Tag Archives: Family

Politically Correct Demise

I command you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at his appearing and his Kingdom: preach the word; be urgent in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:1-2 WEB)

One Sunday morning a nice young lady shared about the sanctity of life and led us in prayer. It was a nice reminder that all life, before birth and up through old age has value. She also decried the massive number of young lives lost before birth in a world where abortion is widely accepted. What caught my attention was the use of the word lost throughout her presentation. I don’t have any prejudice against the word lost or its use when describing someone’s departure from earthly life. However, I’ve come to recognize we are beginning to lose the reality and impact of someone’s death or the killing of an unborn child, or any other unexpected termination of life.

I started to realize this when someone else shared their life story and somewhere in their sharing mentioned the loss of a family member. I turned to my wife and said, “Did they lose track of them in a Hyper Walmart?” Don’t get me wrong, I grieve with those who grieve and know the impact on life when a close friend or family member dies. I understand the impact of death as my mother went to join her Savior and my father for eternity. On the other hand, in our politically correct world we have come to a place where reality is cushioned by nebulous terms to soften the truth so no one is offended.

We cannot say so many babies were killed through abortion. We don’t say our father died. instead we say we lost so many million babies, or we lost our father or mother last year. Is abortion some forest where babies wander off and never find their way out? Did our cousin park in the long-term lot and disappear forever wandering aimlessly from aisle to aisle forgetting where they parked?

I’m constantly barraged by mushy politically correct words used to express dreadful events in life. Personally, I feel as if we don’t comprehend the extent of a life change when we only lose someone. To lose something belies the possibility that it might one day be discovered where it accidentally rolled under the dresser.

When I say I lost my father or mother it’s nice and polite but much of the reality is lost. If I make an honest assessment the truth is my father died many years ago. My mother died recently. I’m not likely to experience a serendipitous meeting of my Dad when I turn into a random aisle at the grocery store. This propensity to floss over the fullness of a situation has not only toned down our discussion of death but, in many cases, the teaching of God’s word.

Writing to Timothy Paul spared no words encouraging the young preacher to exhort, rebuke, and reprove believers. I feel when we’re not careful with the small words, to avoid offending someone, this translates and impacts the language we use in all areas of life and even our testimony to the world. We can be so cautious not to offend that political correctness becomes the demise of clear speech.

Anyone who has experienced the heartache in the death of a loved one, as I have, may be better served by talking in clear definitive terms. I mean a clear use of precise terms to help us embrace and better deal with the honest feelings we hold inside. Not a brutal verbal attack during a time of turmoil.

My father died. My mother died. Millions of babies are killed before birth. Many people starve to death. These people, these babies are not lost except when we use language to make the sound of truth sweet and comforting. Then we find ourselves inclined to ooh and ah instead of grieving and mourning. Let’s not allow our penchant for soft words soften our hearts to tragedy. Instead, let’s allow the impact of clear words drive us to God.

When it comes to this world I’ve known relatives and friends who died. As a Christian, I’m looking forward to seeing many of them again in eternity. They may have died in this world but they are never lost in God’s kingdom. He knows right where they are. And that statement is not politically correct but theologically sound.

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Oblivious

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, WEB) 

I can be oblivious at times. As Beth will attest, it’s usually when I’ve got my thoughts deeply imbedded in a particularly difficult conundrum trying to unravel the pieces of a complex problem to create an elegant and simple solution. At other times I’m just tired from resolving the aforementioned puzzle and my brain goes into the oft ridiculed “nothing” box which every male keeps handy for escape and relaxation. But, there are many areas of life where I endeavor to be very observant. Sometimes for safety reasons and other times to insure I’m behaving appropriately for the sake of those around me.

When I was growing up my parents instilled in me certain cultural expectations and behaviors for the sake of politeness and common sense. One of those areas was driving habits. Always look out for the other driver. Don’t do anything which can distract you from the road. Always pay attention to your surroundings just in case you need an unexpected detour to escape an accident or obstruction.

