Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Mother's Blessing

May I share one more Christmas thing? Most of you know my mother died in March. She passed away in her sleep in such a wonderful, peaceful way. If you knew my mother, she was a sweet and godly woman who raised four boys. She was a faithful wife to my father who died in 1993.
My brother who lives in France sent my brothers and I a poem that he found in my mother's papers. The poem is in her handwriting so I don't know if she wrote it herself or if she was just copying another. My inclination is that she wrote it. But it helped me feel her presence once more and to understand what was important to her. Listen to these words

I may not be there Christmas eve,
But I would have you folks believe
That my heart will be there with you
With all my love and I'd renew
The family ties that bind us fast
With memories of Christmas past.

I'll close my eyes and see your faces
And all those sweet remembered places
About our home that I shall miss.
And on that day, remember this:
I'm thankful God has given me
So wonderful a family.

Merry Christmas one last time. And a Happy New Year. Let's make this one a good one. And let's make it for the Lord! JW

P.S. I'd put the other one poem he sent in, but you only have a limited supply of kleenexes. She had another one called My First Christmas in Heaven. Let me know if you want to see that one.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What Are You Going To Do Differently?

I have been on both sides of the fence on New Year's resolutions. But I think I like them. In my desk is a list of things I want to do better next year. Will I accomplish them? I don't know. But I do know that I took the time to think about them and to write them down. These are things I want to do.
Isn't that what the Bible says? "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning." I hear you now. "That's talking about God's love and how it's new every morning." All right, how about this. "Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day." Or how about "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" Or how about, "Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." There's plenty in there.
The key is first, don't rely on yourself too much. The power to change is not in us. It is in the Lord. Second, don't get down on yourself when you fail. Once again, the only One who is unfailing is Jesus Christ. So go ahead and make some resolutions. We'll compare notes! Have a great day. JW

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas

As I contemplate Christmases past, I have some funny/fond memories. Most of our Christmases have been filled with family and friends. There was one when Martha was pregnant with our eldest and we couldn't travel. The doctor said it wasn't a good idea. We lived about 13 hours from both sets of parents so we stayed home. Nobody came to visit. We ended up eating Christmas dinner with an elderly couple from church. It was fun.
Another time we intended to go to Searcy to visit for the holiday. We had skipped Thanksgiving because we lived (live) in Nebraska. Making two trips in such a short period of time was just too much. We were concerned about our weather because you know about Nebraska winters. Turns out Arkansas had one of the worst ice storms in history and we couldn't make it home because of the weather in the South!
One year we put our Christmas tree upstairs. The upstairs portion of the house was Nate's room and we seldom went up there. But there was a nice window up there and the tree looked so pretty. But in our life of chaos, the tree stayed up until March. Please understand that we didn't turn the lights on, but the tree stayed up there in all its splendor. I wonder what the neighbors thought. Hey, they left their lights up all the time. Why should it matter if I left up the tree?
Each year as I place the ornaments on the tree, I remember places we've been and people we love. It's our tradition to buy ornaments on trips we make. Friends will give us ornaments. And they become an instant memory as we place them on the tree. "Remember when we bought this?" "Ahh, this came from..."
I know some holiday seasons are times for grief or stress. But I ask you to remember fondly the reason why we give gifts, the reason why we sing "sleep in heavenly peace," and remember how much God loves you and how much our family loves you. Have a wonderful Christmas. Merry Christmas!! I'll see you next year. JW

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I Would Walk a Thousand Miles

I've been amused at the songs that use language such as, "I would walk a thousand miles just to be with you tonight." Or what about, "My love is warmer than the warmest sunshine, softer than a sigh, my love is deeper than the deepest ocean, wider than the sky, My love is brighter than the brightest star that shines every night above, And there is nothing in this world that can ever change my love." How about, "Wherever you go, whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you. Whatever it takes or how my heart breaks, I will be right here waiting for you."
Beautiful songs, beautiful words. But most of them represent relationships that are here today and gone tomorrow. The Scripture says that we need to grasp "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge..." "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us." And he crossed the valleys the the miles and the depths of eternity to send His Son. He didn't send Him to the riches of the earth or to the mansions of mankind, but to squalor. "See how great a love the father has lavished upon us that we should be called the children of God. And that is what we are." During this time when hearts are turned toward the manger in Bethlehem, take some time to realize what a journey that was and that by taking His name, you say to the world how much He has changed your life. Amazing! JW

