"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advent Day Twenty-five, December 21 - Jimmy lost his temper

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son. Anyone who believes in Him will not die spiritually, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

One thing I’ve learned by doing a daily journal through both Lent and Advent is that I tend to hold myself more accountable than I ever have before. This year was my first Lent daily journal and is my second Advent to do this and I am finding out all manner of disturbing little things about myself. Today I had to ask forgiveness for a recent episode of temper I had. As a small boy and into my teen years, I had a ferocious temper and would lash out in word and fist if rubbed the wrong way. And it didn’t take a lot of rubbing.

In my day, there was no such thing as a ‘time out’ and my parents would sentence me to hard labor in the yard or the garden for my outbursts, or for more vocal responses, I lived with a bar of soap hanging from my mouth. Eventually, through their love, patience and not giving up on me, I began to change for the good. Plus, growing up spiritually helped me, too, because I learned that God wanted us to turn that cheek and go that second mile if it meant my Christian witness would not be harmed. And….I did some harm for a number of years.

Anyway, a few days ago I lost my temper and it wasn’t as much what I said, but how I said it and what I did. (Now aren’t you all wondering?) As per my history, I didn’t give any thought to how this other person was affected; until it was pointed out to me this morning….I denied it….for awhile….then, finally, knew I had to apologize. And I have always hated to apologize. Hated it. But, today, I knew I had to and before I ate lunch, I manned up and made the call. It went well… very well… and I felt the burden lifted from my spirit. And I felt loved again. All warm and fuzzy for doing the right thing.

God loved us and sent His Son. As bad a person as I can be. And, maybe you can be. He still loves us enough to send His Son to be born as a baby in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago so that I, Jimmy, can have the hope of being a better person and living with Jesus forever. I. Do. Not. Deserve. It. Not then…not now…not in the future. But, it wasn’t up to me. God loved me and this whole world. And, just as the wise men may have asked themselves at that birth, I still wonder at times, “What can I give Him?” And in the words of my favorite, but rarely sung, Christmas song from a few days back…..”I can give Him my heart.” And I do. Are you preparing your heart for Christ? Do you need to clear the air with God, or someone else? He’s waiting.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The 24th Day of Advent - Tuesday, December 20

Through the door beside me, I hear the classic words of a lovely Christmas song and find myself singing along….“I just want a hula hooooop,” Then I find myself humming that “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas.” Yep, I’m spending the morning in the kid’s room at the Library and story time is going on in the room behind me. Through the window, I can hear jingle bells and see the little kiddies jumping around the room in all manner of happy Christmas joy. As Miss Kathy settled the boys and girls down for the stories, I noticed that some of the books were kinda ragged and worn….the sign of a well-loved book. Sometimes when the books get too ragged and worn, the library has people that know how to fix them to look almost brand new again. That’s why some of the wonderful kid’s books (and adult books) are still on the shelves and enjoyed for years and years and years.

As we get older, our hearts get kinda ragged and worn, too. As I hit the big 60 in a very short time, I find myself rather cynical at times (I prefer to think of myself as a loveable, yet sometimes grumpy curmudgeon) about the state of the world, people in general and sometimes even the institutional church. Pretty much everything. And as I’ve written before, the days I spend in the library kid’s room always seem to refresh my heart because of the loveable and funny kids. The purity, imagination and innocence of a child is a wonderful thing and my stodgy old heart can use the boost on occasion….especially at Christmas.

During my Advent journey this year, I have tried to focus more on Jesus and a lot less on the world. I’ve looked for ways to keep my heart from becoming more ragged and worn because of the hectic, stressful days of this season. How about you? Are you feeling more and more pressured because of the holiday demands of jobs, family, church? Do you find yourself forgetting about Jesus in all the madness?

