Wednesday, December 24, 2008


A young woman had been waiting for Christmas to come. Excitement and anticipation filled her heart. She finished her last day of work and got in her car to head home.

Her parents were waiting for her. Upon her arrival, they were loading to leave to visit family for the holidays.

On her way, her car overheated. Steam poured out from under her hood. She pulled off the highway into a gas station.

Distraught, she called a tow truck and her parents.

As she waited, she noticed a young man and his family in an old truck. He appeared to be trying to fix something on it.

She got distracted with her phone in the next few moments and was startled when a rap came on her window.

She rolled down her window and the same young man began to tell her their story.

He and his family were homeless. His wife and two babies were in the truck and they had just received word that the local shelter had room for them. The problem was, they didn't have enough gas to get there.

The young woman's heart went out to this family. In view of her own plight, she was aware of the frustration they must be feeling...even the humiliation.

She reached into her wallet, and pulled out the last of her money, and gave it to them.

An extremely grateful young man, thanked her, then asked why she was there. She relayed her own story, to which his compassion became apparent, and a tinge of embarrassment rose in his eyes.

When her parents arrived, the young woman who would have been overwrought with frustration, was filled with joy.

The tow truck arrived, loaded her car and she left with her family.

As they headed out of town to celebrate the birth of their Savior, the joy found through frustrating circumstances brought into focus, the true meaning of the season!

Both families got to experience a bit of Christmas joy!

(The story is happened last night)


Monday, December 22, 2008

Three munchkins at a Christmas past

Yesterday in church, I sat behind a sweet, older couple. I enjoyed watching them as they showed such affection for each other. You just don't see that every day.

As the man settled into the pew in front of me, I noticed something about his shirt. It was new. Right out of the package, new!

Though an attempt had been made to iron it, you could still see the packaged creases from the folds where it resided, while it rested on the store shelf.

It was an unusual color for an older man, and quite an updated look. The thing that caught my eye, was the tag that remained.

On the back of his collar, staring me right in the face, was a 'size' tag. It read "M." It was a clear plastic, adhesive tag, that clung to the center back of his shirt.

The question nagged me. Do I tell him? I don't know this man. I thought he and his bride were visitors. I did not want to embarrass him. I decided I would not say anything.

I remember a time I wore a new sport coat to church, only to arrive home later and find a tag sewn onto the sleeve. I felt like this man might feel, when he discovered the same.

I could make justifications for telling him, and I could make them for not saying a word. It is always easier to do or say nothing.

I knew he would appreciate it on some level if I told him, but I did not want his memory of his first experience in our church to be one where he was chided for not properly preparing his clothing.

I figured the tag would come off in the laundry as it passed through.

This silly tag caused me to think on many things.

The primary was that we all show up at church wearing labels, seen and unseen.

Most of us want people to recognize them. We want to be known. Some for reasons relating to fashion, and some for reasons relating to where we are or what we do in life. Some of us go to great lengths to be recognized. Some never want to be noticed and try to fade into the general populous.

What I find especially comforting is that none of our labels matter to Jesus. He cares for us and has a purpose for each one of us, individually. It doesn't matter where we are in life, or whether or not we wear Prada or K-Mart, He loves us and wants us to bring Him glory, no matter the details.

Sometimes, we allow our labels to get in the way of who He is in our lives. A gentle nudge is usually all we need to get refocused.

I consider myself nudged!


Friday, December 19, 2008

Caroling at Chik-fil-a

I wanted to let you know of an upcoming event in my life.

A couple of years ago, the Lord called me to Kenya. I do not understand it well enough to articulate the why’s and wherefore’s. I only know I need to follow in obedience.

I have tried in my role at Awe Star Ministries to put together teams to minister there. The president of our organization, Walker Moore, has said “no,” each time. I trust his judgment and hold no ill will because of it.

A couple of months ago, a missionary couple from Indonesia came into our offices to pray over us. They have a “prayer of affirmation” ministry. They came a year ago and did the same. In this most recent meeting, one of the things he prayed over me was, “Brent, you need to go ahead and visit the 5, 6 or 7 places on your heart.”

As Walker and I were debriefing that prayer time later, I told him, “I don’t currently have 5 -7 places on my heart, I don’t know what he was talking about.”

Walker replied, “I know one. You have been talking about Kenya for two years!”

He is correct. (Actually, at this writing, the Lord has revealed 3 to 5 of these places to me. Most are places I would never go without the quickening of the Spirit within me. I was the little boy who was a homebody and never cared to travel, let alone leave the US.)

Anyway, I have been preparing an Xtreme team to minister in Uganda next summer. I have been working with a man named Larry, who was a career missionary there. We invited him and many others to our Missions Conference in early November. I had little interaction with him, as I had much on my plate. When we did come together for about 20 brief seconds, the Lord moved in my heart to pursue him. I immediately had a strong desire to visit the ‘bush’ where he has worked. Up to that point, I had no interest in the same.

