts with God for it is only through His Son that grace arrives. Our walk is progressive and He will guide you in the path you should take. (Proverbs 3:6)

           On Top of the Mountain!

On Top of the Mountain!

The Gift of Giving

Old-Christmas-Photo-Card-PedalCar-GraphicsFairyI have been working on my memoirs for a little over a year now. It seems I can never catch up. My advice to you is that if you are interested in writing yours, START NOW! The longer you wait the more you have to remember.

Since it is CHRISTmas I decided to write about all the Christmas’s I have experienced. Wait! I can’t do that! There are sixty-three of them. Whoa, how many? You’ve gotta be kidding me. There is no way I am that old. Okay, okay, I will choose just one to share with you. Sit back down and turn your computer back on. Whew!

When I was a child we were fortunate to live in a modest home in Baton Rouge, LA. Dad worked for the NATB (National Automobile Theft Bureau). We were not rich by any measure yet we were not as poor as some folks. We always had a great Christmas morning with lots of presents, some we asked for and some were a nice surprise. There were even presents that had riddles on them. We had to guess what they were before we could open them.

Years later Dad gave up his job because he felt the call of God into the ministry.  After several years he was called by the denominational home office to go on the mission field. In the early 1960’s we were privileged to live in British Guiana (now Guyana), South America.  There are so many stories I could tell of those years, like the time we were in the jungle and went swimming in a creek in our underwear. We chased tropical fish and then marched out of the jungle with our undeies hanging on the pole over each of our shoulders–natives laughing. Sorry, I got off track again. Since I have you back in your chair I am going to tell you of a wonderful Christmas.

The mission home was a large two story concrete home. We lived upstairs and the business of the mission was carried out down stairs. The week of Christmas was exciting. I was twelve and not yet old enough to participate in youth functions. Since the Christmas party was held downstairs in a large classroom, I was invited to participate. About twenty-five young people arrived and were excited about the evening. Each brought a present with the name of the person they had drawn at the previous monthly meeting. There were none for me or my two brothers; we were simply excited about being there for the games and food.

As the activity and fellowship began to wind down, the time came for the opening of gifts. I remember being so excited. I wanted to see what everyone was giving each other. Each person took their seat in wooden folding chairs formed in a circle around a small Christmas tree with only a few ornaments. The first name was announced. The next name would not be called until this one had opened their present and thanked whoever gave it to them. The paper was painstakingly pulled off so as not to tear it.

What are they doing? I thought to myself. Just rip it off like I do!

 The present was opened. She got up and walked over to the man who had given it to her and gave him a great big hug and sat down crying. The paper was folded nicely and placed in her purse.

A Tooth Brush?????

A Tooth Brush?????

 I was confused. I thought this was Christmas!

The next name was called. Paper was unwrapped slowly, folded with care and placed in brown paper bag.

 What??? Soap???

What???   Three bars of soap???

 The gift exchange continued…

A Comb???

A Comb???

Not a hair brush too???

Not a hair brush too???

 Come on, where is the fun stuff???  I am totally confused now??? This is not Christmas!

No! A two pack of toilet paper??? Paleeze!!!

No! A two pack of toilet paper??? Paleeze!!!

You’ve got to be kidding me, please tell me you are.

 I watched toiletry after toiletry given out to each other. The recipients were so excited and appreciative. Me? I couldn’t believe it. I was thankful my name was not on the list.

After Christmas was over, that night was still haunting me. Why did these people give such meaningless gifts? I went to Mama and asked. She smiled and said, “Andy, the people are extremely poor here. They can’t afford luxuries and fun things. For them a new toothbrush or shoe polish or even toilet paper is an exciting gift for them.”

I had never thought of it that way. These people were happy to receive a gift they needed, not one that was a choice, or a wish. The gifts were things they needed to live a comfortable life. Each was so thankful they shed tears in excitement. The giver sacrificed much to be able to give and the one receiving was blessed by their sacrifice.

This is why, at the age of twelve, I was blessed with an experience I will never forget. The true meaning for us, in the giving of gifts, is the receiving with open hearts the gift God has given to us. That gift is His Son. He is the ultimate sacrificial Lamb and is provided to everyone who is his child.

My gift that Christmas was this lesson. God tells us it is better to give than to receive. To give is a great gift in itself. When one sacrifices to give he is blessed beyond all measure. God gave us our gift through His Son the first Christmas morning. Thank You Father!

Hope this helps you as much as it did me? :-)

Hope this helps you as much as it did me? 🙂

Merry CHTISTmas Everyone!

 

The Man and the Birds

 

One of my favorite stories of Christmas was given by Paul Harvey, a famous radio personality. I have provided you with two avenues to this story. First,  you can read it. secondly, you can listen to it. My preference is to listen. You really cant get the jest of the story unless you can hear in Paul Harvey’s voice. He was quite a story teller and  those of us who remember him really miss him at 12:00 noon every week day.