Do this for me….one evening this week, take a ride around and just look at Christmas lights on houses and in town. The McDonough Square is always a nice place to start. Then, when you get home, do not turn on the television and video games…put on some Christmas music, have a cup of hot chocolate, eggnog, cider, or even sweet tea. Doesn’t matter as long as you just sit back and enjoy a beverage as you think about what Jesus means to you and your family. Give someone a call you have lost track of, but used to be important in your life. Don’t email, text or facebook them. Call them. Catch up. Stop by the library and get a good Christmas book to read. There are lots of them, usually on a display inside the front doors. Read the Christmas Story in Luke. In Matthew. Write your own personal Christmas story. My family has been sitting around the dinner table and talking about our favorite Christmas memories and our favorite gifts. Our favorite church Christmas memory.

Jesus can take your heart and make it brand new as you travel through this Advent season and celebrate His birth in just a few days. Just listen to His gentle knocking.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Advent Day Twenty-three, Monday, December 19

“The wise men fell on their faces and gave Him worship. Then they opened their treasures and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

There are two things in this verse that are important to me. One, is that the first thing the wise men did was to fall on their faces (showing truest humility and submission) and gave Him worship. They recognized this little boy, Yeshua, as a great man and one who would do great things. Second, after they gave worship, the men offered gifts. First….acknowledge Jesus as Saviour and Messiah with your worship, then offer Him your gifts.

Now comes the big question that I’ve heard all my life. “I don’t have any gifts to give.” “I’m not a preacher or teacher and I’m tone deaf.” “I don’t have any money.” “I can’t go to another country and tell people, I’m afraid and can’t afford it.” This question always aggravates me because people tend to over-analyze it and just don’t catch on to the biggest gift you can give. The gift that we all have and can give Jesus. It’s your heart. Your life. Your obedience. Your worship. Your love. Your testimony.

In the words to my favorite Christmas song that is very rarely sung – “What can I give Him, poor as I am. If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wiseman, I would do my part. But, what can I bring Him? Bring Him my heart!”

I’m a blessed man. God has given me a gift for music that I have always tried to use for His glory and His church. Except for a few rare times when I tried to accept the praise of people and let it go to my head, music has always blessed me. Playing, singing and listening. On many occasions, music touches my heart more than the spoken word…..but, that’s me. God has also given me a gift for writing and has allowed me to use it on many levels. From sharing my walk with God in newspapers, magazines, books, internet blogs and speaking engagements, I feel that God has used my peculiar view of life to encourage other people. I’ve been told that things I write are good because I can be so transparent and honest about my thoughts and stuff. Well, that may be true, but my life is God’s and I only share what I am learning as I travel each day for Him. There are good days and bad days; just like you. I stumble. And fall. All over the place. All the time. I just share them so that you may know you aren’t alone in your journey.

I encourage you to offer the gift of your heart anew to Jesus as we head into our last week of Advent, of our preparation for Jesus’ birth. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Third Weekend in Advent - December 17 & 18

I took my family to lunch at Longhorn’s today which required traveling through the McDonough Square and out Jonesboro Road…..right into the heart of retail horror. I enjoyed watching the children waiting to sit on Santa’s lap up as he sat in his sleigh up on the Square. That’s always a highlight of the Saturdays of December; all the fun stuff on the Square. But, then, once we crossed the train tracks the holiday cheer came to a grinding halt…along with the traffic….along with any form of courtesy in driving….along with any calmness I had up to that point. And it only got worse as we approached the I-75 bridge and sat and sat and sat. I wanted to scream out the window that I did not wasn’t going to Target, or Belk, or Best Buy, or Sam’s, or any of the other zillion stores….I just wanted to stay in the right lane and get to Longhorn’s.

Finally, the sea of cars parted and I managed to pull in the parking lot and pile out of the car. As we walked to our table, I noticed how many people were looking at the smartphones, surfing, texting, facebooking, and making calls. The thing that disturbed me is that these were not lone diners, but were parties or two or more. What about sitting down and eating your meal makes you want to play with your phone and ignore those you are eating with? After we finished eating and headed to PetSmart, the craziness of drivers seemed to multiply. Ignoring lane markings, lane directions, stop signs, trying to beat you to any parking place you headed for, one even jumped into the handicapped parking place after cutting me off…..and, of course, as this very young driver hopped out of their car, there was no apparent physical disability. “Only stupidity,” I thought. I wanted the spot so that my mom who has legitimate walking problems wouldn’t have to walk so far to the pet store.

