Sunday, December 14, 2014

CUDDLING WITH CHRIST

LET’S FACE IT, THERE’S few things better than cuddling with an infant who has just had a bath.  Their hair smells of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, the aroma of fresh powder surrounds their little bodies and then of course they are snuggled in those little fleecy footy pajamas.  I can remember those moments quite clearly and of course holding one of my grandchildren after such a time brings me back to holding my own children many years ago.

I can remember holding one of my kids one night as they drifted off to sleep, I could feel their little heart beats and feel the soft warmness of their sweet baby breath. I noticed that I tried to breathe in rhythm with them, not an easy thing to do, but I was contemplating the reality of them being so close, I even remember trying to hold them closer to feel almost one with them.  There was beauty in the sweet aromas, the gentle breaths and the peaceful slumber of complete safety as they slept in my arms.

I wonder how Mary felt holding the infant Jesus? Of course no Johnson’s powder or shampoo, but there was, I am sure, the sweetness of His breath and the rhythmic beating of His heart as she held Him in her arms of safety.  What would it have been like to know that you are cuddling with the Christ-Child? The One whose breath was the very breath of God, the One whose heart would break and bleed for the salvation of all. What would it be like to be so close to the very heart-beat of God?

It is to this place of peace and rest that the Lord of all eternity calls us today.  He calls us to draw close to Him, to feel His breath, to feel His heart-beat. Jesus calls us to come near and to cuddle close so that our hearts would beat as one with His, that our breathing would be in rhythm with His. As Mary held the infant Christ, He desires now to hold you.

Therefore, during this Advent season draw near to the One who longs to cuddle with you and discover that wonder-filled, peace-filled, love-filled presence of God.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

CARING FOR KILEY

THIS PAST FEW DAYS Linda and I had the blessed opportunity to watch Kiley overnight while her mama and papa went to celebrate their anniversary. It was their first time away from her for a few nights, and for us a quick recalling of what it means to watch an infant for an extended period of time.  I can’t speak for the rest of the family, but I think Kiley and I did just fine!

For me, caring for Kiley means making sure she smiles, wrapping her in a warm blanket after her bath, putting her in her jammies, (who designs those things!? No one with kids, that’s for sure!) and of course, rocking in Grandpa’s chair.  Having an infant in the house means you live by her time schedule not yours.  Any plans you might have move down the list. You can either let that frustrate you, or you can take it as a precious gift from God.  I choose the latter.

It many ways it’s enjoying a kind of moment to moment Sabbath. Sure there’s stuff to be done, changing diapers, warming bottles, giving baths and did I mention changing diapers? But there are the blessed reminders and opportunities just to stop and hold her and gaze at the wonder of God’s creation.

That’s what Sabbath was meant to be; a time where we would rest in God’s arms, and gaze up in wonder at the One who loves us so much.


In this hectic time of the year its too easy to forget what our true priority is to be, therefore, I strongly encourage you to make time for Sabbath, evenly daily. I even suggest stopping for a few minutes every day to gaze into the face of the God who loves to just hold you.  Be sure to take a day of Sabbath that God has given to us as a gift. As the mug that the Garcia’s brought home for me says, take time to “Slow Down,” for “Life is Good,” with God!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

MY SHAMELESS CHRISTMAS LIST

Christmas gifts.
Christmas gifts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
WE ALL HAVE CHRISTMAS LISTS. Some are more costly than others. Some are long and some are short. All are usually filled with hopes and desires, wants and wishes. Well, not to be outdone, I want to present to you my “Shameless Christmas Present List for 2014.”

For those of you who know me well, over the past number of years my “list” has been outward focused. The purpose of my sharing this list with you is not so that you will get me something, but my prayer is that this list will be an encouragement on what to include on your list.  All of these gifts can be given in honor of another person, therefore, the gifts have the possibility of really multiplying. So, here is Pastor Randal’s 2014 list of desired gifts:

Support the ministry of the Advent Conspiracy and their well-digging with Living Water and justice projects through International Justice Ministry

Support one of our missionaries through personal monthly giving. Check with me about needs.

Support a child through ministries like Compassion International  or Global Fingerprints

Get involved with ValleyChurches United Missions for the next year, or maybe the Santa Cruz Rescue Mission.

