PRAYING

praying

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Last night right before dinner I asked Ali, “You wanna pray”? I say it as a question, but it’s not really a question, it’s an honor. There is something very peaceful and settling to have everyone home and to hear them pray.

I do the majority of of the prayers, but I also direct others in my family when I feel led. As we were bowing our heads to pray, an odd thing occurred. A conversation I had with a guy I know from the gym from months before pop into my head.

I wrote a post about our youngest’s first day of school back in August, some of you might remember it, it is titled THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. She was nervous that day and I shared how I asked her if she wanted to pray. I described how I pushed back from the table and she sat on my knee as I prayed for her, the teachers, and other students.

I remembered the day after the guy from the gym I’ll call Carl read it and his reaction. His laugh and sarcastic tone popped into my mind and his questions, “Do people really live like that? “I thought that was only in stories”!

I find it interesting how our culture has twisted faith and trust in God into a weakness. Yet they bow and worship their God, usually their flesh inspired education, nature, or vices for their mind.

The most courageous people that God has used to change and influence the world are the ones who sought and bowed before Him. They didn’t, and we don’t kneel before man and this flesh in order to honor it, we have no faith in this flesh.

We only have faith in the God who’s imprint is all over the history of mankind. The miracle and power of God is evident for everyone to see unless a person is blinded and perishing.

I’m not yet the Stephen kind of Christian martyr, I’m more like an early Peter, looking to use a sword to cut someone’s ear off, not a great trait, but God’s working on me, have a little patience…

I shared with Carl the fact that I only bow before the Creator of the cosmos. We actually had an in-depth discussion and I have to admit I like this guy. I pray God likes him too, of course I told him that as well.

Last night even after all this time my heart breaks for Carl, I’m not saying my daughters are perfect, far from it, but they do know the truth and consider God and His will in their lives. Carl has issues with his daughter that will affect them both for the rest of their lives.

Carl has a boat load of difficulties in his life like most of us, yet with all his problems in life he scoffs at the very power that allows his every breath. As my family prayed I thought of him… I’m sad in spirit for what he could have, but doesn’t, at least not yet.

As a new year gets under way I can only think of God and pray as he puts it in my heart. God knows the desires of my heart, He knows everything about all of us. The question becomes will we live by the flesh like the rest of the world, or will we smile like Stephen even during persecution or difficult times?

What benefit will we be to the world on God’s behalf this year? What will we do with the gift of free will in 2011? We all get to use that gift to make a decision about how we’re going to live. Will we be trapped in our flesh fearing what might be around the next corner and financial quarter, or will we charge the corner and quarter with hope?

I need to remind myself of the hope we all have in God. Hope the way God designed it is confidence… I will kneel and bow my head humbly before my Father and Saviour, the only beings worthy of that respect and adoration. He will give us strength to stand back up and face the world without fear.

That is what I’m praying for in 2011…

I pray God opens the eyes, hearts, and minds of His people and this country to live in understanding of His sovereignty over all mankind.

Nothing happens here without God’s will or consent.

I believe understanding this truth alone will bring about a Happy New Year.

THIS IS MY STORY, THIS IS MY SONG

this is my story

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Occasionally in my life I’ve had God given epiphany moments. This isn’t the norm, but rather the exception in most cases. Some people refer to this process as “the light  bulb turning on,” so I guess you could say I’ve stumbled around in the dark more than my share over the course of my life.

Last Sunday I had one of those light bulbs, epiphanies, ah-hah moments, or God’s revelation, what ever you want to call it, in my mind and heart. Our church has started to finish each service with an old hymnal, of which I’ve previously written.

These old songs I heard systematically over the course of my childhood whether I liked it or not. I didn’t much care for them as a lad, but I’m ever grateful for that time as a child that has brought me to this point, where to use the word cherish to describe my feelings regarding the old songs would be and understatement.

The title of the song was “Blessed Assurance,” but the title was a bit fuzzy to me. As soon as we started singing I recognized the words that have become part of who I am, the words that would come to tell the story of my life as if written by my own hand.

This is the chorus of the song:

This is my story, this is my song

Praising my Savior all the day long

This is my story, this is my song

Praising my savior all the day long.

Pretty simple words to have such an impact on me, but isn’t that how God usually works? As soon as we got in the truck after church I wrote down that chorus on my trusty note tablet.

My wife kind of looked down, tilting her head to parallel her eyes with the lines of the page, she read it and didn’t say anything. However, she didn’t roll her eyes either, that’s how I knew it must be a God thing! (mostly kidding!)

The simple words lit my mind and pushed it out of the mental garage to start it on a journey now set before me. The title to my next manuscript is born. “This is my story…This is my song.” (If not illegal to do so) The story isn’t going to be about my story or song, but about how each of us have a story, each of us have a song.

When I consider the story and song of my life, I see and hear the first drafts and editions were rough around the edges. In fact, they were downright bad, not worthy of mentioning, but these will be recounted whether I want them to be or not.

