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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

We're Still Here ... Really!

If you are reading this, the Mayan Apocalypse has come and gone and we’re still here.  If you are not reading this …

I’d love to just stop there, but in case the world actually does not end on December 21, I still need to get 500 words submitted for next week’s paper before I leave for Christmas travels. By the way, doesn’t Mayan Apocalypse sound like a great new coffee drink?

I read an article yesterday about some people in San Diego, CA who are seriously preparing for December 21.  There are 102 confirmed “preppers” in San Diego.   "People getting prepared for December 21st this year should be prepared for anything, whether it be the end of days, civil unrest, nuclear attack, hurricane, earthquake," said Nikko Sanchez, a  Gulf War veteran and  ex-law enforcement officer. 

All this Mayan calendar stuff reminds me a little of the Y2K hoopla as 1999 drew to a close.  I wrote a Life Matters (back when it was an email sent mostly to my church members) after Y2K came and went and titled it “We’re Still Here.”  I guess we still are.

It seems like something else has come and gone over the past few days.  Now what was that?  Oh, yeah!  It was a little day called Christmas.  If you like hoopla, controversy, unrealistic and unfulfilled expectations, and stress, the Christmas season is the gift that keeps on giving.  It is almost an annual Mayan Apocalypse.  Accusations about “censoring” Christmas … pressure to buy the “perfect” gift … I could go on, but you get the point.

As I am writing this on the morning of December 20, I am sitting in my rocking/writing chair, drinking a cup of Starbucks Christmas blend (Espresso Roast, not Mayan Apocalypse), with only the lights of the Christmas tree and the morning sunrise coming through the picture window on the front of our house.  Two of our grownup chicks are here in the nest with us.  We’ll see the other two tomorrow night.  There is a pile of presents, but they are mostly homemade or came from thrift stores.  Or some little silly something that made us think of one of the kids.  I can’t wait to gather around the tree and sing on Christmas Eve, then gather again on Christmas morning to laugh and love while we open those gifts.  Then I am going to cook Gingerbread pancakes for breakfast.  Later that afternoon, I am going to cook a traditional Christmas dinner of stacked green and red chile enchiladas, black beans and posole.  

Our celebration will be about Jesus because our lives are about Jesus.  We will talk about our blessings.  We will pray together.  No pressure.  No hoopla.  Just gratitude for the grace of God and His constant presence in our lives.

“They will call him Immanuel, which means 'God is with us.'" (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23)

Yeah, we’re still here and our lives still matter to God.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dear Column Boy ...

My Life Matters blog appears as a weekly column in a couple of local newspapers.  On Monday morning this week, as I was about to head out the door to work, I remembered that I had a column submission due in about an hour.  Oops!  It’s the most wonderful time of the year, which means there’s lots of stuff going on.  In the past 8 days, I have sung in two Christmas musical performances (see last week’s column/blog) and “entertained” at 3 Christmas banquets.  I wouldn’t change a thing, but it has been a little nutty.

That may explain why my addled brain not only forgot to remind me to write this week’s column, but also found me asking myself hypothetical questions that people out in newspaper/blog reading land might ask me if this were a “write-in” column/blog.

Here goes …

Dear Column Boy, why do you write so much about yourself?

Dear Reader, contrary to what some people may think, I do not have a Narcissus complex.  Journalists, the people who report the news and write articles, do research and have to know about things.  Columnists write opinions about what they know.  Some of them know a lot and have great opinions.  I don’t know much, but I can usually manage to remember what I had for lunch today and the names of both of my children, so I just stick with what I know.

Dear Column Boy, you often refer to your wife as Mrs. Sweetie.  Does that make you Mr. Sweetie?

Dear Reader, I prefer Dr. Sweetie.  I worked pretty hard to get that doctorate.  Dr. Sweetie may seem a little formal, but if people start calling me just “Sweetie” I might have some ‘splaining to do with the Mrs.

Dear Column Boy, do the members of your family ever get embarrassed that you include them in your stories so much?

Dear Reader, I have so many really embarrassing stories I could tell that they are most often relieved at what doesn’t appear in the newspaper/blog.  Besides that, my children know where I live and will one day likely be choosing a nursing home for me, so I’m not going to push the envelope too far.

Dear Column Boy, you say our lives matter to God.  How do you know?

