Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thy mercy, my God, as I draw breath upon this day.  Help me to forget yesterday with its defeats and its triumphs.  Take it away, LORD.  Help me to forget tomorrow with trials and victories.  Help me to be ever-present in the now.  Help me to be here whether or not here seems desirable to be.  Help me to grow here and bloom even in the depths of winter.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Weeping into Laughter

Tears are a response to how we contain the world.  Having always been a tear-filled guy, I don't find it unusual to cry at movies, weddings, funerals or beautiful songs. 

One place I didn't expect to find tears was helping my grandmother write a brief family history for a community memory book.  As my grandmother began to talk about her upbringing and her love for her father, she begin to weep.  I, as the scribe, tried to keep it together, but soon I was crying along with her.

Who can forget the tender moments in a childhood of such hardship?  Who would want to?

When I wept with my grandmother, I realize fully she wasn't weeping for herself.  She was weeping for the memory.  She was weeping for the sound of an old Gospel song in a country church.  She was weeping for a laugh at the fireside.  She was weeping for what cannot be again in this life.

"...and He will wipe ever tear from their eyes..."

Perhaps the sweetest part of heaven next to seeing our Savior will be seeing those whose memory we have wept for.  Those for who our very hearts tear up to see.  Reunion and homecoming.  And all tears wiped away...
O, LORD, grant me tenderness in carrying Your message to those who have not heard.  Help me to have a heart that agonizes in prayer for lost souls.  Help me to know that in the praying the work is done.  Help me to comfort, lift up and bind up the wounds of the broken-hearted for Your glory.

Monday, December 27, 2010

O, LORD, help me as I travel to have Your word in my heart and Your song on my lips.  Help me to be a comfort to the cold, a friend to the lonely.  Help me to see Jesus in every set of eyes.  Help me to hear His voice in every whisper and laugh.  Grant me traveling mercies, not only to arrive safely, but arrive having grown from the journey.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Returns

On a day when lots of people are returning Christmas gifts to the mall or Wal-Mart, let's stop and remember some returns that really matter...
  • The return of a disobedient young person to his parents' arms.
  • The return of a wayward husband to the loving embrace of his wife.
  • The return of a nation to the godly principles that made it great.
  • The return of a lost soul to the Kingdom of God.
  • Christ's ultimate return to save His own.
It's about more than sweaters that don't fit or getting three exact same copies of Pirates of the Caribbean, it's about looking for a day of return, a day of restoration.

God bless,
-Will

Saturday, December 25, 2010

“...the people living in darkness, have seen a great light and on those living in the shadow of death, a light has dawned.”

-Matthew 4:16

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Spirit of the Season

Today, lots of family came from far and wide to celebrate Christmas at my parents' home.

My great-grandmother was there, sickly, but still strong for someone whose 90th birthday is a past memory.
My cousins were there: one celebrating her new engagement with her fiance in tow and the other clowning around as he always does when family is together.
My grandparents were there with their lives together now spanning six decades.
My sister was there; home from graduate school and enjoying just being on a break for a few days.
My uncle and aunt where there, running late but bringing good food and warm smiles.
My dad was there being present in his quiet way; picking up our discarded wrapping paper almost before it hit the floor.
My mom was there: cooking, cleaning, wanting everything to be perfect...not quite realizing that when we are together it already is.

An He was there.  There in more than just the before the food blessing.  There in the hugs and in the laughter.  There in the little things and helping us realize that the little things really are the big things after all.  There when we looked at all pictures of those who aren't with us anymore, but we have hope of seeing them again.  There when we tear up at the memories of old movies.

I'm so glad He didn't stay in a stable for long.  I know that He is still alive, still molding, still shaping.  May Christ be in your heart this Christmas and all year long.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fullness

O, LORD, tonight I am experiencing fullness.  My stomach is full from good Christmas feasting.  My heart is full from visiting with family members and dear friends.  My mind is full from thinking about how to best serve where You have placed me.  Even the moon is full tonight.  Truly the Earth is full of the LORD's goodness.  Help me, LORD, to be confident in what you would have me to do.  Help me not to rest on past experiences and accomplishments.  Help me to be full but never satisfied until all that I am rests in You.
O, LORD, may You help us to never lose our sense of wonder of You.  The wonder of Your power, the wonder of Your creative presence, and ultimately, the wonder of the cross and what happened there for each of us.  Help us, LORD, to remember, to know and to wonder.

How Great Thou Art



AMEN.
O, LORD, You alone can heal the loneliness we all feel.  Take away the feeling of emptiness and replace the void with the warmth that only devotion to You can bring.  Help us to know that we cannot go where You are not.  You proceed us to every place our heart would find and You are there even when we do not feel Your presence.  Bless by giving and taking away.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need--words that help others become stronger."

-Ephesians 4:29 (NCV)

Almost time

Christmas time is almost here.

