Sunday, December 30, 2007
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
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18
Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. Isaiah 43:5
God sets the lonely in families. Psalm 68:6
Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength;They will mount up with wings like eagles,They will run and not get tired,They will walk and not become weary.Isaiah 40:31
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. Psalm 28:7
Here we are celebrating Jesus' birthday....
Friday, December 28, 2007
Let me share three verses that I meditated on today and then what I journaled. 1:4 says "I will remove from this place every trace of Baal worship, as well as the very memory of the pagan priests." For context, Baal (aka Beelzebub) was a false god (fertility god) during Biblical times, most prominently discussed in the ministry of Elijah. In short, Baal took people's eyes off God and onto themselves and toehr priorities.
1:8 says "On the day of the Lord's sacrificial meal, I will punish the princes and the king's sons, and all who wear foreign styles of clothing." The King's (Josiah) sons were immersed in society and living like the pagan (non-Jewish) people around them (i.e., dressing like them).
1:12 says "I will punish the people who are entrenched in their sin, those who think to themselves, 'The Lord neither rewards nor punishes.'" The people were finding joy in their sinful lives and figured there were no consequences to their wreckless lives nor did God have anything better to offer.
So I asked myself the following two questions. First, what idols are deeply entrenched i my life? Second, where have I fully assimilated into my non-Christian society? With the new year upon me, a time for resolutions, this is a great time to ask these questions!
I am still assessing my answer to the two questions, but here is a list of four things I am wrestling with.
1. Television can be such a time sink. It both takes time from things (family, Bible study, solitude, rest, friends) and fills my mind with unhealthy stuff (not many shows glorify godly men who lead and love their families). We cancelled cable three years ago to help combat this, but I still have more ground to gain both in how much time I spend here and what I expose myself to.
2. Way too many things compete for our money. We have totally confused the difference between wants and needs. 1 Timothy 6:8 tells us what we need "But if we have food and shelter, we will be satisfied with that." Natalie and I need to filter stewardship decisions through that verse as well as 2 Corinthians 8:14-15. Saying "I will give X%, save Y%, and spend the rest however I please" just doesn't cut it. I need to continue growing here, looking at God's word for direction, not this world (be it secular or church world).
3. Sin doesn't really grieve me. Sin is everywhere. It is accepted in society. It is accepted in churches. It is glorified on TV. I have been desensitized to most sin (note: I think the best way to picture sin is to look at 1 Corinthians 10:31 for how we are to live "whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God." or James 4:17 where it says "so whoever knows what is good to do and does not do it is guilty of sin."). My men's group will be jumping into Jerry Bridges new book "Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate" next month, and I really hope to gain ground on this one.
4. I thirst for comfort way too much. Comfort is a near constant objective in my life. This causes me to not hear God's whispers (and loud screams!) to seek and serve Him. I all too often ask the question "will that serve my temporary thirst for..." instead of "is that was my all-knowing, all-loving Father would have me do?" Paul got it right when he said in Acts 20:24 "But I do not consider my life worth anything to myself, so that I may finish my task and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus..." And then Jesus tells us that the SELFISH thing to do is to follow His call, not our sinful ambition, when He says in Matthew 10:39 "whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it." Or as Jim Elliot (movie End of the Spear) put it "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."
So that and my $2 for a Grande Coffee is what I got to enjoy this morning for 30 minutes at the local coffee shop. Praying I actually do something with these thoughts...
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Then he turned to his host.
So a group of us from Watermark partnered with our friends down at Cornerstone to reach out to some homeless and shelter neighbors. We each invited someone from the area and had a dinner at Joseph's House, a home in the neighborhood that Cornerstone owns. The dinner was last night. Anyway, I woke up yesterday morning and decided to invite Frank, even though he isn't from that neighborhood. So Caleb and I, along with a friend Cary and his daughter, headed down to McDonald's and the downtown library to find Frank. We found Frank at McD's and invited him. He excitedly accepted. We gave him a 5-pack of McD's bucks before we left and told him we would pick him up at 2pm at McDs. Now here is the cool thing. After we gave him the money, a friend of his walked into McD's, a homeless lady. Frank asked if we had another 5-pack, so he could give it to her as a gift. That was cool, and we had an extra one. We came back and picked up Frank at 2pm, and he had just finished using his 5-pack to buy him and another friend lunch.
Now here comes the huge surprise! I had some extra hotel points for Comfort Suites, so I got Frank a suite at the hotel for Saturday until Christmas day. We walked into the hotel room, and we had the fridge stocked with sodas, fruit, snacks, etc. We also had toiletries, new clothes, a roller duffel bag (huge benefit for a homeless guy who needs to drag all possessions everywhere he goes), etc. He was shocked and excited. In his words "I get to watch movies and football for four days!"
