Sunday, December 28, 2014

E. T. PHONE HOME

Spielberg admitted this scene triggered specul...
Spielberg admitted this scene triggered speculation as to whether the film was a spiritual parable. Judith Crist (1984). "Take 22: Moviemakers on Moviemaking". Viking . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
WAY BACK IN 1982 the film, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was released and became the highest grossing film until Jurassic Park was released in 1993. That Stephen Spielberg guy knows how to make films!

One of the key themes in the film was E.T.’s desire to get back to his home planet, thus his desire to phone home. I guess it doesn’t matter if you’re an earthling or an extra-terrestrial, there is a drive in us to get back home. Sadly, for many in our world that prospect both physically and emotionally is not that easy.  Consider the thousands of refugees in Africa and the Middle-East that have been forced to flee their homes and not live in border town refugee camps. Consider the thousands that have been streaming across our southern borders seeking a new place to call home. And consider all those who may find themselves in fine houses surrounded by the luxuries of life, but still long for a place to truly call home.

I believe that there is a “homing device” built into each one of us that draws us to that place we can be ourselves, let our hair down, be accepted and loved and safe.  These things are one of the reasons we have chosen for our church’s Vision Statement that we would be a Place to Call Home. We desire to create a place where we can each be loved, accepted and safe and even more to be a place where we can grow in all aspects of our lives.

Saint Augustine in his Confessions wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  We could say until we find our home in Christ. This is what we are working to be, a place where we can all be at home, at rest, at peace with God, our Savior.

If you’re looking for A Place to Call Home, I invite you to come be part of our God’s family. If you’re already a part of the family, my challenge for you is to help us make this a place where all feel at home and experience the hope, peace, joy and love of God, our heavenly Father.

Welcome home!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

SEEING BEYOND THE PRESENTS

THERE IS A CHRISTMAS I REMEMBER, when our two oldest were still quite young.  It was Christmas Eve, and they were tucked into bed waiting with eager anticipation for the first morning light and the opportunity to open the gifts that lay beneath the tree.

Therein, for me at least, was the problem. Both sets of grandparents had descended upon our home and you could not see the whole of the living room floor due to the over abundance of gifts. (Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but not by much.)  I remember sitting on the couch at one end of the living room and gazing over the sea of gifts brought by grandparents set to outdo each other. I recall tears in my eyes for I knew that that this is not what I desired my Christmas to be, a room littered with wrapping paper and toys and clothes and more!

I was saddened, maybe even a little mad, at the over-expenditure and over-doing that was before me. I knew that it missed the point of the giving of gifts.  Presents at Christmas time are to remind us of God’s great gift in His only Son (John 3:16-17), but though as extravagant as the heavenly Father’s Gift was, it was also a simply-wrapped Gift of Love. A Gift not without glory, but a glory hidden; to be revealed as the Gift walked among us.

This Gift of God was more than a present from a gracious God, it was His very Presence among us. The Gift, Immanuel, God with us, and who is with us this very day.

The gifts that covered my living room floor decades ago are long gone, the wrappings decomposing in some landfill, and the presents long forgotten. There is no need to feel despondent. It’s that way with earthly, material presents. This should make us all the more grateful for God’s eternal Presence that does not decay nor diminish over time, but grows ever greater with each passing day.

This Advent may your living room and your heart be filled with the Presence of the LORD!

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!”

Sunday, November 02, 2014

THINGS MY MOM SAID #6

BE KIND AND POLITE. That phrase related to whether we were talking about puppy dogs or grandma-types, I was supposed to be kind to all.

My mom taught me that being kind and polite meant saying “please” and “thank-you,” even if I wasn’t truly thankful for the spinach that came from a can. Remember that green slimy stuff that Popeye said was so great?  Spinach didn’t make Popeye strong, because you had to be strong already to eat that straight out of the can . . . but I digress.

Though my mom was the one to often say “Be kind and polite,” it was my dad that showed me how that phrase looked in everyday life. It meant opening the door for others, especially older people. It meant walking closest to the street when strolling on the sidewalk with a lady, especially your mother. It meant offering your seat so others would not have to stand. All-in-all it meant putting the needs of others above your own and doing it to show worth and consideration of the other person.
 
Sadly, this seems to be a lesson our culture is quickly forgetting. Whether it’s the antics of talk-show hosts, the tirades of sports personalities or the ranting’s of politicians, our culture is losing its ability to be kind and polite.  What bothers me most of all is that this lack of consideration for others, a lack of politeness and kindness, can also be found in the midst of those who are called by the name of Christ.

I think it’s time once again to give up our seats, to open the doors, to speak words of thankfulness and to show polite consideration for others whether inside or outside the walls of the church.


In our thoughts, words, and actions let us each choose to love well, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 5:1-10)

WHAT I'M GIVING Y GRANDKIDS FOR CHRISTMAS

GIVEN THAT MY GRANDKIDS CAN’T READ YET, I feel it safe to divulge what grandpa has in store for the little munchkins.  I am giving them specially designed, high strength, multi-sized brown card board boxes, along with washable felt pens and Exacto knives (Okay, just kidding about the knives!)