Driving back from the beach one day Beth and I were enjoying some music as we cruised down the highway. Traffic was minimal but there were a few other autos peppered along he highway. We slowly passed some and others passed us. Then a big car went flying past us in the left lane. Being passed was not unusual for us. However, when I looked over at the driver he was reading. He wasn’t glancing at highway signs but held a book in his hand, in front of the steering wheel, and was reading and turning pages as he evidently exceeded the speed limit in a casual fashion.

Aghast at the apparent lack of concern for other vehicles or his personal safety it reminded me of other “modern” annoyances. I’ll admit I’ve done some stupid things and been oblivious to others around me. Still, I try to be courteous and not endanger my fellow human beings. I’m not old fashioned when it comes to technology and courtesy.

How many times have you stood in line when someone answered their cell phone? There’s normally nothing wrong with that. We carry cell phones to be available everywhere (another topic I’ll leave for another post). However, if you have to shout into the phone so loud that others stare at you then something is amiss. If your phone is that poor get a new phone. I’m convinced the person you’re talking to can hear your booming voice without the aid of the telecommunications network. Really people. Show some consideration and concern for those around you.

Back on the driving kick and cell phones, driving, and traffic lights. Is your life so hectic and important that you must text or call someone every time your car comes to a stop. And, what makes you think that suddenly driving below the speed limit on a busy road makes it safe to text or call someone? Where did common sense go?

It just seems to me people have become so self absorbed that there’s a perpetual lack of attention to anyone and anything around them. You’re so important that holding hands and spanning an entire walkway in a busy mall is OK even if other shoppers are piling up behind your show of family unity. Who cares if the waiter can’t hear your order because the person a couple tables away is shouting in their phone?

People are taking a back seat to what “I” want or the prevalent persistent attention seeking electronic devices so ubiquitously beeping and clanging not to be ignored. We’ve become too worried that we might miss something happening and thus be a social outcast because we failed to read, laugh at, and comment on some bane, self indulgent post on social media. We cannot travel 60 seconds without a conversation which is best left to our full attention.

I’m reminded of the Psalmist’s admonition to pay attention. Be still, and know that I am God the Lord proclaims. We can’t be in tune with our savior and creator if we are always focusing on the creation and the things we’ve created. When flushed with a need to tweet, text, post or otherwise interact via an impersonal piece of electronics; perhaps it’s time to pause, quiet our thoughts, still our heart, and realize God is the one in control. When we lift our eyes to focus on the God of the universe it keep us from becoming oblivious to those around us, the very ones He created just as he created us. He’ll keep our vision focused and not oblivious.

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I’m Content

But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6 WEB)

No matter what people may think, I’m content with my life, my family, my work and my faith; so, stop telling me I need something more. I was thinking about this while lying awake in bed one morning. When I look at things in my life and consider what I’ve done, where I’ve been and what I’ve acquired (physical stuff, experiences, etc.), I’m content. Unfortunately, sometimes, when my frustration over things around me percolates to the top of my patience, I might present a temporary persona that doesn’t portray a contented soul. But that’s another subject.

One of the first things I thought about was my wonderful wife quietly asleep beside me. It’s the precise planning of God that brought us together at the right place and time to embark on an amazing busy, full and fantastic life. Two-thirds of our lives we’ve been together and I’m looking forward with anticipation to undertaking together the next 40 plus years of life and adventure God has planned. Like most married men I know; I often wonder how my love tolerated me all these years. But I’m content knowing God was gracious to me and gives her lots of patience.

We’ve lived through raising four children, watching them leave the nest and start a life of their own with their own families. I like my children’s spouses. I love them all and I believe they like me. Our children are doing well in a variety of jobs. We’ve got service managers, restaurant managers, teachers and soldiers carrying on the family line. I’m proud of them all. They’ve had their problems, we haven’t always seen eye to eye, but as family we work through things. Thanks to them I have a number of grandchildren that I love dearly. I think they love me as well. I know why God gives us grandchildren. It’s to insure we still have that delightful spark of innocence to encourage us in life. They have good and bad days, they’re little children and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m content with my family.

