Jesus, Ann Voskamp and Bob Goff

I think it’s safe to say that this is a start to a New Year where relatively few people said, “wow, this past year was awesome.”    Yeah, there were some, but let’s face it, it’s been a tough year.

A tough year internationally – politically, militarily, religiously, from a refugee standpoint, from a violence standpoint.    It’s been tough.

It’s been a tough year domestically – a lot of struggles politically – a lot of things that are happening that many people don’t agree with.    Laws that are being passed, laws that some people feel shouldn’t be passed are and the opposite.   There are people running for President who, well let’s just say that my brother was in Ireland and one of the native Irish asked him,  “So what do you think of this Donald Trump fellow?”   Upon hearing that most Americans don’t think the way he talks, the response was, “Well, that’s good to hear, we were worried about you.”

And it’s been a tough year at home.    All one has to do is look up and down the rows at church or around your neighborhood and you can see pain.   She’s a single mom trying to do two parenting jobs at once.   They lost their first grandpa this year.   He struggles with…….   The list goes on and on.

2015 hasn’t been a good year in many ways.

And many people try to end a year and start a new year with a long list of resolutions of things that they are going to change.   It’s going to be better next year because I’m going to……

  • Lose 20 lbs.
  • Exercise 5 days a week.
  • Go…….

Well, you get the idea.   And rarely do those work and last beyond maybe the first of February.

I’ve read and heard a number of articles lately that have encouraged me to think differently this year (because that’s the way I used to think as well.)  Who are those people?   Ann Voskamp, Bob Goff, Chris Marlow, Jen Hatmaker and Ann Lamott to name a few…….

To paraphrase and combine what all of them have said, I’m going to attempt this year (and I’d encourage you to as well) to put all of those New Years Resolutions into two main, as Ann Voskamp says, Re-Soulutions.

Re-Soul – Love God and listen to him more.   This involves less noise, less me and more Him.   Oh and when you or I listen to God, we should also do what He says.

Remember what Bob Goff said and the title of his book?  “Love Does.”  Live your life with more love.  Live your life with the knowledge that there are many around you who are hurting, who are feeling alone, who are struggling.   Be the hands and feet of Jesus to those people.   Oh and because of the internet, those neighbors often right next door but they are also spread all over the world.

Love God and Listen to Him More.  And do what He says.

Love Others.

Try it this year.   I’m going to.

Tom

A Sad Happy

Last week was a hard week. 

For many people.

For many communities.

For many families.

Violence ruined lives and crushed families.

Hope was lost and sadness took over.

Teenagers faced the loss of a classmate – at her own hands.

Why?

Why God?

And right before Christmas!?!

Why are things so ugly right now?   Why can’t we just enjoy the waiting for Christ?

Enjoy the time of Advent?

Enjoy the family time?   The church services that lift us with joy?

Because this is not our home.

This is not where we belong.

This is a sad and imperfect world.

A sin filled world.   A violence filled world.   An anger filled world.  

I shared a story on Facebook that a black art professor told of his encounter with the police.    Bam! Anger, frustration, discontent and racism blow up all over in reaction to his telling his perception of what happened to him.  

Christmas has the potential of being something extra special this year.   In a year and a week and a month filled with hate, violence and discontent, Jesus comes and shares light and love.

In a year filled with terror, Jesus comes and says, “Peace.”

In a year filled with sadness and heartbreak, Jesus weeps with his people.

In a year and a week and a month filled with so much anger, so much violence, so much political stupidity, we have the opportunity to be God’s light.

To spread the news.

To be the shepherds and share the good news that even in the violence and the sadness and the anger, God is.

God is.

God is coming.

God is here.

May we cling to that fact even when others try to sabotage that joy, sabotage that happy.

They can’t touch my Jesus and even through the tears, they can’t touch the joy of knowing Christ is coming.

Christ is here.

TJV

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……..

Waiting–A Season, A Time, A State of Mind

Psalm 130:5  “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope.”

Waiting – it’s a season.   The season of Advent.   We’re waiting for Christmas.   We’re waiting for the experience of celebrating what God has done for us.

Waiting – it’s a time.    Waiting for the kids to come home.   Waiting for graduation.    Waiting for retirement.   Waiting for the plane to come.    Waiting for winter.    Waiting for summer.    Waiting for plans to materialize.    Waiting for doors to open.Clock

Waiting – it’s a state of mind.    A state of mind that says, “I know God is at work.”

I know God has a plan.   

I know His plan is good.

I don’t know what His plan is.  

I don’t even know what “good” means.

Americans don’t like to wait.    They are a “me first” “I want mine NOW” society.

That doesn’t mix well with what God often says.

He made Moses wait 40 years tending sheep in the desert.

He made Abraham and Sarah wait almost 100 years before they had a child.

He anointed David King and then made him wait a LONG time and endure a LOT of trials before he became king.

So we wait.   We wait for Christmas.

But we wait for many other things.

How do we deal with the wait?  How did Moses deal with the wait?   Do you think he was restless and grumpy and failed to find God’s will in his time in Midian?

I don’t know, the Bible doesn’t tell us.  

Waiting isn’t easy.   

Waiting isn’t cheap – sometimes waiting for God and His plan is very difficult and challenging and costly.

But learning to wait for the Lord, learning to wait for His plans is a deeply fulfilling way to be.

Rest in the Lord.

Know that He has a plan.    He’s got it all figured out.

Spend time looking to see what God’s up to.

And follow it.

And while you wait, don’t forget to look up.  

Look up at Jesus.   Look for Him, even in the small and the seemingly insignificant.

Look for Him in the lonely.   The sad, the sorrow filled, the sick, the troubled.

And look around you.   Appreciate the beauty of what God has given you.

Waiting is hard.

Seeing God’s plan is hard.

But when you wait for the Lord, it’s good.

It’s oh so good.

Because you know it’s coming…….

TJV