I have had this strange thought of trying to fictionalize a conversation between the two of them should they somehow pass (presumably going opposite directions) in the afterlife. Now, I fully understand how theologically unlikely that is but it still could make for quite the made-up conversation.
I must admit I do not remember Gerald Ford all that well. I guess that I was only 11, 12, and 13 when he was president. I remember that, between Vietnam and Watergate, our country seemed to be coming apart at the seams before Ford ended up in the White House. Whenever you turned on the national news, those two subjects were all you'd hear about. And then it seemed like we were having a revolving door of Vice Presidents for awhile. Do you remember who Ford’s Vice President was? Actually, I had in my mind that Nelson Rockefeller had died while in office and was replaced by someone else. After some research, though, I realized that my memory was more than a wee bit faulty on that point. It was wrong in fact. Ford's running mate against the Carter - Mondale ticket was Bob Dole.
Ford did bring healing to the nation but, unfortunately for him, he always wore the mantle of having been selected by Richard Nixon. Not a good mantle to have hanging over you. And that is why I also remember him as the guy who lost to Jimmy Carter. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Jimmy Carter and think he’s an incredible man. I even shook hands with him once. He's the only president I have ever shook hands with. But, given what our country had known of presidents before 1976, Carter seemed about as “unpresidential” as they come. He didn’t look, act, or sound like a president. And that was probably exactly why he won the 1976 election.
Now, as for Saddam Hussein … I remember Dan Rather’s interview of Hussein in 1990. Hussein seemed almost, well, charming in that interview. Cerainly as charming as a crazy blood-thirsty dictator can be. Of course, Rather was really playing into his hands as he was just very happy to have scored an interview with the guy. And perhaps a bit scared of having his head lopped off. But, you couldn’t watch that interview and not think that perhaps Hussein hadn’t been misunderstood.
That was just craziness and showed what a manipulator he was.
Still, though, it was hard for me to see him be hanged recently. The older I get, the more difficult time I have with the death penalty. I guess there are a couple of things pushing me that way.
First, I have oddly enough always (ever since young childhood) lived with a fear of being accused of a crime I didn’t commit. Having two friends be brought up on pretty strong charges in recent years has probably fed that fear.
We had a policeman come to our house tonight. It seems that our telephone had somehow dialed 911 on its own and he was responding to the call. We had this happen a few weeks ago, too, but they just called us that time to check on us. After the policeman left, though, my fear of being accused of a crime I didn’t commit sort of hit me a bit. What if he would have been at our house to haul me off on some reidiculous charges? We live in a society where you can be accused of some pretty heinous things and it really does quickly become “guilty until proven innocent.”
The other thing about the death penalty is, of course, that killing is just wrong, especially if you’re not under any sort of threat. One thing that really bothers me with the death penalty is that you may be eliminating the possibility of that person coming to know God before they die.
Big stuff to think about.
In any event, you will not hear fictionalized conversations between Gerald Ford and Saddam Hussein from me. At least not today.
In other news ... Mike Tyson was recently arrested on charges of driving while under the influence of alcohol and possessing cocaine.
I can’t think about 8-track players without thinking about the band Three Dog Night. I believe that both my uncle and my sis had Three Dog Night within their 8-track collections. Their band name supposedly came from the Australian Aboriginal custom of sleeping with a dog for warmth. A "three dog night" would have been a very cold night. Also, the band had three lead singers. Did you know that they are still around? It would be really cool to see them sometime. They had a lot of good songs but there are two which I remember best. “Joy To The World” (aka “Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog) and “One” (Is The Loneliest Number). I think my sister and I spent a couple of summers with the neighbor kids singing "Joy To The World." I am a bit surprised my mom didn't freak out on the "And he always had some mighty fine wine" line but somehow she lived through it.
Thinking of the song "One," though, why should “one” be the loneliest number? It is a single digit number but so are eight other numbers, plus zero. Is “zero” a number? If it is, it seems like it would be pretty lonely, too. More lonely than "one" in fact. Of course, maybe “zero” can’t really be lonely because there’s nothing there to be lonely. That sort of gets back to the old question of whether a tree falling in the forest really makes a sound if no one is there to hear it. I am convinced that it does. Therefore, “zero” must be a number and it must be even lonelier than “one”. Whew! Glad I figured that one out. Now on to the vexing problem of achieving lasting world peace. Oh heck, why not just go for world dominance instead since I am pretty good at this thing, you know!
Here are the "substantive" lyrics from the song “One” … I encourage you to help me figure them out if you’re so inclined. Whether you’re inclined or even reclined right now, I hope you’re not lonely. I suspect these lines might have been written while under the influence of some mighty fine hallucinogens.
One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It's the loneliest number since the number one
No is the saddest experience you'll ever know
Yes, it's the saddest experience you'll ever know
'Cause one is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
One is the loneliest number, whoa-oh, worse than two
It's just no good anymore since you went away
Now I spend my time just making rhymes of yesterday
The older I get, the more lonely “one” seems to be. I used to pride myself on not being bothered by being by myself. I think that this was likely compensation or perhaps even justification for being introverted and not wanting to go out of my way to make friends. But, really, fact is, I never was bothered too much by being alone.
I remember when I went away to college, for the first couple of weeks I actually ate dinner by myself at a little restaurant in town rather than face the trauma of having to figure out who to eat with on campus. I had friends who I ate lunch with but usually in the afternoon before dinner I wouldn’t be with them so rather than try to go find them, I went off campus to eat. Eventually I decided that was going to get ridiculously expensive and I ended up hanging out in the music department in the afternoon and then going to dinner with music majors. I was not a music major but I was sort of their mascot or something for awhile. It was weird. I won’t think too much about the music department at college lest I get the heebie jeebies. Maybe that can be another post someday.
Then when I started my career and even after Lisa and I were married, I spent a lot of time traveling. By myself. I figure that I have spent, in total, at least two years traveling by myself during the past 20 years. Probably more. (Speaking of the years going by … I received a note recently from a high school classmate. I usually get a Christmas card from him but this year I just got a note from him which was apologizing for not getting his Christmas cards out on time. That was a bit peculiar in and of itself. Apparently he was late getting his cards out but technically that was okay because I wasn;t getting one anyway. His note also pointed out that 2007 is the year of our 25th high school reunion. I have never gone to a high school reunion before. 25 seems like a milestone. Maybe I will go but maybe I should get serious about that weight loss thing first. I had a doctor last week ask me how much I weighed when I graduated from high school. I lied and told him 135. It was actually 125. It sounded better, though, if I’d only gained 85 pounds in 25 years instead of 95. That is just frightening. Okay, I may have just lied again. I probably weighed about 120 when I graduated from high school. Maybe 115. In any event, our 25th reunion is this year and maybe I will actually go. Out of our class of about 300 students, something like 20 or 25 of us have died. That seems like a whole lot. Very few violent deaths like you might expect at this age. Mostly cancer and heart problems I think. I really need to commit to that diet. Man, our house is full of fattening goodies right now.)
Anyway, I have spent a lot of time alone in my life. When I traveled, I would eat inside at restaurants by myself. Some people are really freaked out by the idea of eating alone in a restaurant. I was never bothered by it. These days, when I must travel alone, I find myself more likely to order room service. It’s harder for me to be alone than it used to be.
"Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I'll be there." (Matthew 18:18-20 The Message)
I have always been sort of bothered or something by that scripture. I guess I never understood it. It always seemed to me like Jesus was saying that God wasn’t with us when we’re alone. And I knew that couldn’t be right.
I now see how it was really the Holy Spirit to which Jesus was referring. How, when two or more Christians are together, the Holy Spirit can flow between them and wonderful things come from that.
I have been thinking a lot about the Holy Spirit lately. I am sure there is still much I do not understand about it but I do know that, up until the last few years, I really didn’t understand squat about it.
Late last week, I was at an early morning church committee meeting. The person leading the meeting asked me to pray to close out the meeting. My prayer took a strange twist and I started praying about God’s power and thanking Him for the way He works through us. Though there’s nothing wrong with what I said, I got very self-conscious in the midst of the prayer and then I just sort of ended it. I don’t know … maybe I felt like it was getting too personal with things I have been reflecting a lot on lately.
Have I blogged much about the couple of early morning prayer meetings we held at Evan’s school a few weeks ago? Those were powerful times. It is amazing how your heart can be opened and softened by hearing others pray what is on their hearts.
I guess that, in my Christian journey, I have really started to focus more and more on relationships and the powerful things that can happen in those relationships, particularly when the Holy Spirit enters in. “One” really can be a lonely number. It isn’t that God isn’t with us when we’re alone. In fact, those can be powerful times, too. However, His power is truly awesome whenever two or more are gathered in His name. I still enjoy my “alone” time but I also really value time spent with others, more than I ever have before.
God is good. And He’s here. In 2007 I want to experience Him in as powerful way as I possibly can.
May he judge your people rightly,
be honorable to your meek and lowly.
Let the mountains give exuberant witness;
shape the hills with the contours of right living.
Please stand up for the poor,
help the children of the needy,
come down hard on the cruel tyrants.
Outlast the sun, outlive the moon—
age after age after age.
Be rainfall on cut grass,
earth-refreshing rain showers.
Let righteousness burst into blossom
and peace abound until the moon fades to nothing.
Rule from sea to sea,
from the River to the Rim.
9-14 Foes will fall on their knees before God,
his enemies lick the dust.
Kings remote and legendary will pay homage,
kings rich and resplendent will turn over their wealth.
All kings will fall down and worship,
and godless nations sign up to serve him,
Because he rescues the poor at the first sign of need,
the destitute who have run out of luck.
He opens a place in his heart for the down-and-out,
he restores the wretched of the earth.
He frees them from tyranny and torture—
when they bleed, he bleeds;
when they die, he dies.
15-17 And live! Oh, let him live!
Deck him out in Sheba gold.
Offer prayers unceasing to him,
bless him from morning to night.
Fields of golden grain in the land,
cresting the mountains in wild exuberance,
Cornucopias of praise, praises
springing from the city like grass from the earth.
May he never be forgotten,
his fame shine on like sunshine.
May all godless people enter his circle of blessing
and bless the One who blessed them.
18-20 Blessed God, Israel's God,
the one and only wonder-working God!
Blessed always his blazing glory!
All earth brims with his glory.
Yes and Yes and Yes.
Once there was a man whose life was one of misery. The days were cloudy, and the nights were long. Henry didn’t want to be unhappy, but he was. With the passing of the years, his life had changed. His children were grown. The neighborhood was different. The city seemed harsher.
He was unhappy. He decided to ask his minister what was wrong.
“Am I unhappy for some sin I have committed?”
“Yes,” the wise pastor replied. “You have sinned.”
“And what might that sin be?”
“Ignorance,” came the reply. “The sin of ignorance. One of your neighbors is the Messiah in disguise, and you have not seen him.”
The old man left the office stunned. “The Messiah is one of my neighbors?” He began to think who it might be.
Tom the butcher? No, he’s too lazy. Mary, my cousin down the street? No, too much pride. Aaron the paperboy? No, too indulgent. The man was confounded. Every person he knew had defects. But one was the Messiah. He began to look for Him.
He began to notice things he hadn’t seen. The grocer often carried sacks to the cars of older ladies. Maybe he is the Messiah. The officer at the corner always had a smile for the kids. Could it be? And the young couple who’d moved next door. How kind they are to their cat. Maybe one of them …
With time he saw things in people he’d never seen. And with time his outlook began to change. The bounce returned to his step. His eyes took on a friendly sparkle. When others spoke he listened. After all, he might be listening to the Messiah. When anyone asked for help, he responded; after all this might be the Messiah needing assistance.
The change of attitude was so significant that someone asked him why he was so happy. “I don’t know,” he answered. “All I know is that things changed when I started looking for God.”
Now, that’s curious. The old man saw Jesus because he didn’t know what he looked like. The people in Jesus’ day missed him because they thought they did.
How are things looking in your neighborhood?
let me never be put to shame.
2 Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness;
turn your ear to me and save me.
3 Be my rock of refuge,
to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of evil and cruel men.
5 For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD,
my confidence since my youth.
6 From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother's womb.
I will ever praise you.
7 I have become like a portent to many,
but you are my strong refuge.
8 My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long.
9 Do not cast me away when I am old;
do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
10 For my enemies speak against me;
those who wait to kill me conspire together.
11 They say, "God has forsaken him;
pursue him and seize him,
for no one will rescue him."
12 Be not far from me, O God;
come quickly, O my God, to help me.
13 May my accusers perish in shame;
may those who want to harm me
be covered with scorn and disgrace.
14 But as for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.
15 My mouth will tell of your righteousness,
of your salvation all day long,
though I know not its measure.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD;
I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, O God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, O God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your might to all who are to come.
19 Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God,
you who have done great things.
Who, O God, is like you?
20 Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
and comfort me once again.
22 I will praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you—
I, whom you have redeemed.
24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
have been put to shame and confusion.
Wow. There's a real lesson for me in those two verses. Don't get me wrong, I do not think that I am a terrible worrier but I have known the joy of occasionally experiencing times in my life when all worry truly is cast aside ... when God is at the center, top, bottom, inside and outside ... and He displaces everything else. Those are powerful times and I so want to always be in that light!
I have, for several weeks, been making my way through Philip Yancey's book on Prayer. For some reason, I sat it down for a couple of weeks and didn't read from it. I picked it up and starting reading again the past couple of days. It is such an enjoyable and insightful book. Yancey writes with such pure honesty and clarity. I think that all of his readers must feel like he is someplace inside their heads. His words resonate that powerfully and clearly.
My prayer life often comes in fits and starts or snorts and spurts or something like that. I have never really been a big one for prayers of petition. Yancey and other authors have made it clear to me, though, that God wants to hear our desires, our frustrations, and our cries but it's still just, well, uncomfortable for me to pray for myself. I am working on it though.
One thing I have found, though, is that as I utter prayers of intercession on behalf of others, I come so much closer to God myself and, through those prayers, I really develop a better understanding of myself and the world around me.
Near the end of his book, Yancey writes a lot about praying for those folks who we may not particularly care for. I guess you could call it praying for your enemies. I try to practice that, not in the way of praying that those folks will change to my way of thinking but rather that I will understand them better and figure out how to best relate to and communicate with them. As Yancey says, we all come to God "uniquely faulted" (or something like that), meaning that we have all sinned -- none of us is perfect. God died for my "enemy's" sins just as He died for mine. He loves that person just as much as He loves me. When my prayers reflect that, my heart cannot help but soften. I will develop a better understanding of that person and out of that will come greater peace in my life at the very least if not mutual healing and reconciliation in the relationship.
