Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy

This journey through life is never boring......

Month: December 2014 (page 1 of 3)

What Did You Get For Christmas?

That’s probably one of the most asked questions when seeing friends after Christmas.   At least when I was a kid……

Let me tell you what I got for Christmas…….

I got gratitude.   Gratitude for family.   Gratitude that many of them live close enough to get together for Christmas – even if it’s not on Christmas day.

I got hugs.   Hugs from the kids.    Hugs from my kids and hugs from the niece (and niece in laws) and nephews.  The fact that all of my kids are still willing to do that is an awesome thing.

I got time.   Both my parents and my in-laws are here to enjoy, to spend time with and to see my kids enjoy spending time with.  

I have a wife.   Not only a wife, but a wife who celebrates a birthday every year in the middle of the all of the commotion of Christmas.    A wife who has been by my side for “many” years.    A best friend.   And a selfless nurse who cares for little babies who can’t be home with their families on Christmas.  

I got the opportunity to walk through the story of Advent with Ann Voskamp’s book , “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift,” this year.   All of us were blessed by her writing and walking the path of Advent with her this year.

I got brothers.   Well, I had them already, but it’s a gift to have brothers that I not only love but also actually like (at least most of the time.)

I got Jesus.   Well, I already had Him, but once again to be reminded of what God has done for me is an awesome thing.

Given all of these gifts, I also got a renewed sense that God has given us all a responsibility.    It’s a responsibility to do something with that gratitude.   It’s a responsibility to share with those who aren’t as filled with gratitude at this time of year.   It’s a responsibility to reflect that love.    To show the patience that this world needs.   To stand up to wrong.    To work for good.

To reflect God’s love to a hurting world.

That’s what I got for Christmas……..

How about you?

Tom

P.S. I did get some really cool toys from my family too……..

Circling The Drain

God,

It feels like we’re circling the drain right now.   You know, that point when a sink is emptying where the water goes faster and faster and round and round and it will soon disappear?   And it will disappear into a place that is dark and smelly and gunky?

Yeah, that.   That’s the way it feels.   

So much is going wrong right now.

Cops in New York being murdered.

People in various conflicts dying while struggling with the cops.

Racism on many fronts.   It’s like we thought racism was healing but now it’s looking like there was a scab over it but a lot of wounds underneath.

We ripped the scab off and it’s oozing out all over.   It’s oozing out in our actions, it’s oozing out in the way that people respond to each other in social media.

And at the same time, people in other areas of the world are suffering – suffering from terrorism, suffering persecution, suffering from a lack of medical care.  

And people right here are suffering – from emotional challenges, from physical challenges, from relational challenges.

And then there’s all of the children, literally millions across the world, who will be spending Christmas Day this year without parents.  For many of them it’s “another” Christmas without Mom and Dad.   For some it’s their first.

For many adoptive parents who are waiting, it will be a hard Christmas knowing their child is waiting to come home but can’t yet.

God, why are things so difficult right now?

And why, when we’re struggling with so much, does the church do things that make it harder and not easier?

Lord, help us see your light.

Help us all to take a deep breath and realize what really matters.

Help us to focus on a spirit of love.

Help us to realize that these “things,” these feeling, these events are from the devil and he’s using them to hurt your kingdom.

Help us to push back the darkness.

Help us to be carriers of light, of love and of faithfulness.   Not carriers of hate, of misunderstanding or backstabbing.

Lord, help us be the light that this world needs.

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, harmony;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
Amen
 

Heavy Lifting

This morning, we had the privilege of hearing a sermon on Isaiah 40:1-12.   If I dare summarize the entire sermon into one sentence, it would be:

“God lays down the highway, he paves the road, he fills in the valleys, all you have to do is move part of the rocks.”

In other words, God does the hard work and we just have to be part of it.   And it doesn’t matter how big or small we think that part is.

We just have to do the part that God calls us to.

And then, we get home and after enjoying a wonderful roast with potatoes and carrots, we read the next one of Ann Voskamp’s devotionals from “Unwrapping Christmas.”

In it, she talked a lot today about John the Baptist – but there was one phrase that really hit me.

