Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Gift of No Regrets

October 29 was the birthday of my youth minister at South Main Baptist Church, Pasadena.  The summer after my senior year in high school, Marylyn married the pastor of our church.  Even though she was no longer the youth minister, she was still very active in the church.  It was always good to spend time with her when I would be home to visit and keep up by way of letters and phone calls.  I had bought a card to send to Marylyn for her birthday.  The night I sat down to sign and address her card, I also needed to write and send three other cards and notes and have them ready for Larry to mail early the following morning.  Due to the lateness of the evening, I was going to write a short note and then seal the envelope.  But that night, I had one of those moments when I felt God’s prompting to take the time to write a letter to Marylyn to let her know how He had used her life to encourage, teach, challenge, bless and believe in me through the years.  Although it took a while to write the letter, the words and gratitude came easily.  On Marylyn’s birthday I also called and verbally expressed my gratitude.

On November 15, Marylyn had arthroscopic knee surgery.  She died very unexpectedly on November 19.  Amidst the grief and shock came the overwhelming realization that God had prompted and given me the opportunity to express my gratitude.  Because I took the time to write and phone, I had been given the gift of no regrets.

These past few months, a family at church has intentionally been in the process of loving and blessing a member of their family.  Unless the Lord intervenes, Rob will meet Jesus face to face before too many more days.  The Moore family has used these months they have been given to express love and gratitude to and for Rob.  Even in these difficult times, Rob continues to bless his family with his love and words and his family is taking every opportunity to faithfully bless him with their words, actions and tender care.  They are loving Rob well during these days…gifts of no regrets.

Especially during this season, I have been reminded of the importance of expressing gratitude, affirmation, encouragement and love with my words and deeds.  Since none of us know the length of our time on planet earth, it’s best to take every opportunity to love and bless our family, friends and the people around us.  What a gift it would be to be able to look back on that time with no regrets.

A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.
Job 14:5

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
 a time to be born and a time to die…
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Exercising the Thanksgiving Muscle

I am learning that muscle memory is a good thing to have when I work out at the fitness center.  When I miss a few weeks of exercising, it seems like I have to start all over in training the muscles to do what they are intended to do.  After weeks and months of consistent exercise, I do not have to think through the process as much.  Even though it takes effort, it’s like it is second nature to complete the workout.

Especially around this time of the year, the Thanksgiving muscle comes into focus.  Just like my need to work out physically, I also need to exercise my gratefulness muscles.  The more intentional I am about looking for how God and people are blessing me, and others, the easier it is to be aware of their gifts.  When I am thankful, I acknowledge the gift and giver and realize once again that I am not on this journey alone.  Unlike physical exercise, the thanksgiving memory muscle is not limited by temperature, weather, time of the day or night, or location.

I’ve noticed that when the thanksgiving muscle memory is maximized, I don’t have to think twice before I:
* take time to notice and acknowledge my blessings
* express my gratitude through prayer
* speak a word of thanks and encouragement
* jot a note, send a card or write a letter
* make a telephone call to express my gratitude
* look for ways to bless someone else, too

It is important to exercise and train both the physical muscles and the thanksgiving muscles.  And since we are abundantly blessed, it is vital to keep the memory going on the thanksgiving muscle by exercising it every day of the year. 

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
Psalm 95:2

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalm 100:4

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1-3

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.
2 Thessalonians 1:3

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Doctor in the Family

The call came at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 14, 2013.  Chad passed the oral defense of his final project at George W. Truett Theological Seminary and will graduate in December with a Doctor of Ministry degree.  Much has happened since Chad began the first semester of doctoral seminar classes three and one-half years ago.  During this time, he has continued his ministry at Sienna Ranch Baptist Church as the Pastor of Teaching and Missions.  He has led trips to Senegal, Africa, to work with the Mankanyan people.  Their church has sent a group four times a year for several years.  About a year and a half into the seminary program, Chad began dating Lori.  They dated, married, were blessed with the birth of Ryen, and Chad adopted David.  It has been amazing to watch Chad commit to what was best whether it was marriage, fatherhood, church or school.  He determined his priorities and managed them well.

I talked with Chad by phone about an hour before he was to defend his final project and reminded him that I would be praying for him the entire time he was meeting with the committee.  While praying, I pictured him sitting at the end of the table with the questioning professors around him.  The more I prayed the more obvious it was to me that he wasn’t there alone.  I knew that God was with him because He had promised He would be.  Then I “began at the very beginning a very good place to start” and thanked God for sparing and blessing Chad and Brad’s lives many years ago when they were born two months early.  And the thoughts continued to come as I remembered and was grateful for so many people who have ministered to, invested in and loved Chad through the years.  I thanked God specifically for people who have invested in Chad’s life…family, friends, the nursery and childcare workers at church, Sunday School teachers, pastors, choir teachers, RA leaders, preschool, children’s and youth ministers, camp sponsors, basketball coaches, school teachers/professors, roommates and friends at college and seminary…the churches who have offered him the opportunity to grow, minister and serve…Tallowood Baptist; First Baptist Lake City, Colorado; First Baptist Brownwood; Shiloh Baptist in Crawford; Trinity Baptist in Missouri City; and Sienna Ranch Baptist Church…and some of the events and experiences that have helped shape Chad’s life…sitting in the car with Larry, on the street by Grace Presbyterian while Scott was at baseball practice, and asking Jesus to be his Savior, having surgery on his eyes after fourth grade that allowed him to see in focus, Camp Tallowood, mission trips all over the world, the Sunday night at church after the conclusion of the World Youth Congress when he said “Yes” to Jesus’ call on his life to serve Him in ministry, choosing Howard Payne University for college and then George W. Truett Theological Seminary for his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees…being blessed by choosing Lori to be his wife and David to be his son, and then being blessed with the birth of Ryen.

So when Chad was sitting in that room, he was not there by himself.  He is a product of the people who have loved, taught and invested in him through the years, as well as the experiences, places and events that have been part of his life. 

“Lord, thank you for your love, faithfulness, provision, blessing on and presence in Chad’s life.  I’m grateful for the people, places, and experiences that continue to help shape him.”

The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
    and patience is better than pride.
Ecclesiastes 7:8 

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 
2 Timothy 2:15

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:3-6

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Well Worth the Read

On the shelf at Barnes and Noble
(Max Lucado, you are in great company)
Also available on Amazon

It’s in print and on the shelf in bookstores!  Kirk Lewis, my brother-in-law, has written a book, Put Away Childish Things, about 9 very familiar Old Testament Bible stories we heard, read about and remember from our childhood.  Too many times, we think of those as children’s Bible stories and miss out on the lessons, wisdom and blessings to be learned and applied as adults.  Written in a free-verse style of poetry, the choice and grouping of words lead you to picture the characters as real people.  The book depicts how time and time again God chooses ordinary people, who are willing to trust and obey Him, to do extraordinary tasks.  If you are like me, you will read the book as fast as you can all the way through.  Then you will go back and read one story at a time, taking it in detail by detail, and desiring to apply what you have learned.

Even more important that being in print, on the bookshelf, or in our hands to read is when we take to heart how great the Father loves us.  Today He desires to have that same kind of intimate relationship, trust and obedience as in Old Testament days.  As we put away childish things, may it be for the express purpose of knowing and loving God more and gracefully maturing in faith, hope and love so we can love and serve others well in the process.

 Kirk and Robin's precious grandsons
 Eli and Josiah, as you grow, may the Bible stories and
 lessons learned continue to grow along with you.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8