The Rocket's Red Glare

And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Our National Anthem

Okay, I know this verse from our national anthem is not about a fireworks display, but it was the best descriptor of one I recently saw after a ball game the day before the 4th of July. I was sitting there in Denver, Colorado after a Rockies' game with 17 other folks from Happy, TX enjoying one the best display of fireworks any of us had ever seen.

I say "one of the best" because the best displays occurred during my childhood. My cousin Judy's birthday fell on the 4th, so we always went to her Mammaw & Pappaw's for cake, ice cream and sparklers. All of us kids would then load up with Dad and Uncle Richard, head to a fireworks stand and then to a vacant field for an evening of sheer excitement.

My favorite was the pop bottle rocket. You could get a gross for a few bucks and then spend about an hour setting them off, one by one. I can still remember the acrid smell of the "punk" as I crept up to light the fuse of those bottle rockets. You would wedge a heavy glass coke bottle (one you had emptied just a few minutes earlier as a special treat) in the sand, place a rocket in the bottle with the fuse hanging out over the top and... light the fuse! The bottle rocket would make a sizzling sound as it lifted into the air, higher and higher, until finally it exploded with a loud "pop" that only real gun powder can produce. It was glorious!

It's a little bittersweet looking back on those times now, because I know they will never return. You only get to be a kid once and, as thrilling as setting off fireworks with your kids and grandchildren is, it just doesn't have the same sense of wonder it held when you were a kid with a heavy glass coke bottle, a freshly lit punk and 144 firecrackers on a stick.

I'm looking forward to Heaven... I don't want to reduce the glory of being in God's presence to the popping of a few fireworks - that's not my point - it's just that I think the mystery and wonder and childlike awe will return to our existence there. And, I've kinda missed those feelings.

Then I saw a new heaven... and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them, He will wipe every tear from their eyes..." and He who sat upon the throne said, "Behold I make all things new."

Revelation 21:1, 3-4, 5, RSV

Eighteen Years in Utopia

"You know what I think? I think some time in Utopia will do you good."

from the movie, "Seven Days in Utopia"

For the last 18 years I have had the privilege of living in Happy, Texas. When Carolyn and I moved here, our oldest kids were still in grade school, and our youngest was about a year and a half old. Now, that one and a half year old is in college, our middle child is employed by the same school she attended when we got here, and our oldest is married to a beautiful woman and they now have a one and a half year old of their own.

Where do the years go?

I have seen a lot of people come and go from our sweet little town of Happy, Texas, and I have been fascinated to note that nearly every one of the good people who have moved away have said something along the lines of their time in Happy as being the happiest years of their life. Many, many of these have expressed some regret at having ever left.

Maybe that's why Carolyn and I are still here (combined with the fact that the folks with the church haven't quite figured out how to ask us to leave yet so that they can get a real preacher). Maybe it's because everyone in Happy seems like family. Maybe it's because there is a pace here, and a spirit of good will here, and an attitude among the folks here that shows they understand the command to love your neighbor as yourself.

Whatever it is, we know that we are blessed. And while we also know that this world is not our home, it has certainly been a privilege to be guests in the town of Happy for the past eighteen years... I hope that there are many, many more.

I also hope that, where ever you live, you have been made to feel just as privileged as we have been made to feel in our town. And, I especially hope that you and I will be neighbors some day in the place that Jesus is preparing for us. We can be, you know, if we will just make the most of our time in whatever place God has blessed us with on this side of eternity.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalms 90:12, NIV

Taking Out the Garbage

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Charles Dederich

Zig Ziglar tells the story of a large southern town that had a garbage dump close to town. As with all growing cities, the dump just got too close to be pleasant and something had to be done. So the people stopped dumping garbage there, removed what they could, and then covered the rest with clean fill dirt. Then they built a large shopping center which employed hundreds and served thousands.

There is a lesson in this little story, for those who would take the time to learn it. How many times have we seen people who have made a big mistake or a series of small mistakes that rendered their lives, for the lack of a better phrase, a garbage dump? I suspect that we have all been in that very situation a time or two ourselves - but what can you do? You do what the people in the town did!

The first step one must take in order to get rid of a garbage dump is to stop dumping garbage. It seems obvious, but many miss this step and are doomed to being surrounded by filth. The second step is to remove the garbage that can be removed. The third step is to cover over the garbage that cannot be removed. The fourth, and perhaps most critical step, is to build something beautiful in its place.

Would this work for you, or for someone you know? Aren't we all called to repent - to stop dumping garbage? Aren't we all called to wash away our sins? Aren't we all called to walk a newness of life? Today really is the first day of the rest of your life, with all of the promise and potential that a new life holds, if you will decide to make it so. God does not want us to live in a garbage dump. He has called us to something better! Why not accept His call?

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:13-14, NIV

Four Months of Rain

“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed… nothing will be impossible for you.”

Jesus

In the movie, “Facing the Giants” a man gives a modern day parable: “Two farmers”, he said, “prayed for rain. One then went about his business while the other went out and prepared his field to receive the rain… Which man, do you think, was expecting rain? Which man are you?”

Now, I thought about that question a lot – both before May 21, 2014, and after May 21, 2014. What happened on that day? Well for one thing, I stopped just praying for rain – I went out and got a rain gauge to measure it. That very night the folks who were present at the Wednesday night prayer meeting, huddled together in the foyer of the church of Christ on Main Street in the dark. We were in the dark because of a really big lightning strike.

And it began to rain.

One of the men led a prayer, in the dark, in the foyer, and thanked God for those first few drops of moisture, while humbly beseeching Him for more if it was His will.

Last night in the foyer of the church of Christ on Main Street – four months to the day of the events mentioned above – we huddled together and watched the rain pouring down as folks ran to the building in a vain effort to keep from getting wet. A few minutes later we made it to the auditorium and started the worship, as one man put it, in a rain delay.

After receiving only 35” of rain in the 3 1/2 years prior to May 21st, 2014 - the worst 3 ½ year period of drought ever recorded in the Texas Panhandle - we have since received over 15” of rain. In just four months! Now I am not saying it is because I got a rain gauge because I was expecting rain, nor am I saying it was because we huddled and prayed for rain on the night it began (we got 0.35” that evening). What I am saying is that these are just two of literally thousands of prayers and “mustard seed” acts of faith that were occurring all over this region on the evening that God began to heal our land with rain.

If God can do a little thing like breaking an historic drought, just imagine what He can do with the really big problems in our lives… if we will only have faith as small as a grain of mustard seed and the presence of mind to ask for whatever we need in prayer!

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”

James 5:16-17

God Is Good!

“Life’s simple pleasures are the best!”Old Proverb

This weekend, our Happy Cowboys basketball team advanced to the Regional Quarterfinals after a thrilling win at Area. This weekend, our dear friends’ daughter advanced to State – in powerlifting! And, this weekend, our youngest got to compete in three track events - at Nationals!

Now, we all know that these are just minor moments in the big picture, but isn’t it grand that God has seen fit to let us enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

Aren’t we a blessed people! We get to serve God here on earth. We have the opportunity to be with Him for all eternity if we are faithful in that service. And, as if that isn’t enough, we get to enjoy a host of daily serendipities just because God loves us!

Isn’t God good! Why not pause and take a moment to thank Him for all that He has done for you?

Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4