Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

IMG_1046Gayla and I enjoyed a great weekend with our children and grandchildren. We gathered on Friday for a day of giving thanks and enjoying one another’s company. While we waited for the rest of the family to gather, Gayla and Kendal prepared in the kitchen while Colin and I cleaned the pine straw from the roof and gutters. I mostly watched since I have been grounded from having much to do with ladders since my fall about six weeks ago!

After everyone arrived, we had plenty of time for talking, laughing, and playing before we enjoyed the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. These gatherings are getting better and better, and we’re believing that the Lord will increase our number thereby increasing our praise and thanks to Him. What a matter God we serve!

I heard about a thanksgiving surprise that was picked up in some news services last November. It all started when a grandson forgot to notify his grandmother of a change in his cell phone number. This resulted in an awkward and potentially embarrassing situation for the unsuspecting new owner of his old number and for his grandmother.

The grandmother, Wanda Dench, sent a text message invitation to her family and friends to invite them over for a Thanksgiving meal. But that invitation made its way to Jamal Hinton, the new owner of her grandson’s old phone number. Jamal was offered a seat at Wanda Dench’s table for Thanksgiving when she thought she was texting her grandson. The text message ended with, “Let me know if you are coming. Hope to see you all.”

Jamal responded by asking for a photo to confirm if it was his own grandmother behind the text. Soon a picture of a woman with blonde hair and glasses showed up on Jamal’s phone.

“You’re not my grandma,” Jamal replied with a laughing emoji. He then sent back a selfie to let her know he was not her grandson. But Jamal did not stop there. He asked if it was possible to “still get a plate.”

In grandmotherly fashion, Dench responded, “Of course you can. That’s what grandmas do.”

In an interview with KNXV in Phoenix, Hinton said, “I’d never seen her before, and she welcomed me into her home. That shows me how great of a person she is. I’m thankful for people like that.”

This morning I preached at Crossgate Church of Robert. While I am grateful for another opportunity to use my spiritual gift of preaching and teaching, what I really enjoyed was the fact this church has taken seriously its mission to love its neighbors seriously. The people in this church did not know Gayla and me except that their pastor had asked me to preach in his absence. They welcomed us and made sure that our needs were met. After the service, they came back over to where we were seated to greet us again and to thank us for coming.

I’m thinking that Wanda Dench’s response to Jamal’s question about still being able to come over for Thanksgiving. She said, “Of course you can. That’s what grandmas do.” If the church takes seriously its mission to love its neighbors seriously, this will be on our lips, “Of course you can. That’s what Christian’s do.

Let’s make sure that we know that we must extend the invitation to all and to welcome them when they come. They need to know that we care.

I’m encouraged by one of our newer members of the church. Her name is Linda. She joined our church just a few months ago. When she became a member of First Baptist, she let me know that while she wouldn’t be here long that that she would be as faithful in her attendance as possible.

Linda has cancer. But she did not let her illness for becoming fully immersed in our church family. She attended New Member Experience earlier this year, participated faithfully in Life Group, attended the Wednesday evening service, and joined the choir. I enjoyed visiting Linda in our sisters’s home because she always ended up encouraging me so much.

About a month ago, Linda decided that moving from her sister’s home and to a hospice house was the best place for her. She expected that she would be there only a short while as she waited for her time to go to her heavenly home. Gayla and I — and several others from our church family — have experienced the joy of visiting with Linda at the hospice house. The joy comes in what Linda brings to her visitors who come to encourage her. She always turns the visits into opportunities for speaking a word of joy or for singing songs of praise.

Last Sunday Linda once again spoke about her longing to go home to heaven. But then she said, “I guess the Lord still has something for me to do.” Gayla and I agreed with her. On Monday afternoon during our pastoral staff meeting, Linda sent me the following text message:Praise-God

“Just found out why I am still here. The 92-year-old lady from Germany who is in the hospice house just gave her heart to Jesus! Praise God Almighty! I just cried. I am so happy. Next time you come I will introduce her to you. She is so sweet.

“And another thing. A girl, who (when she was 9) used to go with me when I would sing at the nursing home, called me out of the blue. She told me that because of going her with me and all the biblical teaching I did with her and her sister was the reason she accepted Jesus. Now she goes to nursing homes and she felt like she was supposed to find me and tell me about that! Wow! Ain’t God good! Amen, amen! Just wanted to tell you. Have a blessed day. I did!”

 

Ray’s parents gave him a new Bible on his eighteenth birthday. It was his senior year in high school, the first week of two-a-day football practices, and Ray had crawled home that day bone tired. His mother had made a special dinner. His dad had written the following inside the Bible:

Bud, nothing could be greater than to have a son — a son who loves the Lord and walks with Him. Your mother and I have found this Book our dearest treasure. We give it to you and doing so can give nothing greater. Be a student of the Bible and your life will be fully of blessing.

tattered bibleWe love you.

Dad

9/7/66

Phil. 1:6

In his blog posted on September 7, 2016, Pastor Ray Ortlund, Jr., wrote, “As I read these wonderful words from fifty years ago, it never occurred to me to think, ‘Dad doesn’t really believe that. It’s just religious talk.’” Ray knew that his dad meant it because he had watched him live it. Ray’s dad was a student of the Bible, and his life was full of blessing, and Ray knew that he wanted what his father had.

While it took him a few more years to get clarity in some ways, Ray never stopped mining out the treasures in the Bible. What his dad had said so many years ago had left a deep impression. As he stated it, “It moved me then, and it moves me now.”

The B-I-B-L-E — yes, that’s the Book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E. That’s true for me. I hope that it’s true for you. But in order for the Bible to make any impact on your life, you must invest time reading it, studying it, memorizing it, meditating on it, and applying it to your life. If you don’t have a regular time to read God’s Word, please establish one. Don’t fall for Satan’s lies that you cannot understand it or that you don’t have time. God wants you to know Him through His Word. If you will ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind to understand the truth in His Word, do you think that He will not answer that prayer? I urge you to set a time when you can read God’s Word for yourself.

Life Is Good!

Posted: May 18, 2017 in Family, Stories
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Mother’s Day brings mixed emotions. This day can be really awkward at church. For many, Mother’s Day is an awesome celebration omothers-day-01f life and the joys of being a parent. My wife is an awesome mother to our kids and an even better “Gigi” to our grandchildren.

But Mother’s Day is a mixed bag for me as well as for many others. Gayla’s mother passed away in 2010. For those who have lost their moms, Mother’s Day is a day of grief marking that loss. You may know a mother whose son or daughter has passed away. No parent expects this kind of loss. One of our daughters struggles with infertility. She and her husband — along with many others — face the silent reminder of that struggle every Mother’s Day. For every woman who has experienced an unexpected miscarriage and grieve an unborn child, Mother’s Day is a day of grief.

Some of my friends have had their children fall into addictions, rebellion, and walking away from God. Mother’s Day always seems to remind them of how they “failed” in raising a godly child. Some women chose abortion and live with the reminder every Mother’s Day of what “could have been.”

As you can see, Mother’s Day can be mix of emotions.

So let me offer a good story to help us all on Mother’s Day. Bert and John Jacobs grew up the youngest of six children in a lower middle-class family in Boston. When the brothers were in elementary school, their parents were in a near-death car accident from which their mother managed to escape with just a few broken bones, but their father lost the use of his right hand.

The stress and frustration from his physical therapy caused him to develop a harsh temper, they explain in their book Life Is Good. “He did a lot of yelling when we were in grade school.” Life was not perfect. “There were often difficult things happening around the house.”

But their mother, Joan, still believed life was good. So every night as the family sat around the dinner table, she would say to her six kids, “Tell us something good that happened today.” As simple as her words were, they changed the energy in the home. The brothers write, “Before we knew it, we were all riffing on the best, funniest, and most bizarre part of our day.”

Growing up with a mother like theirs — one who sang in the kitchen, told animated stories, and acted out children’s books for them, no matter what bad situation they were going through  — that them an important lesson: Being happy isn’t dependent on your circumstances. “She showed us that optimism is a courageous choice you make every day, especially in the face of adversity.”

Perhaps you have heard of Bert and John’s little company — “Life Is Good T-Shirt Company.” Their never-quit attitude likely propelled them not to give up even though at one point they only had $78 between them. For five years, they traveled up and down the East Coast, sleeping in their van, living on peanut butter and jelly, and showering when they could. They sold their t-shirts in the streets and college dorms. Now their little company is worth millions — thanks to their mom’s three simple word that changed their lives forever. Life is good!

Most every week I pray with each of the three high school principals in Mandeville. I have a standing appointment on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at the Fontainebleau, Lakeshore, and Mandeville. During these times of prayer, I listen to each of these men as they talk about their students and faculty. We often talk about our church and how things are going. At the end our brief time together, I will pray for the principal, the students, the faculty, and any specific prayer request that has been voiced.

This week was different. Having already heard about a Mandeville High School student who had taken his life on Monday, I received a text message early Thursday morning informing me that a second student from the school had taken his life. While it’s not unusual to have a difficult time finding a place to park at the school, I decided to park in a “staff only” space. As I approached the school’s administrative offices, I walked past more than a half dozen police officers. Once inside, I waited for a while as the office staff answered the phone, taking time to address concerns raised.  Grief counselors had been summoned. A couple of student assemblies had been planned.

While I did not get to pray with the principal, I did pray for him and his staff and students as I left the campus. Without a doubt, this would be a difficult day and week for the school. The families affected by these tragedies need our prayers and our comfort. The hurt is deep. The anxiety caused by these losses can be devastating.

