Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Squeaky clean


December 30, 2008

Used to be a commercial that featured a cleaning product accompanied by a demonstration that produced squeaks. They were trying to say, our product will so get the dirt out of your stuff that it will squeak (with delight?)....

At a family get-together recently, we were about to say good-bye to one who had travelled far to join us at this Christmas...and it came to us to do something that has become a regular part of such moments as a family.

We have gotten into this pattern of forming a huddle - ususally seated - and declaring that the next minutes will be God's - to shape prayers in us, to speak prompts to us, to clarify His will for us. We make sure that everyone understands this is an open time - no designated pray-ers, the Bible as reference if prompted, but no specific agenda. Just us together - and God...for usually fifteen minutes or more...even if it means sitting together in silence. We all wanted God to have our complete attention before we parted from each other.

So we huddled in the living room - making sure nothing would interrupt, and speaking the open context just outlined above. Someone reached for a notepad to act as the secretary, writing down a summary of whatever would happen.

We sat quietly for a time and then one of us began to pray, deeply thanking God for the time we had shared and expressing our desire to hear whatever He might say to us or have us do. Further prayer followed...and quietness...and prayer....and then to my heart a prompt: "Confess your sin and weakness" - get squeaky clean.

So out tumbled something that I felt could be important at the moment. It involved a time of weakness in my parenting that I was ashamed of. I asked for forgiveness and it was granted. There was pretty deep emotion right then. I felt released and I could sense it was important for others that this had transpired.

We prayed a bit more and blessed and thanked and felt lighter and "done." The secretary disclosed that she had written things down and handed the notes to the person that some of it most would apply to.

We hugged....and when someone hugged me, I squeaked.

Not really...but inside I felt that clean.

And we all seemed more joyful.

And parting was easier...cause we knew even away from each other we would still be together.

James, the younger brother of Jesus, in his New Testament book writes: "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."

It really does work.

Ah, the New Year is almost upon us.

Why not enter it squeaky clean?

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Psalm for the New Year

December 29

A Psalm for the New Year

I've considered a lot of Psalms for this "award"....and this one stands out.

It is Psalm 145.

Reasons for its selection:

1. It was written by King David, who lived in such frequent turbulence and yet prevailed to make an impact that lingers thousands of years later. That cool.
(Read his story in I Samuel chapter 16 and follow. It will keep your attention!)

2. Though he had lots of reasons to be down, to quit, to not do what God had made him for, he became known as a man after God's heart, a worshipper, a writer of psalms. He also did the king thing - with mixed results. But through it all, he learned to live with his mind focused well.

3. Our times are turbulent and millions (yes, that's no exaggeration) are scrambling to maintain a positive attitude and interior stability.

4. Our inner dialog and the focus of our minds has very high impact on how we "are" and how we live. For instance, today, most of us will again make choices...will it be faith or fear, innitiative or withdrawal? joy or caution? boldness or undertainty? love for others or self-absorption? Our inner dialog - like the flags on a downhill course - determine mostly where we will "ski."

5. It is really not the circumstances that are controlling us...but the focus that we are choosing. Which of us don't have some dark clouds in the sky that could control us? Circumstances can be extremely powerful, but it is the set of the mind that is the final determiner.

So, before you read the rest of this blog entry, get a copy of Psalm 145 and read it slowly and connectively several times.

Now...here are some of my insights from doing the same.

1. David's mental focus...he is choosing to praise God and says that should be an "always and forever" thing...ie for all of us at any time. Praising God never will be "mental suicide."

2. Over 25 times David lists attributes of God in the Psalm...like "great, mighty, wonderful.."
Can you find the others in the text too?

3. You and I do have a part in getting interactive with the benfits of this Psalm. In several places David states something like: "the Lord is near to all who call on Him"

Don't know about you, but I am feeling something rise in me, to look to God in fresh and bolder ways in the days ahead...
...and to make sure my mind is focused well - which means on God.

Fox, CNN, The Times and webb...ah, they do inform.

But only God can keep our minds stable and whow us how to live lives that truly matter.

