A Banged Up Soul?

I was at the checkout counter when I noticed a problem.

Here’s The Problem

I was buying a bundle of wood stakes for a project at the house. I didn’t pay attention when I got them from the store shelf, I just assumed they were all good and fine. They were not. There were two stakes with wood rot.

Here’s What Happened

I pointed it out to the check-out person, she conferred with a manager, and he offered a $1.00 discount. The whole bundle was only $3.00 anyway. I said sure and paid the $2.00.

A Curious Thing

I found it odd. I expected him to exchange them for a different bundle. He didn’t. He sold them, “as is,” with a 33% discount.

As I pummeled the stakes, I reflected on a deeper perspective. In the movie, “Seabiscuit” the cowboy, Tom Smith, who became Seabiscuit’s trainer, said this line, “You know, you don’t throw a whole life away just ‘cause he’s banged up a little.”

I didn’t discard the whole bundle just because a couple of them weren’t up to standard.

Speaking of Standards

I’ve been banged up a few times. Maybe we all have. I’ve made mistakes and demonstrated imperfection. Souls can get banged up too. But I’ve been blessed to have people like Tom Smith, people who saw the greater good, the larger value, and didn’t throw me away or toss me aside.

You Know Who Else Didn’t?

Jesus my Messiah, he didn’t. He could have since he was/is the only righteous person to live in this world, but he didn’t. He wasn’t blind or negligent, he was paying attention and was well aware of my imperfections, the wood rot in my life.

So I’ll Close With This

“Good morning Holy Spirit. I know you will bless me today because you do every day. I want to thank you for not giving up. Thank you for seeing me as valuable, as someone worth saving, for seeing beyond the sins and imperfections. And thank you for healing my banged up soul. Amen.”
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In Full Countdown Mode

Great correlations in human development:

  1. The after meal nap lengthens with increased amounts of gravy.
  2. The dessert debate is leaning from pumpkin to berry pie.
  3. Christmas decorations on Thanksgiving is a growing reality.
  4. The amazing sales of Black Friday are now starting on grey Tuesday.
  5. The more Thanksgiving dinner the louder the grunt when standing up.

Yes, we are an elegant and sophisticated people; modern and cosmopolitan. Oh well. Thanksgiving has come and gone. Where does the time go? “Time fly’s,” someone said. Does it? Time isn’t flying so much as it’s marching over me and my greying, thinning hair.

And Now…

We are now in full countdown mode. It’s 27 days to Christmas and the unending stream of parties, dinners, concerts, plays, lights, food, gifts, trees, and house decorations. Yep. 

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I’m A Big Sap

I’m a big sap for Christmas. I love it. Granted, it’s a massive commercialization of a sacred event. But just think, there’ll be hot chocolate by the fire place, homemade fudge, cards in the mail, and brightly wrapped packages under the tree. Not to mention the shimmering beauty of freshly fallen snow. Ah, Christmas in Houston!

I’m hoping to get lots of gifts this year, I love getting lots of gifts. However, I’m boycotting malls, stores, traffic, and all shopping. It’s just not for me. It’s not how I roll.  

The Bigger Thing

I know the real meaning of Christmas. It’s like Garfield said in one of his TV specials, “Ah Christmas, it’s not the getting, it’s not the giving, it’s the loving.” Well said for a cat.

When did the love begin? Was it when the star appeared in the clear night sky over a sleepily little Judean village? Or was it the moment of the virgin birth? Perhaps when the heavenly host proclaimed praises to God for the savior being born?

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An Even Bigger Thing

When you think about it, the love really began before the world was made. I believe we were created from love’s foundations, from the source, the well-spring of divine care.

Regardless of when the love began, it found its greatest fulfillment in Jesus our Messiah. So let me offer to each of you a very Merry Christmas!

I’ll Close With This…

“Good morning Holy Spirit. Today begins of a new week and a new season of celebration. So we begin by saying thank you for the Christ. Thank you for our Savior. And thank you for the love. Amen.”

God be with you!

Shalom

45,000,000 Turkeys, Pt. 2

Not everyone likes turkey. Some find it dry, or bland, hence the delicious brown gravy.

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Not My Dining Room or My Family, But They Seem Nice!

