Disciple All Nations

Enhancing On-going Ministry Through Equipping, Encouraging, and Interceding

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

It’s happening again. Neighborhoods with Christmas lights and large inflated balloons of Christmas characters. Stores advertising pre-Christmas sales. Churches having special Christmas music programs. Families planning Christmas travel to be with loved ones far away.  Boxes of Christmas decorations coming out of storage.  Meredith Wilson wrote it in 1951 and the first to sing it was Bing Crosby, but one can hear any number of artists, who through the years sang, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”  At the time of the year, I am reminded of some of my favorite Christmas quotes:

  • “In God’s sight, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas whenever we rediscover the simplicity of His love and bow down in thankfulness and worship, where we are and whatever our circumstances.” David Jeremiah.
  • “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” Andy Rooney
  • “Christmas can’t be bought from a store. Maybe Christmas means a little bit more.” Dr. Seuss
  • “Christmas waves a magic wand over the world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” Norman Vincent Peale
  • “When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things — not the great occasions — give off the greatest glow of happiness.” Bob Hope
  • “The way you spend Christmas is far more important than how much.” Henry David Thoreau
  • “Christmas is a together-y sort of holiday.” Winnie the Pooh
  • “Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” — C.S. Lewis
  • “For untous a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.

Who to Blame

We recently discovered a water link under the foundation of a house that we own.  Obviously, the repair cost several thousand dollars. In working with the insurance company, I received a letter from them, with the following sentence in it – Our “Claims team are working together to determine if another party is responsible for the damages to your property.” Not seeing any evidence that anyone dug under the house to destroy the water pipes, I concluded that no “other party” was responsible. Could have been a squirrel, but it would have been one tough animal. Could have been an act of God, but I don’t know why God would have wanted to destroy our water pipes. Could have been an earthquake, but we don’t actually live near earthquake territory. Could have been shifting foundation, since that often happens in our neighborhood, but who does one blame for that? So, I have concluded that there are some things that happen with no one to blame. Life goes on. Live with the good and the bad. Make the most of circumstances. Play the hand that you are dealt. Play it where it lies. I think I’ll just reply to my insurance company with a verse of scripture – “let me bear the blame forever” (Genesis 43:9).

 

Chili Cook-Off and Loving Neighbors

I recently attended our Neighborhood Association’s Chili Cook-Off.  That is similar to putting your life in the hands of your neighbors.  The un-named ingredient that causes a specific Chile to taste so unique could be anything from Armadillo to Rattlesnake. That moist taste could come from a beverage you don’t normally (or ever) drink.  But these are you’re neighbors. For many of us, the model of neighborhood came from Mr. Rogers, who sang, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood . . .won’t you be my neighbor.”  Some of us learned a neighbor quote from English writer and Christian apologist, Gilbert K. Chesterton, “We make our friends.  We make our enemies.  But God makes our neighbors.”  And then there was this anonymous quote – “My neighbor knocked on my door at 2:30am this morning.  Lucky.  I was still up playing my bagpipes.” Seriously, the Bible records Jesus saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).  Makes one wonder if Jesus ever attend a Chili cook-off or had a neighbor who played the bagpipes?

 

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Monster Trucks or The Nutcracker?

The Nutcracker is an 1892 two-act Russian ballet performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season.  I remember being exposed to it somewhere along the way, but also remember not being very interested.  We’re not sure where he heard about it but my 3 1/2 year-old great-grandson, Crawford, asked if I had a video of “The Nutcracker.” I googled and found a link to something that looked like it might please him. (Understand, I am not an expert on Nutcracker videos.) He watched it patiently for a few minutes. Just when I had begun to think he might have an interest in something classical, he blurted out, “Can we switch it to monster trucks?” “I’m sorry, Lord.  I know the Bible says, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it’ (Proverbs 22:6), and as You know, I did my best with my kids and grandkids, but apparently, I have very little influence on this great-grandson.” Can interest in monster trucks possibly come through DNA?

 

 

 

together We Grieve

I had employed all of my well-learned, ministerial detachment along with a determination not to get emotional, but I still lost it during “Amazing Grace.”  The funeral soloist, obviously a good friend of the deceased, struggled through the first verse, eventually, chocking up to complete silence. It was at that point that many in the congregation began to sing along – “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” By the time we reached the final verse, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years . . .” the overflow crowd was singing in unison, many standing, some with hands raised. I was singing, but with a choaked up voice, knowing that in approximately five minutes, I was to speak words of remembrance over my long-time friend. If there is ever a time, when we all need to sing together, it is at a time when human grief is mixed with spiritual celebration. After all, while we believers grieve, we do not “grieve like people who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13, NLT).  Wanna Dean Lloyd, you would have been so proud.

 

Dr. Dan R. Crawford, Senior Professor, Chair of Prayer Emeritus; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas. Former Head of Task Force for the Teaching of Prayer in Theological Education for America’s National Prayer Committee.  Administrative Consultant for the Valley Baptist Missions Education Center.