That story from my life started off as a fun story but took some dark turns. The song of my life started like Beethoven’s 5th symphony, but soon turned to some unlistenable heavy metal.

Like Jesus’ story of the prodigal son, my life although far from perfect, is steering its way to the climax and denouement of the perfect happy ending.

It’s easy to lose sight of the story and song of our life. We get caught up in the day to day stress, distractions, and trials and we forget to stay focused on the main plot and ending of the story and song that accompanies it.

The manuscript God will use to speak to me and remind me of His overall view and plan. My hope is in the process He might use the words to do the same for others. Maybe it can help younger people to look at their lives from a different perspective

Maybe it will help me and others to understand the importance of each decision made every day and the ramifications of each one.

Maybe we can all gain wisdom and strength to stand tall at the ends of our lives and proudly say, “This is my story, This is my song.”

“THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT”

the devil made me do it

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Kids love cartoons, and I was no different as a youngster. As a child, I was most amused by the tiny exact miniatures of the main character that were positioned on both shoulders of the main character.

One shoulder held the good or angelic version of the main character, the other the bad or devilish character. They both had equal access to the star of the cartoon’s ears. The tiny character who represented the “good” side of the conscience would urge the actual character to do the right thing by encouraging him and telling him how good he was going to feel afterward.

The tiny character who represented the “bad” side of the conscience would do just the opposite. Sometimes the little devilish character would say something like, “What does he know, he never has any fun!–Don’t you wanna’ have fun?– What’s it gonna hurt just one time?– C’mon, you deserve this!”

I always enjoyed the entertainment and the way all three characters who represented the same character were portrayed. Even at a young age I understood perfectly the point and humor in the portrayal of our free will. The battle that rages inside every human head and heart.

As I got older I realized even more the genius of whoever the original writer was. It was so clever that almost all the other cartoons on TV copied it for at least one episode.

As I interact with different people in the course of my life it becomes evident to me which conscience had the metaphorical “ear” of the person I’m talking with. They seem to have similar traits to the ones portrayed in the cartoons when I was a kid. The “bad”, the one that thinks “the devil made me do it” seems to be a little more prevalent and certainly easier to spot.

While I still am amused to see some of those old cartoons, I’m left with a hollow spot for the world who literally thinks “free will” is a cartoon or a joke. We never get away from the battle inside our brain while living as ourselves, the main character in our real life cartoon.

The origin of the battle in our conscience can be from the civilized laws handed to us by authority figures as we grow and participate in society, or it can be from God himself calling from within the heart and brain.

Everyone has to make a choice and there is only one side or the other. The choice isn’t just about wrong or right, good or bad, it’s about understanding the mysteries of the universe. It is about learning that while the cartoon is amusing, it may just have been designed to make light of what is very real.

There are opposing forces in this world. One is not a small cartoon figure, HE is the power that created the sun, earth, and all the cosmos. He is the very power that sustains it at this very second. He is a billion light years away and simultaneously He is all around us. For those of us who used that “free will” to believe, He is also inside our soul which resides temporarily inside this physical body.

Him within us is the power provided to take us up with Him when we have passed our short time here. The other power is not a cute cartoon figurine either. He is the author of selfishness, the root cause of all bad things in this world and all evil things start with that.

That root spreads like poison to jealousy, hate, and ends with the murder and eternal capture of the soul. He Satan, is the father of lies, and like that little guy on the shoulder in the cartoon will say the exact same things. He knows our weak points, he targets our senses and selfishness.

The consequences of that choice is no laughing matter…Even if the cartoons are.

A LONELY RIDE HOME

a lonely ride home

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An obituary the week of July 7th, 1953 read:

SERVICES FOR ERVIL SAMONS

Funeral services for Ervil Samons were held Saturday afternoon at the First Baptist Church of Blythe, and burial was in the Palo Verde cemetery. Ervil, son of Mr. and Mrs. Troy Samons of Midland, was killed in a car accident in Texas last Tuesday. His brother, Harley injured in the same accident, was able to return to California with his brothers remains, and will be in Midland for a while. Other Midland relatives are a sister, Mrs. Duane Stallard.

That was the obituary for my uncle I never got to meet. The fatal car crash was Tuesday June 30th,  1953 in Caldwell Texas. Nine years before I was born and a little more than two years before my dad married my mom. The surviving brother mentioned in the obituary was my dad.

It’s interesting to read a story, but never know the story inside the story or the details. My dad came from a family with nine children, of which he landed smack in the middle. Ervil was the oldest and by everyone’s account in my life, siblings in large numbers pair off, so it was with my dad and his big brother Ervil.

The obituary mentioned that my dad although injured was able to return to California with his brother’s remains. It didn’t mention  the mode of transportation for my dad and his hero’s body was via the railroad… In a box car.

I wonder what my dad was thinking about during a two day ride in a boxcar with his brothers body. I’m sure he was glad to have permission to ride for free even if it was in the “hobo” section of the railcar.

I wonder how he felt losing more than a best friend, he lost his brother, the leader of all his siblings. The one who guided, directed, and protected them in a much less forgiving world.

I guess sad, although overtly simple probably sums up the atmosphere to help define a lonely ride home in a boxcar. Heartbroken would better describe my grandma’s reaction to her oldest son’s death.

I’m not sure heartbroken or grieving to the point of death could describe how my dad might have felt when his mom told him she wished it could have been my dad who died instead of her favorite son.

God used an event like that in ways that are beyond my comprehension. To say at that time in my dad’s life must have been difficult is an understatement, but God also used it to begin to mold a humble man and steer his life in the ways of wisdom.

The reason I have to wonder what my dad thought and how he felt is due to the fact that he never told us. He didn’t use the events in his life to paint himself as a martyr or victim. We didn’t even find out the way his mom had treated him when Ervil died until after her death when I was in grade school, and it wasn’t from him.

I marveled at a man in my dad who sat at his mother’s bedside caring for and praying with her. My dad held her hand right up to her last breath. To find out the words that escaped her mouth in an emotional time before I was born and see the actions of my dad in spite of those words, was a good lesson for me to say the least.

My dad showed forgiveness and love in a situation where he could have been bitter and weak. Those are the actions of a strong person because God is in us.

God took my dad home May 7th of last year, and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about him and the lessons I’ve learned from him.

When the harsh southwest sun in its summer strength flash brilliant light on a train towing box cars, pushing its way westward, I think of my dad and his long ride home in a boxcar during the year 1953.

Although deeply saddened by that event I’m proud and have joy in the life my dad lived.

I’m honored by God to have that example and I’m satisfied by knowing where my dad now rests.

It’s truly a happy ending to a great story, but this side of heaven, happy endings don’t always make you smile…

NOTES

notes

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Sometimes we use notes at our house to communicate important messages to one another. A couple years ago my wife came to the conclusion that everyone in the house was talking to each other a bit too harshly.

My wife’s answer to the problem in part was to leave us a note that was directed toward the kids with good reason. How in the world those kids came to tease, sometimes torment one another is certainly a mystery to me… Speaking exactly what’s on their mind? I am stumped indeed!

The note was actually intended for all of us including my wife and me, it appeared one morning on the refrigerator without warning. (the refrigerator is a sure-fire way to make sure everyone sees the note) No explanation, no To: or From: Just the note that read;

Proverbs 16:24

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Believe it or not it actually worked, everyone in the house started being a little more gentle with one another.

We’re pretty big on notes, for each other and sometimes to ourselves. I leave sticky pad notes on my computer or sometimes the coffeemaker to remind myself of an important meeting or event. I’ve learned to communicate with myself like that because occasionally I still have the attention span of a 1st grader.

My wife used to leave special notes in the kids school lunches as a surprise for them when they opened their lunch at school. I was reminded of these notes tonight as I sat down at my desk to write.

A yellow sticky note is posted to my desktop. The kids know this is like my personal refrigerator, if they want me to see something and spend time considering it, they leave it on my desk. The note is from Ali left here when she was home from college over Christmas break.

Ali has a Christian devotional she reads every day, this one she shared with me.

“Human life is made of brightness and gloom, shadows and sunshine, and dark clouds followed by brilliant days of light. Yet through it all, God’s divine justice is accomplishing His plan, affecting and disciplining each individual soul.”       Streams In The Desert.

How impressive is it for a 19-year-old student in the prime of what is usually a person’s most self-centered years, taking the time to encourage her family? I am encouraged, not just by the note, but more importantly her actions.

I received a new fangled note via text message from the oldest a couple days ago, Kenz showed up in person to collect on her request to cover the shortfall. She collected as much money as she could from her sisters, the other broke college student and the 7th grader who I’ve forgotten to give an allowance to for at least the last three months.

The kids are spending time, energy, and money, trying to do the best they can for their mom’s birthday which is this weekend. They’ve picked something really nice that their mom will love, she’ll love even more the intimate notes all three will write inside her cards.

On the other side of my desk is not really a note, but it’s meant for me to “take note”! It is Gurm’s (nickname) report card that she studied endlessly to be able to use for such an occasion as this. I’m proud in heart, not just for the objects, but their heart’s behind the motives for action.

I guess we talk quite a bit and as if that’s not enough we write each other notes, even I leave notes once on a while. My wife has a note I wrote her about 15 years ago. It’s a very short note, but she seems to like it a lot.

My wife insists that the note gets buried with her when it’s her time to go home, you’d think the note was gold plated or something, it is exactly the opposite. The note was written on a scrap piece of paper, torn into a triangular shape by chance, wrinkled and curled with age, up from the point of the triangle at the bottom of the note.

The note is only three words long, under the note is a line, kind of in the shape of a soft number seven with a squiggly tail. It’s hard to imagine an old note on a scrap piece of paper could mean so much to someone.

On  another personal “note,” Happy Birthday Girl!!!

I guess writing notes kinda runs in the family.

Somehow most of those old notes get saved and stored away for posterity. I hope this one does too.

For the “slower” readers, the three words on that scrap piece of paper that make up that old note?

I love you