Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas - A Time of Remembrance or a Festival of Fools

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:22,23

What are we doing people? I mean really, can’t we all just take a deep breath and stop. Stop with the over-the-top craziness that has turned this Holy Day into nothing short of a Festival of Fools? Gifts, wish lists, debt, doing, going, seeing, but where is the being? What happened to “Love thy neighbor” in what is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year”?

I know many of you are gracious in your giving to the needy, helping out at food shelters, partaking in toy drives, etc, etc, and thank you for your service to your community. For many of us though, that can be an after-thought to checking off the list and checking it twice - forget about if we’re being naughty or nice. Which reminds me, my great nephew Davis (one of the cutest and possibly smartest 3 year olds on the planet) proudly addressed Santa at a Christmas party the other day, “Thank you! I’m no longer on the naughty list!” I can’t imagine this precious boy being anything but innocent.

So for the most part, the Holy Day has turned into anything but sacred. I was watching the news on Wednesday morning as I was getting ready for my last day of work for the year, and they were doing a story on people waiting for hours for the NEW Air-Jordan sneakers that apparently had a limited supply released to the public. There was pushing and shoving and trampling of people all for a stupid pair of sneakers. Really people? Are you kidding me? They will be restocked and half-the-price in 2 weeks.

So here I sit Christmas Eve morning with yet MORE shopping left to do. My work schedule provides precious little time to think about gifts much-less go buy them. A lot of this falls to my lovely wife who is a black-belt in the sport anyway. Thank God she is so good at it because I need all the help I can get. She schooled me in it “the way of the hunter/gatherer” yesterday. I actually thought she was going to, as Caleb would say, “Spartan-kick” a man in one of those store-provided scooters-for-the-infirm at Target last night.

Here’s how that went down:

Ally was looking for a certain DVD to replace an old VHS model we had thrown out. The store clerk had a pile of people at his register and said he would get it from the storage room in a few minutes. So we shopped for other DVDs while we waited. Caleb and I wandered off so we were unaware of the storm cloud that was brewing. Ally was waiting patiently by the door to the stockroom when the clerk finally walked over and started to unlock the door. Out of nowhere a giant “ME-monster” rolled up on his 3 wheeled basket-scooter. It seems he was in desperate need of a DVD of the Gene Simmons (from KISS) MTV series Family Jewels.

The clerk told him that he would help him as soon as he was finished with Ally because “she has been waiting patiently for a really longtime. I just need to step in here and get hers off the shelf.” Unknown to the rest, this man was more important than all who were present. He proclaimed loudly and emphatically, “No! You will help me NOW!” and then proceeded to ram the clerk with his scooter pinning him with his back against the door. Apparently this man was unaware of the dangerous trek upon which he had just embarked because my wife also has a third-degree black-belt in the sport of removing the heads of bullies. It’s a specific martial art known only to certain sects in Motherdome.

Ally somehow garrisoned enough Christmas spirit to keep from killing this man on the spot. Instead she informed him, “No sir – you will wait your turn. As he said, I’ve been waiting for a long time, so back up the scooter and wait your turn!” The 3-wheeled bully was not immediately deterred. He ran right out onto the thin-ice and spoke directly to my wife. This confirmed to us his mental state had him about 12 cards shy of a full-deck.

As he backed up and re-rammed the clerk again(who was desperately trying to unlock the door and simultaneously search his hand-held device for the Gene Simmons DVD), the over-sized ninny-muggin told my wife to (and I quote) “Shut up and mind your own business – he’s going to help me first. You can wait!” All who were present truly witnessed a Christmas miracle right here. She responded calmly with “No. Back up your scooter and wait your turn.” However, sensing a YouTube moment was about to occur, other customers began to congregate to watch the drama unfold.

(Ally) “Tim! Tim!”

(Tim) “What?”

“Get a police officer – NOW!”

(Spectator) “Good for you! You’re being a lot more patient than I would be,” as if she was no stakeholder in the events.