I have been praying a lot lately for a couple of friends of mine who have been accused of some not-so-nice crimes. One friend has been in jail for over two years now and is awaiting a new trial. The other friend is facing a trial later this year. Regardless of the exact situations involved, praying for these folks has helped to show me the importance of being supportive and reaching out to them. It has also led me to pray for their accusers.
Okay, so I am at the end of what I wanted to write but I am really not at a concluding point. Why don't they teach you in college how to deal with situations like this?
In any event, as we enter the new year, I am committing myself to more prayer. I have come to realize that prayer is not so much about seeking some magical divine intervention as it is about seeking God's direction and will for my life, seeking His divine work through me. That makes prayer very worthwhile.
Those who are out to get me—
let them fall all over themselves.
Those who relish my downfall—
send them down a blind alley.
Give them a taste of their own medicine,
those gossips off clucking their tongues.
4 Let those on the hunt for you
sing and celebrate.
Let all who love your saving way
say over and over, "God is mighty!"
5 But I've lost it. I'm wasted.
Quick to my side, quick to my rescue!
God, don't lose a minute.
and a dog barking
I'm running just as fast as I can
It's been a long time
a very long time
since I faced up to the man that I am
I was caught up in
my own lies
my own snare
thinking everything was all right
But now it's all caught up
I'm shook down
And reality is fixing to bite
I need something
And I need it quick
Gotta find some peace in my life
I was caught up in
my own lies
my own snare
thinking everything was all right
I can confess now
Prepare to move on
And live my life according to Christ
What will others think
Is it a deathbed confession
Or am I really looking to make a change
I was caught up in
my own lies
my own snare
thinking everything was all right
But He stands at
my door now and knocks
He's calling me to follow Him
It won't be easy
I've really messed up
But with some serious work, I know that He's there
I was caught up in
my own lies
my own snare
thinking everything was all right
Life moves ahead
With Christ at the helm
I know that I'm on the right path now
What will I do
What will I be
I just know that this man has got to change
And I thank God
For His redeeming grace
With Him, my life will make a change
It won't be easy
But things will get better
Now that I have accepted His way
I was caught up in
my own lies
my own snare
thinking everything was all right
There's a risk in writing fiction, though, and I feel that I must clear the air on it now. Particularly when you haven't written fiction for a long, long time, it can take people by surprise. They then spend their time trying to figure out who or what you're "really" writing about or why you're choosing to do it now. Please don't try to read things into anything I write.
Typically, when I write fiction, even if it is in the first person, it has been inspired only by a thought I had or perhaps by something or someone that I have seen as an outsider and then tried to play out in my mind what their story is. The fictional pieces I write are just that -- fiction. They are not based in reality so, if you read them, please don't try to read anything into them. I'm paranoid enough as it is -- I don't need to be worrying that you're wondering if I am writing about you or about that other person or about myself.
Now, that said, I have written before that I am what I call a "word stringer." Oh, how I admire folks who can truly "compose" with words! That is so much nicer than what I do in just stringing words together.
I remember back in high school and college lit classes when we'd study famous works that held a lot of symbolism. Everyone else in the class always seemed to "get it" but I was usually in the dark, begging for the Cliff Notes. Even after the symbolism was explained to me, I'd spend my time wondering how we could really know that the symbolism we thought was there was really intended by the author.
Anyway, if you read any of the fiction I post here, please don't try to read people, places, events, things or any symbols into it. They really aren't there. I am just exploring words ... stringing them together if you will ... to see what emotions or thoughts I evoke in myself or perhaps in a reader or two.
for the waters have come up to my neck.
2 I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.
3 I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
looking for my God.
4 Those who hate me without reason
outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
what I did not steal.
5 You know my folly, O God;
my guilt is not hidden from you.
6 May those who hope in you
not be disgraced because of me,
O Lord, the LORD Almighty;
may those who seek you
not be put to shame because of me,
O God of Israel.
7 For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face.
8 I am a stranger to my brothers,
an alien to my own mother's sons;
9 for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
10 When I weep and fast,
I must endure scorn;
11 when I put on sackcloth,
people make sport of me.
12 Those who sit at the gate mock me,
and I am the song of the drunkards.
13 But I pray to you, O LORD,
in the time of your favor;
in your great love, O God,
answer me with your sure salvation.
14 Rescue me from the mire,
do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me,
from the deep waters.
15 Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
or the depths swallow me up
or the pit close its mouth over me.
16 Answer me, O LORD, out of the goodness of your love;
in your great mercy turn to me.
17 Do not hide your face from your servant;
answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
18 Come near and rescue me;
redeem me because of my foes.
19 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before you.
20 Scorn has broken my heart
and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none.
21 They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
22 May the table set before them become a snare;
may it become retribution and a trap.
23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.
24 Pour out your wrath on them;
let your fierce anger overtake them.
25 May their place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
26 For they persecute those you wound
and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
27 Charge them with crime upon crime;
do not let them share in your salvation.
28 May they be blotted out of the book of life
and not be listed with the righteous.
29 I am in pain and distress;
may your salvation, O God, protect me.
30 I will praise God's name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the LORD more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hoofs.
32 The poor will see and be glad—
you who seek God, may your hearts live!
33 The LORD hears the needy
and does not despise his captive people.
34 Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and all that move in them,
35 for God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
Then people will settle there and possess it;
36 the children of his servants will inherit it,
and those who love his name will dwell there.
In this little town people watch and wonder
But only for a second and then they move on
His mind wanders to times when he was young
Times when he was happy
Times when he still knew his family
It's been years since he has talked to them
Life feels so bleak to him today
The same as yesterday
There are better times ahead
He knows it in his heart
Cloudy skies will give way
And better times will come
Others walk in and out of the courthouse
Some will have a good day dressed in Armani
Others are there to mourn while seeking justice
Yet others are having their day in court
Their lives resting in the hands of people they don’t know
Our nameless man stays on the outside
Good or bad, he has no reason to go in
He watches others who look at him like he’s in a cage
But the only cage is the one surrounding their minds
There are better times ahead
He knows it in his heart
Cloudy skies will give way
And better times will come
The others have all gone home now
Wherever that may be
It’s getting dark and cold outside
Our man seeks warmth on the cement inside a doorway
He has been long forgotten by those who saw him today
They have moved on to lives of family and comfort
Many will see him again tomorrow
And think that he looks familiar
Yet they will glance only for a moment
And then quickly forget the nameless man
He doesn't forget them though
They're all he has and he remembers them one by one
How they walk and what they wear
The color of their hair
He'll spend the night in restless comfort
Remembering those he knows
Tomorrow will be more of the same
But that's just the way it is for the nameless man
There are better times ahead
He knows it in his heart
Cloudy skies will give way
And better times will come
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. - Revelation 5:10 KJV
The Bible describes two distinct roles in the Old Testament-kings and priests. Kings were the rulers; priests were the religious leaders. The New Testament reveals we all are kings and priests because of the redemptive work of Christ.
Today, kings are most often represented by business and political leaders, while pastors represent the priestly roles. God calls each of us to fulfill both roles in our lives today. However, our vocational roles often create a division that is misunderstood by both workplace believers and pastors. These misunderstandings have led to a weakened and less effective Church.
