Saturday, December 29, 2007

Gift's from Eric


A friend of mine suggested that I ought to post a few pictures of the gifts that Eric had made us for Christmas this year. In a previous posting titled... Well done Son, well Done! I had mentioned some gifts that really touched my heart that Eric had made for us for Christmas. The story tells of Eric's jail time and how he had made these gifts from some really creative thinking and of course, time. I was impressed with the fact that he had to prepare months in advance to get these gifts made with limited supplies and tools and then get them mailed to us in time for Christmas. If you haven't had a chance to read the post titled... "Well done son, well done" I encourage you to read it for better insight to what I'm talking about in this posting.

This doll was made out of a sock, the stuffing is from frayed out pieces of fabric. It's very soft and not at all lumpy like you might think. Eric used a tooth of a comb for a needle to thread with. The thread he used came from ripped pieces of fabric like a bed sheet. He would strip the fabric down to pieces of thread and then use the tooth of the comb to sew with. The dress was made from a piece of a sheet. He actually hemmed the dress so there are no edges that could fray or rip apart. As you can see from the picture... this doll has become a part of Halle. She goes everywhere with it. This doll was the best Christmas gift she got this year. Sure she got more expensive gifts, she got lot's of great toys, clothes and even a store bought doll. But nothing makes her feel secure like hugging on this doll made with love from her Daddy. It's like she knows it's filled with love, which of course... it is.

This picture was one of the gifts that Eric gave to Marcie for Christmas. I had mentioned that he sent a letter and a gift for seven days in a row prior to Christmas. It was exciting for Marcie to open a new gift each day and she especially enjoyed the thoughtful personal letters he had wrote just for her. This picture of the rose was drawn by another inmate in the same cell he's in. I have no idea what he had to trade for it? Probably commissary snacks or drinks he might save from meals or from his commissary he gets once a week. Each inmate gets an opportunity to order commissary items each week on toiletry supplies or envelopes, paper or pencils etc. They can also purchase some drinks or snacks. The families are allowed to bring a money order in each week (with a limit of course) so that they can have supplies they need as they live there. Like I said, I have no idea what this cost Eric, but he sacrificed so that Marcie could have this nice drawing as a gift for Christmas.

This gift is a key chain. I only show you one here, but he made 4 of these key chains. One for his brother Ryan, his Mom, his Dad, and of course Marcie. As you can see he had each of our names written in the key chain. There is a loop at one end to put a key ring on and the key chain itself is made out of very fine strips of plastic trash bags. You can see the ends sticking out on the opposite end of where the loop is. The words and the shiny coloring in the key chain is made from pieces of candy bar wrappers. Each of our key chains were a different color. One was blue and he used the foil wrapper from a Rice Krispie treat, I believe mine was from the foil wrapper of a Hershey bar. I'm amazed at how well these are made and how strong they are. These gifts were really neat and we each enjoy showing them off.

These little shoes are a little hard to see in the picture, but they really look adorable when you see them in person. They are made to hang from Marcie's rear view mirror. That's why there is a string tied in a loop on them. These little baby shoes or boots are made out of a deck of playing cards. each card is folded just right to give the shoe the shape it needs and the cards are also folded in such a way to tie all the pieces together. This is a very unique gift and the detail and time it must have taken him to make these little boots is amazing. What a wonderful gift and how creative!

This gift is called a dream catcher. I'm not sure of the story behind dream catchers, but it's made like a net to catch the dreams of the person in the room that it's hanging. I believe these dream catchers originated with the Indians. Notice on the bottom of the smaller ring, you can see where Eric had used a wrapper to put Marcie's name on this gift. The feathers are of course not real feathers, they are pieces of bed sheet and the pieces have been frayed out so they appear to look like a feather. The picture really doesn't do the gift justice, but it is a very detailed gift that I know took Eric a long time to make.

This is another gift that Eric had made. It's similar to the dream catcher above. This one has much more color in it. The color coming from a rice krispie wrapper (blue) The threading in both dream catchers is from pieces of frayed out fabric. He twisted the pieces of thread together to made more like a string rather than thread. It's amazing to see the detail in these gifts. He died the thread or fabric in either coffee or a colored drink like juice. This give the name Halle a different color than the rest of the dream catcher. This one was made to be able to be worn as a necklace. It's very strong and won't break.

This wraps up the pictures of the great gifts that Eric got us for Christmas this year. He made them all but one (the drawing) and these gifts were the best gifts I've ever received for Christmas. Why? They touched our hearts... they were filled with love in the making... they were unique and specifically made with each of us in mind... they were made with creativity and literally no tools or supplies. But I think the reason they had such meaning for me personally is this...... It was Eric's way of being a part of our Christmas this year. It was his way of saying, "Yes I may be in jail, but I'm not defeated, I can still be a part of my families Christmas this year, and he was! You can imagine how hard it must be to have a loved one locked away, especially on Christmas day when were all gathered around the dinner table getting ready to eat a feast, and we think about the bologna sandwich that Eric will eat today. Not only are the holidays tough on Eric, we suffer as well. But this year was better. It was better because of what Eric did. It just reminds me that in spite of our circumstances, we can make a difference, we can overcome. I praise God for my son Eric, and I thank God this is the last Christmas that Eric will have to make these gifts. He'll be home with us next year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lessons from a Child

Having my grand daughter around all the time has given me all kinds of glimpses back to my past when my own children were as young as Halle is now. The thing that makes me feel the greatest is the way she runs to me after I get home from work. She can hear the car door slam shut as I make my way to the front door. Wherever she is in the house she hears the door knob turn and she knows instantly it's Grandpa coming through that door. She's been walking for about a month now and it's all she can do to walk as fast as she can through the house to greet me at the door. She'll stumble and fall two or three times walking to the door because she's so excited to see me, she's practically running and she's just not coordinated enough to run yet.

She always has this wonderful smile on her face as she sees me walk through the door and of course she knows the first thing I'm going to do is shout out her name then pick her up and give her a great big hug and kiss. It's the same routine every day! It's wonderful.

Think about these things for a moment...


  • She's not able to talk yet, so she can't tell me she loves me... but I know she loves me because she shows me every day in the way she behaves, in the way she acts towards me, in the way she runs to me with her eyes all excited, in the way she laughs and smiles at me when I pick her up. Her love for me is shown, it's felt, and it's appreciated so much.

  • She forgets easily, she doesn't hold grudges like we as adults do. If she was told "No," and she gets in trouble and her feelings get hurt or she throws a fit, as soon as it's over and we smile at each other again or hug each other again, all is forgotten. We begin again.

  • She runs to me because she's that excited to see me! Do we treat our children the same way, do we treat our wives or husbands the same way. It's nice to be loved so much that when you walk in the door, someones extremely happy to see you. That's a wonderful kind of love isn't it?

  • Hugs are great. I found out that I miss those hugs. My own children have grown and we hug less often now. With my granddaughter in the house and since I'm hugging her all the time I've noticed I hug my wife more lately, even my son more lately. I just realized I wasn't hugging much anymore until my grand daughter reminded me of how important this is. It's the best way to show love and appreciation for those you really care about.

The lessons are endless when I think about the love of a child. One very important truth is their love is unconditional. They simply love you, they're simply happy just being with you, you are the joy of their life.


I imagine that how God's love is for us, unconditional, happy being with us, and we are the joy of His life. But do we respond to our heavenly Father like my grand daughter or even my children did towards me when they were little? Do we run to him? Do we get excited about being with him? Do we smile and laugh with joy when we sense or feel his presence? Or have we become like most children that have grown older?... Have we lost our interest, have we become more focused on ourselves rather than God? As children grow they become independent, they begin to seek less and less advice or at least they begin to listen to less and less advice it' seems. You know, I believe the secret to a loving relationship is "DEPENDENCE." You see when we remain dependent on one another we value and love one another. But in our Independence, we risk going our own way, making our own decisions, and eventually we quit thinking to ask for advice anymore. We stop seeking council, and we've lost our childlike innocence.