After fighting the fight to get home, I wanted to throw myself on the sofa and cover up my head with both anxiety and anger issues. I wonder every year if the time will come when we can slow it down and enjoy Christmas as what it was meant to be. Quietness, stillness, calmness, taking time with family and friends for some quality time, cutting back on the money and amounts of gifts. Personally, I like to give things from the WMU Worldcrafts online store where women and children in impoverished countries make simple gift items to sell in this store to earn a little money to provide for their families. I like buying the notecards with rice kernel designs from some Chinese and Thai ladies. Also, the carved wood items from Jordan, Central America and Africa make nice gifts at a very small price. I can shop online, spend money that is going to a cause to help people in need, and have unique gifts each year. Interesting homemade gifts can also be bought at the Fairview Senior Center and the funds help out Senior Services.

When I get caught up in the horrors of traffic and shopping and long days and nights, Jesus is the last thing on my mind. Usually, homicide is in the forefront of my thinking. That’s why the past couple of years, I have made conscious efforts to not get caught up into doing every single thing I am asked to do. No longer do I have to spend every evening of December at the church. Sure, I’d like to go to that particular party, I’m sorry I just can’t this year. You don’t owe explanations, just “I’m sorry, I just can’t make it.” Even though it would be fun….save yourself. Turn off the television and listen to music as you sip your hot chocolate in front of the fire. Read a story to your kids or other family.

You are the most important gift you can give to Jesus during this season and I encourage you to give Him a calm, peaceful spirit where you are truly celebrating His birth. He can’t use any of us if we are frantic and stressed; He is our Peace.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Day Twenty - Friday, December 16

“…God loved us and sent His Son…” (I John 4:10)

Have you ever experienced someone in your family having a baby? Your wife, mom, sister, daughter, aunt? Do you remember the excitement that ran rampant through the house in those last weeks? No matter how big the house, it seems that people keep running into each other and no one seems to know where anything is… everyone seems to talk at the same time, you might just break out into a goofy grin with no obvious reasons….the whole family and household is in upheaval until the baby arrives and gets home.

Now, in my odd little mind, I think that there must have been some major excitement going on in heaven during these few weeks before Jesus was born. After all, He was the Son of the Father and one of the biggest events of all time was about to take place. Angels were practicing their “Gloria” chorus, others were working out the details for the great star and lighting up the heavens; some were plotting out the logistics of appearing to shepherds in a mighty chorus (after all, this whole angel group appearing was a new thing), while many were probably just running the streets in a pure frenzy of excitement of what was about to happen. I hope this unscriptural illustration doesn’t offend anyone, but I like to think that all the heavenly inhabitants were excited that Jesus was coming to be born as a baby and bring God’s Love to all mankind. Think about it and see if you can imagine it, too.

Christmas is an excellent time for preparing all those around you for Christ’s coming. So many may have lost the joy of their salvation and need to be reminded; other friends and neighbors may not have a relationship with Jesus at all. Just as the prophets prepared the way for His birth and John prepared the way for His ministry, so should we prepare the way for His next coming. What better way to do that than to share the story of God’s greatest Love Gift to them now? Print up some little cards about your church programs and hand them out in your neighborhood. Put the schedule on Facebook. Wear an “It’s okay to say Merry Christmas” button wherever you go….and say it. (Now, please don’t harass retail clerks who have been instructed to say Happy Holidays…it’s their job and they may have no choice) Get excited about your walk with God and don’t be shy about sharing it. Smile. Whistle Christmas carols. Whatever you can do.

God loved us and sent His Son. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day 18 of Advent - Wednesday, Dec. 14 - The Blue-Eyed Monkey

“Jesus loves the little children; all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white; they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” (Children’s song)

In case you haven’t known this, I work part time at one of the public libraries in Henry County. Normally, I sit behind the circulation desk on the adult side and check in and out books for folks, print their computer work, give them some computer assistance, listen to their rants and raves about the economy, politics and life in general. Basically, I’m a bartender, just with books instead of booze. Each Wednesday, I am able to transport myself into the marvelous, wonderful side of the building known as “the kid’s room.” It’s where the elementary school kids come for their books and the room is filled with pictures, a colorful train full of books, and dragons hanging overhead a medieval castle circulation desk. But, the most magical thing about the room is the kids themselves.