Larry gave me a 2’x3’ framed close up picture of a Karamajong woman (from Uganda). The only thing in it, is her head and it fills the entire frame. Each eye is 6 to 8 inches across. She has a ridiculous number of brightly colored bead strands, hanging tightly around her neck. Her eyes seem to be a portal to the lostness of her people.

My passion has only grown, and yet I have no idea what it is about.

After the event was over, I wrote to Larry and asked him about an upcoming set-up trip I had heard him speak of. I told him no one knew about what I was asking, and preferred he keep it quiet. I told him I was interested in going with him, should that be possible.

He wrote me back immediately. He said he would love to have me along, but there was one catch. He was going to visit a Somali refugee camp in Kenya!

I about exploded, reading those words!

I knew I was supposed to go!

I wrote him back and told him that I believed that was why the Lord had put him on my heart. That I was to accompany him to Uganda so that the Lord could get me into Kenya!

The next hurdle was talking to Walker. He has been consistent in his, ‘no’ to this country.

I shared with him at one point that the Lord was doing this work within me, and then I said nothing else for a time.

He had said nothing for weeks, and my doubts began to mount.

A phone call from Larry last week, prompted me to bring the topic up again. To be honest, some of my concerns and lack of understanding about the whole thing had led me to doubts and a general lack of assertiveness in pursuing it. Busy schedules and travel, further complicated the issue.

When Larry’s call came, I talked to Walker again. We set a time to discuss it. I was convinced this would be the death knell of my opportunity.

When our appointed time came to go over details, he began by saying, “I completely support you going on this trip!”

I had not expected that reaction.

Today, I am working on details for all of the shots, flights, etc, that need to be prepared in short order. Lord willing, I will connect in an airport somewhere with Larry (who lives in San Antonio) and we will head for East Africa. We leave January 24th and I am likely to return 10 days later, in early February.

My enthusiasm over this journey only grows. I do not pretend to understand what the Lord has in store, but am taking one step at a time to seek him. I have a growing passion, and am anxious to see why.

When He called me to ministry back in 1997, I responded with foolishness. I told Him, “anywhere but Africa!” My first summer trip with Awe Star was to Africa. Upon our return, I had zero interest in ever going back to that Dark Continent. Today, my excitement overflows! I cannot wait to get there, and I have no idea what is in store or why I am even ‘called’ to go.

There is much more to say, but I just wanted to put this before you as a prayer request. I very much would appreciate your intercession on behalf of whatever the Lord is up to.

Thank you for your continued support in our lives! Each one of you, are a blessing to Deanna and me. Please pray for her and the girls as well. The enemy loves to prey upon the minds of immediate family.

I pray the Lord would bless you as you walk in His obedience!


Thursday, December 18, 2008

My mother and my sister Lynae's children at Christmas (last year)

A little over three years ago, at BJ's funeral celebration, 97 students came forward to surrender their lives to missions, for at least short term opportunities.

Since that time, we have seen or heard of a great number of them who have fulfilled that calling. It is honestly a very humbling and exciting thing to behold.

Yesterday came news that was very special to us.

The first person to respond to that invitation, was 6 year old, Joshua. He is my nephew who loved his cousing BJ with his whole heart. They had spent many wonderful hours building memories, though they lived in different states. Joshua, as many remember, holds BJ's sword.

Since that day, he has asked his mother and daddy if he could go to the mission field, especially Peru.

His daddy works for Operation Blessing and travels the world a great deal to assure that resources are being dispensed to the children of different lands in appropriate fashion.

His mother has served in short term missions projects as well, and has looked forward to when her children can serve.

That day is near.

At the end of January, Joshua will accompany his daddy to the country he has longed to serve Jesus in...Peru!

My heart leaps with joy, knowing that he did not make an emotional committment that waned with time. No, his heart has beat for serving Christ for nearly half of his young life.

He will head to the amazon region of Peru in a little over a month! At nine years old, he is ready. He has a mature understanding of His Savior, and cannot wait to serve him in this land that has been on his heart for three years or better.

I ask you to join in praying for Joshua, and for his family as they make preparations. Lynae, his mother, is not without concerns, but is thrilled to see this opportunity come forth for her one and only son!

The Lord showed us, Joshua's family, shortly after his birth, that he was set apart for service to the King of kings. No one knew then that at this young age, he would be off for his first overseas missions experience!

I am very proud of him, and cannot wait to hear what the Lord does in Joshua's own heart as he walks on foreign soil. I praise God for his life, and that of his two sisters (Ari, who was pictured yesterday, celebrated her 5th Birthday and Emily), and his mother and daddy.