As I watch my grand daughter, I realize again how important a smile, a hug, a kiss, and laughter is to knowing that you have love in your life. I've always known it, I just simply showed it less often lately.


Thank you Lord Jesus for the gift of my Grand Daughter. What a reminder of Your love she is.


Steve

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Well Done Son, well done!

This Christmas will be the second Christmas that we've had to spend it away from our Son Eric. The good news is that He gets out of jail later this next year. No more Thanksgivings or Christmas's or Birthdays away from his family. No more being separated from his fiancee and their daughter Halle. She will be 1 and a 1/2 years old when he gets out and he hasn't been able to hold her yet except for the day she was born! (he was allowed a 12 hour leave from jail for her birth) No more missing out on the hugs and kisses, no more missing out on the wonderful times of playing together and watching her learn and grow. This time of confinement has been the worst and the hardest time anyone could have. Where as most would spend time in a prison, Eric's time, at his own request to avoid prison time, has been in a jail cell, a cell without visits to family except through a monitor screen in separate rooms by a phone line once each week for an hour. No music, no TV, not even allowed to go out doors except for maybe five or six times a year for a brief moment. He's paid his price and he's done it well.

I'm constantly amazed at his ability to keep it together inside like he has. His spirit is tested often, daily and even minute by minute, but his heart is still so kind and gentle that even the other inmates tell him he's like a fish out of water in jail. He just doesn't belong there, his life is not one that should have lead him to three years in Jail, but with drugs... none of that matters. With drugs controlling you, it doesn't matter if you went to church every Sunday, it doesn't matter if you are a Christian, it doesn't matter that you even went on a mission trip to Brazil, never mind that you played in the youth praise band. Sure you look like you don't fit in, but with drugs in your life, prison or dead is where you will end up every time. Satan's best tool of destruction I believe is substance abuse and dependency. He's destroyed many lives with drugs, but thank God, through the power of Christ as our Lord, His spirit can and does overcome any and all obstacles that Satan throws our way. We have POWER! We have VICTORY! Because... We have JESUS! So set backs like this one my son is going through are only temporary and even this time alone, locked up away from loved ones and friends, can still be meaningful if kept in perspective.

I just wanted say to my son Eric, "Well Done Son, well done."

You may wonder what it is that leads me to say... "Well Done." It's not just that Eric has managed to stay friendly and kind even in a jail cell with 12 other inmates together in a room the size of your living room. Room enough for 6 bunk beds to fit and with 12 men in there bumping around into each other, well you can imagine what it must be like. Keep in mind as well, that the guys your spending time with have a history in most cases of a criminal background. Men that in most cases have a history of breaking the rules and of disobedience. It not a good mix!

I believe that this time in jail has been good for one thing, it's helped Eric to realize what's important in his life. It's easy... to easy to take what we have for granted. Time with family, hugs, kisses, music, walking outdoors, good food, think about anything you like and then think about it being gone... you almost can't remember what it was like after a long enough period of time. Eric says you just become numb and you eventually become consumed with what little routine you can develop inside. You begin to forget about what it must be like to sleep on a soft bed. What it must be like to be able to lay your head on a pillow again. To sit on a soft couch, or to listen to music again. You forget what real food taste like or even smells like. To be able to touch someone, to hug someone. It's very easy to become bitter and lose hope. But my son hasn't given up, he's stayed strong, and he's always lifting my spirits when we visit by phone once in a while.

Eric has topped all of the gifts this year. As I look at our Christmas tree with all the gifts under it, I realize that none of the presents are worth near as much as the gift's Eric got us this year. You see in jail, you have no tools or supplies to make gifts, you don't have access to buy gifts, usually a nice letter is about all you would expect from a loved one in jail at Christmas time. But not this year. Eric has been planning Christmas for his family for many months. He created a 7 days of Christmas theme for his future wife Marcie. He has sent her a series of letters that she can only open as she counts down each of the 7 days prior to Christmas. Each letter has special things that he's written her that have special meaning to him and her together. Each letter contains a gift as well. These gifts have taken months to create with limited supplies. Baby shoes that you can hang from your review mirror, all made out of playing cards (you have to see to believe) A Dream Catcher that you can hang in you bedroom all made out of bags and wrappers and thread torn from a shirt, (again you would have to see to believe) He's traded food for a special gift, a drawing, that he wanted to give Marcie of a beautiful Rose with her name on it. (he can't draw so he had to pay someone else to make it for him) But he sacrificed so he could give it to her for Christmas. He made a doll for Halle that is absolutely magnificent! It's made out of a white sock and it's been stuffed with t-shirt and her dress was sewn out of a bed sheet. He made the thread from ripping apart a sheet and pulling the fabric apart to get thread to sew with. He used a tooth of a comb as a needle to sew with. The doll is wonderful. On our last day of visitation before Christmas (this last Friday) Eric gave the doll he had made to one of the guards and he brought it out and gave it to me to give to Marcie. As they sat there in the monitor room talking over the phone, Marcie gave the doll to Halle, and her eyes lit up and she hugged on that doll like I've never seen her hug before. She layed the doll up against her cheek and gave that doll all the lovin she could. She loved it! Eric broke down, as did we all. It was special moment for Eric, Marcie and Halle. It was the Christmas presents of all Christmas presents!

Today I'm sitting here looking at our Christmas tree with the gifts and I think about all the money we've spent on gifts this year... and none of those gifts under the tree compare to ones he's given Marcie and his daughter Halle.

Now you see why I say... Well Done Son, well done!

I love you so much, you make me so proud. Thank you for reminding me of what true love is all about. What a gift you've given us this year. Thank you!

Dad

Friday, December 21, 2007

Have you opened this Gift?

The Christmas season is a special time for all of us. It's special for the children as they dream of Santa and his sleigh traveling from house to house delivering gifts and eating our cookies and milk we leave out for him. As they fall asleep they think about whether they've been naughty or nice and this year by golly, "I'm going to stay awake long enough to see Santa." But it seems we never make it. The next thing you know it's time to wake up and go see what Santa brought us. Can you remember the excitement of running into the living room with the anticipation of seeing if Santa brought you what you had asked for? What a time of year this is for the children!

For the adults, Christmas is many things! It's a time to be together as a family, it's a time to give gifts and presents to your friends and loved ones. It's a wonderful time of great food, snacks, treats, and candy! For those of us that know Jesus, it's especially meaningful. It's a time to reflect on the ultimate gift of all at Christmas time. The birth of Jesus Christ! God's gift to us was his Son Jesus. The bible says he is a gift for all people. The gift is... he's a Savior!

Luke 2:10-11
(10)Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
(11)"For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

Wow! What a gift for all mankind. We as a people are born into sin, but Jesus was born to save us from this sin. A Savior named Jesus Christ! God gave us a wonderful gift... the gift of eternal life. Now who can top that? Of course the answer is... No one.

As I was listing the things that Christmas is to the adults, I failed to mention that it's also a time of hectic schedules, busy busy work loads. Church activities and shopping until we drop. We become more aware of the folks that are hurting, homeless, and living without. We grieve more this time of year as we miss those that have passed on and maybe this is the first holiday season without them in our midst. We get ourselves into financial trouble if we're not careful because of all the gifts we feel we have to buy for each other. We decorate, we cook, we shop, we hurry, and hurry, and hurry... until we finally get to the day of Christmas and we simply collapse from exhaustion! You know this is the way it is for many of us. The good news however is that through all of this business and all those gifts and presents, the Gift of God's Son is the only thing that matters. All the other is nothing without Christ. Christmas without Christ is just another holiday, but for those of us that believe in the truth of Christ, well, it's everything to us. Where we spend the rest of our life depends on whether we've opened the greatest gift of all on Christmas. The gift of God's Son... Jesus!

