Monday, November 20, 2017

A Christmas Bivouac

One December, when I was in the Marine Corps, my Battalion Executive Officer told me that I was in charge of our battalion's Christmas decorations for the base's decorating contest.* 

And I was mad.  All my Marines were too busy to help, the contest was in a few days, and I was five months pregnant.  

But what really made me mad was this comment - "Don't embarrass the Colonel" meaning my battalion commander.  That implied that winning wasn't a concern.

After stewing a bit, I redirected my anger and told my company clerk, "Call the other companies for help.  And get the command vehicle - we're going to scout out the other battalions' decorations.  We're going to win."

We decided to decorate our front lawn with a Christmas bivouac (pronounced biv-wack) - a Marine campsite.  We'd set up a few shelter halves, some lights, tinsel, a Christmas tree...

But word got around our battalion, and...
  • A marine used sandbags to build a fireplace.
  • Another marine "borrowed" concertina wire - (front above.)
  • All sorts of trinkets and uniform items were donated as decorations.

  • Two marines built a porta-potty, with an old toilet seat...and talked a civilian contractor into painting it.
I watched in amazement as the bivouac site took shapeOur Marines had gotten the Christmas Spirit, and were enjoying working together and adding their personal touches. 

 

Although I was given credit for what happened, it wasn't really my doing.  Marines are always looking for amusement from the sameness of everyday life.  


And then again, I have to think, there's something about Christmas that touches the heart and brings joy, comfort, and hope.  The baby in the manger, Jesus, God incarnate...He may not be front and center in today's Christmas decorations and plans.  But deep inside of us, there's a longing and a knowledge and a hope, that just maybe, that baby is the savior of the world.


*The contest was sponsored by the base's recreation/morale department.  We won $125 for a battalion picnic. 



Monday, November 13, 2017

Writing Prayers

Four weeks ago, I finished The Devotional Challenge Book, by Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller.  The Devotional Challenge is a 16-week workbook that guides a Christian into the daily habit of hearing and praying God's Word.  

Although I've finished the workbook, the challenge continuesI now use the book's teachings to shape my devotions. For each day, I've printed Bible readings (a chapter and a Psalm) and questions that help me pray for myself and others. 

Part of my devotional time is also spent writing a five-line prayer, based on the day's readings and my own struggles.  Week 15 of the workbook gives a "how to" on this.   

I initially thought that writing a daily prayer would be work and take too much effort.  But, I gave it a shot, and I've written a daily prayer ever since. 

The surprising part of putting my prayers to paper is...no matter that day's readings, or my struggles...I'm always confessing my sins, looking to my Lord for provision, rejoicing in Him, and praying to love and serve others.

Here's a few of my prayers with the readings for that day: 
Lord Jesus - my high priest,
You have been made perfect forever and live to intercede for me.
Help me to take all my sins to You and all my struggles,
Knowing in confidence that You answer and give me your peace,
As You are seated at the right hand of the Father and have sent the Holy Spirit to live with me.
From Hebrews 7 and Psalm 35  
          **********************************************
My savior, my Jesus,
You bore my burdens out of love for me.
Help me to love others and bear their burdens and not grow weary.
And as I walk by "this rule" to know your peace and mercy.
As You sit at the right hand of God the Father and are both one with the Holy Spirit.
From Galatians 6 and Psalm 45 
          ***********************************************
Lord God, my Father,
You surround the one who trusts in You with steadfast love.
I confess that I am often like a horse or mule - needing a bit and bridle to stay near You.
I pray for You to forgive the iniquity of my sins.
In the name of Jesus who died for me and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
From Titus 1 and Psalm 32 
          ************************************************

For anyone who may be hesitant and think, "I'm not ready for this" - Pastor Wolfmueller dedicated the workbook "For the Catechumens of Hope Lutheran Church."  If it's doable for children and teens, it's doable for you.

And daily engaging with God's Word and writing notes and prayers, right beside the chapters and Psalms...it's good, it's worth it, I look forward to it every day.

Thank-you Pastor Wolfmueller. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Story of Good versus Evil

The Preacher Creature
aka Pastor C
Everyone loves a story, especially a "good versus evil" story.  Note how popular the Star Wars and superhero movies are.  