Pastors have been guilty of viewing their workplace believers as dollar signs. They sometimes see them for what they can contribute to their ministries instead of equipping them to use their gifts and talents to impact the workplace believer's mission field-their workplace.
Workplace believers have tried to get pastors to operate their churches like businesses, and have used their worldly ways for spiritual purposes. They often view the pastor as the primary ministry worker instead of taking on the responsibility themselves to do the work of the ministry.
This is a grievous sin that exists in the Body of Christ, and it requires repentance from both groups. Unless we recognize this, we will never see the reality of revival that God wants to bring to the business community, and pastors will fail to gain an ally to fully complete the work of the Church in their community.
Are you a pastor who has failed to see the calling that workplace believers have received to the workplace? If so, ask God to forgive you for viewing your workplace believers as those to be used for your own purposes.
Are you a workplace believer who sees your church as another business to be run based on worldly measurements? Do you see the pastor's role as one who is primarily responsible for the work of the ministry? If so, you must repent and ask God to forgive you of this unbiblical view. God has called both of you to fulfill His purposes together through your gifts and talents.
Turn Around is filled with great tracks. There are a few good guitar rifts but don't expect what we were treated to in his earlier work. Instead, you get a much more soulful and personal work with every song being one in which he is credited, at least in part, with writing it. A bit more R & B than just blues, Lang's soulful voice still shines through but he also shows incredible versatility and expertise with a high falsetto on a couple of songs.
The lyrics are great -- some songs like "One Person At A Time" are a bit superficial though the intent is nice. I wish that the lyrics weren't spread horizontally across the entire 6 panels of the CD liner as it makes them hard to read. "Only A Man," "Anything's Possible, "Don't Stop," and "On My Feet Again" all have great lyrics from Jonny's personal turn around. "My Love Remains" (co-written by Stephen Curtis Chapman) and "That Great Day" have strong gospel influence carried off very nicely by Lang. The final track, "It's Not Over," gets back a bit to the bluesiness you can't help but love Lang for.
If you're looking to just hear Lang's voice and work again, this CD is worth it. But if you'd like some edgy and highly personal R & B-influenced Christian music, you will really enjoy this album.
Adversaries, run for the hills!
Gone like a puff of smoke,
like a blob of wax in the fire—
one look at God and the wicked vanish.
When the righteous see God in action
they'll laugh, they'll sing,
they'll laugh and sing for joy.
Sing hymns to God;
all heaven, sing out;
clear the way for the coming of Cloud-Rider.
cheer when you see him!
5-6 Father of orphans,
champion of widows,
is God in his holy house.
God makes homes for the homeless,
leads prisoners to freedom,
but leaves rebels to rot in hell.
7-10 God, when you took the lead with your people,
when you marched out into the wild,
Earth shook, sky broke out in a sweat;
God was on the march.
Even Sinai trembled at the sight of God on the move,
at the sight of Israel's God.
You pour out rain in buckets, O God;
thorn and cactus become an oasis
For your people to camp in and enjoy.
You set them up in business;
they went from rags to riches.
11-14 The Lord gave the word;
thousands called out the good news:
"Kings of the armies
are on the run, on the run!"
While housewives, safe and sound back home,
divide up the plunder,
the plunder of Canaanite silver and gold.
On that day that Shaddai scattered the kings,
snow fell on Black Mountain.
15-16 You huge mountains, Bashan mountains,
mighty mountains, dragon mountains.
All you mountains not chosen,
sulk now, and feel sorry for yourselves,
For this is the mountain God has chosen to live on;
he'll rule from this mountain forever.
17-18 The chariots of God, twice ten thousand,
and thousands more besides,
The Lord in the lead, riding down Sinai—
straight to the Holy Place!
You climbed to the High Place, captives in tow,
your arms full of booty from rebels,
And now you sit there in state,
God, sovereign God!
19-23 Blessed be the Lord—
day after day he carries us along.
He's our Savior, our God, oh yes!
He's God-for-us, he's God-who-saves-us.
Lord God knows all
death's ins and outs.
What's more, he made heads roll,
split the skulls of the enemy
As he marched out of heaven,
saying, "I tied up the Dragon in knots,
put a muzzle on the Deep Blue Sea."
You can wade through your enemies' blood,
and your dogs taste of your enemies from your boots.
24-31 See God on parade
to the sanctuary, my God,
my King on the march!
Singers out front, the band behind,
maidens in the middle with castanets.
The whole choir blesses God.
Like a fountain of praise, Israel blesses God.
Look—little Benjamin's out
front and leading
Princes of Judah in their royal robes,
princes of Zebulon, princes of Naphtali.
Parade your power, O God,
the power, O God, that made us what we are.
Your temple, High God, is Jerusalem;
kings bring gifts to you.
Rebuke that old crocodile, Egypt,
with her herd of wild bulls and calves,
Rapacious in her lust for silver,
crushing peoples, spoiling for a fight.
Let Egyptian traders bring blue cloth
and Cush come running to God, her hands outstretched.
32-34 Sing, O kings of the earth!
Sing praises to the Lord!
There he is: Sky-Rider,
striding the ancient skies.
Listen—he's calling in thunder,
rumbling, rolling thunder.
Call out "Bravo!" to God,
the High God of Israel.
His splendor and strength
rise huge as thunderheads.
35 A terrible beauty, O God,
streams from your sanctuary.
It's Israel's strong God! He gives
power and might to his people!
O you, his people—bless God!
It just seems so far from here to there
Too far to go, not in this life
Not even for that elusive brighter day
But steps come incrementally
Though the mind wishes for a giant leap
That wish holds us back
Keeping us stuck in this cement
The promise is there
The Word tells us so
But oh how far we have to go
For that brighter day
Confusion sets in
The weak flesh remains
We want to get over that big divide
And get successfully to the other side
Each small victory brings a celebration
But it’s ten steps forward and nine steps back
Old ways and old lies
Just continually delude our eyes
But there’s a way to get there
The one who made us gives us that promise
Some friends, they encourage us
But others, living or not, just keep calling us back
The chains can be broken
We can be set free
The physical may remain
But our mind and heart don’t have to be in it
We can move on over to that brighter day
It’s a change inside that takes us there
It’s not the physical but instead the elemental
That takes us on over to that brighter day
I don't shop very often without Lisa and, today at WalMart, I found myself putting things back on shelves and that sort of annoyed Evan. At one point, amidst all the frenzy of dropping prices, I had decided that we needed new ice scrapers for our cars. Today was our first snow, you know. Well, by the time we'd gotten over to the grocery section, better sense had taken over me and I decided we had to go back and put the ice scrapers back in their little bin below the yellow smiley face. Our old ice scrapers will be fine this year.
There was something else I bought in the grocery and then found something else cheaper so we had to put the first one back. I forget what it was. I could go back and review my receipt to remember what it was but you don't really care anyway now, do you?
And then I looked at new electric razors. My current one is kind of old and not as bright and shiny as new ones though I guess it works okay. I picked up a new one, almost put it in my cart, and then placed it back on the shelf, deciding that I only shave about half my face these days anyway.
But the Jonny Lang CD that made its way into my cart stayed there. Looking forward to that.
Switching gears a bit. is anyone else bothered by overly nosy bank tellers or WalMart clerks? Like the bank teller who, when you make a large withdrawal of cash, loudly asks "Are you going on vacation?" To which I reply, also loudly, "Well, yes, we are. We will be gone for two weeks. Please come over and help yourself to anything in the house while we're gone!"