Sidebar: The crime could literally be describe in a court-of-law as aggravated assault (assault with a weapon – the weapon being the scooter).

I looked over at Ally to see a crowd of people standing around a guy on a scooter. Thinking he was having some sort of medical issue, I ran to find anyone with a badge or walkie-talkie. I see Barney guarding the entrance. Really? Shouldn’t you have the EXIT covered? I informed him we had a “situation” and we needed his help.

He came over and took a couple of statements, then called for the manager who arrived in very short order. She sort of reminded me of Oprah between diets in looks and interviewing skills. She quickly assessed the situation and sent the man on his way even after we, a bystander, and a clerk corroborated what happened. Another clerk walked up and said, “We have trouble with him all the time. He’s always aggressive to customers and clerks alike.”

Einstein suddenly reappears on his scooter trying to ensure he gets his side of the story straight and on the record. Unfortunately for him, they were going to review the security tape. We left our contact information and went on our way. I have little doubt there will be absolutely NO consequences for his actions which is exactly why he continues this behavior. Next time we will certainly reconsider the “Spartan-kick” option (in Jesus name).

Back to the Holy Day

So what is the point of all the peripheral stuff that we call “celebration”? Have you considered the true Gift of God this Christmas? Have you considered the wonderful reality of the manger that led to the cross? Have you stopped to consider the absolute treacherous and difficult journey that were the lives of Joseph and Mary that were truly conduits for our salvation? What about Father God? Have you considered what He gave? When I think of my son Caleb I can’t help but be pierced to the core to think of “His only begotten Son.”

Have you considered Emmanuel – God with us. What a privilege. What an honor. What love. What a gift! God with us. Allow that to soak deep into your spirit and dwell there throughout the rest of this Holy Day season. Allow it to challenge your New Year resolution. Allow it to be a substantive force in your giving and receiving. Receive ye the Holy Spirit. Let those words impact your living and doing and being.

Remember the gift of eternal life and forget about the trouble and turmoil of a world warring against its sensibilities. Give them the gift of grace and let your light so shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. I say let’s challenge everyone we know to make Christmas about Him again. Love to you all. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Disingenuous Authenticity

Thanksgiving 2010
Tim A. Michael

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son." Hebrews 12: 5,6

Thursday morning (Thanksgiving) I went out early to a crisp cold backyard to have some time alone in prayer and “thanksgiving” to God. I acknowledged to Him that I was indeed thankful for all the things I had – my job, my home, provision, etc. and I acknowledge that He alone is my Source and Savior and Sustenance. However, I have been emotionally drained and battle- weary with little left in the tank to overflow into praise. Just being real here.

For those of you who know me, and know me well, you know I always make it a point to challenge people to “just be real.” Nothing on the planet, yea verily nothing in all creation, makes me more steamed than someone’s hypocrisy – except for maybe my own. I can deal with that in a very lawyerly way and soothe the conscience. Trouble is enough soothing turns it into a seared conscience - crusty, deep-fried and lifeless. That’s a scary place to be.

Holy Spirit come.

I used to bristle at the notion that I had any sort of hypocritical tendencies. It’s definitely not in my redeemed nature to allow it, but I find my flesh stepping up to ensure there is a place for the periodical prodigal presence. Something about a dog returning to its vomit comes to mind.

So what shall I do to be saved?

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Church (This is Paul being real and authentic about his flesh.)

Chapter 7

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What the???!!!! Can anyone relate? I do that which I hate, and don’t do that which I know I should. I pretty much suck as a person. This is Tim being real and authentic about his flesh. My frustration is still seeking emancipation.

160/120 BP was a recent price of said frustration. I’m frustrated with being ill-equipped to do that which I know needs to be done yet I just can’t seem to get from here to there. I’m frustrated with the same old sins of selfishness and flesh. Blah! Why can’t I just get my crap together?

The Father revealed something to me on the road home from church the other day. People all around me and I am oblivious to them. I don’t love them. I don’t care about them. They’re simply strangers in other cars competing for the same space on the freeway – agents of inconvenience. How can I love and care about those with whom I am competing? Oh wretched man that I am! I just want them out of my way. At least THEN I will have a clear path to the throne of grace I so desperately need.

Again – can anyone relate? Am I the only self-centered ass in the church? It is the love of the Father that disciplines His son. I know that I know that I know that I am His son because of His rebuke and discipline. That makes me an heir. Thank you Jesus. Deliver me from myself.

So going forward I seek to love as He loves. I need the deep breath of redemption so I can exhale a big dose of the Spirit. Jesus loves each and every one of them such that he carried their cross and their sin. I needed that reminder. I need to extend more deference to aid in their deliverance. I need to love them all the way to Him. I need to extend the grace to them I have so generously received.

In Christ, the foundation of the gospel is to “love God and love others.” The first one I can do okay sometimes. The second part is still a challenge. Anything short of that though is still hypocritical and disingenuous, because to love Him is to love them the way He desires. And to love them is to love Him in the way He desires. I think that’s what "being REAL" in Him looks like.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Feast on a Fall Cleaning

"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Mark 2:27, 28

I haven’t been blogging for a while – mainly because I’ve just been too busy. I have more on my plate than an uncle at a potluck family reunion. You know the one – he heads up the (adult) line and has this unwritten competition (of which no one else is aware) to see how much food he can stack on his styrofoam tray, and then glows in the jabs he gets from the by-standers as he parades by headed to his own personal feast-dome. Well, I’m not THAT proud of my plate, or all that is piled thereon, but like Uncle Feasty I’ve got to eat it a bite at a time.

You might say I’ve been enjoying a bit of a Sabbath from the writing. In this blog, I have always tried to be real and naked (see honest and transparent) about my own shortcomings and sins so that the reader might relate and appropriate. I scribble thoughts in search of a nugget that might heal. I try to do so in a way that is non-judgmental yet challenging.

16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:16,17

I love eating and drinking with sinners – the broken, the rejected, the hurting, and the frustrated. I do because I am honestly one of them. I still have much in me that needs to be fixed. It’s a journey that sometimes seems futile and frustrating. Yet will I praise Him. I was created for that. So were you. Keep walking. Keep the faith. Surrender.

So I write again after a lengthy hiatus. It is interesting that I am doing so again on “Labor Day” – you know – the day we celebrate “Labor” by not working. Oh how I could wax eloquent on that subject for a while, but I’m giving that a rest today too.

I was sitting on my back porch haven this morning, enjoying the cool breeze, and I began to read and pray. I felt impressed to read the gospel of Mark again. I love Mark because he gets right to business – no long narratives about lineage, or begets, or angelic hosts, but he gets right to it.

(Paraphrasing) “Isaiah said it. John did it. People responded. Jesus completed it. Jesus went to the desert. The devil was there. Jesus was tempted. Wild animals and Angels were also there. John went to prison. Jesus returned. Jesus preached. Jesus was willing. People were healed.

I know that is an over simplification of chapter 1, but I think some simplicity is what is needed in me right now – pare back the minutia for a while. Stop picking the weeds, but fertilize the grass. As your soil gets healthy, your soul will too. It’s pretty fundamental stuff. Read and pray. Read and pray. Read and pray.

My wife Alicesun – the nutritionist – keeps reminding me that good stuff going in produces good results. I need more of Him in me to manage my affairs, order my life, and reignite the hope that lies within us who are the Redeemed. Oh yes – Let the Redeemed of the Lord say so. It is so! It is well – even when it’s not.

We’ve sort of had the Autumn version of “spring cleaning” around our house this weekend. Stuff everywhere, out-of-place, staged to store or remove, and it all was set into motion in the middle of the night Friday night with a sick dog. Negotiating poop is not fun; it does not allow for inaction. It became the catalyst for a deep cleanse.

Now - about the sick, the sinners, the broken. As I was reading in chapter 1, verse 41 jumped out at me – again. 41 Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!"