Joshua, we are praying for you! Thank you for following God's call on your life! You are an example to us all!

uncle brent

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ari and Whitney at Christmas

We had our staff Christmas party last night. We had it at one of those Japanese Steakhouses that cooks at your table. You know the ones...they twirl their spatula and fork all over the place and toss them in the air and catch them behind their back. When they get done with the tools, they begin with the food.

They make chopping food and cooking into an art form, with onion towers that flame, shrimp slicing and tossing. You get so entranced in watching the knives move that you miss some of what they are doing. I did see a shrimp tail get tossed into the air and land in his pocket. Another time he caught one in his hat. The part our chef seemed to enjoy the most was when he tossed a stray shrimp tail over to the next table into the food preparations of his neighboring cohort. His friend was not amused.

This particular restaurant was called a "Fantasy" Steakhouse. We enjoyed the experience, but decided we must have been responsible for bringing our own, as none played out in our presence...unless that whole experience was in our still full tummy suggests otherwise.

For many, a full tummy IS fantasy. A full heart is not even among their desires. Most do not even realize they are lost. In no way do I mean to make light of their situation. Rather, I am overwhelmed at their need. That point was brought home to me this morning, as I read an email message from a good friend who is serving as a missionary in the middle east.

I would like to share that with you today. As you read, keep in mind the following abbreviations: JC = Jesus Christ, Mu = Muslim, and Sh = Shiite. She is serving part of her term in closed countries, and must be careful with her language.

"Hello all my dear family and friends,

I am so sorry that I have not written you sooner to tell you that I made it safely back from Iraq.
[she made it back to her home in another middle eastern country]

I honestly didn't know how to put into words what I experienced, on top of the fact that I was fighting some depression upon my return and in turn also lacked the motivation to contact you.

This has been an interesting season in my life. I'm facing some major questions that I've only tasted before.

I'm standing toe to toe with the vast lostness of our world and it has overwhelmed me to my core.

I spent a good portion of my time in northern Iraq with one of the most precious families I've ever met. They took me in as one of their own and provided over and above for all my needs. Although I was alone with them and my Arabic is very limited and they could speak hardly any English and only spoke some Arabic which was with an Iraqi dialect, we had a wonderful time together.

On my last day with the family I met one of their really old relatives. When I first saw her and went to greet her with kisses to both of her cheeks, she quickly grabbed my right hand and would not stop kissing it.

I was a bit embarrassed that this little sweet old lady would not allow me to pay her the proper respect, so I kept trying to grab my hand back. But, she would not stop.

Finally though, she quit showering my hand with kisses and we were able to sit on the floor together and eat a huge meal. After the meal I went to leave and when I said good bye to her she grabbed me. She put her soft wrinkly hands behind my head and she said a lengthy blessing over me.

As I walked away from her I didn't know how to feel.

This precious old woman has more than likely NEVER heard about the saving grace of JC. There's a good chance I'm even the first Believer she had ever met. And it's probable that she only has a couple of years left on earth.

When will she get the chance to hear about who Jesus really is?

Who will tell her?

During my time in Iraq I saw so many people and cities that have had little to virtually no exposure to the Gospel message.

How can we live normally knowing about the dire lostness of all these people?

How can so many people die daily without ever hearing about Jesus' love and we not even be brought to our knees by this?

My heart isn't just broken over Iraq, let me tell you, lostness is not an isolated problem.

And the there are other huge issues people face in this region besides just hearing the truth.

Just a couple days ago I was visiting with a good friend of mine who is my age. He is a Sh Mu who now follows JC. I asked him if he has told his family about his relationship with JC and he looked at me and said, "If I tell my family my brothers will kill me."

What can I tell my friend?

There are tons of other people I want so badly to tell you about.

There are beautiful women who accepted JC when they were younger and because of that commitment they were unwilling marry Mu men. Therefore, now they are beyond marring age and will never be married, even though that's their hearts desire.

There is a man who came to know JC personally after searching for God in anyway he thought possible, when JC appeared to him and laid the mans head on his chest. This man says that at that very moment he knew he would never need food again, he would never need clothes, from that second on he knew that he would have no needs ever again.

There are other people being dying because they love JC.

And what are we doing?

When will we get serious about the vast lostness of this world?

When will we love God and his peoples enough to care more about them than ourselves?"

The heart cry of the lost will come mainly to the American public through those who have tasted it first hand. If we refuse to be moved by the Holy Spirit to action, many will perish apart from the saving knowledge of Jesus.

When will be as a Christian people, care more for the needs of others, and less for our own?

Yes, it is good to celebrate the birth of our Savior with family and friends. But we cannot also then sit back at our leisure the rest of the time and expect others to fulfill the call the Lord clearly provides in His Word.

If you cannot go, there is still much you can do. Pray for, send and educate others.

If you can go, then the time is passed when we can continue to delay the call we have already known in our hearts.