Today's WalMart clerk was one of those who has to comment on everything. "Oh, that's cute!" "Are those any good?" "Can I just keep this for myself?" and "Oh, I tried that once and it was just nasty!" Those were some of the comments I heard today. Of course, talkative clerks also tend to be slow clerks. But it was all good. I now know whose line to avoid in the future.
One of the most interesting things from today's trip, though, was something I noticed when I was waiting in line and trying to not listen to the clerk. Amidst tabloid headlines about Kirstie Alley's recent weight gain (again) and Jennifer Anniston now being distraught over her divorce, there was another headline which really caught my eye. "Bigfoot loses 150 pounds. Now you can benefit from his diet!" It included before and after pictures of Bigfoot and I must say he is quite buff at 650 pounds instead of 800. Apparently, this article was a follow-up to an article on capturing Bigfoot. If he's lost about 20% of his weight, though, I must question whether captivity is good for him. And I am curious about that diet. I picked up the tabloid to buy it ... but put it back. There are too many left-overs in our house right now for dieting.
Evan got mainly video games, which made him very happy. Lisa always takes care of buying for him for Christmas, which is nice. She's the organizer of our family. All of the papers, books, and binders in the back of my car are proof that I am not the organizer.
This was probably the most excited I have ever seen Evan about Christmas. That was neat. He's really taken to an odd habit of pounding on his abdomen recently though and that was sort of annoying. Not sure I have ever blogged about this before but Evan is a highly gifted kid -- IQ someplace up over 150. That brings a lot of challenges in parenting which I will have to write about sometime. One oddity of highly gifted kids is their quirkiness. Things like arm flapping abound with these kids. I think it's because their minds are always so far ahead of the rest of us, operating in a different dimension but maybe it's just because they're quirky. It was neat to see him excited for Christmas though. He also exhibited what was, for him, pretty mature behavior most of the weekend.
I am home alone with Evan today. Lisa has to work unfortunately. I am looking forward to spending some guy time with Evan thouigh. Check with me at the end of the day and see how I am feeling about that then though. He's not up yet. I need to get him out for a quick shopping trip today. He probably won't like that but it's necessary if we want to eat dinner tonight.
On Friday night, we attended a church other than our own in order to see their Christmas play. The church is pastored by a friend of ours who has a son in Evan's class. The play they put on was written by a local guy and he really needs to get it published. It was very well-written and they did a great job carrying it off. Extremely relevant for our times.
Speaking of publishing...the company that has agreed to publish the book I wrote last year when I returned from Israel is pushing me to get it wrapped up. I need some serious time to devote to it. Because January is a very full month already with United Way allocation meetings, I need to get the book done soon.
Two different pastors we heard this Christmas used John 3:16 as their scripture. I am not sure I have ever heard anyone use that before at Christmas. It was pretty neat. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention before though. That is entirely possible. Seems like perfect Christmas scripture and fodder to me.
We had members of both sides of our family here yesterday for lunch and a few hours. I was pretty nervous about it, due to some dynamics going on in both families right now. Okay, very nervous. We made it through though without fisticuffs, street brawling, or anyone hauling a Vietnam-era flamethrower out of their garage. Overall, it was pretty successful.
I used to cook a lot when I was younger and I really enjoy it. Somehow, our schedules just sort of changed when Evan was born though and Lisa started doing most of the cooking. I miss it. I think it was because, when I would get home from work, she was ready for a break from taking care of Evan so I would take that over for awhile as she prepared dinner. Yesterday, though, I fixed the turkey and did it "my way". I stuffed it with corn, yellow squash, green peppper, and apple slices. I mixed in some pepper and parmesean. I rubbed the outside with lemon and olive oil and then put some pepper on it. It was very tasty if I do say so myself. Stuffing a turkey with vegetables helps keep the turkey moist. I had fun doing that. Also fixed a small boneless breast and just rubbed poultry seasoning on it and put it in a bag. Also very tasty.
Our pastor, in his Sunday morning message, talked about the forgiveness that God gave to us with His son. He then led into the questioning of whether there are those in our lives we need to forgive. It really got me to thinking. Generally, I think of myself as a fairly forgiving person. I am slow to anger and most things just roll off my back. I don't think of myself as harboring grudges yet, I have to admit, I do joke around sometimes about others. I need to think that through a bit and make sure that it is not actually the result of a lack of forgiveness on my part. There may be particular family members, too, where a lack of forgiveness on my part is affecting the relationship. I need to keep that in check.
Some good friends of ours gave me a calendar with Israel pictures which I am really going to enjoy. My folks gave me a book with Israel pictures. Ditto for that. The memories these pictures evoke are huge. I'd love to take Lisa and Evan to Israel this summer and just travel on our own but that probably won't happen. We have also talked about California this summer as a possible trip, if funds allow. That is probably more likely to happen than Israel. I have not been to California much in recent years. I used to travel there quite a lot and really enjoyed it.
Evan got a game called Whooonu for Christmas. It's one of the Cranium games. Those are all pretty good. This game is a lot of fun -- it tells you a lot about the people you're playing with. That is usually a good thing.
The same friend who gave me the calendar gave me a book called "A guide to prayer for all who seek God." He usually carries his around with him. It's a really neat book with readings and scriptural references broken up across the Christian calendar, all to guide you toward reflection and prayer. I really want to focus on my prayer life in 2007 ... it's gone in fits and spurts in 2006. While I still want to focus on intercessory prayer, I also want to spend time focusing on using prayer to seek God's direction for my life.
Lisa and Evan got me the PS2 game, Guitar Hero, for Christmas. It is a blast. It includes a little plastic guitar that you use to try to play tunes that are mainly from the 80's heavy metal, glam, and hair bands. As Evan says, "Rock on, Dude!" It allows me to show a side of myself few people ever see, or would want to see for that matter! Hardeeharhar.
Lisa and I got each other the same CD for Christmas which is pretty funny. She also got me 80's Trivial Pursuit which we played yesterday. My father-in-law and I were on a team and we kicked butt. (Well, actually, we kicked butt during a string of very easy questions we received.The rest of the time we just tread water.) I got Lisa some clothes for Christmas. I hope they fit.
Woke up to a little snow on the ground this morning. That's a first for this winter. Fortunately not nearly enough to have to shovel.
Well, I guess that is it for now.
May his face smile with favor on us.
2 May your ways be known throughout the earth,
your saving power among people everywhere.
3 May the nations praise you, O God.
Yes, may all the nations praise you.
4 Let the whole world sing for joy,
because you govern the nations with justice
and guide the people of the whole world.
5 May the nations praise you, O God.
Yes, may all the nations praise you.
6 Then the earth will yield its harvests,
and God, our God, will richly bless us.
7 Yes, God will bless us,
and people all over the world will fear him.
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
The beautiful Christmas carol Silent Night was sung around the world last night. The first verse ends with such a beautiful image of the Christ child sleeping peacefully in the manger. Yet let's hope that it doesn't stop there.
I pray that, starting on this Christmas day, Christ is anything but asleep. I hope that He will be more awake and exuberantly living than ever before in the hearts and souls of those who know Him around the world. I pray that we will live up to our responsibility to spread His message -- to show His bright, warm love -- to a world that often seems so horribly dark and cold -- a place where so many lives are filled with despair, hatred, or violence. Jesus is there for us but we have a choice in our lives ... we can let Him lay there asleep in the hay or we can call Him to the life of love and outreach which He so desperately seeks.