Cary and Sarah Tucker picked him up last night and brought him to the party. He had shaved, showered, etc. When Caleb saw him, he said "Mr Frank, you look really nice all dressed up." So without further wait, here is Frank (center) with me (right) and Jon Flaming (left).
So here is a little more info about Frank. He is 45 years old. He never met his Dad. He totally idolizes his mom, whom he hasn't seen in 13 years (more on that in a bit). He spent some time in foster care growing up (I didn't ask why). He has lived downtown on the streets since 2003 when he got out of Arkansas State Penitentiary where he spent about eight years for burglary. His brother died of AIDS in 2002 after using a bad needle in the early 90's when he was hooked on heroine. We are still trying to find his mom, whom he really misses. I had lunch with Frank today, and he is lovin the hotel room. I mentioned to him briefly that we have church Christmas Eve followed by a dinner at our home with another family. I also mentioned a traditional Christmas morning breakfast we have at a friend's hour with three other families. I told him we would be privileged to have him join us and to let me know. Well before I dropped him off back at the hotel, he said he wanted to come! Will be a lot of fun to party at church and my pad with him.
Anyway, we had a handful of Watermark families down at Joseph's House and were to have about 10 guests from the neighborhood. A couple didn't show up, so Steve decided to go look in the area to invite others. He was motivated to do that by this passage from Scripture.
1 Jesus also told them other parables. He said, 2
Well he found three people. The first one is Sam (picture immediately below) whom Steve had never met. He was waiting at a bus stop in 30 degree weather with a thin coat on...shivering. Steve scared him a bit by pulling up to invite him. Sam said "I am not used to white guys in Suburbans pulling up to chat." LOL. So Sam went to Auburn University, is incredibly articulate, and knows his Bible in a very deep and mature way. He moved to Dallas a month ago, lives in a shelter, and has a wife and kids staying with a friend in East Texas while he tries to settle here. They are on the wait list for a free apartment at Interfaith Housing Coalition, an East Dallas ministry we have served at for years. That was great to hear, and I will need to call down there this week to see where Sam's family is on the wait list. Sam was in the Army after college and was a quartermaster. My buddy Cary Tucker, also at the party, was a West Point Grad and quartermaster as well. They got to share fun stories. So Sam is coming to Watermark with us tomorrow as well and wants to start coming to church with us this week. He got to chat with Todd Wagner, our senior pastor, for a while last night and really liked his teaching style. So here is a pic of Sam with the Tucker's and Flaming's.
So how about the other two impromptu invitees. They are Willis and Dee (pictured below) a mid-50's married couple who live on the streets downtown. We have all met them before at Cornerstone's soup kitchen. Steve saw them where they live, in a field, huddled around a little fire they made. They came in and were super quiet...obviously very uncomfortable (no surprise). So they were very quiet. Then we had a makeshift band do carols for 30 minutes followed by Steve sharing the gospel. After that we handed out gifts to the guests. Earlier that day Natalie and I decided to buy some extra gifts in case someone unexpected showed up. Well those gifts went to Willis and Dee who then were do overwhelmed they started hugging and weeping. They told Sarah Tucker "we thought God had long ago forgotten about us." They were moved. After that, Todd Wagner sat with Willis and more personally shared the gospel with Willis, and I had the privilege of joining in on that (which is what the picture is below...Dee right beside Willis). So Willis accepted Christ last night and we got to join with the host of angels praising Christ over that last night.
Here is a picture of Bobby Silva, his son, and Larry, a guy Bobby has been pouring into recently.
Anyway, good times. All these folks were overwhelmed by the gifts, though we all received gifts from God last night as we learned more about the Father's heart for all His children. I look forward to seeing Frank and Sam again tomorrow.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Yesterday was a bit hard for me as I was so hoping we would hear something from our agency by Christmas. As yesterday came and went, the Lord was so sweet to remind me of why we are having the best Christmas ever. Our kids are more excited about Christmas than ever before...which makes our side of the waiting so much easier. Yet I really long to be able to share that fun and love with our future kids. It is so hard not knowing what their life is like right now. We know we are waiting on the Lord's perfect plan....and we all have a God given peace about it (philippians 4:6-7).
And tonight I get to meet Frank (see old post) at a dinner a friend is hosting. I will try to get a picture. Our family is so excited! The kids will get to play Santa, and see the love of Christ in action. A great way to kick off the Christmas "weekend"!!!!
And Katherine Jewel...who could ask for more? Isn't she the cutest?