It’s Iconic

But still, it’s a cultural icon, and hundreds of millions will have turkey on Thanksgiving.

Why do we keep these traditions? Are we comforted by maintaining religious and cultural practices?

3500 Years Ago

About 3500 years ago, a million slaves walked out of Ramses. The final straw was the death of Egypt’s first-born sons. That was a terrible night for the Egyptians as grief swept through their homes. But it was different for the Hebrews. They had painted lamb’s blood their doors, so death would pass over. That night they ate a special meal, a Passover meal, knowing it would be their final meal and their last night in Egypt.

There are interesting similarities to Passover and Thanksgiving.

The Slaves                                    

  • Left for the promise land                      
  • Ate roasted lamb                                    
  • Shared with family                                 
  • Passover symbolized freedom             
  • Passed down through the generations   

The Pilgrims

  • Left for the new world
  • Ate roasted turkey
  • Shared with family
  • Thanksgiving symbolized freedom 
  • Passed down through the generations

Passover

Passover was rooted in freedom. God delivered them from Egypt and led them to Canaan. He provided water, manna, and the promise of a better life. Every year Jewish families gather around the Seder table to remember and to give thanks to Yahweh for delivering their ancestors from bondage to freedom.

Thanksgiving

The Pilgrims left their homes to escape persecution and find a better life. They held a strong belief that God delivered them to the promise land. It was a life their children would inherit, and their children’s children. A life passed down to every generation. 

They Passed It To Us

If not for our Pilgrim forefathers, we might exist in a very different world. Would the United States of America have ever been born? Would America be very different? Would we still enjoy religious, political, and social freedoms? Would we still be prosperous and free?

How Do We Relate?

On the last Thursday of November, we gather around our dinner tables to give thanks. We practice the grace of gratitude and remember those who sacrificed to bring the message of freedom to the new world.

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Looks Good To Me, Let’s Eat!

Along with the food, the football, and the napping, let’s take a moment to go deep within ourselves, to places we don’t often access, and  pause to give thanks on Thanksgiving. 

To Close

Let’s not allow those 45,000,000 turkeys to die in vain!

We are free and prosperous and alive to enjoy it.

May God bless you and may he continue to bless our great nation.  

Happy Thanksgiving

Forty-Five Million Turkeys, Pt 1

There is a whole passel of turkeys about to be baked, fried, roasted, and smoked.

How Many Turkeys?

Forty-five million birds. That’s how many turkeys Americans will eat on Thursday, plus or minus a few thousand. But we are a big nation, with a lot of big people, and Thanksgiving is a big holiday.

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Their Days Are Definitely Numbered 

The National Bird?

Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be our national bird, arguing that turkeys were uniquely North American. But the Bald Eagle won the race. For 364 days, the Eagle soars high, free, and majestic. But on Thanksgiving, on that one special day, the turkey is king. Yes, we kill and eat the king, but in terms of popularity, he is the clear winner. And we were never going to have fried eagle for Thanksgiving. 

Alexander Hamilton said, “No citizen of the United States shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day.” Well put. But it was President Lincoln who, in 1863, made a presidential proclamation for a national day of Thanksgiving. Here we are, 153 years later, gearing up to carve 45, 000,000 turkeys.

It’s A Social Bird

It’s a meal shared with family and friends. The Pilgrims shared their feast with Wampanoag Native Americans. Edward Winslow recorded there were 50 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans at the three day feast. They probably had fewer than 45 million birds. 

Our meal will feature traditional favorites like cranberries, cornbread dressing, some kind of lime jello salad thing, and pumpkin and pecan pies for desert. Yum.  

Giving Thanks

They had lost nearly half their colony that first winter. It was a most discouraging result for those who had so deeply sacrificed for a slice of the new world. But the colonists professed a profound faith, believing that God led them to this land, to discover all that is best in a life lived in freedom and prosperity.

For Us?

 Our Thanksgiving isn’t about surviving a bitter winter. It’s more about a day off from work to gather around the table with our favorite people. We will have great amounts of rich food laced with sweet fellowship, and then there will be football with pie and ice cream. God bless America. 