As I sit there, they will come up and we will engage in the most serious conversations about almost anything. Just a big ago, I chatted with a young girl about the blue-eyed monkey that is in here back yard most of the time, but lives in the forest next door. She is hoping that the monkey will not eat all of the bird seed and peanut butter that is in her new bird feeder. She has also seen toucans and tigers wandering. So, we had the best time talking about what the toucans ate, what the monkey did in the afternoons and on and on we went. The world of these children refreshes my mind and cleans up my sometimes cynical attitude so easily.

It’s no wonder that Jesus told His disciples to “let the children come to Him” and that we had to come accept Him “as a child” in our faith and love…in other words, not all ‘cynic-ish’ and with qualifications. Just pure and simple, like a child.

It’s kinda like that as we journey through Advent. If you just take the story at face value….virgins giving birth by a supernatural being…angels singing to shepherds….stars guiding the way….intelligent astrologers traveling to find this baby….a murderous plot by a King…dreams and more dreams sending people all over the region….well, to be honest with you, it would be a bit hard to believe. Again, at face value. But, when we know the story at ‘faith value,’ then we can simply, purely, believe and accept. Like a child. God loved us and sent His Son. That’s the basics. All we have to do is Believe. Love Him. Love Others. Tell. Do what He asks. Obey. Pure and simple.

Just like a little girl in Stockbridge who has a blue-eyed monkey living in her back yard. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Advent Day Thirteen - Friday, December 9

“And the Child, Yeshua, continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luke 2:40)

I may not be different from many of you. My parents prepared the way for Jesus in my life from the time I was born. They made sure I was in Sunday School, Church, choirs, VBS, Sunbeams (who remembers that?), then RA’s and anything else I could join. They never gave any pressure to us about going; it was just accepted that we go to church and are involved in the programs. And I liked it and learned much. From flannelgraph lessons to music games and songs, to learning to sit still in ‘big church’ and calling adults by Mr. and Mrs. Instead of their first names. Then, one Saturday night when I was eleven or so, my mom was studying her Sunday School lesson and she began to ask me some gentle, easy questions about me and what I believed. She led me to Christ that night and I followed it up with a preacher meeting the next week. I was baptized on Easter Sunday and have done my best to follow Jesus ever since. I have not always been the most successful at it, but I know that He has forgiven me for the slips and stumbles….and that’s the important thing.

Since that time, I have grown much in my knowledge of God and such things. I experienced at call to ministry as a High School Junior and have spent most of my adult life serving in various ministry positions. From a staff Minister, to a ministry assistant, to now as a musician and scribe for the Lord. The above verse speaks so much to me because it is much like my life (except my name isn’t Yeshua.

I think it is important during this season to take a step back and think about your early walk with God and with Jesus. Remember where you came from and how you’ve grown. You may have come to this relationship early in life or later in life; it doesn’t matter because you are in it now. And we all should be growing. Have you drifted away? Have you stayed close? Can you remember the joy you felt? Do you still feel it? Or, has it just gotten “comfortable?” Before you go any further into the Advent season, it is important to remember. Just like during Lent when we focus on Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross and our response to that, now I focus on preparing my heart and my life for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

Please know that from today on, as we hit the midway point of Advent, that I will be praying for each of you. And I encourage you to pray for each other and for me. We’re in for a journey of Love and pure Awe as we approach the day of Christmas.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Day Twelve of Advent - December 8 - A little lady from Thailand

For several months, my mom has been teaching English as a Second Language to a lady in her neighborhood. Noi is from Thailand and even though she has been in America for a number of years, she has much difficulty with speaking and writing. Through this time, they have become close friends and our whole family has enjoyed getting to know Noi.