I’ve spent the majority of my life serving and working with the same organization in various places around the globe. I’d like to say everything was rosy and delightful all these years but the truth is there were hard times along with good times. Still, I’m content with what God has been able to accomplish through my work around the globe. More than once I felt ill-equipped for the job. It was then I watched as God stepped in to show His grace and let me know that I can do all things through Him. I can’t say I never had doubts about what I was doing. They would raise their ugly heads now and then until I reset my vision on the one who gives me strength. I can say I never had doubts about God’s calling me to this life. I’m content in my work and ministry.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve turned to God and asked, “Why?” Sometimes I found the answer. Some questions remain unanswered. I’ve railed at God in my frustration and anger and praised and worshipped Him at all times. Yes, even when I was furious I still worshipped God. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, some things I still don’t understand, but I trust in God in all things. I’m comforted understanding that I can come to God with praise, anger, questions and the small issues of daily life and He listens. He shows me grace, especially in my stupid times. He loves me always, even in my disobedient times. I’m content with my faith in God.

In all this I find myself wondering why I would consider not being content. I can stop and think and realize that this is a great life God has provided and like the verse above I have great gain. Sometimes people think I’m discontent because I’m frustrated with things or get angry over an encounter with massive stupidity. So I wonder if we’re not confusing contentment with emotionless living. Are they the same? I don’t think so. God gave us emotions to help us deal with life on this spinning rock. We can let them get out of hand but to dismiss them as ungodly just doesn’t ring true for me. There are some things, regardless of my godliness or contentment, which I suspect will always increase my blood pressure.

There are inconsistencies in the behavior and reliability of computers, an area I’ve worked with for over thirty years that make me want to test the aerodynamic characteristics of the device from any open window (which I have done). There are vehicle drivers who apparently didn’t attend driving school, forgot all they learned or had incompetent teachers. Some folks standing in line for ten minutes or more to pay for items wait until they reach the counter to fish through their fifty gallon purse looking for their credit card. Sometimes I just sigh and roll my eyes. Other times, for whatever reasons, I just get frustrated or angry.

Then there’s the modern church. As a faithful member of the congregation we’re never doing enough “for God.” We hear preaching about contentment and at the same time a message of “do more” which creates discontent because we’re not doing enough, in the eyes of the local church, to justify our claiming to be faithful believers. Rubbish! I’m concentrating on my walk in this world as a faithful follower of Christ. Just walking faithful with God through normal tivities of life is doing something “for God.” Where that intersects with a church ministry, such as being a full time missionary, I’m glad to go as God leads. I don’t doubt some future heavenly residents might need a little fire under their backside to get them moving but who lights the fire, God or man? Without getting into a pet peeve let me say I’m content with the ministries where God has place me and I’m not looking for more. If He gives more I’ll undertake it. Otherwise I’ll be content with the here and now.

That’s probably where contentment lies. It lies in knowing you are where God wants you to be. It’s understanding the abilities God has given for the particular task and being content that God knows what He’s doing. Does it remove all emotion so we can be like good southerners and just say, “Bless their heart” when they do something ridiculous. At times it might. At other times life boils to the top and we are reminded we are humans, designed with emotions, by a God with emotions, to live in an emotional world. I’m content to live here, with all my foibles, until He takes me to that perfect mansion. Are you content?

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A Boat in the Water

They immediately went out, and entered into the boat.
That night, they caught nothing (John 21:3b WEB) 


For many years my family lived in the little town of Greenhills, Ohio. It’s a Greenbelt community setup by the government when I was a child. The city was surrounded by the trees and wonders of Winton Woods and protected from development that would extend its boundaries into the forest. A city surrounded by a belt of green. I loved living there. You could walk a few blocks and start exploring the creeks, forest and hidden valleys. 