I truly believe this is the most difficult revelation for humanity to grasp. Whatever your need, whatever your righteous desire, He is willing to provide. Our problem is that the receiver has so much static, so much interference, so much noise, that we can’t hear the answer – I am willing. The Great I Am is able and willing. Grasp that nugget of truth right there and let it take root. Be cleansed. Be well. Be whole.

Your Father sends his love.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Holy Smoke! The Upside to the Downside

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Romans 8:18-21

I’ve not been in a good place for a few months now. Stressed at work and frustrated on many levels. That frustration has produced a character that resembles Jack Torrance at times. You remember Jack right? All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. I have certainly had my share of “Shining” moments of late. A couple of weeks back it sort of all came to a head and I had myself a good old fashioned blubber-fest with my wife and Heavenly Father.

I’ve been in dire need of some R&R - Righteous Rehabilitation - a close encounter of the Godly kind. I have come to embrace the reality that sometimes an encounter with God doesn’t look exactly like what we might think. Sometimes He is found in the gentle conversation between friends over a glass of Portuguese White wine (Famega) and a slow burning Churchill cigar. I know – call me crazy, but it was indeed a holy smoke. (For the record, I might I smoke a cigar once or twice a year)

We recently had a house full of family and friends just hanging out collaborating on songs and journeys and food consumption. The food was outstanding. There were 3 cheeses to sample, some olives, and a
North Coast California Pinot Noir too. Dinner consisted of orange-glazed salmon, saffron rice, and roasted asparagus. Dessert? Strawberry cheesecake of course.

The fellowship was even better. Besides having my wife Ally and all 3 of our kids at home together, we had Harrison (Whitney’s boyfriend) home from Iraq (for good), Bryan (Katie’s boyfriend) playing his guitar and singing with Fredy and me. My friend and confidant Fredy is a great man of God who patiently works with my lyrics to transform them into songs, though he's as much pastor and teacher as he is friend and musician.

Earlier in the week, Fredy had reached out with some encouragement for me on Facebook citing Psalms 91: 14-16. In fact, after my heart's cry on that Sunday, the Father blessed me with a week full of friends checking in on me: John, Clark, Christie, Pastor Ty, and Fredy, each with a tidbit of hope and joy and prayer. Interestingly, Christie’s post has proven quite prophetic as she cited the very verses I’ve used as the "scripture text" of this post. Brother Ty hooked up on the phone with me and spoke wonderful encouragement into my life as well.

Then there was Angel - a real angel with whom I work. Angel is one of those men that has the coolest Latino accent - kind of like
the Dos Equis guy (the most interesting man in the world), but Angel shaves. When he speaks he penetrates your soul as he looks you in the eye and levies truth. It's like the Holy Spirit is whispering each word into his ear as he's speaking. All the while Angel is grinning, smiling, almost laughing as if he knows something you don't.

On this particular day, Angel had just "dropped in to say "hi" and then started reading my spiritual mail to me. He reminded me of God’s goodness and grace. He spoke of great things over me and renewed my hope even more. God again heard and answered my prayer. It seemed like the Father was telling his son “look dude – it’s okay I’ve got your back.” My boss likes to use the term “I’ve got this!” or “I’m on it” when trying to reassure someone that he’s taking care of an issue. I just feel God saying “I’m on it.”

So – back to my holy smoke. Fredy and I and, later on, Bryan sat on my back porch smoking stogies. Mine was a nice thick aromatic “Churchill.” Fredy had a Brazilian, and I’m not sure what Bryan was smoking. Ha! So we sipped old wine and new. We talked about our journeys, our frustrations, and the promise. [Insert giant slow inhale here.] Oh the promise. The promise is redemption. The promise is a kingdom that will one day come to earth and reign as it is in heaven.