Adopt a neighbor that you might know that could use some “Secret Support” and tangible expressions of God’s love.  An act of gracious kindness once a month could change a life forever.

Join our King and Kingdom Prayer Time on Sunday nights as we seek God’s heart for our community and world.


Thanking you in advance!

GIVING GOOD CHRISTMAS PRESENCE

LET’S BE HONEST one of the things we most like about the holiday season is the giving and receiving of presents.  I’m not going to say which is the better of the two, the giving or the receiving, I’ll leave that up to you, but I know which I personally prefer.  What? You want me to tell you? Nah!  That’s my Christmas secret.

As we look forward to the Advent season I desire to encourage you to give good presents. They don’t have to be expensive, but they do have to be good.  Allow me to clarify. They need to be gifts that bring joy to the recipient and joy to the giver. They ought not to be last minute dashes to fulfill some “duty,” rather they should be well-thought-out gifts that communicates that time has been taken to pick out just the right gift. They don’t necessarily have to be something that the person has asked for, or even needs, but something that demonstrates that you desire to show the other person their worth to you.  Of course, this type of gift-giving demands, time to “shop” and knowledge of the person for whom you are buying the gift.  I didn’t say it was easy, I only suggested it is good to gift in this manner.

Therefore, to help you out, allow me to share with you a few ideas for your Christmas gift-giving.  I suggest that this year you give true Christmas presence.  Truly, this is nothing new. Consider the reason we celebrate this day in the first place, it is because God gave us the gift of Presence, His Presence in the Person of Jesus, the Messiah.  Emmanuel, God with us!

So, how do we give these gifts of Christmas presence?  Here’s a list of possible presence:

  • Take someone out for coffee, and seek to do nothing but listen to their story.
  • Take time visiting someone who doesn’t get any visits, just to be with them.
  • Offer a gift prayer coupon book. In it are lots of “coupons” that the recipient can use to call you and have you pray for them. Or better yet, rather than call, pray face-to-face.
  • Spend the day on a hike, or stroll on the beach, with someone just to enjoy God’s beauty and each other’s presence.
  • Be present with someone at church. Sit with them, worship with them, laugh and cry with them.
  • Covenant a weekly telephone call, or if it’s a distance maybe even a Skype meeting or FaceTime chat.
  • Send a card, better yet a handwritten letter, once a month, just to share life.

I’m sure that the list could go on, use your creativity. But, allow me to make this one suggestion; be sure to give yourself the gift of presence as well.  Take time this year to make time for you and the present Lord to be in each other’s presence.  He desires so much to be present with us, all we need do is to make time to give us, and Him, the gift of our presence.

Emmanuel, God with us. Why would he have come if He did not desire to be with us?  The Lord desires and delights in our presence with Him.  He has sent the gift of His grace, He has opened the door for us to enter in, He has set the table before us, so that we would enter in and recline (get that recline) at the Table. Time and presence; it’s the gift God has given to us and it is the greatest gift we can give back to Him and to others.

This year, let us give the best Christmas presence ever!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

ENJOYING THE STILLNESS OF THE SEASON

WE NOW EMBARK INTO A SEASON OF THE YEAR that should provide us the greatest opportunity for stillness and reflection. The season of Thanksgiving and Advent.  But alas, it most often provides just the opposite.

God, in His wisdom and love provided us with the gift of Sabbath, and too often, to our own demise we have neglected this most gracious of gifts.

My prayer for you, for me, is that in this season we will in fact carve out time to sit in the glorious stillness of His presence and enjoy the Gift of Sabbath. You might say to yourself that you cannot find that day, then I encourage you to find that moment, that hour. As in any new exercise program, the key to positive growth is to start slow. Therefore, if your schedule does not allow you a day for Sabbath (which is a very telling thing) then start slow and let it build.

If you desire to give yourself a special Christmas gift this year, may I suggest you give yourself the gift the gift that God gave, open it up and be refreshed.

Here is a TED Talk that I received today, and though not "Christian" it does speak to the need to stop, and rest and reflect, so that we can in fact be blessed and be a blessing.

God bless you in your journey toward the gift of Sabbath.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A SCARY SUNDAY MORNING PRAYER

LORD, God,
help me
to die
the thousand
deaths
which lead me
to Thy Cross
and
Life

PASSED-OVER!