Monday, December 17, 2007
"There's a little girl trembling on a cold December morn
Crying for momma's arms
At an orphanage just outside a little China town
Where the forgotten are
But half a world away I hang the stockings by the fire
And dream about the day when I can finally call you mine
It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you Merry Christmas
As I hang the tinsel on the tree and watch the twinkling lights
I'm warmed by the fire's glow
Outside the children tumble in a wonderland of white,
Make angels in the snow
But half a world away you try your best to fight the tears
And hope that heaven's angels come to carry you here
It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart
I wish you Merry Christmas
Christmas is a time to celebrate the holy child
and we celebrate his perfect gift of love
He came to earth to give his lifeand prepare a place for us
So we could have a home with him above
It's Christmas time again and now you're home
Your family is here so you will never be alone
So tonight before you go to sleep, I'll hold you in my arms
And I'll tell you from my heart, and I'll you from my heart
I wish you Merry Christmas "
-"Merry Christmas," Third Day.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Beau here. Caleb and I headed downtown again to walk the streets and engage with our homeless neighbors. Michael Fleming and his boys partnered with us again.
We started our preparations earlier this week as I was very encouraged by Caleb's heart. Last time we brought gallon zip-loc bags filled with water, perishable items, etc. This time, Caleb wanted to provide that and much more., so he used his savings to create some other creative bags. First, he, Natalie, and Hannah prepared some gallon bags of toiletries - comb, toothbrush, chap stick, a Bible, umbrella, socks, etc. Also, we bought some McDonald's gift certificates to hand out. Finally, Caleb wanted to get in the Christmas spirit, so he got some small stockings and filled each with a Christmas gospel track, a Slim Jim, gum, chao stick, and a candy cane. We also bought some blankets to distribute since it is cold out these days.
So we headed downtown and parked near the McDonald's. We didn't walk 50 yards before we met Jeffrey. Jeffrey got out of jail in
We then headed to the
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
We felt like we were at church! We spent some time all hangin together and provided James with some food, toiletries, McD's money, etc.
It was freezing this morning and misty raining, so there weren't a lot of folks on the street. We walked for about 30 minutes after this without seeing any of our homeless neighbors. Michael and I had some great opportunities to teach our kids from Matthew 10:39 and Matthew 20:28. We focused on "being served versus serving." We talked about why we do what we do. As Michael says it "We don’t do this in order to make people Christians but we give and serve sacrificially because we are Christians." We pray our kids would find what we do to be "normative Christianity" when we live in a era of dead churches where people consider serving others to somehow be "heroic."
We then started walking towards McDonald's praying that we would find someone to host for a late breakfast. Along the way, we saw an odd scene. In a large empty parking lot, we saw an old minivan with some 18-22 year old kids in it. One of their friends was jogging back to the car from the nearby intersection. As he got in the back of the minivan, he lit up his crack! These foolish kids had gone to buy crack. They quickly drove off. Michael prayed God would protect them from their own foolishness.
So we keep walking toward McDonald's, and we ran into Frank! Remember him from last month? Back then he was strung out on crack, and we had brought him to a halfway house rehab center. I had found out three weeks ago that Frank left the house (presumably because he wanted crack more than he wanted to get healthy), so we have been praying that we would find him. Right when he saw us he quickly came to see us. He was soaked from sleeping in the rain last night. We went to McDonald's to hang with him, get him some hot coffee, and catch up. He looked much better than last month, so we asked about the crack. He said he has laid off of it recently, so he only does it "every once in a while." He said it is hard to do crack when it is so cold, so I told him I would pray for a long winter :) After catching up for a while, we got the names of some of his family members. We are going to try finding them to see if they are willing to take Frank in. I hope we find them, and I hope Frank humbles himself to accept help. Frank told us how he really needed socks and a blanket since his were soaked. As I mentioned earlier, we brought some (which he couldn't see), so we got to be God's arms and legs in providing that for Frank. As we were chatting with Frank, 1 John 3:17-18 really started ringing in my mind. It says "But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." Frank had no gloves, a wet shirt, etc, and I have a drawer full of shirts and a couple pair of gloves. How could the love of God abide in me if I walked away with my abundance while Frank sat there in 35 degree weather with a wet shirt and no gloves? Now that theology will get you uncomfortable! Anyway, by the time we left, I no longer owned my gloves or my shirt, and we promised Frank we would come find him at McDonald's or behind the Library (where he sleeps). We walked to the car to head out.
So as we get in the car, a guy named Jeff comes and asks us for money for the bus. He just got out of prison across the street. He spent one night in prison to get some warrants and tickets forgiven. We asked where he was headed, and then we offered to bring him there ourselves instead of giving him money. We dropped him off at "his cousins" but Michael and I got the sense we might have dropped him off at a place where he would be up to no good.