As is most of Thailand, Noi is Buddhist. Her faith is as deeply steeped in her as is her culture. My mom has heard her speak of others who are very assertive in trying to reach Noi for Christ and Christianity, to the point where Noi is in tears because she feels her culture and faith are being torn apart. As she and my mother have gotten closer, mom has been very cautious about speaking out to her, but would carefully choose simple scriptures to help her learn English, grammar and punctuation. Many times that has led to a conversation about Christianity. We all pray that in time, Noi will come to know Jesus as her Saviour, but it has to be in her time, in God’s time, not our time.

God sent His Son. To this world. To save us. To Love us. To Teach us how to live for Him. And to share His message. Of Love. To all. For centuries, the message of God’s love was kept to the Jewish nation and not spread to other races and cultures. It wasn’t until Jesus came and told us to ‘go and tell all nations’ that the Gentiles were invited into the message.

How are you preparing the world for the coming of Christ? Are you only telling people like yourself? Are you only telling people you know because you are shy around strangers? Are you not telling anybody at all? The way I figure it, the Advent season is to help prepare for the coming of Christ…as a baby. Well, I think we are now in an Advent season because we are still to be preparing for Christ’s coming…in his final return! The time when all nations, every tribe, every person, every knee will bow to worship Him.

Don’t waste this season of Advent. Tell others. Meet them where they are and in what they need. Tell them in Love and not in condemnation or threatening words. Just love ‘em. And each other.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Advent Day Eleven - December 7

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

What a happy and joyous day it was when the Magi set out to find the newborn King of the Jews. Why wouldn’t it be? A centuries old promise was coming true. The Messiah was here. The people would be freed from their domination by the Romans. No longer slaves and servants. The Magi knew how important this baby was and was coming to worship Him and to bring precious gifts. Everyone was happy, well, except for Herod, the present king of the Jews. When he received the visit from the Magi, his well-known paranoia immediately went into hyper-drive to protect his throne for himself and his heirs. But, that is a story for another time. Today, I am thinking about two things. One is that King Herod was not happy at Jesus’ birth. The other is that I think it rather bittersweet that the description given “the King of the Jews” used at his birth, was also used at His death – as it was the description written on the plaque hung over Jesus’ head on the cross. The King of the Jews.

Christmas is not a wonderfully happy time for many people. The memories of family and friends who have passed away, or the relationship has been strained is always in our minds. Those who have lost jobs, homes, financial difficulties make gift-buying hard or impossible lead to memories of better Christmases in the past. Loneliness is always more prevalent during any holiday season, but especially at Christmas. Single adults can really be hit hard by this, even if they are a single parent. Often, their children are spending part of all of Christmas with the other parent and you feel kinda out of place with no where to go.

I have spent the majority of my adult life in student ministry. I love student ministry, yet do not have a place of service at the current time. It is easy for me to look at “my students” who have grown up and may have families of their own now and be lonely for those days of nightly romps of mischief, times of serious discussions over tacos or pizza about what God wants from them….and what they want from God, traveling on choir tours, student retreats, camps, ski trips, all that goes with that ministry. But, God fills that void. Sometimes. There are nights when even though I am at home with family (my mom and brother live with me), yet I do feel very lonely for times past. Not that my life now isn’t a hoot and half, ‘cause it is, but sometimes the “what was” thoughts creep in.

As a single adult, and as a guy, and as a minister, I feel that I have to do what I must to keep living the example Christ taught us. Yet, sometimes during this season it is hard. I’m blessed with good friends, yet sometimes I want some best friends. Someone to call at 10pm to make a Waffle House run with. Someone to head to the beach with for a weekend…at a moment’s notice. Someone to hike a trail with or something. Sometimes, singleness is just tough. Churches don’t really embrace a single adult, especially after they turn 30. I don’t know why, but they don’t. And there are thousands of us who need a church to plan and be intentional about a single adult ministry…not a dating service….a ministry. Oops, getting on my soapbox now.

Yet, Christ came to this earth and knows what it is like. He was single, even though the scriptures don’t give a lot of stories about that. But, I know that He was and He faced the same things we do. That gives me hope. And a peace. And a feeling of not being so alone. Let me encourage you to pray for each other these next few weeks as we head toward Christmas Day. Someone out there needs a lift.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Day Ten of Advent - Tuesday, December 6

Let me give you a quick glance into my day, thus far. (I really love the word ‘thus’).