Dear Reader, before John 3:16 was a sign waved at televised sporting events, it was spoken by God-in-the-flesh (John 1:14), whose birthday we are celebrating this holiday season.  He said, "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:16-17, NLT)

I hope you didn’t miss a really important word in that paragraph: “everyone”.  The translation I grew up with says, “whosoever”.  Our lives matter so much to God that He made it possible for everyone to know Him.  Our part is to trust Him, to cling to Him, to rely on Him.

Thanks for asking and thanks for reading.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Singing Up a Sweat

Dateline:  December 1, 2012, North Central Texas, Lewis household, 10:00 p.m.

It was a crisp, cool winter evening.  Wait a minute. Scratch that. It was a balmy December evening and I had to turn on the A/C to get my bedroom cool enough for sleeping.  You got that, right?  A/C on December 1!  Holy sweat glands, Batman!

It was nice, however, to be out on the Courthouse Square in Decatur on that warm December evening after the parade singing in a choir made up of three different church choirs.  The First Baptist Churches of Alvord, Decatur, and Paradise decided to join together this year to present two performances of “Mary Did You Know”, a musical celebration of the message of Christmas.  One happened on the courthouse lawn Saturday night and the other was at FBC Decatur Sunday night. 

I was there for two reasons.  First of all, Mrs. Sweetie and I are members of FBC Paradise, and we love to sing in the choir when our schedule allows.  Secondly, all three of these churches are member congregations of Harvest Baptist Association, the ministry network that I am privileged to serve as director.

I had nothing to do with suggesting or organizing this joint ministry, but it is a perfect example of the reason I do what I do.  When individual churches look beyond themselves, free themselves of ego and territorialism, and come together for the sake of the kingdom of God and blessing their communities, God is honored in a uniquely powerful way.

Research tells us that the percentage of people in our communities who identify with no religious group is growing at an alarming rate. It doesn't bode well for churches, but it also doesn't bode well for our communities.  I suspect that most everyone who reads this blog understands the value that strong churches bring to the community.  And when several of those churches come together in a united focus, the blessing is multiplied exponentially.

Proverbs 11:11 says, "Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed."

Here’s the Gerry paraphrase of that (which is not infallible, by the way):  “When God’s people choose to bless and encourage their community, it becomes a better place to live; when the whiners win, everybody loses.”

Jeremiah 29:7 says, “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”  The “exile” part may not seem applicable, but the basic principle of “bloom where you are planted” is an eternal truth.

I’m dreaming this Christmas of a day when all God’s people (not just three churches of the same denomination) decide to get together for the sake of blessing their communities.  Our lives matter so much to God that He has planted us in proximity to each other to grow together.

That’s something worth singing about.

The Future Starts Today

During the greeting time on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, our pastor said, "Shake hands with someone and tell them you ate too much." So, I told the person behind me, "You obviously ate way too much." 

Not really.  I confessed, "I ate too much ... And then I ate some more." Confession may be good for the soul, but my pants are still too tight.

One of the young ladies in our church is getting married in 6 months.  She said she was going for one more big meal before she starts her wedding diet.  I think I will start mine with her.  If I am looking good in time for her wedding, I should be quite the dashing and svelte father of the groom when my son gets married a month later.

That was our big Thanksgiving blessing--the announcement of our son's engagement. We have prayed for this precious young lady for over 22 years, since before our baby boy was born. And God has answered our prayers beyond what we could ever have imagined.

As I write this, I am hearing the church budget committee in the next room discuss how to fund the ministry vision of the church for next year. I am also listening to a couple of youngsters who are having their piano lesson with the church accompanist.

In all of the above, one reality is clear to me: the future is now.  

If we wait until our child starts dating to begin praying for her future mate, we are already behind.

If we wait until the church needs an accompanist before we start teaching the next generation to play the piano, we are going to be up a creek.

If we wait to see how much money we have available before we ask God what He wants us to do, we have the cart before the horse.

I recently heard a quote attributed to motivational speaker Zig Ziglar.  He said the best time to plant an oak tree was 50 years ago.  The second best time is today.  We don't have much control over what will happen to us in the future.  We have almost complete control over how we prepare ourselves to respond to what happens to us in the future.

So, column boy, how do you propose that we do this preparation thing?  What a great question! You are amazing!

I propose we go to the unchanging eternal truth of God's word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work."

Our lives matter so much to God that He has provided resources to prepare and equip us for whatever the future holds.

Maybe I better start that wedding diet today.