I praise God for the wake up call of my friend. Many nations are in the same situation (including our own), people dying daily, apart from Christ.

Let us, then, be found faithful and obedient. Let us then, GO!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lauren and Joshua share some Christmas love

Deanna and I were live on Moody Radio this morning. For those interested, you can go to this link and listen to todays archive, I believe it will be posted after 9:00 am Central Time. If you cannot get there with that link, then google Moody Radio Chicago, and click through to the morning show link with Mark Elfstrand.

It has been such a mercy from the Lord that we continue to be requested for interviews, where we get to talk about BJ, and his life of obedience. For any parent who has lost a child, being able to talk to people who want to listen is very important. The healing happens little by little with conversations with those who will bend their ear towards you.

This past Sunday, Deanna woke up having had a dream with Beej in it. Perhaps she will write of the dream sometime while she is off for Christmas break. I don't know the full extent of the dream.

What I do know, is that as she began to tell me about it, my breath left me. We were suddenly choked up. It is hard to describe how the grief can overwhelm you without warning. You are fine one moment, and the next, you can't breathe, your pulse races, and streams bathe your cheeks. Inside, it can feel so desperately lonely.

Even though we are together, it can feel like the other does not understand or does not care. Neither is true, but in the moments of angst, little helps. You just have to keep crying through these times.

I received a call from a new friend recently. He lost his son on the mission field more recently than we did.

His question was so familiar. "Do you ever feel like you just can't do it anymore?"

"All the time!" I replied.

This is such a journey and does not have an end point, save perhaps, when we are reunited. It gets a bit easier as time passes, but even that is excruciating to deal with.

The intensity of how you miss your child is a full body response and experience. Some days it wears you down far more than others. For us, it has been three years, and we still desperately miss him. For them, this will be their first Christmas without their son. They will head to the land he ministered in for Christmas, and walk with those he had impact on.

Healing will come in waves for them on this journey. It will be bittersweet, yet so very necessary!

Learning to cope with life after devastating loss is only accomplished one breath at a time, and with God's immeasurable Grace. I remain clueless how parents who are not believers either cope or continue. Christ is such an integral part of healing.

No doubt He uses times of loss to draw the hurting to Him. Sheep without a shepherd do not know any way other than their own. Take care of self at all costs. This instinct can and often does kick in and destroy the lives of those left behind.

Fortunately, we are privileged, you and I, to be able to share with them the deep things of God. His heart of compassion, His limitless love, His desire for time with us, and His will that we not perish apart from Him.

We get to tell others of this love! It is our privilege. It is our blessing. It brings Him glory.

A friend of mine, who is a senior in college, wrote me overnight to tell me of a young man who was a crossroads in life. He is there because she was obedient. She had told me a week ago she would be meeting with him and hoping to share with him.

God opened the door! She has met with him twice, and he is trying to understand what is happening.

We are privileged to pray for Peter. We can ask the Lord to intervene and bring Light to his dark and weary soul! We also can walk in obedience to our Lord just as she did.

It doesn't matter who we are in the world, because who we are in Christ is what He will use to draw others to Himself. No matter what our pain, or hurts from the past, present or future...He is already there, and has a plan.

We are privileged to be a part of it, if we will lay down our lives, take up our cross and follow Him! Amen!


Monday, December 15, 2008

a park in Lima, Peru decorated for Christmas

Last night, Deanna and I went to a church in Cleveland, Oklahoma to share. When we left Tulsa, it was 70 F outside. Forty-five minutes later in Cleveland, the temperature had dropped to 28 F.

A promised winter storm arrived during our service. We could hear the ice falling and hitting the building. Most people were talking about it before we began, as all had experienced the dramatic temperature differential.

The evening was a blessing to us. They served and incredible meal, and had sweet fellowship.

On our way home, the roads were covered with ice. Everything from rain to sleet to ice fell on us as we drove. We slowed down considerably and were amazed at how some people believe they have great skill on ice, and came flying past us.

As we drove through Tulsa, we saw an SUV do a 360 as they tried to exit. They hit nothing, and came to rest in the middle of the road. They sat still for quite a while collecting themselves, before moving on. Scary!

By the grace of God, we arrived home safely.

This morning as dawn breaks, the ice has left us clues to its arrival. Flower beds and sidewalks have turned white giving the appearance of being blanketed in snow. Schools are closed all over the area. Temperatures will not rise above 28 F.

Some roads are bad, we are told via the news media, but they speculate as to why schools have closed. In general, they say the conditions are not too bad.

I remember when I was young and it would threaten to snow. I would ask God to move in the heart of our superintendent and cause him to declare schools closed. It took a lot more to close schools there than it does here.

I was a paperboy for many years, and it didn't matter if it snowed or not, I had to get out and deliver the early morning paper or face a ringing phone of unhappiness, later.

