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Fight Frigid!

IMG_1949These are frigid times but we have to keep the fires of our hearts going just as we double-check our heating systems during these cold snaps.

Jesus said, “Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” Matthew 24:12

So feed your furnace with The Word; remain in The Vine. Figuratively and literally, stay close to the brethren (and your spouse if you are married): “If two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?” Ecclesiastes 4:11

As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual: “However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.” 1 Corinthians 15:46

David Mathis wrote:

“When you memorize a ‘gospel verse,’ and keep it warm, you have hidden in your heart a divinely inspired and inerrant expression, in human language, of the very point of the whole Bible and all of history. You carry with you the sword of the Spirit in its strongest alloy. One-sentence encapsulations of the Bible’s central message strengthen our spiritual backbone and solidify our core, rooting us deep down in the bedrock of God’s heart and the nature of the world he made, and sending us into confident combat with unbelief, whether our own or someone’s else. ‘Gospel verses’ are invaluable in both evangelism and discipleship.”

See his keen insight on this subject at http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/ten-gospel-verses-to-keep-warm

We were made to fight or minister in the opposite spirit. Sometimes this feels like a rough assignment. The end of the matter is this: we are not alone. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8

BELOW: IT’S WARM INSIDE AS LONG AS YOUR HUGGING YOUR SIS AND SHE’S HUGGING A STUFFED WHATEVER…’THE BRETHREN:” HOME GROUP SHOTS OF LINDA SERVING MY WIFE’S CAKE WITH SUE DROOLING, MIKE DISPLAYING HIS LATEST CIGAR BOX GUITAR AND ME AND LAVINA WARMING UP AND THERE WAS FINE TEACHING AND SHARING THAT KEPT THE FIRES BURNING ALL ON A HOME-GROUP NIGHT.

 

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The recent ordeal of my mother-in-law’s extended critical-status at the hospital solidified my belief in prayer and boosted my appreciation for the care and competency of medical personnel and hospitals in general.

But another thing I got out of her “close call” was how much love can be squeezed around a bedside.

Today is the shared birthday of my twin brother-in-laws, Michael and Anthony Cavaleri. Hopefully, they will get the best birthday present they have ever received. It seems only appropriate that Mom will come home from the hospital on their big day.

Throughout this past month, they have alternated sleeping at the hospital, talking to the medical staff, making decisions and keeping everyone in the loop. If you’ve been through such a crisis, you are well aware of how sleep deprivation only adds to the anxiety and long hours of watching your loved one suffer.

Through blood-shot eyes, they kept close watch over “Mother Theresa” and their disheveled hair and general “grunge” sensation didn’t dissuade them in the least.

It reminds me of the love that Jesus had for His mother through the last command of His life when He said to John, “Behold your mother!” (John 19:27)

I don’t know how many birthday presents Michael and Anthony actually remember receiving over the years. I pray this is one they’ll never forget.

BELOW: THE PARTY GOES WHERE MOM GOES.

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It’s Christmas Day and “Mother Theresa,” as Mom Theresa Cavaleri is known, is struggling for her life in Intensive Care Unit.  A seemingly relentless infection has baffled the medical staff for a couple of weeks and has worn her down.

Her nickname is earned as she constantly thinks of others. Even when being awakened in this horribly weakened state, she still says, “Have a seat,” “Thank you,” or “Hi, Bob” before drifting back into a coma-like existence. For seven years, I witnessed, as did the staff at the nursing home, her daily vigils to the chair-side, bedside and table-side of her late husband. She ended up helping a lot of other residents as well. She’s like the prayers that went up for George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life” where the intercessor told God, “He never thinks of himself.”

I can’t say I’m praying for her when I ask for her life to be spared. She and The Lord are two of a kind. If He wishes, He has every right to take her home and she has every right to be with Him. It’s for all of us around her that I beg God not to take her just yet. We need her. I know some of you understand how critical these givers are on the scale of life. You probably have some in your life. So, if you can relate to this plea, I ask you to pray for just a few more years of her Christian witness for the rest of us.

Before Mom got ill, I had a lot of ideas of which presents I wanted to get people and how I wanted to spend Christmas. Now, all I want for Christmas is Mom’s life.

BELOW: ONLY SHE COULD PULL THIS OFF. GOOD-NATURED TEATOTALER MOM KIDDING AROUND AT A RECENT FUND-RAISER FOR HER SON’S H.U.G.S. (HATS, UMBRELLAS, GLOVES, SCARVES) CHARITY. ALWAYS MAKING US LAUGH.

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“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried…” Isaiah 53:4

I have always thought on this, especially when Handel’s Messiah keeps ringing through my mind at Christmastime.

It’s a wonderful thought. Perhaps it’s because it conjures up how all of my sins and selfishness helped load up the weight of the cross, like a pick-up truck that has so much garbage the struts are about to raise the white flag.

