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Blogger, Christ-follower, Encourager, Friend, Husband, Dad

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Best Part of Waking Up

Anyone out there remember that commercial?  The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup. Do you also remember when the coffee choices at the grocery store were pretty much Folgers and Maxwell House?
Depending on what study you believe, I either drink too much coffee or I have just the right amount of coffee to get all the great antioxidant benefits.   
I just enjoy coffee.  And I enjoy a great variety in my coffee.  This explains why there at least eight different blends in my pantry right now.
When I was still pastor of Eagle Mountain Baptist Church and Cross Timbers Coffee Company was open on Main Street in Azle, it was pretty much my office annex.  So many meetings happened there over good cups of coffee.  So many conversations.  So many prayers.  And probably a few too many Paninis and Muffins (but I digress). 
When CTCC was about to close, I went in and asked if I could buy one of the “house” mugs with the logo.  This place, this coffee, these friends had been such a part of my life that I wanted to have that memento.  It became one of my irreplaceable losses when my office building burned in 2010.
So, what brought about this little trip down memory lane today?  I woke up and poured myself a cup of coffee and started thinking about the best part of waking up.  As much as I enjoy my coffee, it is only part of the picture.
The best part of waking up is waking up and seeing Mrs. Sweetie right there next to me where she has been for almost 28 years.  The best part continues when I go and select the cups from our varied collection and pour whichever blend I selected and prepared the night before.  The best part continues when I take her cup to the bedroom and mine to my rocking chair by the living room window.  The best part continues as I sip the coffee and open God’s word and spend time with the One who made me, who gave me the gift of a soul-mate, a roof over my head, good coffee, and a cup to drink it from.
The Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” ( James 1:17)  That means that I didn’t earn any of the blessings I have.  I might have worked hard for them and purchased them, but even the job I go to is a gift from God.  That perspective certainly comes to the fore in the present economy.
The Bible also says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The best part of waking up is knowing that our lives matter to God, He has provided more than we deserve, and He has a purpose for us to honor Him in all of it.
Put that in your cup and savor it. It is good to the last drop.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Keep on Bowing Down

I think I might actually be glad that the Denver Broncos lost their playoff game with the New England Patriots last weekend.  Not that I am a Patriots fan.  On the contrary, I wasn’t rooting for them at all.  I wanted the Broncos to win primarily because I wanted Tim Tebow to succeed.
Whether you pay much attention to sports or not, if you are not aware of Tim Tebow, you haven’t been paying attention. The general consensus is that he is a good guy and a gifted athlete who somehow manages to have success even though he doesn’t have the particular skills to be a really great NFL quarterback.  
 That’s where consensus stops.
He also happens to be one of the most outspoken Christian athletes we have ever seen.  In our culture, that leads to controversy, not consensus.  It really bugs a lot of people when he talks about Jesus at every opportunity.  It bugs a lot of people that he is constantly bowing in prayer on the football field—so much that “Te-bowing” has become a worldwide phenomenon.  
 The great John Elway who is now in charge of operations for the Broncos team he quarterbacked to two Super Bowl wins in five appearances, has suggested that faith and football don’t mix.  Even some other well-known Christian athletes have suggested that Tebow’s expressions may be a little over the top.
 Our culture likes our entertainers (yes, professional athletes are entertainers) to entertain.  It’s admirable to strut, chest bump, taunt, engage in outlandish behavior on and off the field, and then apologize and go into rehab.  It’s ok to be a person of faith and conviction.  Just be nice about it and don’t talk about it too much.  After all, does God really care who wins a football game?  And aren’t these guys really phony anyway?
 One of my favorite quotes from recent years comes from the brilliant Christian thinker, Ravi Zacharias. “The charge of hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue.”  I might add “excessiveness” to “hypocrisy”.  We sometimes don’t like those overt expressions of faith because it reminds us of the shallowness of our own.  
 So, with the blow-out win of the Patriots on Saturday, what are you going to do now, Mr. Tebow?
 "What I pray before games, during games, after games, is regardless whether I win, whether I lose, whether I'm the hero or the goat, that it doesn't matter, that I still honor the Lord because He's deserving of it, and just like my effort shouldn't change, neither should that. So that's how I try to approach it, and sometimes even in a loss you can honor Him more. For me, I pray that my character and who I am doesn't change even though you can be dejected, you can still feel hurt, you can be disappointed, but you can still honor the Lord with how you handle things."
 That sounds like someone who has really figured out that his life matters to God.  I wanted him to win the game, but I’m glad we got to see what happened when he didn’t.
 Keep on bowing down, whether anyone is looking or not.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Man Up, Boys and Girls!