My prayer for you this Christmas, is that you open the only gift that matters, the only gift that lasts forever, the only gift of eternal value. Give your heart and Life to Jesus and accept this free gift of Salvation today. You don't even have to wait till Christmas to receive this gift. It's Christmas all year round!

May God bless you this Christmas. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Steve

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Prayers of the brokenhearted

Sometimes I have to remember that the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous. Not that I'm righteous in all my actions but that I've been made righteous through Christ. Christ died and his blood has cleansed me, made me right with God. Because of this righteousness, I can trust in the scriptures that tell me that God is with me, He hears my prayers and He's attentive to my cry.

Why is this important to me? Because I, like you, tend to get weighed down with burdens and troubles that come my way. When I'm worn out, when I'm feeling the heavy weight of burdens that crush my spirit, God knows what I need. He hears my cry's and He will deliver me from my troubles. Isn't that good news?

Psalm 34:15-18 says...
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

So take comfort in your times of trouble. Have the peace that can only come from knowing that God is with you always. He hears your crying. He knows the pain you are going through and he promises to deliver you from this affliction. It's tough to stay the course and keep step in our faith, but as those times of weakness overcome us, we can know that a crushed spirit or a broken heart can be restored by the Lord.

I think it's important to remember this one important note... This verse says "the righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them." I reminded of when Peter was told to walk out on the water to Jesus... Peter took off and started walking on the water, but as he walked he became afraid. The violent storm around him, the waves and the wind, all had an affect on him. He became afraid and this took his eyes off of the Lord and he began to sink. He suddenly cried out... Jesus, save me! Then Jesus reaches out with his hand and grabs hold of him and lifts him up so he is no longer sinking.
You see it's important to always realize that we must cry out! Forget your pride, forget about the mess you got yourself into, just know that when you cry out for help, that's when you get it! I often wonder if Jesus would have just let Peter sink and swim if he hadn't cried out to Jesus to save him? Sometimes I wonder if that's why I struggle so often? Maybe, just maybe, I'm not crying out for the Lord to help me. Sure, I'm broken hearted, sure I know Jesus can deliver me from my troubles, but have I really cried out. After reading these verses I know the Lord is close, he's waiting for me to cry out, so he can deliver me.

Whens the last time you cried out to the Lord? I believe when we get to the point of crying out, well, we've finally given up on our own abilities and our own strengths and finally surrender ourselves over to his will. When we submit our selves and cry out, this is when the Lord grabs hold of us and lifts us out of the storm we are in. What an awesome God we serve! May we always be mindful of his help in our time of trouble and then remember to cry out to the Lord to deliver us.

Psalm 50:15
Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hurry up and wait!

This phrase, "Hurry up and wait" comes form my days in the military. When I was serving in the Army it seemed that everywhere we would go, we would be in this tremendous hurry. It was like, hurry, hurry, hurry, and we have to get to the motor pool and load up our equipment because we're headed to the field for an exercise. So we'd all be on high alert and run to the motor pool with all of our gear and in record time we would load up our equipment and be ready to roll out as soon as we got the order. Then we'd wait. We'd wait some more. We talk to the Captain to see if he's received the order to dispatch, but nothing yet. We'd wait and wait and wait. After hours of waiting we'd finally get the order to move out, then off we'd go to our destination. We'd be in a hurry as we convoyed there. Seems we just couldn't get there soon enough. Then when we got to our destination in the field (the woods), we'd wait and wait some more for the order to be given to set up camp. I tell this little story because we had this saying, "Hurry up and wait," because that's what we did all the time.

Have you ever been in a hurry up and wait situation? It can be frustrating. You have momentum, everything is moving along quickly and then the next thing you know, nothings happening.

This little story reminds me of times when we have to wait on God. Not that we're in such a hurry, but sometimes we are wishing that something we have prayed for would happen and it seems that God has forgotten about us. We begin to doubt if our prayer will ever be answered. Or sometimes our life is moving right along then wham... things go on hold for what seems like forever! There probably isn't anything harder to do than to wait, whether we are expecting something good, something bad, or an unknown. We can begin to get frustrated and impatient, but I think we have to think about this possibility.... this may just be a part of God's plan for us! Think about Sarah the next time your life is on hold.

One way we will often try to cope with waiting is to begin helping God out with his plan and start getting it into action. Sarah tried this approach. Sarah's story is told beginning in Genesis 11:29 and for the next several chapters thereafter. You see, Sarah was too old to expect to have children of her own, so she thought God must have something else in mind. From Sarah's limited understanding this could only mean to give Abraham a son through another woman... a common practice in her day. The plan seemed harmless enough, Abraham would sleep with Sarah's maidservant, who would then give birth to a child. Sarah would then take the child as her own. The plan worked great... at first. But as you read the events that followed, you will see how often Sarah must have regretted the day she made the decision to push God's timetable ahead.

Another way we might cope with waiting is to gradually conclude that what we are waiting for is not ever going to happen. We begin to think, we've been forgotten, we begin to doubt God's plan for us, we begin to lose faith and we give up on the dream we once had. Think about Sarah again here! She had to wait 90 years for a baby! When God told her she would finally have one of her own, she laughed! She wasn't laughing so much as a lack of faith in what God could do, but from doubt of what He could do through her! When confronted about her laughter, she lied... as she had seen her husband do from time to time. She probably didn't want her true feelings to be known.

Sarah's example of having to wait and her ways of coping can be lessons for us as well. We have to trust God. Trust that he will provide and do what He says he will do. When we lean on His promises that we read about in His word... we must be patient and wait on the Lord to fulfill his promises. When we sense the leading of the holy spirit in our service, but we see no fruit from our labor... we must remain faithful as we wait. When we seem to Hurry up and then suddenly find ourselves waiting once again, and not knowing which way to turn or which way to go. Just wait, simply wait, and the Lord will eventually let you know what to do. It may just be a test of your patience and of your faithfulness.

Hebrews 11:11
"By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised."

Prayer; Dear Lord Jesus, please give me the strength, give me the faith I need to wait and know that in Your time your will be done. May I always be busy digging into your word as I'm waiting on a particular part of my life to move ahead. May I always be mindful that you'll never leave me or forsake me... ever! Thank you Lord Jesus! Amen.

picture provided by... http://www.christianphotos.net/

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The greatest gift

1 Corinthians 13:2-4

2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.


Of all the spiritual gifts that God's offers or supplies, they produce very little if they are not acted out with love. God's love is an outward expression to others not inwardly directed to ourselves. God gives us the greatest gift of all, His love. This love when used with His spiritual gifts can accomplish much. Like the verses above tell us, we can have faith that can move mountains but what good is it without love. We can have the gift of prophesy and can understand the meaning of all mysteries, but we're really nothing without God's love pouring through us.
This love God speaks of is for everyone of His children. It's a gift to all, and the greatest gift of all. It's what make the spiritual gifts He gives us useful. Although we all have different gifts, love is available to everyone!

Our greatest challenge is to give love while expecting none in return. I guess the more we become like Christ the more we will show love to others. God's love is patient, it's kind, but it also doesn't envy or boast, it is not proud.