I pray that wherever the cruelty of prejudice looms, His love for all will be there. I pray that whenever anger and hatred rise up, His peace will be there. I pray that when unforgiveness is rampant, His grace will show up. I pray that whenever hunger and despair strike, He will be there for nourishment and encouragement for the body, for the soul, for today, for tomorrow. I pray that wherever apathy seems to rule and darkness prevail, His redeeming power will be proven.
God had exhausted other methods of getting through to us, so He sent His son. Emmanuel. God with us. Things have never been the same in terms of the opportunity and power of the life transformed in Him. Yet so much of the world looks the same. Not just across the continent but in our own hometowns. Darkness, despair, desperation. Hunger, cold, loneliness.
Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born
He loves us. His Spirit is here. Let's not let it sleep. Let's call it to life. Follow His call. Use the supernatural power of His love. Whether around the world or around the block, we cannot be apathetic.
Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
He came so that we might understand love. So that He might teach us His ways of peace. He left us His Spirit and His teachings. Have we learned the lessons that our Father so desperately wanted to teach us? Will we put them into practice? Will we carry them to the world in 2007 and beyond? Will He sleep on the hay or will He prevail in our hearts and live through our lives? It's our choice. Which will it be?
2 Sing the glory of his name;
make his praise glorious!
3 Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power
that your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth bows down to you;
they sing praise to you,
they sing praise to your name."
5 Come and see what God has done,
how awesome his works in man's behalf!
6 He turned the sea into dry land,
they passed through the waters on foot—
come, let us rejoice in him.
7 He rules forever by his power,
his eyes watch the nations—
let not the rebellious rise up against him.
8 Praise our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard;
9 he has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
10 For you, O God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
11 You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
12 You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.
13 I will come to your temple with burnt offerings
and fulfill my vows to you-
14 vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke
when I was in trouble.
15 I will sacrifice fat animals to you
and an offering of rams;
I will offer bulls and goats.
16 Come and listen, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
17 I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
18 If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
19 but God has surely listened
and heard my voice in prayer.
20 Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' " 16From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.
19Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ."
21They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?"
He said, "I am not."
"Are you the Prophet?"
He answered, "No."
22Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"
23John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.' "
24Now some Pharisees who had been sent 25questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"
26"I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know. 27He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie."
28This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' 31I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
32Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' 34I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."
35The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"
37When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"
39"Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.
40Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). 42And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter).
43The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me." 44Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
46"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip.
47When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false."
48"How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you."
49Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."
50Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that." 51He then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." (John 1, NIV)
It's an interesting history that God has had with man. An all-powerful God could have gotten His points across to us in much more powerful ways ... or He could have just given up on is altogether ... yet He has always wanted us to follow Him out of our own free will, not because we were His puppets. His patience with man across the ages proves His love for us.
God created Adam and placed him in a wonderful place, with the ability to have constant communion with Himself. He saw that Adam was lonely, though, and sent Eve to keep Him company. That worked okay for awhile ... again, they shared this wonderful constant communion with their maker. But, as happens when people get together, we want to control things for our own liking. Out of that desire for controlling things themselves, Adam and Eve messed things up.
Later, God sent His law to His people through Moses. He sent prophets to further pronounce that law and prepare man for the future. He sent leaders to help guide the Israelites -- His chosen people at the time. They would follow for awhile and then they'd get their own ideas and start doing their own thing. Then, eventually realizing their mistakes, they'd end up wandering the desert and working to re-prove their allegiance to God. That would work for awhile but then the desires of the flesh would sneak in again and there'd be more wandering ... more seeking.
God sticking by man through all of this is proof of His love -- his desire to have man choose to follow Him and live out that choice from free will.
As predicted by the prophets, God knew that it would come to the point of where something else was necessary. Under the most unlikely of circumstances and, I suspect, out of a bit of desperation, He sent His son to dwell among us. He probably hoped we'd get our act together and that this sort of sacrifice wouldn't really be necessary but He knew that we are weak, that He'd have to take another even more proactive step in reaching us.
And that is how we arrived at the gift of this baby who would grow to be God incarnate walking this earth. The greatest chance we as humans ever have had to learn and to bask in the light but, just as God knew we would do, we messed that up as well by crucifying His son.
And, for the past 2000 years, we have continued to mess things up. As humankind, we have done a lousy job of accepting this baby as our gift. We continue to seek our own ways. We argue, we fight, we war, we practice prejudices unspeakable. Just as quickly as we may seek the light, we mess up, we miss opportunities, we fail to love, we fail to forgive as He has forgiven us.
But, He did come. He was here and, when He left, He left us His Spirit to guide us, to direct our paths. All He asks is that we accept Him, we accept His forgiveness, and we pass it along. It's all in our best interest anyway yet we, as mankind, continue to reject what He offers.
I pray that His love will fill me -- will fill all of us -- this Christmas. That we will forgive others, and forgive ourselves, just as He has forgiven us. That we will go into 2007 with a renewed spirit and with souls refreshed to show His love to the world.
May you have a most blessed next few days celebrating His gift -- the baby that would pay for our salvation, the baby given by a Father grieving for His other children -- and may we all carry that to the world in the new year.
And also obedience.
You hear the prayer in it all.
2-8 We all arrive at your doorstep sooner
or later, loaded with guilt,
Our sins too much for us—
but you get rid of them once and for all.
Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest
at home in your place!
We expect our fill of good things
in your house, your heavenly manse.
All your salvation wonders
are on display in your trophy room.
Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash,
of mobs in noisy riot—
Far and wide they'll come to a stop,
they'll stare in awe, in wonder.
Dawn and dusk take turns
calling, "Come and worship."
9-13 Oh, visit the earth,
ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
fill the God-River with living water.
Paint the wheat fields golden.
Creation was made for this!
Drench the plowed fields,
soak the dirt clods
With rainfall as harrow and rake
bring her to blossom and fruit.
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor,
scatter rose petals down your paths,
All through the wild meadows, rose petals.
Set the hills to dancing,
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep,
a drape of flax across the valleys.
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
Oh, oh, let them sing!
And a whimper, obsessed
with feelings of doomsday.
2-6 Don't let them find me—
the conspirators out to get me,
Using their tongues as weapons,
flinging poison words,
They shoot from ambush,
shoot without warning,
not caring who they hit.
They keep fit doing calisthenics
of evil purpose,
They keep lists of the traps
they've secretly set.
They say to each other,
"No one can catch us,
no one can detect our perfect crime."
The Detective detects the mystery
in the dark of the cellar heart.
7-8 The God of the Arrow shoots!
They double up in pain,
Fall flat on their faces
in full view of the grinning crowd.
9-10 Everyone sees it. God's
work is the talk of the town.
Be glad, good people! Fly to God!
Good-hearted people, make praise your habit.
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
9 They who seek my life will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10 They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God's name will praise him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.
In the message "Day of Remembrance" we saw the focus of Christmas must always be on remembering the gift given through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This season ought to irresistibly draw us near to God as we reflect on His gift of love.
The birth of Jesus gives great insight into the character of God. For one, we see His methods are far different from our own; "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways" (Isaiah 55:8). How many of us would bring the King of Kings into the world through two common young people in a dirty stable? But God had a purpose.