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Different Christmas

This has been a year for a lot of firsts in the White household. This year my eldest and only daughter married. My son, turned 16 just the other day and now holds a driver's permit. This is the first year that my mother has not been here with us. Thanksgiving was a quite a bit different without seeing her and I know Christmas will be the same. Even when we didn't see her at one of the holidays, we did talk and it was always good to hear her cheerful voice. But she never held it over me that I wasn't always there. I knew she loved me and the miles that separated us were brought together by the love that flowed from her heart to mine.
So my old married daughter wasn't with us for Thanksgiving. She and her husband had to work. That's the reality of getting married. For Christmas, they are flying to Oregon to see my son-in-law's brother, family, including the new baby. So it will be a different Christmas this year.
My mind goes back to the kids young years when they couldn't sleep the night before and we had to get up so early just so they could open their gifts. Then we had to wait for grandparents to show up. More ripping and tearing. Perhaps we would go to the other set of grandparents (we were fortunate in that for a while we lived in the same town as both sets of parents). I don't know that I remember one single gift. But I do remember the smiles, the hugs, the love. There'll be lots of those this year, but two sets less than the year before.
Life goes on. And the assurance I get is that God is right there in midst of us with his own set of smiles and hugs and mostly love. Merry Christmas! Remember that one day over 2000 years ago there was a little child who was born. Immanuel. God with us. He changed everything. JW

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Magi's Visit

I remember hearing Jim Bill McInteer saying one time that the way he studied the Bible was to read until he read something that he'd never seen before. That impressed me that a man who had so much Bible knowledge could find so much that he'd never thought of before. That happened to me while preparing some things for Sunday's sermon.
While combining the two accounts of Matthew and Luke, I saw something that made me think. Flash back for just a second to my first grade classroom. I went to Highlawn Elementary School in Huntington, West Virginia. That was a time when we still recited the Lord's Prayer every morning and we had Christmas plays in December. I remember that I had the role of one of the wise men. (Of course, our version had three) I had a crown and some kind of gift for Jesus. In that play, as in most re-enactments I've seen, the wise men (Magi) come to the manger where Jesus was born. They make an appearance right after the shepherds show up.
Now, come back to the present. While reading Matthew's account, I saw something I'd never seen before. The Magi want to see Jesus, they contact King Herod who becomes paranoid about a new king, and they leave on a different route after their visit. Here it is--Check out verse 11 of chapter 2 of Matthew. It says, "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh." Did you see it? Look again. They came to the house. Where was the house? What did it look like? How was it decorated? Wow, I have a million questions. But I never thought of Jospeh and Mary having a house. And I never thought the Magi would come there to see him.
Why have I never seen that? It had to have been a humble place, nothing fancy. But these men of great knowledge and evidently great wealth thought it was worth their while to visit this baby while stiffing the King Herod. Let's realize the significance. Let's note the importance of this event. Emmanuel. God with us. Have a great day. JW

Friday, December 16, 2005

He's 16.

