Thanksgiving, gratitude, & Christmas starts on October 28th…

A few days before Halloween, I walked into Costco to pick up some supplies for dinner. I made it 30 feet into the store & was confronted by a huge snowman, who just happened to be fronting a mega-sized Christmas display. Christmas display.

Christmas carols emanated from somewhere in the pile of holiday cheer. Anchoring the display were several large ticket items, each promising to be the core of many present-wish lists. I stood staring for a good minute, soaking in the spectacle. Someone stopped next to me & commented, “Awesome, huh?! I can’t wait for Black Friday!” Me: “Help me Jesus.”

This reminded me that our culture is a consuming, self-indulgent culture – it’s in the DNA of our human-sinful nature. 1John 2:15 speaks of it when John writes: “Don’t love the world, or the things of the world…for all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh, & the desires of the eyes, & the pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away, along with its desires…”

To me, John is warning us against 3 HUGE temptations: the desires of the flesh (self-indulgence,) the desires of the eyes (a never-fulfilled longing for MORE stuff) & the pride of life (selfish, me-focused ambition.) These things each have the ability to shipwreck us & our faith by pulling our focus (& priority) onto things that are temporary at the expense of the eternal. What are some ways that we can battle this when it is so much a part of our culture it SEEMS normal that stores would open at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day?

One way is by asking the Holy Spirit to sensitize us to values & priorities that are eternal (Think Matthew 6:19-24,) Another is asking Him to reveal areas of our hearts where our priorities have gotten out of whack. If/when we discover something is off, we repent & make a shift in our thoughts/directions/actions.

Ultimately, in this season of thanksgiving, cultivating contentedness & gratitude will help establish priorities centering on the things that really matter.

two years…

Two years.

That’s the amount of time Paul waited in a Caesarean jail cell for his legal case to be acted upon by the governor.

Those two years pass in one sentence in Acts 24: ”When two years had elapsed, (governor) Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.”

Two years.

In that time, Paul’s testifying about his court case and the charges against him morphed into regular opportunities to give witness to his faith through conversations with the governor. Further, he shared with all that would listen about “righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment…”

And instead of getting bitter, wondering how God could forget him in Caesarea (after all, didn’t Paul have God’s promise that he would testify in Rome?), Paul used the challenging circumstances of prison to encourage others through letters that we now refer to as Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, to name a few.

Two years.

Paul saw it not as a waste of his time, but as an opportunity from the LORD.

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Philippians 1:12-14

Two years.

LORD, I pray you give us eyes to see our lives & circumstances, come what may, as God-given opportunities – & may Paul’s words from his jail cell ring in our ears: “Rejoice in the LORD always; again I will say, Rejoice!”

musings on a Friday…

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Philippians, especially chapter 4. It starts with verse 10 – Paul’s thankfulness that the Philippian church is financially & materially contributing to his care & well-being while he is in prison. What really catches my attention are verses 11 & 12 – where he says that he has ‘learned’ to be content in ‘any & every situation.’ Having everything & nothing. In times of feasting & famine, support & opposition. Learned contentment.

Which gets me thinking about some ‘opponents’ of contentment… ungratefulness. Complaining. Negativity. Critical-ness. A bad case of the “if only’s,” which signify that the only thing between me & contentment is a change in circumstances, environment, etc. (BTW: What are the “if only’s” that mess with you?)

Being content is a choice I make to be thankful for God’s provision, protection, & care. It’s recognizing that I’m responsible for me, my choices, attitudes, & responses. To not look to stuff, other people, places to ‘make’ me content. To not place blame for the unrest, storm, & dryness in my own heart, soul, & relationships on someone or something else. To really live out verse 13 – “I can do all things through Him Who gives me the strength;” meaning that there’s nothing, no one, no circumstance that can take my contentment… because my contentment is resting on the person & provision of Christ.


Wednesday night was Man Night @ Dr. G’s. We had a BBQ & 3 guys, brew-meisters if you will, gave us a lesson in the home-brewing process, from the boiling & mixing of the ingredients, to the filtration of the brew, to bottling. Truly inspiring.

My favorite part was the ‘art’ of the brewing of beer, which emerged as all 3 of the brew-meisters gave a list of their “beer making absolutes” – most of which they disagreed on. Meaning that someone like me could perhaps one day make beer. I’m thinking September-ish.