These lowest of beginnings set the example for a life of humility. Jesus Christ is the Creator of the Universe! "For by Him all things were created" (Colossians 1:16). Yet, He humbled Himself to the point of being born with the animals and continued by humbly walking all the way to the cross.
As we reflect on His humility, how can we then make prideful demands on life? How can we assume there is a standard to which we are entitled? Jesus set the standard for humility and we are now called to follow; "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus"
But perhaps the greatest insight we can learn from the birth of our Savior is simply that He came. Our sin must have been detestable and vile to One so holy, but He came to live with us...and love us! Without Jesus Christ, we have absolutely no hope - we can do nothing to save ourselves from the bondage of sin and an eternal separation from God - yet, He made the first move to set us free. He took the initiative in our Salvation by providing a way and calling us Home.
1 John 4:9
"This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him."
God clearly saw our sinful condition; and yet, He loved us enough to send His Son so we might be restored to a right relationship with Him
- He sent His Son so we might live! God made the first move 2000 years ago and He continues to make the first move in our lives today. He calls long before we even recognize His voice, and He continues to call us to surrender our life and live with Him in a deeper and more intimate relationship.
If you hear His call today, please respond! It's a great privilege to hear His call. Be encouraged - but respond! His call cost Him dearly, and it represents a love we will never fully understand. Let's boldly answer and follow wherever He leads because He loved us enough to make the first move.
my salvation comes from him.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
3 How long will you assault a man?
Would all of you throw him down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
4 They fully intend to topple him
from his lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.
5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God [a] ;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
9 Lowborn men are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie;
if weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
10 Do not trust in extortion
or take pride in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.
11 One thing God has spoken,
two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,
12 and that you, O Lord, are loving.
Surely you will reward each person
according to what he has done.
listen to my prayer.
2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
4 I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
5 For you have heard my vows, O God;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
6 Increase the days of the king's life,
his years for many generations.
7 May he be enthroned in God's presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.
8 Then will I ever sing praise to your name
and fulfill my vows day after day.
Yes, as the song says: "It's the most wonderful time of the year!" We are flooded with Christmas music, Christmas lights, and lots of Christmas "activities." And although the Christmas "fluff"
is often distracting, most of us are able to see through the glitter. In spite of the world's attempt to pull us away, we generally make time to gather with family and friends and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.
But many will find this time of year to be very painful. The memories of past hurt, which remain hidden throughout the year, are now driven to the surface. Many are required to face someone who has caused them pain - or face the memory of a past Christmas which brings the person (and pain) back into view.
Obviously, this is not the turmoil which God intends for our life - especially not as we celebrate the birth of His Son.
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
We cannot properly celebrate the birth of Jesus without reflecting on why He was born. Through His life He offered us a message of eternal hope, and through His death on the cross He offered us the complete forgiveness of sin. With this single act of unbelievable love, Jesus removed the sin which would otherwise keep us eternally separated from our Heavenly Father. This is the manner in which we are to love and forgive others.
Jesus told a parable about a servant who had an enormous debt
canceled: "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go" (Matthew 18:26-27). But when the servant went away, he refused to cancel the relatively minor debt a fellow servant owed him; "Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt"
Jesus used this parable to show that unless we completely forgive others from deep within our heart, we have failed to understand the forgiveness we have already received; "Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" (Matthew 18:33). Any "sin" which others commit against us is small and insignificant when viewed in light of the many true sins we have committed against God! We have been forgiven sooooo much!!
During this most wonderful time of the year, let's reflect on the awesome gift we have been given through our Savior. Then, let's give to others as we have already received - let's love and give the gift of true forgiveness.
Dear God, I need to learn to take one day at a time. Your Word reminds me, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:34). I give all my worries and concerns to You, God, the all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, Almighty God. Please give me peace, grace, and wisdom for the day. Lord, I also pray for the people in this world who live in war-torn nations, poverty, unhappy homes and abusive situations. Please reach down and show them Your love, that they may know that You are God and that You care about them and will give them rest. In Jesus' name, amen.
And stalked off angry.
Come back. Oh please, come back!
You shook earth to the foundations,
ripped open huge crevasses.
Heal the breaks! Everything's
coming apart at the seams.
3-5 You made your people look doom in the face,
then gave us cheap wine to drown our troubles.
Then you planted a flag to rally your people,
an unfurled flag to look to for courage.
Now do something quickly, answer right now,
so the one you love best is saved.
6-8 That's when God spoke in holy splendor,
"Bursting with joy,
I make a present of Shechem,
I hand out Succoth Valley as a gift.
Gilead's in my pocket,
to say nothing of Manasseh.
Ephraim's my hard hat,
Judah my hammer;
Moab's a scrub bucket,
I mop the floor with Moab,
Spit on Edom,
rain fireworks all over Philistia."
9-10 Who will take me to the thick of the fight?
Who'll show me the road to Edom?
You aren't giving up on us, are you, God?
refusing to go out with our troops?
11-12 Give us help for the hard task;
human help is worthless.
In God we'll do our very best;
he'll flatten the opposition for good.
My favorite Christmas memory is Christmas 1997. Lisa and I had been experiencing fertility problems for about seven years at that point. Numerous doctor appointments and treatments had resulted in ongoing frustration and disappointment with no solid explanation as to what was going on. We had started to make adoption plans when, a few weeks before Christmas, we turned out to be expecting – a happy surprise for us.
For Christmas that year, we decided to announce our expected arrival to our parents in a unique way. This was to be the first grandchild for my parents and, while the fourth grandchild for Lisa’s parents, this would be the first local grandchild who her parents would get to spend a lot of time with. To announce this, Lisa carefully prepared two special gifts for our moms. For her mom, she wrapped up a pair of baby booties and, for my mom, she wrapped up a “Grandma’s Brag Book” photo album.
When they unwrapped their gifts at our respective family gatherings, there was initial confusion. My mom thought maybe the photo album was for pictures of our dogs. Lisa’s mom didn’t understand the baby booties at all. But, once the explanation was in place, there were shouts and tears of joy and thanksgiving. I will never forget Lisa’s dad saying “Our prayers have been answered.” Truly, prayers were answered that Christmas of 1997 and we have thoroughly loved every second of parenthood ever since our son, Evan, arrived the following summer.
Fast forward to just recently … we were in a store with Evan when he saw a sign and read it to us: “If you ever want to make God laugh, just tell him what your plans for the future are.” Evan was chuckling a bit at this when I asked him if he knew what the sign really meant. His reply was “Sure, it means that God’s plans are always better than our plans.” Wow – our seven year old is reminding us that God’s plan is always perfect, just as we discovered during Christmas 1997.
On the night I remember best though -- when I was probably seven or perhaps just barely eight -- there wasn't an option of school the next day. This was Christmas Eve. Earlier in the evening, we saw the weatherman on television project where Santa was as he traveled around the globe. As we looked out that steam-covered window and up toward the streetlight, our hope was to catch a glimpse of the big guy in the red suit.
My family always waited and opened our gifts on Christmas Day. Well, I take that back -- sometimes we'd each get to open one gift on Christmas Eve. I only remember one of the gifts that was opened that evening and that was the gift that mom unwrapped. Dad, sis and I had chosen a kitchen radio for my mom. It had a big white case with a decorative molded plastic design over the speaker. A large orange button turned it off and on. And, of course, this was way before the days of anything being digital, so you had to turn the knob to select that station you wanted to listen to. A silver antenna could be pulled up from the back of the radio to try to catch those really distant stations. To my mind, that meant foreign countries. To technology at the time, though, it meant Fort Wayne or maybe Detroit. The radio mounted on the wall and it ran on batteries. Four "C" cells if I remember correctly, which you accessed by swinging open the entire front of the radio.
