Monday, December 23, 2013

Patient Persistence

Nineteen years ago, I met a young middle school boy at Furman football camp.  He had a lot of innocent mischief as a camper and it drew me into a relationship that carried over to the next summer.  I came to recognize this young man each summer, then as God would have it, I changed coaching jobs and ultimately coached the young man his junior and senior years in high school. By this time the absence of a father was taking its toll.  Alcohol, drugs and much of the violence that comes with these evil darts had become a norm for him. The relationship took on more of a mentoring and coaching in life role off the field. I remember a number of rescues from dangerous parts of town, spending the night with him in detox chasing demons and long talks on long walks.  He would come to our house when in trouble.  We would make popcorn on the stove (as opposed to in the microwave) and sit on the front porch rocking in the chairs and praying about his life.  Most of those years were very disheartening for his mother, sister and me.  It seemed that no treatment program would rescue him from a life of addiction spiraling down toward death. He would sit in those rocking chairs and in tears say, "Coach, one day I want to sit in your rocking chair." That became my undying prayer even at the worst of updates.  Many years later, after successful treatment plans and many setbacks, he came to my church yesterday.  He entered into the waters of baptism.  His belief in God since childhood now grasped the flag of surrender.  We shared a morning of worship with a wonderful body of believers who pledged their continued prayers for him.  God answers in His time.  He always answers.  His glory is always on display in those who are faithful.  Yesterday, His glory was shining brightly in Sumter, SC.  I think God moved his rocking chair yesterday.  I thank my wife and children for sharing their dad all those years with a dear friend and family!  To God be the glory, honor and praise. 

Nativity Perspective

What would light up the world more if we could bring all of them together over the centuries into one measurable, comparable light?  Would the nativities from each Christmas season shine brighter than the fires lit under the martyrs who burned for not denying their Christ? In recent years, the Christmas season has had an unwelcome guest appear at the nativities on display, especially where the politically correct or the unbelieving are offended.  This stirs up the church and not a few well-meaning followers of Christ. I am not being judgmental of my concerned friends but only offering a well-thought out challenge that really raises the bar for me as well. Would Jesus say “Thank you and well done” to all the editorial writers and demonstrators?  Or might He tell a parable about one gentle individual who daily lived as unto His Master, always serving, always sharing, always kindhearted, honest and fair to others as he gently shared the reason for his hope…every day…every day regardless of the circumstances…always looking for His Master to return, daily defending His life, death and promised return by His consistent witness? I know no one personally who gets fired up like this every Christmas.  I do hope that the other eleven months of the year they are willing to light such a fire in their daily relationships and conversations that their light could be seen for miles and centuries.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Forgotten For Never

Imagine that night in Bethlehem’s pastures.  We know not their names.  They remain obscure characters forever etched into a story of wonder and hope for all generations.  We can only presume their age, their welfare and their status.  Some were likely old and experienced.  Some were fathers raising young men behind them to care for sheep.  There was likely a brotherhood to these guys, a “Band of Brothers” so to speak. But we can also imagine one lonely shepherd.  Think with me what a difference a Hallelujah Chorus would make to a lonely widower, resigned to live the rest of his life married to sheep. Others had for years reached out to Abé.  Most had resigned themselves to the fact that Abé preferred to be left alone. Abé was a loner.  He chose the further meadowlands near Bethlehem’s wilderness.  He never came to the market place at the customary festivals.  He was more of a survivor.  Abé chose to live in obscurity. His peers often wondered how he survived.  Abé was at peace with the circumstances life had brought him. He knew the life of the widow.  In the death of his wife in the breached birth of his firstborn, he lost his whole family.  He and Anna had been friends since childhood.  Their love had grown through the awkward years of adolescence and Jewish rites and arranged marriages.  They were so happy that their love was met with mutual consent from their fathers.  Their whole life seemed perfectly arranged.  He couldn’t love another. Abé spent night after night resolved to seek God in his loneliness while serving those he knew were dear to God. Not having to support anyone but himself, Abé had endeared himself to the words of Isaiah: “…Plead the widow’s cause…Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will be like wool.” Words as these the illiterate Abé understood. So his lambs always went to a widow at a price she could afford. Abé looked upon the baby in the manger and his young mother.  His own heart stirred.  He recalled the prophecies and the message of the angels, and Abé knew that he was looking into the face of a Lamb bringing peace for all the people.  Did he offer Mary a little lamb?  I think that would be a perfect gift.