Not only did Winton Woods contain woods but it also contained Winton Lake. We skated on the lake and ponds in the winter, skipped rocks across the surface and fished from its banks. Occasionally we’d have the chance to take a boat out on the lake. At one point in history there was a little paddle wheel boat adding an attraction for tourists.  

Years later, I was grown, our children were grown and our oldest son arranged for a family gathering on Norris Lake in Tennessee. Ten adults, five grandchildren under the age of four, one house and lots of food made for a joyful family gathering. We ate, we played games, we laughed and one day we went out on the lake. 

There were two boats to hold us all. I was captain of the pontoon boat. This floating family room was great for the little ones with its high rails and a roof covering half the deck. The other boat, captained by our oldest son, was a speedboat that ran rings around my slower pontoon boat. That didn’t matter. I was the captain of my ship! A big tube was attached to a long rope behind the speedboat where several members of the family climbed onto the tube to be dragged at high speed across the water. It was a blast. 

At one point we dropped anchor in a cove so those inclined could take a swim. Thanks to the lifejackets everyone, except me, took a dip in the lake. There was some concern on the part of the little ones about the water and a few cries of resistance. One granddaughter didn’t like the water because it wasn’t blue. She wanted to swim in blue water, not green water. Our son’s fiancé tried hard to convince her the water was fine. She even talked about Nemo as a possible resident of the lake but it just didn’t assuage our little granddaughter’s fears of the water that was the wrong color. 

After several hours of wind, heat and reflection on the water most of us were tired if not sunburned. The day was fun but it was exhausting at the same time. Eventually we dropped most of the family off at a dock near our rental home while a few of us returned the boats to their rental dock. By the time we drove back to the house we were more than ready for a good night’s rest. 

I can’t imagine the impact of being on the water all-day and working at the same time. A day on the water having fun was exhausting and I spent most of the day just driving the pontoon boat. I can imagine the exhaustion the disciples experienced after an all night session of net fishing on the Sea of Galilee. Then in the morning along came Jesus telling them to toss their nets one more time. And they did it! 

When I get exhausted, whether from physical labor or just having fun, the last thing I want is someone asking me to do something else. And that’s just what happens almost daily. Then I remember the results. The Disciples pulled in more fish in one toss than they had all night. Who knows what God will do when I put aside my exhaustion and respond to those around me? Perhaps He’ll use me to pull a net of seekers into His kingdom. I just need to be ready for that extra toss. 

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Joy in Our Faith (1 Peter 1:6-9)

More than once in my life I’ve been a stranger in a strange land. In our years of ministry I’ve traveled to numerous countries around the globe. I’ve lived almost as much of my life outside my homeland as I have inside. I identified with the phrase in verse one. Peter wrote, “To God’s elect, strangers in the world . . .” Many of you can identify, like I can, with that feeling of being a stranger in this world. Some may think I’m just strange, but that’s a different story.

It’s easy to feel like an outsider while living away from our birth culture. And the same is true when we become members of God’s family. Suddenly our home is no longer the USA, Ghana, Iran, Austria or the Philippines. Our culture changes when we are born again and we become strangers in this world. There are many parallels in the fallen world where we presently live and Peter’s revelation in these verses. When we move to a different land we discover another culture, maybe another language, definitely another way to thinking. This makes us the outsider and the stranger. With this comes a certain hazard inherent in our transplanted home. We discover trials, difficulties and other inconveniences which constantly remind us that we are the strangers living in someone else’s world. They also bring our attention back to our new, true home with God. This is where we discover a reason to greatly rejoice.

The believers Peter addressed understood living as strangers and were troubled by their trials. Turn with me to chapter one beginning in verse six to see God’s advice through Peter’s letter.

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NIV)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, . . .