I know in my own life... when I'm wronged or hurt by others, my natural tendency is to hate, to be angry, to become impatient with that person. That's a natural desire that we have. I call it self preservation. But God's love is one of sacrifice, forgiveness, and humility. I know that if I am to be used of God for His will I must allow His love to be expressed through me to others. Not only when it's easy, but especially when it's hard, difficult and seemingly wrong to do so.
The next time I ask myself why should I be nice, why should I forgive, why should I not be upset or angry with this person? I hope that I'm reminded that God loved me enough to sacrifice his Son for me, a sinner, a selfish sinner! That's the power of His love for us, that's the kind of love we have within us as well. If only we'd show it. If only we'd live it!

1 Corinthians 13:13
13And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Merry Christmas from Halle

Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas from Halle!

This Christmas is soooo special for us, because this Christmas we have a new granddaughter to share it with. When the tree went up, I was taken back to a time when my own kids were little and how they looked at wonder at all the light's, sounds, and the decorations of Christmas. The first day we put up the tree and decorations she just sat in the room awaking from a nap and she was in awe as she turned her head and discovered a new decoration or light that caught her attention. She would say, ahhhhh, and ooooohh as she would see something new. It was as if she was in a brand new wonderful world where everything was pretty and new and really really cool. After she took in all the sights, it was time to go see what all this neat stuff feels like, she had to explore, she had to touch it and yes, even taste it. She was like a kid in a candy store and couldn't wait to explore it all.
Imagine we'll be like that when we get to heaven? I'm sure we will. I imagine I'll probably sit down right there in the middle of heaven and I'll probably say, aaaahhhh, and ooohhh, as I look around in amazement at what the Lord has done for me. What an awesome God we serve that He would prepare such a place for us! We'll most likely be like a child at Christmas time, in Awe!

Thank you God for sending us your Son Jesus, may we all show our thanks and our praise to our Lord and Savior this Christmas season. The birth of Jesus, the way that it was, was one of a kind. Birth from a virgin. His death was also one of a kind, a sacrifice for all so that God can spend eternity with us. May we each recognize our need for a Savior, may we realize that this wonderful place called Heaven is only prepared for those that have Jesus Christ as their Lord. This Christmas, celebrate the birth of Jesus, and have a wonderful time with the little loved ones like your children and grandchildren. They see the world as it is, wonderful and really really cool, may we too see the world through a child's eyes. With Jesus as our Lord we can!

Merry Christmas!
Steve

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The path of least resistence


When I think of the word integrity, I think of the title statement of this post. "The Path of the Least Resistance." Now why would I think of this phrase? Doesn't this phrase describe the opposite of Integrity? Well yes it does. But that's what I think of when I think of Integrity because so often people choose the path of the least resistance rather than maintaining high integrity. Integrity is always challenged. Integrity is always at risk. Usually our integrity is challenged when we face choices. Do we go this way or that? Do we do what's right, or do we compromise? A persons integrity defines his or her character. A person with high integrity is trustworthy, they are always honest, they can be depended upon to do what they say and follow through. A person with integrity doesn't seek gain at others expense. They merit themselves on their own weight, their own effort.

I wanted to study this word integrity and see what high integrity looks like at work, because so many of us are engaged in the work place and we can relate to these issues. Often even when we think we have high integrity, we can be surprised to see that maintaining integrity is not easy, and even more so when pressure comes. Whatever pressure is being applied will almost always takes the path of least resistance. Integrity however, goes against this. When pressure is applied, people with integrity do what's right even though it's going to be tough to do so. When the pressure comes to cheat, people with integrity take a stand and pass, taking the path of hard work and study to accomplish their desired result. Many times people with integrity stand out because they are going a way that others don't. They don't take the path of least resistance if it doesn't marry up with their core values and beliefs.

I guess that's the key isn't it? Values and beliefs! How we act is determined from our value system and our beliefs. Respect for others, honesty, self control, humility, compassion all are values that are taught and learned. Let's look at how our integrity can be challenged at work.



  • Calling in sick... are you really? Could you have gone in today, or did you just not feel like it?

  • Did you pay for that pen, that note pad, that supply, or did you take it from work and now your using it at home.

  • Are you working the hours that you say you are?

  • Are you taking longer breaks than allowed?

  • Are you cheating with your time in some way to pad your paycheck?

  • Do you take your own test?

  • Do you do you own work?

  • Do you take credit for what others do to get the recognition?

  • Do you admit your mistakes even when the Boss is going to be mad when they find out?

  • What about your meal and travel expenses, are they accurate?

  • Do you give it your best while at work, or do you look for ways to sluff off?

  • Are you committed?

  • Do you talk about people behind their back?

  • Do you participate in gossip around the water cooler or in the break room?

  • Do you take shortcuts in policies or procedures to save time?

  • Do you say you did something when you really didn't just to get off the report?

These of course are not an all inclusive list of things that challenge us to go against our integrity. You can probably think of many more. But you get the point. Even when I think my integrity is good, I'm reminded that it's can always be better. Our integrity is something that we must constantly be working on. It's a lifestyle, it's a way of life. It should be something we honor and uphold even when no one else is looking or sees what we do. It's a behavior that defines who we are.


I'll leave you with a few verses that define integrity and what God says about this issue of integrity. For our integrity to be all that God expects it to be, we need to be aware of and living according to His word. We need to ask God to give us the strength to always remain high in integrity. God's promise is a life of blessings if we keep our integrity pure.


Proverbs 12:22 The Lord detests lying lips, but delights in men who are truthful.


1 Timothy 5:14 Give the enemy no opportunity for slander.


Genesis 18:19 Keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.


Romans 14:22 Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.


Proverbs 11:1 The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.


Proverbs 21:3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.


Acts 24:16 I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.


Philippians 4:8 Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.


The biblical example of integrity points to consistency between our belief and our behavior. Consistency between our words and our actions. Consistency between our values and our practice. We need to let our integrity show in what we do every day. We need to seek God's ability to have integrity in all situations that we face.


Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the example of integrity you gave us through your Son Jesus. Thank you for the direction and commandments that you give us in your word. We are without excuse to have high integrity if we have made you our Lord. Help us to be obedient and allow Your Holy Spirit to choose for us the right way, the right path when faced with choices that can hurt our integrity. We ask this all in the precious name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

photo provided by http://www.christianphotos.net/

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Making decisions... it's tough sometimes

Making a decision is often very hard. Some decisions it seems are very easy to make, while others, we lose sleep over trying to figure out what it is we're supposed to do. The decisions that are the most difficult are the ones that change the course of our lives in one way or another. Things like house moves, or career changes or family changes like marriage or divorce can consume our every thought. What do I do? We play out the consequences of each decision and run them through our minds in anticipation of what obstacles we'll face if we make this decision or that decision. Sleep escapes us, we become tired and exhausted with it all, and if we're not careful we'll fall in our weakness and fail to act at all. We'll fail to make any decision, avoiding the point where we get started, and begin moving forward with what has to be done. I don't know what decision you are facing, but I know that God does. The worst decision we can make is the decision that we fail to allow God to direct. Especially when were talking about the kind of decisions that change our lives in such a big way. God must be in the center of that decision, or he will be in the center of it later when your calling on him to help you out of the poor decision you've made. So no matter what decision it is you face... Seek God's direction and guidance before you decide! The best solution, when we don't know what to do next, is to pray and dig into God's word and be sensitive to His leading. He'll choose a path for you, but will you recognize it?

Here are some verses of scripture that you can meditate over when faced with making decisions. I hope they help.

1 John 5:14
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything to his will, he hears us.

Proverbs 18:15
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.

James 1:5-6
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Proverbs 15:14
The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

Proverbs 18:13
He who answers before listening - that is his folly and his shame.