This past weekend was extremely busy with newspaper interviews, research and articles to write; talking to friend and research for book I’m working on about ALS; Church; car problems; getting to and from everywhere while juggling cars; laundry (for a single guy, I seem to generate a ton of dirty clothes); a couple community events to attend…and on and on. Definitely not a relaxing time. So, I was looking forward to a couple days to recoup, relax and get some reading and writing done. After catching up on some errands on Monday after getting my car back, Tuesday was the day to tackle Operation Calming Jimmy. Oh well….

After breakfast I headed to my office/sunroom/fortress of solitude to get busy. Turning on my dinosaur of a desktop computer it decided today was the day to virus scan every file and document meaning it would be Thursday before it finished. So, I headed to get my much newer and faster laptop when I remembered that I needed to get the final load of clothes from the dryer, but before I got there, I had to go get my iPod to sync with some new downloads, but then I remembered to get my laptop and put on some vegetables for supper while I was up. So, I ended up in my bedroom with no clue why I was standing there. So, I headed back to the office, having to get up and get the laptop, sat back down and brought up email. About this time the stove timer rang to remind me to check the vegetables, but when I got to the kitchen, there was nothing cooking. The veggies were still in the crisper. Headed back to the office, then remembered the clothes in the dryer and then the house phone rang so I answered it and while talking remembered the whole iPod deal, but forgetting the dryer. Sitting back down, I noticed a kitchen cabinet I had forgotten to close and WHO can possible work when a cabinet or drawer is slightly ajar. See? No wonder I’m half loopy all the time.

When things go awry and spiral into Crazytown, it can be a frustrating thing and the Christmas season can even make it worse. We get so caught up in all the activities, programs, dinners, parties, etc. that our minds have a hard time shutting down enough to even sleep well. For many years, I dreaded and (almost) hated Christmas because of this every reason. Between my job and something at church every night and weekend, I just wanted January to get here. However, things are different now. A lot of it is that I’ve grown up and learned to say ‘No.’ And mean it. And not feel compelled to offer explanations. Just ‘No.’ I’ve also learned to listen to a lot more music and a lot less television (hence the iPod I keep forgetting to sync).

Christ is the Lord of Peace. If we burden our minds and hearts so much during these weeks that we lose track of His birth and His life and his simple message to love each other. Plus, how can we help prepare others for His Birthday if we’re so exhausted in our spirits and bodies that we really don’t care. Let me to encourage you to slow down, calm down, and feel a little of God’s Love embracing you. He. Wants. Your. Heart. Not your ‘busy-ness.’ Honor the Christ of Christmas by relaxing a little and breathing in His Peace. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Day 9 of Advent - Preparing for Christ at the Publix..

The past couple of Sundays, I’ve had to scoot out of the church between services and make a quick run to the corner Publix for an item or two. It has struck me both times how incredibly busy the store is at 9:45 on a Sunday morning. I am seriously not being judgmental, but the majority of folks are not dressed as if they were coming from or going to church. Many looked like they had just gotten up and going on a morning grocery run. Others had a full cart as if Sundays were the best time to do their family shopping. Some were scanning the deli shelves for lunch and others were hanging out at the pharmacy.

“Why are these folks not in church,” I wondered. It is hard for me to realize that not everybody in the world goes to church and are out living their lives as if there weren’t three churches within a block of that Publix. Then, I started to think (scary as that is). If the church wants to reach the unchurched, why don’t we go out to where they are on Sunday mornings? Once in a while, a class could head to the local shopping center on a Sunday morning to just share a word of encouragement to the people, to pass out a welcoming card to a local church, give them a Merry Christmas button or sticker, to sing Christmas carols in the parking lot…anything to shake things up for Jesus. In the spring and summer, head to the neighborhoods and speak a work with those doing yard work…give them a bottle of cool water…give a cloth to tie around their necks to wipe the sweat….I don’t know…get creative with it. Folks think they are safe from the “church-people” between 8:30 and noon on Sundays, so they come out and run all their errands….so, why don’t we surprise them? Catch them where they live.

