Friday, December 23, 2011

Tucker's first Christmas!

This Christmas will be very different for Deanna and me.

We were blessed to have our girls and their boys in our home for a few days, earlier this week. We had a great time together. Being together with family at this time of year is extremely important to us.

However, this year, Deanna and I will experience something we have not experienced since before we were married. We will be alone at Christmas.

We love spending time with each other. But, almost 29 years of the Christmas season with our family, has us aching for that tradition to continue.

This year begs the question what is Christmas to us?

Is it about time with family?
Is it about getting gifts?
Is it about giving gifts?
Is it about lights?
Is it about time off of work?
Is it about feasts?


Is it about Jesus?

For many, this time of year brings on depression because they cannot or do not have the ability to have Christmas as it is portrayed in television and movies.

They cannot give enough because they have little to offer.

I think that is why I love the "Little Drummer Boy" song. Here is a great example of giving.

He gave not money, or material possessions. He gave from his giftedness, and it was more than enough.

When God chose to send His one and only Son so that we might have eternal life, He gave us ALL we would ever need. In Him, all needs are met, though we routinely try to meet them with that which will perish.

Those who recognize this do not get caught up in the 'Santa Christmas' our country would have us believe.

Doesn't mean there is not a gift exchange, but it does mean they truly celebrate the birth of our Savior above all else!

God the Father gave a gift that could not be replaced. He gave His one and only Son. He gave a piece of Himself because of His deep love for us!

In some small ways, ways we have understanding of what this means.

Though perhaps, we did not "give our son" as God the Father did, we did nonetheless, give our son. We gave him to our Savior when he was born. We sought to give him to the Lord each day. He did not belong to us.

At times, we clung too tight.

At times we failed to hold tightly enough.

Ultimately, he would honor the Lord with what he had. Like the Little Drummer Boy, he gave what he could. He gave it willingly.

I wonder if I have that same attitude this time of year?

I do find myself clinging tightly to Christmases past...with family.

I plainly see Christmas around a tree of red lights (Deanna's favorite), with hot chocolate and music proclaiming His birth, while my three children look with great anticipation at all that is about to be unwrapped.

This year, we will see the lostness of a city that has been handed over to the enemy where violence runs whatever course it chooses. We will proclaim the Truth of the One who was born to suffer and die that these same offenders might have eternal life.
So too, may those who are caught in the crossfire of the enemies unwrapping schemes.

Christmas is not about my ideas or traditions alone, though they are included.

Christmas is about letting the truth of a baby born to give all, move us to the point of doing the same.

We give because He gave. We suffer because He suffered. We have eternal life in Him.

Thank you Father for the gift of Your Son, Jesus!

Thank you for my Salvation!

You are my King!

love from Your child,


Monday, December 12, 2011


Freedom is never free.

It always seems to come at the cost of sacrifice.

The ultimate example is Jesus. He was sent to this world as a baby, "grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man," and ultimately laid down His life that you and I might have eternal life, if we would surrender ours to Him.

This surrender seems to look different from person to person, and church to church.

Jesus said "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me." Mtw 16:24

Does this mean we basically live our lives as we want, with the primary difference being, we attend church on Sunday?

That is not what it is supposed to be. There is little sacrifice in that. However, that is where much of the American church resides. This is the "surrender" portrayed by many believers to those who have not yet met Jesus. Yet, it is of little value.

Church attendance does not make one a believer. When the separation comes that Jesus spoke of, in Matthew 25... "He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left."... Many who think they are sheep will find that not to be true.

While salvation is through grace and not works (Eph 2), when one surrenders to Christ, the desire He plants within is one of wanting to be faithful to Him, where we follow His heart, and do what He puts within us to do.

For too many, learning to deny that voice rather than self, has become the norm.

I imagine His heart breaks over this.

I also believe He struggles with some of our attitudes, even when we are faithful.

For example, each year, for about as long as I can remember, my family has come together between Christmas and New Years. We drive to an agreed upon location, spend four or five days together, and celebrate Him and the time with each other.

My family is very close. I have written of this often.

I have struggled this year with my attitude towards not being able to do this.

Yes, I am so very thankful and blessed that my family changed each of their plans to accommodate our schedule, and do this same thing at Thanksgiving. We had an incredible time! But, it isn't Christmas, and it isn't our tradition.

Tradition is not Scripture, but it is important as long as it doesn't supersede Scripture.

All this to say, I struggle with my attitude in leading a mission team to Nuevo Laredo, over the Christmas break. If I am brutally honest, I do not want to give in this way, at this time. I am not proud of this, but feel the need to be clear.