Fredy also reminded me of Asaph and Psalms 73. Reading there we find that Asaph almost lost his footing. He envied the arrogant and rich. He longed to be free of the burdens common to man. Sound familiar? It seemed he couldn’t understand at first how their fortunes could last unjustly. His heart was grieved and embittered.
Then as if revelation dawns he begins to enumerate their sin and prophesy their end. He began to repent of his own and entered the sanctuary of God. He confessed he was senseless and ignorant and a brute beast in the presence of God, yet he understood God was still holding his hand. Abba-Father Daddy-Redeemer. God is always present – always - even in our sin and pain...loving us.

I needed to hear that. I’ve been a brute beast in His presence. I’ve not reflected His glory but deflected His story. I’ve listened to crap and spewed a bunch of it out. Thanks be to God I am disciplined. Fredy reminded me that it makes me a legitimate son.

The Father is still a stakeholder in our journey. His glory will be revealed in us – his sons (and daughters). We groan as if giving birth to it because it is implanted in us yet struggles to come forth. It seeks to fight past our frustration and earthen limitations. Yet He tailors those struggles and pains together and turns them to our benefit. Fredy says, “that’s the upside to the downside.” He fashions those scars into garments of praise. That fragile earthen vessel carries the deposit of the Divine.

We should share it freely with all. It’s what we’re meant to do as fellow sojourners. Reach out and touch someone with hope. It will change you. It will bless them. I’m thankful for friends like Fredy and John and Clark and Christie and Ty and Angel, who listen for the voice of the Spirit and don’t hesitate to share it with others. I hear the Father saying, “y’all share. I'll be there.”

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Stain of Pain Stays Mainly in the Gain.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

As I sit here in my recliner next to a flickering gas log fireplace, I look out and see the receding line of snow as it melts into a fond North Texas memory. 12 inches we received in two days. The beauty of a snow covered landscape is something that awes me every time I see it in person – especially in these parts because of its infrequency. Something so beautiful that only happens in winter’s dead-zone. For me it serves as a reminder that even in the harshest of circumstances beauty emerges.

None of us are immune to the pain of loss or rejection. In fact, our spiritual adversary would have us all believe that none of us are worthy of love or blessing and that any misfortune or malfunction in our life is simply a well-deserved well-timed display of justice. Our misstep, our stumble, our weakness, our endless supply of our sin sowing comes crashing down as we now reap our harvest of a renegade’s reward. Just desserts.

Ever feel like that? I found myself jokingly saying “of course!” when encountering these sort of circumstances . The Holy Spirit corrected me the other day. I love course corrections, I need them like a vitamin that builds my soul.

My boss likes to use the phrase, “I don’t care so much how we got here as to what we are going to do now to fix it.” Part of me hates that because I want to learn/teach the lesson, but part of me also sees the tremendous value of grace that allows room for our humanity and provides an opportunity for redemption. Redemption – now that’s a concept I can embrace fully.

So back to our pain that stains. Too often we lose in the loss. We lose a job or a loved one or a friend, or just something we value and we get bitter. We turn our loss into something like it's a personal affront from God. We blame Him since, after all, the great micromanager could have stopped it, and we know through law that anyone that could have stopped a crime yet doesn’t it guilty of being an accomplice to said offense. Even our self-inflicted wounds are somehow His fault.

We do this at our own peril. We have much to gain from examining ourselves in our storms. Like the disciples in the boat during the squall we start with the accusations, “Doesn’t He care that we perish?” Dude! Wake up! We’re about to drown! We intuitively run to Him then stand amazed and awed when He stills the storm. What is even more amazing is that we believe he can still the tempest outside but not the one in us. We waste our pain.

Ally and I have been working out religiously for about 4 months now. There have been a couple of weeks where we were unable to get to the gym but maybe once or twice. Hitting that treadmill or those weights after a long layoff was painful. What was more painful was the notion that we were having to regain ground we had already paid to gain. Ground gained must be maintained. We had wasted some of our pain.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m reading Max Lucado’s Fearless and he touches on some of this. Referring to the martyrs in Hebrews 11:35-37 he writes,

” …contrary to what we’d hope, good people aren’t exempt from violence. Murderers don’t give the godly a pass. Rapists don’t vet victims according to spiritual resumes. The bloodthirsty and wicked don’t skip over the heavenbound. We aren’t insulated. But neither are we intimidated. Jesus has a word or two about this brutal world: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. (Matt 10:28) …Evil doers have less of a chance hurting you if you aren’t already a victim”.

