Sunday, February 11, 2018

Trophies




Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Hebrews 12:11-12


May I introduce my grandson, Jack Foster.  Jack is in tenth grade at Cornerstone Christian Academy in Morristown, TN.  Jack doesn't compete in sports like football or basketball or lacrosse.  Jack's sport is robotics.

I have to tell you...I had to look it up.  His mother finally told me to go to You Tube and I could see kids doing it.  Robotics is defined as the branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots.  Jack programs and directs robotic items to perform specific skills.  He is on his school's robotics team.  Home schooled until ninth grade, Jack is an A student.  He is also active with the youth program in his church.  

And he's a winner.  

In our culture, trophies and awards are the holy grail of so many activities.  Receiving some item that represents your field of endeavor is the affirmation that makes all your hard work worthwhile.  Sometimes, the trophy means you're the winner...the champion.  In recent days, we've seen football players hoist the Lombardi trophy for winning the Super Bowl.  The winter Olympics are currently giving us medal winners every day...simple metal circles of gold, silver or bronze hung around the necks of those who were fastest or most adept at their sport.  

But then there are trophies of another kind...awards of excellence.  That's the kind of award Jack received at his most recent robotics competition.  The trophy he holds so proudly is the Judges Award.  It's given to the person who most personifies the mission of the program.   This is a high honor.  

What more can we ask for Jack but that he run with perseverance the race marked out for him with his eyes fixed on Jesus.  He is making a good start and he is being rewarded for his efforts.  

And his family is proud of the amazing young man he is becoming.   


Monday, January 1, 2018

As The Calendar Turns






My times are in your hands...
Psalm 31:15

Every year when I watch the new year come in, I feel like something is supposed to happen.  The calendar has turned and I just keep sitting here sipping my tea and watching freezing cold people dancing around on a New York street.  Am I missing something? Shouldn’t I feel...different?

In truth I finally realized a few years back - it’s just Time rolling on...another group of days, weeks, months that will make up a year.
 
Our family has been a testament this year to the old adage: what don’t kill us makes us stronger.  It’s been one challenge after another but at the end of it we have so many positives and we just praise the Lord for his many blessings and graces.  I know that this new group of days, weeks, months will be Time moving along like it always has.  2018 stretches out ahead of us like the road in this picture.  Shared by my friend Peggy Lyon, this is an old Florida road I’ve been familiar with all my life.  Even though I’ve driven it many times, I still have to be alert to the twists and turns or I will end up in the Indian River.
 
The best promise I know - a comfort for those times when we run ourselves off in the river - is that this road can also take us confidently before the throne of God, where we receive mercy and grace to help us in our times of need.  May we remember where to find mercy and grace as our days turn into a year.

Blessings to all of you, dear friends, and as you travel through 2018, let Jesus help you hold it in the road!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Why I Need Christmas



Let all the angels of God worship Him!    Hebrews 1:6

I just need to hit the re-set button.  I don't need a winter festival.  I don't need a whoop-de-doo year end party.  I don't need to see how much I can pile up underneath a decorative tree in my living room.  I really don't need to see how much fruitcake I can inhale just because now is the time.  

I need to re-focus.  I need to see Jesus.

More than that, I need to reflect.  I need to remember and honor the many ways that Jesus has walked with me and my family this year.  And let me tell you...this one has been a doozer.  And we've had some doozers in the past four or five years.  I'll bet you have, too.

The Bible tells us that the Word became Flesh and dwelled among us.  Think about what that means.  That means Jesus walked through His life in this world dealing with all the stuff that living here means...sickness, relationships, storms, pain, ridicule...there's just no end to what the world throws at us every day.  It's all so mundane, yet so overwhelming.  And, for us mortals, it can so easily cloud our view of The. Most. Important. Thing.  

God loved us so much that he sent his only Son to walk this world with us and eventually to greet us when we cross from this world to the next.  As the popular song of the season says, we need a little Christmas, right this very minute.  I'm sure we all get reminders all the time that Jesus is with us, God is helping us through his Son and his Holy Spirit.  But once a year, we need this big reminder that Life is not all about us, but all about Him.  

