For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. —Romans 15:4

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Fish and Follow

Luke 5: 8-11
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”  For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Not aware of the activity around them, Peter and his co-workers cast nets through the night, with no results. Not even a minnow. The next morning, Jesus encouraged them to toss their nets in the water one more time. I can imagine Peter and his fishing buddies shook their heads, shrugged their shoulders, then threw the nets overboard with little to no expectation. When they tugged and pulled the catch back on board and the fish flopped all over the deck, they must have stood with their mouths open, in awe. When the amazement calmed, Peter and the other men acknowledged their faith, parked their boats, and followed Jesus.

In 2014, I chose a specific word to pray about and apply to my life. When I focused on the word ‘fear,’ I had no idea how it would play out. I had to push fear aside several times, including a major surgery and an unexpected move, pretty much at the same time. Because I gave my fear to God, he eased my anxieties and helped me through. This year, I’ve chosen the word ‘follow.’ This requires me to stop and listen, to hear God’s guidance and requests. I long for the faith of the disciples as they dropped their plans and obeyed Jesus. I can’t wait to see where he’ll lead.

What word would you choose for 2015?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown: Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

Linus: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.

[moves toward the center of the stage]

Linus: Lights, please.

[a spotlight shines on Linus]

Linus: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’” Luke 2:8-14

[Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]

Linus: That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

I’m sure you recognize this quote from Charles Schultz’s famous A Charlie Brown Christmas. Did you know that Mr. Schultz had to hold his ground to get the show on the air back in 1965? CBS thought the program would fail because the general audience wouldn’t like the long Bible quote from Linus. They didn’t think the jazz sound track would fly with the children. And they were sure they’d never air it again due to lack of interest. But Charles Schultz knew he had an important story to tell that someone needed to hear. I’m so glad he did.

As I watched the timeless classic with my six-month old granddaughter on my lap and my (almost) five-year old grandson by my side, I thanked God these children have hope in Jesus. With all the world’s problems, there’s still joy, peace and love that can be found in the man who came as a baby and grew to be the man who’d take on the sin of all mankind.

As my family and I celebrate Christmas this week, I praise God for his son. Merry Christmas!

P.S. I’ve watched A Charlie Brown Christmas every year for 49 years. I guess CBS was wrong. 


Thursday, December 11, 2014


Luke 2:8-11
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Sometimes Christmas isn’t jolly or merry. Spirits sag because someone may be away from home and unable to spend the holiday with loved ones. Illness doesn’t stop because we celebrate. I can remember a few Christmases when I was sick or my kids were. Mom spent Christmas in the hospital one year. When our grandson Eli was born, he and his mommy and daddy celebrated in the maternity ward. I think about the folks who work in health care and public service, who sacrifice to care for people. I’ve never worked retail, but I can imagine the holidays may not be pleasant with all the shoppers on the prowl for the perfect gift at the perfect price.

Even as I contemplate the sadness and stress that can surround the holidays, I know the message the angels carried to the shepherds makes all the difference. They didn’t just say Merry Christmas. Instead, they brought good news of great joy. A joy that overcomes all weariness, sadness, and pain. As I go through the season, I want to share God’s love and joy by saying a kind word, thanking people for their service, hugging those who need encouragement and praying for those in need. Jesus is not only the reason for the season; he’s the joy in my heart.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Little White Sheep

 John 10:14-16
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

Our neighbors raised sheep. When sheering time came the fluffy creatures lined up, marched to the barnyard, and took turns getting haircuts. When the wool fell to the ground, the sheep didn’t seem to mind. They trusted their keepers. At Christmas time I set out the Fischer Price nativity set for my grandchildren. Front and center stands a sweet little white sheep. He looks happy to be part of the joyous occasion.

We see pictures and nativity sets with the shepherd and their sheep at Jesus crib. Perhaps they took some of them. I doubt the whole flock went to see the baby. Years later, when Jesus preached his message of salvation he didn’t want “sheep” left behind. He wanted all the people to follow him. Jesus is the good shepherd, the one who laid down his life for his sheep. Unlike the lambs, ewes and bucks, I didn’t just line up and follow Christ, instead I chose to accept him as the one who’d change me and give me eternal life. As I celebrate Christmas, I am thankful for the baby who grew up to become my shepherd. Praise God for the gift of his son.

Friday, December 5, 2014

At First I Panic!

I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar every month.   
–Harlan Miller

It happens every year. About mid-November a switch flips inside me. At first I panic.

So much to do:
  • decorate
  • make gifts
  • buy gifts
  • wrap gifts
  • bake
  • send cards, etc.
Christmas lurks around Thanksgiving’s corner.

How do I handle the panic?
  • focus and pray
  • stop and enjoy Thanksgiving
  • remember the reason for the season
  • make lists
  • enlist help
  • listen to Christmas music or whatever music brings joy
  • read a Christmas book
  • read the Christmas story
  • simplify
  • enjoy the people I love
  • give things away
  • give to a good cause
  • cherish the memories created
Have a Happy Christmas season!