This weekend, our church had a Pro-Wrestling Benefit show.  About 200 people, most not from the church, paid money to cheer on their favorite local wrestlers and to see a former WWE celebrity in action.


Pro-wrestling is entertainment, but it's also a story, a story with "good guys" and "bad guys."  While watching the bouts, I noted that at the beginning of a fight the "bad guys" seemed to prevail, beating the snot out of the "good guys."  But in the end, the "good guys" managed to come back and win the round.

People are looking for this type of story, and wanting to cheer for the good guys, and even wanting the story to be true.

This "desire for good to win the day" is a part of our being.   

And it begins with Genesis...  

The beginning was good, with Adam and Eve and their Creator, in Eden, in paradise.   

And then, evil enters the garden - Satan leads Adam and Eve into sin, which leads to death.

And shortly thereafter, God promises a savior, a "good guy" who will defeat evil and make it all right again.

The Bible's Old Testament tells this story over and over - Satan, sin, and death happen to God's people.  And God is always saving and redeeming them.  All of Old Testament history is a pointing to, or a foreshadowing of a savior, the "good guy" whom God promised to send.

God tells Abraham...
...and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.  Genesis 12:3
Jesus, God in the flesh, is the offspring of Abraham, that ultimate "good guy."  He is the one who has the power to finally and completely triumph over evil.  

But Jesus didn't appear as a great force who immediately destroys His enemies.  He came as a baby, as one of us.  And He lived among us, knowing our struggles, our hurts, and our sorrows.

And He was nailed to a cross, just like a common criminal, and He died.  Everyone thought that evil had prevailed, that the "bad guys" had won the victory.  It would be foolish for a savior to die on a cross.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing...1 Corinthians 1:18
It's once again the story of good versus evil.  But this one's true, and it's better than the defeated wrestler who gets up and wins the roundThe Bible says that Jesus...
...partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.  Hebrews 2:14
Jesus, our savior, after dying on the cross, rose from death and left the tomb, left it empty, defeating Satan, sin, and death.

Whenever you watch and enjoy a superhero movie, or any type of good versus evil story, even professional wrestling...whenever you're cheering for the good guy, remember Jesus.  

"Jesus wins" is the true story of good versus evil that inspires all the other stories.  His victory was always sure.  That's our hope, our comfort, our good news. 


Monday, October 30, 2017

A Thirst for Knowledge

Sometime during my Naval Academy (college) years, I started hungering for answers about God and His Word.  I had classmates, from various denominations, who often shared aspects of their Christian faith.  And I wanted to know the truth...and why.

As a child I had attended a Baptist church, and I knew answers were in the Bible I spent a lot of my free time reading the Bible, but I still needed somebody to explain things to me.

So on Saturdays, I'd walk to the Christian bookstore in downtown Annapolis, and try to find "that book" that would give me answers.

And for the next 20 years or so, I read a steady diet of Christian books on: theology, denominations, prayer, parenting, marriage, time management, church growth, spiritual gifts, the good Christian life, church history,  apologetics, creation, spiritual warfare, the end times, healing, miracles...

Even with all that reading, I couldn't put it "all together" and was still unsettled in my soul, wanting answers.
 
And then, one day, it happened; I don't even know when.  I knew and know that the answer is Christ and the cross, faith and salvation.   

Now, almost every day, I think, "I really didn't understand and get this...until today." 
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God...1 Peter 3:18 
Our God became man, walked among us, and died for our sins, for my sins.  That truth has such depth that it's new to me and deeper to me every day.

We have a thirst for knowledge, and our society is used to getting instant answers to seemingly everything.  We're spoiled into thinking that our thirst can be quenched.

Now, whenever I hear people, including Christians, ask difficult and often unanswerable questions...I think, "I don't have to know the answer to this question in order to make my faith real, or better, or secure."

I'm taken back to Adam's sin, back to the First Commandment.  I want to be God, to have His knowledge.  But the fact is, "He is...and I is not." 

Our thirst for knowledge is good, and the Bible is abundant, not only in the amount of knowledge, but in the profound richness and insight it contains, about our hearts and about our God. 

But for some things, we're not given the answer.  And there's comfort in that.  For "He is God...and I is not."