If God commanded all of his angels to worship Jesus, how much more are we - I, you - commanded to worship, honor and adore the One he sent.  This is the time to turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in his wonderful face.  From the face of a baby to the loving face of a man walking among us every day, may we at this season join the angels and worship Him.

Friday, November 17, 2017

On Giving Thanks

Image result for freedom from want painting

Enter into his gates with Thanksgiving and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him and bless his name.
Psalm 100: 4

It was a freezing cold, blustery day in Edinburgh, Scotland.  To the people around us, it was a regular Thursday in November.  To us, we were missing our national day of Thanksgiving.  In other words, we were missing that iconic gathering day when all of America comes together for wonderful, happy communion around...a turkey.

Whatever would we do?  We knew when we planned our trip that we would be gone over Thanksgiving Day but it didn't seem real until that morning.  We made our plight known to the kindly concierge at our hotel.  Could he recommend a restaurant for four lonely Americans?  Because, even though we knew it would not be the traditional turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce, we simply had to mark the day around a table giving thanks.  Because that is our custom.

Our custom.  Enter Norman Rockwell.  He painted his way into our national spirit.  Norman Rockwell said he painted life as he wanted it to be.  And his pictures made us want it to be that way, too.  This picture is called Freedom From Want.  It was inspired by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a speech before Congress in January, 1941, almost a year before Pearl Harbor.  The country had been gripped by Depression for more than ten years.  America was not yet at war, but it was coming.  In his speech, FDR listed four freedoms that he wanted every American to enjoy: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from fear and freedom from want.  Norman Rockwell depicted each of these in a series of four paintings.  The most well-known is this one.

His image of Freedom From Want means a table loaded with plenty and surrounded by smiling faces of all generations.  Grandma brings in the big turkey and is preparing to place it on the table.  Now notice that this table is not loaded with a lush banquet of a meal.  There are some stalks of celery, some other condiments.  The turkey is the centerpiece.  There is food enough for hunger but this is not a picture of gluttony.  Not only do we see the feeding of physical hunger, but the spiritual hunger of love embodied in family and friends.

When I look back on that Thanksgiving Day in Edinburgh, I'm reminded that our thanksgiving follows us wherever we are.  While we didn't have the usual symbols we associate with our version of the national holiday, we certainly had a happy meal.  Ed enjoyed pheasant, while the rest of us played it safe with salmon.  You never know what these strange fowl are going to taste like!  More than feeding our bodies, we fed our souls with the enjoyment of a happy time together.  I will forever be thankful for that travel time to those faraway places. 

I hold in my heart other thanksgiving days that were filled with family, boisterous children, happy confusion and exhaustion from getting all that stuff together.  Thanksgiving Day 2001 is forever stamped in my memory because it was my father's last day of cognizance.  He passed two days later.  The last thing he saw was his family gathered around him.  Thanksgiving week three years ago was spent in a children's hospital while our grandson who was five at the time was tested for everything under the sun.  On Wednesday - the day before Thanksgiving - we got the final word...he was losing his hearing.  Devastating news and yet we were so thankful he was otherwise healthy and didn't have anything wrong with his brain.

Good times...and not so good times.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 gives us this direction:  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  I think it's important to note here that the word is not the combination everything.  It's more emphatic: every thing.

Norman Rockwell said he painted the world the way he wanted it to be.  He gave us wonderful images and poignant, happy thoughts.  But Norman Rockwell wasn't running the world.  It's not always going to be the way we want it to be.  But we are to find things to thank God for, whatever the situation.

As a child in Sunday School, one of the first scriptures I learned was this verse from Psalm 100 and the only way it ever sounds right to me is from the King James Version:
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.  For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Whatever your thanksgiving situation is, I wish you freedom from want...a peaceful day with time to count your blessings and thank the One who guides your life.  Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise!