Candy and I spent most of the morning writing back and forth about questions regarding the definition of Christians and evangelicals and current events that troubled her. While we may not have the same political leanings that does not prevent us from having honest and prolonged discussion. She ended our time with kind words and greetings to my family. Candy is one of the most warm-hearted persons I know and it is always a privilege to be around her.
Stephen and I finished a bike ride and run workout on the Air Force Academy. We loaded our bikes on the back of the truck and headed home. But when we got there I couldn’t find my cell phone. I quickly realized that I had placed it on the back of the truck by the license plate and drove off without securing it. A hundred “O no!” thoughts flashed through my mind. About to take off on an international trip to Africa, it would be a disaster not to have my phone. While most of the phone memory was backed up on my computer, it would still be a major setback and financial hit to lose that stellar black piece of technology.
Part of the retirement process when leaving the military is to make sure that one’s physical maladies or challenges are all reviewed by the Veterans Administration to determine if the veteran may be owed compensation. I had to undergo a battery of tests to see if past injuries or problems with my Achilles tendon, ankles, knees, hips, lower back, shoulder, hearing, sinuses, hair loss and sleep deprivation were service-related. I was asked all kinds of personal questions by the sleep psych0logist I met with to see if anxiety, depression, any kind of drug or chemical addiction etc. were preventing me from falling asleep. I mentioned multiple times that my problem getting to sleep is lifelong and has to do with an overactive brain that does not shut off easily. I assured her that even though it is a battle for me to rest, I am mostly full of joy and did not blame the military for my condition. I don’t think she was expecting that answer.
Jadon is almost 21 months old and being his grandpa is one of life’s great blessings. Jadon’s first word was “ball.” Virtually as soon as he learned how to walk he began kicking balls. He will walk and run around the room for quite awhile either throwing or kicking soccer balls, footballs, tennis balls (well you get the idea) and it is amazing to see his coordination. Jadon’s first phrase was “I love you” which he learned from Mark and Sarah. But his first connection of two different words was “more food.” Mentally he figured it out that more combined with food communicated that he was still hungry.
2 John 12—Though I have many things to write to you, I don’t want to do so with paper and ink. Instead, I hope to be with you and talk face to face so that our joy may be complete.
While attending a class on cyber security in November of 2012, I was amazed to learn that 4.8 billion people own a mobile phone which surpasses the 4.2 billion people who own a toothbrush. Fascinating! Just imagine if all of those people could connect via a twitter account—the ability to pass information instantaneously is staggering.
Will was getting concerned. He had not received a response from the church where we were scheduled to bring a concert in Tracy, California. Finally, the night before we were to sing and share, he received a call from one of the pastors. An eight year-old girl from one of the families in the church was kidnapped and her body was discovered in a suitcase. Understandably, a broken-hearted church needed to cancel our appearance and meet the needs of a grieving family. Pastor Tim, our host in Sonoma, with only 20 hours notice, scheduled us to minister in his church. We had a fantastic evening of ministry and with the Sonoma church we spent quality time praying for our brothers and sisters in Tracy.
Tonight we sat in church and celebrated with hundreds a Christmas Eve service. There was good music and message and the proverbial ending replete with candles lit and singing Silent Night. Then we went home. I thought about how easy it is to be joyful when no one is shooting at you and the most treacherous aspect of the holidays is negotiating icy-snowy roads. How different it is for my friends in India, Kenya and Nigeria who have experienced the sudden upheaval of violence, barely escaping the hate of those who despise Christians.
Riding from Abuja to Jos, Nigeria, David Joel, pastor of Agape Communion Church, shared with me an amazing story. There was a military coup in Nigeria in February 1976. Jurbe, a Captain in the Nigerian Army, was implicated in the coup. Despite his innocence, the authorities tried and executed him. Paul Wakkies, his younger brother, took his death hard. But on November 5, 1976, his wife, Kurnyang, bore him a daughter. They named her Lengkat, which means, “Don’t Worry!” Paul took solace in the fact that although God allowed the death of his brother, He provided new life.
Jude 24,25—Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now, and forever. Amen.
There are two kinds of ground in this world, holy and unholy ground. The former is found wherever God’s presence abides. We see this most clearly when Moses, seeing the burning bush approached to determine why it was not consumed only to be met by the voice of the Lord.
Throughout history people have always sought joy. But it is not something man is capable of manufacturing on his own. In fact, its very existence is proof of its source.
Joy is not birthed in the brilliance of philosophers. François-Marie Aroue, known asVoltaire, was considered one of the most influential thinkers of his time. Yet he wrote, "I wish I had never been born."
Standing in line in Dubai ready to get our tickets, my brother, Nate, talked to the Emirates ticket representative. She was from Nairobi and was impressed to hear Nate was doing humanitarian work with an orphanage in Kisumu. So she upgraded all our tickets to business class! We arrived in Nairobi, refreshed and encouraged at God’s blessing.
As we prepared to fly to our next destination, Kisumu, it became clear that we would be heavily taxed for our excess baggage. Nate suggested we drive to Kisumu and save expenses. Because this would give us a better opportunity to see the countryside and save money we all agreed. Thus began a grand adventure.
Jenny stopped by to get food. I felt bad because I couldn’t remember her name. But she graciously dismissed my forgetfulness and explained that she was still without a job. I reassured her that we were glad to again be able to help her and her five children. I’d invited Jenny to our fellowship many times so we could spiritually encourage her but for multiple reasons she had not come. This time I shared with her that she was a remarkable woman and that many people had come to get food from us as a result of her seeing their need and encouraging them to come. I told her that she was highly regarded in the neighborhood and that I was disappointed she had not come to our Saturday evening gatherings, not because she was missing us but rather we were missing her.
Typically, on Saturday evenings, The Road Home, a fellowship less than a year old, meets in a school in Newberg, Oregon. Aside from our primary desire to worship the Lord we want to reach our surrounding community with the gospel and raise up disciple makers. Like most churches, we sing, share, pray and teach God’s Word. Currently we are working our way through Luke’s gospel.
Pity the stuffy religious leader who wears frowns as a badge of maturity and looks down upon those who laugh as frivolous contenders for God’s eventual wrath. He has missed the divine engineering of our marvelous Creator, misused the ministry of role-modeling and will most likely die the premature death of one repressed instead of blessed. The human capacity to laugh is a God-given gift and for good reason.
Turn on the television these days and you’re likely to see a “reality” program. Spawned by the show Survivor, Hollywood churns out Fear Factor, Temptation Island, the Bachelor, etc., in ever-increasing bizarreness to titillate our senses. But these shows have little to do with reality, they are all about the pursuit of thrills. A bored nation craves standing on the edge of immoral precipices. It’s not enough to know someone is inebriated, now viewers must see vomiting—as if such disgusting behavior will in some way rivet more eyes to the box of shame.
Stephen blows fiercely against the candles on his cake. But try as he may, those flames will not die. He is the victim of trickery and everyone howls with merriment. There is a wonderful lesson on top all that delicious frosting.
So often as Christians we wear our joy like normal candles. At the slightest breeze of adversity we find our light snuffed. It is much easier to be critical and whine than it is to rest in the certainty of Christ. Joy is not defined by the absence of wind or rain or by the presence of paradise. It is not conceived under the banner of pleasure. True joy cannot be formed by what is already in essence tainted. For joy to be complete it must be founded in the only thing that is perfect—God!
Luke 2:13,14--Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!
Sometimes it’s hard to really know how much you love something until you lose it. We knew today was coming and dreaded it—things just won’t be the same.