After all the adventure, we headed to South Dallas, so I could show Michael and the boys around Cornerstone, a church my family is trying to partner with a bit. They are really trying to be salt and light in a really dark part of the city. Anyway, our family and the Flemings are going to be down there next week for Christmas, so I wanted to give them the lay of the land and hopefully hook up with Chris, the pastor. Well, I lead everyone into the small church, and the first thing I see is a casket with a dead man in it. This was Caleb's first experience with death, a casket, etc, so that made for something unexpected for the day. We found Pastor Chris who shared with us the story of Claude, the deceased. There is a sweet former drug addict at Cornerstone named Gladys who has a ministry reaching those enslaved to addiction on the streets, and she met Claude ten years ago. He accepted Christ and changed his addiction from drugs to Jesus. Today we can celebrate the new eternal home Claude has with our Maker.
We then picked up lunch and headed home. We will go back downtown next month as we try to make this a monthly effort. I am so encouraged by these young boys as they develop a heart for their neighbors.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I headed down to south Dallas to serve in a "soup kitchen" at a local church that loves on our homeless friends. My wife and daughter decided to join me down there. Well as I pulled up to the home where the meals are served, there were about eight cop cars across the street at what appeared to be a murder scene. Nothing like a little mid-afternoon adventure :) Anyway, we then had the privilege of serving our homeless "neighbors" in south Dallas.
We also had the chance to get to know someone that we will be having dinner with next week. One of our dear friends came up with the idea of hosting a Luke 14 dinner. This is based on Luke 14:11-14 which says Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." So about eight families are going to host some homeless "neighbors" for a blowout Christmas dinner next week that will include some Christmas gifts and a "white elephant gift exchange." Caleb and Hannah are really excited. Me too!!!!!
I then headed back to the office for a few hours. I was able to reflect on the opportunity to serve over lunch today and be grateful for God's provisions of opportunities to deal with my conviction about wanting to serve in specific ways.
Anyway, on the way home I get a phone call from Natalie. "Beau, an immigrant family knocked on our door because they are out of money and looking for work to provide for their family. I invited them in for dinner, so be prepared when you get home." So 20 minutes later I walk into my house to meet eight complete strangers! So we have dinner. The father will come back over tomorrow morning to continue processing ways to help them. Our greatest hope is to honor Christ through our newfound relationship and point this family of eight to their Savior.
Did I mention that I journaled this morning about God helping me to grow in my heart for serving :-)
Please be praying for all that.
Also, Caleb and I head back downtown Saturday morning for our monthly visit with our "homeless neighbors" living on the streets. Caleb is so excited. He has used much of his savings to buy gifts for the folks we will meet on the streets - gum, socks, blankets, tooth brushes, etc. That was all his idea. I am so encouraged by my son's heart for the "marginalized" in our society, and I count it as a privilege to partner with him in doing what it is Christians are supposed to do - serve.
Maybe I will have an interesting post about our Saturday morning adventure, like last month's post.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
And another update...Beau and kids wanted to add to the list of favorite Christmas traditions:
1. Having a "Happy Birthday Jesus" cake for breakfast on Christmas morning...they love cake for breakfast!
2. Reading favorite books (currently---The Advent Book by Jack Stockman and Kathy Stockman (so beautiful...a must!), Cajun Night Before Christmas by Trosclair (they like my very bad cajun accent), The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado, and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Still, I had visions that we would be celebrating this Christmas with at least news of them. Yet we continue to pray during the waiting. And we continue to celebrate God's incredible kindness and love during this season.
And we are having soooo much fun celebrating the love of Christ this season. I still marvel how Caleb did not know how to complete a recent school assignment that asked him to list 10 things he wants for Christmas. We do not make lists for ourselves (and the kids do not in any way feel they miss any fun or excitement). We have lots of other lists...that hopefully share the love and kindness of the Lord with others during this season. We are overflowing with His goodness to us and are trying to humbly share that abundance with people in our lives.
Here is how we are staying busy with some old and new traditions:
1. The kids and I have been busy making treats and cards for our neighbors (those that live on our street and those that are homeless downtown).
2. Today we built on an old high school tradition of mine, and we painted the nativity scene on some windows in our house
3. We went to the best live nativity ever a couple of weeks ago (Bethlehem Revisited in Waxahachie) and we went to the Neiman Marcus parade. These two outings have become the kids' favorite musts every year!
4. We have a really cool collection of nativity sets. And we keep the baby Jesus figures kept away until Christmas morning. It is really sweet to see how anxious Caleb and Hannah are for the arrival of Christmas by even this small tradition...they beg every day to put the figures out:)
5. The kids LOVE driving to look at Christmas lights. Any best spots in Dallas to recommend?
6. And the kids continue to love dressing up as characters from the Christmas story and acting it out.
7. Oh and they love, love, love watching the same old holdiay shows we watched as kids....Rudolph being their favorite!
I love traditions. Beau and I both have fond memories of childhood Christmas parties and traditions, and it is so fun to start building family memories with our kids. We look forward to many years building memories with the family that the Lord is building for us!