Just remember it's crucial to make wise decisions, but no decision is wise if it's made independently of God. All wisdom comes from God. Using His wisdom is developed and as we use His wisdom with even the small, seemingly insignificant decisions in our lives, when the big decisions to be made come, we'll be sensitive and aware of God's leading and His wisdom. We may be better prepared to see the right path before us, when we have several to choose from.

Prayer... "Dear heavenly Father, as I seek to make decisions in my own life, may I go the way you want me to, may I always seek your will first before my own. Please lord make my path straight and clear so I'll know the way, and then trust you when I go that way. Thank you Lord for never leaving me or forsaking me as I journey through life, making decisions along the way. It's in Jesus name I pray, Amen."

photo provided by http://www.christianphotos.net/

Monday, November 26, 2007

Homeless... the shattered dream.


Today's passage of scripture...

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I've often thought about the homeless man I met the other day. I've seen him from time to time around town and I'll think about him of course as I sit in the comfort and warmth of my own home late in the evening. I wonder if he's ok, is he warm enough, has he eaten today? Those thoughts go through my mind. I wonder what it must be like to be homeless and how frustrating that would be. I'm sure everyone has goals and dreams and longs to be successful in their life, and being homeless is most likely not one of those dreams or goals. I guess it just happens sometimes. A series of unfortunate events and there you are. It can happen to anyone I suppose. One things for sure in my own life, things did not go as I had planned or dreamed they ever would. In some areas of my life I've been blessed beyond measure. My career, my parents and sisters, my wife and children, also my health, there's so much to be thankful for and I've never dreamed that these blessings would be so wonderful as they are. Yet there are other events in my life that have caused such pain and suffering and I would have never dreamed or imagined that I would be going through. For instance my sons addition to drugs and the serious consequences of this and the pain this has caused not only himself but the whole family as well. I've watched it drain the excitement of life right out of my wife, not only her but with me as well. We had such dreams for our children. We both praise the Lord for our youngest son and the decisions he's made in his life. What a responsible young man he has become, but with our oldest son the plans or dreams we had for him were shattered due to choices and events that we didn't expect. I Never saw it coming either. It just happened, or at least that's how it seemed. Of course there were a series of events that took place over a period of time but the reality of it is what hits you hard. As your working through it, you think maybe you'll get a handle on it, but then you realize that you can't. It's too deep, too far gone now. There's no going back, only moving forward and pressing on through the mess before us. It's hard and difficult and the tendency is to think back, to return to the dream, but all that does is remind you that it didn't happen the way you had hoped and you go through the hurt all over again. I think it's best to move on, plan new dreams and goal from where you are today. The old ones are gone, but new ones exist. You just have to push past and through the crushed ones laying in your way. These crushed dreams seem to block your view from the new ones, or at least for a while they do. I guess it's because of the morning and sorrow we go through and that takes time to heal.

Back to Jerry, the homeless man I met the other day. I don't know what series of events caused this man to be alone and homeless, but whatever changed his hopes and dreams, I hope he finds the strength to create new ones. I guess that's the biggest obstacle we face in life isn't it? Realizing that this life is not what it's cracked up to be, but it's still a wonderful life just the same. We have to learn to take the expected, with the unexpected. We have to take the joys with the sorrows, we have to take the successes with the failures. At the very least, with Christ, this present life is not all there is for you. The bad things that happen along your journey is only temporary and the end result of a soul that belongs to Jesus, is one of eternal joy and happiness. Our soul lives on in a new body and new home.

This brings me back to subject of being homeless. How do we define homeless? The Webster's Dictionary defines the word homeless this way... 1. Without Home ( a homeless child), 2. the homeless, persons who lack permanent housing.

Our society would label Jerry, homeless. He doesn't have a permanent dwelling place, a place he can call home. But in God's kingdom, who are the homeless? Sure during this time, this current day, Jerry may be homeless by the worlds standards, but by God's standards, if Jerry has recognized that he's a sinner in need of a Savior and he's allowed Jesus Christ to be his Lord, then he's not homeless anymore is he? If the definition is... "a person that lacks permanent housing," then that would be describing those that do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I wonder how many people have drove by and have seen this man on the street and think to themselves, "that poor homeless man," not even realizing that they too are homeless in a more permanent way if they do not know Jesus.

I believe that God will provide for Jerry as a follower of Christ, if not in his earthly tent, then for sure in his heavenly body. But I know that God will not provide for the homeless (those without an eternal home) on the day of judgement. The bible makes that very clear. My hope is that if you find yourself in a situation that you never dreamed you would be facing, that you understand and know that with Christ in your life, it's only temporary. Whatever the challenge, whatever the difficulties, with Christ you'll have victory one day. And if you don't know Christ and your life is going great, your day of shattered dreams is coming. If not here, then in eternity's future. May God allow you to see the truth of this message. May God bless you and may all your dreams come true.

2 Corinthians 5:1-5

1Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.


Steve

photo provided by http://www.christianphotos.net/

Friday, November 23, 2007

Here we go again!

"Is that a Christmas tree or a Holiday tree?" I was asked by a man standing beside the tree we had just displayed in my store for the Christmas season. I said, "It's a Christmas tree!" and then I waited for the response...

My thought was, "Here we go again!" Every year at Christmas time, at least for the last three or four years anyway, people seem to really be consumed by the discussion of what is the correct name for this tree. Those that want to call it a Christmas tree are leaning more towards the name of Christ and simply do not want to have the name of Christ in any way shape or form removed from the Christmas season. Those that want the tree to be called a Holiday tree do not in any way form or fashion want to have anything to do with Christ and so they want the Christmas tree to be called a Holiday tree so they don't have to use the name of Christ in this holiday. So it becomes a battle of political correctness. And the fight begins and the retailers are caught in the middle.

Call it a Christmas tree and you offend someone, yet if you call it a holiday tree you still offend someone. I've never really understood all this craziness about the Christmas Tree. It doesn't stop there however. The same complaints come if we answer our phones Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas.

The issue as I see it this. We as a society just love to fight. And if you are a Christian, well, we can feel good about taking a stand for Christ in something as silly as a Christmas tree. It's safe and all the other Christians are on board so why not join in. "I won't shop this retailer or that retailer if they call their tree a holiday tree rather than a Christmas tree!" This makes us feel like were doing our Godly duty in some way, yet we never open our bibles for quiet time all year long. We rarely pray or even go to church, but here we take a stand to show our Christianity through a Christmas tree?
Or take those that do not want to call it a Christmas tree, they want to change things, they don't believe that they or anyone else should have to call their tree a Christmas tree, so they fight against the ones that do call it a Christmas tree, saying were forcing religion on them in some way.

This year however, I must admit, the customers don't seem to be as silly with this issue as they were last year. So why is that? Is the issue they took a stand on last year not as important this year? I venture to say that maybe, just maybe, it's simply old news! I do believe the media drives much of this and other special interest groups drive the media. So I guess this is all about agenda rather than whether we're really taking Christ out of Christmas when we say Happy Holidays. I've said Happy Holidays many times and never the thought of taking Christ out of Christmas has ever crossed my mind. For me Christmas is many things... It's a holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ, it's a wonderful time of being with family and exchanging gifts, it's a time when little children fantasize about Santa and his reindeer paying them a visit in the middle of the night, it's a special time of great deserts, candy, and food! It's a day off work! It's many things to many people. The truth is, the way we celebrate says a lot about our convictions for this holiday. It's not about saying the words Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, it's not about putting up a Christmas tree or a holiday tree, it's about what you believe in your heart.