This is a principle that we’ve tried to instill in our kids. “You are not a victim.” “Don’t get bitter – get better.” “Over-comers can’t be over-comers unless they’ve over-come something.” See we are all fans of victory, it’s the battles we hate. We embrace the finish line but don’t embrace the race. We love the destination, but hate the journey. We love the new clothes and compliments, but we hate the treadmill.

Lucado goes on to discuss the brutality of Jesus’ death and the pain and suffering that He endured and why.

“Then what are we to make of the occasions Satan does reach us? How are we supposed to understand the violence listed in Hebrews 11…? Or most supremely, how are we to understand the suffering of Jesus? Ropes. Whips. Thorns. Nails. These trademarked His final moments. Do you hear the whip slapping against his back, ripping sinew from bone?

Thirty-nine times the leather slices, first the air, then the skin. Jesus clutches the post and groans, battered by wave after of wave of violence. Soldiers force a thorny wreath over his brow, sting his face with slaps, coat it with saliva. They load a beam on his shoulders and force him to march up a hill. This is the condemned sharpening his own guillotine, tying his own noose, wiring his own electric chair. Jesus shouldered his own tool of execution. The cross.

Cicero referred to the crucifixion as “a most cruel and disgusting punishment.” In polite Roman society the word “cross” was an obscenity, not to be uttered in conversation. Roman soldiers were exempt from crucifixion except in matters of treason. It was ugly and vile, harsh and degrading. And it was the manner by which Jesus chose to die. …Did atonement for sin demand six hours of violence? No, but his triumph over sadism did. Jesus once and for all displayed his authority over savagery.

Evil may have her moments, but they will be brief. Satan unleashed his meanest demons on God’s Son. He tortured every nerve ending and inflicted every misery. Yet the master of death could not destroy the Lord of Life. Heavens best took hell’s worst and turned it into hope. You “have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him, (Phil. 1:29 NLT), remember God wastes no pain.”

I lost a father I never knew. I’m not sure which is worse – losing one that was close, and never knowing the man that rejected his family. I lost a cousin that was closer than a brother. I lost a friend who was also as close as any brother could have been. I’ve been in love and rejected. I’ve sought the approval and affirmation of others only to be ignored. I’ve inflicted pain as well. But God wastes no pain. He turns it for our good.

He teaches us to love others and reach out those who are experiencing the pain we once knew. His pain and ours is gain. Don’t allow yours to be wasted. Submit it to Him for his retooling and restoration. Let Him redeem your tears and scars. On this Valentine’s Day remember this - His love never fails.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Faith with Feathers and Fear Less

Psalms 107:13-16 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.

In bed at 3 am this morning and up at 7. It seems this holiday season has had many a short night. Levi had been out once but was whining as if he needed another pee break, so puppies rule the morning when being house-broke. I stepped outside in my house shoes and flannel robe to a crisp beautiful morning. As the frost glistened in the sun, which was just now peeking over the horizon, I was hit anew with the promise - His mercies are new each morning.

Birds were singing in the neighborhood as if spring had arrived, and I chuckled as I saw my breath leave my chin. Do they realize how cold it is? I breathed in deeply through my nose and I was reminded of my wonderful new ability to draw in a full breath through nostrils separated by a now-straight-septum. Thank you Jesus. Exhaling I was aware of His presence in the moment. I love these little encounters with Him. Thank you.

Two very simple words that mean so much. I've said them a lot lately. Thankful for many wonderful gifts at Christmas, not least of which was the affirmative answer to a (roughly) 40-year-old prayer - a White Christmas. I was as giddy as a young boy who received a bike on Christmas morning. In Texas it is truly is a Christmas miracle - proven by the fact that it was the first one on record in 83 years.