In what do we greatly rejoice? My friend Bjoern spoke about this a couple weeks ago. He listed reasons to rejoice from the opening verses of the epistle. In verse five we saw that we rejoice in God’s protection, His shield which keeps us until the end of the present world. God will not let us go. With His omnipotent hands, He holds each of us. Our hands tell the story of our lives. Each wrinkle, crevice and crease reveals who we are. Jesus’ hands spoke of His obedience and love for us. Jesus also spoke about God’s hands and what it means to our salvation?  Join me in the Gospel of John chapter 10.

John 10:27-30 (NIV)

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.

We are called to greatly rejoice in our salvation. This rejoicing is to find a place above everything else going on. It’s not here in the present world we plan to spend eternity but with God. Once we focus our lives on the eternal future we can deal with the limited present. God wants to turn our attention away from the finite present to the infinite future. At times his teaching instrument is a test. And tests are seldom fun. Back to verse 6:

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NIV)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

I’m glad Peter used a special word for various. The Greek word ποικίλος (poikilos) can also mean many colored. I like that imagery. This word is used by Peter in one other place. Glance at Chapter 4 verse 10. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV) Our troubles may be many-colored, but so is the grace of God; there is no color in the human situation that grace cannot match. There is grace to match every trial and there is no trial without its grace. (W. Barclay) We don’t know what is coming but God is sufficient whatever the challenge.

In verse 6 we also read, “. . . though now for a little while.” While God’s grace is never ending, our trials do end. I’m comforted and can have great joy knowing there is an end. Trials are distressing and a burden. But we can rejoice in Jesus promise when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV) But nothing happens without a purpose in God’s world. Back to our passage:

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NIV)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine. . .

I have faith in the security of the believer. I find comfort in God’s assurance of my salvation. Sometimes events make us look closely at our faith. One year our daughter lost her baby only a few weeks before her due date. During that time our faith was tested as we suffered grief. God used that tragedy in our family to help us understand his grace and the surety of our faith. We could stand with God in our faith or turn away. But turning away isn’t an option for the true believer.

I agree with the Apostle John when he writes about those who appear to lose their faith, “19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” (1 John 2:18b-19 NIV) There are many “posers” in the body of Christ. There are people who say the right things, do the right stuff but don’t believe. True believers know who they are and rejoice that God is protecting their salvation.

Our trials are for our benefit. We don’t usually see the benefits of trials while they’re happening. We just see the problem. It just isn’t fun! Peter doesn’t say it’s fun. But he gives us hope. He gives us a reason to rejoice. There is a purpose in what befalls us as believers. We are tested so our faith, “of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine.” (7) The word picture is fascinating.

We may not be familiar with refining gold through fire. The metal is heated in a pot until it’s a liquid so the refiner can skim off the bad stuff which rises to the top. The result is considered purified gold. God wants to skim off the bad stuff in our life. And the only way to do that is to put us to the test. Gold doesn’t stay in the pot once the yucky stuff is gone and God doesn’t leave us in the fire once we’ve been purified. Once taken from the pot gold must still be checked. Gold is checked by applying acid to determine the karat or purity of the refined gold. The acid test proves it’s genuine and not fool’s gold. Again, in verse 6 and 7:

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NIV)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Genuine faith produces results. There are present results and eternal results. Our faith produces praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Who’s being praised, honored and glorified in this verse? It’s us! Yep, God’s children will receive praise, glory and honor at Christ’s return. This is the result of God’s refining fire. When Jesus Christ is revealed we will again greatly rejoice. Joy again and again weaves its way through our lives as Christians. Whether in trial or good times our focus should be the great joy we have in God. But, Peter says this proof of our faith will be evident when Christ is revealed. What do we do until then? Back to our passage . . .

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NIV)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, . . .