I don’t mean we should do this every week, but on occasion, why not? Advent is all about preparing the world for the coming of Christ. Paul tells us that he has learned to “become all things to all people that they might be saved.” Reaching them where they are. In Matthew, we are told to go into the world to tell, teach, and make disciples. Maybe coming outside the church walls on a Sunday morning is one way to do this. I wonder where Jesus would be? Sitting inside a sanctuary 52 weeks a year, or taking a week to go meet folks at the Publix?

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Day Six of Advent - December 2

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.’” (Luke 2:13-14)

The Henry County Rotary Club recently made available a Christmas CD made up of many church choirs here in our County singing a Christmas anthem. The remarkable thing was to look at the list of churches and see the diversity of congregations and music. Black, white, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Christian, Non-denominational, traditional, contemporary, large church, small church, medium church, all groups that make up Henry County were represented. What a marvelous coming-together of God’s people offering their gifts of music to the entire community this was.

The best thing was that the many different voices came together for one purpose. To share the message of Jesus. From familiar carols to those not so common, the story of God’s Love and the birth of Christ is being shared on CD players all over the place this year. I hope that those people listening will not get so caught up in the quality and style of the presentations, but hear the simple message proclaimed by each of the choirs with the sincerity with which they sang. The Rotarians provided a great vehicle for the message of Christmas.

A long time ago, a large choir (however big a host might be) sang to a group of shepherds about the same thing. The birth of a baby who would be called the Christ. One who would change the world by saving people from their sins. Would their message have been any less important if a note or two were slightly off-key? Would the Love they came to share been any less meaningful if the rhythm was a little weird here and there? Nope! I don’t think so. God looks at our heart and wants us to sing and tell others from our heart, not with the eloquent words of a professional speaker or singer. We can often get so wrapped up in saying things correctly, that we lose the message.

During this season of Advent as we prepare our hearts for Christ, just remember to tell others about Him. Just as you are. God can use you with a tangled tongue and an off pitch song just as well as with the best quality. Sometimes, perhaps even more because then those around us realize that we are human, not some perfect being. Tell the message. As you are. I’ll be praying for you as you look for your way to sing.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Day five of Advent - December 1

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10)

I worked at the library today and just before lunch time the fire and sprinkler alarms went off. There was no water, just flashing lights and that horrible horn every second. Not knowing what was going on, we evacuated all the patrons and locked the front doors to keep anyone from coming back into the building. Then we on the staff settled down to wait for the fire and police departments to come…..and to get the alarms and strobe lights turned off. Two hours later, the alarm company finally showed up and was able to deactivate the system which gave us blessed quietness. However, since the building was basically unprotected from any fire and sprinkler alarms, we could not reopen to the public.

Even though signs were posted on the front doors advising people of this, there were still many, many angry people upset because they could not come in to do whatever they needed to do. After about three hours, we were still closed and the mobs were literally growing even angrier. Their day and their plans were interrupted and we were the only ones around to face them. As for me, I was hiding in the kid’s room supply closet with earplugs and a stick.

When Christ was born, a lot of disruptions of daily routines began. The Pharisees and their (often) over zealous enforcement of the religious laws began to crumble. This angered them to the point they wanted to kill Jesus. The family lives of the disciples changed when these men chose to leave homes and jobs to follow Jesus. Suppose your husband or father popped the news at supper one evening that he was leaving to follow some guy who really had some good ideas about how to live well? Think of how the knowledge of Jesus’ heritage must have disrupted the normal family life of Mary, Joseph and the other children?

How does Christ disrupt my daily life? If He doesn’t disrupt it in some way, then…well…perhaps I need to re-examine my relationship. Having Jesus in my life should show a stark difference to those in the world around. In my actions at work and home. In my language. In my choices of television and movies (Ouch!). Yes, I’m talking about me here, but you just might see a bit of you, too. Christ came to be the great disrupter of the world. Are you being a disrupter for His sake? I pray for your strength each day to make a difference for Jesus.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!