Friday, October 31, 2014

Day 304- A Teeth First

Hannah Grace and Joel wanted to do "firsts" with me today. I'm glad because that's part of what this year of "firsts" is about.  I want them to know that following Jesus is an abundant life and is so much more than simply going to church. It is also about giving me opportunities to do fun things with them and make memories.

Joel's class went on a field trip today.  He brought home a pumpkin from the field trip. When we got home with the pumpkin, he wanted to carve it.  I've carved pumpkins several times with Hannah Grace and Joel, but today I taught Joel how to carve a pumpkin for a "first."

I mostly taught safety principles. I wanted Joel to decide what design he wanted to carve in the pumpkin. He drew it out with a pencil and then carved away.  Whatever design he wanted was OK with me. It was his pumpkin.  It was pretty obvious that he enjoyed carving his own pumpkin. He said it was fun.  This kind of thing is right down his alley.  After he carved the pumpkin, he said he wanted to spray paint it.  I said OK. We did not have many colors to choose from in the closet.  Joel chose black.

Hannah Grace wanted me to listen to the duck song with her for my "first." I've never heard the duck song before. I asked her if it was Disco Duck.  She said no.  I asked her if it was about Duck Dynasty. She said no.  So, we loaded it up on Youtube.  This is a song that is much better if you watch it while listening to it.  I had fun listening to the duck song with Hannah Grace. I am pretty sure I will not download this one on my phone to listen to frequently.  Once was probably enough for the duck song.

Tonight, we went to a friend's birthday party.  Since it was Halloween, everyone was invited to dress up.  Mostly the children dressed up.  At the party they had those false Halloween teeth for the kids to play with. I put in some false Halloween teeth for my "first."

I should have done this at the party.  I'm glad I did not because I have a really strong gag reflex and this was harder than I remembered. I have not done this since I was a kid, so it counts as a "first."  I know, I should be able to put those little teeth in without gagging.  Just be glad you are not the person at the dentist who takes X-rays and impressions of my teeth. It is not pretty.  I did manage to put these in for a few minutes with the kids and we made faces at each other.  This was a lot more fun when I was 10.

Laura stayed and helped clean up after the party and missed the teeth picture. She'll be so sad.

As we played around with the Halloween teeth, it was pretty obvious that we could not talk nearly as well. Our words were kind of mumbled and garbled.  That happens when you have extra things in your mouth that don't really belong there. It reminded me that sometimes our communication of the Gospel can be garbled because we have some things in our lives that should not be there.  When we are too concerned with what people think of us, we will not communicate the Gospel well.  When we have ugly or unkind speech that will hinder our communication of the Gospel.  If there is pride, bitterness, a critical spirit, or a lack of love, these can cause our message about Jesus to be garbled.  We need to be sure there is not something in the way that hinders us from communicating clearly the message of Jesus.

I'm reminded of 1 Corinthians 2:2 where Paul wrote, "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."  That's the kind of heart we need.  Nothing is nearly as important as communicating the life changing, soul saving message of Jesus. Let's speak clearly.

Thankful for the simplicity of the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. I have my real teeth
2. Pumpkins
3. The simple message of Jesus

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day 303- A Dark First

Tonight, I took my black dog for a walk at night for my "first."

We have a black dog named Mei Mei.  When our kids were about 6 and 8, they started asking us for another child in the family. We told them we felt that we were a bit old to have another child. They said we could adopt.  So, we went to the pound and adopted a dog.  We named her Mei Mei which means little sister in Chinese. The kids now have an adopted little sister.

I've never walked Mei Mei at night.  I've probably only walked her in the daytime with the kids. This is definitely something I would not have done if it were not for the year of "firsts." 

When I got to her fence with the leash, she was very excited.  She was jumping up and down with great enthusiasm.  She does not jump on me. We had a little talk about that when she first got here. She was very excited to see me and go for a walk.  I put the leash on her and we took off walking.