As for me... I celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior on Christmas. I praise him and thank him for his love, mercy, and grace. Then as a retailer, a dad, and a grandpa, I celebrate the fun of Christmas with special gifts, good times together with family and friends, and yes even bake a few cookies for Santa then my granddaughter and I will set them out and get all excited about the magic of our wonderful imagination and dreams. (I don't know of one single adult that really believes there is a Santa, I think we grow up and realize that it's all for fun, don't we?) I won't even talk about the Tooth fairy.

Anyway, Like I said before, "Here we go again!"... Tis the Season.

My prayer for you is this... May God bless you and keep you all safe this year during this Holid... Christmas season. My prayer is that you have fun, relax, and trust that if you know the Lord as your Savior, you have eternal life in Christ! Take joy in that and have fun this Christmas! Share the love of Christ with others through acts of kindness rather than arguing over what we call call our Christmas tree this year.

Merry Christmas!


picture provided by ... freepixels.com

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving


I was sitting here thinking of what I was thankful for and I thought I'd list a few things that I'm thankful for. When you sit down and think, it's amazing how blessed we are, isn't it?



  • I'm thankful for my loving wife. The way she always makes me laugh and the time we share together. She knows my struggles and my weaknesses but she loves me anyway.

  • I'm thankful for both my sons. Eric and Ryan, I'm thankful that both of them have given their lives to Christ and even though both are not in church right now (reminds me of myself when I was their age) I know that they have the Holy Spirit living inside them and one day they will come to the point that they turn back to God and live their lives for Him. I'm thankful that God never leaves us or forsakes us and He's a God of second chances... and more.

  • I'm thankful for my Mom and Dad and the examples they gave me growing up. How to treat each other with respect and love. They were great models for me to imitate and copy as I got older. The way my Dad treated my Mother was a wonderful example for me. I'm thankful for the lessons they taught me to shape into the person I am today.

  • I'm thankful for my loving sisters and their families. I don't tell them very often at all, but I love them both dearly and miss them so much because we live so far apart. But I have the best sisters anyone could ever have.

  • I'm thankful for my friends that God has placed in my life. It's amazing how they change over the years, but they're always there for me and my family. It's hard to live without good friends and I'm thankful for them.

  • I'm thankful for my job, my career. How often we think work is a burden, when it's the very thing that sustains our livelihood. How often we take it for granted. How often we complain, but how thankful I am that I have it. God has blessed me with this job and I ask for forgiveness when I forget that. And too often I do forget!

  • I'm thankful for my Church family. My Pastor and the staff at our church. The body of believers that I've had the fortunate opportunity to fellowship with. I'm thankful for their prayers and their love they have shown me and my family.

  • I'm thankful that I have a home, and I have a car, and I have food to eat every day.

  • I'm thankful that I'm fairly healthy.

  • I'm thankful that I have a Lord that loves me so much that he gave his life for me and anyone one else that believes. Thank you Lord Jesus!

  • I'm thankful that God had allowed me to enjoy music so much and the friends I've made through music. What a blessing music has been in my life!

  • I'm thankful that God delivers us through difficult times and trials. The trials I've faced lately would be too enormous to handle without Christ's Love. I'm thankful that he's walked with me through these storms in my life. I'm so thankful for that.

  • I'm thankful for eternal life!

  • I could go on and on.... the air I breathe, the sunlight, the rain, the breeze, the mountains and the trees and the lakes and the grass! I'm thankful for my pets, and the unconditional love they always give me. I'm thankful for my sight, my hearing, my ability to walk or run! I'm thankful that I'm alive another day and that God has a purpose for me. I'm thankful for many things and everything.

Thanksgiving, a time to reflect on the things we are thankful for in our lives. I realize I don't thank the Lord enough. It's so easy to ask for things, to request this or that, to pray for healing to pray for a special need, but to just say thank you, seems to put this all into perspective. It's when we say thanks, we realize we have rather than what we don't have. I know so often I focus on what I think I need rather than what I've already been blessed with.


Thank you Lord, for allowing me to be reminded of how greatly blessed I truly am. Thank you Lord Jesus, thank you, thank you, thank you!


May God bless you as you too give him thanks this Thanksgiving Holiday.


Steve

Friday, November 16, 2007

Homeless

I have a short story to tell you about a homeless man that I met today.

Today was just like any other day. Hectic as usual, constantly running from one issue to the next and one meeting to the next. All day today there was no down time... constant running. You'd think that with my mind racing in so many different directions and trying to stay focused on what needed to be done that I'd run right past whatever God would want me to do today, but that's not what happened.

After visiting with my son, my wife had shared with me that she wasn't hungry and she suggested that I stop and pick up something to eat on my way back home (we had drove separately), so I decided on Chinese food. On my way to the restaurant, I noticed a man on the side of the road. I've seen him a few times before and have always wondered about him. Is he homeless? Is he doing ok? Is he hungry? Who is he? But in the past as I'd drive by I'd just forget about him after I went past him. It's sad to say but it was like "out of site" "out of mind." But his time was different! Maybe it was the fact that the weather was so bitter cold and the sun was setting and he had his hands in his pants pockets trying to keep warm? Maybe it was the way he was trying to shield himself from the wind against the retaining wall on the side of the road? I don't know what it was, but this time I felt lead to do something. It wasn't clear as to what at this time, but I knew I had to stop and see him. So I go through the intersection and turn and park in a nearby parking lot and wonder what is it I'm to do now. I prayed for God to make it clear to me so I'd know what am I supposed to do. Thoughts raced through my head while I'm praying. I'm thinking... "Lord please don't ask me to invite him home if I find out he's homeless. Is this what you want me to do?" No, I didn't feel that this was what I was supposed to do. Suddenly I look down in the seat of my truck at my nice warm Dickie's barn coat with the wonderful wool lining inside, yes, my most favorite coat! I shake my head because I know what has to be done. The coat was a gift from my father in law a couple of years past. I'd always wanted a coat like that and when he heard this he bought it for me for my birthday. So it was a special gift that I really loved and enjoyed. But you know what... I'm not out on the street freezing right now either. I have a family, I have a roof over my head, I get to eat more than I should every day. So it didn't take but a few seconds to know that this coat now belonged to this man on the street. I put the coat on and I walk through the parking lot and began to approach the man on the sidewalk.

He sees me coming, and he appears nervous. I can tell he doesn't like being approached by people and as I near him his eyes dart around looking at the street then again at me and back to his left then back at me until I finally say, "Hi, how are you?" No answer, he's quiet and looking away from me. I can see this is making him uncomfortable, I think he's wishing I would just leave him alone. I ask him his name and he quickly says, "Jerry."

I tell him, "I just saw you here as I drove by and , well, I've seen you here a few times before. Do you have a place to stay?" He glanced at me and shook his head no. Then he said no. I then ask him if he's warm enough. He immediately says, "Yes, I'm fine." I explain that I just wanted to make sure that he was warm enough and I wanted to know if he needed a coat to keep warm. (he was wearing a couple of layers of shirts and what looked like a jacket liner and that was all he had on, it didn't look too warm.) So I ask him if he needed a coat. He looked at me now and he said, "Well I really could use a coat, what I have on isn't very warm." I said, "Well I'd like to give you this coat if you want it." (I showed him the coat I was wearing) He seemed to light up a little and he said he would like the coat. I asked him if he wore an extra large and he said yes. I said, "Here, I want you to have this coat" and I took it off and he took it and put it right on and it fit him perfect. He was so appreciative and he thanked me over and over. I glanced in his shopping buggy and all he had in the buggy was a couple of black trash bags. Who knows what he had inside those bags, a few clothes maybe and some important items that he valued, but laying on top of one of the black plastic bags was a bible that was opened up that he was reading before I walked up upon him. This bible wasn't in plain sight, I would not have seen it if I was not standing right there over his buggy, but there it was laying opened up and I remember as I drove by him he was staring down into his buggy and this must have been what he was reading. All I could think about was how amazing this was, here's a homeless man reading his bible on the street and suddenly some guy he doesn't know comes up and offers him a nice warm coat.