 

Busy, but Not Forsaken

I overdid it a couple of weeks ago. Two thousand miles, numerous luncheon, dinner and banquet visits, seven hours of preaching/teaching, four different beds, ten days.  I’m too old for this kind of schedule. Twenty years ago, maybe.  These days, maybe not. Even as some are reading this on Monday morning, I am 325 miles from home, assisting in the memorial service of a long-time friend from college days.  I’ve got to do a better job of senior adult schedule planning. But, my prayer partners came through for me, and God responded with extra stamina and a few good night’s sleep. I guess I could blame it on my parents – my mother was a perfectionist; my dad was a workaholic.  But when I retired (the first time) I asked God for a new “life verse” and He gave me Psalm 71:18 – “Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.”  Once again, God did not forsake me.

Lost, Found, and Celebrated

It was a gift book, presented to me by the pastors that I had been teaching in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  “100 Reasons to Love the Cardinals” was a book about my favorite baseball team, the St Louis Cardinals.  I read it on the flight back home.  When we landed, I put the book in my overhead luggage, but when I arrived home, the book was missing.  I looked everywhere.  I knew I had placed the book in my luggage, but it was not in there.  Lost!  Maybe I just thought I put it in my luggage. A week went by as I grieved over the missing book. Then, one evening, my wife walked into the den carrying a book and asked, “Is this your book?” It was.  My lost book had been found.  Apparently, it fell out of my luggage as I was unpacking and landed under the bed. My wife saw the edge of it from the hallway and found it. It reminded me of a favorite chapter in the Bible – often called the “Lost and Found Chapter.”  In Luke 15, Jesus shares three parables: (1) The lost sheep – a man owned 100 sheep, one wooly little critter wandered.  The Shepherd went looking and found it, then called the others and celebrated; (2) The lost coin – a widow lost one of ten coins. She turned the house upside down until the coin was found, at which time she called friends and celebrated; (3) The lost son – a man had two sons (could have been daughters just as well).  One wandered; one stayed home. The story ends with a celebration.  I had always read (and preached on) these parables with emphasis on lostness, but when my lost book was found, I celebrated.  My sermon just got longer . . . and better.

 

A New Thing

It happened to me again last week. Have you ever arrived at your destination after your drive, and noticed that you didn’t remember a single thing you saw during your trip? I challenge you, as well as myself, let today be a day of awareness. Consciously pay attention to what is going on around you as you drive, walk, do your business, or relax. Consider the world from the perspective of those you pass – the small child, the teenager headed to class, the elderly person trying to cross the street, the homeless person, the truck driver, the policeman, the executive in the big limo.  Allow God to show you something new today.  At age 87 Michelangelo said, “I am still learning.”  American author, Vernon Howard said, “Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.”  Perhaps God will tell you as he told Isaiah, “Behold, I will do a new thing…” (Isaiah 43:19).

 

My Spanish.  Mi Español.

I’m sure of it.  My High School Spanish teacher would be so proud of me – if she were still alive. During my time in her class I gave her absolutely no reason for pride.  The truth was I just couldn’t memorize a foreign language. I had the same problem a few years later with Greek, then with Hebrew.  I even tried to learn Chinese.  What a disaster!   I remember telling the Chinese teacher that I was going to drop the class only to hear her reply, “That would be a good decision.”  In each of these languages, I was like the Psalmist, who proclaimed, “I heard a language I did not understand” (Psalm 81:5). Because I am currently teaching pastors in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, most of whom speak Spanish as their first language, two of my textbooks have been translated into Spanish. My textbook on spiritual formation, “DiscipleShape” is now, “Formacion De Discipuloa” and the textbook on Prayer, “The Prayer-Shaped Disciple” is now “El Discipulo Formado a Traves de la Oracion.” The best feature about these two books is that the translating was done by a professional translator, not by me. While I didn’t learn Spanish, I did learn that when you hit a learning roadblock, you look for a detour – or un desvio. 

 

Youth by Parental Rules

If today’s youth think life is a challenge, all I can say is you should have been a Southern Baptist youth in the 1950s, and if that was not challenging enough, go ahead and have a Pastor for a father and a mother who felt called to be a missionary and you became her personal “mission field.”  We had two rules that I remember – (1) Never date a girl you wouldn’t consider marrying and (2) Good Baptists kids don’t dance. So, when 90% or more of the girls at my church and my school danced, the dating field was severely limited. In fact, in my more mature years, I’ve found verses in the Bible that I’m fairly sure were not there in the 50s, like, “Let them praise His name with the dance”(Psalm 149:3).  My solution was to attend a small, conservative, Baptist college, where the dating field was much more qualified to meet my parents’ rules. I found one, dated her, and married her. Fifty-eight years later, it appears to have worked. So, follow parental rules, just in case they work.

 

 

 

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