Ever since I was young, my family and I have enjoyed a large Christmas celebration.  We would all assemble at the homes of relatives for a festive event last 3 or 4 days.  Officially for my family our Christmas began a couple of weeks ago when we all rode a cousin's float in two different Christmas parades.  Tomorrow night we return to that cousin's home for the first of several Christmas meals.  Then we will spend the next day, Christmas Eve, at my parents then grandparents.  Then Christmas Day will be spent at the home of my great-grandmother.  Although above 90, she is looking forward to seeing a new baby cousin and showering us with food and gifts.  I'll probably even sneak in a trip to see my other grandmother late Christmas Day.

With all the presents, joy, food and family, it might be easy to lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas. 

As Dr. Seuss so wisely said,
"Christmas doesn't come from a store..."

Christmas is about giving and sharing because of what God has done for us.  Not only in the sending of Jesus, but in His providential care by which He sustains our lives.  God is showing, now and always, just how much He cares for us.

May you have a wonderful Christmas!
"For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
and let your glory be over all the earth."
-Psalm 108:4-5

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The life Christ lived qualified Him for the death He died—and the death He died qualifies us for the life we live.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Journey through the hymnbook

At the Lebanon church where I preach on Sunday, we are performing an exercise of looking at the teaching of hymns and how what we sing shapes what we think and how we feel about God and ourselves.  Last week we looked at the great camp meeting hymn, The Old, Rugged Cross.  This week I have chosen for us to look at More Love to Thee, O Christ.

I like the song and several of the phrases leap off the page at me.

Earnest plea.
Craved.
Latest breath. 

How do I plead with God? 
What do I plead for? 
What am I craving in my life? 
What should I be craving? 
What will I say with my last breath? 
My next breath? 
How far apart are the two?

More love, more love, more love.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Walking in corridors that bustle with the time
People moving left and right ever forward
Buying and selling, desiring and coveting
Reduced, limited-time, gift wrap available
Batteries included with purchase price
‘Silent Night’ plays in the distant background of sounds
How near the Babe of Bethlehem, but oh, how few do hear.

In this moment...

"Progress means not just changing, but changing for the better." -C.S. Lewis

What progress have I made lately in the realm of the spiritual?  True, I may have outwardly left off some vices and be displaying a more steady religion, but what about the inward person?  I feel often times that I draw near to God with my lips, my actions and my deeds but my heart is far from Him.

O, LORD
Give me a purer heart I pray,
A greater willingness to be still
and in that stillness, find Thee.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Today Jesus Christ is being dispatched as the Figurehead of a Religion, a mere example. He is that, but he is infinitely more; He is salvation itself, He is the Gospel of God."
-Oswald Chambers

Christmas Gifts to Christmas Women

In the night last night I was hit with the idea that I really should do something for some of the widows and older ladies who constantly check-in on me and send me cards.  These women are from several different churches in town, and while church members should be visiting them according to Scripture, they take it upon themselves to visit and send cards to each person in their circle of friends and church members.  These are the ladies that make great soup when you are sick, send a meaningful card when you are discouraged and listen when you just need to talk.  These women have faced their share of problems.  Almost all have lost husbands, several have lost children, still other are praying for wayward children and grandchildren.  So, this morning as it feels cold enough to snow, I decided to write each a card, take a small gift, and do the Christmas thing: visit and share.  I am bound to get fed a half-dozen times, but that is what "Christmas people" do: feed each other, nurture each other, share with each other.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An ole feelin'...

Talking with a friend about changes we need to make in our lives and we both agreed that we both need to develop a fuller, deeper spiritual existence.  It is hard sometimes in a world that demands instant gratification to learn to wait patiently for each gift in its season.  Following my recent season of physical and spiritual sickness, I feel the need for renewal and refurbishing.  My weekly sojourn with the church in Dresden is helping me remember why I first started preaching.  I first ascended a pulpit because I believed I had something to say that was new and fresh and could speak things about life and God and the God-life in a way that no one I knew was speaking.  I felt connection with the congregations I spoke to and I felt they connected with me and, through me, to God.  I am beginning to feel those same emotions again.   In my study to help communicate eternal truth to them, I am finding truths again and again for myself.  I am feeling less lonely, less isolated.  God is meeting me in the pages of His Word, in the lyrics of hymns and praise songs, in the conversations with family and friends.  It feels good to be friends with God again.  I believe He is glad too.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Come Spring"

For the last few evenings, my dad and I have been enjoying some of the Gaither Homecoming DVDs courtesy of the local library.  On the DVD Journey to the Sky, I particularly enjoyed Jessica King's version of the Southern Gospel song Come Spring.  The song recounts a tale of an older lady who finds herself bed-ridden in the midst on winter.  Realizing her end is near, she comforts her visitor with the chorus which says she will be gathering flowers in Heaven come springtime.

While the song may seem morbid at a first listen, I believe it is true that the child of God should be confident in his or her salvation.  The women in the song does not have a traditional 'death wish,' only a desire to go and see something better.