Well I simply say God bless you as we shake hands and he thanks me again as I walk off. As I walk back to the truck, I'm very chilled on the outside (it's getting cold) but my heart is warm on the inside. I thank God for the opportunity he gave me to help this man.

Well I quickly head on down the road towards the Chinese restaurant to order my food and as I'm waiting at the counter I start thing about this man again. Well you guessed it! I'm now wondering, "when's the last time this man has eaten anything?" "Is he hungry?" You know there's no way I'm going to order my food now and let this man go hungry. "But maybe he's eaten already," I think, "yes but maybe not and maybe the food I get him is the only food he gets all day." "What should I do?" The server behind the counter asked me, "How can I help you." and I blurt out without even a thought, "Yes I'll take two of those to go please." It's funny how that got settled so quickly. I guess that God thought I'd stand there forever and try and figure out what I should do, so he just decided to cut to the chase. It made me chuckle, it was if I had no control over what I ordered, by golly, this man's getting a meal weather I'm willing or not! After I paid I started thinking, well this order is going to take about 10-15 minutes to prepare, I better drive down the road and see if he's still there, here I am ordering this food and for all I know he may be gone already. So I take off and sure enough the man is not where I left him... he's moved.

I look way down the street past the next intersection and there he is and he's walking down the sidewalk. So I drive and park down the road and watch him as he keeps on walking down the sidewalk. I figure I'll keep an eye on him for about 10 minutes or so then hurry back to the restaurant, pick up the order, and quickly head back to where I saw him last. He shouldn't be able to get far and I should be able to find him and then give him his meal.
"It's time," 10 minutes are up and I see he's headed down the street and unless he gets off this street I can determine where he would be by the time I get back. So I hurry away.

I run into the restaurant and you won't believe what happens next. A lady behind the counter see's me and suddenly there's this shocked look on her face. She quickly apologizes and says, "I'm so sorry, we forgot your order! I'll start on it right a way, again I'm so sorry." I just sat down and thought to myself, "You've got to be kidding, there's no telling where this man will be by the time I get my order now." So I sat there and watched each minute tick by, one by one the minutes ticked by. Finally, I surrendered. I realized that this whole thing was now out of my hands. I simply sighed and said a prayer and I told God that if he wanted this man to eat this food then I was going to trust that he will lead me to him so I can give it to him. If I can't find him, then maybe my wife will eat it. I finally relax and just waited. The order took 20 minutes to make, unusually long because they were so busy at the time. Well I finally get the order and I head down the road.
I see no one walking on the sidewalk and now it's almost dark and difficult to see very far down the road. I again pray, "Lord if you want this man to eat this food, please Lord, lead me to him." I drive and drive and keep driving and just as I figure he must have taken another street, I see a glimpse of this man wearing a light tan colored coat down an adjacent street. All I saw was the jacket in the distance because he was wearing all black clothes, and if he hadn't been wearing the light tan colored coat that I gave him, I would have never seen him way down that street in the dark.

I quickly turned down this road and stopped next to him and I got out and walked to him. Again he didn't like the idea of someone approaching him so to put him at ease I explained as I'm walking towards him that I had bought him some food and I just wanted to give him something to eat. He relaxed and I think it was then he recognized me from before. He said thank you so much. As I gave him the sack of Chinese food I told him I hoped he liked Chinese food and he said he did, I gave him a Pepsi to drink with his meal and he quickly tucked it all into one of his plastic trash sacks. He thanked me again and as I left I simply said God loves you, and he said God loves you too. We both went our separate ways and I don't know the next time I'll see him again. (I think I'll get some gloves and have them with me in the truck for our next encounter if this is God's will)

This I do know. It's amazing how God will provide isn't it? This man needed a warm coat and some food, God had planned to provide for this mans needs and he used me to execute his plan. Even as unsuspecting as I was, and as difficult as I made this whole thing... God provided. God's plan was accomplished.

This is just another reminder that God is in control, even when it appears that nothing is going right. This poor man doesn't know where his next meal is coming from, but I praise God that He does! This man doesn't know how he's going to survive this cold weather, but the Lord does! I thank God that He's in control and that He provides for our every need because he loves us so much.

I got to admit, the coat looked better on him than me anyways. God always knows best!

Your brother in Chirst!
Steve


photo provided by http://www.christianphotos.net/

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A compass that keeps you lost


There quite a bit of talk lately about the release of this new movie, "The Golden Compass," in December of this year. I've heard talk radio shows talking about it as I drive back and forth to work, also you can look up information all over the web about this movie and this author. I've posted a link to one of the web sites that I found that discusses this movie and what the true motive is behind the movie and it's disturbing to say the least if it's true.

I mention this because this looks to be something that definately speaks against God and the worse thing about it is that the audience that will be watching this movie will most likely be too young to make intellegent decisions about issue of Spirituality. There may be unsuspecting parents that will take their children to this movie and not realize what it's really about.

Search for yourself and make up your own mind about this movie. As for me, it's nothing I would want to expose my Grandaughter to in the future. I think we must be cautious and take care to protect our innocent children... decide for yourself.

http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/compass.asp

One Hundred


I'm amazed at how this little thing of writing has turned into such a great source of relaxation and enjoyment for me. As busy as I am I would never have dreamed that I would have had the opportunity to post 100 devotions or writings within my first year of blogging.

I remember last year in December a friend of mine from work told me about Blogging. Up till this moment I really hadn't thought much about blogging and didn't even know anything about it either, but after Scott Winslow explained to me how simple it was to set up a page and get started I thought I'd give it a try. I had enjoyed writing a few devotions in the past but never really had a venue to share with anyone what I wrote. I enjoyed writing and I've always felt lead to share the love of Christ to others in any means possible. I remember thinking in the beginning that if only one person reads something I've written and this in someway plays a small part in them giving their life to Jesus as their Lord and Savior, well then that alone is worth the time and effort to write. I remember thinking if only one person gets encouraged or uplifted and feels like they can go on, keep pressing on in their service, then it would all be worth it. I remember thinking if only one person could be helped in some way then that's enough. What I never counted on or expected were the blessings I've gotten over this last year. I'm often blessed with wonderful words of encouragement from my readers. Often I'm blessed either through comments left on the posts or even more so in person as I'm told that they are encouraged and blessed by what they have read. The real blessing and surprise for me however, was the quality of time I have been allowed to spend in bible study and thought. I've found that when I write about God's word, it comes alive for me as well. I spend more time in research and gaining understanding and wisdom than I ever have before. Before this year I was content to just read a few verses of scripture as often as I could and spend a little time with God alone in my quiet time, but now, I have a deeper relationship with Jesus more than I've ever had. I pray more, I study more, I meditate on his word more, I have learned more. I know that only a few people view my blog regularly, Occasionally someone will stumble upon it and read it and hopefully be encouraged but for the most part I know my blog is read by my friends and family. But you know what... It's out there. If God wants someone to read it and be encouraged or helped or motivated or whatever... it's out there. And that's why I do it. This is a part of my ministry, a part of my service, and my appreciation for what Jesus has done for me. I praise you Lord Jesus!

I just want to say thank you to all of you that read my blog and encourage me as well. May God continue to bless you as we share our lives together and I look forward to another year of writing.

PS. Thanks Scott for getting me started.

