For me, one of the greatest pleasures of Christmas is shopping for gifts. I guess I inherited this joy from my dad. He was a major giver. His humble upbringing - and "humble" doesn't quite cover it: they were poor in those days - made it important to him to be able to give gifts in a generous outpouring of his love. Year-round he would hand out dollar bills to miscellaneous children and watch their eyes light up. He really wanted to savor the smiles and oohs and aahhs of the recipients of his careful shopping. Mom was often embarrassed by his lavish selections for her. They both had very little growing up in the Depression in Butte, Montana. I guess in today's "profiling" giving gifts was my dad's love language. It's mine too.
This is one reason it's so important to use what God's given you. I know some of you are tired of the football posts, but football is big in our city and gargantuan in our house. It's one of life's simple pleasures where we can escape the world for a few moments during the week. By now some of you football fans recognize the name Russell Wilson who is the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. Recently in an interview he said something poignant to all of us who write, and of course to all of those who find themselves loving an activity, job, or creative release and doing it well. He said something like he didn't need to be afraid of being good with what God has gifted him, but he needed to keep studying and preparing and learning to do it the very best he could, to continue to excel.
In his few words, he proclaimed he'd been gifted by the Creator to do certain things well, that God had given him the ability to perform at a high level, and that in order to continue to use that gift he had to persist in learning to do it well.
After a point, people learn specific things about their giftings. Those things cement themselves in the mind and become routine as other less conspicuous details present themselves along the way. We discover those as we devote ourselves to improving what God has set forth for us to do. Stagnation won't cut it if we want to do what God has put upon our hearts to do.
So whether you love or abhor buying people gifts for Christmas, you can't ignore your gifts from the Creator of the universe. Designed just for you, selected with precision and a purposeful intent, God gave you just the right gifts. Don't frown when you open them or wonder if you can return them for something "better". It's not possible. These giftings speak of who you were meant to be. Use them and dedicate their production to the One who gave it all. To you and for you and for His pleasure.
Father, there are never enough words in any language to thank you enough. I try to make the words I say to you real and somehow meaningful. They're always full of thank yous, but they're still never enough. Thank you anyway, precious Lord. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Die-hard football fans can be accustomed to having a party while watching their favorite team play. Not at our house. You won't be invited over to watch the game. It's strictly immediate family only. Why? Because at this house when the Seahawks play, we're all a bunch of "Ramseys". If you don't know who Ramsey is, sans the supertitious element and the Bud Lite, we're the fans at home who shout, yell at the referees (maybe mostly me), high-five, jump and celebrate, and generally embarrass ourselves.
I've been a Seahawks fan since their inception in 1976. We've had many years without good teams. So it's something very special to this football family to watch this team play. We can't help our fanaticism, but we can spare others from experiencing it directly. No invites to our home when our team plays. We don't want to frighten you.
Father, thank you for the joys in life. You know we face enough sorrows. It's a blessing to "get away" for awhile and immerse ourselves in the gifts of others. Thank you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Strait of Hormuzis the third novel in the Marc Royce adventure series written by Davis Bunn and published by Bethany House. Beginning with The Lion of Babylon and progressing to Rare Earth, Strait of Hormuz is supposed to be the final book in this series although the ending left the door open for more.
Marc Royce is no longer officially working for the United States government, but that doesn't stop the requests for his clandestine services from the ambassador who fired him for staying home with his wife when she fought and lost the battle with cancer. From the Middle East to Africa and now to Switzerland and beyond, Marc Royce is assigned to uncover a plot involving the sale of masterpieces and other art to fund possible transport of Iranian nuclear material via containers which have disappeared.
Introduced to the operation through an explosion in an art gallery, Marc barely escapes. Without authorization in Switzerland he is led to the ambassador's "friend" who will assist him in the confusing ordeal to discover who's doing what and how it all fits together to move the containers to wherever they're suspected of going. From fake masterpieces to authentic Rodin sculptures, there are millions and millions of dollars involved in the transference of different pieces. At the head of this dark plot is a man with a manufactured past.