So for 09
lets do something fine..
Keep our minds
in right align.



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

First Christmas

First Christmas

No marriage certificate to make it all "socially acceptable."
No trip finder to show the way and "how long till we get there."
No headlights or streetlights to make darkness more friendly.
No heater to warm the car.
No shocks to smooth the awkward lurching.
No McDonalds to "grab a quick burger and fries."
No Highway Patrol to make it all more safe.
No Starbucks to get some hot brew and stay awake.
No Holiday Inn at the end of the road.
...but they traveled safe and found their way to God's place for His Son's birth.

No midwife to guide a young mother through first birthing.
No hospital delivery room with staff standing ready for unforseen problems.
No warm blankets, and heat lamps, and soft sounds, and sterile everything.
No phone connect to be able to say - "He's here...and He's beautiful, mom."
No warm bath and lotions to soften his skin and fill the air with fragrance.
No pampers...no quick wipes...no air tight disposal containers.
No bottles....no family to laugh with, hug, and celebrate the moment.

But the whole world is celebrating now.

It happened down a long, dark, cold, bumpy road.
It happened in a shed where animals lodged.
It happened in conditions now "awful" to the max.

And that is truly how Jesus was born....and with Him,
the revelation of a God Who selflessly loves us all,
and a Son Who will give His all,
and a plan that has already opened up millions of hearts to the very presence of God.


God is with us.

No matter the road you're on....and the mission that seems to be occupying your life....you can trust Him with everything in these days.

Merry Christmas.


Next blog entry will probably be in about 12 days.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Best Recent Reads

I leave a little trail of things I am reading behind me. Bright pieces of paper to mark the place of next devouring. Little stacks of books...on my desk, by the bed, in my study.

So what are the best books I have read recently?

1. Starting a House Church - Kreider and McClung - Regal books. Informative, vision-casting, equipping, passionate, unifying. (this is not a book about criticizing the formalized church)

2. The Forgotten Ways - Alan Hirsch - Henderson - Speaks to the issues of life and church that make it succeed or fail. Heard him recently at a conference - here is a guy that is very deep and very clear. A must read.

3. Robert's Ridge - one of the most heroic true stories I have ever read - set in Afghanistan. An incredible salute to our troops.

4. Evangelism without Additives - Jim Henderson - Water Brook - Is this not the first book I have read on personal evangelism that makes you feel you can do it?? Yes.

5. UnChristian - what a new generation really thinks about Christianity - Kinnaman - Baker books - a must read for anyone wanting to bridge the gaps and effectively minister.

6. Simple Church - Rainer and Geiger - B&H books - Peeling off the old stuff that has bogged and clogged the church. Relief.

7. The Irresistible Revolution - Claiborne - Zondervan. A bracing and passionate review of the church and the gospel - loaded with insights and things to ponder. A great tune-up for faith written by one of the new young leaders.

8. The Message - Eugene Peterson - A very contemporary translation of the New Testament, that has made many passages come alive for me. A great read...not just another translation.

Now that's eight - that truly are great. (sorry)

You probably can buy many of these below jacket price by googling the titles.

May your reading go well in this season of a bit more free time.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Economics 101

December 11, 2008

Economics 101

Lots about money in the news these days...
>from recession to depression
>homes that can't sell - owners doing fixup at their own expense and selling at a loss
>layoff's by the thousands
>desperate measures taken by despairing people
>food lines very long
>state colleges crowded with "need more education" students
>retirements pushed off into the "not sure when" future
>and shopping, sales, "must have" words all over everywhere - welcome again to Christmas

So, as I am reading the New Testament, words about finances catch my eye.

(Here is my list of ideas gleaned from Chapter 6 of I Timothy. For "extra credit" read it yourself first, list your own ideas and then read mine and see if the ideas you have discovered are the same ones I will list. A+ for anyone who can write me showing what I missed. :))

Econ 101 - According to Paul

1. One of the significant wrong notions about godliness is that it will probably lead to "great gain" right now. Ie godliness and gain in the now are not that linked.