I learned a great deal about discipline, integrity and follow through during those years. We were the stepchildren to the mail man. We delivered in rain, sleet, snow or whatever, but didn't get the same accolades.

I started drinking during that I know, I know, not a great habit. During a blizzard one year, it seemed that every other home I trudged to would invite me in for coffee or cocoa. I accepted every time. I was coooold, and it took the edge off.

I'm not cold anymore, but my coffee cup is usually nearby.

Anyway, I love when schools are closed and my family gets a break. My parents were both educators and so is my wife. My children were like I was, they screamed with glee, when those words showed up on the tv screen announcing a snow day! It was often followed by a happy dance! Anytime school is out, it feels like an unexpected blessing for them!

I thank our Father in heaven for the life He has provided, the safety, and the little unexpected blessings that come. He enables, even encourages rest. We must take it and benefit from it.

Hope your day is filled with a wintry blessing!


Friday, December 12, 2008

And the gift in Brad's lap from yesterday was...

We are very excited and wanted to share that "I Would Die for You, One Students Story of Passion Service and Faith," has been nominated for the honor of top "Evangelism" book of the year, by Outreach Magazine!

It is one of 10 books that are being considered. It is a significant honor, and completely unexpected. We are enthused for many reasons, but one of them is the fact that there is a category of nominees for "Youth Outreach," and our book appears to have transcended the youth culture alone, into a broader reach. This is an answer to prayer!

We have seen the Lord broaden the impact of BJ's testimony far beyond what we could imagine. It is very humbling, and very exciting! We can clearly see that the Lord is in control and He continues using BJ's life to impact the lives of others!

I received a 5 page paper from a college student overnight, who wrote of the impact BJ had on his own life (through our book). This during finals time! What an amazing blessing and what an amazing God we serve!

I have no idea when the actual awards are decided. It really doesn't matter. To have a book about a life no one has ever heard of to rise through obscurity, is so much the hand of the Lord, that we are hugely excited just to see how our God continues to move and bless.

Praise His Name!!!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

brad at Christmas...

We bought a car last night, as we had turned in our lease vehicle just before Thanksgiving.

BJ was uniquely tied to this purchase, and the Lord delivered peace to us in the decision making process because of a memory that remained hidden to us until the Lord saw fit to remind us.

Sometime in 2004 or 2005 BJ went to a christian concert by a couple of up and coming bands, one of which is now doing very well.

Upon his return, he had with him a few mementos. Each was unique to a band, except one. At the time, I thought this too was tied to a specific band...perhaps their name.

After BJ went Home, we were packing his things up to move here to Tulsa, and I came upon those items once again. I held onto the key chain which carried the name I thought belonged to a band.

Our last two primary cars have been Honda's. Well actually, they were both SUV's. I had my heart set on a Honda sedan. There is a dealership just down the street from us, so we went to visit.

I asked the Lord to provide us with a godly sales person. I really don't like the car buying process.

Our first trip there was on a Sunday afternoon, when no sales people could "help" us. Our second trip was after work the next evening. Three sales people exited the dealership doors about 10 minutes after our arrival. Yes...they gave us 10 minutes!

The only one of the three that came toward us, was also a pastor at a local body that is too small to afford him full time. Our discussion and time with him was more fellowship, and less a sales pressured event. We looked at several models, and chose one to drive. I was convinced that this was our new car.

Later, at home as we were discussing our choice, Deanna said she wanted to look at the Toyota dealership as well. I admit, I was annoyed.

My brother, who is the car person in our family (thankfully, most every family has one) had been with us at the Honda dealership. He had recently bought a used setting the wheels in motion (something I am now thankful for).

Our schedule would not allow us to go car shopping again until this past Sunday. We returned from the wedding in Odessa, Texas, put our gear away, and headed out. Once again, we were unfettered by pesky car sales people.

We neared the Toyota lot to find the gates locked, and another Sunday shopper consuming the first entry drive in front of them. We had to keep going to the second barricaded entry and pulled our car into the drive adding to the blockade. Our intent was to compare the Toyota model, which was the same size as the Honda we had driven. We looked from one end of the models to the other, pricing them carefully as we went.

To be honest, none really caught our attention. We decided to pursue the Honda. We turned to head back to our car. On the way, we were forced (by our parking position) to pass some of those boxy cars you see on the road.

I confess, I really do not like many of them. I have spoken ill of them on more than one occasion.

What stopped us was the color of this one. It sat among all the usual colors, but stood out in its deep rich hue. We were drawn over for a look. In the fading light of day, it was difficult to see into the already tinted windows. No matter, we strained our eyes and read the sticker. This car was between $4,000 - $5,000 less than the Honda model we were pursuing. Wow!