The truth is, the little tykes are always more interested in the boxes than what’s in them, well at least that holds true when they’re little. Of course, as they grow older, and wiser, they actually expect something cool inside the box. But let’s be honest, a lot of great, imaginative fun can be had with some plain old brown boxes and the actively creative minds of toddlers and their grandpa.

Boxes can be wonderful wonder-filled things, especially if you’ve never received a box full of special items, chosen just for you.  That’s what the ministry of Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child is all about. Filling shoebox-sized containers with special gifts for children around the world who often can’t even find an empty brown box to play with, and in fact, may call a brown box their home!

This year we have set our God-sized goal of collecting 600 boxes here at Felton Bible Church.  Each year the number gets bigger and bigger and each year God blesses us with the opportunity to reach that goal for the sake of His children and His glory.  I am praying that you will be part of seeing that goal reached or maybe even surpassed.

Of course, it’s not the number of boxes that’s of utmost importance, or even the items that go within them. (For gift ideas checkout the Operation Christmas Child website), but it is the prayer-covering that you pray as you pack your boxes. It’s no mystery why Operation Christmas Child has been so successful. The success comes from the prayers that accompany each box, the Gospel message that is placed inside and the love with which each box is hand-delivered.

With gratitude we look forward to Thanksgiving Day. With expectation we look toward the Advent Season. With gratitude and expectation join me in making this year an extra special year as we seek to Plant New Seeds. Invite others to join you in packing shoe boxes so that we can reach even more children with the Good News of Jesus Christ, and through the children reach whole families.

Just imagine, God may use your simple shoebox to plant a church that plants other churches!  Can you share my imagination, the imagination that can take a simple brown box and turn it into a church filled with people worshiping the Lord?

Just imagine!
elated articles

Sunday, October 26, 2014

WHAT'S IN THE BOX?

I HAVE BEEN DOING “WHAT’S IN THE BOX?” for over a quarter of a century. Yikes! When I see that typed-out it makes me feel old! (25 years x 52 weeks, give or take a few.) I have seen LOTS of different items, some easier to discern than others, but I don’t think I've ever been stumped.

Actually, it’s one of my favorite times of the morning worship service. There’s nothing quite like sitting with a bunch of kids whose eyes are fixed on the box, just waiting to see what it holds. Truthfully, I know they don’t always follow the object lesson, but it’s great fun, and some lessons are learned. And of course, I just love being with the kids. They seem to “get it” more times than not.  It’s that child-like faith. (Matthew 18:1-9)

Kids, boxes, surprises, and an important story of God’s love, that’s what Operation Christmas Child is all about. A simple box, filled with simple things, bringing the extraordinary message of God’s love.  I guess it’s not such a “simple box” after all.

For the past 17 years Felton Bible Church has been actively collecting shoeboxes filled with the love of God, as well as some toys, toothpaste, socks, all sorts of special items, and sending them through the ministry of Samaritan’s Purse around the world. Over those years we've collected hundreds of boxes and each one of them finds the perfect recipient, at the perfect place, at the perfect time, God’s time!

Can you imagine what it would be like to sit in some far away village and gaze into eyes’ of a child that are filled with expectancy and wonder as they open up a special box created just for them?  I don’t know who would be the most excited the child or me, but I am sure my eyes would be filled with tears of joy.


What’s in the box? Well, you can decide a lot of the details, but one thing is for sure it’s to be filled with your prayers and your love and when it is we know that God’s love will travel with it, too.  Let’s get packing!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

THE LORD'S LEGACY

TODAY WE DEDICATE A CHILD, but more than that we are given cause to pause and remember the legacy which is given to us as God’s children.

In one regard we are all God’s children, for He alone is God, the giver of life. And it was for all God’s children, those near (the Jews) and those far (the Gentiles) that Jesus came to die upon the cross as the perfect, atoning sacrifice for our sins, and to bring us the gift of grace, forgiveness and the opportunity to be reconciled into God’s family. (Romans 11:11-36)

In today’s Child Dedication we remember the legacy of God’s grace and love. As parents we follow God’s design as we bring ourselves and our children back to Him who has redeemed us.  

For those of us who are adults of various ages and place in life, we come again to our Heavenly Father and re-dedicate ourselves to Him; to follow His desire and design for us in being conformed to His Son. (Romans 8:29)

For those who bring their children it is a time to give thanks, to offer blessing and to covenant before God and His church to raise these God-given gifts in the love and grace of the Lord. We come praying for our children that they will give their lives unto the Lord for His glory as we also pray for their protection.

As the family of God it is a time for all of us to re-dedicate ourselves to love well, just as we have been loved by the Father. To live in  the legacy of His love as we seek to pass His legacy on to each following generation.

So let us love!

Friday, October 17, 2014

TO SPEAK HOLY WORDS. TO DO HOLY WORK.

THIS IS A POWERFUL TED VIDEO. Moving. Humbling. Challenging. It not only shows us the resilience of the human spirit, but the importance and power of love that speaks, cares, expresses, longs and  celebrates.