My baby turned 16 years old yesterday. Why didn't I write about it yesterday? I don't know. I was sitting here in "his" spot this morning and the thought hit me hard. I heard all the jokes about "get off the roads because he'll be driving," and "sweet 16 and never been kissed." But for some reason, this is serious.
It means I don't have that many more days with him at home. It means the little boy I held in my arms is growing into an adult. It means my influence is slowing diminishing.
The day was very cold and snowy/icy in Searcy, Arkansas 16 years ago. My wife was already in delivery, I was told to put on the scrubs and wait. They came and got me and it seems I was only there for a few minutes (Martha had a c-section) and they said, "C'mon, Dad! You're going with us." Dr. Stinnett looked at him. Basically, he was okay. A little skin problem. A little jaundiced.
What a fun kid he's been. He was pleasant, obedient (until lately, those wonderful teen years, he's still pretty good), and funny. He could zing his older sister and she would never knew what hit her. He was a good athlete, yet he never took it too seriously. He has been fun to watch grow up. It's just happened a little too fast to suit me. . .just like his sister.
But 16 years later, he still has a little skin problem. But now he's dealing with other problems. Problems with the opposite gender. Problems with teachers. Problems with his unreasonable parents. And I love him. So today, even though we celebrated yesterday, I salute my 16 year old son. He's a good boy. I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of man he will be. Have a great day. And hug your kids, not matter what age. JW

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Raging Lion, Annoying Gnat

Yeah, I stole the idea for the title from the old movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. What got me started on this was my attitude. After reading Chip Ingram's book, God as He Longs for You to See Him, I was inspired and walking anew. I have cards that I read every day about God's goodness and His sovereignty and His love. And then Satan comes along and says, "I can't believe those people pulled out right in front of you." Even this morning at Starbucks, the girl mixed up my drink and the guy before me. I didn't take a sip until I was almost at the car and yuuuuuccccckkk! Coffee! I knew it! I knew she would get it wrong. She was new and seemed to have an attitude. Pretty soon, my anger is rising and I've forgotten everything I've read about God's goodness.
The Bible says that Satan is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. That's not the Satan I'm dealing with right now. The one I'm dealing with is the annoying gnat that never leaves my face. He keeps flying around reminding me of what's bad in this life. I swat and he goes away momentarily, but then he's back within a split second driving me crazy. And instead of seeing the sunlight, all that attracts my attention is this minute annoyance that buzzes around my eyes. Been there? Help me find the holy fly swatter and let me drink from God's goodness again. Help me to return back to looking for God in everything. Thanks for listening. Have a great day! JW

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Yeah for Krispy Kreme

I've always liked Krispy Kreme. When I was traveling over here from York to fill in, before I got this job, we would leave early enough to stop by Krispy Kreme. Now that we live here, I have Krispy Kreme so rarely. Of course, if I did eat it all the time, I would weigh about 3 tons. You've seen the guy on the news who lost about 500 pounds? That would have been me. The guy was from Nebraska so maybe he got that way from eating Krispy Kreme.
Wow, I digress. Krispy Kreme has a policy that any kid who gets an "A" in a subject at school would be treated to a free donut. I've considered going back to school just for the prospect. Anyway, in Indiana the Krispy Kreme denied a kid a freebie when he showed he had received an "A" in Bible. After much ballyhoo and a response from Dr. James Dobson, the company apologized, sent out a notice to all of their Krispy Kreme franchises and said that the policy stood for a free donut for any course, even Bible. Yeah! Let's all go down to Krispy Kreme and celebrate. Finally, there's been some response to standing up for what's right. I've seen it several times lately. Let's do it some more! Have a great day. . .and go get a hot donut. JW

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

They Got His Goat

I was talking with some people about how giving changes us. For instance, when we were kids we couldn't wait for Christmas morning. Sleep was hard to come by, when you did sleep it was it 30 minute increments, and finally you got up way earlier than you usually did. But now when I'm asked what want for Christmas, I struggle to come up with an answer. I'd rather see the faces of my family and their excitement. (My wife feels the same way so it makes for a hard time to know what to get her.)
One father said he told his kids not to give him anything for Christmas, but to take the money intended for his gift and get something for someone else. You know what they did? They bought a goat! Heifer International is a group that raises funds for Third World countries and buys cattle, goats, and other essentials for those who can't afford it. What a great gift!
Not only does this honor someone, it benefits someone else who is really in need. I guess you could say that someone got his goat this year. (GROOOOOAAAAANNNN!) Sorry, I couldn't pass it up.
I really don't need anything. As long as I have family and friends and Jesus, I have all I need. Perhaps we should make this the season of need, not greed. Have a great day. JW