However, I know the Lord has a plan. I know I need to be in the center of that plan, regardless of ultimate outcome.

My God is faithful, and I know that no matter what the sacrifice, on the eternal landscape it will have been worth it! I know that the sacrifice of those going on this trip will mean the salvation of many who are lost!

How and why would I struggle with my attitude over this, when I know what the outcome for others will mean?

I just got a phone call from a dear friend whose youth group I was supposed to take to Panama over Spring Break. She cancelled the trip, because she only had seven sign up.

It seems their attitudes and priorities align with the ones I am struggling with over this Christmas time.

While I am frustrated for her, and for us, with the planning that has gone into it, and the lives that would have been saved had these been willing to sacrifice, I see my own attitudes in their decisions, and know I must repent and I must go!

If my sacrifice means someone elses salvation, I must go!

"But its not safe!" many will say.

For years I have told others that there is no safer place to be than in the center of His will.

Recently, our newly called pastor challenged this. He said that this statement is not Biblical. He said "there is no more dangerous place to be than in the center of God's will!"

In many ways, I know he is right. However, it doesn't change what He has called me to do.

How can anything else be more important than someone elses salvation? How can tradition gain higher attention from me, than obedience?

The answer is pretty simple.

It's the American way. Most of us are trained up this way, even when we grow up in church.

We do what we want, when we want, and don't get this Great Commission stuff in my face, because I tithe, and go to church. This is the prevailing attitude.

It's interesting that the directive from our Savior isn't, "go to church and do what you want with your life." Rather, it's "therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

Forgive me Lord!

Fill my heart with joy in serving, and a passion for those who need you in Nuevo Laredo! You ARE more important to me than tradition, but I am very thankful for it too!

If this steps on your toes this Christmas Season, then know mine are already aching in pain.


Monday, December 05, 2011

Deanna and I waiting in line to ride the Christmas Train

Sunday evening, Lauren, Weston, Deanna and I went on the "Christmas Train." It is an event that occurs at Dry Gulch Camp, Oklahoma. A couple of 1800's era trains haul people through the countryside, past painted murals, and live actors portraying the story of Christ from Creation through the Resurrection. It is an extremely moving experience!

The train station is set in an old West town near Pryor, Oklahoma. The camp is owned by a church in Tulsa. They do an unbelievable job handling thousands of people with an all volunteer army, who attend to the needs of the masses through gift shops, coffee shops, arcades, restaurants, a cowboy/Christmas music venue, Carolers, etc.

I had never even heard of this, and when we were given tickets to this sold out event, I did not know what to expect. My near-sighted vision was shattered by this overwhelming experience.

I believe many come to experience the old west in the cold of winter (yes we were bundled up like we were at a ski resort) with all of the lights and ambiance. While here, they unmistakeably hear and see the Gospel portrayed! What an amazing event!

When we arrived, we headed to a restaurant and got something to eat. We sat cafeteria style with many others but enjoyed ourselves immensely!

After dinner we braved the cold and the line for the train. We had lively conversation and interacted with others as we waited. We laughed a great deal.

Somewhere in the line, a young girl started to watch me closely. We were nearly in the train station, when her father called out to me and said, "My daughter thinks you're Santa Claus!"

From the picture above, I guess you can see why. Still he found it necessary to postulate aloud why she might think this (as if he believed I might somehow be offended).

I was moved to laughter.

From then on, I noticed her watching me ever so closely. As a matter of fact, I began to realize others were paying me some abnormally close attention.

We traded silly faces and motorboat noises. She watched me through much of the train ride. I kept expecting her to come and climb into my lap.

It was a precious encounter and a great reminder of how children respond to the "magic" of the Christmas season.

Of course, we know there is no magic. There is our Savior.

He came to the earth as an infant to ultimately die for your sin and mine. We need only to call upon Him to be our Savior and Lord, at the time that He draws us close, and we will be saved.

This experience held some "magic" for me too. For a few minutes it was rather amazing to have her young eyes and heart full of expectation turned my direction.

Of course, I would fail her. I could never meet all of her needs.

My Savior can, however!

I was reminded of how incredible the Season of Celebrating Christ's birth was when my children were young. They too were so full of expectation and hope.

It is a grand reminder that we need to approach our Lord with the eyes and heart of a child. He will meet our needs and care for our lives.

I am so thankful for this! What a blessing to be in relationship with the King of kings and the Lord of lords!

Have a blessed Christmas Season! Experience it through the eyes and heart of a child, if you can!

dad (not Santa)