As a follower of Jesus, I was moved by the lesson that I have been given the responsibility to speak the Words of God. I must be close to Him, watching closely the "movement of His eyes," and then record and recount His message to the world. True, God is not paralyzed, but He has called us to draw NEAR to HIM, so that we can SHARE HIS WORD to the world.

The final words of this video also carry for us a great truth, a powerful challenge. We, even though we may see ourselves paralyzed by so many issues, both from with-in and with-out, we have a HOLY WORK to do.

May the HOLY SPIRT cause our spirits to tingle with new life!

 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

HOW TO HAVE A HAPPY LIFE

THE PSALMIST WRITES in Psalm 104:15
Wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread sustains their hearts.
Psalm 104 is a great recounting of God's creative, providing, and sustaining work in all of His creation.  In verse fifteen I  note not only His physical sustaining work, but His salvific and sustaining work for our souls.

Wine, draws us to remember the saving blood of Jesus. 
                                                                    (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
Oil, the anointing and preserving work of the Holy Spirit.
                                                                                         (John 14:15-27)
Bread, the very Word of God which grants wisdom for life. 
                                                                                            (Matthew 4:4)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

MUSINGS FROM GENESIS 32:22-32

MORE AND MORE I FIND MYSELF DRAWN to the Jacob's wrestling with the Angel of the Lord. (Genesis 32:22-32) Here are some thoughts from today . . . 
English: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel. Česky...

Forever the limp,
Broken to bless.
True encounters
with God shall
demand damage
to the Old Man
in order that a
New Man can be
reborn.
A witness out of me
from the weakness in me;
so that the Glory may be
to Thee,
for Thee.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

WHAT IS IT, Randy or Randal? Why, in fact, the name change? Well, it’s a long story, but let me see if I can relate it in a short manner, with some Biblical precedent.

First, Randal is my given name and Randy was a name I assumed sometime in my unremembered childhood. It served me well, but as I moved through this recent time of challenge and growth, with many changes in my understanding of myself spiritually and emotionally, I have taken some steps to mark the positive and desired changes. Reassuming my given name was one of those steps.

As stated above, this is not without Biblical precedent. Consider Genesis 32:22-32 where Jacob wrestles with the LORD all night. Pleading for a blessing the LORD changes his name to Israel and then breaks his hip which will give the newly renamed Jacob a forever reminder of his struggle with and his blessing from the LORD.

This past week I have been meditating (that’s a Biblical concept, see: Psalm 1) on Isaiah 43:1-7. In verse one Isaiah writes,
But now, this is what the LORD says –
He who created you, Jacob,
He who formed you, Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name, you are Mine.

God created me. He placed me in my mother’s womb, where I was made in the darkness, but not without the spark of His Image. Now, God is continuing to form me into that Image that was marred by sin. He is doing His good work of conforming to the Image of His Son. (Romans 8:28-29) In that process, changing my name and my character.


I asked for His blessing and He broke me, I guess that’s the way it works. I wish I could say I’m walking straight and the limp is gone, but I believe it shall forever be a part of me, there to remind me of my blessings and the need I will always have to lean on Him.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

CARING FOR WIDOWS, ORPHANS & THE FATHERLESS

Orphans by Thomas Kennington
Orphans by Thomas Kennington (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I WAS OUT FOR A RUN IN THE HOT, HOT SUN yesterday and my mind drifted to the plight of widows and orphans and the fatherless in our world.

I realize that this group of individuals comes in all forms. Those who have lost loved-ones to long-term illness, or an unexpected tragedy. There are orphans throughout the world, even right here in the good old USA, and of course thousands, dare I say millions, throughout the world. Children bereaved of parents due to war or epidemic or worse of all because they are simply unwanted. 

Then there are the fatherless. Those who may have a place to call home, or are cared for in some sense, yet lack the loving father that is there to protect and provide for them. However you cut it the situation for each of these groups is tragic.

I suppose that is why God, our heavenly Father has such a special place in His heart for those you suffer in these ways. He was constantly calling His chosen people back to show true righteousness and sacrifice and worship by caring for such as these. (Psalm 82:3; Psalm 68:5; Exodus 22:22-24)

And again, as a mark of the true righteous in the church, James writes,
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (James 1:27)
Yet, in all this, what tugged at my heart most as I ran was how well do we care for the spiritual widows, orphans and fatherless?  By this I mean those who are part of our church families but attend without spouse, or without parent.  How well do we even see these as widows, orphans and the fatherless?

I know that in our church family there was those who are such. Who come week after week, hopefully not to sit alone, and yet is some real, unspoken sense, are alone. There are kids who attend our AWANA program, or weekly youth group, who may have homes to go each night, are well-fed and cared for, except when it comes to the things of the Lord.

How do we care for these? Truthfully, I don't have a list of answers except to first of all remember they are with us and second, to love well, as Peter Scazzero reminds us in his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Emotionally Healthy Church.

The call of the Lord still echos for us: to care for those the world has forgotten or placed aside. This is part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Let us see all, let us love all, for so the Lord did for us.