2. Having a wrong & greedy attitude about money fosters strife, malice, suspicions, quarrels. So consider a financial root to the next fight you are around.

3. Godliness + contentment = great gain.

4. "You can't take it with you" - is a false statement (#5&12)

5. You can send it all ahead of you into eternity - to be enjoyed in fellowship with God forever - see :19.

6. The basis God thinks is adequate for true contentment: food and clothing.....a much shorter list than we have been told in our cultures and time!

7. Being motivated by wanting to get rich leads to self trapping, ruin and worse.

8. The love of money is the root of all evil and leads in directions away from the presence of God.

9. Those with wealth must be on guard to put their hope only in God. (Jesus' said this was a very hard thing to do.)

10. God promises to "richly provide (those in relationship with Him) with everything (needful) for our enjoyment."

11. We should cultivate a continual habit of generosity, no matter our financial condition.

12. As we walk in these principles we will "store up treasure" for eternity in heaven and "take hold of the life that is truly life" in the now. (I think the latter is true because living in these principles deepens dependence, grows relationships, matures faith, gives open door opportunities for the spread of the life of Jesus in the world, and crucifies the lusts for more and more.)



Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Centerville, Texas

They came on the court fully prepared for action.

You could see it in their eyes.

And on their shins....special designs and colors.
Oh, and their feet...shiney "new" sneakers...with plenty of squeak in them.

This was to be a practice session...but they were ready, fully ready.

Jackie's brother Doug is their coach.

The team is made up of very young girls...many of them having a first experience at basketball....pony tails waving as they ran.

When they tried to score, most of their body had to be behind the shot for it to make it.

When it came to a simple play, whether they "cut" left or right was up for grabs for a long time - in spite of the fact that Coach had said "right."

And when they ran, most of them kind of bounced...like even this is a bit of a new skill for them.

Today they had all snuck into a gymn for one more practice with coach.

And he was ready - with a defensive strategy to teach them, and one simple play to run over and over until they all went "right."

And until they all got it, Doug was insistent. He was ready. He was patient...never a lifted voice - though I know him well enough to know he has one to lift. :) Over and over he would instruct - sometimes with his big hand resting on a head or shoulder.

And before it was all over a moment of fun with a very original cheer....a growl. (They are the Tigers)

What caught me deeply was the human dynamics taking place on the court....the affirmation and sense of self-worth that was being cast upon these girls. The pride in their eyes when they did well...the furtive gances towards coach for his approval. A girl who showed up for the first time, fit right in and was affirmed by coach and others. It felt at times that they were building lives as much as plays.

Coaching...it can unearth great human treasure.

Got a coach?

And who are you coaching?



Monday, December 1, 2008


His name is Bennett.

He's one of my grandsons.

Full of energy and a dynamo at most everything he does.

At three he wanted to grow up to be "Oooperman."

And now he is four...."Oooperman" is now (properly)"Superman" - and the idea lives still in his imagination.

Many days he wears the Superman outfit...and some nights too.
And he "flies" - just very short distances - and does all kinds of mighty deeds for his family...with those minature muscles underneath blue satin.
Get around him and he'll rescue you from something - normally boredom! :)
Blond hair and lots of ambition. That is Bennet.

Oh, I expect he'll change a lot as he grows - with different views of what a super man really is.

This morning I read the letter called Ephesians.
It's tucked into the middle of the New Testament....a book that sparkles with incredible, life-changing truth.

Like, what is God's idea about what describes a super man?

Here is a cluster of words from chapter 4 - I encourage you to read it all.

Qualities of a super man:
"Completely humble, gentle, patient, bearing with (stuff), loving, making every effort to keep the unity, peaceful, holy, speaking truthfully, kind, compassionate."

What enormous strength is reflected in these words....a strength that God and our wills must form a partnership to achieve. But what a man this results in - a faithful partner and friend, a strong worker, trustworthy in hard places.

So, keep going Bennett....all the way to God's super man.

And may we all be on this road...together.