The car had way more room than we expected. It has the same engine as the similar sized Toyota we had just been looking at. The lines on this car were much friendlier than those of other boxmobiles. We were interested.

We returned the next day for a test drive. As we pulled in, I grabbed Deanna's hand and asked the Lord to provide a godly salesperson.

We parked our car, and headed to our interest. We didn't get 10 minutes this time, we got 1.

Oh no, an overeager sales person. With the economy suffering, he sees an unbelievable sight...interested buyers!

He strolled over to us, and allowed me to speak first. He was not aggressive, he was patient and friendly. He answered my questions without any pressure or reverie. After a time of Q and A, we took it our for a test drive.

During the drive, he let us in on a secret. He doesn't normally wait on customers. He was the sales manager. A bit frustrated that his sales force had missed our entry, he came our himself.

In the course of our conversation, we learned that he is a believer and that his wife is a relatively new believer. We talked of family and background and car stuff.
He was nothing like the sales person I expected. I told him as we left that night, that we had asked the Lord to send us the right person to help was no accident that his men did not see us.

We prayed over our decision to buy. We sought peace. Somewhere along the way, the Lord opened a passageway to a memory. In some nook at home was a key chain BJ kept. It bore the name of the car company we were thinking about... Scion!

It was not a band (that we know of), but could have been. Toyota manufactures the Scion brand and each of its models.

I was unaware. I didn't know what it was. Somewhere along the line I am sure I came to hear the name and car brand, but never connected it with anything. As one with a degree in horticulture, I knew a scion for what it was in that realm. A healthy shoot grafted into a rootstock of a different parent plant for the purposes of longevity and vigor. The parent rootstock was weak and promised an uncertain future.

This gift from the Lord and my son, during the season of gifts is one more reminder that I am one who has been grafted into a strong and vigorous stock. He promises eternal life and His name is Jesus!



Tuesday, December 09, 2008

children make the season more fun...

I am a fan of traditions. I like them around the holidays, especially.

One of my daughters called me recently to ask what type of Christmas tree we always had back in Indiana. She was at a tree farm, and wanted to cut down the same kind we had.

Unfortunately, that type of tree does not grow where she lives. She had to get something else.

It was a good feeling though to know that it was appealing to her, that in her younger days, we always had a live tree, and usually the same kind. It held it's fragrance the best, and we loved to smell it when we came into the house.

We had other traditions as well. Whitney would read, "Twas the Night Before Christmas," and then I would read the real Christmas story from Luke 2. After we had both read, we would open gifts.

Lauren has truly captured the joy of decorating at Christmas. She does a good job. When I grew up, my house always looked amazing. My mom decorated more than most. I loved it! Lauren carries that same attitude in her heart, and I love to see what she does.

Many people put up theme trees at Christmas. Not us. Our family laughs at some of our tree decorations. There is no pretense on our evergreen. Since Deanna and I got married, we have been collecting ornaments and they get hung each year. We are fond of the ones we have with either pictures our children or ones they made. Its quite and eclectic mix, but it is beautiful to us!

Some traditions are good!

When my father passed away in 1994, my extended family started a new tradition of all gathering at my brother's camp for Christmas. We have followed that for the last 13 years, and only missed out a time or two of having everyone there.

This year, we will not be together. With us in Tulsa and Whitney and Jared in Texas, coordinating schedules has become a bit more difficult.

The family that normally comes together, will mostly be in Virginia Beach at my sisters' home. My immediate family will celebrate the birth of our Savior together in Texas. We are excited to be able to be together.

Traditions have their place, but they are not rules. We do not HAVE to follow them. We like to follow them, especially holiday ones, but they are not requirements.

We as believers, have embraced many traditions in our churches. While most are found nowhere in Scripture, people get upset if they are not observed. We cling to things that are comfortable, things that we like. When someone makes a change, we tend to resent that person or group of people.

I do think it is necessary for us to look at some of our traditions to see why we partake. When churches split over whether or not we follow them, something is wrong.
There is a model in the Bible for how our church should function. Why is it then, that when we collectively choose to follow rhythms within the body that are not found in the Word, people adhere to them as if they were orchestrated by Christ?

We each need to be a little more selfless when it comes to this season, and to these traditions. The worship of Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords it what it is all about. When we make it about anything else, we err.

Come, let us exalt Him together!!!


Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas beauty...

The past several days, Deanna and I have been in Odessa, Texas, where we helped marry two or our friends from the mission field.

Deanna sang two songs during their ceremony, and I delivered a message, just prior to their vows. It was a beautiful wedding.

These are two people that the Lord brought together at training for their respective mission trips. They live in different parts of the country, and have spent the majority of their missions experiences on different continents. However, the Lord has brought them together in unity and now they seek Him and where He would have them serve together.

What I find so compelling is, had they not been obedient to God's call, they would never have met.