TWICE I APPLIED TO WORK as the Director of Redwood Camp at Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center and twice I was passed-over. The answer devastated me.

It was not until I began working with Pastor Ron, who actually had been a Director at Redwood Camp, did I discover how ill-equipped I would have been for the job. Once again God knew the right doors to close.

But God knew the right doors to open. For in closing the door to Mount Hermon He opened the door to planting a church in Crescent City, California, a church (Pelican bay EFC) that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week.  God is good  . . . but then we already knew that!

Many of you may have been passed-over, maybe it was a job promotion, a place on the sports team, a part in the school play or that special relationship with that special someone. Each one of these times of being “passed-over” can be devastating. By now this Shepherd’s Staff could be getting rather depressing, but that is not my purpose in writing. Rather, I want to encourage you.

In all the things in which you have been passed-over, there is one that stands out as tremendously good news. Jesus’ death on the cross provides for the submissive believer a permanent passing-over of the guilt of our sin. We have been forgiven! And with that forgiveness the promise of God that He will not pass-over us, but rather He will always have us in His gracious and watchful care.

But thanks be to God, that because Jesus’ sacrifice was eternally successful, marked by His resurrection and ascension to the throne of God, we do not have to fear of being passed-over by the merciful love of God, neither now nor into life-everlasting.

That, my friends, is good news that surely makes up for all the devastating disappointments of this present life. So, let us all give thanks!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Healing Troubled Hearts: A Review

I was requested to read and review, Healing Troubled Hearts through exchanges with the Master, William Day, Phd, LCSW.  I was pleased to do so having presently been working through my own personal season of a "troubled heart."

Dr. Day brings a varied background to the text, sharing his own deep personal journey as both healer and healed. His journey took him through a very clinical approach to the final realization was that the One who could best offer healing to broken hearts was the One who created us in the first place. That One being the God of the Bible.

Dr. Day's method, rather simply stated, is helping people realize the God that created them, is that God that is with them, even through the dark, troubled times and the God that can bring healing to their broken souls. (My emphasis)  This is done through a series of prayer-led encounters and discoveries of where God is and what God is doing, even in the healing of long-past damages.  In many ways it is not too far off of the Saint Ignatius Spiritual Exercises of listening prayer and spiritual direction.

I find the strength of the book comes from the author's own personal struggles, education, clinical experience and spiritual development. No simple answers here, but rather a call to deeply, slowly, with the help of a trained individual (spiritual director?) open yourself to allow God to provide deep cleansing healing in your life.

It might not be the answer for everybody and every problem, but bringing yourself before the Lord, especially with a caring and trained helper might prove just what is needed for the healing of your troubled heart.  I would recommend the book to some I personal know who suffer with a troubled heart, os that might be the best recommendation.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

UNCLE!!!!!

I CAN REMEMBER THE RUMBLES WELL. Back in those elementary school days when impromptu wrestling matches would break forth between a couple of the guys.  It was all in good fun, most of the time. But, if things got a little too rough, or you found yourself pinned to the ground with your arms wrapped around your ears, you could always cry, “UNCLE!” and the other guy would let you go . . . hopefully.

The “Mercy-Rule” is what we call it in sports.  When the other team gets so far ahead the winning team backs down a little.  The freshman football team at San Lorenzo Valley High School gracefully invoked that rule during their first game of the season.  They were beating the tar out of the other team, and chose to let the clock keep running and not run down the ball on a fourth-down punt, all for the sake of giving the other team the opportunity to score.  They showed mercy.  Sadly, this is not always the case, but in this instance it showed great maturity and mercy. Kudos to the coaches and team at SLVHS.

This is a rule we could all do a better job of invoking sometimes as we deal with those with which we are in conflict. I have noted people so bent on winning that they don’t even realize how bloodied their opponent is and they just keep slugging away. These battles take place in government and in neighborhoods. They take place in school board meetings and church sanctuaries. I think it best not to wait until our opponent cries, “UNCLE!” It would much more Christ-like to grant mercy . . . even if we believe we have the right to win.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7) and again, “Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful,” (Luke 6:36) and remember that mercy was directed to you and me!


Look around you, does someone need mercy? Let’s offer it, even before they cry, “Uncle!”