Link:
http://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=mcafee&type=A111US0&p=paul+harvey+christmas+story

Paul Harvey’s Story

The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.

“I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

 Birds In Snow vmburkhardt.tumbler.com

Birds In Snow
vmburkhardt.tumbler.comWell, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it.

Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.”

 Church Bells

Church Bells

At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Adeste Fidelis – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.

And he sank to his knees in the snow.

Paul Harvey ~ I hope for you…and those you love… this will be a wonderful Merry Christmas.

Good Day!                                                                                                                                       Christ IS:    The Way In A Manger

Be Thankful in All Things

Thanksgiving will once again be celebrated this coming Thursday. It is certainly a holiday we look forward to every year. Yet, there are so many who take this word, Thanksgiving, for granted. Just what does it really mean to you? In contemplating this question I began by thinking of  the abundance of good things that have happened in my life. Now, that is something to really be thankful for.

But wait, the scripture says to be thankful in ALL things. Okay, let me think a minute. How in the world can I be thankful for things that are anything but good; the things that bless me? How can I be expected to be thankful for the things that hurt me? Do I just stop in my tracks and say, “WoW! Thank you God for this event in my life and all the misery and discomfort it has caused?” I don’t want to have a theological dissertation about this question. I will simply say that because we all experience bad stuff in our lives it makes us even more thankful when we have the good things happen to us. Those things are what we bring to the forefront of Thanksgiving.

However, today I want to share one of the negative things I am thankful for in my life. In 1988 my fifteen year son was chased by a gang, beaten, cut up and drowned in a nasty canal. I can hear you asking, “How can you EVER be thankful for that?” I wasn’t for a very long time. I carried a lot bitterness and hatred toward another race for what they did to my son. I envisioned them having a great time cutting and laughing at him while his screams exploded in a terrifying fear and tears ruptured forth in convulsive anguish down his face. Oh my God, my God, where are you? And then, they left him to float in that putrid, stinking canal until someone found his body. I hated God, I hated that race! I hated everything and everyone around me, including myself for letting this happen. I was supposed to protect him; I was his Dad and I let him down! I did not do my job! WHY GOD, WHY? For so long I was on this campaign of self-destruction. It affected my life, and my family.

“Thank [God] in everything

[no matter what the circumstances may be,

 be thankful and give thanks],

for this is the will of God for you [who are]

 in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].”

I Thessalonians 5:18 – (Amplified Bible)

 Today, I am thankful for the tremendous pain I experienced. I can hear your mind spinning and asking, how you can be grateful for this heart shattering torment? Let me explain it like this. I gave my heart to God many long years before this event. I also took what God provided me for granted. When Thanksgiving came around each year I always gave Him a great big Thank You! Not until “I fell on my knees and cried holy,” asking God to forgive me for my failure that I began to heal. I had to accept that it was my failure. Not that I couldn’t protect him but that I did not place my sorrow, grief, and anger in the only One who could calm my spirit.  I couldn’t heal on my own. It took my Father and his arms around me, lifting me from my sorrow to begin the healing. The sorrow and pain of John’s loss is not gone, but that through the blood of Christ on the cross I am able to move forward with Him.

“Surely he hath borne our grief’s, and carried our sorrows:

 yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:

 the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:4-5 (KJV)

I couldn’t do it on my own. All God could do is step back in the field of my despair and watch me fail. He had to wait on me. For years He waited; for years I was alone.

Photo Credit to josephjpote.com

Photo Credit to
josephjpote.com

I hope you do not mind that I decided to share this story at such a happy time of year. You see, those who have lost loved ones are reminded of them when this season comes around. Though so many years ago this happened, I still love him and miss him. That never goes away. But with the grace of God I have a promise. Because John was a Christian, I will be with him again in heaven. I smile when I think of my arm around his shoulder singing praises to our Father, forever.

 Photo Credit by: Maranatha Devotionals

Photo Credit by: Maranatha Devotionals

Wait upon the Lord. He wants us to use our energy to praise Him and give thanks for the blessings we have and realize that like Job, we can lose them at any moment. My prayer for you is that if you are alone this season, or hurting, that you come to realize you cannot change what has happened. It may take a knee scrapping encounter of forgiveness but I assure you it is well worth it. Release of hatred and anger, through forgiveness, will bring forth peace. I promise.

That my friend is why I give thanks

to our Father!

Have a great Thanksgiving with your families this year. I will be on the road from Mississippi to Washington D.C. Know that I am so thankful for all of you who have not only liked my by blog but are also following it. God Bless!

Andy