We love! We love Jesus. Do you see Jesus in the room? I don’t. I see his work in the faces and lives of His people. Unlike Peter who walked with our Lord, the readers of this letter never met Jesus face to face. Neither did you or me. But, I still love Him! I still believe in Him. Through the testing of our family this year I am filled with inexpressible and glorious joy as God proves my genuine faith.

I’m fascinated with the word “inexpressible.” It comes from the word for “unspeakable.” When we are true believers we hold within us a joy which we cannot express. We can’t shout it out because that would be insufficient. A smile just doesn’t carry the depth of our joy being held in God’s hands. No song, no matter how moving can touch the heart of our joy. It is beyond words, beyond expression, tied to the very heart and love of God.

We don’t see God now but we love Him. John writes about this in his first epistle.

2  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3 NIV)\

I don’t know about you but I look forward to that day. Still, in this day, at this time, the goal of my faith is being achieved. There are things I don’t have to wait for. Again in 1 Peter 1:

1 Peter 1:6-9 (NIV)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Salvation is not some future, mystical, promise but an ever-present reality. God is working in and through us today, at this moment, in this place. Where God’s children abide, Jesus is there. Listen carefully to Romans 6:22 and 23:

22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, {this is past tense, it happens at salvation} the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)

 To understand and live with an inexpressible joy we must be saved. We must accept the free gift of redemption Jesus purchased with His blood at the cross. Only through Jesus can any man approach God.

We may experience trials today but that is nothing compared to the future. Paul encouraged the Romans when he wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 3:18 NIV) God has us in His hands and there we shall stay. Again, in Romans 8:35 Paul writes, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” And the answer is found in verse 37; “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

As tested and proven genuine believers we have a reason to greatly rejoice today, at this moment, in this place. If you’re in a trial today take courage. It has an end and a purpose which will strengthen and purify your faith.

If you don’t know the love of God, the wonder of His love and grace, come to Him today that we may greatly rejoice together.

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Repititions

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:7 NIV)

I’m not young but I’m not elderly. At least it makes me feel better to think that way. I was thinking the other day, dangerous I know, about what I remember thinking when I was younger about those who were not young but not elderly. I’m not sure about others in the world but I have a predilection to allow the changes which take place in my life to be ignored and considered normal while considering the same change in others as evidence of their age. I think it’s a case of mental self-preservation.

When I was a young man I loved hearing stories from my parents about when they were young. It was also great to hear of experiences they experienced throughout the “normal” activities of life. There’s a lot of humor, wisdom and confusion when you look closely at everyday life. Needless to say, these stories come to mind when we find ourselves in similar circumstances. It’s only natural to share them so others are forewarned.

Now that I’m older, but not old, I find that I share such tales with the young folks I meet as well as my own children who are now grown and living away from home. When I’m with their spouses or friends some event will trigger a memory from my past I think will be fun to share. So, I share it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s like furlough for a missionary. After so many years on the mission field I’ve got a treasure of numerous situations or events which others might consider interesting, informative or funny. While bopping around the country sharing our ministry with churches, family and friends I use this collection of tales to fuel many conversations. But the problem is my memory isn’t quite what it used to be.

It’s not that I forget the salient points of the story. It’s not that I forget my wife’s name or my grandchildren. It’s that I can’t keep track of who I’ve told what, when or how often. We share our ministry and stories at churches across the nation. The advantage of speaking in different locations each week is that you can repeat a sermon or story and it’s a different congregation. The embarrassment comes when we’re having lunch or just relaxing with different families in the church, with our family or our friends. I can’t remember what tale I’ve told.

Unlike lies which we often forget and thus get us into trouble; forgetting what story you told to someone doesn’t land you in hot water but in the lukewarm conversation of repetitions. I was gently reminded of this in a recent visit with family. Walking along I was reminded of some funny event centered on where we were and shared it. My marvelous daughter-in-law chuckled and said, “Now I know where he gets it.”

“Who gets it?” I queried.

“Your son,” she replied.