It's pretty dark at night walking a black dog. We walked by the cemetery that's next to our house.  We did not go through the cemetery because it was night and I did not want to trip over a grave. That would not be fun to explain; this big bruise on my head is from tripping over a grave when I was walking my dog through the cemetery at night.  We then walked around the church.  It's pretty quiet at night out here where we live.  There was 1 vehicle that went by while we were walking. It was a truck pulling a trailer and the trailer had no lights.  There may have been one other car that went by in the 15-20 minutes that we walked.

I think Mei Mei enjoyed this more than me. I bent down to talk to her once and she jumped up and licked me on the nose.  That's about enough dog affection to do me for a month.  It was a beautiful evening. The temps were just right and the moon was beautiful. It turned out to be an enjoyable "first" for me as well as Mei Mei.

Mei Mei is not big on selfies

It is pretty cool to see how excited Mei Mei is to see us when we go to feed her or give her any kind of attention during the day.  When she sees me get her cups that I feed her out of she will run a lap or two around the yard and then jump up and down. She pretty much does that anytime she sees us coming to play with her.

The fact that God would give me His attention should thrill my heart.  God has invited me to pray and promises to respond.  Jeremiah 33:3 says, "Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know."  That should cause me to jump up and down. The God of the universe has invited me to talk to Him and spend time with Him. What greater invitation could I have? Yet, If I'm not careful, I can get a lukewarm attitude toward prayer and worship.  I learned a valuable lesson from Mei Mei today.  The truth that I can have my Master's attention should thrill me more than anything else. Who or what can compare to God?  Thanks Mei Mei.

Thankful for pets in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Mei Mei's enthusiasm
2. Beautiful moon tonight
3. Jeremiah 33:3

She jumped really high and with great excitement after I put her back in her yard and brought her some food.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day 302- An Improvement First

Today, I did a memory exercise for my "first."

I found this in a book.  It asked me to try to recall 6 things.  Here they are with my answers.  Feel free to play along with your own answers.

1. What were you thinking about 5 minutes ago?  I was thinking about how it is time for the kids to get to bed.
2. What were you thinking about an hour ago?  I was at church probably thinking about how I needed to get the kids home so they could get ready for bed.
3. What were you doing this time yesterday?  I was driving home from my small group Bible study.
4. What you had for breakfast 7 days ago?  A cup of coffee; I've gotten into a bad habit of not eating breakfast.
5. What you wore last weekend?  I wore jeans (big surprise there) and a lime green shirt. I remember because that's what I wore to the dolphin cruise.  I also remember that Laura wore an LSU shirt.  I wore my gray suit on Sunday.
6. Something you told yourself you would never forget.  Laura's birthday- it is on Christmas Eve which is really memorable, but also time where Christmas excitement is an full steam and so it would be easy to let it slip

I think I did pretty good.  I really do want to keep my memory sharp as I age.  It is hard and it takes work; this was a pretty fun exercise.  One guy wrote that we need to practice remembering things. If you go to the grocery store, try to remember as many things as you can without looking at the list.  When you call someone, try to recall the number before you simply pull them up in your contacts and click on their name. Your memory is like a lot of things; use it or lose it.

The gray suit from last Sunday

The green shirt I wore on the dolphin cruise.
Picture from the dolphin cruise. Rats!! I missed what I wore and what Laura wore.  Aarrggghhh.  At least I got the jeans part right.

Great memories

Never forget the cross

The Bible speaks about remembering.  In Psalms 119:55 the Bible says, "O LORD, I remember Your name in the night, And keep Your law."  We need to remember what God says to us in His word every day. It is easy to remember His word on Sunday, but we really need to remember it on Monday morning and Friday night.