It all started with a simple Facebook status update.  I’m not one that constantly lets the world know where I am and what I am doing.  It happens randomly when the mood hits me.
Last Friday morning the mood hit me while waiting for my 21 year old son to wake up.  I know I kept those same hours when I was in college, but what was I thinking!  Anyway, I posted the following:
“Excited to be spending a final ‘guy day’ with my boy before he heads back to college next week. We are going to see Mission Impossible and then eat some manly food that is not good for us. Final splurge of the semester break.”
I may not constantly update the world on what I am doing, but I like talking about how much I love my family and how much fun it is for me to spend time with my grown-up kids.  I wasn’t expecting responses, but I got one from a female college friend I haven’t seen in almost 30 years. 
“Define ‘manly food’ please. Is it food that puts hair on your chest, or already has hair on its own? Or both of those swimming in grease with a large side of fries and dessert? Just wondering if I have partaken in manly food by accident or on purpose in my past.”
Now I could have just chuckled at that and left it alone (but the snoozing boy left me with time on my hands). So, the mood hit me …
“There was a time when ‘manly’ and hair on one's chest were synonymous. However, in the current culture, it is probably not true. Most of the food of which we will partake today has had hair on its own chest, though we will require that it be removed before it is brought to our table. As the chivalrous males we both desire to be, we are more than happy for any humans of the female persuasion to partake in manly fare without fear of chauvinistic condemnation. So, enjoy, my fully female friends. You are even welcome to follow up with a healthy belch.”
You may not find that particularly amusing, but I did. It is not uncommon for me to think I am more amusing than I really am. But, why didn’t I just let it die on Facebook instead of reviving it here? And what does it have to do with the premise that our lives matter to God? 
Those were your questions, weren’t they? Two things occur to me as I reflect on this silly exchange.  One is that it is good to laugh.  We take ourselves way too seriously sometimes.  The Bible says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength ...  A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit ... For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.” (Proverbs 17:22;15:13,15).
The other is that manly men may have dirt under their fingernails, but they don’t require dirt in their humor. It’s not the kind of humor that is good for your heart if you wouldn’t say it to your Grandma.
So, man up, boys and girls!  Even our laughter matters to God.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Right Here, Right Now

It is 2012, for crying out loud!  How did we get here?  What are we doing?  Where are we going?  What challenges, adventures, surprises, victories, losses, and changes are ahead?  And what difference does it make? So go my New Year’s reflections.
To tell you the truth, I gave up on New Year’s resolutions years ago.  I have eaten and slept myself out of so many of them that I figured there had to be a better way.  The quest to find that better way continues annually as the big ball drops and the celestial calendar clicks over to a new fourth digit.
I have discovered something in this quest.  An annual review leaves too much blank space between reviews.  The more frequently I ponder the focus of life, the more focused life becomes.  So, while the whole New Year thing particularly lends itself to reflection, I am trying to figure out how to bring those times of refocus and reflection a little closer together.
There are people who believe, based on some sort of Mayan calendar/galactic alignment/New Age thingy, that something significant will happen in 2012.  Some have even suggested the end of the world on or about December 21. (Anyone remember Y2K?  Or a little book called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 1988?) 
I am here to tell you that something significant will occur for each of us in 2012.  It doesn’t take a psychic or a futurist to predict that.  My prediction is based on the reality that drives this blog each week – our lives matter to God.
Something significant will happen because you and I are significant.  The question is not whether anything of consequence will happen to or for us this year.  The question is what we will do with it.
There is a story in the Old Testament about a Jewish girl who became Queen of Persia.  Her name was Hadassah, but she is better known as Esther.  Her cousin, Mordecai, discovered a despicable plot that had been put in place to destroy the Jews.  He went to Esther to ask her to go before King Xerxes and plead for the life of her people.  Esther was hesitant because of the custom which prohibited anyone from coming before the king without an invitation.  Here is Mordecai’s reply:
"Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:13-14)
Those words are the basis of my New Year’s challenge to each of us.  For such a time as this, God has placed us where we are.  Our lives matter so much to Him that He does not want us to miss out on His purpose.  He can do it without our cooperation, but the loss would be ours.  This is not just true every 365 days.  It is true every 24 hours. 
A prayer for each new day – You put me right here, right now.  Show me what to do with that.  Amen.