Marc is reunited with his love interest, Israeli Kitra, from Rare Earth, and the romantic tension from their separation brings them both sadness and discomfort. Before long there are several very different personalities involved in this critical endeavor, one of whom must feign continued assistance to the mysterious man who has heretofore terrified her even though she felt forced to work with him to eventually accomplish her own agenda.
Uniting international characters from very different cultures and religions under the banner of Christianity, this clever, ingenious group uses their faith and wit to pursue the dark goals of the mystery man and his lot transporting weapons. Will the evil scheme lead them through the Strait of Hormuz to ignite a war with the USA or will the wicked schemers find another alternative to decimate their arch-enemy Israel?
A complex plot of international terror, Strait of Hormuzby Davis Bunn is a contemporary thriller/adventure with a likable, accomplished former military man and intelligence operative who vacillates between the requirements for the love of duty and being in love.
Father, continue to provide the storylines for Davis, leading him on the path you have just for him. Encourage him as only you can do. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Yesterday you heard my heart. Looking outward. Seeing life on planet earth. Recognizing the sorrows and struggles. It's important to counter that with the further recognition of the constant war between good and evil in this life.
Hope approaches the heart with the distant satisfaction that there is a plan, there has always been a plan, and for us who have taken the opportunity to "come to Jesus", we have the privilege of following Him even as we repeatedly stumble and fail at it. We know the joy of being rescued from the heart-sickness, the demands of sin, the curse chosen by humanity.
So today I will tell you that the overall picture leaves no complaints. My life is blessed. God protected me early on. Through my self-induced drama and various struggles, He kept me from the evil one in spite of my sinful indulgences. He allowed me to play them out until the utter emptiness consumed my being and I looked for Him. Desperate in my search. He waited for the optimum moment to lead me to His heart, and I fell into His welcome, freed from my sins. Grateful. Relieved. Knowing that finally I had realized the Truth I'd always hungered for.
And so I tell you I am angry and sickened at the injustice, the corruption, the destruction upon this great nation under God, the turning from all things good to the wicked perversions of mankind. It is an unholy sight, and it grieves my soul. I will expose it with the breath of a prophet because the evil from authorities is no way to live. But I want you to know I'm thankful for my country, so grateful to God for allowing me to be born here, for the wonderful and full life He's given me, for the best parents ever, a precious brother, my beautiful family, terrific friends and loved ones, horses and dogs, and the Savior of the world.
I am thankful and blessed. No complaints.
Father, thank you is never enough. Never enough. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
A friend (Tim George) lost a longtime family pet. A young family, friends of ours, recently spent the night in the hospital with their handicapped little girl after an hour long seizure, one of many she's survived. This country is sinking to unimagined lows as a direct result of this president and his corrupt administration. People have been searching for work, lost their healthcare, and are fearful of how they can survive in this economy. Families have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and around the world, soldiers sacrificing their lives for their country's freedom and the Constitution. Pastor Saeed has been imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith, beaten repeatedly and sent to a notoriously bad prison, and the president just made a devil's deal with Iran without insisting on the American pastor's release as a part of it.
Sometimes it's overwhelming as the sorrows mount up and the tears gush. Losses, disappointments, frustrations, sorrows. We can't always handle them. They can overwhelm and suffocate. Tear apart and leave emptiness.
For us who believe in Jesus Christ (John 14:6), we know this is the temporary, but we've faced enough sorrows of our own to know that certain events rock our souls, shake our foundational faith, and leave us damaged for a season. We pray and fight in the spiritual realm. We beg at times for relief, for solace, for rescue.
We're careful not to offer clichéd rhetoric that neither soothes nor satisfies. We often listen, sit in the quiet of sadness, and hope the work of the Lord will be seen in the land of the living. We know He misses nothing, never slumbers or sleeps, and that He will eventually work all things together for good. It's just that right now, at present, in the moment, it's impossible for us to grasp those thoughts and remember that Truth always prevails. Even when we can't see it.
If this is a season of sorrow for you, if only because you ache for the condition of our beautiful land, if your spirit is crushed, remember this:
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
Father, comfort us all in this time of evil. We're desperate for you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.