The Bible reminds us to remember God's goodness.  In 1 Chronicles 16:12 the Bible says, "Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and the judgments from His mouth."  How wonderful it is to remember the wonderful things God has done. Can you remember the day you gave your life to Christ?  What a fantastic day that was.  Your eternity was changed that day.  Can you remember a day when God
  • Forgave a great sin
  • Reconciled a friendship
  • Answered a really big prayer
  • Brought a special person into your life
  • Healed you or someone you love
God has done some truly wonderful things.  Let's practice remembering them regularly and giving thanks for them.

Grateful for the memories of the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. The day I was saved
2. The day I met Laura
3. The day I came to Hopewell

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Day 301- A Family Favorite First

Laura announced that we were having Stromboli for supper tonight.  That is a rare dish that everyone in the family loves a lot.  The whole family was excited about it.  She made one and as she was about to make the second one, I asked if I could make it.  I made a Stromboli for my family as my "first" today.

This is not hard for people who cook to do.  However, it you get past cereal and toast, I don't really cook it.  OK, I do the pull the frozen things (chicken tenders, pizza, pizza rolls, chicken wings, etc.) out of the freezer and see how long it needs to cook in the microwave.  You can cook a lot that way.  It may not be very good, but you can cook a lot.  I also grill steaks, but no real culinary skills at all.

Laura told me to crack an egg into a bowl.  I'm no expert there, but I managed to get the egg in the bowl with no shell. I considered that a success.  I sprinkled oregano on top of the egg and whipped it with a fork.  Laura was able to show me a more efficient way to whip an egg with a fork.  Who knew?

Then, I had to defrost some bread and stretch it.  It seems they would sell this already stretched. Once you get it stretched out to the right size, you layer cheese and meat on it.  After that you fold it over. This is harder to do than it sounds because you can get holes in it and the inside goodies will leak out when it cooks.  You also take your hand and dip the egg/oregano mixture and rub it on the inside and outside. There were a few other steps but you get the idea. Then, we cooked it in the oven for about a half an hour.

The family loved it.  Of course, it was no big accomplishment. It was fun to cook with Laura.  Joel saw me and had to come and watch. He likes to laugh at his Daddy when he's learning something new. Rather than just reading or something while Laura cooked, the year of "firsts" had me doing something with the family that turned out to be more fun than usual. 

When I say that I cooked the Stromboli, that is probably stretching it just a bit.  Laura showed me every step.  She told me what to do at each step. If she did not tell me pretty quick, I would say, "What do I do now?"  I knew she knew how to do this and I did not. 

If we want to follow Jesus closely, one great attribute to have is humility.  Humility is not thinking lowly of yourself, but it is recognizing that there are some things that others do much better than you do. Humility is not being ashamed to ask, "What do I do now?"  Or, "How do I do this?"  There are so many Christians who have never been discipled to:
  • Have a meaningful alone time with God
  • Share their faith
  • Read the Bible
  • Be a godly husband or wife
  • Be a godly parent
  • Grow in their likeness to Jesus
Yet, they probably know someone who does know how to do one or more of these things.  Why not simply ask?  It would help the person asking and be a blessing to the one being asked.  What a great conversation might follow if a younger Christian said to a more mature Christian, "I've noticed that you have a really strong, godly family. Would you be willing to have lunch with me twice a month and teach me some things about that?" Or, they could ask about prayer, Bible study, witnessing, etc.

Jesus spent much of His time with 12 men. He also spent time with larger groups and big crowds, but the majority of His time was spent pouring into the lives of the 12. That is still a great way to learn how to follow Jesus. In a day that esteems big crowds and something of a Christian celebrity status, don't miss the opportunity of sitting down with someone that is a little further along in their relationship with Jesus than you are and simply asking a few questions. It might be life changing. It certainly has for me.

So grateful for my mentors in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Jeff Miller
2. Bill Bright's transferable concepts (great discipleship tools God used in my life; feel free to google it
3. Stromboli

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day 300- A Grassy Liquid First

The last time Laura was out of town, she went to an Asian market.  While she was there, she saw a unique kind of drink that she thought would make a fun "first" for me.  It was called a Grass Jelly drink.  She got me honey flavor. I'm not sure what other flavors were available.  I'm also not sure what grass jelly is but it does not sound nearly as good as grape, apple, muscadine, or huckleberry jelly.