What can you do? Pray. Then pray some more. If you are close to the family, then do not stay away. If you are not close to the family, it is probably better to pray from a distance. The truest friends are those who wait. This loss is so unexplainable, so difficult to grasp. You need to wait for the griever to grieve. Don’t pressure them to “get back to normal.” Their normal has been rocked. Embrace them with love. Don’t try to offer answers. Eventually, you can point them to the hope and joy and victory that can only be found in Christ.

In March of 2014, a year after the devastating loss of his twenty-seven-year-old son who took his own life, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church was asked, “How have you made it? How have you kept going in your pain?” His answer? “Easter.” Warren went on, “You see, the death and the burial and the resurrection of Jesus happened over three days. Friday was the day of suffering and pain and agony. Saturday was the day of doubt and confusion and misery. But Easter—that Sunday—was the day of hope and joy and victory. And here’s the fact of life: you will face these three days over and over and over in your lifetime. And when you do, you’ll find yourself asking—as I did—three fundamental questions. Number one, ‘What do I do in my days of pain?’ Number two, ‘How do I get through my days of doubt and confusion?’ Number three, ‘How do I get to the days of joy and victory?’”

The answer is Easter!

Wednesday afternoon I viewed the disturbing video released for the first time on Tuesday which showed the senior medical director of Planned Parenthood casually discussing over lunch the sale of intact organs from aborted babies. It sickened me to the core of my being. The graphic nature of the subject prevents me from writing about it here.

Of course, Planned Parenthood struck back immediately, claiming that the video misrepresented Dr. Deborah Nucatola as she described the procurement process of fetal organs. However, it appears that the only thing misrepresented is Planned Parenthood’s own messy response.

In his blog this week, Dr. Al Mohler wrote:

“I have no reason to believe that the video is anything less than totally credible. But, even if Planned Parenthood somehow finds a way to evade justice in terms of criminal activity, the part of the video that Planned Parenthood does not and cannot deny reveals their senior medical director (Dr. Nucatola) enjoying a conversation over a meal in which she describes tearing apart the bodies of unborn human beings in order to get the desired organ….

“When the Allied forces liberated the concentration camps of the Nazi regime, General Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the ordinary German citizens of nearby towns and villages to walk through the camps and to see what they had allowed and facilitated. Eisenhower’s point was all too clear — you allowed this to happen, and you share the guilt.”

We all share in the guilt of the holocaust of abortion. Just a couple of weeks ago our church dedicated a Sunday morning to prayer for revival and spiritual awakening. We prayed for our nation in the spirit of 2 Chronicles 7:14 to be stirred from its spiritual slumber and spiritual stupor. As a nation we have called good evil and evil good for so long that we are confused. Many spurn the Word of God as irrelevant.

I’m praying that the release of this video will stir more people; although, those who support abortion will likely “keep their ears stopped and their eyes closed” to the atrocities of abortion because they enjoy the profits from this horrific industry. Will you join me in praying that this video will mark an important turning point in our nation’s conscience? Mohler concluded his blog with, “The horrifying images of harvested baby hearts must lead us to our own broken hearts. A nation that allow this, will allow anything.”

I’ll be going “over the edge” with Pastors Waylon Bailey and David Crosby if Crossroads NOLA raises $30,000 on GIVE NOLA DAY — May 5.

God has used Anna Palmer, the executive director of Crossroads NOLA, along with Tyler Sandifer, the director of program management, to touch my heart concerning one of the greatest needs in our state. I had no idea that on any given day in Louisiana about 4,500 children are in need of foster care. That’s tragic enough; however, the need for foster parents falls well short of the need. My heart has been broken over the tragedy of children in such dire circumstances of abuse, abandonment, and neglect. The shortage of foster homes means that siblings can end up being separated or having to be moved a multiple of times. crossroadsnolalogoNew1

I’m grateful to the Lord that He has called out several in our church family to take the foster-parenting journey or to make this a matter of prayer to determine how we can all come to the aid of the children in need in our area. One way we can all help is to give to Crossroads NOLA on May 5.

Some of you have asked Gayla about why she’s letting me do such a thing. I will confess that I submitted to some peer pressure! However, I believe in this cause. I want you to give. I also want you to consider prayerfully how you might go further and determine how you will join in meeting the needs of some children in our area. That might come by providing support and encouragement to those in our church who will provide foster care, or might come by preparing to become a foster parent.

Give NOLA Day is Tuesday, May 5, and is hosted by the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Give NOLA Day is the community’s largest one-day, online giving event. On that day, go to givenola.org and choose Crossroads NOLA from the list of nonprofits. All money raised will be used by Crossroads NOLA to connect children to families.

I hope that the goal is reached! When it occurs, I’ll have plenty of time to get ready for “the leap” over the edge a high rise building in Baton Rouge on Friday, June 19.