But maybe it’s also about something else. Perhaps our Thanksgiving really is a God thing. The Pilgrims sailed across a violent sea, to an unknown future, to establish a new life in a new world. Did the Lord our God lead them here? Are we richly blessed today because of their faith and courage?

To Close

 We are richly blessed, and I believe most of us would agree to that, so how do we express our gratitude, how do we give thanks on Thanksgiving?

I want to believe that 45 million turkeys will not have made the last full measure of sacrifice just so we can consume them and rush back to the TV.

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Look for part 2 Wednesday morning.

The Holidays: Its Time

Good Morning Holy Spirit. You have made this day and I will rejoice, be glad, and seek your desire for my life. Thank you for bringing us to another holiday season. You bless our lives.

A Holiday Week, Month or Season?

Halloween notwithstanding, this week launches the official holiday lineup. Thanksgiving to New Years have merged into one extended celebratory season.

Thanksgiving has nothing to do with Christmas and Christmas has nothing to do with New Year’s. They aren’t linked together. But each has its own meaning and value.

I don’t mind, I love it.

Don’t Laugh

As odd as it may seem, my family gathered last night to decorate our Christmas tree and our home. We aren’t finished, but we made a good start. The outside lights and decorations will come soon.

Are we fanatics? Possibly. But there are other explanations.

  1. Each year, we host two Christmas parties and a special dinner party, beginning the first week end of December. So the house has to be ready around Thanksgiving.
  1. The decorating is a family event with our son, daughter and son-in-law. We have a favorite meal, then its eggnog, a roaring fire, and Christmas music. (Most years I crank the AC to freezing for the roaring fire) The three men sit and watch the two women do the decorating. Mostly we just keep their glasses full and stay out of the way. 
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Not Our Living Room Or Our Roaring Fire, But Close, Very Close

We’re All So Busy

In October we sit down over dinner, check our calendars, and decide the November day for decorating. A few years ago we were struggling with dueling calendars so my wife had to do everything to get us ready for December’s events. Our daughter nearly disowned us.

We All Have Them

What do we all have? We have our traditions, styles, and special events. No two families are the same. Nor should they be. There will be millions of Christmas trees in homes, apartments, offices, malls, and stores; millions and millions of trees. And no two of them will be the same. Nor should they be.

To Close

This Holiday Season, I pray that Jesus our Messiah will be a blessing to your life. In the acknowledgment of his birth, I hope that each of you, regardless of circumstances, can find meaning and joyfulness in the message of his coming.

Now please excuse me, I’ve been asked to place the angel on the tree.

God Bless You

Giving the Nickel

I remember getting an allowance. It’s one of my earliest memories.

Come Sunday

On Sunday mornings, part of my allowance was placed in the collection plate. It’s one of my earliest memories.

  1. I think I got a quarter a week.
  2. A nickel found its way into the contribution.
  3. That was 20% of my income!
  4. We never missed church.
  5. That’s a lot of nickels.
  6. It’s how I was raised.
  7. It’s what I was taught.

I didn’t miss the 5 cents. It was an honor to get that nickel out of my pocket and drop it in the plate. Giving gave me a good feeling.

It still does.

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The Nickel Has Been Replaced, But Children Are Still Giving! 

Giving, Contributing, and Grace

 Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Energy fuels my life.
  2. Music nourishes my heart.
  3. Serving inspires my soul.
  4. Money sustains my existence.
  5. Time is a gift and is irreplaceable.
  1. When I give God my energy I’m giving my life.
  2. When I praise his name I’m offering my heart.
  3. When I serve others I’m sharing my soul.
  4. When I give money I’m sacrificing what sustains me.
  5. When I give time I’m giving what can’t be replaced.

All giving is grace. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son. He gave. It’s a verb right? It’s an action word? Grace is God’s gift to the world. God gave us something we couldn’t get on our own, something we couldn’t earn. We couldn’t buy, rent, or lease it. It’s the nature of redemptive love. It’s all about giving.

When We Give

When we give God our energy, our worship, our service, time and money, we are sharing our lives. It costs us, it’s our giving to him what matters the most. It’s called sacrifice.  For he cared enough to send the very best, to give the very best of all he could give. Do we?