He grew up in Alabama, and she in west Texas. He served in Eastern Europe and South America. She served in Central America and Africa. There was no way their paths were going to cross without the intervention of the Lord.

Many times we seek what the Lord would have for us, and yet fail to walk out simple obedience. We do not know what blessings we are missing when we serve ourselves.

This young man called me a month before our summer trips, two summers back. He knew nothing about our ministry, but found us on the internet as he was seeking who the Lord would have him partner with in missions. As we spoke, the Holy Spirit did a work in his heart and he knew he was supposed to be on our team.

A month later we were on a plane together heading to Peru (well, Ecuador then Peru).

This experience was life changing for him. He came in with a past. He had many frustrations...even anger. He shared very openly with our team as the mounting hurts were attempting to consume his life.

Early in the trip, we talked together and the Lord ministered in such a deep way that it became a benchmark in his walk. He turned a corner in life. The man who came with us on that trip, went home changed.

Because of past difficulties, he was ready to serve the Lord as a single man for life. He did not know it then, but the Lord had him on a journey and had other plans for him. "Plans to prosper him and not to harm him." (Jer 29:11)

That same summer, he would meet the woman he would eventually fall in love with and marry. She was not on his team, but he met her at training.

Months later, they would serve on a 10 day trip together, and the desire was awakened in them both.

Strict polices do not allow them to act on their interests on the field, but once they were home, things began to happen. This included several trips from Alabama to Texas, and from Texas to Alabama.

This past summer, they would follow God's call to different continents. They would spend their summer apart, praying for the other, and wondering what the others experience was like.

Today, because they followed the Lord in the obedience He called them to, they walk together united in Christ!

I love how the Lord does these things. I am in awe of how He brings us to blessing.

Blessings come to each of us in our lives. We just never know whether or not our obedience will bring us into such relationship. If we are walking consistently with Him, it really doesn't matter.

What matters is our love relationship with Him. If we are following Him, He will handle such details, if we are paying attention!

I praise God for how He works in our lives!

BJ longed for a relationship with a godly woman. However, he did not seek that out as his primary objective. He sought the Lord and would never know the intimacy that most of us experience. He wrote of his hope for the same, but longed more to be found obedient.

When we walk in obedience, the Lord handles the details. We may not always get what we think we want, but He sees that our needs are met, and we get to bring Him glory in the process!


Thursday, December 04, 2008

family together for Christmas...

Our home just emptied this morning, as my mother and brother left to head back to Indiana. I don't like goodbyes. My insides ache with the sadness of their leaving.

It was such a blessing to have Thanksgiving with them and then have them return to Tulsa to spend more time together. We praise God for them!

Tonight, Lauren opens for the Christian band "Downhere" out of Canada. She is very nervous, but very excited. We are so excited for her opportunity!

Deanna just left for school. It is just me, Jesus and Christmas music.

I cannot help but wonder if Jesus longs for our homecoming, the way we long to be with loved ones we do not get to see enough. The ache can be overwhelming. Saying goodbye without knowledge of the next hello, is like a bellowing echo with no place to land.

With His knowledge of our lives and all that is going on, how can He not hunger for our upcoming time of eternal fellowship? I believe He does. I know I do.

His word says that He lives to ever intercede for us. When we join our hearts to His through prayer, we are truly united. We come together as Jesus did with His Father when He walked the earth.

We know He frequently got away to be with His Father. The unity that resulted had eternal implications for you and me. To take our prayer time too lightly is unwise. It seems to be that thing that we always think we'll have time for, later.

Later is elusive. It seldom arrives. Later is no companion. It's a soothing word to move us forward to the next moment without having to invest in this one.

Hope on the other hand, often seems to evade our capture, but it is that abiding sense of goodness to come. There IS always hope. WE can always hope. Hope is not fantasy. At least not hope in Christ or His return.

That hope is promised, and it is coming. You can sense it. We hasten His return with a hope that must quicken His pulse. The desire He must have to be united with us as we offer Him our worship, our all, would consume us if we could experience it.

The tinge of longing I experience when I have to say goodbye, must reside in dark shadows compared to the sensory explosion we will enter into when that day finally comes!

I do not like saying goodbye. But my abiding partner of hope keeps me longing forward. That day will be sooner than we think. I can sense His desire through the quiet moments of loss and parting.

He is there. He is near. He is coming soon!

I hope for shared eternal moments of His time.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

the things that friends do to you...

Spending time in the book of I or II Kings brings clear communication about how rare it is when people decide to follow God over the traditions of men.

So many of the kings of old conducted themselves in a more vile manner than the monarch before him. For some reason, it seems that if their father was a harsh leader, then they were worse. Each seemed to build on the other.

Then a surprise would come in a king who would seek after the heart of God. He would tear down the evil built in the empire before him. He would seek to be a 'good' leader, and to serve his people well.