I had always understood that Jesus carried my sins. But I think I glossed over the preceding verse:
“…a man of sorrows acquainted with the deepest grief.” Isaiah 53:3 While He did not sin, He knew the consequences of sin and He felt it all the more:

“But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” Matthew 19:22-24

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me…Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” Matthew 23:37, 24:2

Jesus knew the individual and collective consequences of sin and it pained Him deeply like a parent who sees a child go off in a direction that can only bring destruction.

One of the beautiful things about the CEO’s of family businesses is that they understand the minutia of customer service, employee relations and a host of other details.

It seems I was focusing on Jesus being the burden-carrier instead of how He is intimately aware of grief HIMSELF. He personally understands pain. If such a revelation can help us “give” it to Him, that would be quite a relief.

We all carry more than we are aware. Whether listening to Handel’s Messiah or listening to your inner pain, know this: Jesus can carry our burdens because He knew them first hand(s).

I woke up thinking about a nativity set… I’ll go online and get a really big one. Go to a commercial site. Something so huge that it would put Jesus’ face IN MY FACE. It would be my way of making sure I didn’t forget “The Reason For The Season.”

A little later, I’m going through the basement to find a few decorations to bring upstairs. Mining through the cluttered corner, I discover a beautiful homemade nativity set that a friend gave me several seasons ago. It rocks. But it is small.

As I removed that box, I noticed one tucked way against the basement wall that I had forgotten all about. A frosted crystal-style lighted set of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. How could I have blanked on this? I love putting this up.

I didn’t forget to go out and get a tree. I didn’t forget Christmas shopping. I didn’t even forget to read “Advent Conspiracy” about giving more and spending less.

Suddenly, I got what I wanted: Jesus in my face, quite literally. It was as clear an analogy as I had ever experienced. My metaphor-du-jour.

Perhaps I am not alone in this business of Jesus getting shoved to the back of the basement during His own birthday party.FullSizeRender copy 10

I actually take great consolation in this lesson. Even when I “misplace” Him, He is gracious enough to display His birth right before my eyes in the darkest place of my home.

Now that’s a face you can’t forget.

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Besides all of the regular responsibilities we carry with us into December, we have to add on all of the Christmas obligators that come with the season. Some are really fun, inspirational and come and go too fast. Others tend to land a little more on the tradition-based motivation side. Whichever they are, they all contribute to a crowded calendar.

My best advice is to run like a fullback on short yardage. You know you’re going to get hit, but muscle your way into the things that really matter. Generally, those would be family, friend and faith matters.

On the family end, I plan by hook or crook to see an aging relative who may not be here for the next holiday season. For friends, we are inviting foster parents and their long line of “children” over for an open house. As for faith, that will always have something to do with the disadvantaged and bringing Christ to neighborhoods and to our church.

Everything else will have to fit in around these priorities. And if there is something that can’t make its way on to my calendar, perhaps it was meant to be squeezed into someone else’ packed schedule.

A Christmas calendar can represent stress or it can translate into a fulfilling season because it was deliberately scheduled to be a blessing to God and others.

Advent means “arrival” and this has to do with the birth of Christ. Advent Calendars are popular because they help us prepare for all the richness of the incarnation. Perhaps we can set up an Advent Calendar that preps us so that when we open each of those little windows, we’ll see the babe of Bethlehem as reflected on our smart phone calendars.

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It must be in the hallway. It must be upstairs. No, I’ll check down on the first floor.

At 3 a.m., I don’t know which planet I’m on, no less trying to figure out which of our eight smoke detectors decided to switch roles and become an alarm clock. Oh, it’s the one in the bedroom that’s sitting on the table, but still had a dying battery that went into hyper-mode in the middle of the night to assure me that I would not return to my bed this early winter morning.

So, I find myself sitting in the cupola (a tiny glass room on the top of our house). It’s now closer to 4 a.m. Despite a full moon, it’s pretty dark out over the Hudson River when suddenly a freighter lights up the water. A dog barks somewhere in the distance. And I am tapping on these keys. Some ten miles away, I’ll bet a few emergency rooms are beating the clock, just like the captains on the Hudson who are trying to make record time on their way up to the Port of Albany. All of this nocturnal ramblings doesn’t even include the animal world.

On any given evening, zillions of things are going on while most of us sleep. That includes the smoke detectors that are decent enough to have good batteries.

In the darkest of times, zillions of prayers go up to The One who never sleeps.

“Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.” Psalm 121:4

For more on this concept, read The King’s Favorite Book available at journalwithGod.com

BELOW: WHILE YOU SLEPT, A WRITER  WORKING, INSPIRED BY A HUDSON SHIP CAPTAIN’S NIGHT SHIFT, THE METAPHOR DU JOUR OF THE CAPTAIN OF OUR SOULS (HEBREWS 2:10) 

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