To Close

When we reach into our pockets, pull out our nickels, and put them into the offering plate, it reflect a heart of grace. It honors God, demonstrates gratitude, and fuels the mission of his church.

It always made me feel good to give.

It still does.

 

Ron & Fran’s Wedding

A wedding is a sacred moment for a bride and groom.

Remembering Weddings

I remember my wedding. (I didn’t officiate it). I remember conducting my sister’s wedding, my brother’s wedding, and I sure remember officiating my daughter’s wedding.

But there was a first wedding, for there is a first time for everything.

Ron and Fran

The bride and groom were members of my church. I was a very young minister and they were my very first wedding, I was so nervous. Just before the ceremony I was throwing up in the men’s room. Yep.

As the ceremony progressed, and unbeknown to me, I started mispronouncing their names. Instead of Ron and Fran I said, “Ran and Fron.” As in,

                                           “Do you Ran take Fron to be your…”

Here’s What Happened

By the time the vows were finished, Ran and Fron had the giggles. And I had no idea why they were laughing. They tried mightily to contain themselves, but failed, resulting in shaking shoulders and slurred words. All solemnity was lost. Not until the reception did I find out what happened.  

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Not Ran and Fron’s Wedding 

Ron and Fran

They forgave me, they felt sorry for me. But I felt like I had let them down and ruined their wedding. I obsessed over it for weeks. But there would be other weddings. As of this blog, I’ve conducted 212 weddings in the last 39 years. 

Some Food For Thought

In spite of my mispronunciations, they were in fact united in marriage. Their vows were heart felt, their love was evident, and their license was signed. Prayers of divine blessing were heard by the Father. My mistakes didn’t alter the sanctity of their union, it only provided a modicum of unintended comedy.

I’m still making mistakes. Sometimes I misquote scripture, or use incorrect grammar, and use words that aren’t words. And sometimes I’m just wrong. And I make other mistakes.

But my mistakes don’t nullify the blessings and promises of God. In fact, the entire Christian message is rooted in the center of our imperfections. It’s because of our imperfections that Christianity exists.

To Close

Today, I’ll strive to do well, to be awesome, to keep the bar high and to do good work. And while I strive for all of that, I’ll also be grateful that my salvation isn’t dependent on my living a perfect life.

Just ask Ran and Fron.

Shalom!

The Quest

My freshman year, the track coach challenged me with, “Rick, you’re not fast enough yet to sprint for varsity track. But if you’ll run the 880, you can be varsity this year.” 

A Tough Decision

It was tough. The 880 was two laps around the track, but it seemed like a marathon.

My First Race

At the first track meet, I came in last, sixty yards behind the winner. Coach said, “Rick, you’re going to have to dig deep, train harder, and run with courage.” At season’s end, at the District meet, I finished third. I medaled at District, as a freshman. I like a challenge.

A Guest Speaker

Randy Harris, of Abilene Christian University, was at Southeast Sunday morning and challenged the congregation to truly trust God. On Monday morning, at an area wide minister’s breakfast, he gave another challenging message. He asked about our spiritual quests, something we were obsessed about, with obsession being a good thing in that context.

He gave us a few minutes to think, then he shared his own:

  1. To daily live in the passion of Christ.
  2. To be simple.
  3. To become the peace of God.

As he explained them, and they had depth beyond what I can write about, it was obvious we were in the presence of a truly spiritual man. He was growing with God in ways we had not ever considered. It was inspiring. 

Two Concerns

He mentioned two ways that we could be in trouble:

  1. If we didn’t have any spiritual quests.
  2. If our quests were work related, not personal.

He spoke of running out of steam, of being depleted. Many ministers serve from an empty cup. Just pushing through by relying on talent and personality. Most church members aren’t aware; and neither are most church leaders, but it’s totally possible to serve God with an empty heart and an arid soul.

Ministry done well, day after month after year, with all of its problems, conflicts, suicides, death, broken marriages, tragedies and crisis can suck the life out of a minister’s soul.

What Churches Need

Our churches need ministers who aren’t just answer people, problem solvers, effective administrators, or magnets for growth.

What churches need, even if they don’t realize it, are ministers whose hearts are filled with the Spirit, whose souls are saturated with the Father’s presence, and whose lives are infused with the light of the glory of God.