God bless you all. Steve

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

There's Still Time


What a God we serve! It's never too late to repent and turn back to God. Sometimes we feel that it is, we feel that we've let God down too many times, but it's important that we realize it's not too late, we can repent we can go back, but we must do it quickly while there's still time.

In this passage of scripture found in the book of Joel, we see a call to repentance. God told the people to repent and turn to him while there was still time. Destruction would soon be upon them. You know it's the same for us today! God wants us to repent and turn to him. To live for him. We don't know when our lives will end, but when our lives do end, it's too late to repent and live in obedience to God's will and be effective here in this world. Many will die lost and never know Christ as their Savior, and many will die saved but not living for Christ as we should. We should trust and obey God now, while we can. We shouldn't let anything hold us back from turning to him. The following verses speak to those that once knew the Lord, once lived for the Lord God, those people that used to offer up sacrifices to the Lord God but now, for what ever reason, have turned away.

Joel 2:12-14
(12) That is why the Lord says, "Turn to me now, while there is still time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
(13) Don't tear your clothing in grief, but tear your hearts instead." Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.
(14) Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this curse. Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine to the Lord your God as before.

I love these verses because they show the compassion and mercy of our Lord God. God wants us to be restored in our faith, in our service, in our relationship with him. If we'll just ask for forgiveness and come back to our loving Father, he is slow to anger and wants to relent and not punish us for what we've done. That's true love folks. In verse 13 were told not to tear our clothes in our grief but instead tear our hearts. Whats this means is that it's not what matters on the outside, it's all about what's on the inside. Appearances can fool others, but true repentance comes form the heart. People in those days used to tear their clothes as a sign of their deep remorse, but God doesn't want an outward display of mourning, and weeping without a true inward change of the heart. True repentance is what God wants, and when we do this. When we repent with our heart, then the Scriptures give us comfort in knowing that we might just be blessed in spite of what we done to deserve his curse of punishment.

Bottom line is this, all God wants is to restore us so we can be of use for our Lord as we were before we turned away. Isn't it wonderful that even though we may leave God, he never leaves or forsakes us. Isn't it a blessing to us that his love is far greater than ours ever can be. If you too feel like you have fallen away from being in the will of God like you used to be, then repent! Turn back to him and perhaps through his mercy and grace you'll be able to serve him again as you did before. Our God is a God of restoration. The Lord promises restoration to those that repent (Joel 2:18-27)

So where are you in your relationship with the Lord? Are you in his will and living in obedience, or are you running in the opposite direction? If your headed the wrong way, stop, turn around and go back to where you belong. Do it while there's still time, Do it because God has great plans for you as you serve him in obedience. His blessings await you, if you'll just repent.

May God bless you,

Steve
photo provided by freepixel.com

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Miss Alba

Miss Alba accomplished something that I have never seen before or may never see again as a long as I live. Now if that doesn't grab your attention, I don't know what will. Let me explain...

Alba Gibson is a very dear friend of mine. We were co workers. I was her store manager and she worked as a sales associate in the fabrics department of our store. You see Alba was one of our longest length of service associates at the store. She had in over 30 years of service and she finally retired this last November on her birthday. She was 90 years old when she retired! Can you believe this? That means that she started work with our company when she was 60 years old. Think about this for a minute. Most people would be thinking about retirement at that age, but Miss Alba went on to work another 30 years until she finally decided to call it quits. This ought to tell you something about her work ethic, commitment, and determination. I've never met anyone quite like Alba Gibson.

Well I guess I could stop right here and this would speak to the statement I said earlier wouldn't it? But this short story about Alba's work history is not what I'm referring to when I say she accomplished something I've never seen before and probably never will again. Let me continue...

Miss Alba retired this last November 2006. And since her retirement we have become very close friends. Unfortunately after she retired she became very sick. Her heart was weak and she spent many days in and out of the hospital. This last time she got out of the hospital she was too weak to care for herself anymore and her daughter moved her in with her to take care of her. It was during these days of her being bed ridden that we became closer and closer as we'd visit as often as we could. We enjoyed each others company so much.

Months Prior to her getting so sick that she couldn't leave the house, she came to me one day while I was at work and she asked if she could speak to me. We sat down together and she told me she had a favor to ask of me. I asked what it was and she told me that she knew her health was bad and getting worse all the time. She said was taking care of all of her funeral arrangements and basically getting everything in order so that at the time of her death her family wouldn't be burdened with any of those details and expenses. I thought to myself, "This is just like Miss Alba." I've never seen anyone so independent (or stubborn) I might add. I knew she was determined to get everything arranged. Then she asked me if I would preach her funeral. I was of course shocked. I asked her why she wanted me to do her funeral rather than a having a preacher or clergy do it. She explained that had a dear friend that was a preacher and she had asked him to speak as well, but she wanted me to do the preaching. I asked why me, and she said that she respected me as not only her boss, but as the man of God that she knew I was. Up to this point in our relationship we had laughed and visited together about many things, but we had never had the opportunity to talk about spiritual things. This just reminds me again, how important it is that we lives our lives each day so that other people can see the Holy Spirit leading our lives. We may be the only bible that others are reading. Anyway, of course I told her I would be honored to do this for her. We visited for a while and of course I had to ask her about her salvation. I was relieved and comforted to hear her tell me about her relationship with Jesus and the day she got saved and about her baptism and her days of going to church. She told me that she hadn't been in a church for a while and she regrets that, but this didn't change the fact that Jesus was Lord of her life. She also shared that she wanted the Pallbearers to be her co workers. She gave me a list of names and I told her I would speak with each of them and let her know what they say. Of course they all said yes. They all loved her as well and would do anything for her. Well from this day on we both got to know each other on a more personal level.
As she got weaker and weaker and finally became bed ridden, we'd visit as often as I possibly could come over. These times were special for her and I was blessed each time I visited. She truly was a very loving and caring person. She loved her family so much and she often shared how appreciative she was that they took her into their home rather than send her to a nursing home.

Well the day finally came, Miss Alba passed away and even though I was preparing myself for it, it was still very difficult to accept. The day of the funeral arrived and as I sat at the front of the sanctuary behind Miss Alba's casket, I looked out at the crowd of family and friends and what I saw is what I was talking about earlier. Something I've never seen before and may never see again. It dawned on me that the sanctuary was filled mostly with my associates that I supervise at work. Here I am the store manager, yet the preacher as well in this case. The Pallbearers were associates from work. Other than a few family members and friends the majority of the crowd were associates. Miss Alba's family was made up of her co-workers. She loved her work, she loved the associates she worked with and I remember the only times I ever saw her cry during our visitation times together, was when she would tell me she missed so much not being able to get out of bed and go to the store and see her friends at work. Today as I looked out I became aware of the uniqueness of this funeral. You see, Miss Alba's daughter also is an associate and her daughters husband, and her son in law also worked at the store. So even her immediate family was made up of co-workers. The uniqueness of all this was the opportunity that God had given me as the associates store manager, to talk to them all about Jesus. In today's work environment we have to be very careful when we talk about religion. But this day was different. Even though we weren't at work, we were all co-workers and as their store manager, I had the opportunity to tell my coworkers about Jesus and God's free gift of eternal life through his Son, Jesus Christ. This was a meeting with associates unlike any other.

After the funeral, as I watched the people begin to leave the graveyard, I wondered if Miss Alba had known all along that this would be the scene at her own funeral. It doesn't surprise me. She had planned everything else, she probably had planned this as well. I simply thank God for the opportunity that he gave me to speak to my associates about Jesus. I thank God for the wonderful opportunity that he gave me to get to know and love such a wonderful person, Miss Alba. She'll be missed, but never forgotten, and I know one day we'll see each other again in heaven. When that day comes she'll probably say... "How's everyone at work?"