“Heavy-Lifting God.”

God does the heavy lifting.

God does the really really tough stuff.

He moves bigger mountains than we ever could.

We just need to let Him.

And then be part of what He’s doing.

God’s got the heavy lifting for us.

Join me in relaxing and enjoying that knowledge.

Tom

Noah, Seriously?

Genesis 6:22  “Noah did everything God commanded him to do.”

That’s hard – that’s hard even under the best of times.   But think about this……

Noah didn’t live by the ocean.   I don’t know how far away from the ocean he was, but he wasn’t on the shorefront.

God told Noah to build a boat.   A really big boat.     A really really big boat.   A quick search of Wikipedia shows that the 450 ft boat that God wanted Noah to build would be about half as big as today’s big cruise ships.

And he was supposed to do it by hand.

Imagine this  (a conversation between Noah and his neighbor)……

Neighbor strolls by,  “What’s up  Noah?  What are you building?”

“A boat.”

“A boat?   You do remember that you live 10 miles from the ocean and 3 miles from the Jordan River right?”

“Yep.”

“Then why are you building it?”

“Because God told me to.”

“Oh really? So God told you to build a boat on dry ground a long way away from water?   Can I get you something to drink?   It’s really hot out here.”

“No thanks.”

Now jump forward 5 years…..

“Hey Noah, does YOUR boat really need to be that long?” 

“Yep, that’s what God told me.”

Now jump forward 20 more years……

“Hey Noah, how long is it going to take for you to build that thing?”

“Don’t know.   As long as it takes.”

“What are you going to do with it when it’s done?”

“God is going to use it to save me and my family from a flood.    A flood that will destroy everything.”

“Even me?”  *Laughs*

“Yes, even you.”

Now jump forward another 50 years…….

“Hey Noah,  my sons have had 32 grand children while you’ve been building that boat.   Aren’t you getting sick of working on that thing?”

“Nope, it’s what God told me to do.”

“So you’ll be done in say another 5 years?”

“Not sure, but sounds about right.”

“Then what happens?”

“Then God sends a flood to destroy everything and every one except for those on the boat.”

“Can I have a ride?  (insert evil sarcastic laugh)”

And then it starts raining. 

The neighbor realizes that Noah and his family aren’t in their house.

And it starts raining even harder.

And that sinking feeling (pun intended) starts to hit the neighbor.   Maybe Noah was telling the truth.

Maybe God did tell Noah to build the boat.

Maybe I had 100 years to listen to Noah talk about God and why God was telling him to build the boat.

Maybe I should have done what God told me to do………

There’s a lot of meaning packed into that verse.   “Noah did everything God commanded him to.”

Do you?

Do I?

TJV

How are You Going To? How are You?

“Use the life you’ve been given to give others life.”   That’s a direct quote from Ann Voskamp’s book of Advent devotions called, “Unwrapping The Greatest Gift.”    I highly recommend it.

Today she tells the story of Esther.   You know Esther, the Jew who was queen – even though very few people knew she was Jewish.

And her Uncle Mordecai – the only family she had.   The Uncle on the outside looking in – helping her, praying for her, giving her advice.

But somehow Big Bad Mr. H has it in for Uncle Mordecai.   If you ask me, I think it’s because Uncle Mordecai made him feel guilty.   Guilty of a lot of things because Big Bad Mr. H was, well, big and bad……

As Ann continues to tell the story,  the Uncle tells Queen Esther,  “Who knows, but God may have put you here for such a time as this.”

Queen Esther had the chance to give others life.   She had the chance to give the entire Jewish population life.

Was she willing to give her life to give others life?

She was.

And she did.

Are we willing?    God’s not necessarily calling all of us to risk our lives the way that Esther did.   He might be.

But He might be calling in other ways.

He might be calling you to give up your nice career to do something that helps the underprivileged.  He might be calling you to step out of your comfort zone.  

He is calling you.    What is He calling you to?

How is that call going to give others life?   

Are you listening?

Really listening?

“Use the life you’ve been given to give others life.”

May it be so.

Tom

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