He would usually be followed by a man who returned to evil. He would build idols and bring worship to those idols. Often in the process, he would kill off the family and friends of his predecessor.

The grab for power was on, and each tried to assure the stability of his throne by eliminating perceived threats.

Today, we like to believe we are more civilized. We generally would not think of killing someone to assure we got to do what we wanted to do.

However, we often seem to have embraced the downhill slide, deep into sinful endeavors.

We compare ourselves to those around us, and we do just a little bit more than they, thinking it no worse. We justify our actions or choices by what others have done or are doing. When we do this, we fail to recognize the superhighway of evil that we have merged onto.

Before we know it, we are doing more and more things that are contrary to the Word of God. The Word of God then, is no longer applicable for today. We view it in the context of our embrace of today's sin and find it outdated.

While we know this should not be, it is occurring around us with increasing momentum.

Our children are confronted earlier than we were with sex, drugs and alcohol. We were confronted with these same vices earlier than our parents.

I remember in the sixth grade my dad sitting me down and talking to me about sex. I had to do the same thing with my son in the third grade, because he was hearing so much on the bus or at school. I wasn't sure he was emotionally prepared to handle it, but knew he needed to be armed for the battle he was in. The Lord was present as he assimilated this information. He handled it well.

Many employ information immediately, thinking it to be power, rather than filtering their choices through common sense or Scripture. The result is the world we live in.

It should be no surprise to us that the Lord allows the "good ones" to be taken home early. Their example is magnified, and his glory multiplied through lives that are lived as He intended, amid a world that isn't.

We need to embrace the example of Christ, and not those we elevate to American idol status. We need to make Him famous, by living our lives as He did. Following His example in word and deed is what we are called to do.

When we do this, the lives of the "good ones," may seem less remarkable.

We have the opportunity to live this kind of life, today and everyday.

We just have to choose to do so.


Monday, December 01, 2008

With children from Africa

There were few things BJ enjoyed more than getting together with family over the holidays. The activities participated in didn't matter very much as long as we came together.

This past week, my family was spread out. Lauren remained behind in Oklahoma and spent time with friends. Whitney and Jared were in Texas with his family, and Deanna and I headed to Indiana. This is not how we would choose to have the time spent, but we each had a great time, regardless.

Deanna and I had to go to Indy early, as we had an appointment to turn in our lease vehicle. It was a bit sad to do so, as we had many memories in it. There were even a package of smashed cheese crackers in one of the seat compartments that neither of us had the desire to remove up to this point, knowing that Beej had put them there.

Anyway, we left it behind, and my brother and mother returned us safely to Oklahoma. We are now in the process of looking for another car. I do not enjoy this much. I am not a car person. To me, they are just transportation.

My brother knows a great deal about them. He reads trade magazines on what cars are good and which ones are best.

We went out yesterday afternoon to look at options. Being Sunday, we knew we would remain undisturbed. That was my favorite part of looking. No one was pushing us in any direction.

I came home with my head swimming. I saw vehicles parading past in different colors and price ranges. I feel a bit like I am drowning in the swirling eddy of transportation. I know the next steps are the biggest. I want to enjoy it, but I don't like feeling pressure or having to make a decision on things I know little about. We are very blessed to have my brother's help.

On one hand, I want to make a decision before he leaves (on Thursday), but on the other, I live close enough to my office that I could walk indefinitely, if need be.

With the economy like it is, one would think I could find a great deal. I have learned that a 'great deal' seems to be relative to the buyer.

Salvation will always be the best "deal" available.

That Christ died on the cross so that you and I would not have to pay the price for our sin, is a deal that cannot be beat.

What is interesting, is how many people think that they still have to earn their way to heaven, and so believe in religions that allow them to work their way there.

Salvation is a gift from God. We receive it freely, or not at all. When we receive it, our lives change from the inside out, and we then live not for ourselves, but for Him. In doing so, we learn to die daily to self.

For most of us, this is the difficult step. We have been taught well to serve our own needs and desires. To suddenly pursue His above our own, is something that takes time and discipline. It usually takes the remainder of your experience to learn to do it.

You should never be pressured into making a decision for Him. When the time is right, you know in your heart that He is drawing you to Him. No salesman can force on you, what you do not willing want to receive. If they do, then your decision has likely not been true.

I am so thankful for the gift of Salvation, and the opportunity to live my life for Him. What a blessing to know Him more.

One of the reasons, BJ loved family gatherings, was that he knew all were believers, and he enjoyed the fellowship. He loved being able to share with his family, the things of the Lord. He learned from everyone possible, and loved to hear them share.

I pray we each take advantage of these times to talk of our Savior with our loved ones. It inspires the young and soothes mature souls.

It costs nothing and there is no pressure to "buy." Just the promise of unrelenting love that saves and keeps.

Have a blessed week!