Thursday, December 25, 2008

Coal For Christmas!

Its been threatened many times but rarely delivered on. It is the DEFCON 5 for all parents at Christmas. Its the thing that is held over every kid who has ever been bad in the weeks and days leading up to Santa's arrival. You know exactly what I'm talking about, its the dreaded, "If you don't straighten up you'll get a lump of coal for Christmas". Now from all the stuff I've read it seems to be an old tradition from Italy where parents would tell their kids that an evil witch would bring coal to naughty children on Epiphany or around new years. That's pretty harsh when you think about it, on Epiphany of all times! I suppose that the tradition migrated to America and has now become the threat of choice for several generations for frustrated parents. My brother and sister in law have three kids and two are twins. They are 4 and are great kids but as anyone can attest 4 year olds can be a handful. Yesterday was evidently the straw that broke the coal barrier. There seemed to have been an incident in Target or Wal-Mart to get things to this crisis. So early this morning the joy of Christmas, the "unbridled averace" (to quote A Christmas Story) came crashing down in flames for my nieces. As my sister in law tells: it was early and dark with just the Christmas tree lights on. Payton the oldest (10) came prancing in looking for Christmas bliss, but the room was empty. the twins soon followed in like fashion, nothing. No barbies, no make up kits, no candy canes, no ponies or unicorns and no princess paraphernalia of any kind. There under the tree were three stockings, each filled with coal! I was floored that they actually did it! How awesome!

Then the tears came and Melanie said, "I've been telling you for three months that this might happen!" Payton said through her tears, "I know! I know! I'm sorry!" They all got their pictures made with their "lumps" of coal. But, all was not lost, Santa had come, after all the cookies were gone! The kids were then lead through the house till finally Christmas was redeemed and grace was shown. They all got everything they asked for and more!

I know what you are thinking, "That was mean!" But really if you think about it, it was a beautiful reminder of what grace really is. How many of us really deserve gifts at Christmas? I mean when its all laid out there those kids didn't do anything to earn the gifts and neither did mine. If I categorized and wrote down everything my kids did wrong this year, they would owe me, big time. But isn't it awesome what God has done for us. The idea of a gift in God's eyes is one that is not deserved. In all reality we really don't deserve Jesus, we deserve less than a lump of coal! But God's grace is lavish and scandalous. His Word is pretty clear what we deserve, an eternity apart from Him. But Jesus came in a lavish way, a most ridiculous risky way to give the world what it did not deserve, a life with a living God. Now that's better than a Wii or an XBOX 360! Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

December Update

Its been about a month since I've blogged, my apologies for my lack of updates. I realize that most of you were not sitting at home freaking out because my blogs weren't coming through on a regular basis. So here are some highlights. Just before Thanksgiving I was invited by Dr David Jeremiah to Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego to share my testimony with his congregation. Tammy and I flew out there for a busy weekend of services and meetings. It was amazing to say the least. I have no idea how many the church building holds but it was a very large crowd for three services. Tammy and I got to sit back stage with Dr Jeremiah and enjoy some private time with him. It was something I'll never forget. Here I was sitting face to face with the man that 15 years ago had preached the sermon that showed me the way to Jesus! I tried to glean as much wisdom from him as I could in our short time together. He truly is the real deal, just as humble and sincere as you would want him to be.

Then we got a chance to tour Turning Point's studios (check the picture of me and Tammy behind Dr J's microphone), the place where the broadcasts both TV and radio originate from. The crew there came out of their offices to meet us. I really could not fathom why. But I realized that they work and work all year long and rarely get to see in the flesh the fruit of their labors. And on this particular day there was, in the flesh a married couple who had been changed by God through the impact of their ministry. It was a blessing to see the look in their eyes. I'm grateful to have been a part of it. They interviewed both of us for an upcoming edition of their monthly magazine; I think it'll be out in February or March.

We also got to spend some time with Sean and Vicki Brennan. Vicki works for Turning Point as the national representative for Dr. Jeremiah and is his point person on his nationwide events. She is amazing and they opened their home to us. Sean is a retired pilot from the Navy so we obviously had much to talk about. He's an amazing guy and it turns out he came to Christ through watching Dr Jeremiah on TV, amazing! Coming home we met some folks in the airport that had been at Shadow Mountain that weekend and we had a great time meeting them and praying with them in the airport. All in all it was a trip we'll never forget.

On another front we have a new dog. Her name is Sofie. She's a Havanese which I think is Spanish for a mop with legs. She is hilarious, but continues to use my house a septic tank. She chases her tail and licks my face while I do push-ups and sleeps in my bed. I think she's got me trained.

Finally in more sobering news, this will be the last Christmas I spend with my family till 2010. In the Spring I deploy overseas with the guys from my unit for a year long mission of winning hearts and minds and hopefully by the grace of God it'll be our last. I just got an email from my dear friend and Chaplain, Matt who has been there for almost 15 months. This is his 2nd Christmas away from his family. He told me that when he first got there and saw the faces of the guys he was replacing, the weariness the exhaustion, he swore he'd never look like that. He told me today, that he does look like that. He's doing a great job with his soldiers, but he's tired and ready to come home. I don't blame him a bit. I suspect my old buddy Ray is in the same boat, ready to see his family after nearly a year there. No matter how strong you are, 15 months of war takes its toll. I appreciate your prayers for me and my guys as we prepare to go. I wish you all a most blessed Christmas, Christ with us, Christ in us the hope of glory.

The songs of life- Thanks to mom

My home was filled with music and people growing up. Mom loved music and can play an assortment of instruments but her favorites are th...