I drank a Grass Jelly drink (honey flavor) for my "first" today.

Joel wanted me to pour it into glass so he could see what it looked like. I poured a little in a glass. It sort of looked like tea.  I took a drink out of the can.  It tasted a bit like tea.  Laura tried it as well and she agreed that tea was the closest taste to this concoction.  I offered it to Hannah Grace and Joel and they declined rather vigorously.

I then took a pretty big swallow.  Much to my surprise, I got something solid in that drink.  There were chunks in my drink. If that is not bad enough, theere wer squishy chunks. That caught me off guard and not in a good way.  So, I poured the whole can into a glass and sure enough, there were chunks in it.  I guess that's the grass jelly. Laura declined to try any with chunks.  Instead of having a drink on the rocks, I had a drink with grass jelly.  I chose not to drink the rest of it.

The chunks would not have been so bad if I had known they were going to be in there.Sometimes life throws things at you that are unexpected.  Joel told me to strain the chunks out of my drink and then drink some more. There is no way to strain the unexpected difficulties out of life.  They will simply happen at times.  One of the benefits of being a follower of Jesus is that nothing is unexpected to Him. He is never caught off guard and is never surprised. He is never overwhelmed. He always knows what to do.  He always has a plan.  Those that are genuinely born again can never be separated from His love.  I love Romans 8: 38-39 which says, "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Regardless of what happens in  life, it is very reassuring that nothing will ever happen that can separate me from His love. Not even squishy chunks in my drink.

Glad that God provides an abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Chance to preach revival at a neighboring church
2. God is never overwhelmed
3. I can never be separated from His love 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day 299- A Fall Festival First

We had our Fall Festival at church tonight.  A bunch of folks at church worked hard and cheerfully to set up games, decorate, prepare food, provide a hayride, move tables, etc. to  provide a night of fun for the church family and for us to invite friends to come and have a good time at church.  We had a very fun evening tonight.

Typically at these events I walk around and talk to people and interact with some of the children. Tonight, I started off at the cotton candy machine.  I ran the cotton candy machine at the Fall Festival for my "first."

I've never operated a cotton candy machine before. I was a bit hesitant.  That stuff is really sticky and I was a bit concerned about getting it all over me, the machine, and various members of the church family.  I had  a great teacher to show me how and it was not as difficult as I thought it might be.  I poured the sugar in and turned the machine on and cotton candy started making. It is just a matter of twirling it around the paper stick and handing it to the sweet kids who are about to be made sweeter. The trick seemed to be keeping the machine making at the same pace as the people coming to get the cotton candy.  If not, you get cotton candy build up in the cotton candy maker. If you are not careful, your cotton candy machine might runneth over.

There were some other volunteers that were there to help.  They offered to man (woman??) the machine so I could be free to walk around and interact with people.  I did not work the machine very long. They were very sweet to do that. Of course, it could have been my ineptness at the machine that prompted the offer. Hmm, that did not occur to me until now. I'm going with they wanted to free me up to interact with the crowd.

As I participated in the Fall Festival tonight, I thought about how good it is for Christian people to just have fun together.  Children need to see that following Jesus is more than simply going to church. It is also a real adventure in everyday life. Part of following Jesus is learning about Him. It is more than that. It is also laughing and playing with your brothers and sisters. It is also helping each other find God's purpose for their life.  It is also encouraging each other that God's way is way better than the world's way.  I was blessed to walk around and watch people having fun with each other.

Tonight I thought of  Psalm 133:1 which says, "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!"  It really is.  It is also very sweet when there is a cotton candy machine around.

Loving the fun of the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. The song, "How Deep the Father's Love for Us"
2. Cake walks
3. People who volunteer at Fall Festivals