For the last 3 years, I’ve been attempting to get a DVR through DirecTV, which shouldn’t be that difficult. Except we need a 2nd line run from our dish to a place on the other side of our house (long story.) And the said 2nd line can’t be run. Can’t. Which we established with DirecTV 3 years ago. Which meant that in order to DVR, we had to get a side contract with TiVo. Which strangely only needs 1 line to use. But I digress.

The word in customer service, however, was that they could get around this need for the 2nd line with Advanced Technology. So last week, I confirmed with said customer service that I could, for free, get a DVR through DirecTV. Made the appointment for today, Friday, & waited for the tech.

Tim the Tech arrived within the convenient 4 hour window that he’d promised. I met him at the door & gave him a run-down of our history with DirecTV & told him I wanted to get all the info out there before he got started working. Annnnddd…

It turns out that in order to get a DVR through DirecTV, the dreaded 2nd line is still necessary. Drat. So the appointment had to be canceled.

Except… I got the ‘cancellation call’ from DirecTV customer service… & the person I talked to confirmed the cancellation, & then informed me that there actually WAS some Advanced Technology that would allow us to upgrade for free & to have a DVR. Better than that, the monthly cost would increase by only $7. Nice.

Sounded promising, so he connected me with the Scheduling Wing of DirecTV Customer Service. Who told me that one of the required units was free, but the other required equipment came to a total of $200. Which is more than free. Didn’t do it. Exploring other options, like U-verse. We shall see.

But I’m still content.


Came across an poll/article that discovered that 40% of American evangelical leaders “socially drink alcohol.” (The National Association of Evangelicals defines an evangelical as ‘one who takes the Bible seriously and believes in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.’


Nothing really surprising in the poll/article – though one quote jumped out at me:

“While we understand one cannot defend abstinence from alcohol biblically, we have chosen to raise the standard for leadership in our movement,” said Jeff Farmer of Open Bible Churches.


Which begged the question: Raise the standard for leadership above WHAT?
ANSWER: The Bible.


And just when you thought every iPhone app you could think of was already in the App Store, there is now a free vuvuzela application. Which I have downloaded. And while I’m watching the World Cup, I’m playing the vuvuzela to my hearts content. Ahh.

Walking through Philippians, thinking about life…

Our church family is currently going through through the book of Philippians… which for me means I get to spend time doing a few of my favorite things: lots of reading, researching, studying, & listening. In all of it, I’m finding myself really intrigued, captivated even, by the unfolding theme & message of Philippians.

The context of the letter is that it’s author, Paul, is writing to a church in a place called Philippi, a church that he helped to start. (Check THIS out for some background on it.)

The letter is sent to the Philippians while he’s in prison – in Rome, awaiting trial for his unswerving commitment to the declaration of the good news that people can have relationship with God & forgiveness of sins through the death & resurrection of Christ Jesus – he was specially commsioned to take this message to the Gentiles, something that really fired up some of the Jewish religious leaders… so much so that Paul was forced to defend himself in a Roman court of law.

One of the things that ‘gets’ me is that even though he’s in prison, it doesn’t seem to phase him. As a matter of fact, the main theme that keeps popping up throughout Philippians is Joy. And Rejoicing. And being joyful.

Huh?


Prison seems like a worst-case scenario to me; the kind of circumstance that would naturally lead one to use all their energy, effort, & focus to try to get OUT. Instead, Paul writes that he is rejoicing at his circumstances… because being in prison served to have the good news/gospel message advanced throughout the whole imperial guard, & to all the other prisoners.

Further, other Christ-followers were able to observe his clear, consistent, & faithful example in the face of suffering, shame, & the unknown… & from it were encouraged to tell of this good news, to speak God’s Word, without fear.

That’s why Paul rejoices. The gospel is being lived & declared, even in prison.


I’m confronted by my own fears… wondering at my own life-circumstances. What would I be focusing on if I were in Paul’s shoes? (Sandals?) Makes me think of the difficulties & messes I’ve been in, where the only thing on my mind was crying out for God’s help & deliverance… and it seemed that my only declarations centered around the theme, “GET ME OUT OF HERE!”

Paul reminds me that even in the middle of a bad situation (& prison is BAD,) God is still at work in my life. He’s never left me, never abandoned me. Even more, He’s right there with me in the middle of my trouble. And somehow, someway, He can & does manage to turn the situation for His glory. Somehow Paul sees that; & its not that he doesn’t want out of prison, (he does!) he just wants God’s purposes & plans in, through, & around his life more.