Seeing Behind the Scenes

We constantly benefit from unseen people. We receive services and assistance from people we can’t physically see.

Some Examples

The bank teller at the drive-up window. Those working in restaurant kitchens. The trash collectors who are rarely see. Every morning my office is clean. My compensation is paid twice monthly; and somebody somewhere makes sure it happens.

kitchen

Another Example

Yesterday, I mentioned our Children’s Christmas Musical and expressed appreciation to those who produced it. They deserve a lot of credit and gratitude.

But allow me to mention some others. There were professional level light, sound, and camera people in the A/V booth. A program was designed, printed, stapled, and folded. Volunteers served dinner to the children before the performance. Afterwards, hundreds entered the gym to find tables and chairs set up. The tables had lovely, seasonal center pieces. There was delicious food, deserts, and beverages. There was hot cocoa!

Somebody had to make the food and drinks, decorate the tables, and make sure that 400-500 people had all they wanted.

Somebody.

And after we all drove home, somebody had to clean up and put everything away.

 Who were they? They were the great unseen.

Seeing Behind The Scenes

To you who missed the musical because you were someplace else preparing to serve everyone else, I say God bless you. I don’t know who all labored in the shadows, or worked in the background, to insure the evening would be a huge success. But to all of you on behalf of all of us, thank you!

You are the hidden talent. The quiet servants. The humble givers.

Jesus knows.

To Close

We often measure the success of things by what can be counted.

To those everywhere, serving in the background, laboring in the shadows, who are often overlooked, unnoticed, and un-thanked, you are the real heroes. You are all the reasons. You may feel uncounted, but believe me, you count and you count huge.

God bless you.

WOW! The Children’s Musical

Jesus our Messiah loved everyone. But he loved and appreciated children most of all. At least it looks like he did, given the gospel accounts of his ministry.

He would be so proud of what happened last night.

What Happened Last Night?

Our Children’s Ministry put on their annual Christmas musical. It was a wonderful performance, a huge success, and bigger and better than ever.

Some Numbers

  • 20 pre-school kids
  • 63 grade-school kids
  • 6 kids working back stage
  • 3 kids assisting with sound, lights, & cameras
  • Maybe 100 kids were involved.
  • The largest crowd ever: 750

Those numbers represent what could be seen. But the real value wasn’t measured by  counting the children, but in how each child counted.

The Untold Stories

There were children afraid to be in the spotlight, but they stepped up anyway. There were children with a speaking role who were so nervous, but they did great. And there were children who wanted to be involved but didn’t want to be on stage. There was a place for them too, helping with props, the fog machine, and in the AV booth. Every child who wanted to be involved was involved. Why? Because every child counts, each one matters.

I saw parents getting emotional because their child had a break through moment. I saw grand-parents crying over a grandchild they brought to weekly rehearsal, or twice a week, for months.

The Gifted Kids

Sure, there were confident, talented kids on stage, and the program was all the better for their involvement. But they worked just as hard, made the same commitment, and still had to earn their parts.

It wasn’t a night just for stars to shine. In one way or another, every child contributed to the beauty and brilliance of the musical. Why? Because every child matters.

img_0324
Me With Some Of The Heavenly Host. Aren’t They Beautiful? 

About Jesus

The musical was about the angels learning of God’s plan to send his son to be born. They learned that the Father would send them to share the news with Joseph, and the shepherds, and that they would sing at his birth, especially one special angel. It was marvelous.

“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 all around them, and they were much afraid. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.’”

To Close

Thank you Janel and Melissa, and your fabulous team, for your cat-herding patience, your endless days of preparation, and for your constant dedication. You blessed us all. 

And thank you for honoring the value of every child.

Jesus is so proud of you.

A Houston White Christmas!

caroling-in-the-snow-e1386967276161

Not Houston, Or Me, Or the Church I Preach For: Not Even Close

Top ten things I’ll do this Christmas if it snows in Houston:

Ten: Keel over from the shock

Nine: Go sledding

Eight: Buy a sled

Seven: Put on my snow boots

Six: Buy snow boots

Five: Make a snow angel

Four: Make a snowman with my kids

Three: Sit by the fire and watch it fall

Two: Call all my friends in Colorado and gloat

One: Call in sick (Christmas is on a Sunday this year)

Top ten things I’ll do this Christmas if it doesn’t snow in Houston:

Ten:

Nine:

Eight:

Seven:

Six:

Five:

Four:

Three:

Two:

One:

Some Perspective

It’s highly unlikely to snow this Christmas in Houston. It has snowed at Christmas, but rarely. But on the other hand, some who live in colder climates with months of snow, ice, and freezing temperatures will wish they were somewhere else, somewhere southern, like Houston?

Not Exactly Sure

I’m not really sure why Christmas snow is such a big deal, but it is. I Googled Christmas cards and every card with an outside image had snow, lots of it. It’s pretty, it’s romantic, it works with the red bows, the season’s colors, and all the external lighting. It works beautifully with 25,000 little Italian twinkle lights. Thank you Clark.