“Gets what?” I asked

“The habit of repeating stories he’s told me before,” she said and giggled.

“Oops, did I already tell you that?” I asked looking down at the pavement under my feet.

“Yes, but that’s OK. I’m used to it. I let him go ahead. It makes him feel good.”

She smiled, gave me a hug, and let me repeat more stories the rest of the day. I don’t know how many stories were repeats because I honestly can’t remember what I’ve told who, when or how many times. I suppose some stories are good to repeat and some get boring. I think it comes as a combination of getting older and making way too many presentations of our work throughout the years. Hopefully the stories I repeat the most often are the good ones which help someone else walk with Christ or liven up their day with humor.

God wasn’t afraid of repetitions but I think He remembered who He told what, when and how often. His instruction to the Israelites was to repeat His laws to their children every which way, everywhere, and all the time. I sometimes get so involved in other conversations about life I forget that God is part of everything I do and should take the center in every tale I tell. Honestly, they wouldn’t be the stories they are without God.

 

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Pieces of Christmas

Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11 NET)

Once we moved overseas it was 25 years before we were again in the USA for Christmas. That was quite a while. During most of those years we had children at home to celebrate the incarnation, the fun, the songs, and the family time.  Over the years, the children have grown up, left home and established their own homes in the USA. Along with their new homes and families, our children are married and have their own traditions.

I love family traditions, especially for holidays. There are good traditions like candy and presents I think everyone enjoys. There are the “not so good” traditions such as one of the children being sick every holiday season. Christmas probably has more traditions than any other season. I love special decorations which bring back enjoyably memories. I love the smell of Christmas cookies baking. I love the smell and look of a “real” and perfectly decorated Christmas tree. I love to throw tinsel at the tree while the family tells me to stop.

Our first Christmas on furlough in the USA with our children married and grandchildren was an exercise in diplomacy, bartering, and great joy. Just about every Christmas I remember someone was sick. That year was no different. I don’t remember who was under the holiday weather but someone was. Maybe it was me. Nah.

Diplomacy was the first skill to be exercised. Now that Mom and Dad, those missionaries who lived overseas, were in town the routine of spending the holidays with the “other” in-laws was in jeopardy. Who would go where, when and with whom so no one was left out or hurt that the “norm” was being interrupted. This worked out just fine with a little shifting of our children’s holiday routines to squeeze us in.

2009_12_21_treecookies-004We then moved to bartering. God provided a small home for us to occupy during the holiday season. Since it was normally used by families with terminally ill children in local hospitals it was a bit lacking in holiday spirit or decoration. So, we started bartering. We borrowed a tree from our daughters in law along with some decorations. We borrowed more decorations and stuff from our son’s family and Beth even picked up a few new items. In the end, we had a very “family” oriented tree decorated with stuff from everyone we were related to in town.

 Beth baked cookies with our daughters and there were plenty of goodies to go around. There were too many and I was hard pressed to eat them all. We found presents for all the children, in-laws, grandchildren at the various shops around town. And they even put some presents from themselves to us under our tree. It looked very festive.

Christmas day the traveling began. Two of our children and one of our grandchildren came to our little borrowed house in Kentucky. We opened presents, ate cookies, had fun, had a nice meal and enjoyed family.

It was great to see most of our children for the holiday. There’s a sense of relief and calmness in revisiting traditions now and then. When we arrived in town nothing was in place. We had to piece things together from family, friends, and shops to attempt building a touch of tradition while living out of suitcases. I think it worked pretty good.

Along with family holidays I find I’ve developed traditions in my Christian walk. Traditions (some call them habits) can be found in my prayer life, my study life and even how I approach worship on Sundays. I think it’s our human nature that finds comfort in things we understand and things which hold good memories. We need to take time to build our traditions, to find those places of comfort which help us press forward in our walk with Christ. Jesus grew up surrounded by traditions which impacted his earthly life. The same is true for us. What are our traditions?

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