Monday, December 12, 2005

Looking Up Integrity

I had already decided what I was going to talk about in my blog this morning until I heard a startling fact on the radio. Really it just complements what I was going to say. The number one word looked up in the dictionary this year was the word "integrity." Now you look up a word in the dictionary for two purposes. One, to see how it is spelled. Two, to see what it means. What does it mean? Have we lost the meaning of integrity in our society? Has our culture so blurred the lines that we don't even know what it is to be a person of honesty and honor?
This morning I heard a colleague talk of how people shoplift in his wife's store. They really can't confront them because they are concerned about having a gun pulled on them. He told of girls who bragged about jewelry that they stole from a store. They compared notes as to who got the nicest piece of bling. My son was filling out an application for a clothing store. They asked all kinds of questions concerning stealing and honesty. Evidently, they are having a problem with employees not being entirely honest.
What I originally was going to talk about was how when I stepped outside this morning the temperature was 36 degrees. But after having highs of 9 and 10 degrees, it seemed like a heat wave. In the fall after having a day of 60 or 70 degrees, 36 degrees was cold. But today it seemed like a virtual heat wave. So much so, that I didn't wear my jacket. It's kind of like the frog in the pot of water. The weather doesn't seem cold after having gone through what we did last week. I have gotten used to it. In the same way we have gotten so used to sin that we don't know what it is anymore. I find myself being that way, too. Movies that I see I just blow it off as our culture. Instead of being outraged, I tolerate. Now I'm not asking that we become fanatical and excessive in our views. I'm just wondering where we stopped seeing sin as it really is. So much so that our socieity has to look up the word "integrity" to see what it means.
I'm not usually this depressing, but I think it's something we need to think about. I'll try to be more positive tomorrow.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

My Cup Overflows!!

I always learn more in class from others than I do my own study. We've been studying the 23rd Psalm on Wednesday evenings. It has been a rich study and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Last night we talked about "my cup overflows." I stoppped and asked the class to let me know how their cup overflows. Someone said, "My family." That wasn't a good enough answer for me so I pushed, "How?" I received a little better answer. But what came next was one of those "moments."
Someone said, "The struggles I have come through help me to realize how blessed I really am." C'mon now! That's crazy and it sure isn't it? "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." (James 1:2, 3) Daniel thanked God when the King Nebuchadnezzar put forth the edict that no one was to pray to anyone save the king or he would face the lions den. Read it. Daniel 6:10-12. He thanked God "just as he had done before."
God brings me through those times. He carries me. He lifts me up. He tends my wounds. And He doesn't leave me there. He always has something better. Maybe you're coming through some difficult times. Read Psalm 23 and realize that your cup is overflowing. Careful, it's spilling on the floor as we speak. God is so good. Have a great day! JW

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pearl Harbor

In 1996, my wife and I went to Honolulu, Hawaii for our 20th anniversary. While there we took the bus to Pearl Harbor. I wasn't prepared for the experience we had there that day. The visitor's center was well run and there were veterans around explaining what had happened that day. The night before there had been a big party with bands and dancing. I was struck by the young faces of those who were on the ships and serving in the military. Put color in the pictures, change a few hair styles, and they are the sons and daughters of today.
The short boat ride to the memorial was nothing to be remembered. But the visit on the memorial is what is etched in my mind. The memorial straddles the U.S.S. Arizona. You can still see the turret protruding out of the water. But what hit me was the constant oil slick that reminds us 64 years later of the ultimate sacrifice made by those serving on that ship. I've heard it described as the ship weeping for its crew. Nevertheless, I was inspired and continue to be inspired by the sacrifice our military makes so that we can enjoy the freedom we have.
So today on December 7, 2005, I salute all of those who have served and who serve in the armed forces of the United States. Thank you for serving. JW