Pretty Thin Stuff

No, not referring to a light dusting of snow, but to the rather thin value of this blog. But I don’t care. When it comes to Christmas, I’m just a big gooey marshmallow. Come to think of it, I’m fairly gooey the rest of the year too. Mostly, Christmas just brings out my inner child. So let it snow, let snow, let it snow!

photo
Me in 1959
rick2
Me in 2016

TO CLOSE

I’ll leave you with this prayer:

“Good morning Holy Spirit. I thank you for your rich grace, your marvelous mercy, and the gentle manner in which you lead and guide me. Thank you for the sweet fellowship that family and friends will share this holiday season. I ask that you influence everyone I know to think more about the birth of Jesus. You are needed more than ever. Amen.”

Shalom

A Banged Up Soul?

I was at the checkout counter when I noticed a problem.

Here’s The Problem

I was buying a bundle of wood stakes for a project at the house. I didn’t pay attention when I got them from the store shelf, I just assumed they were all good and fine. They were not. There were two stakes with wood rot.

Here’s What Happened

I pointed it out to the check-out person, she conferred with a manager, and he offered a $1.00 discount. The whole bundle was only $3.00 anyway. I said sure and paid the $2.00.

A Curious Thing

I found it odd. I expected him to exchange them for a different bundle. He didn’t. He sold them, “as is,” with a 33% discount.

As I pummeled the stakes, I reflected on a deeper perspective. In the movie, “Seabiscuit” the cowboy, Tom Smith, who became Seabiscuit’s trainer, said this line, “You know, you don’t throw a whole life away just ‘cause he’s banged up a little.”

I didn’t discard the whole bundle just because a couple of them weren’t up to standard.

Speaking of Standards

I’ve been banged up a few times. Maybe we all have. I’ve made mistakes and demonstrated imperfection. Souls can get banged up too. But I’ve been blessed to have people like Tom Smith, people who saw the greater good, the larger value, and didn’t throw me away or toss me aside.

You Know Who Else Didn’t?

Jesus my Messiah, he didn’t. He could have since he was/is the only righteous person to live in this world, but he didn’t. He wasn’t blind or negligent, he was paying attention and was well aware of my imperfections, the wood rot in my life.

So I’ll Close With This

“Good morning Holy Spirit. I know you will bless me today because you do every day. I want to thank you for not giving up. Thank you for seeing me as valuable, as someone worth saving, for seeing beyond the sins and imperfections. And thank you for healing my banged up soul. Amen.”
what-is-the-holy-spirit-dove

In Full Countdown Mode

Great correlations in human development:

  1. The after meal nap lengthens with increased amounts of gravy.
  2. The dessert debate is leaning from pumpkin to berry pie.
  3. Christmas decorations on Thanksgiving is a growing reality.
  4. The amazing sales of Black Friday are now starting on grey Tuesday.
  5. The more Thanksgiving dinner the louder the grunt when standing up.

Yes, we are an elegant and sophisticated people; modern and cosmopolitan. Oh well. Thanksgiving has come and gone. Where does the time go? “Time fly’s,” someone said. Does it? Time isn’t flying so much as it’s marching over me and my greying, thinning hair.

And Now…

We are now in full countdown mode. It’s 27 days to Christmas and the unending stream of parties, dinners, concerts, plays, lights, food, gifts, trees, and house decorations. Yep. 

b991d93583b69f337c56528a4ec5e9e4

I’m A Big Sap

I’m a big sap for Christmas. I love it. Granted, it’s a massive commercialization of a sacred event. But just think, there’ll be hot chocolate by the fire place, homemade fudge, cards in the mail, and brightly wrapped packages under the tree. Not to mention the shimmering beauty of freshly fallen snow. Ah, Christmas in Houston!

I’m hoping to get lots of gifts this year, I love getting lots of gifts. However, I’m boycotting malls, stores, traffic, and all shopping. It’s just not for me. It’s not how I roll.  

The Bigger Thing

I know the real meaning of Christmas. It’s like Garfield said in one of his TV specials, “Ah Christmas, it’s not the getting, it’s not the giving, it’s the loving.” Well said for a cat.

When did the love begin? Was it when the star appeared in the clear night sky over a sleepily little Judean village? Or was it the moment of the virgin birth? Perhaps when the heavenly host proclaimed praises to God for the savior being born?

TheNativity (600 x 300)

An Even Bigger Thing

When you think about it, the love really began before the world was made. I believe we were created from love’s foundations, from the source, the well-spring of divine care.

Regardless of when the love began, it found its greatest fulfillment in Jesus our Messiah. So let me offer to each of you a very Merry Christmas!

I’ll Close With This…

“Good morning Holy Spirit. Today begins of a new week and a new season of celebration. So we begin by saying thank you for the Christ. Thank you for our Savior. And thank you for the love. Amen.”