I actually opened all the blinds on our first floor so that as I traveled room-to-room I could see the falling snow and blanket of love. I prayed for people's safety as I knew many would be making their way to family gatherings - including my daughter Whitney who worked well into the evening. With each flake and each inch I felt the Father's love for a little 49 year old boy who might as well had seen Santa and his sleigh touch-down on his roof. For some this may seem silly - for me it was a dream-come-true. But it may not have been the best gift I received...

This year I topped my Christmas List with a request for a book which has also become a "New Years Resolution," and maybe even a declaration of freedom. I asked for Max Lucado's newest publication Fearless. I've completed chapter 3 and it is already proving to be everything I'd hoped and then some. I'll share more on my "deliverance" in upcoming posts as more light is shed on the disfunctionality of my soul, and the steps to strengthen feeble knees.

It has been several months since I've entered anything on my blog. In fact, 2009 was a year of very few posts; it was indeed a year of change (as one politcal mantra goes). For those of you rolling your eyes - fear not - I'm not going there today. What I want to do is offer a window into some of the changes I've been going through, even now, and what I feel like the Holy Spirit is doing in me, and maybe even a small challenge to all to be HAPPY.

I am convinced that the biggest obstacle in all of our lives is FEAR. It stands as an impenetrable wall for many. Max refers to it as a prison in his book. For me, I come by it honestly, my mom is the original "worry-wart." I gave her this book too for Christmas. :) The thing that pains me the most about mom is her fears. She also comes by it honestly. Born 19 days before the stock market crashed in October 1929, her entire childhood was engulfed in the darkness of insecurity known as "The Great Depression."

At one point they were homeless seeking shelter in an abandoned broom factory, sharing it with some cows. Mom, the second-youngest of 9 children, would walk with my Aunt Martha several blocks out of the way from school so the kids wouldn't know where they actually lived. My mind can hardly wrap itself around that scene. Add to this the insecurity of two world wars and one can only imagine the fear that took root in a young lady's heart.

My worries? Some are legitimate, some not-so-much. I was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure. It seems to be situational. Long hours at work, mandatory overtime, less down-time, more frown-time, stress, test, not my best, shortness of breath, more seems less, and the powers that be just can't see, all wrapped-up in "me" now no time is free. As anxiety deepens, frustration mounts, blood pressure elevates. Fear creeps in. (Fear is a creep you know.) Promise seems to fade into shadows and the cycle spins.

So I run.

I run on the treadmill seeking endorphins and a fix for my physical fitness. My body is changing. Good - it needed it. I feel better. I've got my lungs back, I'm getting my joints back, and I'm getting my jeans back, and turning the clock back ever-so-slightly. I'm still sprouting hair in the most unusual of places, which has created a new fear - that I will end up looking like Steve Carell, but I digress. I'm embracing the changes in me to be physically and spiritually challenged and changed from glory to glory.

This morning I began to dig a little deeper on this front and started confessing my greatest fears to the Father (and now to you all). My biggest fear is that my loved-ones (mainly my kids) will not arrive safely at their destination - physically and spiritually. Max reminded me of the sparrows. The Father did too when they sang this morning in the sun-kissed frost of a new decade. Sparrows sold 2 for a penny and 5 for 2. Max talks about the fifth sparrow - the freebie not worth anything - yet the Father knows about the sparrow. It sang a song of promise in spite of the cold - in spite of the season - doing what it is created to do.

His promises are worth the daily digest. His promise is that He never leaves or forsakes. His promise is that He finishes that which He starts. His promise is that we can't out-sin His grace or outrun His pace. His promise is not another political mantra of hope and change, but a real messiah that delivers them both. His promise is that He will come again and that the paraclete will walk beside until then.

A new day. A new year. A new decade. Another chance to embrace all that is the promise of new life in Him and the journey of joy. What about you? Are you doing what you were created to do? We say "Happy New Year!" with the emphasis on the New Year. I think our emphasis should be on "Happy"! HAPPY New Year folks. Walk in promise and walk in joy. It's what He wants for us and what we're created to do.