I am not sure we ever actually hung it on the wall in the old house with the old windows that I grew up in. A couple of years later, we moved to a new house in a bigger town and the radio was mounted on the kitchen wall there. It would often confuse people that we had an intercom in the house because it looked a bit more like an intercom box than a radio. I remember the radio still working and hanging on the kitchen wall, even after I'd graduated from college. Whenever mom was in the kitchen, the radio was on, playing music, the news, or the weather.
That Christmas Eve, after mom had opened up her new radio, she let my sister and I listen to it as we looked out that condensation-covered window. From looking at the streetlight, we could see some snow coming down. We were sure it wouldn't be enough to slow down Santa's reindeer though. He could always get through.
The radio had been tuned in to receive a station in Lima that was playing only Christmas carols that evening. We wiped away the moisture on the windows, looked toward the sky, and hoped to catch a glimpse of that sleigh and those flying reindeer, wondering all the while what gifts we would be surprised with the next morning. Later, sleep didn't come easily that evening but it did come eventually. I am sure there were lots of gifts that next morning but the only gift I remember from that Christmas was the radio. I wish I had that radio with its big orange button but at some point the orange button broke, the radio was taken down from the wall and tossed out, replaced by a newer and smaller radio. A radio that worked fine, of course, but was without Christmas memories.
Though he is now a bit older than I was in this story, I hope that this Christmas will leave my son with at least one happy memory of childhood innocence that will last him a lifetime.
1 Rescue me from my enemies, O God. Protect me from those who have come to destroy me.
2 Rescue me from these criminals; save me from these murderers.
3 They have set an ambush for me. Fierce enemies are out there waiting, Lord, though I have not sinned or offended them.
4 I have done nothing wrong, yet they prepare to attack me. Wake up! See what is happening and help me!
5 O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, wake up and punish those hostile nations. Show no mercy to wicked traitors.
6 They come out at night, snarling like vicious dogs as they prowl the streets.
7 Listen to the filth that comes from their mouths; their words cut like swords. “After all, who can hear us?” they sneer.
8 But Lord, you laugh at them. You scoff at all the hostile nations.
9 You are my strength; I wait for you to rescue me, for you, O God, are my fortress.
10 In his unfailing love, my God will stand with me. He will let me look down in triumph on all my enemies.
11 Don’t kill them, for my people soon forget such lessons; stagger them with your power, and bring them to their knees, O Lord our shield.
12 Because of the sinful things they say, because of the evil that is on their lips, let them be captured by their pride, their curses, and their lies.
13 Destroy them in your anger! Wipe them out completely! Then the whole world will know that God reigns in Israel.
14 My enemies come out at night, snarling like vicious dogs as they prowl the streets.
15 They scavenge for food but go to sleep unsatisfied.
16 But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.
17 O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.
2 No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth.
3 Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.
4 Their venom is like the venom of a snake, like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,
5 that will not heed the tune of the charmer, however skillful the enchanter may be.
6 Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; tear out, O LORD, the fangs of the lions!
7 Let them vanish like water that flows away; when they draw the bow, let their arrows be blunted.
8 Like a slug melting away as it moves along, like a stillborn child, may they not see the sun.
9 Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns— whether they be green or dry—the wicked will be swept away.
10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 Then men will say, "Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth."
1) You catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar.
2) You're never going to make everyone happy all of the time but "everyone" is a lot more understanding of that fact if they think of you as a friend first and a vendor second.
3) First impressions may not be "everything" but they are pretty darned close.
4) Do you have a relationship with your customer such that they would show up at your funeral if you died today? And, most importantly, would they show up grieving or celebrating? :-)
5) (Staying on the thought of funerals...) In making decisions as to how you deal with customers (or any question of business or life ethics), if those decisions are read as part of a eulogy at your funeral, will you be proud of them or embarrassed by them?
"By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)
I have made many important discoveries and learned many valuable lessons in the course of my nearly 80 years.
I could write about about my days of agnosticism when as a happy pagan I finally heard the Good News for the first time and fell in love with Jesus Christ. I could have told about the days when I first experienced the reality of the person of the Holy Spirit. I could share my discovery of how to introduce others to Christ as a way of life, or my realization that everybody hungers for God, even so-called atheists, because God created us that way. (Romans 1:19, 20)
However, having considered all of these possibilities, [the greatest lesson I ever learned is how to] love people who sometimes are difficult to love.
Why is this lesson important to me? Because God places a very strong emphasis on love in His Word. In fact, our Lord teaches us to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind' and to "love your neighbor as yourself."
The Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostle Paul, that no matter what else we might accomplish in life, regardless of what we may contribute that is good and commendable, apart from love, it is of no value whatsoever.
In one instance, I was having difficulty loving a fellow staff member of Campus Crusade for Christ. But the Lord reminded me of I Peter 5:7, "Let him have all your worries and cares, for He is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you" (TLB). When I claimed God's love for the man, by faith, my concern lifted. This man and I met later that afternoon and had the most wonderful time of prayer and fellowship we had ever experienced together. Loving with God's love, by faith, had changed our relationship.
Perhaps you have been in a similar situation and wondered, "How can I really love that person?" I encourage you to make a list of those whom you don't like and begin to love them by faith. Confess any wrong attitudes you may have about them. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with Christ's love for each of them. Then seek to meet with them as you draw upon God's limitless, inexhaustible, overwhelming love for them by faith. You will discover, as I have, that we can never run out of opportunities to love by faith.
That is how I think it often is when we think of God working in our lives. He comes from an eternal perspective that no amount of description will alow us to understand -- not in this world at least. He is, always has been and always will be. The Christian's life is and always will be but, still, how do you gain a perspective on that?
We know time as it exists in our lives today. 60 seconds to a minute. 60 minutes to an hour. 24 hours in a day. 7 days in a week. 52 weeks in a year. Maybe 80 or so years in our life on earth. That is all we can comprehend.
It's easy to get frustrated when we feel like we're always waiting on something. Whether waiting in line, waiting for the mail to come, waiting for our food to be served, or waiting to hear from God, we're always waiting. In fact, in a world where everyone just wants things done more quickly, and technology continually supports that, it becomes even harder for us to slow down and wait and see and listen ... for God.
Like trying to explain how chocolate tastes, I don't think we can really grasp what eternity means.
Here's a link to Anderson Cooper's bit ... http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/anderson.cooper.360/blog/2006/12/what-is-christian.html
This all brings up a subject I have been thinking a lot of the last couple of days. We recently learned that a convicted sexual predator has moved into our neighborhood. Just 20 or so houses away from us. Already, the neighborhood seems to be taking on an unhealthy mindset that reminds me of a couple of recent episodes of "Desperate Housewives." There hasn't been any picketing in this person's yard yet but it may not be an impossible thought that that could happen. And I can't blame people. Fear creeps in. We want to protect our families. We may know that abuse of children very rarely is a random act by a stranger but instead a planned thing carried out by a trusted friend or relative. But still, this person is in our neighborhood. If I reach out to this person and welcome them to the neighborhood, as I feel we really are called as Christians to do, what will the other neighbors think?