God be with you!

Shalom

45,000,000 Turkeys, Pt. 2

Not everyone likes turkey. Some find it dry, or bland, hence the delicious brown gravy.

thanksgiving
Not My Dining Room or My Family, But They Seem Nice!

It’s Iconic

But still, it’s a cultural icon, and hundreds of millions will have turkey on Thanksgiving.

Why do we keep these traditions? Are we comforted by maintaining religious and cultural practices?

3500 Years Ago

About 3500 years ago, a million slaves walked out of Ramses. The final straw was the death of Egypt’s first-born sons. That was a terrible night for the Egyptians as grief swept through their homes. But it was different for the Hebrews. They had painted lamb’s blood their doors, so death would pass over. That night they ate a special meal, a Passover meal, knowing it would be their final meal and their last night in Egypt.

There are interesting similarities to Passover and Thanksgiving.

The Slaves                                    

  • Left for the promise land                      
  • Ate roasted lamb                                    
  • Shared with family                                 
  • Passover symbolized freedom             
  • Passed down through the generations   

The Pilgrims

  • Left for the new world
  • Ate roasted turkey
  • Shared with family
  • Thanksgiving symbolized freedom 
  • Passed down through the generations

Passover

Passover was rooted in freedom. God delivered them from Egypt and led them to Canaan. He provided water, manna, and the promise of a better life. Every year Jewish families gather around the Seder table to remember and to give thanks to Yahweh for delivering their ancestors from bondage to freedom.

Thanksgiving

The Pilgrims left their homes to escape persecution and find a better life. They held a strong belief that God delivered them to the promise land. It was a life their children would inherit, and their children’s children. A life passed down to every generation. 

They Passed It To Us

If not for our Pilgrim forefathers, we might exist in a very different world. Would the United States of America have ever been born? Would America be very different? Would we still enjoy religious, political, and social freedoms? Would we still be prosperous and free?

How Do We Relate?

On the last Thursday of November, we gather around our dinner tables to give thanks. We practice the grace of gratitude and remember those who sacrificed to bring the message of freedom to the new world.

51ulg5ffoxl
Looks Good To Me, Let’s Eat!

Along with the food, the football, and the napping, let’s take a moment to go deep within ourselves, to places we don’t often access, and  pause to give thanks on Thanksgiving. 

To Close

Let’s not allow those 45,000,000 turkeys to die in vain!

We are free and prosperous and alive to enjoy it.

May God bless you and may he continue to bless our great nation.  

Happy Thanksgiving

Forty-Five Million Turkeys, Pt 1

There is a whole passel of turkeys about to be baked, fried, roasted, and smoked.

How Many Turkeys?

Forty-five million birds. That’s how many turkeys Americans will eat on Thursday, plus or minus a few thousand. But we are a big nation, with a lot of big people, and Thanksgiving is a big holiday.

turkeys
Their Days Are Definitely Numbered 

The National Bird?

Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be our national bird, arguing that turkeys were uniquely North American. But the Bald Eagle won the race. For 364 days, the Eagle soars high, free, and majestic. But on Thanksgiving, on that one special day, the turkey is king. Yes, we kill and eat the king, but in terms of popularity, he is the clear winner. And we were never going to have fried eagle for Thanksgiving. 

Alexander Hamilton said, “No citizen of the United States shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day.” Well put. But it was President Lincoln who, in 1863, made a presidential proclamation for a national day of Thanksgiving. Here we are, 153 years later, gearing up to carve 45, 000,000 turkeys.

It’s A Social Bird

It’s a meal shared with family and friends. The Pilgrims shared their feast with Wampanoag Native Americans. Edward Winslow recorded there were 50 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans at the three day feast. They probably had fewer than 45 million birds. 

Our meal will feature traditional favorites like cranberries, cornbread dressing, some kind of lime jello salad thing, and pumpkin and pecan pies for desert. Yum.  

Giving Thanks

They had lost nearly half their colony that first winter. It was a most discouraging result for those who had so deeply sacrificed for a slice of the new world. But the colonists professed a profound faith, believing that God led them to this land, to discover all that is best in a life lived in freedom and prosperity.

For Us?

 Our Thanksgiving isn’t about surviving a bitter winter. It’s more about a day off from work to gather around the table with our favorite people. We will have great amounts of rich food laced with sweet fellowship, and then there will be football with pie and ice cream. God bless America. 

But maybe it’s also about something else. Perhaps our Thanksgiving really is a God thing. The Pilgrims sailed across a violent sea, to an unknown future, to establish a new life in a new world. Did the Lord our God lead them here? Are we richly blessed today because of their faith and courage?

To Close

 We are richly blessed, and I believe most of us would agree to that, so how do we express our gratitude, how do we give thanks on Thanksgiving?

I want to believe that 45 million turkeys will not have made the last full measure of sacrifice just so we can consume them and rush back to the TV.

51ulg5ffoxl

Look for part 2 Wednesday morning.