But ministers, more often than not, serve without any of those divine values. They just keep going, and keep smiling. We all have families to feed.

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To Close

It’s my responsibly to nourish my soul and fill my heart. But doing so requires different priorities and a quest for something that draw me into his presence.

What spiritual quest do you have? What feeds and fills your soul? Or are you content with  attending church and living a decent life?

Think about it.

Shalom

See The Trees

Aspen trees are one big eco-system, they are all connected.

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They Are Beautiful

The Colorado Mountain Aspen’s are beautiful. Their leaves do that “fluttering” thing when the breezes blow. They change color in the fall and paint the mountainsides with brilliance and majesty.

Even More Beautiful

Each tree is connected to every other tree. In a forest of Aspens, in the Aspen glades across tens of thousands of acres, each one is a part of all the others. Every tree grows tall and strong and does what it does, but it doesn’t do it alone. It doesn’t just exist among other trees, nope, each one is rooted to a system as big as the mountain. It’s just so beautiful.

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Rugged Individualists

People tend to be strong, tall, and proud. The rugged individualist behaves as if he is all alone, that it’s all up to him. But it isn’t true, it’s never been true.

What is it that people need from other people?

  1. Someone to talk to, someone to listen.
  2. Affirmation, acceptance, & understanding.
  3. A sense of belonging.
  4. Someone to check on you once in a while.
  5. Someone who won’t let you sink into yourself.
  6. Laughter, crying, happiness, sadness, and grief.
  7. Connection to the giant Eco-system of humanity.

I like being alone. I like solitude, privacy, and anonymity. But not all the time. Too much and I start feeling disconnected, not just alone but lonely. Too much rugged individuality breaks me down. I like thinking that I don’t need people, but the truth is I do, I need people a lot.

People keep me grounded. They keep me balanced. Some serve as sounding boards for my ideas, validating or amending my thinking. Sure, the forest can at times be overwhelming, crowding and infringing on my individuality. We all need some “me time.” Even Jesus got away to quiet places for uninhabited solitude and peace. But he always went back to the crowds, to the villages, and to his disciples.

Some Final Thoughts

This week I have listened to a friend experiencing some depression. Another friend is questioning what it means to be happy. People have shared their perspectives on Tuesday’s election, some elated and some irritated. I’ve listened to a parent’s concerns about family. People are up and down and happy and sad. At times we are free as a bird and at times are heavy burdened. But we don’t have to do it alone.

To Close

We are all part of one another, created in the image of God. We are part of a family, a human Eco-system.

See the trees!

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President Harriet!

It was Harriett to the rescue, to my great relief.

My Senior Year

The first week of my senior year we had a class meeting. The meeting was for electing a class president, vice-president, and treasurer.

The Campaign Trail

The campaign was a hard hitting, mud-slinging, name-calling slug fest. Actually, there was no campaigning at all. Nominations were solicited and the top vote winner would be president, then vice-president, and treasurer.

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Not my campaign slogan, but close, really very close.

To My Great Surprise

I was stunned to hear my name nominated. The class voted and I missed the presidency by one vote, one measly vote. I was handed the ignominious Vice Presidency. The entire year I did as little as possible and missed most of the meetings. Honestly, I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I guess not that much has changed since then. 

My Friend Harriett

My friend Harriett won the Presidency. And the Senior Class of “74” was all the better for it. She was organized, conscientious, and did a great job. And me? Well, I had a title that looked good in the year book.

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Not our school’s voting booth, but close.

It’s A Day of Days

Today America votes. I don’t know if the winner will win by a land slide or by the narrowest of margins. But later tonight, America will have a President elect.

But I Know This

This I know: God creates nations and tears them down. He raises up leaders and destroys them. Whatever a man or woman can do, another man or woman can undo it. I know that whatever is impossible with man is possible with God. Do I fear the future? Not at all, not in the least.

But I am a little nervous about it. A lack of faith? 

To Close: If I Had Won!

If I had carried the vote, I would have been the worst president in school history. Not because I lacked ability, but because I lacked interest. I really didn’t care. I was busy with football, sports and girls.

Still, it might have been cool to be president. I should have demanded a recount, there could have been some hanging chads.

Shalom (that means peace)