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Aroma of Memories

I've read a lot of blogs lately about a variety of memory retrievers. By that I mean, music, sounds, etc. A lot of things bring back memories. One of the strongest senses that brings back memories is the sense of smell. I smell a laminating machine and I go back to my youth when I worked at Yarnell's Ice Cream in Searcy, Arkansas. We packaged the half gallons of ice cream in heavy plastic warmed by heaters that eventually would shrink wrap the ice cream containers.
Smell the tar of a parking lot and I go back to Silver Dollar City. There's a kind of sick smell that I smell occassionally that reminds me of my hotel room in Vladivostok, Russia. The smell of cigarette smoke reminds me of football games in the fall in Arkansas.
This time of year, the smell of sweets baking make me think of holidays in my early years. The aroma of a baking ham, the wonderful smell of rolls cooking, the sweetness of the melted marshmallows on the sweet potatoes, all bring back good memories.
But I wonder what smells took Jesus back in His memory. Was it the smell of cow manure? The musty smell of a barn with hay? Was it the wild smell of a sheep's wool? No wonder the Magi brought frankincense and myrrh. If it had been me, I would have helped God a little bit. If He was going to bring the Savior of the world, the Messiah, I think I would have staged a better event. Let's bring out the magazine ads, let's call in the reporter's from the Bethlehem Press, or even the Jerusalem Times. After all, this is big. Let's get some video of the star.
It wasn't about the event. It wasn't about the wise men. It wasn't about the star. It was about simple things in simple ways, bringing enormous news. Amazing, isn't it? So I wonder, what did Jesus think about when He smelled the dung?
What are your memorable smells? Have a great day! JW

Monday, December 05, 2005

Cold Day, Warm Heart

It's a sick joke. I think God is snickering at me right now. I basically grew up in the North. Born in Canton, Ohio, moved to Huntington, West Virginia, then to York, Nebraska, and back to Parkersburg, West Virginia. So I know what cold is. When we moved to Arkansas I knew that I would love to spend the rest of my days there. Mild winters. Just enough snow to say it snowed, but it was usually gone by the next day.
Now I have lived in Nebraska for six years. It was hovering near zero this morning. We have six inches of snow on the ground with the promise of 1 to 3 inches more today. And the snow never leaves! It's too cold for it to melt.
But I've learned something from this. It's the warmth in the heart that makes the cold days go by quickly. Friends and family make the place where I am seem like year round springtime. And there is nothing colder than a sour relationship. So if I had a choice, pick the relationships or the weather, relationships win hands down. I'll take a cold day anyday as long as I have friends and family with me. Have a good day. JW

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Called Back From Galilee

I saw something yesterday that I had never seen before. (Why is it so many posts begin that way?) I was studying for Wednesday evening class and came across something intriguing. I was looking into some of the things Peter had done before Jesus' death. I think we're awfully hard on Peter, but nevertheless here is what I saw. Let me explain by asking some questions.
Where was Jesus crucified? Well, you know. Jerusalem you probably said out loud. Where was Peter in John 21? This is the passage where he says he's going fishing. He sees Jesus cooking breakfast. And there's the whole "Peter do you love me? Feed my sheep" talk. He's in Galilee. Maybe you had seen that before, but I hadn't. Peter had left Jerusalem after Jesus' death. He went back to fishing. (Now that fact I already knew.) But it never occurred to me that he went back to Galilee...several day's journey to go back fishing.
So what't the importance of that? I don't know, it just seems to me there are several interesting observations. The resurrection of Jesus had to seem extremely real to these guys because he did show up in Galilee. They saw Him dead. Now He's in Galilee. Second, Peter was serious. All hope was gone. He was going back to his former life. How many of us do that? We fail. We think we're worthless. I think I'll go back to my life the way it was before. We've all been there. But Jesus never intends us to stay where we are. The word is "transformed."
Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. I know, I know the Greek words are different. But it is significant that Jesus asked him three times. Didn't Peter deny Jesus three times? "I don't know Him. I don't know Him. I don't know Him." "I love you. I love you. I love you." There Peter. You don't have to go fishing anymore. Let's go back to the original call, "I'll make you fishers of men."
Wow! Scripture surprises me everyday. What do you think? Am I crazy or does this make sense? (You don't have to answer the one about me being crazy). Have a good day. JW