May we all hope and pray to see that glorious springtime in the sweet by and by.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Very Special Gift

About a year and a half ago, I made a pledge to sponsor a child through Compassion International.  I took the money I had been spending on Starbucks each month and dedicated it to help a child in need.  Honestly, I didn't know what to expect, but after all this time has passed I am so glad I chose to sponsor a child.  Oswaldo and I have gotten to be great friends through exchanging letters.  Perhaps you don't think child sponsorship is for you or perhaps you don't feel you can make a long commitment.  Then why not give a one time gift and help change a life this Christmas?  You can purchase things as small as soccer balls and household items, or you can change a life dramatically through paying to start a business or cover the cost of a surgery.  Whatever you do remember: you do make a difference.

http://gifts.compassion.com/?utm_source=blogger-network&utm_medium=social-media&utm_campaign=blogger-network_giftCat

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Technique

Often in my preparing to preach I have focused more on what I wanted to say to the assembly than what God wanted to say through me.  The result has been some preaching on pet topics and petty, personal concerns and not delving deep into the message that God is graciously providing in His Word. 

Starting a few weeks ago, I started reading the Bible in a new way.  Instead of picking out my favorite passages and re-reading them with the same, predictable cadence, I started reading long sections of parts of the Bible which I had previously only skimmed over.  When I reached a profound or interesting section, I read it over again and again, looking at it from ever angle I could conceive.  I also began to think about specific members of the congregation and how these thoughts I was drawing from the Word would touch them.  After reading long sections of the Old Testament, I switched to the Gospels, which were of course more familiar.  I tried to read with new eyes, savoring the words and meanings and trying not to get caught up in conceptions I have long held about the purpose and plan God had with each account.

While I have only preached once after using this method, I can already tell I am going to have a new fire and focus in my ministry.  I am seeing new things in familiar places and I love it.  May God grant the wisdom to use this new method to His service.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Who I Am

I often wonder who I am in the world, but I know to many people, I am a preacher. 

A gentleman who works at the quick stop I frequent for breakfast stopped me at the counter last week and asked, "Aren't you a pastor?"  When I responded that I did in fact preach for a small, country church a couple of counties away, he asked me to pray for his 21-year-old daughter who had been sick for many years and was near death.  I asked her name and he told me.  I prayed for her the last few mornings. She died yesterday.  Death of one so young is always hard but especially so at the holiday time.  I wonder what it was that caused that man to ask me about my profession and for my prayers.  He probably had heard someone else in the store ask me about the church and thought it couldn't hurt to ask for one more set of praying hands.  I feel I have always been kind and fair in my dealings with him in the store, and so he likely felt comfortable in asking.  I know that my prayers don't get any higher than any other's just because I am a paid minister, but people often feel comforted it seems to know a preacher is praying for them. 

And so we keep praying and trusting that ultimately He will make it all come right.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Great day!

Yesterday was my first Sunday preaching in over 10 weeks.  It was great to be back in the pulpit and to once again feel like I was able to deliver a positive, thoughtful message.  I have missed being able to convey the thoughts I have been gleaning in private study to an audience.  Everyone seemed encouraged by the three messages.  Now to prepare for next week!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Trip to South Dakota

I posted a couple of times back in October during mine and Vickie's trip to South Dakota.  While I made a post about the final numbers of those we helped on the church website, I thought some of you who read only this blog might want to hear the stats on the trip.

310 families were helped with 810 children being clothed.



26 individuals requested Bible Correspondence courses.


15 people requested personal Bible studies in their homes.


14 folks requested a visit from a member of the church.


44 souls requested more information on the church.
 
While a lot of this trip was focused on meeting physical needs of people, the clothes and food provide a gateway and way to get to know new faces in the community.  All in all, it was a great trip.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Love of God

One of my favorite songs is The Love of God by Frederick Lehman.

He wrote this song in 1917 in Pas­a­de­na, Cal­i­fornia, and it was pub­lished in Songs That Are Dif­fer­ent, Vol­ume 2, 1919. The lyr­ics are based on the Jew­ish poem Had­da­mut, writ­ten in Ara­ma­ic in 1050 by Meir Ben Isaac Ne­hor­ai, a can­tor in Worms, Ger­ma­ny; they have been trans­lat­ed in­to at least 18 lang­uages.


Lehman recounted how he wrote his version of the song:
"One day, dur­ing short in­ter­vals of in­at­ten­tion to our work, we picked up a scrap of pa­per and, seat­ed up­on an emp­ty le­mon box pushed against the wall, with a stub pen­cil, add­ed the (first) two stan­zas and chor­us of the song…Since the lines (3rd stan­za from the Jew­ish po­em) had been found pen­ciled on the wall of a pa­tient’s room in an in­sane asy­lum af­ter he had been car­ried to his grave, the gen­er­al opin­ion was that this in­mate had writ­ten the epic in mo­ments of san­ity."

Here are the lyrics:

The love of God is greater far

Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
Refrain
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
Refrain

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Refrain

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Spending time...

"It is in the quiet crucible of your personal, private sufferings that your noblest dreams are born and God's greatest gifts are given in compensation for what you have been through."

-Witley Phipps